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).
As we approach the conclusion of this series of articles in which the blessed Spirit of God has graciously opened a little way the veil, revealing before our wondering eyes some of the glorious mysteries of the Garden of Eden, my deep desire is that men may see the whole plan of God as celestial harmony, hymning its beautiful song from the heaven-kissed hills of Eden to the brilliant glory of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. The book of Genesis is a most remarkable book, and I think all who comprehend even a minute portion of its mystical truths will agree when I say that all the other books of the Bible are messages from God progressively enlarging on the revelations from this wonderful book. The whole Bible shows the progression of the plan of God from Alpha to Omega, from beginning to end, from Eden to Eden, from Paradise lost to Paradise regained, from man in the image of God in the beginning to "God all-in-all" in the end.
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
In the state of New Mexico some eighty years ago a cowboy became curious concerning a certain gaping hole in the earth, out of which millions of bats emerged every evening at dust. He secured equipment and supplies but tried in vain to persuade certain friends to accompany him and help on a proposed exploration venture into the inky blackness below. At last a Mexican boy was found who had sufficient courage to go with him. That venture resulted in the discovery of the wonders of the now-famous Carlsbad Caverns.
The extent of these caverns with their innumerable passages, and rooms, and blind alleys, and grottos, is not known. It is known, however, that they are of considerable extent, and that there are different levels or floors, some as deep as 1,100 feet below the surface have been explored, and deeper ones exist. According to the latest information available to this writer some thirty-five miles of passageways have been explored, of which only three miles are open to visitors. Although the known entrance to these caverns is Bat Cave, to the best of my knowledge, the real entrance and exit are not known. The existence of a main entrance and exit is certain, however, from the fact that there is a constant flow of fresh air which remains at the same temperature the year round. Through the years it has been thought that the entrance may be in the mountains of New Mexico and the exit in the state of Texas. Some day that entrance and exit will be known. And some day it may be possible for tourists and vacationers to travel the entire length and extent of those caverns. But, if ever that becomes a possibility, those who enter will emerge safely only because of their following a marked-out pathway. Anyone who should stray from the beaten path would very soon be hopelessly lost.
Following the path of man from his expulsion from Eden's fragrant Garden into the incomprehensible darkness of sin, sorrow and death, and onward until that final day when every man is presented faultless before the throne of His glory, is comparable to entering a cave which has but one entrance and one exit. Only ONE! Between these two points there are innumerable passages and rooms and blind alleys with an entrance but no exit. Someone had to go before and explore can ever again see the light of day. All who deviate from this course become hopelessly lost.
"Let us make man in our image and after our likeness," was the proclamation of the Lord, and having so proclaimed His intention, the Father set in motion a plan which included the lowering of man into this dark depth of sorrow and travail, for his learning and testing and proving. Thousands of years would pass before the first Son of man, the first begotten Son of God, would emerge from the inky darkness and be presented perfected and faultless as the Captain of our salvation and the redeemer of us all. Then, after perfecting the first Son, other thousands of years would roll by while "He who hath begun a good work in US" is performing it right up until the day of Christ. Ah, One has entered into this dark and treacherous realm of sin and death in which all mankind gropes, and has discovered the WAY OUT! He marked out before us the one safe passageway, the plain path of faith and obedience, and all those faithful ones who FOLLOW HIM will emerge at the one and only exit to stand again in the light of God's eternal day, bright and blessed.
I think this understanding will give much greater meaning to the apostle's inspired admonition in Heb. 12:1-2: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." LET US RUN - there we have the intense exertion, claiming all the emotion, will, and action of our beings. LOOKING UNTO JESUS - there we have the inner life of the spirit, a heart always fixed on Jesus in faith and worship, pursuing the Forerunner, who has entered within the veil for us, leaving behind His tract and footsteps for us to walk in. This is the new and living way which leads to life and to God. Looking unto Jesus - the author and finisher of our faith. He leads in the way of faith, He walked in it Himself, He opened it for us, He draws and helps us in it. In Hebrews chapter eleven the roster of Old Testament saints, from righteous Abel onward to king David, gives us thrilling examples of faith, but Jesus is the Source and Leader and the Perfecter of OUR FAITH, the faith that through death enters into resurrection life and the Holiest of All, that better and more perfect thing which God had opened up for us and for all mankind.
