The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:14)
From Genesis to Revelation, the story of the Bible is God wanting to dwell with His creation. Originally, all of Creation was for this purpose, but after sin and death entered the universe, God chose different ways to live among His people that ultimately lead to Jesus Christ. Let’s see how!
Genesis opens up with God creating the universe from nothing, speaking things into existence and giving them beautiful purpose. After all is said and done, God creates a Garden, known as Eden (“Delight”), where He places Adam and Eve. Eden was where God intended to walk and rule alongside humans, His image-bearers, and is therefore the first Temple. This was God’s perfect original design! This is the place where God’s holy dimension (Heaven) overlapped with ours (Earth), and Adam and Eve had the task of working and tending to it. Unfortunately, we ruined it when we chose sin over God, and we were separated from Him because of it. (Genesis 1-3)
God rescues Israel from slavery in Egypt and makes them His holy nation through Moses. He tells them to build the Tabernacle, which would serve as the place where God’s glorious, holy Presence could dwell among and lead His chosen yet sinful people! God appoints certain people who can serve and enter into the Tabernacle, called priests, to work and tend to it, very similar to Eden. Later, king David designs, yet his son Solomon builds, a bigger and more permanent Tabernacle for God’s Presence, the Temple. Interestingly enough, the Tabernacle and the Temple had no depictions of God, but a ton of garden and angel imagery. Why? Because, like Eden, this was now the place where the holy God would rule over and live with His sinful creation! The Temple was where Heaven and Earth met once more. However, the problem of sin is still at large within mankind, limiting their access to God’s Presence and demanding the constant killing of animals to cover it.
Jesus of Nazareth enters the story. Right off the bat, we’re told that Jesus isn’t your average guy; the Gospels tell us that He’s the Messiah, the King sent and anointed by God to re-establish His rule and reign over the world. But more than that, we’re told that Jesus is “Immanuel”, God Himself who’s come to dwell among His people and rescue them from sin! In other words, Jesus Himself is the ultimate Temple where Heaven and Earth meet, because the fullness of God dwells in Him! (Matthew 12:6) So how does He solve the problem? Humanity’s problem is sin; the ultimate consequence of sin is death; as a perfect Human, God can now die. Therefore, Jesus universally deals with the problem of sin by serving the sentence our sin earned for us, trading our suffering and death for His life and righteousness! (2 Cor. 5:21) Here’s the kicker: after He’s raised from the dead, securing victory over the sin and death of Genesis, He sends the Holy Spirit, God Himself, into the hearts of His disciples so He can personally live in and among them! So now, God’s Temple is the Church, all those who trust in Jesus, because He lives in them by His Spirit.
The biblical story of the Temple began in the Garden, but it ends in a City. Revelation closes with a vision of a recreated universe complete with a New Earth, where God the Father brings down the New Jerusalem, Heaven on Earth. The Father Himself comes to live in the Heavenly City alongside Jesus as King, and all those who’ve trusted Him and been redeemed. Thus, the Bible ends with the hope that God, in all His glory and infinite fullness, will live in love and peace among His creation, with Jesus sitting on the Throne and us worshipping and ruling alongside Him forever. (Revelation 21)