ECHOES FROM EDEN
RETURN TO PARADISE
"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. 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" (Gen. 2:8-9).
"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the TREE OF LIFE WHICH IS IN THE MIDST OF THE PARADISE OF GOD" (Rev. 2:7).
Our English word "Paradise" comes to us from ancient Persian by way of the Greek language. Paradise is the transliteration of the koine Greek word "Paradeisos" which, in turn transliterates the Old Persian term "Paridaeza". The PARIDAEZA of the Avesta denoted an enclosed park, beautifully landscaped with floral and fruit trees planted along a spring-fed stream, belonging to the king and his nobles. It is so described to quite some extent in Xenophon who tells of the idyllic beauty of the orchards of the king's forests, grazed by sheep, and guarded at the entrance by two soldiers whose task it was to see that intruders and spoilers were kept out. Only those who were friends of the monarch were given the pleasant privilege of passing peacefully through its gates to enjoy the sweet waters of the stream and the delicious fruit of the trees. In fact, the Old Persian word PARIDAEZA gained such international popularity that it became a loan word in Aramaic and Hebrew as well as Greek.
The Hebrew word for "Paradise" is "Gan," the word used in Genesis for the Garden of Eden. In the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint Version) the word "Paradeisos" is used and Gen. 2:8 reads, "The Lord God planted a PARADISE eastward in Eden." It is not surprising that the Jew, during the Babylonian captivity, observed how many things about the Persian paradise-parks of the king and nobility resembled the story of the Garden of Eden! There was the pure spring-fed stream, called "living water" in the Old Testament, bounded by "every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." The Jew beheld the PARIDAEZA of his majesty, and thought of the flaming sword of the Shekinah and the guardian cherubim at the entrance to the Garden of the King of the Universe! The Jewish captives knew of the flocks of sheep which grazed the royal enclosure, feeding by the still waters, and thought of how beautifully they depicted Jehovah's sheep, over whom He was Shepherd as well as King! In short, the word "Paradise" seemed a most fitting term for that wondrous realm where heaven met earth before Adam sinned against his Maker, and it was adopted into the Hebrew language by the post-exilic Rabbis in particular to speak of the Garden of God.
It is generally supposed by most professed Christians that the words "paradise" and "heaven" are essentially synonymous and that in the Bible they are both used to describe the "eternal home" of the "saved". There is an old tradition, however, one of the many "doctrines of the Pharisees" taught by the Rabbis in the time of Christ, that there was a realm of the world of the dead, called Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek, located deep in the heart of the earth. Out of the discussions and theories of the Rabbis, there grew a popular belief that Sheol, or Hades, was divided into two compartments, the lower and the upper, Gehenna comprising the lower, the region of the damned with its flames and torments; the upper being Paradise, the intermediate place of bliss and rest into which, at the time of death, the spirits of the righteous entered to await the resurrection day at "the end of the world."
The earnest prayer within my heart is that God's apprehended ones may turn aside from all such carnal-minded traditions and fables of the Pharisees. Jesus warned His disciples: "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees...then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the DOCTRINE of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Mat. 16:6,12). There is only ONE PARADISE to be found in all the pages of God's blessed Book, and that is the glorious Paradise in Eden from which Adam was banished - now opened once more to every wandering son of Adam's race through the precious blood of God's Lamb. Ah, the promise is clear: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the PARADISE OF GOD" (Rev. 2:7). This Paradise is not, nor has it ever been, in the heart of the earth!
All the important revelations in the Book of Revelation are taught by symbols. The symbols used in Revelation, in fact, throughout the entire Bible, are things and circumstances concerning which we, as humans, have at least some knowledge; otherwise the symbolic language of the Bible would have no meaning to us. There are things we know about the sun, the moon, the stars, and about sheep and goats, wheat and tares, rivers and trees, storms and earthquakes. So when the Bible uses these as symbols, certain lessons are conveyed to us.
