Garden of Eden —> The City of Heaven

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This post stems from an interesting conversation I had at Biblestudy tonight. The topic of tonight’s study was Heaven. We all went around the room and talked about what we think it will be like and the stereotypical answers of “restful” and “eternal praise” sprung up, but it was where our leader took us that surprised me. We turned to the book of Revelation where John is seeing a vision of what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like. In Revelation 21:2 John talks about the “New Jerusalem” as follows, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her.”

(http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+21%3A2&version=ESV)

As the passage continues it talks about streets of gold and what the “city of heaven” or the “New Jerusalem” will be like. This new “city” is the place where God and man will dwell together in unity, eternally. The conversation then turned when the following question was presented, “Mankind started out in a Garden and Heaven is a city, what do yall make of this?” I instantly thought of our City Cultures class.

I found it insanely interesting that mankind was created in the wilderness of the Garden of Eden and yet the end goal for Christians is to live in the “City of Heaven.” The Garden of Eden was the perfect Utopia until sin entered and the fall of mankind began. Many times today the city is considered by many to be the well-spring of sin while the country is where many people consider the good ‘ol way of living a holy life to be. Why is this view held by so many people (albeit if they claim to be Christians or not) today? Apparently it is not entirely Biblical, right? Isn’t it interesting how the Bible depicts the starting place as more of a “country” setting (the Garden of Eden) and the ending place as more of a city (Heaven)?

This post is more of a hopeful questioning of what others think about this Biblical phenomenon of the City of Heaven vs. the Garden of Eden. It grabbed my attention because it was something I had never thought about before and it happened to directly relate to what we are studying in class at this current time.

I believe it would be one of the most beautiful and powerful displays of God’s power and command to show how he can clean even a place fully of dark alleyways and brothels and use it to house his children forever in pure utopian bliss. How cool is that! I also find it interesting that the country, or garden, is almost criminalized or set aside through this example because it, in a Biblical standpoint, is seen as a starting rather than ending point. I do believe the Earth, and therefore the country as well, will be remade new and whole, but I can’t fully express in words how interesting it is to me that heaven is a city not another garden.

So, this is my selfish attempt to get some feedback. What do yall think? Is this relevant? Do you think this says something about civilization as a whole?

-cmb

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4 Comments

Filed under City Cultures, Creative Responses

4 responses to “Garden of Eden —> The City of Heaven

  1. This is a very interesting issue to connect to our class. I wonder if it has something to do with isolation vs. community. The country is isolated compared to the city. And it’s definitely an intriguing reversal of the usual association of the city with immorality.

