For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16).
As my church crawled out of quarantine, blinking in the May daylight, I had a run-in with sehnsucht— much like that night I sat crying on a hotel bed and writing about my childhood (see Part One: Belonging to a Place).
It was Sunday morning, and I was working PowerPoint in the sound booth over the church sanctuary. No one could see me, so I figured it was alright if I journaled what I was feeling. Because it was strong:
“I’ve waited weeks for this— worship in a room with these people.
I can’t see faces up here, but I can hear. And it might just be better than seeing. I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I’ve heard the voices of praising saints. Together we sang:
‘And Lord haste the Day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!’
I’m thankful I’m up here, where the voices ring loud and no one can see me crying into my hand.”
Our truest Home isn’t in the audience of God’s presence. It’s at his side— as his Bride. That means “home” isn’t just a place where we reflect God’s dwelling, but a people among whom God dwells.
“Home” isn’t just a place where we reflect God’s dwelling, but a people among whom God dwells.
Before Jesus came to redeem all nations, Israel was God’s chosen Bride. And as she stumbled through the wilderness, he moved with her in a transportable temple called the tabernacle. Behind its embroidered curtains, God Most High dwelled.
The tabernacle didn’t confine God; it confined Israel from facing God (and dying). “Tabernacle” can mean “to conceal all around; to hide.”[i] In the full-fledged presence of God, to hide is to live. When he unleashed his glory before Moses on the mountain, God both stood with Moses and hid him in the fold of a rock (Ex. 33:22, 34:5).
God dwelled with Israel, but only behind a barrier. He was too much glory for a stumbling, mumbling Bride to behold.
That’s not a very intimate marriage, is it?
Leaf through the Old Testament, and the Bride’s story gets darker. In Ezekiel 16, Israel is portrayed as a woman and God as her Lover. It begins with this act of God:
And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ (Ezek. 16:6)
The girl flourishes, and God clothes her and enters into a covenant with her and lavishes her with jewelry, oil, silver, and gold. The Bride responds by trashing it all on adultery, yet the chapter ends with this crack of light:
“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD… when I atone for you for all you have done, declares the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 16:62-63b).
Now move to the end of the story with me, where Revelation 19 lets us peek through a window into a lamplit dining room:
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev. 19:7-8).
Remember how Moses and his people had to hide from God— how they couldn’t intimately dwell with him? Remember the ache we’ve felt since Eden, as we wander and search for Home?
Jesus came and mended that.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23).
Jesus was the same God who billowed glory inside the tabernacle, but in a form we could look at and dwell with. Jesus was the Tabernacle and the Temple (Jn. 2:21). He was also the Lover of Ezekiel 16, here to abide with his Bride— but first, he washed her blood-stained hands with his own. On the cross, Jesus looked on his people, wallowing in their blood, and said, “Live!”
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
We’re a Bride who’s been wearing the scarlet letter “A” since Eden, where Adam and Eve marred the first marriage. But that’s what makes the New Eden such a stunning thought. Nancy Guthrie writes:
“This marriage is going to be so much better than the marriage of Adam and Eve in Eden. Our groom, the second Adam, will not fail to lovingly lead us to feast on the tree of life … He will not die. His love will satisfy us forever in a Home even better than Eden…
“We’re beginning to understand through this story of the Bible that our longing for home is a longing not for a place, but for a person.”[ii]
Just as my belonging to Edgewood Road gets me aching for an eternal home, my belonging to First Baptist Church makes me ache for the Bridegroom.
Before God dwelt inside the tabernacle, his people joined hands to build it:
Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. And every skillful woman spun with her hands… All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD (Ex. 35:24-26, 29).
Each person offered to God what only he or she could offer. Some were arms of the body, some legs, some eyelashes, some blood vessels. Paul says each are vital:
If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body (1 Cor. 12:19-20).
We—the church—belong to Jesus as his Bride, just as Israel belonged to God as his people. It’s only by breathing and walking and moving together that we create a place on earth for God Most High to dwell.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
This helps me understand why I cried in the sound booth. I watched God dwell in Spirit among his Bride and tasted a crumb of the feast that’s coming.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face… (1 Cor. 13:12).
Heaven will be our Home because God is our Home. And in the presence of this Person, we’ll belong like never before as we worship among a people of his own possession (Ex. 19:5, 1 Pt. 2:9). The church was created to mirror that Day until it’s no longer a flat reflection, but an armful embrace.
Until Jesus returns, we’re like the virgins in Matthew 25, waiting to meet their bridegroom. Those who were wise brought oil to keep their lamps burning through the night, but the foolish had to go and buy more. While they were gone, the groom came to usher his bride into the wedding supper (Matt. 25:1-13).
A faithful Bride will stand with a lamp in her hand, pouring light into the night, wearing a gown washed white by Jesus for the Wedding Day.
Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
Because of Jesus, God no longer dwells inside a curtained tabernacle or stone temple. He makes his home in us. And when we gather as his people, his church, his Bride, we reflect a ray of our truest Home, where we’ll dwell at our Bridegroom’s side forever.
Take time to catch this glimpse, even if it’s only through smudged glass for now:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1-4).
[i] Edited by Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament. (1991: AMG Publishers. Chattanooga, TN), 57
[ii] Nancy Guthrie, Even Better than Eden. (2018: Crossway. Wheaton, IL), 90, 135