ECHOES from EDEN, PART 36
END-TIME PROPHECY – TRUTH REVEALED
BY: J. PRESTON EBY
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
THORNS and THISTLES
Thorns and Thistles
Planting the Kingdom of Heaven
The Cares of this Life
Burning off the Fields
“And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree... CURSED IS THE GROUND FOR THY SAKE; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; THORNS ALSO AND THISTLES shall it bring forth to thee... in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.”
As I have stated repeatedly in this series of articles, the Garden of Eden represents the realm of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN on earth, a higher existence for man than the cursed state we find ourselves in by natural birth. It is the state of being that man was in when he was first brought forth from the creative hand of God. It is heaven and earth kissing each other. What if Adam had never sinned, had never been banished from that blest domain? Ever wonder about that? Ah! – that would have made a world of difference! There would be no giant military establishments today consuming the time of millions of soldiers and the wealth of governments. No violence. No wars. A different business and commercial world. No sickness or disease, no need for doctors, nurses, hospitals and their staffs. No crime, no police forces, jails and prisons. No death, no funeral homes or cemeteries. There would be peace everywhere – between nations, groups, families and individuals. Abundance everywhere with joy-filled lives effervescent with anticipation of the ever-increasing glories of the Kingdom of God. Yes, think of it! You and I would be living in a totally different world!
The Garden of Eden represents man living in the presence of God Almighty, walking in the presence and glory of celestial realms, with the heavens opened over his head. Living by the fruit of the tree of life man would know God as the indwelling power of life and be full of light, abounding in heavenly wisdom and knowledge, fearful in power and dominion, ethereal as a spirit and shining in the image of God. Man as master and Lord over all things! Man living above sin, sickness, pain, sorrow and death! In Eden’s lovely garden the effulgent perfumes of the heavenly realm were fragrance and life to man’s nostrils. He touched spiritual things and tasted spiritual realities. THIS was the glory of Eden – the Kingdom of Heaven on earth!
THORNS AND THISTLES
There is neither time nor space to consider the myriad ghastly consequences of the fall of man, but I would draw your attention to the judgment pronounced to the man:
Where once Adam walked about among the most fertile trees, in lovely meadows, and among vegetation and flowers of all kinds which grew spontaneously and profusely, there now sprang up out of the earth darnel, wild oats, weeds, nettles, thorns and thistles in such abundance that the good plants were almost overwhelmed. Consider a field that has been plowed and prepared for planting. The moment it has been sown, weeds and darnel come up more quickly than the crops that are useful for life. In fact, you can diligently tend your ground, and still find that the winds will blow in the seeds from afar, and they have to be constantly dealt with. Unless they are destroyed with diligent care by the farmer every day, those pernicious plants gradually take possession of the field, and the good seed is choked. The earth indeed is innocent and would gladly produce the best products, but it is prevented by the curse which passed upon it “for man’s sake.” Well did
As previously stated, all the natural is a parable of the deeper SPIRITUAL REALM. The book of Genesis deals largely in typical representations: that is, figures of spiritual realities, brought forth in the language and form of the physical world, but pointing to that which is higher and grander, the verities of the spiritual world. With this truth in mind let us consider further the words of the Lord in
What is the “earth” that is cursed? Ah, far more than just the dirt of the ground we walk on! Of the formation of man it is written,
Ah, yes, as surely as the thorns and thistles grow up out of the earth of your garden and choke the life out of the good plants you have planted there, so do evil “thorns” and “thistles” abound in the “earth” of man’s carnal nature to choke out the life from the good seed of the Kingdom of Heaven planted there by the heavenly husbandman! Can we not see that there came a fundamental change in the nature of man, the fall was a DESCENT from life on a higher plane to life on a lower plane, from a spiritual state of being to a sensual state of being. Where once the “ground” of Adam’s spiritual mind brought forth spontaneously and profusely the manifestations of God’s life, now his carnal mind would produce a vast crop of fleshly manifestations designed to choke the life of the spirit. So now man WORKS... and WORKS... and works... diligently pursuing multiplied religious observances, external forms, activities of all sorts, and for all his effort he is able only to produce a pitifully small harvest of reality, seeking out but a meager spiritual existence! The “weeds” are not a special creation of God, for the Lord declared,
PLANTING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The first parable given by the Lord Jesus Christ is the one commonly called the Parable of the Sower. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says of it that it is the parable of parables and unless it is understood other parables cannot be. You must realize that all the parables in the Gospels are about the Kingdom of Heaven and this parable is the first. It is the starting point of Christ’s teaching about the mystery of the Kingdom. In
The first word of this parable challenges attention – “Behold – Hearken!” The last word repeats the challenge –
Ah, there stood the Sower in their midst, and He was also the Seed! He was cast into their earth, He spake as never man spake, the Word of eternal life, the Word of the Kingdom, of a higher plane of life available to men, the life of the Spirit. Although no one can, with the natural mind, understand the level of life belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven, a man can understand the level of life on which he is. Everyone can see the nature of life in this world. He can see through his outer senses what is done by people on this level of life: and he can, if he looks at himself, see with his inner senses what he does. He will then see what life is like and what he is like on this natural plane. And I do not hesitate to say that neither life nor himself can be different at this level.
