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”


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?


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

Dynamic Tension

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: 1 Corinthians 3]

Just as there are tensions within the attributes of the living God that actively interact with each other, so also God’s image-bearers have to deal with similar tensions. But in addition to those good and healthy tensions, we also impose another tension due to our rebellion against God. Our rebellion has created tensions not only within us, but between us and also between us and God.


Do you have any relationships that do not have some unhealthy tension?


Read Genesis 3:11-19. What kind of tensions did our rebellion create between humans and between the humans and God?

Generous and Overflowing Shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; Psalm 69:16; Zechariah 8; Luke 15:11-32; Romans 1:20; 8:18-23; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Revelation 21-22] 

When God created the universe, he was creating order out of disorder, assigning purposes for everything in the universe. When he assigned purposes to the places and things in the universe, when things functioned according to how he created them … they were “good.”[1]  And when in the midst of all those good things he placed image-bearing creatures that also reflected his character, everything was “very good.”

God is good because he delights in the existence of something other than himself.[2]

However, when in the midst of that very good universe, those image-bearers rebelled, they and the world they inhabited suffered the consequences. Yet, in spite of that rebellion, God relentlessly pursued those image-bearers with the intent of restoring not only them but restoring all of creation as well to the good condition that He originally intended. The Bible is the story of how God’s original purposes will be carried out despite the constant rebellion of his image-bearing creatures – and how the good and very good, creation will endure the brokenness of the rebellion to be finally restored to the good and very good purpose that God had intended.

Within that story of creation and the relentless pursuit which followed, God’s character is revealed as he pours himself out even to the point of taking on the form of a man and the giving of himself to the humility and suffering of being tortured to death on a cross. Even though all of creation is now marred by the rebellion, it is possible to examine the character of God as it is revealed in this outpouring of himself into his creation and into his image-bearers.

Revisiting Genesis 1:1, we see God creating … everything in the heavens and the earth. The rest of that passage shows the orderliness in how the creation happened. We see that as God creates each set of creatures or things that God declares them to be good. Then after God creates humans, he declares “it was very good.” We will see later in Genesis those things got messed up, but at this point the core of everything in the universe, everything was good and beautiful and working as it should. Certainly, as we look around us now, it would be hard to say that everything is working as it should, but at the beginning, everything was good.

That goodness was further amplified when, despite the rebellion of his image-bearers, God tirelessly invited them over-and-over again to come back to him even though they would continue rebelling over-and-over again. The generous invitation and re-invitation would be highlighted by Jesus’ parable which has been commonly called the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32) in reference to the wastefully spending son. But the parable could equally be called the “Prodigal God”[3] in reference to the father who represents extravagant giving of God.

These continuous and generous offers from God are meant to draw us to himself so that he could restore to us the good and generous life that God has intended from the beginning, life free from suffering and pain, life full of joy and peace, wholeness and health, contentment and completeness,[4] which is all captured by the Hebrew word, shalom.

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.” [5]

[1] Walton, John, H. “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. (Proposition 5) “good” refers to a condition in which something is functioning optimally as it was designed to do in an ordered system – it is working the way God intended”

[2] Weil, Simone.

[3] Keller, Timothy, The Prodigal God

[4] Refiners Fire ‘Meaning of the word “Shalom;”’ Blue Letter Bible “Word search: Shalom” www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm

[5] Plantinga Jr., Cornelius. “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin,” Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition p. 10


How do you define “good?”


Read 2 Corinthians 3:18. Discipleship is a process of “being transformed”. Ultimately it is something that happens to us – but it is something we can co-operate with by engaging is spiritual disciplines. What kinds of changes need to happen in our lives that would make it natural to invite someone else into discipleship?


Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Dancing In the Kingdom – Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom Chapter 1 – Prelude


As I was working one warm summer night at a convenience store with the door open, it was not unexpected to see a moth fly in through the door. Normally, moths are attracted to light sources, but this time the moth was attracted to the white top of a garbage container. The moth was distracted by the light reflected off the garbage container. I think that describes a lot of human behavior; we get distracted by the pretty garbage.

In the meantime, there is a story that began long ago when God brought into being creatures made in his image, a story about his plans for those creatures, plans for them to fill the earth and making the whole earth a place of love and goodness, but a place where that love and goodness would be disrupted by our rebellion. Fortunately, that disruption did not deter God from continuing his plans for his image-bearing creatures and that story is still in the making. That story is now our story.

