When our first parents were expelled from their Edenic paradise, they moved away from their home with sad hearts and heavy steps to enter a world blighted by the curse. What a terrible experience it must have been for Adam to witness the corroding effects of his sin for almost a thousand years!
Thank God, the story does not end there. God had a plan ready for the restoration of the human race to the Paradise that was lost.
This is encompassed in the immortal words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Christ’s death was not an afterthought; neither was it an emergency plan that God devised at the last minute. We read in 1 Peter 1:18-20 that the plan of salvation originated in the mind of God even before the creation of the world. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
The provision of a Saviour was part of God’s eternal purpose. Jesus was the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). God did not leave man without hope. The plan of salvation was made known. We read in Genesis 3:15 the words addressed to Satan through the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”
When Eve’s first baby was placed in her arms, she exclaimed in joyful anticipation, “I have gotten the Man Jehovah.” (Genesis 4:1, Spurrell). Eve thought she had given birth to the promised Redeemer. But she lived to discover that her first-born was not the Messiah, but the world’s first murderer! Four thousand years went by before the angels announced Christ’s birth in Bethlehem’s manger. During those intervening millenniums the sons of Adam marched in unbroken columns into the dark shadows of death. None have returned to tell what life beyond the grave was like.
In 1 Corinthians 15:22 we read, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” What thrilling news this is to dying men! We know from past history and personal experience that men do not live too long. Threescore years and ten is life’s normal span. If we are fortunate, we may reach fourscore years. Life at its best is all too short, and we know that the curse of death lies heavily upon the human race. But as we are doomed to die in Adam, so we are predestined to live in Christ.
Some time ago, while driving to Cambridge from London, a friend of mine took me to see the tomb of Lady Anne Grimstone. Once, when reminded of the Christian’s hope of resurrection from the dead, she is reported to have said, “It is no more likely that I should be raised from the dead than that a seed should grow out of my body.”
Lady Anne Grimstone died in the year 1717 and was buried in an altar tomb. Soon after her death a crack developed in the tomb, and a seedling pushed its head up and through it. During its growth the tree split the tomb and twisted the railings so much that it has left them hanging in the air. Thus what seemed so unlikely to Lady Anne Grimstone actually happened.
In John 5:28, 29, N. E. B., we read: “Do not wonder at this, because the time is coming when all who are in the grave shall hear His voice and move forth: those who have done right will rise to life; those who have done wrong will rise to hear their doom.”
“All” shall come forth. There will be no exceptions. From Abel to the last man who dies before the trumpet sounds, all will come forth. Voltaire, who sneered at the Christian hope, will rise again. So will Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. But not all will come forth at the same time.
The first resurrection will be of those who have died in Christ. ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16). But “the rest of the dead,” that is, the wicked, will not live again until “the thousand years” are finished. (Revelation 20:5). They will live but a little while and then suffer “the second death.” (Verses 6-9).
You might be wondering why God plans to raise all the dead — both righteous and wicked. He is going to raise all men to prove the efficacy of the blood of Christ. God has made it possible for all men to live again. Just how long we live after our resurrection depends on our attitude to Christ. He died that we might live, and live eternally. Let us look at that text again. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” If we die the first or natural death, we die for Adam’s sin. If we die the second death, we die for our sin of unbelief. There is no need for anyone to die outside of Christ, that is, to die without hope, for “God,” we repeat again, “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
How important it is to believe in Him! If we are laid to rest before His coming, how important it is to be asleep in Him and to come forth clad in the robes of immortality at His second advent. If it were not for Him we would have no hope beyond the grave. The angel of death could descend from the courts above and visit every cemetery in the land, and carve on every tombstone the words, “Dead for ever more.”
I once read the story of a little girl who found this blessed hope in Christ. She was dying of tuberculosis, and her parents were concerned about her salvation. She had left the church of her father and joined one of the evangelical churches. In desperation her parents requested their minister to visit the girl and try to persuade her to return to their church. The minister pleaded with the child, but in vain. Then in desperation, he said, “If you don’t return to our church, we will not be able to bury you in holy ground.” Raising herself on her frail elbows, the child said, “You do not frighten me. Bury me where you will. When the Lord Jesus returns for me, He will know where I am.”
Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10. The world was lost. You were lost. I was lost. Thank God, Christ came and paid the full price of our salvation. The gospel prophet, writing of Jesus and His mission to this world declares: “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6. Then “shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” Verse 11.
In Hebrews 12:2 we read, “For the joy that was set before Him” Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The joy that came to the heart of Christ was that of seeing by faith the triumph of His mission. He saw that day when He will lead the sons of men back to the Paradise of God.
In “The Great Controversy,” E. G. White depicts this inspiring scene in the following words: “As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the city of God, there rings out upon the air an exultant cry of adoration. The two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race — the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour’s form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: ‘Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!’ Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled.
“After his expulsion from Eden, Adam’s life on earth was filled with sorrow. Every dying leaf, every victim of sacrifice, every blight upon the fair face of nature, every stain upon man’s purity, was a fresh reminder of his sin. Terrible was the agony of remorse as he beheld iniquity abounding, and, in answer to his warnings, met the reproaches cast upon himself as the cause of sin. With patient humility he bore, for nearly a thousand years, the penalty of transgression. Faithfully did he repent of his sin and trust in the merits of the promised Saviour, and he died in the hope of a resurrection. The Son of God redeemed man’s failure and fall; and now, through the work of the atonement, Adam is reinstated in his first dominion.
“Transported with joy, he beholds the trees that were once his delight — the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene: he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the paradise of God.” — Pages 647, 648.
Friend, if you would be with Him in that day then you must be in Him now. Will you just bow your head where you are and repeat with me this prayer of surrender and consecration:
PRAYER: Father in heaven, I thank Thee for sending Jesus into the world to save me. I have learned that He is the way, the truth, and the life — that He is the way from earth to heaven, from death to life, and I accept Him as my Saviour. Whether I live or whether I die, I do want to be among those who will be found in Him at His second coming. As I place my hand in Thine today by faith, do lead me on. Keep me from falling, and grant that through the merits of my Saviour I will at last see Thy blessed face, and be welcomed into the kingdom of glory, I pray in His precious name, Amen.