The Garden of God

Contrasting Adam and Jesus

“The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him” (Ezekiel 31:8-9).

Gheorghe Bivol, Moldova

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The Garden of God, like a rainbow, has the outset of its arch in the book of Genesis and the other end stretches to the book of Revelation. At the beginning of the book of Genesis is a beautiful garden, full of trees that are pleasant to the sight and good for food, and in the midst of it there is the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that was used to test the first couple’s obedience to God (Genesis 3:16-17). “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). How wonderful it is to know that God’s Plan of Salvation for mankind has its end under similar circumstances and all people will come to the same tree to obtain life. To achieve this, it was necessary that there be one more garden, where, in the middle of this plan, the Son of God, bearing our burdens and sins, prayed so earnestly that his sweat turned into drops of blood (Luke 22:44). These two gardens — Eden and Gethsemane — are key to understanding of the plan of God.

Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane signifies “the place of the oil press,” probably because of the prevalence of olive trees and the likelihood that olives were crushed there. The pressed oil was used for both light and food preparation. John refers to it as being a garden (John 18:1). “The word garden as it was used in the old times, corresponds very closely to our word orchard. Not a wild woods nor a public garden, but an olive orchard” (Reprint 2773). Gethsemane was “Supposed to have been the home of the mother of Mark, reported to have been a wealthy widow, a friend of Jesus’ cause” (Reprint 3885).

If Gethsemane was a garden, it is fitting that it became the place where Jesus’ final trials began, and where he would soon obtain the title “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). If we were in Jerusalem on the night of the 14th of Nisan AD 33, we would have seen a full moon over the valley of Kidron. Kidron is associated with the small creek that flows there mostly in the winter months. John says that following the Last Supper and subsequent Memorial, Jesus and his disciples walked toward the Mount of Olives, crossing Kidron and entering a garden, supposed to be Gethsemane.

Both sides of the valley were covered with tombs placed among the trees. We can just imagine what thoughts this site may have inspired in Jesus. He knew it would not be long until he would die on Calvary’s cross, condemned as a blasphemer. It would be on that cross that he would take the place of Adam. There he would bear the sin of the world. The penalty was harsh, but he knew it was necessary to redeem Adam and his posterity. However, beyond the pains of human life, Jesus would “see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

Jesus’ heart would rejoice in knowing his faithfulness and sacrifice would result in the resurrection of all that were dead, not only from those graves, but from all graves everywhere. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28, 29 NAS). As they passed through the valley, across the brook Kidron, they came to the Garden of Gethsemane. They had come to this garden many times before.

A Place of Friendship and Fellowship

We can imagine that it was here, far away from the crowds, that the disciples had gotten to know Jesus intimately. Perhaps they had partaken of meals or had deep theological discussions. Or maybe they simply sat and enjoyed the serenity and peace of the garden. However, this night would be different. Jesus asked the disciples to watch with him in prayer and meditation. There, among the olive trees, was heard the most heart-felt prayer of our Master, a heart-breaking prayer of a son pleading with his Father: “And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will’ “ (Mark 14:36 NAS).

Suddenly, the small group was interrupted. Judas betrayed his master with a kiss. Confused and fear-filled, the disciples scattered. Bro. Russell suggested that “in the end of this age there will come Gethsemane experiences to the Church” (R5550). Faith and trust will be tested. As our Lord cautioned Peter and other disciples of the trials to come (Luke 22: 31- 32), so we must be prepared for the trials of the present time. Many are unprepared for severe testing and temptation.

Paul wrote: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NAS). By this Paul surely meant that he felt his own insufficiency when his faith was strong. It was at these times that Paul would pray and watch for the Lord’s direction. So must we.

Victoriously, it was in a garden that Jesus displayed his power over death. He was buried in a garden tomb (John 19:41) and laid there for two nights. On the third day he arose, ultimately to ascend to his Father’s right hand. That opened the way for Paradise, a word derived from the Greek word meaning “a garden” (Strong’s 3857). There the Tree of Life, representing immortality, will be the place from which Christ and his Church will bless the world and God Himself will dwell and those who come to it will “eat from the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). Symbolically, the tree of life is the cross of Christ.

Contrasting the Two Gardens

As the drama of the human race began in a garden — the Garden of Eden — so the final scene had to be played in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, the differences between the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane are quite significant.

● Eden was bright and beautiful; Gethsemane was dark and hostile.

● In Eden, Adam and Eve followed the will of Satan; in Gethsemane, Jesus followed the will of God.

● In Eden, Adam was disobedient; in Gethsemane, Jesus was obedient.

● In Eden, Adam took a forbidden fruit from the hand of his wife; in Gethsemane, Jesus took a cup from the hand of his Father.

● In Eden, Adam hid among the trees of the garden; in Gethsemane, Jesus openly faced his fate.

● In Eden, the sword was drawn to keep man out; in Gethsemane the sword was put away that man could return to Paradise.

The Lesson For Us

Let us beware as trials arise in our lives and follow the example of Jesus rather than the sin of Adam. Let us be fully submerged in the divine will, watching for guidance from on High, and in humility go on our knees, waiting in silence for the Lord’s will. In every trial, let us consider the Lord as “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and follow Peter’s advice, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Let us seek “glory and honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7) by following the example from Gethsemane. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

This commitment will affect how we use our time, money, and talent, and may result in the loss of close relationships. “But think not that the giving will end with the giving of the needful time and energy to this study: it will not. The sincerity of your sacrifice of self will be tested in full, and will prove you either worthy or unworthy of membership in that ‘little flock,’ the overcoming Church, which will receive the honors of the kingdom” (The Divine Plan of the Ages, page 347). Jesus said: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Paul said: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). God permits these experiences for a purpose. He is calling a class of godly people to become part of a future Royal Priesthood, to be used for blessing mankind during the reign of Christ. The current experiences are meant to test their loyalty to and their faith in God and His principles of truth and righteousness. To what extent are we willing to suffer for the name of Christ, God and these principles? Some will suffer more; others will suffer less; God allows experiences according to his or her strength.

The trials and experiences through which the last members of the body of Christ must pass may be like fire. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12). Knowing that every member of the body of Christ must be tested, let us rejoice when we are touched by these fiery trials. For then we can say: I have a share in the cup of sufferings. I am glad that by God’s providence, if I can pass through these trials, I will realize my hope as a member of the body of Christ.”

Isaiah 5:2 reveals that God delights in caring for His people: “And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine.” God is a fruitful gardener of people, even if it means digging up, clearing out, and planting new life in their hearts. Let us fight the good fight of faith and live in such a way that our consecration is carried out according to God’s will. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

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