What is Paradise? As described by the dictionary it is heaven; the final abode of the righteous; the state of supreme happiness. Does such a place or state exist? Many people today, overcome by difficulties in life; long to be released from the pain and agony that is the consequence of a lost Paradise.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” <Gen.3:8-9 (NIV)> Paradise or spiritual union between God and mankind was lost as sin entered the scene, “Where are you?” was God’s question when Adam was not present at the usual hour of communion <Gen.3:8-1>; and all mankind has inherited the sin of Adam <see Rom.5:12; cf Gen.8:21b; Psa.51:5; Eph.2:3>. God then banished Adam and Eve from the Garden and secured the entrance <Gen.3:23-24>, and all mankind lost paradise, or spiritual union (communion) with God.
This loss of communion, inherited sin and the practice of sin in each individual person, has led all mankind down the path of eternal separation from God, and will subsequently end in God’s final judgment for sin to be dispensed to each individual person on some not too distant day <see Rev.22:11-15>. The judgment of God has been evident throughout the Scriptures from mankind’s fall in the Garden, all through His dealings with His earthly people the Jews, and other nations in their relationship with the Jewish nation. God’s judgment may not be a visual occurrence while He deals with individuals in various ways throughout their lifetime, and as the writer of the book of Romans explains, His judgment is experienced because He allows the individual to continue in rebellion causing him/her to endure the consequences of such rebellion <see Rom.1:18-32; note specifically v.24, 26, 28>; the J.B. Phillips Translation expresses verse 24; “God gave them up – to be the playthings of their own foul desires”; and verse 28; “God allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds”. Any individual who does not acknowledge his/her wrongdoing will continue to experience God’s judgment throughout their lifetime; then His final judgment, eternal separation from God, as described in the Revelation 22 passage.
God introduced a way for us to regain what we have lost. First, He promised a way of escape from the penalty of spiritual death, the result of our lost communion with Him, in His curse upon the serpent <Gen.3:15>; predicting the person and sacrifice of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, “He will crush your head” (NIV), an indication of what would take place on the Cross at Calvary. Then God made garments of skin <Gen.3:21> to clothe Adam and Eve, garments of skin indicating the death of a substitutionary animal which took their place in judgment, introducing the sacrificial offerings that God instituted through Moses.
So we find that an allusion to the Cross of Calvary that can be traced from the Garden of Eden throughout the O.T. in the altars of the patriarchs, and is specifically seen as “types of Christ” in the sacrificial offerings introduced in the Book of Leviticus. What then was the reason for the institution of these sacrifices? Because of inherited sin, none of us can enter the presence of The Holy God as our communion with Him is impossible because of our fallen nature, so the purpose was to show on what terms an unworthy sinner was to enter the presence of The Righteous and Holy God and to gain His acceptance.
- Mankind must acknowledge guilt and transgression (wrongdoing) and the need for forgiveness, and this is portrayed in the Guilt (Trespass) Offering <Lev.5:14 – 6:7; 7:1-6>.
- We must also acknowledge sin and our need of an atoning (in agreement) sacrifice, seen in the Sin Offering <Lev.4:1 – 5:13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22>.
- Reconciliation is necessary because we are alienated from God, we see this depicted in the Fellowship (Peace) Offering <Lev.3:1-17; 7:11-34>.
- Because of our fallen and depraved nature we need a substitute that is holy and separate from sin, represented by the Grain (Meat/Gift) Offering <Lev.2:1-16; 6:14-23>.
- Since we are totally unworthy and not in good repute with God, we need to be identified with one who is an object of Divine Favour so that we can be accepted in the person of that one, and this can be seen in the Burnt (Ascending) Offering <Lev.1:1-17; 6:8-13;8:18-21; 16:24>.
All these Offerings depict some characteristic of our Lord Jesus Christ; He is our Guilt offering because of our inherited sin; our Sin offering for our sin and transgression; our Fellowship offering representing our acceptance; our Gift offering representing God’s gift to mankind; and our Burnt offering, totally consumed by the fire because of the extent of our transgression. God gave these as “pictures”, “symbols” or “types” of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all were fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection.
There are two other sacrifices worthy of mention in regards to the work of Christ in relation to the restoration of communion with God (Paradise). The Passover feast is described in Exodus 12 <see Ex.12:1-30>, although not referenced in the list of sacrifices it does represent a sacrifice; for we read: “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” <Ex.12:5-7 (NIV)>. Here the blood of the slaughtered animal offered protection to the Jewish families from the judgment of God that subdued the Egyptian people; “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” <Ex.12:13 (NIV)>. Similarly, the blood of Christ shed on the Cross delivers the sinner from the judgment of God, when the individual accepts Christ’s offer of salvation <cf Rom.3:22-26>. The other mention of a sacrifice is seen in Genesis 22 <see Gen.22:1-18>, where we see another illustration of God’s mercy and grace in anticipation of Christ’s redemptive work of salvation. As they journeyed toward the appointed place of sacrifice, Isaac says to his father; “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” <Gen.22:7-8 (NIV)>. In this we see the application of the doctrine of substitution; the guilty sinner unable to pay the penalty for sin must find a substitute, and that substitute must bear the judgment of The Holy God, for as the account continues we see God’s intervention; “But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” <Gen.22:11-13 (NIV)>.
So here we see the path to the Cross beginning as a Lamb for an individual <see Gen.22:13>; then a Lamb for a family <Ex.12:3>; and finally in the Person of Christ, a Lamb for the world <see Jn.1:29>, and in the Person of Christ we see every characteristic of all the established sacrifices.
Throughout the O.T. era the sacrificial offerings could not remove sin, for sin was only “covered” by the blood of the sacrifice in the eyes of God, and these offerings had to be repeated on a daily, weekly or an annual basis, for we understand that the work of the priests was never finished as individuals brought their sacrificial offerings <see Heb.9:6, 9; 10:1-4>.
In order to fully restore the communion (Paradise) between God and mankind, a means of full and eternal atonement (reconciliation) to God had to be found, animal substitution could not suffice; since mankind is created in God’s image only another human can atone for sin. That is the reason why God had to become a human being in the Person of Christ, and Christ in His sinless humanity suffered God’s judgment for the sin of the world and shed His own blood on the Cross for our redemption. He carried our sin in His body on the Cross <see 1 Peter 2:25; 2 Cor.5:21>, and His sacrifice was totally accepted by God and this is seen in the fact that God raised Him from the dead, and we now have a risen and glorified Saviour seated at God’s right hand in heaven <see Phil.2:5b-11; cf Heb.9:11-14>.
Now the question is: ‘Has Paradise been restored for all mankind?’ The answer to that question depends on the response of each individual person. Just as in the O.T. era each individual had to select a substitutionary animal offering and take it to the priest, each individual today must do the same; the difference being that our substitute is the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us must personally accept Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for our salvation from sin, and this is the only way that communion with God can be restored <see Rom.5:1-2, 9-11; cf Jn.1:12-13; 14:1-3>. Those that continue to reject Christ will never be restored to communion (Paradise) and can only look forward to God’s final judgment <see Acts 17:30-31; cf Heb.9:24-28>.