…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die… Genesis 2:17
Eden was not the perfect paradise, not yet. God made man and woman innocent. He had a plan to teach them more, good and evil, the meaning of free will and righteousness. Eden was a paradise waiting to happen if man and woman would love God in spite of the choice to do otherwise. There was no death. There was not yet any evil there. But evil had been introduced already among the sons of God, the heavenly beings. And one, in the form of a serpent, brought that evil into the almost-paradise and it wasn’t. Men and women have been living in exile ever sense. But the memory of paradise lives on and draws us on.
The Nations Before Abraham
Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language… Genesis 11:6-7
Depravity and mob mentality spread quickly in this period. God was bothered most by the violence and sent the flood to slow the spread of evil. General revelations to the nations did not bring people to trust in God. They began to make gods in their image rather than honor the God who made them in his.
…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:3
God chose one man. He made a plan that was fool-proof because it depended only on divine providence. All Abraham’s descendants had to do was be born. God would bless the nations through his offspring. Faith was not a prerequisite and neither was obedience. The existence of the Jewish people, the children of Jacob, is all God needs to redeem and perfect this world. From Jacob on the world became divided into Israel and the nations and God’s plan always comes through Israel to bless the nations.
Torah and the Land
…and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19:6
The children of Jacob received the Torah, the revelation of who God is and what he expects of his people. They soon after received the land, the place from which all of God’s great plans for redeeming and perfecting the world would take place. A holy book and a holy land were given to a holy people. Yet even if Israel was not obedient, God’s work through them was destined to succeed. They were to be priests, willing or not, and the world has been changed by the children of Jacob. From the calendar to the world’s outlook on religion, nothing has been the same since.
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Psalm 137:1
Jerusalem, like Eden, was now a place cut off from them. They prayed they would never forget the dream that had been Jerusalem, Zion the city of God. The ark and the glory were gone. The holy people were captives now in the nations. When it was at last time to return, relatively few came. The second temple was not so glorious. But among those exiles and returnees hope began to grow. Pious ones and seers taught of a coming time of righteousness, cataclysm, and Messiah. Angels and visions of the end were growing in the people’s imagination. They were a people waiting for Messiah.
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13
He came in a way that was far less dramatic than many had hoped. He subverted their ideas about the kingdom of God, the coming Messianic Age. He did not put away Rome, but called Israel to return instead to the Father. He seemed an ordinary man, or at least far more ordinary than they had imagined. What good were miracles and healings when the people wanted glory and to put away the great oppressor that was Rome. Thousands welcomed him as Israel’s king, but the nation as a whole saw only a strange martyr.
Times of the Gentiles
…a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25
All Israel will be saved, but this is the time of the nations. From Jerusalem the word went out and men and women from all over the empire turned to Israel’s God and Israel’s unclaimed Messiah. Very quickly Israel was forgotten. In a short time, many even denied that God still worked through the children of Jacob. It has been an era of great glory and also of great tragedy. Men have loved the Jewish Messiah while rejecting the Jewish people. And the hearts of Israel have grown harder. But the times of the Gentiles are closing and the days of Israel are coming.
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. Ezekiel 36:24
All through history, a few faithful Jews had made the land their dream. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries they trickled in. They drained swamps. They reclaimed unwanted land within the borders of God’s promise. Against all odds, and only after a near genocide, they reclaimed the land in 1948 and Jerusalem in 1967. And still they are being gathered, as only one third are now there. Few of the promises of restoration have yet come to pass. Yet many dare to dream. Visionaries. Some are preparing the third temple. Others pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We can feel the winds of Messiah.
Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. Daniel 9:26
Trumpets will blow. Bowls will be poured out. People will ask mountains to fall on them and cover them from God’s anger. Even Jerusalem will be overrun by the end. The holy city will be attacked. All nations will joined the battle called Armageddon. Israel will turn to Messiah, starting with a group called the 144,000. These are pious young men who will lead their nation to Messiah. After great pain, he will stand on the Mount of Olives and rescue his people. Redemption and perfection are now near.
Days of Messiah
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Messiah, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:6
The Holy One, the King, will take his throne in Jerusalem. A river of life will flow from the temple there and trees with healing leaves will grow on its banks. The faithful from all the previous eras will be here, resurrected and never to die again. Even those born in this time will live long lives, with one hundred being a young age to die. There will not be a grape which does not yield at least thirty measures of wine and every person will sit under his own vine and fig tree. The nations will all come, year after year at Sukkot, to worship Messiah Yeshua at his Jerusalem temple. And Jerusalem will be called “Adonai is our righteousness.”
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2
The last deception will be at the end of the days of Messiah and the Satan will lead many astray. But after his rebellion is put away, all sin and death will cease. The faithful will enter into the magic hills and go beyond the joys even of the days of Messiah. It will be a New Earth and a New Jerusalem, like the best things of the old, only better. Everything good in this life will be better in the World to Come. Everything bad will be gone forever. And there will be no sun or moon, for Adonai will be our light.