In Revelation chapters two and three, seven wonderful promises are made to the faithful followers of Jesus, the "overcomers" of this present age. All these promises are illustrated by things with which have at least some acquaintance. We read in chapter two, verse ten, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." No child of God possessing a spiritual mind, in reading this, supposes that he will be wearing a literal crown in some far-off heaven someday! A crown signifies rulership, and the overcomers will share in the highest form of life in the universe, the divine and incorruptible life of God. To receive "crown of life" means to rule and reign in the power and nature of the divine life!
In chapter two, verse seventeen the promise is given, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." The expression, "hidden manna," takes us back to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. In the Most Holy of this tabernacle, was the "Ark of the Covenant." In this was placed a golden bowl of manna. While the manna collected daily by the Israelites corrupted, bred worms, and stank, that which they placed in this golden bowl did not. This, then, reveals the truth of INCORRUPTIBILITY. No spiritual person supposes, however, that the overcomers will someday go to heaven and eat literal manna from a literal golden bowl! But all who are apprehended to the High Calling of God in Christ shall eat and eat and eat of the incorruptible bread of HIS INCORRUPTIBLE LIFE until all the death of the carnal mind and the corruption of the flesh in them has been swallowed up of His life and the day comes when, even in their bodies, this mortal shall have put on immortality and this corruptible shall have put on incorruption.
In Rev. 3:12 the promise is, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out." No overcomer will be transformed into a pillar to be placed in a literal temple in heaven. This is a symbol of the sure and fixed position to be attained by those who overcome all things. Now we are being processed, tried, and tested, and are subject to "falls" along the way. We catch a vision of high and holy realms in God and, in moments of exceptional anointing, enter for a little while into those blessed experiences, only to have the anointing lift and the vision fade, once more to face the mundane activities of daily life. Ah, there is a promise, bright and blessed, that in due time the processing will be completed, the testing will be finished, the secret inworkings of God consummated, and those who have overcome will be as pillars, fixed and secure, in that glorious spiritual temple which will be the meeting place between god and men in the ages yet to come.
Beloved, so should we understand the blessed promise given of eating of the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God. This does not mean that the overcoming Sons of God will live in an earthly Paradise, any more than the other promises mean that they will wear literal crowns, eat manna from a golden bowl, or become marble pillars in a literal temple. This Paradise - let me state it again in this concluding article on the Garden of Eden - is far more than a piece of real estate somewhere over in the Middle East. The Paradise of God is not a physical place located on this or any other planet. It is a STATE OF BEING. It is the state of being man was in when first he was brought forth from the creative hand of God and placed in splendor here upon earth. It is man living in the presence of God, man with the incorruptible life of God accessible to him, man living above sin, sickness, fear, pain and death, man as master and lord over all things! It is in THIS PARADISE that the overcomer eats of the tree of life!
THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME
We often ask earnestly, "How can I enter fully into this glorious life of Eden? How can I become true and full overcomer - free from the self life, putting on the mind of Christ, filled with His love, joy, peace, righteousness, wisdom, knowledge and power, perfected in the image of God, incorruptible in spirit, soul and body, reigning over all things?" Ah - the answer lies in the pathway marked out for us by our Forerunner who has entered in! For fallen man the way to life is and can only be through death. The cross is the way to life - this is confessedly the truth revealed by Jesus. In the words of the old hymn, "The way of the cross leads home!"
But what is the cross? Does Christ's death save us unless we die WITH HIM? Our Lord distinctly says, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me; for whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose HIS LIFE for My sake shall find it" (Mat. 16:25). Again, "This is a faithful saying, If we be dead WITH HIM, we shall live with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (II Tim. 2:11-12). The overcomer must be able to say, "I am crucified WITH CHRIST, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). "We are debtors, not to live after the flesh, for if we live after the flesh we shall die; but if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live" (Rom. 8:12-13).
Why is the way of life for us through the cross, that is through death? Why can it not be otherwise? If we see the way by which man got away from God, we shall see the way of his return, and why this must be through death; for indeed the way, by which we came away from God in Eden, must be RETRACED if by grace we come back to Him. How then did man depart from God, and die to Him, and fall from His kingdom? By believing a lie - not an outright lie - but a half-truth.
