Hope for the Future
One of my favorite songs to worship to is Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” The verses are set in a call and response format and one of my favorite lines is this: “Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does.” Why is this such a powerful image? Simple. Hope. Hope that one day, God will make all things right. What does Scripture say about this hope?
In Genesis 1, we see a world in which all things are right. All creation is subject to God’s gracious rule. Everyone and everything lives in perfect relationship with the Creator-King and Adam and Eve are able to physically walk with God in the Garden. This is the world as it should be. In Genesis 3, however, things go south. Man falls. Sin enters the world. The kingdom in which all things live in perfect relationship with God is broken. The once-perfect world becomes a place of rebellion and suffering. We see Adam and Eve’s separation from God as they try to hide from Him before being expelled from the Garden. In fact, the separation from God is so complete that Romans 8 tells us all creation is in bondage to corruption and longs for the time when all things will be set right. Instances of God’s presence on the earth become few and far between until Israel leaves Egypt and constructs the tabernacle.
Hundreds of years later, in 2 Chronicles 7, Solomon finishes his prayer of dedication for the newly-built temple in Jerusalem. Designed to replace the tabernacle as the place where the Ark of the Covenant and God’s presence dwelled, the temple was to be both a demonstration of Israel’s honor for God and a reminder to Israel that God’s presence dwelled among them. In verse 1, as Solomon finishes praying, Scripture says that
“fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
Scripture goes on to record a seven-day celebratory feast in Jerusalem, after which the people went “away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people” (2 Cor. 7:10). What an amazing time that must have been, to see God’s glory and presence fill the temple so strongly that no one could even go in. How wonderful it must have been to look up at the temple and know that the God of Israel was always present with His people. The people are not able to walk with God as Adam and Eve were. All creation is not freed from the bondage of sin. But God’s presence dwells on the earth again.
And yet, some 400 years later, God’s glory leaves the temple. Ezekiel records a vision of His presence departing in the company of cherubim.
“Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out…” (Ezekiel 10:18-19)
After hundreds of years, Israel had fallen so far that the consequences God promised for unfaithfulness in Deuteronomy had come to pass. The northern kingdom fell to Assyria. The southern kingdom fell to Babylon. And God departed the temple built for Him by Israel. Imagine the devastation. Where there had been celebration, dancing, and feasting in Solomon’s time because God’s presence had come, there was now weeping and mourning because God’s presence had departed. Even when the Jewish people returned from exile decades later and rebuilt the temple, God’s glory did not return to it. The future was bleak. Not only was creation still subject to sin, but God’s presence no longer dwelled on the earth even within the tiny nation of Israel.
Generations later, God’s presence returned to Israel again in the promised person of Jesus. Today, God’s presence still does not dwell on the earth like it did in Jerusalem but, since the coming of Christ, God’s Spirit resides inside of every believer. We no longer need to approach a temple to come close to God. God in his grace tore the temple veil and opened the way for all believers to come in to His presence through the blood of Christ. But things are still not complete. All creation is still not freed from the curse of sin. The perfect kingdom of Genesis 1 is still not restored.
Revelation 21 tells us the rest of the story and reveals our great hope. Like the song says, our God does intend to dwell again with us.
“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)
“I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev. 21:22)
These verses are so full of hope. They remind us that, one day, all things will be made new. The perfect kingdom will be restored. God will dwell with man again and we won’t need a temple to house His presence. We will be able to walk with Him again just like Adam and Eve once did. Creation will be free from the curse of sin and God will wipe away every tear. When things were bleak for Israel after 400 years in captivity, God rescued His people and gave them the gift of His presence. When things were dark again after the exile and the departure of God’s glory, He promised a coming Messiah who would change men from the inside out. And when our lives are full of trouble and suffering today, we remember that God has promised to someday rescue His people again, redeem creation from the curse, and make all things new. And that is reason for hope.
“Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does.”