Looking back – signs and shadows of the kingdom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of contents

Part 2 – The kingdom revealed, Chapter 10 – The kingdom enters – hope revealed, unleashing shalom

[Bible references: Genesis 6:5-7; Exodus 25:17-22; Leviticus 16; Joshua 24:19; 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Chronicles 36:17-24; Ezra 1-2; Psalm 14:2; 53:6; Isaiah 43; Jeremiah 29:10; 31:31-39; Matthew 4:12-17; Romans 7:7-24; 8:20-22; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1, 5-10; Revelation 21-22]

In the beginning, God created a good earth. Within that good earth, Yahweh created a special place, the Garden of Eden, where he could meet and live with the creatures that bore his image. The Garden was a place where the heaven and earth overlapped, a place where the goodness of Yahweh overflowed, a place of shalom, a place where his image-bearers were intended to thrive and develop as co-creators with Yahweh and ultimately create a civilization that would cover all the earth to the glory of God.

Perhaps the most fitting symbol of the development of creation from the primordial past to the eschatological future is the fact that the Bible begins with a garden and ends with a city – a city filled with “the glory and the honor of the nations.[1]

However, the image-bearers put Yahweh’s authority to the side and rebelled against him. The rebellion disrupted the union of the Yahweh’s kingdom with his creatures and all of creation was put into disorder. Human space and Yahweh’s space were separated and all of creation was damaged, including not only the relations between Yahweh and his image-bearers but between the image-bearers themselves.

In the Bible, the themes of heaven and earth can be thought of as heaven being God’s space and the earth being the human space. It may be helpful to think of them as different dimensions that overlap. In this case, the Garden of Eden was where the two spaces overlapped, and God and man could dwell together. In the garden the humans were to be partners with God taking care of this garden, however they decided to do things their own way rather than God’s. This resulted in the humans being ejected from the space where heaven and earth overlapped, and the remaining story of the Bible is about how God is once again going to bring heaven and earth back together.[2]

The image-bearers found themselves in an increasingly vicious cycle of violence and corruption which was so thorough that God needed to restart his project and caused a great flood. Fortunately, out of his deep love for his rebellious image-bearers, Yahweh had a solution in mind, a plan to reunite heaven and earth, extending his kingdom over all the earth.

Yahweh set processes in place that led to Abraham and Sarah, continued through to the other patriarchs, and then continued with the nation of Israel. Under Moses’ leadership and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the tabernacle was constructed to be the place where heaven and earth would overlap within the Holy of Holies. The temple was decorated and designed to make people feel like they were going back to the garden.

The difficulty was that God’s space is perfect, pure, just, and holy but the human space is full of sin and corruption. This problem was somewhat resolved through the sacrifice of animals, where the animal absorbed the sin of the people and died in their place, creating a clean space, but that clean space was limited. Within the Holy of Holies, the mercy seat on the ark was where God’s presence would be but could only be accessed once a year by the high priest.

However, the tabernacle with all its rituals were designed to only be a shadow of things in heaven and a shadow of the things that were coming. Yahweh’s relationship with his image-bearers were to be ultimately restored and all of earth would be joined with Yahweh’s kingdom in heaven as was intended from the beginning.

In the meanwhile, in those shadows of the coming kingdom, Yahweh worked within the nation of Israel, his chosen people, to gradually reveal signs of his intended restoration. Within those shadows, the people of Israel could see the futility of their own efforts to reconcile with Yahweh despite their denial of the reality of Joshua’s words, “You are not able to serve Yahweh.” Within those shadows, the nation of Israel would rebel against the kingship of Yahweh, rejecting his reign and insisting on creating their own kingdom, like “all the other nations.”

The nation was reminded time after time that the law was good, but they were not, that their continual animal sacrifices were never a permanent solution to reconciling with Yahweh, that they needed a redeemer, they needed a change of heart. Prophets were raised up to warn the people of the consequences of their continual rebellion, but they also delivered messages of hope that, despite their rebellion, God would restore his people to himself.

Then the promised judgement for their rebellion came: Most of the nation was lost to history as ten tribes of Israel were scattered through the Assyrian empire, and then the temple was destroyed, and a remnant of the remaining tribes were sent into exile in Babylon. If there was any hope that the ritual sacrifices at the temple could reconcile the people with Yahweh, now even that possibility was taken away. The restoration of their own kingdom seemed to be in doubt, never mind the kingdom of Yahweh.

However, the exile was promised to be temporary. After 70 years, the exiled nation had the opportunity to return to the Promised Land and rebuild the temple. Once the temple was rebuilt it was now possible for the temple worship to continue and even for their government to be restarted, although it would be under the auspices of a foreign nation. Yet in all that happened, one thing had not changed; the hearts of the image-bearers had not changed. There was still a need for a redeemer. Yahweh left clues through the prophets and the writings of his people about what to look for in the redeemer – but after Malachi, the last prophet that Yahweh would speak through, there would be a wait of four hundred years.


109 Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Kindle Locations 581-583)

[2] Bible Project “Heaven and Earth”

Reflect

God works his plans out in his own time but the processes that he uses take place in our time: Animals and plants grow from seed to mature adult according to biological processes. We grow from child to adult according to normal biological, psychological, and sociological processes. Civilizations mature according to normal technological, psychological, and sociological processes. God was going to send the long-awaited Messiah after certain events occurred. What do you have a hard time waiting for?

Observe

Read Matthew 4:12-17; Colossians 2:16-17. The Old Testament laws, sacrifices and rituals were shadows of what?

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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