What was it like for God to have His relationship with us cut off? Have you ever taken the time to think about that? We focus a lot on what sin meant for us, but what about God?
He created us out of a longing to be with beings that could choose to love Him. He wanted – probably even more than we do – to be with us. And sin broke that relationship.
So He tried to maintain it as best He could after Eden. But it was never the same. The sin that we hold on to so tightly kept Him from us. At times He had relationships with individuals – Enoch, Noah, Abraham – but it wasn’t what He truly desired.
So in the wilderness of Sinai, He decided to change things up. He commanded Moses to construct a place where He would dwell on Earth. It was to be patterned exactly after Heaven (see Hebrews 8:5), and God promised that in it He would sit on the throne – the Ark of the Covenant. That’s why Moses was told to be sure that Angels, and gold, and silver, and precious woods were used in the Tabernacle. It was His attempt at bringing a bit of Heaven to Earth.
But it still wasn’t the same as Eden. God was there, but only one time per year would humanity be allowed to enter into the throne-room and come before God’s presence. It was better than nothing, but not what God longed for.
King David longed for that same type of relationship. He understood, as best as his limited mind could, that God desired to be present among us. So he asked if he could build a permanent residence in Jerusalem for Him. David’s history as a warrior and murderer prevented him from building it, but he was given the honor of preparing everything for his son, Solomon, to build it. And the Temple was stunning. It was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was absolutely glorious. But it still wasn’t Eden. And just as with the Tabernacle only one man was authorized to enter before God’s presence in the Temple, and then only once per year. It was closer to Heaven on Earth, but still not what God desired.
So God again took a different approach. If man couldn’t enter before His presence in the Temple, He would leave the Temple and come to them:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
That Greek word for “dwelt” is actually the same as the Hebrew word “tabernacle.” That verse could just as accurately – maybe even more accurately – be translated, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and tabernacled among us.”
That’s why we see Jesus refer to His body as the Temple of God over and over again. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that he saw God’s presence leave Solomon’s Temple (Ezekiel 10:18). God wasn’t in the Holy of Holies anymore. The Temple was never a building. It was the place that God chose to dwell on Earth. That’s why Jesus so many times said that the “Temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He was the Temple. God was dwelling among the people, and they finally had a relationship with him. But as much as Jesus was God, He was still man. He could only be in one place at a time. His original desire was still not fulfilled. It still wasn’t Eden.
And then He left. Forty days after rising from the grave He returned to Heaven. And God was no longer on the Earth. But then on Shavuot, God came back. He returned, this time as His very Breath filled the Believers on Shavuot. And God was able to be with humanity wherever His people were.
The Temple became His people. Paul tells us that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Peter goes so far as to tell us that each one of us who receive Jesus have become a Living Stone being built up into God’s dwelling place on the Earth (1 Peter 2:5). As His people, together we carry God’s presence on the Earth. It’s closer to what He desires, but we know that it still isn’t Heaven on Earth. We are broken. We are weak. And there are billions who still don’t have a relationship with Him. It still isn’t Eden.
And a day will come soon, when Jesus will return. Those of us who have yielded ourselves to Him will be resurrected to live forever in perfect bodies free from the sin that separates us from Him. And Jesus will begin a thousand years of showing us what this life could have been like had we followed His Torah, and allowed Him to be our Ruler and Messiah. But there will be those who have yet to receive His Spirit, or been resurrected to new life. There will be those who will enter into Messiah’s Kingdom rule after the world nearly destroys itself trying to be its own god. They will live under His rule and reign, but many will still seek to be separated from His presence. While life during the Millennial Kingdom will be the most amazing experience since Eden, it still will not be Heaven on Earth. It still won’t be Eden.
That’s why we will continue to observe the Feast of Sukkot. Zechariah tells us that each year, there will be the command to go up to Jerusalem and remember that, while Jesus will be here ruling, things still won’t be as they were intended (Zechariah 14:16-19). And at the end of those thousand years, many will choose separation from God over relationship with Him. There will be war again. But when that is finished, God will finally return us to Eden.