Yes, let us run, looking unto Jesus! Looking not to ourselves or our weaknesses, but to Him who strengtheneth us. Not to ourselves or to our faith, whether in its weakness or its strength, but to Him whose presence is the life of our faith. Not to the world or its temptations, but to Him who hath said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Not to Satan or his threats, but to Him who hath brought him to naught. Not to men, their fear or their favor, but to Jesus, the God-man, Immanuel, God with us, our Brother and King. Looking to Jesus and Jesus alone! Looking to Him always and in all. In trial and trouble, as in joy and prosperity; in solitude and repose, as in company and business; in praise and worship, as in the mundane activities of daily life; - always, only, looking to Jesus. Looking to Him, to see what He is, to hear what He speaks, to do what He says, to follow where He leads, to trust for all He waits to impart. Looking to Him to be changed into His likeness from glory to glory. Let us run the race with patience, LOOKING UNTO JESUS!
Do you know, dear friend, why the masses of Christians today have little or no revelation of the purpose of God, no hope of Sonship, no going on to perfection, no putting on of the mind of Christ, and no conformation to His glorious image? It is because at every turn they have ceased to LOOK UNTO JESUS, having left the road He has marked out to wander in Stygian blackness. Here, there, and everywhere, one finds in tracts, books, magazines, on the radio and television, and from behind pulpits across the land some poor deluded traveler who is proclaiming his particular alley - his theory, his doctrine, his gift, his ministry, his sect, his baptism, his form, his tradition, his methods, or feeble little spiritual experience to be the only passageway to a new and better day. But in all these we find no true dawn. Instead of bright sunlight and clear skies, all we find here is some poor soul groping hopelessly by the pathetic light of a flickering match which he himself holds.
I present to you, beloved brother, sister, a RISEN SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in all His beauty, majesty, and incorruptibility, who bids us FOLLOW HIM to enter the glories of His new day of life and light and glory! There is but ONE TRUE WAY. ALL OTHERS ARE FALSE, AND CAN BUT LEAD TO SHAME AND FAILURE AND DISGRACE, in spite of the zeal of the preachers and people who recommend such a course. Looking unto JESUS! This then is God's plan of the ages - first to perfect the Prince Redeemer, the first begotten Son, the apostle and priest of our confession, and the head of the body of Christ. Having completed this, He next must bring to perfection the Sons of God who are the completeness and fullness of the body of Christ and, when their perfection is complete, then the Bride must make herself ready, and she, too, having come to the fullness of Christ, shall open her twelve gates that the nations may bring their glory and honor into her. Then it will be universally seen that God is in Christ, RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, not imputing their trespasses unto them, bringing every son of the first Adam into the image of the last Adam, which is the image of God.
RETURN TO PARADISE
"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). Paradise! 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 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." This Paradise, as we have stated repeatedly in these articles, is more than merely a piece of real estate somewhere over in Mesopotamia. 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 as master and lord over all things, man living above sin, sickness, sorrow, pain and death! It is in THIS PARADISE that the overcomer shall eat of the tree of life!
A most wonderful and significant event, completely passed over by the vast majority of Christians, occurred at the time of the crucifixion of our Lord. In the purposes of God extending from Paradise lost to Paradise regained, the time came when all three of the characters involved in the ancient drama in Eden MUST meet again - this time AT THE CROSS! You will understand a great truth when you see how it is that Christ, Adam, and Satan ALL MET AT THE CROSS. Let me unfold for you this blessed mystery which transpired on Calvary's hill. Ah - the last Adam, Jesus, the manifestation of God, was present there in the flesh. But the first Adam was also there in the flesh - not in the flesh of Jesus, but represented in the flesh of one of the thieves crucified with Him. And, Satan was there - manifested in the flesh of the other thief. Three and a half years prior to this event Jesus had encountered Satan in the wilderness of Judea. The temptation came in these subtle words, "IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD, command that these stones be made bread" (Mat. 4:3). And now, on Mount Calvary, while drinking in obedience to the Father the last bitter dregs from the cup of suffering and death, the Satanic voice is heard once more taunting Him through the lips of this jeering malefactor: "IF THOU BE THE CHRIST, save Thyself and us!" (Lk. 23:39).
