And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”[Luke 23:43]
Theologians, historians, and archaeologists have pondered for centuries on the original location of the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately man’s first home has been lost to the sands of time. Even if the few geographical clues we have in the Scriptures could be validated [see Genesis 2:8-15], it only stands to reason that the catastrophic effects of the global flood in Noah’s day completely rearranged the earth’s topography, leaving little trace of the Garden of God.
Although I do believe Eden was once a literal, physical location on the map, I don’t necessarily believe we could find it today, even if we knew precisely where it was located.
Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe Eden has been here all along.
Maybe the paradise of God never moved, but rather we have lost the ability to see it. Instead of thinking geographically, maybe we need to think multi-dimensionally.
But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—[1 Corinthians 2:9]
What We Know
The Scriptures provide some interesting clues about the Garden of Eden. Here is what we definitively know.
- The Hebrew definition for Eden is pleasure or delight. So it was man’s original home prepared by God for intended for perpetual pleasure and delight.
- God Himself planted a lush garden in the eastern part of Eden and placed Adam there to cultivate and work it.
- The Garden of God contained in its midst both the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
- A main river flowed out of Eden, which first watered the garden, and from there it branched into four headwaters creating four rivers.
- Based on the Biblical descriptions, most concede that Eden originally was located somewhere in the fertile crescent.
- The Garden of Eden was planted on top of God’s holy mountain, also known as the mount of assembly. (Isaiah 14:13, Ezekiel 28:13-19)
- God’s holy mountain was the designated place of intersection between heaven and earth, God and man – between the spiritual realm and the physical world.
- Before his heavenly rebellion, the nachash, or serpent, was an anointed guardian cherub in Eden – the most beautiful of God’s creatures.
- After Adam and Eve sinned against God, He cast man out of the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim guardians and a flashing sword at the east entrance to prevent man from having access to the tree of life.
- The Garden of Eden conveys the same concept as the Greek word, Paradise.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”[2 Corinthians 12:2-4]
“Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below.”[Ezekiel 31:18]
From an Ancient Greek perspective, paradise was synonymous with a glorious natural garden or pristine park, where man could enjoy endless pleasures while surrounded by peerless beauty. In Greek mythology, paradise coincided with the legends of the golden age, when men never aged and delights never ceased.
Paradise, however, had been lost, and man greatest pursuit was to discover the way back again.
In John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost, the devil says, “O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.“
Milton, like so many before and after him, was drawing from the Biblical language of north-south geography in respect to heaven and earth. The Apostle Paul likewise says that he was “caught up” into paradise – or the Garden of God. Ezekiel’s comparative language contrasts Eden with the world “below.”
Of course, Lucifer, the son of the dawn, was cast down out of Eden to the ground. This makes sense if Eden originally was holy mountain, high and lifted up above the earth. The high places have always possessed significance in God’s story, and Eden is no different.
“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.”[Ezekiel 28-12-16]
And then there is Jesus – God the Son – lifted up and nailed to a tree on top of a mountain. As He is effectively bringing heaven and earth back together again through His sacrificial death on the cross, He makes a promise to the thief beside him.
Today, you will be with in … the Garden of Eden.
According to Jesus’ promise to the thief, the very moment he closed his eyes in death, he immediately opened his eyes in life and found himself in the paradise of God. Maybe instead of being carried up to heaven or traveling “north” to paradise, the thief simply awoke having crossed over into another dimension – the spiritual realm.
Bringing Heaven and Earth Back Together
The mission of Jesus is to redeem all of creation and restore Eden, where the dwelling place of God is with man once again. When Jesus returns to once and for all destroy the devil, death, evil, and hell, God will created a new heaven and a new earth, bringing everything back together in a state of perfection.
John was given a glimpse of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:10-11. He writes, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
I believe in some way, when God reveals the new heaven and earth, He will lift the veil that separates heaven and earth and reveal to us that Paradise has been near to us all along. We just don’t have the eyes to see it right now. We are looking through the glass darkly and the spiritual dimension remains hidden from our sight. But God will be giving us new eyes to see as we were always intended.
Is it possible that God’s Garden restored will surpass the original in splendor and beauty? God is bringing heaven and earth back together in the new paradise, which will have its own river of life watering the Garden and also the tree of life.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”[Revelation 22:1-3]
Jesus came to redeem for God a people for His own possession. Jesus came to regenerate the entire Creation and make everything new. Jesus came to bring man to God and God to man, and He came to restore paradise lost and unite heaven and earth again in the Garden of God.
And only those who have been given the right to be called sons of God and who have received resurrection life will dwell with God eternally in the New Eden. Those who conquer in Christ will dwell forever with Him in paradise.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”[Revelation 2:7]