The fault was not in the Sower, nor yet in the Seed, but in the Soil. The fault was not in the factor of initiative, but in the factor of response; the hearer was at fault, for he was in a condition incapable of receiving the Word. There must be fertile ground and a favorable climate for plant growth. From the soil, the rain, and the sun, comes an inner life which, coursing in its veins, causes it to prosper. We cannot now deal with all the aspects of the parable, but let us meditate briefly upon the seed which “fell among thorns” – not on ground already covered with thorns, but on land “fouled” by latent weed-seeds. Who has not seen a grain field brilliantly but ruinously streaked with red poppies or defaced by patches of thistles? The weeds were not visible when the crop was sown; they were in the uncleansed soil. There is a gradual ascent in quality of the four types of character revealed in the parable. The first, the soil of the wayside, is impenetrable. The second, the rocky ground, is too shallow, but the third is rich earth with possibilities of a generous harvest. This hearer is a man of high potential, of genuine vision, but he is not wholehearted, part of him is held in reserve, uncrucified. He lives in a state of duality, double-mindedness, divided between irreconcilable loyalties:
As with the plant, so it is with the growing life of the child of God. It is completely impossible to over-emphasize the importance of this foundational and fundamental truth: YOU ARE THE SOIL into which is cast the Word of the Kingdom of God! This is why Jesus declared,
“That ye should walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory.”
God does not have any “honorary” positions in His Kingdom! You do not just awaken one fine morning to look in the mirror and discover that you have been raised up to sit with Christ in the sphere of His almighty power and infinite dominion. Well did Paul say,
This truth of the Kingdom of God within us is of such dimension and vital importance to God’s apprehended and separated ones that one scarcely knows how best to articulate its significance that God’s people may be inspired to forsake the weak and beggarly things of earthly cares and pursuits and the vain trappings of tradition and religion to lay hold upon the glorious and eternal reality set before us. Jesus Christ has been in the process of PREPARING the Kingdom for almost two thousand years. The first word of teaching to fall from His lips declared,
The Kingdom of God began to be established in individual, yielded, believing hearts as the great Sower planted there within the furrows of their earthen vessels the good seed of the Word of the Kingdom. Christ enters the fertile soil of the believing heart. He takes the throne and begins to rule and lead the believer till in him CHRIST IS ALL, and ALL IS CHRIST. This is the Kingdom of God within you. In some believers His
But in some, thank God! The seed of the Kingdom brings forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold. Thus it has been through the centuries as God has prepared His Kingdom in men. In Jesus’ day there was some good soil, and therefore Jesus sowed in hope. Among the multitude there were men and women who were sin-sick and world-weary, who longed and yearned and prayed for the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God. They were
Let it be fully understood that all through the past nineteen hundred years the Kingdom of God has been in our midst, within the elect and en-Christed ones. The body of Sons is now almost prepared. The King is making ready. Very soon the apprehended ones will move into an entirely NEW REALM, but not a strange realm, for we have already partaken of the firstfruits of its glory. Like the man of whom Paul spoke who, though here on earth in body, was nevertheless caught up into the realm of the third heaven, so these en-Christed ones will be
There are two errors abroad in the land. The first error is the notion that the only manifestation of the Kingdom of God the world shall ever see is that which we have seen for the past nineteen hundred years. Of those who believe that the present indwelling of Christ in His people is the only phase of the Kingdom of God there shall ever be, some believe that this present arrangement will continue on indefinitely into unending ages yet to come and that in every generation there will be the repeated contest between light and darkness, good and evil, God and Satan and the saints and the wicked. Others embrace the crude notion that this age will finally end with Christ coming to snatch all the saints off some far-off heaven after which the sinners will be sent to hell to burn eternally and the earth passes away to exist no more. End of game. Consummation of God’s purpose of the ages.