Do you imagine, my friend, that it was an accidental and inconsequential incident that Jesus was crucified between TWO THIEVES? Not so! The truth of God is multi-faceted and the Scriptures abound with many varied representations of the redemptive plans, purposes, and processes of God. There are those unique passages which point to all that has been wrought and made blessed reality IN CHRIST. The prepositional phrase "IN CHRIST", appearing some thirty-five times in the New Testament, is filled with spiritual dynamite! Vital necessity, this reality of being "in Christ". This has much depth and preciousness in it when we remember that Christ is made up of many members, and that they are joined together as one, ONE MANY-MEMBERED CHRIST. There is a realm of fullness to come into, and it is IN CHRIST - He is to abide in the inner part of our being and we in Him, so co-mingled until it is no longer "Christ and me" but just - CHRIST.
God has chosen us IN HIM, and we are made alive IN HIM. We are new creatures IN HIM and are to walk IN HIM as we have received Him, rooted and builded up IN HIM and established in our faith. We become the righteousness of God IN HIM, we are established IN HIM, and can do all things IN HIM that strengtheneth us. God always leads us to triumph IN HIM, making our lives a sweet savor of Christ. IN HIM we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places; as we abide IN HIM we are made complete IN HIM who is the Head of all principality and power.
We should direct our thoughts to yet another consideration. Wonderful as is this truth of our identification "in Christ", let all who read these lines know and thoroughly understand that there is another aspect of truth to be embraced in the precious words "WITH CHRIST". Now I believe that I am quite correct in this statement - I am certain that Paul NEVER SAID that he was crucified IN Christ. He did say that he was crucified WITH CHRIST. Paul gave us a remarkable clue to this great mystery when he explained, "I am crucified WITH CHRIST: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20), and again, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified WITH HIM, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom. 6:6).
With these words in mind it should not be difficult to see that Paul never makes the statement or the inference that Christ DIED IN HIS STEAD. But Paul made it the sharing of a common death by saying that he was crucified WITH Christ. This may seem to be an insignificant and unimportance point, but it makes a whole world of difference whether we were crucified IN CHRIST or WITH CHRIST. Truly He died FOR US, not in our stead, precluding our dying, but on our behalf, thus enabling us to truly die and rise again WITH HIM.
Now actually, Paul, nor any of us, nor anyone else, was actually, materially and physically crucified with Christ. I refer of course to that particular time of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus the Christ was there at that crucifixion as the representative of the new creation: the pure, sinless, separate, heavenly One pouring out His divine life for the world. So also did fallen humanity have a representative or a manifestation of itself in the flesh. One man was there as the representative of all humanity, or the representative of the first Adam, if you please, that once for all old Adam might be put to death. And the remaining thief was the representative of Satan and all his kingdom in the flesh. AND ALL THREE DIED ON THE CROSS. They all died the same natural death and not one of them was saved from it. The two thieves, above all who have ever lived, were truly CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.
You remember that the thieves began to rail on Jesus, but one of them said, "Lord, help me!" The rulers, and the soldiers, and the people standing there derided and mocked Him, but this one malefactor asked that Jesus have mercy upon him. How foolish it seems to the natural mind for this one to ask Jesus to help him or have mercy upon him, for here are two men, both dying upon a cross, and yet one asks help of another who is in no better position to help him than He is Himself! Such a thing appears utterly ridiculous and because it was so absurd in the natural there MUST BE A MYSTERY HIDDEN IN THESE THINGS.
All three of these died at approximately the same time, on the same day. When the soldiers came to Jesus, He was already dead and they broke the legs of the two thieves so that by shock, as we know it today, their deaths might be hastened. All were dead by sundown. So the manifestation of God in the flesh died. The manifestation of humanity in the flesh also died. And the manifestation of Satan in the flesh died. They all entered the realm of death.
