Yesterday I wrapped up my first series as the Lead Pastor of Western Oaks. Over the past five weeks I have been contending that our lives, or our stories, will not make sense unless we embed them within the grand story of God and his mission. I concluded yesterday with Revelation 21:1-8 and addressed the fact that if we are in Jesus and embed ourselves within his story—our future story will be one of happily ever after. And our happily ever after story will become reality if we are part of the new creation, in the new city, and under Jesus, the great King. In discussing the new city, the New Jerusalem, I noted that this city comes down from heaven and is planted on earth. I then proceeded to trace how this theme—God coming to earth, or bringing heaven to earth—is seen throughout Scripture.
First it is seen when God creates and forms man in his image, breathes the breathe of life in him, and places him in the garden-sanctuary where man is to have perfect fellowship with God as he fulfills the cultural mandate (Gen 1:28). Man did not obey and is kicked out of the garden-sanctuary. Second, God calls out Abraham and from him will create a people for himself that will be the conduit by which God brings blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3). In addition, they are to be the conduits by which God sheds his light (his glory) to the nations (Isa 49:6). God also promises Abraham and his descendants an operational base called the Promised Land. In this land God will instruct them to build a tabernacle (a mobile sanctuary), which will then be converted to a temple (a permanent sanctuary). It is in this structure the presence of God will come down and dwell with his people where they are to be God’s people and God will be there God. And as long as they recognize his presence, living in light of his presence by living according to and under his rule and reign they would enjoy long life in the land and be the agents of God’s blessing and light to the nations. To make a long story short, they disobeyed God—following after other gods—and God kicks them out of the Promised Land and promises one day to fully restore them and bring them back to the land.
Third, we fast-forwarded to the Gospel of John where we read that the Word of God became flesh and “dwelt” among the people. In other words, Jesus [tabernacled], or pitched his tent with man. And it is Jesus, the God-man, who lives a perfect life, points people to himself and his kingdom, dies on the cross for the sins of the world, is buried, and three days later rises from the dead. After his resurrection he spends forty days teaching his followers about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) and the mission to which they are to participate (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-47; Acts 1:8). However, they are instructed to wait for a promise. What was the promise? The Spirit of God.
The promise of the Spirit is the fourth time where we see heaven come to earth. In Acts 2 we read that the Spirit of God falls on the church, where the church—the people of God—then becomes the temple of God (1 Cor 3; Eph 2:21; 1 Ptr 2:5). Fast-forwarding the story of God we arrive at Revelation 21 where heaven comes to earth a fifth time. This time heaven comes to earth in the form of a city. In this city God “will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21:3). Therefore, from Genesis to Revelation God has always desired to bring heaven (the place where God’s presence dwells) to earth to dwell and have fellowship with man.
Heaven coming to earth is clearly a biblical theme throughout Scripture. But how does this impact us (individually and corporately) today? I think that it is vitally important that we understand that we are the temple of God, his spiritual house, by which he (to some degree) brings heaven to earth here in the present, in the twenty-first century. In each case mentioned above, when God brings heaven to earth he brings his rule and reign with him. When men live under God’s lordship they reflect his intention for man in how they are to live and function. Therefore, the church is to live in a way that reflects the presence of God, which is only fulfilled by living under his rule and reign. This also goes for individual believers. You could say this falls under the mission of the church. As we live and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples of all nations, we are in fact being the conduits by which God is bringing heaven to earth.
Therefore I end with this: how are we doing in bringing heaven to earth? What kind of job are we doing in bringing heaven to earth in our marriage, or in other relationships? What kind of job are we doing in bringing heaven to earth in our parenting? What kind of job are we doing in bringing heaven to earth in our vocation, at our workplace, or in our business? What kind of job are we doing in bringing heaven to earth in our finances? What kind of job are we doing as a church in bringing heaven to earth in our community, in our nation, and in our world? As we become more cognizant of the fact that we are the conduit by which God brings heaven to earth, let us also be acutely aware that God’s dwelling with man affects all of man. In other words, when he brings heaven to earth through us it will be comprehensive and multifaceted affecting and impacting every area of our lives. Think today how you specifically can be the conduit by which God brings heaven to earth right where you are.