God’s Temple-Presence

The Bible is a huge book. Let’s be honest. Lots of different writers, lots of different languages, cultures, time-periods, and genres. Have those facts ever made you wonder if there is one story to this massive book? Could there be a single, unified theme through all of the Bible?

I think there is.

Turn to the first page in your Bible, and you’ll read about God creating everything. At the center of his creation is a garden. God gives the Garden’s stewardship to his image-bearers: mankind. What was indescribably unique about this blissful nursery was that God himself walked face-to-face with his image-bearers (Genesis 3:8). They enjoyed perfect communion between God and man in this cosmic temple.

But the story turns sour. Rebelling against God’s good word, mankind brakes their communion with their Creator. Commandments disobeyed. Selflessness shattered. Fellowship broken. Barred from the face-to-face presence of God, Adam and Eve were beyond help’s reach. But God speaks into the death-imminent silence, clothing them with hope:

“He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

After this promise of deliverance (Genesis 3:15) through one who will come to finally put sin to death, history continues, and God repeatedly displays his mercy and grace to humanity, calling a whole nation to himself. What made his people so unique was that their God walked in their midst (Leviticus 26:12), and manifested himself in a tabernacle for all to see. God made a dwelling there so that his people could enjoy animal-bought communion between God and man in this hand-sown temple.

With the passing of time and leadership, God fulfilled promises and gave peace and stability. In an established city, David, the king of Israel, wanted God to have a more permanent and prominent dwelling place (2 Samuel 7). Soon the centerpiece of the city became the constant reminder of God being with his people. Israel was great because she enjoyed priest-mediated communion between God and man in a mason-built temple.

The story of God’s people continues: humans sin, and God shows his justice and mercy over and over again. Will this ever stop? Then, silence falls.

But at the perfect moment of cosmic suspense, God shatters his divine silence and sends his only Son Jesus, the Christ, to tabernacle with his people (John 1:14). God comes to earth, walking face-to-face with his image-bearers. The climax of God’s earthly temple-presence plan is Jesus–his life, death, and resurrection–enabling far away sinners to be indwelt with himself the Spirit being restored into his likeness. The good news of “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14) is that God came, and now lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19). God’s people are distinct because they enjoy Spirit-filled communion between God and man in a flesh-and-bone temple.

That’s the good news of now. But what’s the Bible’s good news of the future? Through his people, God begins a restoration-project that will conclude with a beautiful, tear-jerking new universe. A new earth and heaven is coming with the best part being, God and his people are fully face to face, never to be veiled by any obstacles. Sin: gone. Satan: gone. Death: gone. Perfectly happy because perfectly unified. Eternity is hopeful and exciting because God’s people will enjoy divinely-lit communion between God and man in a never-ending, sinless, Satan-less, deathless, unendingly bright future temple.

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