The second error is the idea that there is a difference between the body of Christ and the Kingdom, that the Kingdom has not truly come, that the KINGDOM IS A FUTURE AGE. Those who subscribe to this teaching are always LOOKING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME and cannot believe that it will ever be here until after the second coming of the Lord or the manifestation of the sons of God. The truth lies between these two extremes. That the Kingdom of God is not merely a future hope but a present reality should be among the most evident of truths for
Long ago the prophet announced,
The spiritual realms of the Kingdom of Heaven are being entered here and now by a company of the firstfruits of the Kingdom whether we know it or not. But Satan, knowing that his time is short, has great wrath and has stirred himself to destroy this manchild as soon as he is born, for he is to rule all nations in the age to come. The tactics the adversary uses are not what saints expect. He is not destroying them with drugs, drunkenness, demon possession, gross sins of the flesh, or even by persecution and martyrdom. He is destroying them with sleepiness, carelessness, much catering to the flesh, and with human zeal to accomplish things for God. Christians dread prayer and fasting but love crowds and excitement, forms of godliness and imaginary gifts of power, concerts and hand clapping, entertainment and dead works, pomp and ceremony. These are the weapons Satan uses, but it is not the Satan out there somewhere with horns, a pitch fork, and a funny suit, but the Satan growing up out of our own carnal mind as thorns and thistles in our very own Garden!
THE CARES OF THIS LIFE
The first mention of thorns and thistles is just this side of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, God sent them forth from the Garden and said,
While there could be many and varied applications of the weeds growing in the fertile soil of the carnal mind, in His parable of the Soils Jesus spoke of how there was that seed which fell among the thorns that choked it. And when He gave the meaning of the parable, He said it was choked by CARES, and RICHES, and PLEASURES OF THIS LIFE and therefore brought no fruit to perfection.
The cares of this world have turned many people’s lives into a pressure cooker. The strain of everyday living is steadily growing worse because of financial problems, higher taxes, inflation, government policies, the disturbing world situation, added responsibilities, sickness, hospital bills, rebellion in the home, unemployment, etc. The divisions and distractions of “this life” are numerous beyond recounting, we are all faced with them every day. There are necessary involvements in daily living from which we cannot and would not escape, but when they so OVERWHELM us that we find ourselves fragmented and so divided that we are unable to gather ourselves together to focus sharply upon the purposes of God in our lives – then we need to be LOOSED from these snares, escape from them, flee out of them. The cares of life are insidious – coming between, choking out a crop, making it unfruitful. Some give all their thought to the things of “this life,” as though they would live here forever. God cannot work with such as these. To be near to the heart of God, to feel the pulse beat of His compassion for creation, one must walk with God in the highlands of the Spirit. It is tragic but true that in the lives of many of God’s saints, instead of lovely gardens of roses, marigolds and lilies, we find stinkweeds, thistles, and thorns. And those who live in the midst of such patches of weeds can never produce a harvest of fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. I beseech you, dear brother, precious sister, to take a tour of your garden
With what keen insight and spiritual discernment did
God has a way out of the briar patch! When everything starts to fall apart, HIS LIFE WITHIN gives the strength and faith to ride out each crisis, to PASS THROUGH all these things, and to stand before the Son of man, praise His name!
There is another area of division and distraction that is a part of the cares of this life also – and that is the “religious realm” which can cause one to be so caught up in its programs and works that it literally becomes a CARE. Well do I remember former years of pastoring churches when every weekend was crowded with such a whirlwind of feverish activity, meetings, visitation etc. that come Monday morning I needed another Sabbath to rest and recuperate from the one I had just been through! I suppose I will make some enemies, but I must tell you the truth nonetheless. How much eager-beaver religious work is done out of a carnal desire to make good or appear successful! How many hours of prayer are wasted beseeching God to bless projects that are geared to the glorification of men! How much hard-earned money is poured out upon men who, in spite of their tear-in-the-voice appeals, nevertheless seek only to make a fair show in the flesh! I have no hesitation in saying that a dynamic personality and a shrewd knowledge of human nature is ALL that any man needs to be a success in religious circles today, including the “spirit-filled” ones.
