For a year of my childhood, I devoured a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. Written in second person as if the reader is the protagonist, the books allow the reader to make choices impacting the plot. When you come to a decision point, whichever option you choose takes you to a different page where you continue with the story. If you chose well, the story goes on. If you chose poorly, the story ends in a sad, dramatic fashion.
All of us have hard things in our stories that we wouldn’t have chosen; it’s the nature of the broken world in which we live. And even though we carry our hard plot points with us throughout our stories, the story in the Bible has everything we need for our story to end well. Nancy Guthrie’s book Even Better Than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story shows how the new heavens and new earth are “superior not only to life in this sin-affected world we live in now, but superior even to what Adam and Eve experience in the original Eden” (13).
Tracing nine biblical themes
Connecting the Old Testament to the New Testament, Guthrie traces nine themes through the Bible: the wilderness, the tree, his image, clothing, the bridegroom, the Sabbath, offspring, the dwelling place, and the city. In doing so, we are given hope for today because of the fulfillment of promises that Christ gives us for our future. Guthrie shows how these nine themes were originally good in the Garden of Eden, how sin corrupted them, and how Christ redeems them, thus making them even better than in Eden.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden “they had every reason to be perfectly content” (19). They lived in harmony with each other and enjoyed the presence of God. They had all the provisions necessary for life. Guthrie walks us through what each theme originally looked like in the Garden of Eden. For example, even though they were naked, they were not ashamed. “When Adam and Eve looked at each other,” Guthrie writes, “or at their own reflection, they would have seen themselves covered with a measure or degree of the radiant light of the righteousness, beauty, and glory of God, which is why there was no cause for shame” (62). Their clothing looked different before the fall than ours does, but God had clothed them with what they needed. Another provision given was in the Sabbath day. God gave the Sabbath to Adam and Eve to follow his pattern of working for six days and resting on the seventh. God was promising, “Work and you will rest with me” (96).
But we all know that Adam and Eve failed in their work: Adam “didn’t exercise dominion over the evil Serpent or his own appetites. So instead of leading us into rest, Adam plunged us into the restlessness inherent in a sin-corrupted world” (97). Guthrie shows how sin corrupted life in the garden and life thereafter by marring his image, making marriage and childrearing difficult, and making discontentment run rampant in our hearts. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they “became slaves to sin. They went from being crowned with glory and honor to being naked and ashamed. The image of God in them—the image of righteousness, holiness, and knowledge—was marred so that they became corrupt, defiled, and foolish. They still bore God’s image, but that image became distorted” (49). We’re all living with the consequences of sin that began in Eden. It’s why our stories all have some degree of pain and suffering.
Looking toward our future hope
Thankfully, God didn’t leave us to be ruined in our sin. What “began at a tree in Eden was dealt with at another tree, the cross of Calvary” (39). Through the death and resurrection of Christ, everything that sin tainted and ruined is being made new. Believers will be made glorious. We will enjoy the wedding supper with the perfect bridegroom. He is preparing a place for us to dwell with him. Oh, Eden was good, but the seed of the garden “will burst into glorious boom in the new heaven and the new earth. When we enter the new Eden, our Sabbath rest, the final temple, the New Jerusalem, we’ll begin to experience all the God has intended for His people all along” (159). God’s word tells us His redemptive story that each of us might have a happy, glorious ending.
From creation to the fallen world to the new heaven and new earth, God–in his wisdom and providence–has provided for our every need through Christ. Guthrie’s tracing of the nine themes throughout the breadth of scripture helps readers understand how carefully God wrote his Word and how his wisdom surpasses our understanding. Even Better Than Eden is appropriate for the new or mature believer who wants an in-depth look at how God has woven the strands of his redemption story throughout the Old and New Testaments. And that story changes everything.