And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:22-27
Let us take a moment to think back, through the stories we remember from the Bible, at the place where God dwells. In Eden, He walked with Adam and Eve, but after sin entered into their lives, they were cast from the garden, and God’s presence forever. His angelic presence visited with Abraham and He even came down and wrestled with Jacob, but the Hebrew Scriptures show vast years in between each of these incidents… years of silence and isolation. Indeed, Moses appears to be one of the first mortals to get regular attention from God, but even Moses was not permitted to see God’s face.
In their 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites understood God to be leading their vast caravan – in a cloud by day and in a vast pillar of fire by night. They believed His presence abided among them, hovering over the Ark of the Covenant. God continued to stay over that Ark, whether it was in the possession of Israel or her enemies. Eventually, King Solomon built a temple to house the Ark where it stayed until Israel fell into civil war and was eventually conquered by Babylon and Assyria. Meanwhile, the prophets could hear God’s voice and saw His hand at work in the world in various ways. Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s throne having wheels and moving all over the world to wherever God wished to be.
All of this understanding of God’s presence comes to a head though, when Jesus steps into the picture as the only begotten Son of God. Now, instead of dwelling spiritually in a place, God has manifested Himself physically as a human being. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus Christ contained the whole of God – who created the universe, all within a simple human body. Jesus told the chief priests during Holy Week, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” referring to His body, not a building because the presence of God within Him was greater than that which was in the temple. Indeed, as Christ breathed His last, the curtain in the room holding the Ark of the Covenant was torn from top to bottom, perhaps in a demonstration that God’s presence had left that place.
Pentecost brought about a new understanding of the presence of God, dwelling within all His people, through the Holy Spirit. With that outpouring, God chose to abide in the hearts of believers, making them (and us) all like little temples. However, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is only the first installment of our true inheritance. Like a ring given to a woman for her engagement, the Holy Spirit is a gift given as a promise of a much deeper relationship to come. That promise is fulfilled in the marriage of the Lamb and the Bride of Christ at the end of Revelation. We are invited to be united with God in a way even greater than Adam and Eve enjoyed before sin.
Even greater than in the Garden of Eden? Yes. You see, the passage above shows us that, unlike Adam and Eve, we will not rely on anything else but God. They relied on the Sun for light, while the new city will be lit by Jesus, the Light of the world. They relied on walls to keep them safe and keep evil at bay, but the gates of the new city will always be open. There will be no night, no fear, no pain, no tears. The whole world will be welcomed into God’s presence to give Him glory, and those who would oppose Him will never even venture close, for they will see the very presence of God from far off, like a city on a hill. At long last, He shall be our God with us, and we shall be His people, and nothing shall come between us.