A friend has shared this beautiful explanation of the fall of man in Eden: "We find, then, that in causing Eve to fall from the glory, the serpent used an argument that is correct IN FORM, but because it was ONLY FORM and was void of the ESSENCE, Eve was deceived by it. What WAS the argument that he used that was correct in form but actually invalid? Hear it! 'God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened!' That was a truth - and 'ye shall be as gods' was also truth, for after the man and the woman had eaten, the Lord God Himself verified the serpent's statement as being absolute truth. 'Behold, the man is become as ONE OF US to know good and evil,' God said (Gen. 3:22). He was saying that Adam had become as a god himself! 'Ye shall be as gods," the serpent said, and that he told the truth is confirmed in the words, "The man has become as one of us' - he has become AS A GOD!
"In FORM, then, the serpent had a truth. He had, in fact, drawn on the very word of God itself to temp Adam and Eve, for the Lord had said, 'Let us make man in our image.' What the serpent faileth to reveal, however, was the ESSENCE of the form which is that INDEPENDENTLY OF GOD man can NEVER be a partaker of the divine nature! This should have been a self-evident truth, but man failed to see it. He was deceived by the very form of truth - taking the Word of God which had promised to make him in the image of God, receiving it as a DOCTRINE rather than a revelation, as FORM rather than life, and was thereby brought to ruin, cheated out of the very thing he sought.
"Man becomes a god in the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil - but he becomes a god in the wrong realm, for at the same time that God acknowledged man's 'deity' He also CAST HIM FROM THE GARDEN - cast him from the heavenly realm - and set him in the earth 'to till the ground from which he was taken.' Musing upon this incident years later, the prophet David wrote, 'What is man that Thou art mindful of him...for Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.' It was as a god that man had dominion, but a further reading of this passage reveals that the works of the hands of God over which man was given dominion under the first covenant was limited to the EARTH REALM. Thus, we find that Adam truly became a 'god' - as the serpent promised and God confirmed - but he was not an heavenly god. He became, rather, the 'god of THIS world' (II Cor. 4:4). It is one thing, however, to be 'a partaker of the DIVINE NATURE' and it is quite another thing to be the 'god of THIS WORLD.' In the former, there is contained the thought of TOTAL DEPENDENCE - in the latter, the principle of INDEPENDENCE. Though the terminology is the same - that is, 'ye are gods' - the essence is not. 'The man has become AS one of us' but he did not become, in his rebellion, an actual partaker of divinity. The serpent, then, through reasoning that is superficially plausible but is actually fallacious, beguiled Eve. It was through a mere INTELLECTUAL grasp of the Word of God that Eve was 'cheated out' of her inheritance in the Living One and fell into the realm of death. We must not, as we consider these things, lose sight of the fact that the apostle Paul had a fear for the Church that by the very same deception, our minds should also be corrupted! 'I fear,' said he, 'lest...as the serpent beguiled Eve through his SOPHISTRY (the FORM of truth without the ESSENCE), so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.' May we have ears to hear!"
By disobedience and independence man was separated from God and died to God's world. Can we not see by this that death is a PASSING OUT OF ONE WORLD INTO ANOTHER? Adam passed from God's world into his OWN WORLD and by this death TO GOD man lost the place which God had given him in Paradise, fell into the kingdom of darkness, his inward life turned like sweet wine into sourest vinegar, into a life of ceaseless aching restlessness; to escape which he turns to outward things, hating to come to himself even for a moment, unconsciously driven by his own inward dissatisfaction to seek diversion from himself in any outward care, pleasure, or vanity; while his body became like that of the beasts, subject to the elements of this world, and to all the change and toil which make up "the course of this world." From that fateful day to this man without God has been hopelessly blind to eternal things, pitifully helpless, and desperately carnal. Once our eyes become closed to the invisible things, then we are blind to the eternal things, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. When our eyes are closed to the invisible, then our vision changes from things above to things beneath. Because we are no longer conscious of invisible and the eternal, we begin to feast our eyes on the visible and the temporal. Without God men are hopelessly IN THE FLESH. They pass their time in worthless pursuits of the flesh. Their days are spent in vanity, seeking to gratify the five senses of the physical body, all of which perish with the using. They are remarkably ALIVE to a PERISHING realm, the realm of death.
