Coming Full Circle –Part 1

Norbert Lieth

From the garden, past the empty grave, to the eternal city. What the Word of God reveals about the end of all things.

An old story from North Africa tells of a Bedouin, who would lie on the ground time and again, pressing his ear to the desert sand. He would listen to the earth for hours. Taken aback, a missionary asked him, “What are you doing down there on the ground?” The Bedouin arose and replied, “Friend, I’m listening to the desert crying. It wants so much to be a garden!”

The desert of the world is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of life. The desert of war is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of peace. The desert of hunger is crying; it wants so much to be a garden full of food. The desert of poverty is crying; it wants so much to be a garden where all people have their livelihood. The desert of loneliness is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of encounter. The desert of despair is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of hope. The desert of guilt is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of forgiveness. The desert of death is crying; it wants so much to be a garden of new life.

The whole of creation is crying and distressed. It longs and hopes for salvation and liberation (Rom 8:19ff.). And with Jesus Christ, the risen One and the first of a new creation, the transformation begins. Soft and very small at first, hidden and hinted at in His redeemed ones; but then one day with power and glory, when He appears and brings paradise.

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose […] Then shall the lame mean leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert […] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is 35:1, 6, 10).

In chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, we see how God brings the desert into bloom again (“Behold, I make all things new”): “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Rev 21:1).

The Lord’s judgments have been completed (Rev 15:8), and God is reaching His objective regarding where He will ultimately bring His creation. A new heaven and a new earth appear. The revealed counsel of God is completed. We’ve come full circle. But which circle?

The first two and last two chapters of the Bible, form the framework for the entire plan of salvation. In between, we find the development of salvation from the love of God to us humans.

We realize that after the Fall, God didn’t give up on His creation until it found its way back into His paradise. God made Himself the servant of His creation. The whole Bible—concerning past, present, and future—is the story of God’s devotion to His creation.

One event from the beginning of the story is very moving and gives us a glimpse into God’s loving heart: “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen 2:8). God hadn’t created the man and then just stuck him somewhere. No, He had created a paradise for him, a beautiful and unprecedented home. The Almighty wanted to have fellowship with the man there; to communicate with him, to be intimately connected with him. He wanted to work together with the man and entrust him with responsibility. Eden means “land of delight.” God had prepared a place for the man where he could share in God’s delight (1 Tim 1:11). And when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, the end result will be that creation will be brought back into this “Eden” of delight. “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19), “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13).

But then sin came between them. Man lost paradise, and an angel, a cherub, blocked the way back (Gen 3:24). This paradise was probably lost in the Flood. But God didn’t give up on His creation. With the birth of Jesus, the world was given a fresh start.

When Jesus took the sins of the world upon Himself on the Cross and carried them away, the criminal hanging beside Him said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And the Lord Jesus answered him, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (v. 43).

It is significant that Jesus said this on the Cross. Because this Cross is made from wood, a tree. Sin came through a tree by which man stretched his hand out into the world. Sin is taken away by a “tree” on which Jesus stretched out His hands. At the first tree, paradise was closed. At the second “tree,” paradise is reopened.

Jesus is the last Adam, the second man (1 Cor 15:47), who returns to us the life and paradise we lost through the first Adam. In the Garden of Eden, the first Adam was disobedient. The first Adam brought the curse: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Gen 3:19). The second Adam abolished the curse: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal 3:13).

Between the Fall/loss of paradise and the new world, lies the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. And now, in the last pages of the Bible, we see how God leads everything toward His goal. Paradise is back again.

Jesus is the Man of God. Jesus is the guarantee that paradise will return. He is the foundation of this new world, the key to the door into this new world. No one can lay any other foundation. Jesus is the proof of God’s love. Jesus is the proof of God’s faithfulness, and that God hasn’t given up on mankind.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev 21:1-6; cf. Is 65:17-18).

The first heaven and the first earth will no longer exist. Everything will be completely new, completely different, reborn: a new earth and a new universe.

Humanity dreams of colonizing Mars; applications from interested parties are already being accepted. People are looking to set up a site on the moon and offer regular tourist flights. Mankind is repeatedly searching for new celestial bodies, where life could be possible. But it’s a leap into the unknown, a futile pursuit. The good news is that the Creator has a new heaven and a new earth where eternal life is possible.

There will be no more sea. Surely, there may still be water, lakes, rivers, and springs, but not the dividing seas resulting from the Flood (Rev 21:1). The sea will no longer separate the continents. Therefore, it is possible that many more people will be able to live on the future new earth, when 70% of it is no longer covered by water.

There will be no more tears. When God wipes tears away, it means once and for all.

How many tears has our world seen throughout its history? Tears of grief, horror, suffering, pain, injustice, war, disease, jealousy, anger, and wrath. Crying eyes of children, desperate women, and horrified men.

It is said that a person cries between 60 and 80 liters of tears, on average, in his lifetime. That’s eight 10-liter buckets, or about two million drops. The psalmist prays, “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Ps 56:8).

Jesus also cried (John 11:35). The teardrop is a symbol of pain. Werner Gitt points out that when a tear evaporates, crystals remain. And in every crystal of every teardrop is the microscopically small image of a cross.

Where was pain at its all-time greatest? It was undoubtedly on the Cross, where Jesus had to bear the burden of sin for a lost humanity. In Isaiah 53:4, we read of the man of sorrows: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” But Jesus is risen, and He has conquered everything that has anything to do with pain.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps 126:5-6). That is what Jesus did, and so it will be for all who believe in Him.

There will be no more death. Every person born comes into the world with clenched fists, as if he wanted to hold onto life. But when he dies, his hands are usually open. He couldn’t hold onto it.

Everyone fears death. It is the final enemy, according to 1 Corinthians 15:26. But since the resurrection of Jesus, death must fear Him.

At the burial of her husband, a woman who suddenly found herself alone with six children, received a card that comforted her greatly: “Do not look into the grave. Do not look behind the grave. I stand before the grave. Look at me, says Jesus, for I am the resurrection and the life.”

At a certain age, cells no longer regenerate. Even the oldest men there were had to die. Methuselah was 996 years old when he died. Adam was 930 years old. Abraham was 175 years old. Moses was 120; God had reduced the maximum age to 120 years (Gen 6:3). The normal lifespan is roughly 70 to 80 years (Ps 90:10). Scientists also say that genetically determined humans can’t live beyond about 120 years. Almost every human being has a stopwatch that stops ticking after 120 years. For people claiming to be older, their birthdates are uncertain.

A built-in molecular “self-destruct sequence” causes cells to die, resulting in pre-programmed cell death: “the sting of death” (1 Cor 15:56). In the adult body, several million cells die every second and are replaced with new ones. But at some point, a signal is sent, preventing this from occurring. Man ages, becomes ill, and dies.

Our deaths are a predetermined matter. It’s not primarily an issue of how healthy or unhealthy we lived—whether we ate too much, didn’t take enough vitamins, moved too little, experienced too much stress, or consumed too many unhealthy things. We can only live so well; we are subject to decay.

There are also Christians who despair of their suffering (illness, for example). They question God and cannot understand Him, so they grow bitter and suffer all the more for it. But it’s perfectly normal that Christians, too, are subject to death. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “Lord, save me from the naïve belief that everything in life must go smoothly. Give me the sober realization that difficulties, defeats, failures, and setbacks are given to us by life itself to make us grow and mature.”

Nobody knows why this pre-programmed cell death occurs. The Bible gives us the answer: “…for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17b). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

Christ, however, has conquered sin and death. That is why it says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:55-57).

Midnight Call - 04/2020

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