Paradise is harmony with God, humanity, and nature.
God finds and restores what is lost.
^That is the message of the Bible.
The problem to overcome is humanity at odds with God, one another, and nature. Ancient Near East brutality is portrayed and critiqued in strange but brilliant ways throughout the Hebrew scriptures. The Torah ends with a yearning for a prophet like Moses, but greater. Malachi ends with a yearning for someone to turn the hearts of the the fathers & children. Then we get Jesus.
Jesus continues the story of Ancient Near East strangeness, but he starts revealing clues. The outsiders often “get it” ahead of insiders. Naaman the Syrian to The Good Samaritan tell us that there is more to the story than proper religious identity.
Various groups of the establishment take offense with Jesus for their own reasons. Even Jesus’ disciples lose the plot. But when the Spirit empowers the church to be the body of Christ, the story becomes more clear. Tribalism, sectarianism, know-it-all-ism, and so on are the problem. The way of sacrificial love that unites in active empathy is the solution.
Paul and Peter say to “honor the emperor” but not in patriotic fervor, simply in practical focus. The Kingdom is advancing through the power of truth spoken with power of genuineness and hope. The emperors did not appreciate Peter or Paul’s lack of patriotism. The rulers of this age harassed and ultimately killed them. But their message thrived.
John’s Revelation concludes the story. The scroll that reveals the mysteries of a violent and unjust world is sealed. But the Lion of the Tribe of Judah can open it! So John turns, but he did it again. He forgot what he knew. Tribalism and beastliness were NEVER God’s way toward a new paradise. He saw and realized that there is no Lion… there is ONLY the sacrificial Lamb. That is the point of the Story.
So John writes in beautiful apocalyptic imagery to reveal the fate of the hateful. A Rider on a white horse, not a donkey, will come. And he shows up with his white robes already bloodied by his own sacrificial love, and his only weapon is the words of truth that he speaks, and the validation that comes from his own testimony lived out.
And so the story ends in a paradise that is greater than the paradise that was lost. A multitude of humanity are unified in the city of peace, without tribalism, satisfied by the goodness of renewed creation and the light of the glory of the redeeming creator.
The Story has no room for making deals with the Devil for power, even if it is only to use one evil against another. Do not listen to the stories of Babylon that seduce people away from the story that gives true and beautiful hope. Be faithful to sacrificial love, now and forever, amen.