A Devotion for 30 September 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
22 ¶ And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24
When a very young lad growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, I loved the many mysterious stories of the Books of Genesis, Daniel, and Revelations. There were some parts of particular interest to me even though my mind was incapable of grasping the context in which those mysteries were presented. One such mystery was the Garden at Eden. What a wonderful and dreamy place. A young boy could have a ball in such a place where lions, tigers, rattle snakes and wolves could be made pets just as easily as kittens and rabbits. But that was not to be for God had closed the door on Eden to all mankind. He removed the Garden to such a place as man could not attain to it in this world. I searched the Scriptures for clues as to where the Garden had been removed. My mortal mind obviously was considering some hidden valley or dead-end canyon of the world. I desperately wanted to find it. Of course, the ‘flaming sword’ of the Cherubims would present some problem for me since fire-retardant fabric had yet to be developed.
Well, that was many sunsets and moons ago, and the zeal to find the Garden of Eden faded from my maturing mind. But as I approach my approaching ‘second’ childhood, the dream once again emerges in the mist of the ancient writings of the Bible.
The Garden at Eden was God’s first step in His plan of redemption for mankind. He gave Adam and Eve only one commandment to follow, but they could not even keep that one commandment. The moment of their disobedience in partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, instead of the Tree of Life, the shroud of death descended and their days were numbered. Now their lives, and the lives of their descendants, would be denominated in years and not eternity. They felt shame and remorse for their disobedience. They discovered they were naked and knew that was wrong. They attempted to cover their nakedness with fig leaves – the first designer brand known to man. But fig leaves did not cover the subject proving that the works of man could not cover the nakedness of sin. God resolved to provide a covering for nakedness and sin.
God, to the hurt of His heart of love, found it necessary to take the life of a totally innocent animal in order to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” God loved the animals He had created then just as He does today. It was very painful for the Lord to take such a life. But the pain was multiplied beyond measure in the act as God knew that innocent animal would die to cover the sins of Adam and Eve in the same way that the Lamb of God would be sacrificed to cover the sins of mankind to come. So man was evicted from his primitive home of comfort and joy and released into a world of hard labor, suffering and eventual physical death.
But where was that Garden of Eden? We cannot be sure. Some speculate it was at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers – others more northward toward the fertile crescent. Of course, if God had wanted us to know, He would have told us. Perhaps He did not because He had placed the Garden in such a place as we could not reach it.
In my young imagination, I tried to picture the Tree of Life. I already had a fair understanding of that other Tree whose branches were draped by the Serpent. But the Tree of Life was somewhat elusive in my understanding. It would be many years before I came to an understanding of that Tree. I suppose it is natural for man to be attracted to tokens of sin ere he comes to appreciate the offer of redemption. So, as Adam, we first seem to come and stand before that vile ‘other’ Tree.
Over the years, it dawned on me that that the Garden of Eden would likely be found wherever God had removed the Tree of Life for it belonged in the Paradise of God from the beginning. That Tree of Life represented our Lord Jesus Christ. It seems our first choices in life are made apart from that Tree of Life. If I could find the Tree of Life, there would be the Hidden Garden for which I longed.
One day in my latter years, I was doing a study on the Book of Revelations. I happened upon a verse that opened my eyes to the ancient mystery that I had sought after from my childhood – the place to which the Garden at Eden had been removed. “7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” The Lord has revealed to us that Garden in His own words. It is in Heaven where no man can attain in this life. The Paradise of God is the Garden at Eden for that is where the Tree of Life is located! Our Lord was lain in a manger made of a tree at birth; and He was nailed to a tree at His Passion. And now He is the Tree of Life for all who are the called and chosen according to the purposes and will of God.
We read a further description of the Paradise of God as the Garden at Eden in the last chapter of Revelations: “1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelations 22:1-5 See how completely this Paradise compares with that of Eden: “8 ¶ And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” Genesis 2:8-10
Just as God found it expedient to remove His only Begotten Son back to Paradise and Heaven following the Resurrection, so did He (in type) remove the Tree of Life and its Paradise back to Heaven. Wherever the Tree of Life is, there is Paradise. Wherever Christ is, there is Heavenly bliss. Jesus made that promise to the repentant thief on the cross: “39 ¶ And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43
I have found that beautiful Garden right there in the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you seek that Garden, cast aside your picks and shovels of excavation, and take up the Chart and Compass of God’s Word. There you will be led to find the Garden, the Paradise, and the Tree of Life and its pure River of Life flowing abundantly among the branches and fruit of the Tree.