It is fascinating to know that the biblical narrative is about God making his dwelling place and calling us who are made in his image to build and reign with him. This truth is beautifully narrated in Genesis creation narrative. Unfortunately, we reduce this to scientific information to counter Darwinistic evolution.
In Biblical Hebrew, seven connect to the idea of fullness or completeness. Therefore the creation narrative is composed in that pattern as a blueprint for the rest of the biblical narrative.
How do I say the creation account is about God’s dwelling place? And how is it a blueprint for the entire Bible? From chaos and nothingness, God ordered and created the cosmos for six days to inhabit it forever on the seventh day. If you observe well, unlike the six days, the seventh day never ends.
Apostle John borrows the language from the Genesis creation and Exodus narrative to introduce the gospel that God, who is life and light, has come to dwell among us. Even in Revelation, his final new creation imagery points to a garden like New Jerusalem coming down from heaven and God saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.” God’s ultimate purpose for his creation is to inhabit it and rule with man forever on the seventh day. We can find this truth narrated from Genesis to Revelation.
On the sixth day, God made man in His image to reign with him. But man rejects God and His authority to establish his autonomy from God. Therefore, God sent him out of His sanctuary, leaving man and his dominion to darkness and chaos.
Now fast forward to Exodus. Here God rescues His people from slavery to himself. In the desert, He told Moses to tell his people to contribute to making a sanctuary for him so that he may dwell among them.
Similarly, New Testament authors tell us that in Christ, we are God’s dwelling place which God is building. “In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.”
After completing the sanctuary for six days, God enters the seventh day of eternal rest. The first Adam failed to enter the rest, but the last Adam, Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, came to give rest to all who come to him.
So what does it mean to take part in building God’s sanctuary where we will rest and reign with God forever? Let us examine.
Making of the sanctuary
God’s order: On the first day, God said, “Let there be light.” With a literalistic interpretation, we may reduce it to visible light. But that is not what the biblical authors meant. The apostles refer to light metaphorically as God’s light. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
In Revelation 22, new creation imagery, John beautifully describes the new Jerusalem saying, “God, who will be their light who will reign forever and ever.” Similarly, the two lights God made in heaven are also to rule the day and the night. Paul uses the same language in Thessalonians by calling some people of the day and others of the night. The light signifies God himself: his divine nature and his will. The command “Let there be light” establishes God’s order and dispels darkness. Christ, the light of the world is restoring God’s reign again.
Over heaven and earth: God ordered and created heaven and earth on the second and the third day. In Hebrew, it is simply sky and land. But heaven also refers to God’s throne and his rule. For example, in Psalms, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.”
In Revelation 21, the new heaven and new earth are joined metaphorically as a bride adorned for her husband. The creation story and the final new creation story inform us that heaven and earth are meant to be together. The visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual, are meant to be together in Christ’s kingdom.
It was because of Adam’s rebellion the land seperated and fell into darkness and chaos.
Brings forth the garden: On the third day, God also filled the land with vegetation. In Genesis Chapter 2, God is planting a garden in Eden with the Tree of Life planted at its centre. Biblical authors use the term garden as an image to depict God’s dwelling place — a place where heaven and earth meet. When God asked Moses to make the Tabernacle, it was filled with garden imagery pointing to Eden, where God walked with Adam and Eve.
Using the imagery from Ezekiel’s new temple description, Apostle John describes the new Jerusalem as a garden city with the Tree of Life on either side of the river that flows from God’s throne. The making of the garden, which symbolises the dwelling place of God where righteousness and eternal life flourish. (Isaiah 61) In Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, we enter the garden by faith. Jesus said to a thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in the garden”.
That gives eternal life: After ordering and creating heaven and earth and planting a garden, God fills it with life with all kinds of creatures in water, air and land on the fifth and sixth days. Then He made man, filling him with His Spirit — eternal life. At the centre of the garden is the Tree of Life, which they can eat from. A river of life flowed in the garden to water the plants.
Apostle John, in his gospel, writes, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus is not only the source of life, but he is life. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. In Revelation 22, we see the Tree of Life returned to the garden city on either side of the river of life that flows from the throne of God.