Such was the fall of man, and it explains why death is needful for our return to God. Death is the only way of any world in which we are. It was by death to God that we fell out of God's world. And it is by death WITH CHRIST to sin and to this world that we are delivered from the power of sin and the toil and sorrows of this outward world. For we are, as the Word of God and our own hearts tell us, not only in the outward world bodily, but in our spirits we are living in a spiritual world, which surely is not heavenly, but hellish, and no soul of man is at rest or satisfied till quickened by the Spirit of God. And, may I say, you will never get out of this world alive! To get out of this dark world we must die: die to this physical sense-oriented nature, to get out of the seen world, and die to sin to get out of the power of darkness. We must die both to the bodily realm and the spiritual realm of darkness if we would be free to enter again through the portals of Eden. Christ died this double death for us, not only "to sin," but also "to the elements of this world" (Rom. 6:10; Col. 2:20).
But now we ask, "How can I die this death?" The answer is, "Get another life!" We often speak about the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, but I doubt if we fully realize that the Holy Spirit is a HEAVENLY LIFE come to expel the selfish, fleshy, corruptible, earthly life. Death alone, without ANOTHER LIFE is not and cannot of itself be enough to bring us back to God's world! We need death to get out of this world, but we also must have the life of God to live in God's world! Just as without the life of this world we could not enter this world, so God's life must again be quickened in man before he can live again in God's Kingdom. In Christ the work has been accomplished! In Him God's life has again been raised up in man, and in the power of this life Christ has died both to sin and to the world, and so, through death, resurrection, and ascension has come back out of darkness to God's right hand. But whether in Christ, or in us, the work is only wrought through death.
Fallen man is still excluded from Paradise. Old Adam, the flesh, the carnal mind, will never pass through the gate of Eden. Old Adam is shut out, but the SEED can enter! The NEW CREATION MAN is he who enters, the Head passed first, and now the members. The first Adam, the flesh, may not enter into that from whence God has excluded him, but the second Adam, the New Man is invited to "draw near, with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22). And now, how changed is all! As then the Cherubim sounded the warning: Enter not! so now the call goes forth: Enter in!
Crucified WITH HIM! How can I enter into this fellowship of the cross? We find an illustration in the story of the penitent thief. The immature and self-assured disciples made all kinds of brash statements prior to Christ's death. Thomas said, "Let us go and abide with Him." And Peter said, "Lord I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death." But the disciples all failed, and our Lord took a man who was the offscouring of the earth and hung him upon the cross of Calvary beside Himself, and He said to Peter and to all, "I will let you see what it is to die WITH ME!"
Let us consider with care the drama of Calvary enacted in that solemn hour. The penitent thief, who represents fallen humanity in the first Adam, confessed his sin and that he deserved death. Then next, he confessed a wonderful faith in the almighty power of Christ. It has no parallel in the Bible. There hangs the cursed malefactor with Jesus of Nazareth, and he dares speak and say, "I am dying here under the just curse of my sins, but I believe Thou canst take me into Thy heart and remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom." The word "remember" means to recollect and both of these words can be broken down into two words: re-member and re-collect. The prefix "re" before them means to REPEAT OR TO DO SOMETHING AGAIN. So the malefactor was asking that when Jesus came into His kingdom, He would remember him, or make him a member again. He was saying, "RE-COLLECT or collect me again into that Kingdom and give back to me my original place." Through him was heard the voice of every son of Adam ever to live upon the earth. This is restoration, re-newing, re-demption, re-conciliation he was asking for! Ah, this was Adam's voice seeking the restoration of the life, fellowship, authority and glory that he first had - in Eden!
