When the person we love is dying of cancer we pray for healing. We pray fervently. But even if God grants a miraculous healing, what then? Do we dare to ask for ten more years of health? Twenty? What about a hundred?
How long do we want this kind of life prolonged? For how long do we want God shuffling around these cursed conditions? Is it just a case of ‘holding back the tide’ of death and decay for a little while longer? Or does the LORD have something better for us?
The good news is that God is not reduced to “postponing the inevitable.” He’s into resurrection. He’s not much into death deferral. He’s into death-destroyed.
So because of this He needs to close off our attempts at “making the best of a bad situation.” Once humanity opens the door to death and chaos, He bars the door to eternal life. Because this kind of life must come to an end.
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
Our future will not be a perpetual life-in-defiance-of-God. God saves us from that by barring fallen humanity from the tree of life. He draws a line under this kind of human life. It will end in death. And He makes sure of that by guarding Eden with creatures far stronger than us – cherubim.
What do you picture when you think of cherubim? What is it to be cherubic? Or angel-faced?
Art rarely captures what the Bible describes. When the Bible reports of angelic visitations they usually have to reassure the cowering humans with words like “Don’t be terrified.” Angels are fearful and awesome creatures. And their first mention in the Bible here does not describe them as heavenly eye-candy, but as deadly security-guards.
These armed bouncers will ensure that fallen life will not be eternal life. Adamic life will end. Anyone seeking to regain paradise will have to pass through the cherubim and their fiery sword. Only through death can life be opened up.
The resurrection life for which we hope is not this kind of life prolonged. Instead the LORD Jesus joins us East of Eden and then marches back up the hill to win us immortality. The cross was Jesus passing through the fiery, death-dealing guard and taking the sword into Himself. In this way the old Adam-life is killed.
But Christ, and only Christ, has the strength to pass on through to the other side – to immortal life. And this is the life He offers us. Not an extension of Adam-life with all its disease, decay and despair.
Our hope is not for life-this-side-of-death. We hope for life-the-far-side-of-death – the life that only Jesus can offer.
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