Restoring—Paradise Lost

“God sitting on His throne sees Satan flying towards this world, then newly created; shews him to the Son who sat at His right hand; foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears His own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created man free and able enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares His purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduc’t. The Son of God renders praises to His Father for the manifestation of His graciousness towards man; but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards man without satisfaction of divine justice; man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to Godhead, and therefore will his progeny devoted to death must dye, unless some One can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergoe his punishment. The Son of God freely offers Himself a Ransom for man: the Father accepts Him, ordains His incarnation, (and) pronounces His exaltation above all names in Heaven and Earth;” (John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Three, The Argument, 1674)

If you’ve “experienced” Mel Gibson’s movie, you’ll know what I mean… By engaging
in arguments about “who” was responsible for the death of Christ, we miss the bigger point, which begs the question, “Why was Christ’s death necessary in the first place?” Have you discovered just what God’s “end game” is, through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son? Frankly, what’s troubling to most of us is the implication that Jesus had to suffer death on the cross to redeem us, in effect broadcasting that—in and of ourselves we’re not OK. So the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ then, was not really about Mel or his movie, but instead about the message of the cross. As Milton suggested though, it’s through this cross that Paradise can be restored, for those who believe. More than the utopian ideal that history has attempted to cobble together, through might or intellect, Paradise here and now would bring real world harmony. That is, peace within our families, throughout our communities, amongst nations—but most importantly with God. And what’s in store for an eternity in Paradise? Nothing short of what God has intentioned for you and me from before time began…that we were created to be related…that life has meaning, in glorifying our Creator and enjoying His presence forever…that our individual destiny is one of significance, as bound by His purpose…and that we belong within and are fitted for, the community of God’s kingdom. “So far so good,” but what is it that precludes having this pristine arrangement now? In a word, “Sin” (Romans 3:23), or our attempt to play god. And because His perfection and our imperfection will never peacefully coexist, a sense of foreboding haunts the creatures, which find themselves at odds with their Creator (Romans 8:7).

In it’s simplest terms, love for God requires a choice (between either serving Him or rebelling), and with this ability to choose (but by His grace), we’ve always chosen the latter. But, rather than abandon us to our own fallen nature and the damning certainty of eternal separation, God accomplished something for us at Calvary that we could never achieve on our own, namely reconciliation between Heaven and Earth. Said differently, God’s love for humanity and righteous judgment of sin required His incarnation and vicarious atonement, which is offered to us as—salvation by grace through faith in the Christ (Romans 6:23). For those who receive the risen Savior (John 1:12) our position in Christ absolves the penalty that justice demands. And through the practice of yielding to His Spirit, the bondage of sin and (spiritual) death are loosed. It’s this pattern of perfection, illustrated in Christ’s immortality, which comprises the promise of Paradise for those who believe. And Jesus secured it all through His death and resurrection. Is the Spirit of God drawing you into relationship with Him during this Easter season? I invite you to personally encounter the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Restorer of our “Paradise Lost.”
“The law of God exact He shall fulfill both by obedience and by love, though love alone fulfill the law; thy punishment He shall endure by the coming in the Flesh to a reproachful and cursed death, proclaiming Life to all who shall believe in His redemption, and that His obedience imputed becomes theirs by faith, His merits to save them, not thir own, through legal works…Then (He) enters into glory, and resumes His seat at God’s right hand, exalted high above all names in Heav’n; and thence shall come, when this world’s dissolution shall be ripe, with glory and power to judge both the quick & dead to judge the unfaithful dead, but to reward His faithful, and receave them into bliss, whether in Heav’n or Earth, for then the Earth shall be Paradise, a far happier place then this of Eden, and far happier daies.” (John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Twelve, 1674)

Roy J. Tanner

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