Oh, that we might learn to believe in the almighty power of Christ! The penitent thief believed that Christ was a King and had a Kingdom, and that on the other side of the cross He would take him up in His arms and in His heart and remember him, make him a part again, when He came into His Kingdom. He believed that, and believing that, he died. Dear brother, sister, you and I need to take the time to come to a much larger and deeper faith in the power of Christ, that the almighty Christ will indeed take us in His arms and carry us through this death life, revealing the power of His death in us. I cannot live it without the conscious awareness of His indwelling presence every hour of the day. Christ must do it. Christ CAN do it! Now that Christ is upon the throne, would you be afraid to do what the malefactor did when Christ was upon the cross, and entrust yourself to Him to live as one dead with Him? Christ will carry you through the very process He went through. He will make the process of death work in you until it is complete.
We have seen the faith of this man. Let us look, secondly, at how Christ met him. He met him with that wonderful promise, with its three wonderful parts: "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." First, it was a promise of fellowship, relationship and participation with Christ - "Thou shalt be WITH ME." Second, it was a revelation of the amazing and wonderful and triumphant OPENING OF EDEN AGAIN, a promise of entrance back into the Paradise from which sin had cast man out - "With Me IN PARADISE." Third, it was the heralding of a change, of the dawning of something new for all mankind, a NEW DAY, a new age, a new kingdom, a new order, a new realm, a new glory, a new reality, a new nature, a new spirit, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, a new dominion - "TODAY shalt thou be with Me in Paradise!"
During those moments of agony upon the cross, God ordained that one solitary firstfruit of Adam's race should be gathered from the world of sin and death and restored to the Paradise of God as wonderful proof that the way was opened up. It was the Spirit of God that moved upon the heart of this dying thief, causing him to turn his eyes upon the crucified Lord. There was a quickening, a rending of the veil of the carnal mind, an opening of the heavens above him, and in an instant his vision became clearer than that of all the multitude, and the soldiers, and the priests, and even the disciples. He saw in the Man hanging between him and his fellow thief, the Messiah, the Son of God, the second Adam, come to OPEN ANEW THE GATE OF THE PARADISE OF GOD.
Thank God, the Jesus of the penitent thief is my Jesus! Thank God, the cross of the penitent thief is my cross! During the thirty-three years of Christ's life there was not a man upon earth that had such wonderful fellowship with the Son of God as the penitent thief, for with the Son of God he entered glory. What made him so separate from others? He was on the cross WITH JESUS an entered Paradise WITH HIM. And if I live upon the cross with Jesus, the Paradise life shall be mine every day!
As another has so wisely exhorted: "Let us commune together of things that will greatly help our walk in God, for the Spirit of God teaches me that God's people will not - yea, cannot - forget the things which are behind until the glory of the things which lie before has laid hold upon them, captivating their hearts, enthralling their vision, and quickening their steps as they urgently press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He who wears a thin and ragged coat will wrap it close, until a new and better garment is offered him. Then, despising the old, he will cast it from him to embrace with joy the new. God's people do not - yea, cannot - release their hold on the fleeting things of this present evil age, persuade them as we will, until their vision has caught a true glimpse of the eternal. 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'"
BEYOND THE BORDERLAND
Few men have been caught away by the spirit of inspiration as was the wise king Solomon when he penned the beautiful Song of Solomon. God dropped one thousand and five songs down into the heart of Solomon, but of these, only five, comprising the Song of Solomon, have been preserved and have found a place in Holy Scripture. Inspiration named it "The Song of songs." Just as the "Holy of holiest" was the Holiest place of all, just as the "Heaven of the heavens" is the highest Heaven of all, just as the "King of kings" is the greatest King of all, so the "Song of songs" is above and beyond all the songs that have ever come from human heart and human lips.
God's meaning of a "song" is "message, revelation". All songs are meant to convey a message. Man calls anything a song, any weird beat, the ba-ba-bu of the jungle is merchandised as a song. In the Book of Revelation we read of a "new song" - bespeaking a NEW MESSAGE, a NEW REVELATION, a NEW EXPERIENCE in God. The "Song of songs" doesn't just contain a revelation, it is THE REVELATION OF REVELATIONS, the MESSAGE OF MESSAGES. This is the Song that is above all other songs; a Song sent down from the courts of Heaven, from the throne of God; a strain from the celestial choir. This is the ineffable, preeminent Song; ineffable because it is of the ineffable love and relation between Christ and His bride. Preeminent because it is of Him who is "The Head of the body, the Church;" because it is of Him, "Who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell."
