The Cross and the Believer’s Home

The Cross and the Believer’s Home

The blessings of Christ on the land are really typical of His blessings on His people. It will be fully realized in His dwelling with His people in the new heavens and new earth—a completely renovated habitation in which only righteousness dwells. It is image bearers with which God is most concerned. The environment of God’s dwelling with redeemed mankind is the totality and comprehensiveness of His riches in Christ Jesus.

By the time I turned forty, I had lived in twenty-five different houses in seven different states. Relocating became standard fare for me during what many call “the formative years.” By way of contrast, my wife lived in the same house until she left for college. For the past nine years, I have pastored a church in a military town that has 400 percent turnover. I suppose that my upbringing helped prepare me for weathering the unique dynamics that come with pastoring a church in such a town. Nevertheless, where Christians live is not something incidental or unimportant. The Scriptures actually have a great deal to say about the significance of where we live. Jesus went to the cross to prepare a final home for believers in the new heavens and new earth.

As He approached Jerusalem and the sufferings that He was about to endure there, Jesus told His disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1–3). The imagery of “the Father’s house” is drawn from the language about the temple in the Old Testament. Solomon’s temple was the place of God’s dwelling with His people. In the temple, there were rooms for the priests to live in and from which they served. Jesus was eternalizing what the temple had typified and speaking about the implications of it for the believer in the hereafter. He had come into this world to “prepare a place” for believers. He was going to the cross to make room for those He came to redeem by shedding His blood for their sins. By shedding His blood, Jesus made room for His people in the everlasting temple—the new heavens and new earth in which He would dwell with His own for all eternity.

In turn, Jesus’ teaching about securing a dwelling place for His people in the eternal temple is built on the biblical teaching regarding the various dwelling places of God with His people throughout redemptive history. The biblical metanarrative carries us from the garden of Eden (the place of man’s original dwelling) to the new heavens and the new earth. As it does, it moves us from the garden of Eden to the land of Israel, from the land of Israel to the incarnate Christ, from the incarnate Christ to His dwelling in and with the church by His Spirit, and from His dwelling in and with the church to His dwelling with His bride in the new heaven and earth. The Scriptures carry us along the stepping stones of these various “dwelling places” until we finally arrive at the garden-city bride (Rev. 21–22). The Apostle John envisioned the church—the redeemed bride of the Lamb—coming down out of heaven to dwell with Him in the new heaven and earth. The connection between the garden of Eden and the new heaven and earth is the theological significance of “the ground” out of which God made man.

Eden was a special dwelling place—a unique land—in which God placed man at creation. God had created man from “the ground” outside of the garden and then, by His grace, placed His image bearer in this paradisiacal sacred space. It was a precursor to the promised land. God formed man out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). The ground (Hebrew adamah) was man’s original environment. In fact, there seems to be an intentional play on words in Genesis 2:7, where we are told that the Lord formed adam (man) out of the adamah (the ground). There is a clear connection between the ground and the man who was formed out of the ground. The name Adam means “red.” Since he was made out of the reddish clay of the ground, the name is a play on the word “ground” (adamah).

The ground was the sphere of blessing and fruitfulness for mankind at creation. Eden was the sphere of God’s richest blessing. God intended to create an image bearer who would work the ground and who would turn the world into the temple, extending the borders of the garden-temple out into the far reaches of the earth.

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