Let no one misunderstand me. I am not in any way condemning meetings, ministry, or corporate expression. We praise God for all the precious saints that the Lord has gathering together in seasons of praise, worship, seeking the Lord, exhorting and edifying one another in the spontaneous flow of His life, we also meet and minister among these as the Lord enables and are blessed and strengthened thereby. But the church systems, for the most part, have accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster signify that something vital is being accomplished for God. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, committees, board meetings, basketball tournaments, religious splash parties followed by devotions, weekend camping trips with a Bible quiz around the fire, Sunday School picnics, puppet shows, building fund drives, business men’s banquets, revival meetings and a world more of feverish activities which occupy time, energy, and attention but can never satisfy the deepest longings of the heart. The shallowness of the average Christian’s inner experience, the hollowness of his worship, the emptiness of his words, and that servile IMITATION OF THE WORLD which marks the religious system’s promotional methods all testify that the whole program, instead of being a divine out-raying of THE CHRIST LIFE, is naught but part and parcel of “the cares of this world.”
Oh! To escape religiosity that we might learn to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And we rejoice to see how God is causing His people to flee this care. And let me assure you, my brother, I have no intention of assuming the burden of paying for men’s programs, building men’s kingdoms, or joining in their efforts to save the world, when God already has a plan for the salvation of all nations which will work, while men’s efforts have failed.
Dear man of God; dear woman of God; dear friend and brother of mine! Let us pull up by the roots the noxious, choking weeds of religious excitement and pseudo devotion and seek the face of the Lord in deep humility until He comes and breaks up our fallow ground and rains righteousness upon us! The soil that shall bring forth fruit unto perfection is that which has been PLOWED UP, CLEANSED, and impregnated with the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, daily exposed to the arising of the Sun of Righteousness upon it, and the rain of His Spirit of life.
BURNING OFF THE FIELD
Jesus identified the “thorns and thistles” of the ground as the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and pleasures of life which choke out the good seed of the indwelling Kingdom of God. Any “care” of life that chokes the Word and makes it unfruitful in our lives is a pernicious weed growing in our ground. Were one to make account and analyze all the perils, tribulations, pressures, situations, etc. facing men today they could soon become double-minded, becoming over-anxious about these things. The more men take into account the so-called conspiracy seeking to destroy our nation, worry about inflation, economic collapse, famine, nuclear war, New World Order, etc. the more they are moved away from their settled place in God, they are no longer secure in the secret place of the Most High and these earthly concerns, like weeds and darnel, choke out the peace and triumph of HIS LIFE within. Blessed is the man who
This may be a hard word for some, but the simple truth is that quitting your job, moving away from the city, buying a farm, clearing land, building a cabin, getting back to nature, trudging through mud, hand-pumping water, raising your own food, canning, cooking on a wood stove, sewing our own clothes, using an outdoor john, reading by lantern light, storing guns and ammunition, in short – BECOMING SELF-SUFFICIENT – has absolutely nothing whatever to do with producing the fruit of the Kingdom of God and entering into sonship! Now, if you just naturally enjoy roughing it, or if your desire is to farm, then go ahead! Farming is a noble occupation, but farming will in no way enhance your prospects of becoming a son of God! In fact, those who go to such lengths to prepare themselves in a natural way for the calamities to come upon the earth can become so involved with the physical and material aspects of coming events that the CARES OF LIFE AND THE DECEITS OF THESE THINGS CHOKE THE FRUIT-BEARING LIFE right out of the Kingdom seed!
The sons of God live NOW in the peace of the Kingdom of Heaven and do not concern themselves with what tomorrow may or may not bring. Our omnipotent Father is more than able to keep that which we have COMMITTED UNTO HIM against that day. When we concern ourselves with the dangers of the hour, what might happen tomorrow, becoming so involved in MAKING PREPARATIONS FOR THE FLESH, a hedge against the future, until we miss caring for the seed of life that is within, we are in danger of losing the fruit that we waited so long for. Remember, dear ones, it is with much PATIENCE that we possess our souls and THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION (not by missing it!) we must enter into the Kingdom of God.
The thorns sprang up in our earth as a result of Adam’s fall. But God has a way out of the briar patch! The One who came into this world so many years later to pay the penalty for man’s sin, was forced to wear a crown made of these vicious plant spines. In recording the events of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord, the apostle John writes,
We have read the dead letter of the Word – seeing only the physical, while the reason and the results were completely missed! Thorns... cares of life... pressures... problems... fleshly desires... and then comes the
Some will not cast all their cares upon Him, becoming identified with His thorn pierced brow, finding blessed deliverance from the curse, having their soil cleansed from the weeds of inner wickedness. For these careless or rebellious ones God also has a process. This ground in which the seed sprouts up with such promise only to be choked later, is described in
The first eight verses of Hebrews chapter six are dealing one central truth –