The Revelation: Chapter 21:3-4 (“The Dwelling of God is with People”)

.
lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaAn unnamed voice next enters the vision:

(Rev. 21:3 ESV) 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

There are several subtleties here worth noting.

Dwelling

First, “dwelling” and “dwell” are taken from the Greek for tent or tabernacle. This is, of course, a reference to the Exodus, but also parallels John 1:14–

(Jn. 1:14 ESV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God promised in the Torah to dwell among his people.

(Exod. 29:44-30:1 ESV)  44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests.  45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.  46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.  

And, of course, the language in the NT that refers to the Holy Spirit indwelling God’s children is also an allusion to the Exodus. Thus, we have all three members of the Trinity said to dwell or tabernacle among God’s people — culminating at the End in God himself bringing heaven to earth so that he may dwell with his peoples.

God dwelling with Israel during the Exodus, Jesus’ ministry on earth, and the indwelling Spirit all point to this moment in fulfillment.

Peoples

“They will be my people” in some manuscripts is “peoples.” Commentators disagree to which is the better reading. Will we be many peoples joined to become one people? Or is God emphasizing that many peoples will be his? Either way, the point is much the same. The afterlife is for all nations, races, and people — who will all serve the same God.

Loud voice from the throne

Whether this is God himself speaking, or his angelic spokesman, hardly matters. The fact that the voice is loud emphasizes the importance of what is being said. If you thought Rev 21:1-2 were big deals, well, it gets bigger. After all, nothing is bigger than God — and he has chosen to live in the new heavens and new earth — to tabernacle or to “tent,” like a Bedouin — among his many peoples. That is, in many ways, the culmination of scriptural history.

At last, just as God once walked with Adam in the cool of the morning, God will once again share earth with his children.

Death shall be no more

(Rev. 21:4 ESV)  4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

This language is almost entirely from Isaiah, and some has appeared earlier in the Revelation but in less detail–

The promise of 7:17 is once again stated (cf. Isa 25:8), and the end of death is repeated (cf. 20:10). There will be no more mourning, crying, or pain (cf. Isa 35:10; 51:11; 65:19), contrasting with what had been (18:7–8; cf. 11:15; 16:10–11). “The first” is replaced by “the new,” expressed in words from the one seated on the throne, who now speaks and asserts responsibility: “I am making all things new” (see Isa 43:18–19).

Christopher C. Rowland, “The Book of Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation (vol. 12 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 721.

We can’t help but recall Paul’s promises at the end of 1 Cor 15 —

(1 Cor. 15:25-26 ESV)  25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

(1 Cor. 15:51-56 ESV)  51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

Death is an enemy of God and Jesus — to be destroyed when the age ends, after all other enemies have been defeated. And Rev 21 fits this prophecy very well.

It’s not just that the dead will rise again with transformed, resurrection bodies. Death will be defeated and we’ll live in a world where death no longer occurs.

On living forever

Now, this is important for more reasons than the obvious. We’ll live forever — with church people. Church people! Do you hear me?? If we can’t get along in this life, when we only have to see each once or twice a week for a few years, how on earth will we get along in eternity?

Church is a preview of heaven. After all, we’ll be with the same people, worshiping the same God. And if that’s the case, then church — both the assembly and church as an organization — should draw the lost toward Jesus. We should be attractive — always as the church, but especially when assembled in praise as we’ll be in heaven.

If we can’t manage that in this life, well, the next life may be hell, not on earth, but hell in the new heavens and new earth — which would be truly sad.

This is why, I’m convinced, so much of the NT is dedicated to instructions about getting along. The Sermon on the Mount, the Kingdom parables, all of 1 Corinthians, Rom 12-15, and countless other passages are ethical instructions. These aren’t about obeying rules so that God won’t send us to hell (not that the thought is entirely absent) but so that church will be a joy, a delight, and preview of heaven.

Frankly, it’s more than a little astonishing that God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, the Creator of the Universe, wants to rip down the wall that separates heaven from earth so he can live with us.

