Eden, A Sacred Physical & Spiritual Temple
God meant man to live in a garden; sin has sent him to the slums.”– Vishal Mangalwadi
THE story between God and man begins and ends in a garden (Gen. 1-3; Rev. 21-22).
“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.”– Martin Luther
Eden: Sanctuary, delight, pleasure, paradise, luxury, abundance.
The pun around the word Eden indicates that God is not only referring to a physical place in Mesopotamia, but to an archetype of a sacred garden temple, where He and man exist in harmony.
“Mack had expected a perfectly manicured and ordered English garden. This was not that! It was chaos in color. His eyes tried unsuccessfully to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty. Dazzling sprays of flowers were blasted through patches of randomly planted vegetables and herbs, vegetation the likes of which Mack had never seen. It was confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful. It was all wonderfully bewildering and intoxicating.”– Will P Young – The Shack
“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you do not want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you do not have a soul. ”– Thomas Moore
Jesus prayed in a garden before His crucifixion (Matt. 26:39); and Jesus was crucified near a garden (John 19:41).“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” He was buried in a garden tomb (Matt. 27: 57-60).
Return To The Garden
Jesus treats every human being like a gardener would a potential plant or tree. “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory…” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus sees each person as an individual plant or tree, He treats each one differently:
- He treats the Samaritan woman like a true plant expert, and sees that she is hungry for water.
- With Nicodemus the theologian, Jesus sees that he needs to be transplanted into new soil, or even newly grafted onto a new rootstock.
- The rich young man must first break free from his branch in which he has become entangled, but he sees no chance.
- For many, Jesus was the “miracle cure”, which immediately came to heal a nagging pain and ailment. Others were under the power of a “parasite plant and fungus” and had to be freed.
- He heals the lepers who were quarantined from the dreaded disease, and helps them to be reunited with their people.
Jesus was familiar with Agriculture and regularly expanded his stories around examples in agriculture.
Knowing that His audience would be familiar with His examples, He uses parables of:
• The sower (Matt. 13: 1–23)
• The wheat and the chaff: (Matt. 13: 24–30, 36–43)
• The mustard seed: (Matt. 13: 31–32)
• The secret treasure in the field: (Matt. 13:44)
Jesus also refers to us many times that we must bear fruit like a healthy tree. That no two different types of fruit can grow from one tree. We must go and win souls, and gather the harvest, He said, behold the harvest is already white.
Other NT authors also make references to agriculture:
· Sow and reap principle (Gal. 6: 7–10; Rom. 8: 1-5),
· God gives seed to the sower (2 Cor. 9: 6-10),
· Do not cover the mouth of an ox where he works,
· How an Olive Tree Grows (Rom. 11: 17–24).
· He encourages us all to look at the farmer and learn from him. Hardworking farmers are the first to enjoy the fruits of their labor (2 Tim. 2: 6 NIV).
· James refers to the farmer who waits patiently and faithfully for the harvest (James 5: 7).
God Personifies Himself as a Farmer
Let me use an image to explain the relationship between Jesus, His Father and their followers. Imagine the Father is a grape farmer. He can then be compared to a special vine. The Father cultivates the vineyard well and keeps a close eye on the shoots that grow out of the vine. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. (John 15:1)
Jesus is presented as the good Shepherd or tender of sheep.
Daily life as a farmer was intertwined with the temple calendar’s three most important festivals:
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread
- The Passover are at the beginning of the grain harvest.
- The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Pentecost
- The Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Gratitude) was held towards the end and completion of the grain harvest – 50 days later, where the first fruits of the wheat harvest were gathered.
The Garden Is A Temple
It is interesting that in the statement in Revelation 21: 1: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” John sees a new city, nothing of what the new heaven and earth looks like is explained. The reference in Isaiah to a new heaven and earth also focuses on a new city of Jerusalem: “I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered and they will not come to mind. But rejoice and be glad forever in what I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem to rejoice, and her people to rejoice.”
The biblical narrative is built around a diagram of a garden, a place of safety, splendor, glory, peace, provision, care, forgiveness and life – inside. Distance, removal, desert, aridity, hunger and death – outside. Noah and the ark, the people traveling to the Promised Land, the tabernacle and the temple have the same implication throughout – when you obey the Lord and do what He says, you are inside. Because of disobedience and rebellion, you remain outside.
It is clear that since the creation and formation of man, God wants to exist in harmony and in the same divine oneness with man as also exists in the Godhead. God does not desire domination or slavish robot obedience. Therefore, He created us in His image, with the ability to decide and create, just like God.
