“The Lord God planted a garden, toward the east, in Eden”
It happened in 587 B.C. when Babylon took the Israelites into captivity. Israel had tarnished and polluted God’s Temple with their sin. They pushed God out and turned his holy place into a swamp of idolatry. So, God packed his bags and left. Listen to how Ezekiel describes the Lord’s departure in Ezekiel 11:23 – “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.” How sad it is to think of God’s glory shaking the dust from his feet and departing Israel. But take note of something very important in Ezekiel’s description. He tells us that God departed on the east side of Jerusalem. This begs two questions. First, does the eastern direction hold some special significance? And second, was Israel left hopeless and in despair with no mercy from Jehovah? To find out, we must fast forward to the time of Christ.
It happened Passover week, 30 A.D. From Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, a man approaches Jerusalem riding on a donkey. It was Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. He humbly entered the great city from the east. The glory of God was returning to the city from the same direction he had departed in 587 B.C. Why was he returning? He was returning to build and inhabit a new temple in Jerusalem. A temple of living stones, his church (I Peter 2:5). Years earlier the prophet Ezekiel also had a vision of “the glory of the Lord entering the temple through the gate facing east.” (Ezekiel 43:4). Ezekiel’s vision was of God’s presence returning to the temple once again. As Ezekiel saw God’s presence leaving through the east side of the city, so he saw the return of God’s presence entering from the east side of the city. Where God’s glory had departed, it returned.
Now how does all this affect you and me? To understand that we must revisit a conversation the disciples had with Christ. They were questioning Jesus about the end times and his return, he responded by saying, “As lightening that comes from the east is visible in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27). Keep your eyes eastward, my friends. The Son of God will return to Jerusalem from the east.
But exactly why is the east so important to God, you may ask? It is important because that’s where God began his creation. Genesis 2:8 tells us that “God planted a garden toward the east.” So, you see, because it was in the east where God began his creation, it will be from the east that he will complete hiscreation. Jesus is coming back to reclaim Eden!