  2. To begin, I absolutely love the connection you made between the Garden of Eden, City of Heaven, and their relevance to the class. Though I have linked the country and more natural spaces to Biblical references, I am a bit dumbfounded as to why I have never made the connection with the City of Heaven actually being… a city and why haven’t I thought to apply it to this class?! However, I am extremely grateful to have acknowledged the links now through your post. It’s refreshing to still receive new insights through actively applying God’s Word to our lives here and now, and discovering a familiar realization that its precious content will always be relevant, surrounding us no matter our location. Seems as though God shows us that no one place, whether that be nature or civilization, is more superior than the other: nature commenced the world and a city will be the resulting paradise. God obviously acknowledges both of these binary oppositions and allows us the opportunities to experience and engage in both spaces as well.
    I found your question asking why people still clung to the conventional notion that cities and civilizations represent immorality or sin, while in contrast, nature and the country is seen as “closer to God” or a place to rejuvenate one’s spirituality? Personally, I think many people still view these separate spaces as binary oppositions because the conventions have proved to be accurate at times and many look to the Bible for answers. For many people, nature serves as a reminder and structure of proof in which people can still touch, see, hear, smell, and taste today. Since nature and more “country” spaces hold significance in countless verses within the Bible, such as “the beginning of creation” that took place in the Garden of Eden, or when Jesus sweat out blood in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion, many continue to cling to the conventional view of nature because of what it signifies, its relevance even today, and because of its undeniable physical presence, serving as great reminders and proof. Becoming close with nature, the concrete works from His hands, is a way for many to also feel near to God himself. Like you said, the country is seen as where creation commenced and so it remains a crucial image of God’s works surrounding us and His hand in our lives. Since God is no longer physically here with us in human form to provide a certain physical comfort, I feel as though many use nature as a source to feel that type of direct sense of comfort and peace, while showing appreciation for the beauty He created.
    In contrast to these conventional views of nature, the Bible also gives us a different view of nature as the wilderness. This can be seen as a space representing punishment or imprisonment, away from socialization–a place of exile. Of course, I find this viewpoint to come from the Biblical references specifically in the book of Numbers, in which the Israelites were cast out into the wilderness, left to wander within it for forty years. This wandering is mentioned several times throughout scripture and at first glance it is easy to find a new view of the country being a space of punishment. However, the remaining Israelites’ imprisoned within the wilderness could view nature as an opportunity to reevaluate their lifestyles. Numbers 32:13 states, “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.” God banished His people there because of their disobedience to Him. Nature became the not a place of refuge, but a space of condemnation. This shows a significant distinction between country and city. The city seems to be where the corruption and sinfulness takes place, but the country is the space of consequences, as though people can’t hide anything in nature and have to face their failures, fears, etc. Nonetheless I do find it interesting that God chose to cast His people into the wilderness.
    I am guessing that the city is seen as a source of corruption for many, because of the numerous occasions in scripture where cities begin to spiral out of control. Noah’s story, for example, represents the removal of a city filled with sin and corruption. God easily wiped out all of civilization (minus Noah, his family, and the animals) by natural element: water. This allows us to see the unpredictable dominating superiority nature has over cities and civilizations, and obviously the nonexistent control we as humans are sometimes led to believe we have over nature; when really, it’s not our creation–God is nature’s only “master”. Although many cities are portrayed as violent, corrupted, and wicked in Biblical times, this view continues to depict cities today. But can you blame people for viewing large cities this way? If we discuss statistics, larger cities house more violence, crimes, and lack of moral values. I personally view major cities as a domino effect. Larger cities equal increased populations, which creates competition among its residents for basically everything. This competitive atmosphere requires people to “stand out” and it’s almost sad how far people are willing to go to either get a job, pursue a dream, receive a great amount of attention, etc. while losing their dignity, morals, and values along the way. There also seems to be a lack of identity in larger cities because there’s too many people to know them all. This allows larger cities provide more temptation and the more people that cede to temptation, the easier it becomes to continue succumbing to temptation, resulting in an entire society accepting these corruptions into their regular lifestyle.
    To conclude, it’s easy to see that the Bible contains so many significant images and depictions of cities and nature and their influences on one another, humans, as well as other creatures. After comparing spaces in nature and in cities, I’m able to see how, and even why, people still return to the conventionally religious views and opinions of these spaces that have been around centuries. Although, I am also intrigued by the question of why Heaven was chosen to be portrayed as a “city” after the second coming of Jesus (just one more question to add to the list when Jesus and I make a face to face encounter). I’m guessing it will be unlike any city I’ve ever seen. Maybe the term “city” is the closest word we have in our language that could even remotely begin to describe what God has in store, simply giving us an earthly comparison until we’re able to see it for ourselves. If you can’t tell, I’m utterly obsessed with the topic and connections you provided in your post and I think there are so many different angles you could take on this content. I apologize for going a little overboard on this “comment”, but these types of discussions are my absolute favorites! I love your topic and really appreciate you sharing it on the blog! Great job, for sure.

  3. jordanorr

    I’ll be the first to admitt – religion is not my strongest topic. I wish it were. It’s a regret of mine, but unfortunately it’s just the way things are right now. However, the connection to the Bible and our class was AMAZING. I wonder if this idea of starting in the Garden and ending in the City Of God has to deal with the idea of a large population all with similar interests. Possibly, the idea that our final resting place is in a city mirrors the idea that we are surrounded by fellow Christians who share our same interests. Just like NYC dwellers share the same interests of big city living. Just a rambling idea. 🙂

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