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”. (Gen. 3:22) “And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” (Gen. 11: 6).
Without Christ, human unity is self-centered. Thus there can be no unity without Christ being central (Eph. 4: 1-5). Thus, when Jesus announces that His kingdom has come near, He declares that God’s garden, and the habitat for which we were created, came near, and became accessible again.
Restoration From Relationship Breach
1st Relationship Break With God: They heard the Lord God walking in the garden by the time the evening wind came, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
2nd relationship breakdown – with ourselves: And the man answered, “I heard You walking in the garden, and I was afraid, for I was naked. Then I hid.” The Lord God then asked, “How did you know that you were naked?”Fear, and Shame
3rd Relationship Breach – with our fellow human beings: The man replied, “The woman whom You gave me to help me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done now?” and she said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Apology, Justification, and Blaming.
4th Relationship break with creation and nature. That is why the Lord God sent man away from the Garden of Eden to cultivate the earth, the earth from which he was made.Separation, difficulty.
Jesus’ I-AM Statements Restore All These Relationships:
The eight “I am” statements also clearly point to Jesus as the gardener:
1. I am the Door (John 10: 7, 9, 11, 14)
Adam and Eve were rejected from the garden, and access denied (Gen. 3:24). Jesus becomes the access to God’s garden. So that we can live united with Him again.(Heb. 10:19)
2. The Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6)
Jesus’ life is the garden in which we can live in full harmony with God, ourselves, our neighbor and creation. Life in the garden was a way of life, the way. Jesus’ way of life indicates how we live in God’s garden; His intimacy with the Father (John 5: 19-20, 30; 6:38; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10, 24, 31; Matt. 26:39) and His revelation of the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)
3. I am the Living Water (John 4:14, 26)
Water from the well of Jacob temporarily quenches man’s thirst. However, the living water that Jesus gives satisfies forever (Matt. 5: 6 – cf. Isa. 49:10; 55: 1-3; 58:11; John 6:32; 48). In Rev. 22: 1-2 we also read of a river, a metaphor often used in the Bible. The river that flows from the altar, and sanctuary, and trees that grow on its banks (Ezek. 47:12).
4. Resurrection and Life (John 11:25);
Because man was rejected from the garden from a harmonious union with God, death came (Gen 6: 3; Ps. 90:10).
Jesus Christ gave His life that we might live forever (John 3:16; Matt. 25:46; John 4:14);
5. I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:14);
In the evening, the sheep were chased into a kraal according to custom to protect them from thieves, thunderstorms and wild animals. These shelters were usually caves or an open shelter with walls of stone or branches. The shepherd then slept in the entrance. As the shepherd cared for every sheep, so the Good Shepherd gives His life for His followers (Ezek. 34:23) who know His voice. Anyone who wants to hurt His sheep must pass by the only entrance where the Good Shepherd waits.
Jesus is the entrance and the Good Shepherd. Jesus as the shepherd refers to God’s care for man. In the garden there was care, protection, enough to eat from. Man had no worries!
6. True Vine (John 15:1, 6)
Jesus as the Vine refers to God’s calling, and purpose of creation commissioned to man (Gen. 2:15).
This imagery emphasizes that fertility in the Christian life springs from a joy in Christ. Even though Jesus ascends, unity with His disciples is maintained. The vineyard is a well-known image from the Old Testament, where it refers to the believing people (Ps. 80: 9–16; Isa. 5: 1–7; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 19: 10– 14; Hos. 10: 1).
7. I am the Bread of Life (John 6:48)
Man ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God forbade them to re-enter the garden, lest they should eat of the tree of life. (Gen. 2: 9; 3:17, 22, 24). We read again of the tree of life in Revelation (Rev. 2: 7; 22: 2, 14, 19). But the Bible also speaks of wisdom as the tree of life (Prov. 3:18, 11:30; 13:12; 15: 4).
So Jesus is now our daily bread (Matt. 4: 4). Jesus here refers to Himself as the bread that came down from heaven, in contrast to the manna that the migrating Israelites gathered. The manna was good bread that could quench the physical hunger, but it was temporary. The people ate from it and were satiated by it for a day, but they had to get some of this bread to eat every day, and it could not save them from death either.
Jesus, who is so much greater than Moses, offers Himself as the spiritual bread to us. He satisfies us perfectly spiritually and thereby gives us eternal life.