For too many people, even Christians, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible can seem disconnected. Some people have even proposed that the God described in the Old Testament is different from the God in the New Testament. This is partly due to the issue of the cultural barriers between us and the Old Testament. One purpose of this book is to show the unity of both Testaments, how they help make sense of each other and how together they make one cohesive story, a story into which we can fit.

There is a further disconnect. Between us and the biblical writings is the long and messy history of the Church. The Church seems very divided on how to interpret those writings and how to live into them. It is downright confusing to sort out all the various interpretations and practices that seem to contradict one another. How is one supposed to make sense of it all?

This book’s purpose then, is to not just overview the Biblical story from Creation to Revelation, but to show how we, as part of God’s Church, are intended to participate. God did not need to create us or the universe, He did it out of a desire to share his love and delight. God’s creation was more an act of play than of work and He desires that we actively play with him, if you will, to dance with him in His Kingdom.

The Kingdom Dance is not meant to be a solo effort, we are to dance with God and with his people. To that end, while this book can simply be read as a solo exercise, there are additional ways to engage with the material.

  • Biblical references are provided extensively through the book. They are there to support the text. If you read them, take the time to slow down and let God the Spirit speak to you. The Bible has been described as ancient Jewish Meditation Literature.[1] It is best read when you give yourself time to absorb it.
  • There are extensive footnotes throughout the book. Whenever possible, I have provided hyperlinks to make the additional materials easily available to you. If you spend time investigating the footnotes, you will notice that I am not drawing from only one Christian tradition, but from a variety of them, allowing the richness of the different traditions to form a more complete story. To form a more complete story I also, particularly in the beginning, will use materials from the “Second Book of God” that is, book of Creation.[2]

“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.”[3]

  • For those who are not practiced in studying the Bible, Appendix A gives a summary of techniques that could be used to help understand scripture. This may prove useful for understanding when you study the Biblical references given throughout this book.
  • Reading the material with a group can make the most impact. The Dancing in the Kingdom Workbook provides exercises and questions to help process the material as a group. These exercises and questions will help you engage with the material by first asking you to think about how each section applies to your life and secondly to share your thoughts with others in the group so that together you can more thoughtfully “Enter the Dance” with God, with all the others that have come before, with those that are coming now and with that will continue to come until Heaven and Earth are reunited.
  • Finally, the best participation will be not to just read and reflect, but to dance the Kingdom dance with God. The last chapters of this book will suggest ways to take part in his activity in bringing healing to the world he loves, broken now but to be finally fully restored when He rejoins heaven and earth.

The Bible is a complex collection of literature, using many literary styles and techniques and it can be difficult to understand some parts, particularly when one part seems to contradict another part. I have found a useful principal in studying the Bible which I call “Conflicts are clues” which says that any apparent conflict or confusion in Scripture should be handled as clues to look further instead of thinking that the conflicts create contradictions which reduce the integrity of the Bible.

In our age, many regard science and theology to be in conflict. In years past, however, the issue was not about conflict but about which discipline rules over or undergirds all the other disciplines. These ideas were expressed in ways such as “theology is the queen of all sciences,” “math is the queen of all sciences,” “philosophy is the queen of all sciences,” “philosophy is the handmaid of all sciences.”

The biblical perspective is that God speaks to us both through two books, the book of Creation and the Bible. Theology’s main goal is to understand spiritual reality and science’s main goal is to understand physical reality, but both fields can inform the other about the nature of God.

This principle of “Conflicts are Clues” applies not just to the “First Book of God” (that is, Scripture) but also to the “Second Book of God” (that is, Creation) which is practiced by the testing and revisions of theories, but also between the Two Books. During the course of history, the study of the Two Books got separated and some of those in science rejected Scripture and some of those who were Christian rejected science, leaving conflicts unresolved as contradictions. But moving forward, this does not prevent us from considering apparent conflicts between the books as clues to be investigated further.

[1] Bible Project “Ancient Jewish Meditation Literature” Bible Project bibleproject.com/explore/video/bible-jewish-meditation-literature-h2r/

[2] Rusbult, Craig. “How should we interpret the Two Books of God, in Scripture & Nature” American Scientific Affiliation http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/two-books.htm

[3] Bacon, Francis. “The Two Books of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human.” The First Book. Section.VI.Paragraph.16 1605


Look at the four videos you can find at bibleproject.com/explore/category/how-to-read-bible-introduction/ for an overview of the Bible. How do these videos help you understand the larger context of the Bible?


Read 2 Timothy 3:14-16; Hebrews 4:12-13; Romans 15:1-6; 2 Peter 1:19-21. What is the purpose of the Bible?