Listen now with infinite care as the drama of Calvary is enacted in that solemn hour. The thief who represents fallen mankind turns to the thief representing Satan and says, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing that thou thyself art under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man hath done nothing out of the way - nothing strange, or perverse or unreasonable" (Lk. 23:4041). He then turns to Jesus, crying out, "Lord! REMEMBER ME when you COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM!" (Lk. 23:42). 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." This is re-storation, re-newing, re-demption, re-conciliation, re-freshing, and re-surrection he was asking for! He was seeking the restoration of the life, fellowship, authority and glory that he first had - in Eden!
Such truth as this requires deep spiritual thought and meditation. What do you think, beloved, Jesus meant when He announced the glad tidings to this poor thief dying WITH HIM, "Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be WITH ME IN PARADISE" (Lk. 23:43). Today - in Paradise! Do you imagine that He meant that the thief would, that very twenty-four hour day, walk with Him up and down streets of gold, strumming a harp, in some far-off heaven somewhere? Or do you suppose Jesus was telling this man that within a few short hours he would find himself in some "compartment of departed spirits" deep in the heart of the earth? Ah, I do not hesitate to tell you that the Christ spake of things infinitely higher and grander than such time-worn traditions of men, for the blessed Son of God, the all-conquering last Adam spake of the amazing and wonderful and triumphant OPENING OF EDEN AGAIN. By death and resurrection Christ triumphed gloriously over the whole kingdom of sin and death; He strode boldly and fearlessly back into the Paradise of God; He opened up for us all a NEW and LIVING way; He passed through the dominion of the Cherubim and the flaming sword; He claimed again the dominion and the eminence and the glory which once belonged to the first Adam. He accomplished this FOR US - on our behalf.
The pure river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb IS AGAIN ACCESSIBLE as Jesus said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me...out of this belly shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn. 7:37). The tree of life is NOW WITHIN CONSTANT REACH as it is written, "This is the record, that God had given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (I Jn. 5:11). This tree is vibrantly and continuously bearing the fruit of His divine life is all who partake of it. The leaves of this wonderful tree are for the healing, the restoration of THE NATIONS. In this blest realm of Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the curse is removed, as it shall finally be in all the earth, for there shall BE NO MORE CURSE. The throne of God and of the Lamb is with men - heaven and earth are united again. His servants shall serve Him, for they behold His face in the light that the Spirit brings. His name shall forever be in their foreheads, His nature reigning in their minds and hearts - ONLY HIS WILL FOREVER AND EVER. There is no night here in this city of living stones for the never-ending DAY OF THE LORD HAS COME. No need for the light of candles, or lamps, nor for the light of the sun or the moon, for the glory of the Lord floods the length and breadth and depth of the city, as it shall fill all the earth. God Himself has reconciled all unto Himself and HE GIVETH THEM LIGHT. Hallelujah to the Lamb!
Today! Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise, Jesus assured the thief. Oh, the wonder of it! "Today" did not signify a particular day on the calendar two thousand years ago. The word heralded the bringing in of a NEW DAY, a new dispensation, a new age, a new kingdom, a new realm, a new glory, a new reality, a new nature, a new spirit, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, new dominion. Ah, today! Paradise! In this one notable statement Jesus revealed that the Garden of Eden, the Paradise of God, the high and holy estate from which man fell was at last OPENED ANEW. Thank God! we can now enter!
THE LAW OF CIRCULARITY
Nothing is more evident in the Word of God than the fact that man had his beginning IN GOD. Every son of Adam, born as he is in trespasses and sins, enters into this world shrouded by the darkness of the carnal mind and imprisoned by the power of the carnal nature. But it was not always so! Everything everywhere OUTSIDE OF CHRIST belongs to the realm of death, and because it belongs to the realm of death, it likewise belongs to the realm of darkness. Before ever man touched this dreadful realm the record states: "In the beginning WAS the Word, and the Word WAS with God, and the Word WAS God. In Him WAS life; and the life WAS the light of men" (Jn.1:1,4). WAS! It is a wonderful fact that in Him IS life, and His life IS the light of every man who believes, but, wonder of wonders, in that long ago beginning Christ WAS THEN THE LIFE and His life WAS THEN THE LIGHT OF MEN. It was into this realm OUTSIDE OF CHRIST, the realm of OUTER DARKNESS, that Adam was banished when he partook of that strange tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There he died, as God had warned, and we all died in him. Thus death passed upon all men, for all have sinned. Has mankind not fully proved throughout the centuries that he is in truth the son of Adam? Which of all God's commandments have we not broken, justifying ourselves in having done so even as Adam seemed to do.
