Petunias, marigolds, begonias, and alyssum. I set the tiny plants close together in the warm, black earth of my freshly spaded flower garden. In a month, it would be a mass of color.
But when I checked the flower bed several weeks later, I found something I hadn’t planted there. It was already nearly two feet tall; it was covered with wicked thorns; and it was crowding out my petunias.
I got a pair of leather gloves, grabbed its spiny stem, and pulled. The intruder didn’t budge. It had put down strong roots and wanted to stay.
I kept pulling, though, and eventually that thistle broke loose—so suddenly that I landed on my bottom in an adjacent flower bed. “Ha!” I said as I tossed the ugly, thorny weed into the trash. “It was hard work, but at least I got rid of you!”
But I had spoken too soon. One week later, when I came back to my petunia bed, that weed had returned—bigger and worse than before. I had broken off the top but failed to extract the root. And from the root had grown a new thistle in half the time it had taken before.
It took a good bit of digging before that thistle went away for good. Worse, I discovered that it had left some seeds behind. New thistles kept sprouting up, making it necessary for me to tend my garden every couple of days.
The weed of the universe
Sin, like that thistle, is very, very persistent.
You may have already discovered this in your own life. If you’ve ever tried to get rid of a sin, whether it’s to shake a bad habit or a bad thought, to change an evil trend, or to eradicate a long-held grudge, you know it isn’t easy. Once it gets a roothold in you, it can be hard to get rid of.
Sin put a deep, deep root into our human experience almost from the very beginning. When God made this earth, there wasn’t a bad thought, an unkind word, or an evil deed anywhere. God's first people—indeed all of His creation at the time—knew nothing of death or sadness. But the devil incited the very first human beings to rebel against Him. One bad choice (I’m sure you’ve heard of Eve, the snake, and the forbidden fruit), and human beings suddenly found sin growing all around them, spreading its evil seeds throughout their perfect world and into their own hearts and lives.
And so it has been ever since. The world, I think we’d all agree, has gotten no better, and indeed much worse since Adam and Eve first munched on that forbidden fruit. We’ve gone from a world in which sin was an intruder to one where some folks seem to love evil.
Satan, that old gardener of sin, now has quite a number of us working for him!
What to do?
The Good Gardener
Let me tell you the end of the story first.
In the end, God will eradicate sin once and for all. From one end of the universe to the other, there will not be the slightest remnant of evil. Not a weed, not a seed, not a leaf, not a root. The perfect world that God created in the beginning will be restored. That much I can promise you, because the Bible says so: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
God has been working for a long time to reach that end. His plan has been to shine His love upon us. He did that most directly by sending His Son, Jesus, to this earth. Jesus did many things, but primarily, He did what was necessary to win our love. He went so far as to die a sacrificial death so that no one could ever say that God didn’t give His utmost for our salvation.
Have you ever driven past a field of yellow sunflowers? The face of every flower will be turned toward the sun. That’s how it is with those who have accepted Christ: their faces are turned toward Him. Even though weeds of sin may grow around them, those who love Christ thrive and grow under His love.
Sending His Son won our hearts. But it has not eradicated sin. In the end, God will have to do some aggressive gardening
The Bible tells us about a day when Jesus will appear in the sky, accompanied by all the angels, and they will be visible to every human being. Among His first acts will be taking back to heaven with Him all the people who’ve accepted Him as their Savior: certainly those who are alive and looking for Him, but also those who accepted Him years ago—centuries and millennia ago—and whose bodies lie moldering in the earth.
Jesus, you see, can make dead people live again. The Bible promises that a day is coming when “the dead in Christ shall rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and they will be taken up into heaven along with those of His people who are still alive. And, as the Bible so beautifully puts it, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
But what of those who didn’t love Him—those who rejected Him and will not be a part of that perfect world? Ultimately, they’ll see life again, too, but not eternal life.
The end of evil
The Bible pulls no punches on this one. It’s a sad story, but a true one. Those who don’t accept Jesus will be destroyed. Says the Bible in telling this story, “Fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9).
Some people claim that those who reject God will live eternally, constantly writhing and suffering in the flames of hell, while worms continually eat their flesh. There they will be for all eternity, day and night, screaming and crying to God for a second chance.
Does that sound like something a loving God would do? Does that sound like sin would be eradicated from the universe? Hardly. Imagine being in heaven, happy with the Lord—except when you happen to stray too near that pit of hell where millions of people, perhaps some of them people you know, are writhing in agony. How could anyone be happy seeing something like that? It would mar the happiness of that perfect universe!
No, the Bible makes it clear that sin will be destroyed once and for all. Forever and ever. Every person who loves sin. Every result of sin. Every trace of sin. No corner of the universe will be reserved for the eternal punishment of sin. Like weeds pulled up by the roots and tossed into the flames, the universe will be purified of sin.
Of course, that includes sin’s own gardener himself. “The devil that deceived them” will be thrown into a “lake of fire,” says the Bible (Revelation 20:10, KJV). The end of the devil is also the end of temptation. The one who scattered the seeds of evil will be gone.
I know where I want to be on that day. I want to be with the Good Gardener in a world free of evil. A world where each of us thrives under the heavenly light of the Sun of Righteousness.