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Returning to Peace and Delight
What awaits us in eternity—and how we should live today
If you know Jesus, you were redeemed the day you invited Him into your heart and life to become your Savior and Lord. One day in the future, you will be with Him in a beautiful, pleasure-filled heaven.
There, you will experience real comfort and blissful rest. You’ll experience the created universe with heightened senses. In heaven you will not lack for anything. All pain and fear will be in the past. The presence of God will surround you.
All these things will begin on the day Jesus returns. We will return to a state of harmony with God.
But, again, that is your reality only if you have invited Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord.
The Nature of Being
Who are we as humans and what is our essential nature? That seems like a pretty high-minded question, but it’s not an uncommon one. In fact, there’s a branch of metaphysics—which is part of the larger study of philosophy—that’s known as ontology. Ontology is the study of the “nature of being.”
In layperson’s terms, ontology asks the question about who we are as humans in the very nature of our being. Christians who study ontology ask these deep questions:
How did God create us?
What was His divine plan for us from the very beginning?
Why are these important questions? Because in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God created Adam to be and do certain things. When Jesus—the “Second Adam”—returns, He will restore us to God’s original intent. In a sense, we will return to the Garden.
Even more, God has called believers to live in the present as He originally intended in the beginning and according to the way He will eternally redeem us when Christ returns. Because of this connection, ontology is intimately related to eschatology, or the study of “end things.”
What God originally created humans to be is what we will finally realize when the Kingdom arrives in its fullness.
Here’s an example: As people who have been redeemed, we cannot intentionally live in disharmony with others.
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they lived in perfect harmony in the perfect Garden of Eden. In the ancient Hebrew language, Eden means “pleasure and delight.” As the first humans, Adam and Eve would never have known pain or suffering if they had simply obeyed God. The would have only known pleasure and delight. They would have lived in perfect peace.
When Jesus returns, we will live perfectly at peace with God and others.
If the Bible begins and ends in a perfect garden, then we’re left with another big ontological question: How should we live now?
The Kind of People We Are
The apostle Paul gives this answer:
If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.—Romans 12:18
That’s a very simple statement but, in today’s environment, it may also seem pretty intimidating. Live peaceably with all. I understand we cannot always live in perfect harmony with others, but as redeemed people, we should do our utmost to live peacefully with those around us.
Paul writes about this all throughout Romans 12, in fact. He tells the gathered believers in Rome how to live as “Kingdom people,” or people who have already been redeemed. For instance, here is a pretty explicit set of instructions:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.—Romans 12:1-3
They are not to be “conformed to this world” but instead be people who are “transformed,” or resurrected. That is the very nature of your being now that you are in Christ Jesus.
I’m a father and a grandfather and I find it’s often helpful to look at this through the perspective of parenting. If you are a parent and you tell your young children to stop doing something, then they will sometimes challenge your instructions with two words: “Why not?”
You have a few choices in how you will respond to this protest. The easy approach is to simply say, “Because I said so.” I know I said this when my children were younger. It is the shortest and most efficient answer, though not always the most helpful.
You can also respond by having a longer discussion about the reasons you have given a particular prohibition. This is why we don’t tell lies. This is why we don’t bully or call people names. This is why we don’t make selfish decisions, and so on. That strategy has its own drawbacks, because not everything is open for question and discussion. Also, kids are not always ready for a rational argument.
An alternative is to make a statement like this: “You are not going to do that because that is not the kind of people we are.”
You may not realize it, but that’s an ontological argument for obedience! You are telling your child that, in his or her very nature, as a member of your family, disobedient behaviors don’t accurately reflect who he or she really is. Your child may still choose to disobey, but they will do it knowing that they are acting outside of their nature as a member of your family.
Paul is using this perspective in Romans, telling us how people should act within God’s family. We should act according to our redeemed nature. We were created to be holy and obedient and to follow our Father’s purpose, but we often act contrary to what God created us to be.
Do you realize that God, as our Creator, wants good for us? He wants you to be the person He created you to be. In fact, God’s divine intention was never for humans to sin or suffer at all. He wanted us to be obedient and enjoy the full benefits of His presence.
God is a good parent—the best parent in the universe. What good parent would ever want their children to feel pain, loss, or suffering? I can speak for myself: I would take on mountains of pain before I would want to see my kids or grandkids hurt. God is a far better Father than I will ever be, so He also doesn’t want His children to suffer.
So how did human suffering originate? The biblical answer is unmistakably clear: Adam’s and Eve’s sinful rebellion ushered pain and suffering into the human race. God created them to be like Him, in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). However, the first humans chose to act in disobedience, contrary to their created nature.
God describes the results of their fateful actions:
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
The phrase translated “your desire shall be for your husband” means a wife will want to dominate her husband, but instead he will dominate her. There will be a constant battle for control in the relationship.
The wonderful peace and harmony Adam and Eve originally had in the Garden disappeared as they vied for control over the relationship.
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall [a]bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Giving Back Eden
At that moment, pain and suffering joined themselves to the human race. Ever since that time, people have experience four types of pain and suffering. Sadly, you and I can probably identify with all of these to some degree:
rejection, loss, failure, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, divorce
illness, accidents, violence, death
confusion, deception, lies, ignorance, poverty, spiritual attacks, mental illness
Relational and Family Pain
dysfunction, rebellion, break-ups, betrayal, unmet needs, dominance
Adam and Eve could neither conceive of nor calculate the disastrous consequences of their sinful decision. They didn’t understand the pain waiting for them on the other side of their selfish choices.
But here is the good news: Jesus is returning soon, and on that day, you will never again experience pain. In fact, we can’t comprehend the joy, pleasure and delight waiting for us on the other side of the Rapture.
When Jesus returns, He will restore us to who we were meant to be. He will redeem our pleasure.
He is giving back Eden.