Dreams of Paradise
Hawaii has often been advertised as one of those classic dreams of paradise. When streets on the mainland clog with snow and temperatures plummet far below zero, thoughts are enticed by Hawaii’s warm tropical waves lapping upon beaches saturated with sun. Clouds drift by on perfumed trade winds. Cares melt away. The mind is filled with peace as you walk down a sandy shoreline. Ah, paradise found! At least, that’s what we believe we have discovered in those winter daydreams. Here is the eternal quest of man. He tries to find a quiet sanctuary that would bring him peace. Yet even in Hawaii, such a goal in the material world is impossible to find.
When we fell in the garden, paradise was lost and could never be regained through any of our efforts. It is not that we don’t try. Our imaginations fashion dreams of that perfect, happy place. Our philosophies and sciences work toward building a golden city. We seek its perfections in art and music. Every pursuit of man is aimed at finding the elusive paradise. Our lives are like the Tower of Babel, hoping to reach God in heaven. Yet in every generation the building crumbles, for there is no man-made solution that can put paradise back together again. Even the Christian sometimes passes into that dangerous sin of building a home for himself in this world. We are especially tempted by the prosperity of this nation. It lures us in with its promises of comfort and joy. Yet God has warned us never to be content here, nor to think of this unrestored place as home.
How does He point us in the direction of true paradise? He begins by showing us the hopelessness and emptiness of the place in which we live. Here in this fallen world there is no lasting joy or peace. We have tasted its finite pleasures, but they have left us miserable, lonely, and dissatisfied. Sin has corrupted everything. The city of man is collapsing and will be destroyed; hence, we are compelled to flee the wrath that is coming and to seek the restoration of God’s eternal home.
The Lord then directs us to Jesus Christ, the foundation of paradise. Here is the new Adam whose holy life and sacrificial death have provided forgiveness and justification to all who trust in Him and His work. He is the door to the eternal city. He is the fountain of love, joy, and peace for all who call upon Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the essence of paradise.
When a man becomes a child of God through faith in Christ, he no longer finds a suitable place in this world to rest. God has redeemed him from the realm of sin and placed him in the dominion of grace. All that he once loved becomes empty. He sees the vanity of pursuing earthly goals and pleasures. He finds himself in opposition to his former friends — the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Every step he takes in this life seems to be burdened with trial and test. God has done this so that we are never comfortable in this place. We are compelled to press on to the eternal city, for this unrestored world is no longer our home.
How does a Christian journey to the final paradise? Every day he wakes up in this world as a warrior pilgrim, fighting the temptations to root him here while pressing on to his eternal reward. On this voyage, he draws close to his Savior through prayer and Scripture. He dresses himself with the armor of God in order to face his conflicts. He finds fellow pilgrims who are heading in the same direction and loves their fellowship along the way. He keeps his eyes on the eternal and does not become trapped in the finite. He takes the members of his body and uses them for righteousness. Though he sees life decaying all around him, including his own mortal body, he has the hope of resurrection and life in the new heavens and earth. Here he finds everything changing. Friends pass away, circumstances make life unpredictable. Yet in himself he sees the seed of new life springing up in hope. He stores up treasures in that paradise that will never rust or decay. In essence, he lives here in this finite world as if he were already living in that holy paradise. His blessed Savior gives him a foretaste of what is to come, a peace that passes understanding, a joy that does not fade, and a love that is eternal.
One day we shall pass from this world. The Christian, like Abraham, waits patiently for the promises to be fulfilled. He knows it is coming. He knows that he will see and hear things that he has never imagined. He knows he will be transformed completely in holiness. He knows he will see Jesus, and on that day sin and mortality will be swallowed up in the perfection and victory of the Son of God. Thus, he presses on to his final rest. Which paradise are you seeking? Is it a daydream that will vanish away or is it the eternal hope laid up in God whose promises are certain? Press on Christian. The night is past and the day has already dawned upon the eternal city where we are heading.
Rev. Robert W. Field was senior minister of Honolulu Bible Church in Honolulu, Hawaii, for twenty years.
Pastor’s Perspective is an opportunity each month for a different seasoned pastor to apply the themes discussed in Tabletalk more directly to the life of the layperson and equip the saints for service in the local congregation.