Stephen Finamore reflects on God's presence with humanity in
Eden, the Temple and the New Jerusalem
God has given us a book full of stories,
Which was made for his people of old,
It begins with the tale of a garden,
And ends with the city of gold.
THE WRITER OF THE OLD CHILDREN'S HYMN knows there is a
connection between the Bible's fi rst and last stories, but
expresses it as a point of contrast rather than one of continuity.
After all, one is about a garden and the other about a city. On one
level they could hardly be more different, yet the careful reader
of the Bible will fi nd many points of contact between them.
What feelings do you associate with the words 'city' and
'garden'? How do they differ?
Can you think of anything that cities and gardens have in
common? How much does each of them owe to human creativity?
Read: Genesis 1:26-2.3 Genesis 2:4b-10,15-17 Genesis 3:22-24
Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 21.9-22.5
The Bible takes its readers on a journey between creation and
recreation. At the beginning God gives the fi rst humans a mandate
to fi ll the whole earth; the garden is their starting point for
that great adventure. Of course, we know that things quickly go
wrong and that it takes a remarkable and gracious intervention from
God to put things back on track. You might expect this to lead us
back to the garden at the beginning. But that would simply restore
us to the starting point. Instead, God's re-creation leads us on to
the goal we would have reached had we obeyed God's original
The garden of Eden is a place where God is present and the
humans who live in it enjoy a close relationship with him. Their
calling to fi ll the earth suggests that they are to go into the
wilderness beyond Eden and work in it so that it becomes part of
the garden. In this way, the place of God's special presence will
eventually fi ll all the earth. If you are someone who loves
gardening, then the satisfaction it gives you may be an echo of the
original purpose our creator gave us.
What relationship is there between people's love of gardening
and God's original purpose for humankind?
Do you feel the same way about cities? Think about your reasons
for feeling as you do.
The disobedience of our fi rst ancestors meant that their close
relationship with God was lost, but God does not give up on
humanity. God still meets with people and the places where those
encounters take place have a hint of Eden about them. This is
especially true of the tabernacle and of the Temple. Careful
students of the Scriptures have noticed that the story of the fi
rst garden is full of words and images that evoke the idea of God's
Temple. Both are places where humans can encounter God. Access to
God may be more limited in one than the other but it is real in
both cases. Both the Temple's purpose and some of its contents
remind us of the garden.
In what ways do you encounter God in a garden or in the
How do these compare with the ways you encounter God during
When John saw his vision of the renewed creation, he understood
that the heavenly city represented the fulfi lment of all the
promise of Eden. Heaven, the dwelling place of God, had come to
earth, the dwelling place of humanity; the people of the city enjoy
the presence of God. We are told that there is no temple in the
city, but there could be an interesting reason for this. The New
Jerusalem has the shape of a cube (Revelation 21:16), just like the
Holy of Holies in the heart of the Temple. Of course, the scales of
the two are totally different. Perhaps it's not so much that
there's no temple, it's that everything is temple.
It's interesting to note that the stones that adorn the
foundations of the city (Revelation 21:19-20) are the ones that
were part of the breastplates of the high priests (Exodus
28:17-20). In the past, only the one wearing the stones could enter
God's presence. Now the city itself wears the stones, so that all
God's people can have the privileges of the high priests. In a
similar way, all God's people will wear God's name on the foreheads
(Revelation 22:4), which was once the prerogative of the high
priest alone (Exodus 28:36-38). At the end of the Eden story, the
cherubim are placed to stop humans gaining access to the tree of
life. These astonishing creatures are part of the very throne of
God in the Holy of Holies. In Ezekiel's vision of God's throne,
they are alive. He calls them living creatures, which is how John
names them in his vision of God's heavenly throne in Revelation 4.
Once they barred our way and could only be seen by the high priest
once a year, but now all God's people can see both them and the one
who is enthroned among them.
We associate cities with human activity. What does it mean for a
city to be made by God?
Why do you think the Bible ends with a vision of city rather
than a garden or a park?
Throughout John's vision we fi nd indications that it represents
a renewal of the garden of Eden: the nearer presence of God (21:3),
the river that bring life fl ows from it (22:1) and the tree of
Whether you enjoy working in the garden or simply enjoy sitting
in one, may the experience point beyond itself. Let it be an echo
of Eden and a foretaste of the renewed Eden, which is the New
Jerusalem, the city of God, where we will enjoy God's fuller
presence. For a garden can offer us a taste of the past, a glimpse
of the future, and an experience of God in the present.
IMAGE © SHELLEY WEST W: WWW.REDEMPTIVEARTISTRY.COM