Oh, sweet mystery of the ages, that a second Adam should stand upon the earth and declare, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE, and that they might have it more abundantly. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. I am that bread of life. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (Jn. 10:10; 6:33,48,51). No greater revelation can break upon any man's consciousness than this simple truth that there is ONLY ONE LIFE in the universe, and that one life is JESUS CHRIST. May God make this truth real to your hearts! When a man comes to Christ the life, he comes not only to the life that IS the light of men, but to the same life that in the beginning WAS the light of men. What we have received in Christ's opening again of Paradise is a re-turn, a re-storation, a re-newing, a re-demption, a re-conciliation, a re-surrection. The prefix "re" means BACK, AGAIN, ANEW - and all words with this prefix speak of something that LEFT ITS PLACE AND HAS NOW MADE ITS CIRCUIT AND COME BACK TO THE POINT OF ITS BEGINNING.
Let me give you now a Scripture that shows the hand of God in this and the extensive scope of both the departure from, and the returning unto, God. I quote from Ps. 90:1-3. "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. THOU TURNEST MAN TO DESTRUCTION; and sayest, RETURN, YE CHILDREN OF MEN." You could never read this word "return" here, if you had not first read that man had been "turned" away to destruction. In this passage the word "destruction" has this meaning in the original: A COMPLETE COLLAPSE, crumbling man to a contrite condition.
Here is the picture: For the magnificent purpose God had in mind He made all the provision necessary before the foundation of the world. He made provision for a Lamb to be slain (Rev. 13:8). He made provision for a company of people to be chosen in Christ, to be Holy and without blame before Him in love, as a firstfruit of His redemption in the earth (Eph. 1:4-5,10). Then He brought into Eden a poisonous serpent, a murderer, a MANSLAYER (Gen. 3:1). Having prepared all this HE THEN BROUGHT MAN INTO THE GARDEN. Having brought man into the Garden, GOD PUT HIM INTO THE PATHWAY OF A COMPLETE COLLAPSE. It was GOD who turned man to destruction, set him on this downward course, sent him into outer darkness, and made him subject to vanity. God our Father has never once blamed man for the fall, but takes the responsibility for it Himself when He says, "For the creation was subjected to frailty - to futility, condemned to frustration - not because of some intentional fault on its part, BUT BY THE WILL OF HIM WHO SO SUBJECTED IT. YET WITH HOPE that creation itself WILL BE SET FREE from its bondage to decay and corruption and gain an entrance into the glorious freedom of God's children" (Rom. 8:20-21, Amplified). Man did not volunteer for this time of travail, but the plan of God included this process, so God turned man into this route, this experience, and it will also be the sovereign work of a sovereign God who shall BRING BACK INTO HIMSELF the whole of His creation.
After turning man to destruction God then says, "RETURN TO ME, ye children of men." In verse four of Psalm ninety, the writer makes the statement that in God's sight a thousand years is as a day when it is passed. But in verse thirteen the Psalmist exclaim, "Return, O LORD, HOW LONG?" In the beginning of the Psalm the write is joyful in the knowledge that though the Lord has turned man to destruction, yet God has also given the command to return, and what if it does take a thousand years or more, it is but a day in God's sight. But by the time the writer reaches the position of the thirteenth verse, he begins to cry out, saying, "O Lord, HOW LONG is all this going to take? HOW LONG before our full return to You?" A thousand years had become an unbearably long time. Surely this is the cry from the hearts of men today! This is the crying, groaning, and travailing we find the creation passing through in the 8th chapter of Romans, waiting for the manifestation of the Sons of God.
