How does God dwell with people?

Last updated on June 13, 2023

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14)

When God created the heavens and the earth, He prepared a special place to dwell with mankind, his most cherished creation. This place is known as the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). The presence of God, in the fullness of his attributes, dwelt there in a special way. The glory of God was in this garden. Moreover, the garden manifested the perfect communion between God and man. Therefore, when Adam and Eve sinned, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, separated from the very presence of God, of the glory of God. But God spoke to them, and promised them that, through a descendant of the woman, mankind’s communion with Him would be restored and once again would enjoy his presence, his glory (Genesis 3:15).

While Genesis 3:15 was not yet fulfilled, God demonstrated His desire to draw near to his people and maintain communion through the tabernacle (Exodus 33:7-10) and later the temple in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:1-13; 1 Kings 5:1-5; 6:1). These were the places where God dwelt in a special way and where He manifested his glory, his presence.

How God dwells with his people in the New Testament

The Old Testament ends with the drama in which the presence of God has left the temple because of the progressive sin of his people (Ezekiel 10:4; 10:18; 11:22-23), but with the hope that He would return in all his splendor. Then, the New Testament begins with “the Word became flesh”. Notice that Jesus affirmed that the leaders of Israel had made the temple “a house of trade” and “a den of robbers” (John 2:16; Matthew 21:13). God’s presence was no longer dwelling in the temple, so where would it dwell? Where would God dwell with his people?

In Christ! When the time of fulfillment had come, God would dwell among his people through the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. He is the Immanuel, the “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) and the ultimate “temple of God” (John 2:18-21). That is why John affirmed, “the Word … dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14).

In Christ, the glory of God was fully manifested, for in Him dwells the whole fullness of deity (Colossians 2:9). The apostle John and those who believed in Jesus saw his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father (John 1:14). So in Christ, God came to live with his people, made his “tabernacle”[1] among them, thus restoring the communion with God that man had lost in the Garden of Eden because of sin.

How God dwells in us

This is good news, but it did not stop there. God’s redemptive plan continues. The work of Christ on the cross (his death, resurrection and ascension) transforms his people, the children of God and his church, into the temple of God. In the words of Paul, showing the importance of the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

It is in the church that God dwells in a special way and his glory is manifested. How? Because as believers and followers of Christ, we have been regenerated, are considered children of God and maintain communion with Him! All this is only available through Christ. We are the first fruits of the new creation and we have the firm hope that this whole world will be transformed and redeemed into a new heaven and a new earth, where everything will be God’s special dwelling place and there will be no more sin. The whole new world will be better and superior to the Garden of Eden. This will happen when Christ comes the second time. What a great hope we await!

In conclusion, as part of God’s church, we are called to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). That is, a genuine worship “in spirit”, which arises from the regenerated heart. And a worship in God’s way that arises from the very “truth” of his Word.

What a joy to know that in Christ our fellowship with God is restored!

[1] The Greek verb translated “made his dwelling” / “dwelt” in John 1:14 literally means “to dwell as in a tent” / “have a tabernacle”.

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