FIXING WHAT WAS BROKEN
Don K. Preston
Question: Is Biblical eschatology–that is the doctrine of the coming of Jesus, judgment and resurrection–presented as having the purpose of restoring what was lost in Eden? It has been my privilege to ask this question to several hundred people, including college Bible professors, preachers and serious Bible students. Without fail all of them said “Yes, the coming of the Lord is to bring man “back to Garden.” The book of Genesis depicts man in the Garden in fellowship with God and then cast out. But the book of Revelation depicts man restored to God in the New Heaven and Earth with the Tree of Life and River of Life.
There are varying views of the nature of that restoration. Some believe it must be a physical restoration to a rejuvenated Earth. Almost all believe this earth must be either completely destroyed or completely physically renovated. To understand the nature of the Restoration one must understand the Fall. It is a failure to understand the Fall that has led to a misapplication of the Restoration. God’s purpose was to fix what was broken–so what was broken?
In the Garden, man was in unbroken spiritual fellowship with his God. He had access to every tree except one–the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told him, “In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam and Eve ate. The question is, “Did they die that day?”
Far too many would change the meaning of what God said. They would have God say, “In the day you eat you will begin to die.” This explanation is demanded because clearly, Adam and Eve did not die physically for hundreds of years. But, the presuppositional approach to the definition of the death that God threatened cannot be supported. Consider this: Did Adam and Eve eat the fruit within a given 24 hour period of time, i.e. in a “day?” Or, did they happen, eventually, hundreds of years after God threatened them, finally get around to eating the fruit? You see “the day” in which they would eat, is the very day they would die. If you make the “day” of their death to be elastic and ambiguous, then you must likewise make the “day” of their eating equally ambiguous. It is clear however, that they did eat the forbidden fruit within the limits of a specific twenty four hour day.
The language of God’s threat is equally emphatic, “In the day you eat you will surely die.” Now Adam and Eve did not die physically that day, therefore the death that God was threatening them with was not physical death or else he lied and Satan told the truth. Remember, Satan told Eve: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Had physical death been the focus of the threat then Satan was right because Adam and Eve did not die the day they ate as God had threatened!
The truth is, Adam and Eve did die that day. Death is not annihilation; death means separation! And in Genesis 3:22f Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden–cast out of the Presence of God and from His fellowship! They died a spiritual death! Here is the problem–loss of fellowship. And since the story of the Bible is God’s plan to restore what was lost in Adam then the story of redemption is the story of God restoring man to spiritual fellowship–not a story of physical restoration!
Consider: Man was on earth, in time, and in fellowship with God. The purpose of Biblical eschatology is to restore man to what was lost in the Garden–spiritual fellowship. This being true, why, per the traditional views, does God have to destroy earth and end time to restore spiritual fellowship? God’s purpose in Christ was to fix what was broken. The loss was spiritual–the restoration is spiritual.
If spiritual fellowship was what was lost why does God have to destroy earth and end time in order to restore that fellowship? Adam and Eve died spiritually in Eden. The purpose of Christ’s coming was to give spiritual life therefore not physical life! This is confirmed by studying the nature of “death.”
Paul said “death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Just as Adam died spiritually when he died, all men died/die spiritually when they sin. Paul continued “death reigned from Adam to Moses” Romans 5:14; did physical death–or spiritual –end at Moses? No. Paul’s point is that when the Old Covenant was given that made that death seem even worse: “The law was added that sin–(thus death, DKP) might abound” (Romans 5:20-21). God did not give the Law of Moses to make men sin more. He gave the Law to make them more acutely aware of their sin–and thus their “dead” condition before the Lord.
The apostle said, “I was alive without the law, but the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9f). Here is the Biblical definition of the death Jesus’ work was to overcome! This cannot be physical death because Paul was speaking of something that had already happened in his life (and in the life of all those under Law). He had died when the Law had pointed out his violation of God’s will. Paul had died the identical death that Adam died!
Paul lamented his condition under that system, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Paul was not desiring deliverance from or for a physical body–he desired deliverance from the “body of death” created by sin!
The Old Covenant was called a “ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3:6-7). Paul said “the letter kills.” How did it kill; what kind of death? As we have just seen it was spiritual death, and not physical.
In Romans 8 Paul said the Old Law could not deliver from “the law of sin and death”–the law of God in the Garden-the law that brought spiritual death. Spiritual death reigned from Adam to Moses. The Law of Moses could not deliver from that law of sin and death; in fact it exacerbated the problem. But Paul rejoices: “There is therefore no condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1.)
This is resurrection! This is life from death! Since the law of sin and death was the law of spiritual death–the original problem in the Garden–the same problem carried through and compounded under the Old Law–and since Paul says Christ does deliver from the law of sin and death-it therefore follows that those in Christ have been “resurrected” from “death”– spiritual death. See Romans 6:1-10.
When man had sinned in the Garden Jehovah made a wonderful promise, spoken to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” The promise that the Seed of woman would crush Satan’s head is the promise to “fix what was broken” by sin.
The promise of the Saving Seed was continued through Abraham: “In your seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). (The Seed Promise was also continued through David, Ps. 89; 132). The Abrahamic Promise was two-fold in nature; the promise of a physical lineage (Genesis 12:1-3), and the promise of the spiritual–(Galatians 3:14-29). The physical promises were fulfilled in the 12 tribes of Israel and the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:12f). But Abraham was also promised that he would be “heir of the world” (Romans 4:13). What world was Abraham to inherit in which his spiritual seed would crush the head of Satan?
Hebrews 11:13-16 says Abraham was promised a spiritual city and country. This is the “world” Abraham was to inherit! If Abraham had been primarily mindful of physical land he could have remained in his homeland. But Abraham longed for a “new heaven and new earth.” Clearly, the new creation in which his seed would crush Satan’s head would be spiritual in nature! The questi
on is: when did Abraham see those promises as being fulfilled?
Jesus said “Abraham longed to see my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Sadly, most do not believe Satan’s head has been crushed even though Jesus’ day (i.e. generation) was two thousand years ago! Why was Abraham so glad to see Jesus’ day if Jesus did not crush Satan’s head and bring to realization the heavenly city and country?
Hebrews 11:13f says Abraham saw the promises “far off”–but in chapter 12:28 it says they were at that time receiving (not had received) the kingdom–the new heavenly Jerusalem (vs. 18f)! The Abrahamic Promise was being fulfilled! 1 Peter 1:3-13 says the Old Testament prophets knew the things they foretold were not for their time. But they were “ready to be revealed” in Peter’s day (1 Pet. 1:5, 18f). What once was far off was now ready to be revealed! The contrast in time cannot be ignored!
Paul promised the Romans: “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (16:20). Here is the “Saving Seed” promise of Genesis and it was to be fulfilled shortly! In Revelation Satan is defeated by Christ–the Saving Seed (Rev. 12, 20). When? When he came against the city “where the Lord was crucified” (11:8). That can only be Jerusalem. Following that destruction was to come the heavenly city promised to Abraham (Rev. 21:1f). Spiritual Death, the problem in the Garden, is destroyed; and man restored to the tree of life (21:3f). When was that to be? “Behold, I come quickly” (22:12; 20). Spiritual death-separation from God, was abolished. What was broken was/is fixed in Christ.