There was a day when Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus (Mars Hill Auditorium) declared tot he philosophers of Athens, "The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, made from one common origin, one source all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation - their settlements, lands, abodes; SO THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK GOD, IN THE HOPE THAT THEY MIGHT FEEL AFTER HIM AND FIND HIM, although He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, FOR WE ARE ALSO HIS OFFSPRING" (Acts 17:24-28, Amplified).
Oh, yes, He turned us to destruction, but planted deep in the subconsciousness of every man the SECRET COMMAND to RETURN, which has become that inner desire, yearning, craving, seeking, feeling, compulsion which is never satisfied until man does find himself home in God once more. All the religiousness of men, from the witch doctor in the jungle to the modernist in the pulpit in America, is the manifestation of this FEELING AFTER GOD, IF HAPLY THEY MIGHT FIND HIM. While mankind in general is still lost in the hellish darkness of sin and death, yet there is a firstfruit company whose hearts have been charged by the inward call to return, and with the Shulamite maiden in the Song of Solomon share this blessed experience: "By night on my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth; I sought Him, but I found Him not. I will arise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek Him whom my soul loveth: I sought Him but I found Him not. The watch-men that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I FOUND HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH: I HELD HIM, AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO" (S. of S. 3:1-4). As the Spirit has witnessed through the prophet, "And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).
Mankind is yet groping about in the dense darkness of the carnal mind, knowing not that HE is standing right there in the shadows, were their eyes opened to see. Yet He hath appointed a day - Oh glorious day! - when His light shall shine forth and the plan shall be completed as the apostle saith, "For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this: He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him. In Christ we have been given an inheritance, since we were destined for this, by the One who works out all His purposes according to the design of His own will" (Eph. 1:9-11, Phillips).
The very laws of physics and mathematics establish with indisputable certainty the absolute inevitability of the creation's return back into God. Psalm nineteen was long a source of amusement to Bible critics. In speaking of the sun, the Psalmist says: "His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof" (Ps. 19:6). It was claimed that the writer of this verse obviously believed in the ancient notion of the sun's revolving about the earth. This charge is most unjust, since we still use words and phrases of the same sort, simply because from our natural viewpoint the sun does rise in the morning, move across the sky, and set in the evening. The whole science of nautical and engineering astronomy is based on the assumption, made purely for convenience, that the earth is the center of a great celestial sphere, moving along the surface of which in ordered paths are the sun, moon, planets and stars. And as far as any practical usage is concerned, this is so. On this assumption, courses can be plotted, positions determined, and scores of other applications made.
But the words of the Psalmist have a deeper, more scientific meaning than that. It is now concluded by the leading astronomers that the sun, with the entire solar system, actually does move through space at the tremendous speed of 600,000 miles per hour in such a gigantic orbit that it requires over two million centuries to complete it, but complete it it shall, returning again and again, as the ages roll onward, to the point of its beginning. Furthermore, it is believed that our galaxie is also moving with respect to other galaxies. The sun's circuit IS from one end of the heavens to the other! Who can accuse the Holy Spirit of ignorance of modern astronomy?
The entire universe is an infinite sphere and each galaxie, solar system, star and planet within it moves continuously and harmoniously in circular motion; thus, all worlds and suns have circles for their pathway. This principle has been referred to by scientists as the "law of circularity". Science is beginning to tell us that in the highest development of physics and mathematics the old theory of straight lines of infinite length has to be changed and modified to satisfy all the data of electro-dynamics, light, and some of the new electrical phenomena. There is no such thing in the universe as an absolutely straight line of infinite length. All straight lines will be found to be portions of immense circles. This law of circularity runs through all nature. If you were to leave planet earth traveling steadily in one direction, the day would surely come, be it in some distant age millions or billions of years hence, when you would arrive back at the precise point of departure, having completed the circuit - home again!
This great law of circularity by which all things in God's creation are seen to RETURN to the place of their BEGINNING, in its spiritual significance, is expressed in Rom. 11:36: "For FROM HIM and THROUGH HIM and TO HIM are all things - for all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to CONSUMMATE AND TO END IN HIM. To Him be glory forever! Amen" (Amplified). All manifestations of nature discernible to the senses confirm this law of circularity. "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again" (Eccle. 1:5-7).