In chapter four of this lovely Song there is a beautiful passage in which the King calls to the bride, imploring, "Come with Me from Lebanon, My spouse, with Me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Herman, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards." Lebanon was a border mountain between the enemy's country and the Promised Land, and it was never conquered by the Hebrews. It is symbolic of the spiritual borderland between the world of darkness and the glories of Eden; between flesh and spirit; between half-heartedness and abandonment to God; between carnality and spirituality; between the realm of death and the fullness of His incorruptible life. As has been said: "It is too high for earth and too low for heaven." These border mountains were infested with wild beasts, which lurked in the hiding-places of the clefts and rocks, ready to spring out upon the unwary and belated traveler. They were filled with dangers from lions and leopards, from chasms and precipices.
The lion is the symbol of the enemy as a roaring, open foe, going about seeking whom he may devour; strong, courageous, but bitter and full of open hatred toward God and man. The leopard is the symbol of the enemy, as a subtle, fierce, swift foe, moving against the spiritual life of God's people. In Revelation 13:2, the leopard is used as an emblem of the antichrist spirit. It is in the borderlands, the enemy pushes the fiercest warfare that he may capture and destroy those who are escaping "from the corruption that is in the world by lust."
He never pursues and attacks those who are in the world and have no desire to escape; neither can he follow those who hasten beyond the borderlands and border mountains to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, to which God is calling his chosen ones. It is against those who linger between the world and the Kingdom of God, that the enemy as the lion and leopard, directs his efforts. The enemy always attacks the weak child of God who is bewildered and distressed and does not have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, and who is easily unsettled. Have you noticed that the enemy never comes and tries to unsettle you along the lines of Truth where you are firmly established, and the areas of living where you have victory? Ah - there is a realm where the lion and the leopard have not trodden! If you will examine the places in your life where you do not live triumphantly, and where you are the most beset by the enemy concerning the Truth of God, you will find you are still in the borderland and have not gone on in the knowledge of God and His great plan and purposes. You have not gone over upon God's ground and, by faith, planted your feet there, with the determination to hold all you tread upon. As you do this, you will find the enemy has retreated from that place, and has begun an attack at some other point.
In the natural, mountains once crossed do not face us again; but spiritually, these mountains of decision, which lie between God's best and compromise, are continually facing us in realm after realm. At every step and point of decision, in every experience and circumstance, the call of God to come away with Him, is as urgent as it was the first time He called us. Even after we leave the high peaks and ranges of the border mountains, it is surprising how many foothills there are before we are clear of the borderland; and we are not safe until we have left even the foothills. Many times the enemy makes sudden sallies and carries a belated traveler back to the highest peak of bewilderment and indecision.
The King would not have His loiter in these mountains; He calls her to come with Him that she may possess ALL OF THAT WHICH HE HAS PREPARED FOR HER. He has translated her out of darkness into His marvelous light, out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light; and He would not have her lingering in the questionable region that separates light from darkness. He woos her to hasten in the race, by inviting her to look from these high passes and behold the glorious Paradise of God shining bright before her, the land of the fullness of the glory of the Lord where man walks in the image of God.
It is not enough to have visions of the High Calling of God in Christ. It is not enough to have visions of the life of Sonship to God. It is not enough to have visions of a realm of perfection and glory where the carnal mind is exchanged for the mind of Christ and death is swallowed up of His life. Visions are not possession; and though they may be from God, they are only given to encourage us to hasten our footsteps that we may enter in. It is not enough for us to leave the world and religious Babylon and begin the journey; we must hasten on to the end and finish our course even to the last step.
How many who start on the journey, settle down in these border mountains! How many settle for something better than what God called them out of, but LESS THAN WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED TO! Ah, yes, this borderland is an alluring place, a subtle experience, a crafty and cunning temptation. It is the territory between Babylon and Mount Zion where are felt the powers of both, but in the mixture neither are fully experienced. Those who abide here settle down comfortably in some "New Testament Church" order, with shepherds, gifts, and forms of worship and fail to GO ON! These concern themselves with the "first principles" of doctrines, baptisms, laying on of hands, etc. and lay these foundations over and over, refusing to LEAVE THEM in order to GO ON TO PERFECTION.
