January 23, 2023
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
What is the point? This is the question we often have, especially in regard to matters that are time-consuming or difficult. And so much about life in this world is difficult. It causes us to wonder, “What is God doing in the world? Where is history headed?”
The Bible makes clear what God is doing in the world and where history is headed. It is headed toward God dwelling with his people in a new creation. Our future as God’s people is headed toward having the One True God as our God in such an intimate and immediate way that we will sense his personal touch in wiping away our tears, along with everything that has caused those tears.
Is it not an incredible thing that the God of the universe actually desires to dwell with us? Honestly, I can’t explain that. Yet ever since Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden, God has been at work to ring his people back into his presence. When he called Abram to go to the land that he had promised to give to him, he stated his intentions: “to be God to you.” When God brought Abraham’s offspring out of Egypt and into the wilderness where they were living in tents, he gave the people instructions to build him a tent. “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst,” (Exo. 25:8). Later, when his people had permanent homes, God too was ready for a more permanent home, the temple in Jerusalem, saying to Solomon, “I will dwell among the children of Israel” (1 King 6:13).
Then came the most incredible development in God’s outworking of his plan. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The one who made this world entered into it experiencing all of the aspects of life in this world that bring tears. “Jesus wept,” John tells us (John 11:35). His heart broke at the grave of someone he loved, and as he looked over the city he loved that refused to come to him (Luke 13:34). “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Instead of welcoming him, humanity crucified him. Instead of turning toward him in repentance and faith, we turned away from him in rejection and unbelief.
But God’s plans can never be thwarted by human sin. Shortly after his ascension, those who did receive him were gathered in a room praying. And God came down to dwell, not merely among them, but in them, by his Spirit. Ever since that Pentecost day, God has been at work in his people who, like living stones, “are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). And one day the building will be complete. The waiting will be over. One day God will come to earth to dwell with us in such a way that we will see him face to face. No more relating to him from a distance. Just eternal togetherness. This is where history is headed. So, let’s set our hearts on this future reality: God dwelling with us like never before.
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally, including her Biblical Theology Workshop for Women. She is the author of numerous books, and the host of the Help Me Teach the Bible podcast at The Gospel Coalition.