The King James version of Rom. 11:36 begins, "For of Him..." This word "of" comes from the Greek word "ek" literally meaning OUT OF. This clearly places God as the Source of all things, and hence the Amplified's beautiful translation, "For all things originate with Him and come from Him." Col. 1:16 says, "For it was IN HIM that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities" (Amplified).
The law of circularity requires that EVEN AS ALL THINGS BEGAN IN CHRIST, ALL SHALL END IN CHRIST. "I am ALPHA and OMEGA, the beginning and the end, the first and the last," saith the Lord (Rev. 22:13). Only the glorious mind of Christ can reveal to our hearts what that means! Through a glass darkly I can see that He was the FIRST - "before all things." Can I also believe that HE IS THE LAST? If He is the BEGINNING, can my feeble mind dare to comprehend what it signifies when He says that He is also the END? All that existed IN CHRIST before the ages began, shall RETURN INTO HIM AGAIN that He may be the FIRST and the LAST, the BEGINNING and the END. All that came out of Him, lowered into the realm of vanity, completes its circuit and returns once more to its former estate - RETURN TO PARADISE!
From the earliest years of my memory there stirred deep within my bosom an insatiable longing after Christ. Though only a child, I wanted to know Him who once was spat upon for me, who was crowned with thorns for me, who died and rose again and ascended to the highest heaven for me. I wanted to intimately KNOW the Christ, the great and good Friend who was compassionate to all men, who forgave the thieves and harlots and drunkards, and healed the sick and gladdened the sorrowful, who brought the dead to life again, and loved and blessed the children. Oh! how I wanted to KNOW HIM! Sometime after my twelfth birthday, the Lord came to me in a remarkable visitation, flooding my life with billows of His presence, power and glory. From that moment Christ became a living Reality. He filled the skies. He filled the earth. He filled my life and flooded my heart with unspeakable love for His creation. He whispered in my ear and unfolded within the depths of my spirit the precious knowledge that He is the Good Shepherd who will seek until the last lost sheep is in His fold. He proclaimed the omnipotence of His love in the sweetest of tones. The Good Shepherd who came from heaven, and gave His life, will seek, and seek, and seek, and save, and save, and save, until He has brought all men back to God. This is the work of the Redeemer and the redeemed. I remember sitting, some time after this experience, in the auditorium of the public school in the rural community where we lived in southern Alabama, looking at the several hundred students assembled there, as the Spirit mused in my heart, "Some day, some way, somewhere, CHRIST WILL SAVE THEM ALL!" The revelation was real to me, Christ was there bursting forth in my spirit, and I rose and departed with gladness that Christ is indeed Victor!
They told me as I went on in my Christian life that Christ did not die for every one. "How is that," I would ask, "the Scripture says that He tasted death for EVERY MAN" (Heb. 2:9). "But, Preston," they would say, "it only means every man who believes." "Well," I said, "it does not say that. Paul said, 'We thus judge, that if ONE DIED FOR ALL, then were all dead: and He DIED FOR ALL, that they which live (those who were dead till He died for them) should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again' (II Cor. 5:14-15). God is not ignorant, stupid, or incapable of correct calculating. And He did not die in vain! If He DIED FOR A-L-L, then, not only were ALL DEAD, but ALL HE DIED FOR SHALL BE MADE ALIVE. If all are not made alive, then He who died for all DIED IN VAIN!" "But it does not mean that," they replied.
"Ah, but," I said, "here is another Scripture which says, 'For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. THESE THINGS COMMAND AND TEACH' (I Tim. 4:10-11). It says, 'ALL men'" "But it does not mean that," they contended, "And you will be a heretic if you that!" "But," I said, "Peter wrote in his epistle that GOD IS NOT WILLING that ANT should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance, and Paul wrote to Timothy that God WILL HAVE ALL MEN to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. If God wills all men to be saved, and men will not to be saved, whose will is stronger, the will of God, or the will of men? Many try to obsolve God from the responsibility for His creation by saying that MAN'S WILL is more powerful than GOD'S WILL, that God cannot, or will not CHANGE men's wills, that men will to be sinful and hostile to God, therefore God cannot save them. But all such forget that nor only did God create man, HE CREATED MAN'S WILL WITH ALL ITS CAPABILITIES AND PROPENSITIES! It is my deep conviction that in the end it is GOD'S WILL that shall be done!" "But, Preston," they said, "God made man a free-moral-agent, and if man wills to be lost God will override his will." "Well," I said, "that is what you say, but that is not what the Bible says."
