by Lois Tverberg
When we read the Christmas story, we focus on the idea that in Jesus Christ, God came to dwell with us, and we see it as a miracle that for a short time God would come so close to lowly humanity. But if we examine the rest of the Scriptures, it becomes evident that this has been God’s goal from the very beginning, and will finally be reached in Revelation.
When God first made man and woman, they dwelled with him in the Garden of Eden; after they sinned, they were cast out of God’s presence. This is the fundamental consequence of sin – the breach of intimacy with God. But God immediately began to repair the breach by making a covenant with Abraham, and later with Israel. When the covenant with Israel was first made and before it was broken, seventy elders could enter God’s presence and not suffer harm (Exodus 24:9-14). God had begun to mend the relationship between mankind and himself, so that a few people could enter his presence once again, even if only temporarily.
God then gave the the Israelites instructions to make a tabernacle, saying “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Ex. 25:8) Interestingly, his goal is not to dwell in it, but to dwell among them. His goal was to have intimacy with his people, for them to live in his presence. This points ahead to God’s final goal of his presence among his people in Revelation:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be among them, and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation. 21:3-4)
Christ’s coming to dwell on earth is both a picture of God’s ultimate goal and God’s means of accomplishing that goal. In Christ, God walked, talked, laughed and cried with his people, and showed them his great love for them. By dying for their sins, God took on the worst of human of experiences, and was intimately with his people in the depths of life’s sorrows. But through the atonement that this provided, he has opened the door for us to live forever in his presence as well. In this sense, God has most fully achieved his goal of dwelling forever among His people.