8. I am the Light of the World (John 8:12: 5)
God first created Light. Without light there can be no life. Jesus is therefore the new creator. He determines the day, the seasons, the tides of our lives. In Him we were recreated, and new creatures made (2 Cor. 5:17). Light presupposes new life.
“Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:20). “and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:24) “and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” (Col. 3:10).
How Does God’s Garden Work?
He is Source
Jesus approaches every person He touches as a potential plant in His garden. He Himself is the water and the sun, the two most important elements for any plant to grow. He further says: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26). The lilies grow because they are planted in the right place. The habitat is therefore right. A lily cannot grow in a desert soil. In this way, the Lord created us as human beings, each one of us uniquely.
Family is the habitat (ecosystem), the soil in which you are planted. If your blood family does not serve the Lord, you must find your spiritual family.
“Find your family, find your destiny.”– Bill Johnson
People sometimes ask: how do I find the right church? Find the church, where you can grow the best.
Jesus Seeks Fruit
Fig Parable – Grace For Another – Luke 13:6-9
“He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.” (Luke 13: 6-9).
This story is a softer, more gracious story from the other version where Jesus summarily cursed the fruitless tree. (Isa. 5: 2; Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:13). The point is, Jesus seeks fruit. (Matt. 20: 1–15; 21: 28–32, 33–46; John 15: 1–11).
Not just any return. He seeks the fruits of righteousness (2 Cor. 9:10; Eph. 5: 9; Phil. 1:11; Heb. 12:11; Jas. 3:18). This story points to Jesus’ gardener heart, where He first wants to dig the ground, and apply fertilizer, for one season.
The kingdom Conquers by Infiltration – not a Mono-culture.
Weed Parable – Matt 13: 24-30
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
The clear conclusion: separation and judgment come to an end.
We must not, therefore, judge evil, and also try to separate ourselves from it. However, the truth is: We are not of this world!! Point! We are citizens of a heavenly world (Phil. 3:20). We live by other rules, and are subject to divine authority. The proverb: “We are in the world, but not of this world” must not be seen in the light of us being first in the world, and we must try our best not to be of the world.
First of all, we are not of this world, but we have a mission to live in the world and to be His light, His salt (Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34). That is why Jesus’ prayer: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17: 15-17). Like Jesus, we are not of this world, we are ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
The origin of the Jewish people also began in this way. God calls Abraham the Chaldean, and sends him on a mission. In him he begins a new family of faith. This family of faith appears throughout the Scriptures in pagan government courts: Moses; Daniel; Nehemiah; Esther and Mordecai.
How Does the Lord Farm?
Each naturally contributes to the survival of the other.
Nowhere in nature can one find a mono-culture farm like most commercial farmers farm. God’s way is, a biosphere of different integrated plant, insect, and animal life, where each naturally contributes to the survival of the other. We group ourselves according to similar tastes and preferences. Kind of looking kind of. This is another of the paradoxical truths of the kingdom. Identity to know where you fit in, and to fulfill your function along with acknowledging and respecting the otherness of another’s function and role.
The word community symbolizes this common, partial, and mutual recognition. The subsequent parable of the mustard seed and the leaven further strengthens this mindset of infiltration rather than direct opposition. There is a tendency to establish exclusive Christian schools, clubs and organizations, thus opposing the culture of the day.
The argument is also further: one does not change a culture from within. You create an alternative culture, until the alternatives become the more popular culture because of the excellence, advantage, and visible attractiveness of the new culture. However, Jesus clearly follows a different strategy. He does create another culture, but His transformation is from within the individual, and then He uses His disciples, and followers like sheep among the wolves (Matt. 10:16).
Salt Parable – Flavour
You do not build immunity in isolation and quarantine, it is by getting dirty that we become stronger. Yet there is a clear separation, a being aside, a holiness, purity, undefiled existence focus also to be detected in the Word. Jesus never sinned (Heb. 4:14; John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21). This is a very important truth!!
The salt does not work if it has become cowardly. It is our holiness in the midst of a sinful world that God desires! That’s the power of the church! We do not settle! We live spotless, blameless, dedicated, holy, innocent, in a broken, dirty, broken world.
Leaven Parable – growth
He told them another parable: “Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13:33). Yeast is often used in the Bible as a symbol of evil or impurity. Here, however, it is a positive symbol of growth. Although the sourdough looks like an insignificant ingredient, it spreads throughout the dough. The kingdom started small but will continue to grow and spread as leaven is spread by dough. Eventually the whole world will experience its influence.