"And," I said, "Paul states these unmistakable words in Rom. 5:15-19, 'But God's free gift is not at all to be compared to the trespass - His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man. For if many died through one man's falling away - much more profusely did God's grace and the free gift that comes through the undeserved favor of the one Man Jesus Christ, abound and overflow to and falling away - led to condemnation for A-L-L M-E-N, SO one Man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and right standing with God, and life for A-L-L M-E-N. For just as by one man's disobedience THE MANY (the mass, all) were constituted sinners, SO by one Man's obedience THE MANY (the mass, all) WILL BE CONSTITUTED RIGHTEOUS - made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him' (Amplified Bible)." "Oh," they would say, "it cannot mean that by one Man's act all will be saved, for man is a free-moral-agent and he must make up his own mind, and if he rejects the offer of life during this life it will never be offered again." "Ah, my good friend," I reply, "it does not say that. You are putting words into God's mouth."
"And here," I said, "Jesus says, 'I, if I be lifted up from the earth WILL DRAW A-L-L M-E-N unto Me' (Jn. 12:32)." "It does not mean that," they argued, "it means He will draw all men who believe." "But how many does it say He will draw?" "All men." To which I answer, "If that proclamation is not true, if He is not strong enough, and purposeful enough, and loving enough to draw every spirit on earth and in hell, and throughout the universe, to Himself, then He has told a lie. If He can, but won't, then He is a mean, hard, vindictive tyrant. And if He can't, then He's not God." "Oh, Preston!" they cry, "that is heresy!" "But," I said, "that is Jesus. Was He a heretic?" "Oh, no; you do not understand, we can explain all that away, and you must not talk until you know better."
It came with such power one day. I said, "Oh Master! let me have a word that covers it with certainty." As I began to pray, my thoughts went to what Christ had prayed, recorded in Jn. 17:1-3, as He opened His lips and prayed to the Father, saying, "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee: as Thou hast given Him POWER OVER ALL FLESH, that He should give eternal life to AS MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM. And this is eternal life, that THEY might KNOW THEE the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." I have always been fond of a plain, straight logic. As I read those beautiful verses, I saw that Jesus WAS GIVEN POWER OVER ALL FLESH, making All Flesh His, that He might give eternal life to as many as God had given Him power over; therefore, as God had given Him power over ALL FLESH, and He had authority to give eternal life to all that had been given Him, to all flesh, it was perfectly clear that eventually all flesh, all spirits born into human flesh should be redeemed, and brought back to God.
I do not hesitate to preach it. I do not hesitate to tell it. At the same time I have warned the sinner that if he sins, the face of God is against him; that if he sins, hell is in front of him; the way of the transgressor is hard, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience. But let us not falsely say that such men will never be saved.
Long milleniums ago Adam was banished from the Paradise of God and its life-giving tree. But God has provided a way by which His banished may return! Some glad morning, when the unfolding plan of God is complete, all who once stood "in Adam" in the Garden will again be gathered together and their eyes will behold with endless joy that heaven blest Eden in which walked Adam, the son of God. But even now there is a remnant, the election of grace, the firstfruits WHO IN SPIRIT HAVE ENTERED THOSE ONCE - CLOSED PORTALS AND HAVE PARTAKEN OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF LIFE! Though the Cherubim and the flaming sword once blocked the way into Paradise, thanks be to God! the Lord Jesus Christ has opened "a NEW and LIVING way" into the Holiest of All.
In the typology of Scripture the Garden of Eden is synonymous with the Holiest of All. In the power of Christ, though the firstfruits of Christ's redemption still move about in a world which is under the curse, where the traces of sin are visible on all hands, they have found their way, by faith, to the bosom of the Father, and are NOW AT HOME AGAIN IN GOD!
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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