The borderlands are a dangerous place for all who SETTLE THERE. If they are not devoured by the enemy that lurks there, they eventually retrace their steps and are found in the world from whence they came. Ah, we praise God for these borderlands, for it is needful that we PASS THROUGH them, but pass through we must! The mountain vision of a distant land of beauty and sunshine does not feed nor warm the one who sees it. Moses did not go over into Canaan, though for forty years he bore the children of Israel as a nursing mother bears a child upon her bosom, and stood between God and His people as the mouthpiece of God. God took Moses up on the top of Mount Pisgah and let him view the land, but He told Moses that he could not go over and possess it. The sigh was, no doubt, beautiful to this servant of God; and yet how was he profited by the milk and honey, which flowed in the land that he beheld?
Though the vineyards were ever so green and fruitful, what joy could they bring to him who would never enjoy their fruits nor drink of their vintage? Though the pomegranates were large and luscious, though the olive trees were green and loaded with fruit, he would never eat of this perfect fruit nor be anointed with the pure, abundant oil. Though the sun shone brighter than he had ever seen it in Egypt, or during those forty years in the desert, where he was taught in God's school of solitude, how did it profit him? He would never be warmed by its gracious rays! And what shall it profit us, beloved, if we settle down in the borderland, in the "in part" realm of spiritual experience, in the glory of that which falls short of the promised fullness, in a "church order" rather than the Kingdom Order, in satisfaction with gaining an occasional victory rather than overcoming ALL THINGS, in contentment with the "indwelling" of His Spirit instead of a total TRANSFORMATION INTO HIS IMAGE.
There were some among the disciples, who were privileged to behold the glory of the heavenly Garden of God, and the glorious One who is Lord of it. Shortly before Jesus accomplished His decease, He took Peter, James and John up into a mountain apart from the others: "And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them." Peter, in speaking of this ineffable experience said, "We were eye witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father glory and honor, when there was borne such a voice to Him by the Majesty Glory, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount."
Though Peter, James and John beheld the glory of Christ's Sonship and heard the voice of the Father witnessing to Him, they could not go with Him at this time. Before they could go in to the glory of Sonship to God they had a course to run, they had a ministry to fulfill, they had a fight to fight, they had a faith to keep even unto death. Only when they had done these things, could they enter into this glory, which they beheld in a measure upon the Mount of Transfiguration. So it is with us. How beautiful is that land of far distances! Our souls are ravished by the revelations of our high calling, which we see while upon this high elevation, caught up in the Spirit. But we must come down and hasten over the path that leads to the possession of all we have seen, and all that God has offered us. There is no working of the enemy so treacherous as the working of deception that would make us mistake for POSSESSION the great REVELATIONS God gives of Sonship and the Kingdom of God and our High Calling in Him.
Truly, this is the enemy as a treacherous leopard, deceiving the unwary soul. If the deception is not perceived in time, that soul becomes puffed-up with a lot of HEAD-KNOWLEDGE and SELF-SATISFACTION, which is fatal to receiving that which has been revealed. Better would it be to not have any revelations, than to mistake them for land possessed; for some who steadily obey the Lord and follow Him without such revelations, will reach the goal; while the others may not.
How the Lord woos His chosen ones to come after Him! From those high border places over which we must go to come into the land, He lets us look upon His Garden. He allows us to overlook the high terraces of the Paradise of God, and oft times we catch glimpses of the Forerunner who has entered there for us. With that vision permeating our hearts, we hasten onward!
Though my natural eyes have not beheld the sacred glories of Eden, I can think of nothing more wonderful than to have my spiritual eyes opened, and I now attest that the eyes of my understanding have been transfixed as they have caught glimpses of the effulgent glory of that realm of INCORRUPTIBLE LIFE. Though my natural feet have not rod upon the sacred ground of the heavenly land, I bear witness that in spirit I have entered and now stand enraptured upon its hills of splendor, beauty, glory and power. Only soul and body remain without, now to be transformed as by the purifying wind of His Holy Spirit He sweeps away as clouds of useless dust the earthiness of this carnal realm to which they have so long been bound. Arise, oh man! and enter in; for an entrance has been opened by our blessed Lord for the WHOLE MAN. Arise, of Sons of God, shake off the clinging dust of this low realm, and let us RETURN TO PARADISE!
