NOTE: As I pointed out in the introduction to this present blog series (July 10), all the articles are adapted from a new book in progress. This week’s blog catches up with what I have written so far. Before I can continue the series, I will have to finish the book—which means a break in posting for a few months. If you would like to be notified when I resume this blog series, go to my home page, click on “contact,” send me a request, and I’ll add you to my blog email list. I do not share email addresses.
Part Sixteen: How Nature Points Back to Eden—and Forward to the New Heaven and Earth
The Bible reveals what many people instinctively already recognize. God has placed within the human heart knowledge of eternity and a desire to live forever (Eccl. 3:11, 14). To put it more explicitly, the human race, created in God’s image, intuitively longs for Heaven—a place free of evil, suffering, sorrow, natural disasters, and all the other tragic events that presently plague the human race. A place of peace, tranquility, safety, and eternal happiness: where God will dwell with His people (Rev. 21:1-4).
Another way to see this yearning for Paradise is that it’s reflected in the human family’s latent memory of Eden—the home God originally intended for His people—and our curious urge to return. Oxford Scholar Allister McGrath comments on this:
For writers such as Augustine and Lewis, the memory of Eden lingers, haunting humanity with its longing to regain entrance to this forbidden realm. Nature itself becomes a parable, charged with a divinely imbued potential to recreate the memory of Eden, and make us long to return to its now-deserted meadows. (A Brief History of Heaven)
Despite the fact that predators, poisonous snakes, and stinging insects dwell in the wilderness, the beauty and ecological harmony of nature still show a remnant of the peace and serenity of Eden—and a foretaste of our heavenly home. According to Isaiah (51:3; 65:17), Paul (Rom. 8:19-25), John (Rev. 21:1; 22: 3), and other biblical authors, God will one day redeem and restore all Earth’s wounded habitats to their original, Edenic-like, pristine state—but even better
Nature, then, provides a glimpse of both paradise lost and paradise promised (albeit imperfectly). On the one hand, although we can never return to Eden (Gen. 3: 22-24), nature points back to the home rejected by the first couple and awakens a desire to return. At the same time, nature looks forward to the eternal, incorruptible home God promises those who surrender their lives to the Savior of the world. In other words, in the here and now, the natural world gives us a preview—like the trailer of a move—of the promised future “Peaceable Kingdom” where all God’s people will live forever. (I develop and provide extensive biblical evidence for this in my book, Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven? People, Pets, and Wild Animals in the Afterlife.) Elsewhere McGrath writes:
We journey in hope, knowing that the beauty of this world is a pointer to the glory of the next. . . . Nature is a sign—that it points to something even greater and that at least something of this greater wonder may be known through the natural world. . . . We must see nature as a continual reminded and symbol of a future renewed creation, a world that we do not yet know but believe to lie over the horizons of our human existence. . . . We must learn to see the present beauty of nature as a sign and promise of the coming glory of God, its creator. (The Reenchantment of Nature)
People who recognize God’s revealed presence in nature—and venture forth to learn about and choose to follow Jesus Christ—will be on a path that leads to an eternal home far more wonderful than anything we can possibly imagine or experience in this world. ©