I love the month of January. I know that’s not a popular opinion, what with the post-Christmas malaise, the cold weather, and short days. But in my mind, January is like an open field after a freshly fallen snow without a single boot print. It’s a fresh start, a new beginning. The possibilities seem endless. Or at least that’s the way it seems to me as December’s short days draw to a frosty close.
Somewhere around noon on New Year’s Day, however, the illusion of a new beginning begins to crack. The problems I had in the previous year have somehow followed me into my fresh start. The world remains just as broken as it was before the ball dropped in Times Square. Except for the arbitrary page on the calendar, nothing has changed. Not really anyway. So, when my initial disappointment with the new year wears off, I’m left feeling homesick for a place I’ve never been, a place the Bible calls Eden.
Over the centuries, the early chapters of Genesis have caused much debate in academic circles and church small groups alike. How old is the earth? What are we to make of the six “days” of creation? What was life like before the fall of humanity? What does it mean for people to have been made in the image of God? But what I’m most interested in as I read the beginning of our family history in Genesis 1–2 is the beauty of life in God’s presence.
The Bible tells us that our destiny in Christ is a return to life in God’s presence. It was what we were meant for, what we were created to know and experience. In fact, everything we read between the opening chapters of Genesis and the closing chapters of Revelation describes life under the curse of sin and death. It’s all a big interruption in the goodness, beauty, and truth God gave us when He created this universe. We are living in the parentheses—that part of the story that deviates from the Author’s original intent. In the span of eternity, it will seem but a blink of an eye.
We were made for Eden, but that’s not to say we were made to laze around paradise, eating grapes and sunning ourselves, while monkey butlers massage our feet. We were given a mission: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” In other words, God commissioned Adam and Eve to extend the borders of Eden to the rest of the world, to make the whole earth a place where God could dwell with humanity.
If you keep on reading in Genesis, and then press on into Exodus and Leviticus, and still further into the Old Testament Historical Books, Psalms, and the Wisdom Literature, into the Minor Prophets, not stopping when you hit the New Testament but continuing through all four Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation, you’ll find that God never rescinds this command. That is why Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). One day, this prayer will be fully and completely answered, but in the meantime, God has called us to make small steps toward this certain future. These early chapters of Genesis, then, are not the outlier in the grand story of redemption; they are our marching orders.
Written by John Greco