Most of us are familiar with the content of Genesis 1 — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Our kids have done crafts in Children’s Ministry depicting the pattern of creation described there.
We also likely know the story of Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve, the snake and the tree, and the beginning of sin and shame.
But Genesis 2 shows us an essential part of the Biblical story that’s easy to pass over. Here we see God didn’t just create a universe of wonders but carefully designed a home for those made in his image—Eden. Adam and Eve are given a paradise where their every need is met and their Father walks with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).
We know how the heartbreaking tale unfolds. Adam and Eve reject God’s rule and seek independence, walking away from God’s presence into death, darkness, and chaos. Their sin drives them from the garden, for light cannot dwell with darkness, and holiness cannot abide corruption.
But even in the midst of their failure and shame, God doesn’t abandon them. He reaffirms his desire to dwell among his people through the astonishing promise to raise up one of their descendants to conquer sin once and for all. Without compromising an ounce of his holiness, he presents a solution through his grace. But in the meantime, generation after generation of God’s people live and die outside of his presence.
If we fast forward to Exodus, God has set his people free from slavery and led them into the wilderness, where they were called to build him a tabernacle, meaning dwelling place. Finally, God’s personal presence would dwell among his people again. The Israelites were given the astounding privilege of worshiping, serving, and living in the presence of the Holy God, the creator of heaven and earth.
Unfortunately, just like Adam and Eve, they were deceived by the lies of the world and chose to walk away from God.
Despite warning after warning, their hearts were hardened and they were eventually handed over to their sin and exiled from the land.
Years later, though they returned to the land, it seemed impossible that God’s presence would ever dwell with them again or that the promised conqueror of sin would ever come.
But John’s gospel begins with a powerful promise, echoing the story of Eden:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
– John 1:1-3, 14
The word “dwelt” in Greek — skēnoō — actually means he tabernacled among us. Imagine how John’s original readers would have heard that phrase. The tabernacle was a sacred place where a holy God dwelt on earth, and now Jesus is that ultimate meeting place between God and people. God himself has once again come to dwell with them.
As we read the Gospels, we see the true King who demonstrates the heart of God, conquering sin by sacrificing himself in place of the rebellious humans who have continued to walk away from him. His death destroyed the barrier of sin that barred us from the holy presence of God.
That Greek word skēnoō is used only four more times in the Bible, and all of them occur in Revelation.
Let’s look at the promise of Revelation 21:3.
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell (skēnoō) with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
What was lost in the beginning of Genesis is being restored at the end of Revelation.
God will dwell again among his people, sin and death will be destroyed, and humans will regain complete access to the fullness of life in the presence of God.
His plan from the very beginning is still the same plan.
God’s desire to dwell among his people cannot be thwarted by our rebellion and shame.
We can trust in the promise of his presence and the coming fullness of our joy.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.