Old Adam, the flesh, the carnal mind will never pass through the portals of Eden. The New Creation Man is he who enters and he enters with no dread of the Cherubim and the flaming sword upon him, for he is fully JUSTIFIED. There can be NO OBJECTION to his entrance, for justification is being DECLARED RIGHTEOUS. "Therefore by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (declared righteous) in His sight" (Rom. 3:20). The fact that men could not justify themselves by works was demonstrated by Israel under their Law Covenant, and proves that this wrong or sin was in the very natures of men, untamed by the law, therefore NO LAW could ever bring them to the point of being DECLARED RIGHTEOUS for "by the law is the knowledge of sin."
Justification is neither forgiveness nor pardon. Forgiveness, of necessity, is a recognition of guilt - but covered by mercy. To forgive means to overlook an offence and to give up the desire to punish. Without guilt THERE CAN BE NO FORGIVENESS! Nor does justification mean to make righteous; this, too, would be a recognition of guilt, unrighteousness, and thus justification would be a correcting of an unrighteous state, not a declaration of righteousness. No one is justified by the law for the law CONDEMNS, and condemnation is antithesis of justification. "We are justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16), for "there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
It may be shown by contrasting CONDEMNATION with JUSTIFICATION that both acts are judicial and not executive. The act of granting "pardon" is an executive act, the act of a ruler - president, king, governor etc. - who grants reprieve to one pronounced "guilty" by a judge or jury simply because it pleases him to do so. He thereby restores to society one who is still JUDICIALLY GUILT, yet free to resume his place in society as a normal citizen. "Justification," on the other hand, is the act of a judge, a forensic act, in which a judge pronounces the person arraigned as FREE FROM GUILT and entitled to be treated as righteous according to the law. If "to condemn" does not mean "to make evil" then "to justify" does not mean "to make good". Therefore, since condemnation is judicial, so, also, justification. When the Bible says, "God justifies the believer," we are not at liberty to say that it means that He either pardons, forgives, or sanctifies him. It means, and can only mean that He pronounces him JUST - without fault.
Justification must not be confused with sanctification. Justification does not bring about reformation, or a change of character, causing those who were "bad" to become "good". It is a declarative act on the part of God in His judicial role as Judge, and not in His executive role as Sovereign. It is a forensic act in which the Lord declares that the accused is NOT GUILTY, and the accused cannot be condemned but must be granted an acquittal, declaring the one arraigned to be entitled to all the blessings, benefits and rights of the Kingdom of God!
Ah - to be justified means to be ACQUITTED. Acquitted means to be declared by a court of law NOT GUILTY - EXONERATED! Justification means that you really DIDN'T DO IT! Thus, justification relates not to forgiveness or pardon for the errors and sins of the OLD NATURE, but to the STANDING AND STATE OF BEING OF THE NEW CREATION. The New Man, born from above, really DIDN'T DO IT! The New Man is CHRIST IN YOU, the divine nature, the image of God. The old man is declared DEAD, the New Man is positively NOT GUILTY, therefore we are JUSTIFIED before God, acquitted, and the case dismissed! God delivers us from all that we are in the first Adam, that we may be all that is true in the last Adam. So, "AS HE IS, so are we in this world" (I Jn. 4:17), and "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is BORN OF HIM" (I Jn. 2:29). Furthermore, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (I Jn. 3:9).
Therefore, "...since we are justified - acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God - through faith, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...therefore, since we are now justified - acquitted - by Christ's blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God" (Rom. 5:1,9, Amplified Bible).
Yes, old Adam was pronounced GUILTY and banished from Eden's fair Garden. But new Adam is declared RIGHTEOUS and may, therefore, stride boldly back into Paradise! We are now JUSTIFIED to RETURN TO PARADISE...
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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