One day, in the new heavens and new earth, God will dwell with His people as He did in the beginning.
Not too long ago, I was showing my neighbor the firepit I built in my backyard. Around the firepit, I placed large patio stones in a circular pattern and planted grass in between them, along with five Adirondack chairs. When showing my neighbor the fruit of my labor I remarked, “This is my sanctuary,” and in many ways it is. I often end my day spending time there. In fact, many nights I sit there quietly in prayer, simply dwelling in the presence of God.
Now, my backyard is a far cry from what it must have been like in the garden of Eden. However, it often stirs my biblical imagination of what it must have been like to walk in the physical presence of God in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Built into the very fabric of humanity is a desire to experience the presence of God. In fact, the story of Scripture begins and ends with the presence of God.
In the book of Genesis, Eden is the first human’s home but, more importantly, it is also God’s garden temple. A sacred space where the Creator God and His image-bearers dwell together. However, when sin entered the world, Adam and Eve (along with all of humanity) were cast out of God’s holy presence. Paradise was lost. Even more, the initial command to build out the earth as the city of God was left unfulfilled. Heaven and earth were separated. The world we dwell in now is broken, and longing for redemption. The people of the earth drift around, looking for anything that will fill the gaping hole that can only be filled with God’s presence.
The apostle John speaks directly to this when Jesus is introduced in his Gospel account as coming to dwell among us. What a breathtaking reality. Jesus, the God-man had come and walked among us. His message was that the kingdom of God had come near (Mark 1:15). In other words, what Adam and Eve failed to do, Jesus came to make right. Jesus lived the perfect life according to God’s holy standards, something none of us could do. Jesus died a sacrificial death for us, in our place, so that we could be granted access to the presence of God again.
At the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, John speaks again of a day when Jesus will come again and bring heaven and earth back together, depicting a time when paradise will be regained. What a marvelous promise to be able to one day say with John, “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them” (Revelation 21:3).
As I write this, I am sitting in my backyard “sanctuary,” and it’s a pale shadow of the garden city that we will dwell in one day for all of eternity. Even as I sit here quietly in prayer, reflecting on the presence of God, I cannot imagine what it will be like to see my God face to face. In a few hours, the fire before me will disappear into the darkness. But one day, the darkness will disappear in the light of His glory forevermore. On that day, our life in the garden city with God will never end.
Written by Matt Capps