This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017.
The Bible’s glimpses of the future restoration of creation point us back to Eden and what the blueprints for creation originally called for. According to God’s original design, the earth would blossom with life, yield its abundance, and submit its resources to be shaped and stewarded and multiplied, as long as it was under the wise guidance of humanity. The animal kingdom would bow to its rightful rulers, who would then shepherd each species into the fullness of everything God created them to be (see the all-too-quickly aborted beginnings of this undertaking in Genesis 2:19-20). With no death, no sin, and no limits on human creativity and potential, all creation would eagerly bend to the will of mankind and become the garden of paradise it was formed to be. Biblical scholar William Edgar writes with wonder that “the original purpose of the creation of humankind was that we should have progressed to a state of glory and happiness, beyond even the perfections of Eden.”
Try to imagine, for a moment, how wonderful this world could have been. Those longing echoes throughout the Bible borrow images from Eden to describe what it would have looked like when the blessing of God flowed unimpeded through the reign of righteous mankind. Biblical phrases like, “the wolf will lie down with the lamb,” “the wilderness will rejoice and blossom,” “streams will flow in the desert,” and “the mountains and hills burst forth into singing,” hint at the uncontainable joy and life and peace that would have pulsed through creation. Imagine human culture unshackled from death, futility, division, sin, and shame: boundless creativity and artistry and celebration; limitless exploration and innovation and discovery; perfect relationship and community and society; an endless, eternally expanding reign of joy. Imagine no frustration, no unmet longings, no sin, no sadness. Imagine all of this, strain your faculties to try to encompass everything “paradise” means, and you will begin to scratch the surface of what the cultural mandate, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” meant.
This is the world that was, that could have been. And this is the world that will be again. The pages of the New Testament whisper of the day when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” One day, the sons and daughters of the High King will take their place as kings and queens of the cosmos, and everything broken will be made whole. The world’s rightful rulers will sit down on the throne again. Sorrow and sighing, we are told, will flee away, and only everlasting joy will remain. On that day, the river of divine blessing, dammed at the Fall by human sin, will once again flow outward from the throne, watering the whole world with health and wholeness. Human culture, redeemed and made beautiful again, will rise from the ashes, expand outward from New Jerusalem, and fill the universe with light and joy. The original design will be re-implemented, and we will reign forever and ever. Can you feel all creation longing for that day?