Yeast is an example and metaphor to illustrate the growth of the kingdom of heaven in the individual heart and in the world as a whole – because:
· It contaminates from within
· It is secret in its operation
· It spreads by particle to particle contact
· It is irreversible, one particle of leaven can change any amount of flour
· It is organic and self-sufficient like a plant, and changes the particles it touches with similar reproductive power.
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1: 6).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23).
“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13).
Mustard Seed – Great Results in The Small
A mustard seed was the smallest seed a farmer could use. Jesus uses this as an example to indicate that the kingdom does start small, but will grow in such a way that it will bear great fruit. The parable of the mustard seed illustrates the unexpected and previously unknown nature of the coming of God’s royal rule. The kingdom came, but began as a mustard seed. As something small and humble; it does not come in the expected form of a glorious splendor and splendor that one would expect. Gradually the kingdom develops, and becomes something very great.
“After that, the Word of God came to me: “Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you. Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!” Going back to the vision, the Messenger-Angel said, “The seven lamps are the eyes of God probing the dark corners of the world like searchlights.” (Zech. 4:10 The Message).
Small seeds become strong and large trees: As with nature, the Lord is glorified in us, when we are fruitful, healthy, and fulfilled. The growth of man is often compared to that of a tree or a garden.
The Holiness of One
The primary way God positions His people is the HOLINESS OF ONE.
Daniel stands alone, with a few friends, but three kings acknowledge God as the only true God. Esther and Mordecai cause a national revolution and prevent a planned genocide. Nehemiah stands alone, rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, and reforming his people back to keeping the Law. The quality of the one, is decisive. Salt that has become cowardly loses its usefulness. The quality of the one seed becomes a giant tree. The power of Christianity does not lie in their numerical numbers, but in the quality of every single employee. It is the power of the one, strategically positioned, “an olive tree in the vineyard” (Luke 13: 6-9), which must bear fruit. Therefore the seriousness, and the harsh words, cut him off, he only makes the ground barren.
We Are God’s Garden
“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Ps. 1:3).
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” (Ps. 92: 12–14).
“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer. 17: 8).
“Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” (Ezek. 47:12).
“Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” (Isa. 61: 3).
“For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” (Isa. 51: 3).
The love song between the bride and the groom, happens around a garden. (Song of Songs 4:12; 16; 5: 1; 6: 2).
A Tree is Known By Its Fruit
“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” (Luke 6:44).
Read Matt. 13: 24-30; 36-43.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:35 NKJV).
“…But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” (NLV).
” …But brilliant men like you can justify your every inconsistency!”” (The Living Bible).
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” (Message).
If there are two lines next to each other of which one line is 1% off-target, it cannot be seen from a distance with the naked eye. Yet coming closer to the target, you can see if you were on-target or not.
“And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing” (Acts 5:38).
Some people do not even know they are going astray, and there will be false teachers and apostles. The longevity and natural sustainability will eventually stand the test of time.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” (Matt. 25: 41-43).
“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37).
Seasons and Time
Creating a fertile garden takes patience and time. God does not work according to a clock in minutes and hours. He works in seasons or cyclically. Look at His seven days a week and the Sabbath. The Seventh Month is the great day of atonement. The Seventh year, is debt relief (Deut. 15), the seven year cycle is the Jubilee year (Lev. 25).
So we need to renew our thinking and start thinking like God. Nowadays, stores try to attract consumers with the same fruits and vegetables for twelve months of the year. The Lord knew that we needed Vitamin C, which is found in the fruits ripening in winter. Fruits with a high sugar content are again found in tropical, hot areas, where we need the energy. A large part of agricultural production depends on accurate planting and harvest times, which coincide with the rainy seasons.
So is our life according to seasons:
- the season of dependence on primary caregivers, our parents and family
- the season of discovery and detachment in our teens
- the season of finding the right soul mate
- the season of having children and raising them
- the season of being productive in our middle years
- the season of wisdom and discipleship when we begin to pass onto the next generation.
There is also a set time for spiritual things to happen. Through the prophets the Lord gives us an indication of when He is going to do next. “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3: 7). Thus Daniel knew it was seventy years and a time for their deliverance from captivity (Jer. 25:12; 29:10; Dan. 9: 2). It is important to understand the times so that we know how to pray. “Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone.” (Zech. 10: 1).
The Jews did not calculate Jesus’ coming and expected: “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?“ (Luke 12:56).