We need to be getting ready for a very special house guest. He obviously sees more in us than we see in ourselves. And perhaps the solution is to take seriously the notion that we are reigning on God’s throne today.

No, really. I mean it. If we were busy in God’s mission, bringing not only salvation but righteousness and justice to the chaos of this world, we’d be better people. We’d be less petty. We’d get along because the mission requires it, and we’d celebrate the victories God gives us together.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Revelation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Revelation: Chapter 21:3-4 (“The Dwelling of God is with People”)

  1. Ray Downen says:

    The picture of God coming to THIS earth misses seeing that the NEW JERUSALEM which will replace this universe is not “earth” as we know earth. God could live with us on this earth if He chose to do so. But what Revelation says is that the NEW earth will be totally different, and no part of this universe which will have been destroyed by fire.

    The NEW JERUSALEM is not in any way like this present earth. It’s cubic rather than round. There are no stars and no sun or moon. No gravity is mentioned. No farms. No stores. NOTHING LIKE the present earth. Yet this study about which I comment speaks of God “coming down” as if he were joining us on THIS EARTH which He has just destroyed.

  2. Bob Brandon says:

    I suspect that those who insist on line-drawing in in the healed creation will be invited to find new accommodations.

  3. laymond says:

    My beginning comment is, this parallels the same story I have heard many times sitting on my front porch, visiting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I wasn’t convinced then nor am I convinced now.

    because (in my opinion) the quoted scripture does not confirm what is said. be glad to discuss the quoted scripture. even though I am worried that it would fall on deaf ears, just as with J.Ws .
    I must confess the J.Ws had a more convincing argument, but they have held this belief a lot longer.

  4. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Looks like you may have skipped the Romans passages and the I Corinthians passages:

    -Rom 8:9 – You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
    -Rom 8:11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
    -I Cor 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

    The Greek word for “dwell” is οἰκέω (οἶκος) or oikei and means:
    ① to reside in a place, live, dwell,
    ② to inhabit a place, inhabit, dwell in

    BDAG. Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 694. Print.

    The same Greek word appears in:
    -Rom 7:18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.

    It would be quite confusing to suggest that nothing good dwells “among” me or dwells “in my midst.”

    Additionally, the Paul uses the same Greek word in reference to sin:
    -Rom 7:17 – So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
    -Rom 7:20 – Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

    Again, quite confusing if we render the Greek word as dwells “among” me or dwells “in my midst” for we know from God-the-Son that sin originates in the heart (Mt 15:18-20). Sin doesn’t originate in my midst or among me but rather inside me.

    Thus, the phrase “oikei en” = dwells in = indwell. “Dwells in” and “indwell” mean the same thing in English. The fact that the translators opted to use a word-for-word translation has more to say about the translation methodology than the perceived significance of “indwell” not appearing in the English text.

    Finally, we should consider:
    I Cor 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

    How does this passage, particularly the reference to temple, inform the discussion?

    According to BDAG, the Greek word for “temple” is:
    ναός, οῦ, ὁ – a place or structure specifically associated with or set apart for a deity, who is frequently perceived to be using it as a dwelling, temple.

    Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 665. Print.

    It’s interesting that in Ex 40:32, the Israelites washed prior to the glory of the Lord filling and inhabiting the tabernacle (and later the Temple), and today, we do the same through baptism prior to the Holy Spirit inhabiting our bodily temple as per the Romans and Corinthians passages.

  5. laymond says:

    Kevin, if you believe God dwells within your body, I have a question I need you to answer. when your body dies, and it will, does the God within you die as well. if you know that God dwells with in you, it stands to reason that you know what happens to that God when your body dies.
    This needs an answer. in order to make your claim believable.

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    That is not a good, or even a very interesting, question.

    Does my soul die when my body dies? Why would one possible think that God dies? Your logic doesn’t stand to reason at all.

  7. ROBERT says:

    Amen Kevin! Sometimes we fail to see because we are still living without the Spirit dwelling in them ND therefore can’t understand the Word.rtyl

Leave a Reply