In the last two posts, we have discussed what happened when heaven departed from the earth, at the fall of man in Eden, and we have looked at the biblical promise, through various pictures and metaphors, that one day heaven would return. In this post, however, we will look at the reality of life on earth in the interim period.
Yes, God set up a system of worship and sacrifices to temporarily cover the sin of humanity, and claim a people for Himself. Still, there was a new reality that people have faced since we walked out of the garden.
A New Identity
As heaven departed, the first thing that changed was the reality of who we are. As we said in the first post, in the garden Adam and Eve were created in God’s image and were clearly marked as His legal representatives. Their identity was in God Himself and who He said they were.
However, upon their rejection of God’s rule and relationship in pursuit of becoming like God themselves (Genesis 3:5), their innate identity was marred. No longer were they “good” as God had declared them. Their identity, now, was “sinner.” They were cut off from God, and would now face extreme turmoil from inside themselves, struggling to create an identity for themselves.
This new struggle with sin and identity is repeated again and again in scripture:
When God flooded the world to wipe out mankind, it was because He saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5-8). Only one man, among all humanity, was found to be righteous before the Lord.
When mankind decided to build a tower at Babel, it was to demonstrate their own greatness, still trying to attain heaven (godhood) on their own.
Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’” Genesis 11:4
Even the Psalmist records of humanity,
God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Psalm 53:2-3
From the day heaven departed, all of mankind has been lost and struggling to figure out who he is.
A New Reality of Life
Not only was our identity marred, but the reality of the world we live in was also broken. The creation itself was cursed by God and is awaiting restoration at heaven’s return (Romans 8:20-22). Before God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, He spoke to Adam, saying,
…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
From that day onward, humanity has faced natural disasters and global crises stemming from this new reality. We have faced famine, pestilence, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and more.
In the last year alone, where I live in Uganda, we have faced major flooding of Lake Victoria and the Nile River, destroying many homes and fields in the south. We have faced three waves of desert locusts, wiping out thousands of acres of farmlands in the north, as well as in Kenya and other nations. And we have joined the world in the battle against COVID-19. All of this is in the midst of our ongoing struggles with malaria, TB, HIV, poverty, lack of education, and more.
When we look back into the garden, none of this was the plan. Yet, when heaven left earth, all the blessings went with it. What is left is the fruit of sin, which is brokenness, sickness, and destruction.
This means that when heaven returns, it must bring more than simple salvation from sin, but it must also bring healing to our bodies and the world!
A New King Over Creation
To top it all off, as if dealing with the newfound identity crisis while also facing a cursed world were not enough, Adam and Eve came face to face with one more reality, which has marked the world in heaven’s absence. That is, when they sinned they inadvertently handed over the authority which God had given them in the creation, to the king of sin — the devil; the demon-serpent himself, who had tempted them in the first place.
Thousands of years later, when Jesus is on earth, the Bible tells us that the devil makes this claim, himself, as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and Jesus does not deny it!
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 (emphasis mine)
This demonic kingdom has had its roots in sin since Adam and Eve fell, and until human sin is dealt with once and for all, this kingdom will continue to reign. As Ephesians 2 tells us, it is the nature of all lost humanity:
…following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:2-3
Even among the religious elite in Israel — those who were attempting to perfectly keep God’s law — Jesus tells them, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44).
That is a crazy statement! Not only is the devil the king of this world; the prince of the power of the air, but he is also the father of all who follow him in sin! Not only had God’s divine image been destroyed, but now sin is in our DNA. (This is why I do not doubt people who claim sin as a lifestyle claiming “I was born this way.” Unfortunately being born broken is not an excuse. However, that is a conversation for another time.)
This means when heaven returns, not only will there need to be salvation from sin and healing for our bodies, but there must be deliverance from bondage to the devil, as well!
Complete Salvation Must Come
Fortunately for us, when God promised heaven’s return, He promised all of these things: salvation, healing, and deliverance!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5
When heaven returns, God will bring complete salvation to humanity and the world. That is where we will turn our attention in the next post!
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Anthony Scott Ingram.