The garden symbolises God’s dwelling place where righteousness and eternal life sprout. Christ’s restoration work is to give his everlasting life to all cosmos through the Spirit of God.
Through kings and priests: God made Adam and Eve in His image to reign with him as his representatives. They are supposed to represent God to the creation by reigning with God and representing creation to God in worship as priests. It means we are kings and priests of God’s kingdom-sanctuary and everything in it.
So what was Adam, the king-priest, commanded to do? God commanded him to tend and keep God’s dwelling place. That is to bring forth eternal life, righteousness and praise through all our work. (Isaiah 61:11) Similarly, the priests in the temple in Jerusalem did offer worship on behalf of the people to God.
God also commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…” That is to expand the reign of God to the ends of the earth by taking God’s life and light into darkness and cultivating the wastelands into His garden.
Unmaking: Return to chaos
Adam and Eve failed to be faithful to this call. They rejected God’s rule and chose their autonomy on the serpent’s advice. Therefore all creation under man’s dominion separated from God’s life and light into darkness, bondage, chaos and death.
But God promised to raise one from Adam’s offspring who would defeat death, rescue his people and restore the kingdom of light. God, who becomes the last Adam, comes announcing his kingdom of light, restoring order, and giving life. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the renewed creation springs up to eternal life.
Restoration: New creation
New creation begins in the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the new week. Like the kernel that dies and sprouts into a new plant, Christ is risen by the Spirit of God, bringing life and light over darkness and chaos.
The new creation is the coming of God’s reign and life, a year of Jubilee, to make all fallen creation new (kainos) into a garden city — New Jerusalem, where righteousness and eternal life flourish as heaven and earth unite.
We who obey Christ by dying with him rise as a new creation to join Christ in rebuilding New Jerusalem. “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Then Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath and the prince of peace will lead his new creation to eternal rest.
Seventh day: Rest and rule
The author of Hebrews writes, “There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.” all the children of God in Christ will enter the seventh day, where we will rest and reign with God forever.
According to Genesis, This day has no night or darkness. This day never ends; it is for eternity.
Christ announced the year of Jubilee (the year at the end of seven cycles of Sabbatical years) when he came and read Isaiah 61 at a synagogue on the day of Sabbath. He also declares that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and the prince of Shalom that Isaiah prophesied, whose kingdom has no end.
Though the kingdom of Christ has come, and the year of Jubilee has been proclaimed, its completion is ahead of us. The new creation is complete when Christ, through His church, redeems God’s people, land, and cosmos. Our perishable bodies raise imperishable. Then nothing unclean will ever enter it. Darkness and chaos remain outside. (Revelation 21:27)
Our life in the garden to rebuild and expand
As God told Adam to be fruitful and multiply, tend and keep the garden, Christ the last Adam has called us to take his yoke to rebuild and expand God’s temple — New Jerusalem.
In the letter to Ephesians, Paul writes, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.”
When I die to myself, God raises me to a new creation in Christ by the Spirit of God into His dwelling place from where living waters flow. It means through my spiritual, intellectual, physical, relational, sexual, professional, economic, social, recreational, and civic aspects of life, God’s love, truth, beauty, justice, and goodness may multiply and give life.
Therefore I resist the works of darkness to let God’s light illuminate the wastelands of my life and the world around me to sprout life and righteousness like the tree of life on either side of the river that flows from the throne of God.
God’s life and light advance even through my service at the tables, polishing a floor, selling goods, raising children or making art. They are carved forever in the garden of God — the New Jerusalem. As God filled Bezalel “with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of craftsmanship…” to prepare his dwelling place, he called us to do the same.
Am I faithful in becoming and building God’s temple? Is my life bearing fruit with the seeds to take life to the wastelands?
For further study
Book: Heaven on earth: The temple of biblical theology — T. Desmond Alexander, Simon J. Gathercole
Bible project Podcasts: Seventh day rest — Sabbath
Bible project Video: Sabbath
Bible project Video: Temple
Bible project Podcasts: Royal Priesthood
Bible project Video: Heaven & Earth