Follow Me: Three Gardens With One Purpose—the Culmination

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Three Gardens With One Purpose—the Culmination

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Follow Me: Three Gardens With One Purpose—the Culmination

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In the previous two “Follow Me” columns (in the July-August and September-October editions of Beyond Today ), we saw that two unique bookend garden settings frame the biblical story of God and man—spanning from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the ultimate paradise setting at the end of Revelation. The former is underlined by man’s rejection of God’s way. The latter, the focus of the present column, presents a spiritual atmosphere underscored by our Heavenly Father’s incredible desire to reconcile humanity to Himself through Jesus Christ.

Last time we spent time with Christ in the pivotal in-between garden of Scripture called Gethsemane—recognizing that His resolve here in Jerusalem’s shadow established our ability to move forward with hope to enter the final garden setting we now probe.

Jesus’ great decision in Gethsemane ultimately reopens the door to what God initially desired at the original Eden for all—a personal relationship with Him. Here, Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45 1 Corinthians 15:45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
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), reversed the first Adam’s errant example by crying out: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me, nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36 Mark 14:36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.
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).

This verbal commitment was made real just hours later as He was crucified and then lay dead for three days so that we might live forever.

It’s with this steady focus that, despite the horrific agony of His scourging and crucifixion, He visualized the “joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to 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.
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). In fact the previous night He stated with utter confidence: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 John 14:2-3 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
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).

His invitation to His disciples to continue with Him was underlined by a promise. It’s the ultimate expression of Christ’s personal appeal of “Follow Me.” Let’s now peek into the culmination of that promise in the garden at the end of Scripture.

A pure river of water of life

In Revelation 22 we are ushered into a garden-like setting to consider the immortal life with God granted to the faithful in the ultimate Eden.

Here in the New Jerusalem that will come down from heaven we discover “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 Revelation 22:1-2 1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
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).

Consider for a moment that this was initially heard or read by audiences that didn’t have water coming through a faucet and others who lived in semi-arid lands in which water was precious. It indeed sounded like paradise. This picture of purity and abundance recalls the description of a river that flowed through the original Eden (Genesis 2:10 Genesis 2:10And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became into four heads.
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).

But there’s a greater ingredient to be understood regarding this river—it’s spiritual! Psalms 46:4-5 Psalms 46:4-5 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the middle of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
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speaks of it too: “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved …”

We just read that its source is the very throne of God and the Lamb. Recall Jesus’ words in John 7:37 John 7:37In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.
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: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John says that He was speaking of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38 John 7:38He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
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). Yes, water is life —a very apt symbol of God’s transformative and life-giving Spirit!

Let me illustrate. Further up in California from where I live lies a man-made wonder—the agricultural splendor of the great Central Valley. Much of America’s fruits and vegetables are raised in this semi-arid bowl of earth 450 miles long by 60 miles wide. What makes this horn of plenty possible is the integrated aqueduct and irrigation system that transforms a vast dry region into a green carpet of life that at times touches the furthest horizon.

There are signs along the freeway throughout this valley stating, “Where water flows, plants grow.” So true! Where water touches, there is life. One inch away there is nothing but dry and crusty soil.

We should think about that when it comes to how we heed Christ’s call of “Follow Me.” Being merely close is simply not adequate to sustain His existence in us. There’s a vast difference between observing a life-giving agent from even the shortest distance and allowing it to not only touch us, but saturate every fiber of our existence—which was dead, yet is now made alive by God’s grace to remain vibrant in worship of Him.

The tree of life, and no more curse

This vision in Revelation reveals that the tree of life remains in the garden’s midst. There’s no mention of angels blocking the pathway to it, as happened after Adam and Eve chose to eat of the wrong tree (Genesis 3:24 Genesis 3:24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
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). Instead, access is open to those who obey God: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14 Revelation 22:14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
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).

Jesus promised earlier in the same book that those who in faith emulate His obedient example of “not My will, but Your will be done” will receive this reward: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7 Revelation 2:7He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
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).

In the vision of this paradise in Revelation 22 there is no mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It will have no place or space here. Its purpose will then be over.

People who live in this final setting are those who, having faced the choice between both trees, representing self-ruled life versus God-ruled existence, chose and continued in the latter. With God’s help, they ultimately endured in their decision to partake of the tree of life and not the forbidden tree.

That forbidden tree, the way of choosing for ourselves what is right and wrong, brought mankind under a curse. Yet notice the stunning announcement in verse 4: “And there shall be no more curse.” Imagine it! This summarizes what was stated in Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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—that there will be no more tears, death, sorrow, crying or pain!

Not only is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil granted no space, but there will be no deceiving serpent in this setting. Revelation 21:27 Revelation 21:27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
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tells us, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

The centerpieces of the garden

But what makes this all possible? It’s the eternal center-pieces of this restored Garden of Eden.

In many a park today you can see a centering fountain or memorial statue, often from which the park is named. Here, forever, the centerpieces are God and the Lamb (Revelation 21:3-5 Revelation 21:3-5 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
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; compare Revelation 21:22-23 Revelation 21:22-23 22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
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). God has always desired to be in the midst of His children, whether it was Adam and Eve, the children of Israel, the early Church, or we today.

God the Father initiates our calling to come into personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as Jesus stated: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). And then it is only through Christ that we can come to the Father (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
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). They must both be at the center of our lives—as of the eternal garden setting.

Right next to the Father is the Lamb—Jesus Christ. One thing for sure is that our Heavenly Father was always front and center in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, He fully acknowledged, and exemplified for us who would heed His call of “Follow Me,” what fed His existence: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing His work” (John 4:34 John 4:34Jesus said to them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
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, New Living Translation). That labor would take Him from being a young craftsman in Galilee to becoming “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
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).

Is there any wonder that Jesus is forever defined as the Lamb of God, both in heaven and on earth, now and always? So often we think of Jesus as being the sacrificial lamb on the altar of Golgotha. But here in this garden setting He is still called “the Lamb,” as He is 27 other times in Revelation!

It’s an abiding part of who He is —reminding those who desire to enter this last garden and be part of its holy environment that to live in Christ before our Heavenly Father, we must die to self-centered life and offer ourselves in living sacrifice to God on a continual basis (Romans 6:5-6 Romans 6:5-6 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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).

A look ahead

Having considered this last garden, there is still more to explore. So I invite you to join me next time as we come to grasp that this future garden, this new heaven and new earth, this Kingdom of God in its fullness, is not merely a destination or a touch point in eternity alone, but additionally something far grander that God desires for us to internalize even now.

Eternal life is ultimately expressed not in terms of place or space, but intimate relationship with the Father and Christ. As Jesus prayed on the last night of His human life, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
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).

So join me next time as we explore the journey set before us and come to embrace the reality that eternity isn’t simply a destination, but a way of traveling, now and forever, as we heed Christ’s call of “Follow Me.”