I’ve been walking with the Lord for over seventeen years, and one of the truths that astounds me is that God actually wants to know me. Scripture shouts this truth at us. For example, through the prophet Isaiah God declares that he longs to be gracious to us (Isa. 30:18). Wisdom cries out, calling us to turn and listen (Prov. 1:20-33). Most sublimely, the Father sent the Son to redeem us (Jn. 3:16) and purchase us (1 Pet. 3:18).
Thus the conclusion: God is a redeeming and rescuing God. Knowing this truth comforts and encourages us when we’re tempted to believe that we’ve sinned one too many times and that God could not possibly forgive us . . . again. During such battles we must fortify our hearts and minds with these “very great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4 NIV), reminding ourselves of God’s marvelous grace. Let us remember that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (cf. Exod. 34:6-7). Let us remember that God redeems. Let us remember that God forgives. Let us remember that God rescues.
We see this promise revealed through the plotline of the Bible. Follow me on this journey.
Many years ago, Vaughn Roberts summarized the storyline of Scripture in a simple yet memorable way. He said the Bible was all about God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. This succinct summary helpfully draws attention to the fact that God’s agenda is to have a people for himself among whom he can dwell and with whom he can enjoy fellowship. Modifying and clarifying this scheme a bit, we can also say (borrowing from T. Desmond Alexander), that the entire narrative of Scripture is designed to answer a question: How can God and humanity dwell together?
God answers this question in Scripture progressively, through a series of redemptive actions as well as covenant promises that ultimately point to Jesus, our handsome King.
The opening story of creation presents the earth as God’s residence—where he and his image bearers will dwell together in loving relationship. After the fall of humanity, however, Adam and Eve are sent into exile—banishment from God’s blessed presence. Exodus advances the biblical narrative quite significantly with the construction of a tent—the location of God’s presence among his people.
Eventually, as the story advances, the tent is replaced by the temple built during the reign of Solomon. Though the Assyrians and the Babylonians take Israel and Judah into captivity, the Jews eventually return to the land under Nehemiah’s leadership. Still, the Jews clearly long for, and the prophets specifically envision, a greater restoration.
The theme of temple that develops next is Jesus’ arrival on the scene: “the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally “tabernacled”] among us” (Jn. 1:14). John specifically identifies Jesus as the temple (Jn. 2:19-21), and, with blood earnest seriousness and daring boldness, Jesus, speaking about himself, announced to the religious leaders, “something greater than the temple is here” (Matt. 12:6). Even before his earthly mission was complete, Jesus promised that his people would not be alone as they worked to expand his reign. This same Jesus promised to send the Spirit to indwell and empower his people (Jn. 14:17; cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
In the Corinthian correspondence, Paul insists that God’s people make up the temple both corporately (2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-8) and individually (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19). Thus, God’s aim to make the entire earth his dwelling place is extended as God’s people faithfully make disciples.
The theme of the temple finds its fulfillment in the new heaven and the new earth. In his kindness, God revealed the beauty that awaits God’s people to the Apostle John: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:2-3, emphasis mine). Note, however, what John says he does not see in his vision: “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” (Rev. 21:22-23).
On that glorious day all that our souls have yearned for will finally come true. We will look on “the King in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17) and enjoy perfect satisfaction (cf. John 6:35; 7:37), and experience perfect peace. I can’t wait!
Dear friend, let us not doubt God’s love. He knows and he cares about all of your troubles, sorrows, and heartaches. He knows about the lingering guilt, the seemingly endless anxieties, the secret sin that stalks, the perpetual sense of inadequacy, the relational strife, the never-ending inconveniences, the mishaps and missteps. Oh, he knows it all. Run to him. Cling to him. Fall into his gracious arms.
 T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2008), 18.