Last week we looked at God’s original perfection in His creation, when heaven and earth coexisted in a place called Eden. God’s presence dwelt with mankind, and humanity had full access to everything God brought into existence. However, through one act of sin, when the man and woman doubted God’s Word and aligned themselves with the demon-serpent, there was a rip in the creation. Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, and heaven departed earth.
However, as we will see this week when God withdrew Himself from man, it came with a promise of a victorious return. This promise was relayed, over and over again, throughout the generations, and demonstrated in types and shadows. That is where we will fix our attention today.
The First Gospel
When God brought His judgment on humanity, due to the sin of Adam and Eve, we have already looked at the curses they (we) faced. Yet in the middle of those curses, there is one statement made to the demon-serpent that launched humanity’s hope for a redeemer, who would fix what was now broken.
In Genesis 3 we read what has been titled the “protoevangelion” or the “first gospel.” God speaks to the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (emphasis mine)
From this one, simple sentence, we see that God is setting in motion a plan, in which a child, representing all of humanity — now in subjugation to sin, death, and the authority of the serpent — would rise up and overcome the demonic power which had taken control of God’s creation. Before Adam and Eve left the garden, there was hope of restoration!
The Seed of Abraham
The next major promise of this restoration came in a promise to a seemingly insignificant man named Abraham. God uproots Abraham from his home and family, and sends him on a journey to a new land. Then God tells him:
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3
Now, this promise is a big deal because up to this point, God’s dealings with humanity have not really been about blessings. It was all about mitigating the rise of sin in the earth. God flooded the world to destroy all flesh, saving only righteous Noah and his family. Later, God divided humanity into various groups by confusing their languages. This was to prevent them from building a sinful, “We can be like God”-based kingdom among themselves.
Yet the promise to Abraham is one of blessing. Not just blessing for himself, but blessing through Abraham to all families of the earth.
Of course, Abraham didn’t fully understand this promise and did some shady things along the way. Doubting God’s ability to protect him, he hid his marriage, and let his wife be taken in by other men, claiming she was only his sister. Then, doubting God’s ability to give him an heir (and the promised innumerable descendants) through his wife, he helps God out by taking a servant girl as a concubine and giving birth to a son (one God had not promised). Nevertheless, Abraham continually returns in humility to the Lord’s presence and Word and was counted righteous due to his faith in God’s promise (Genesis 15:6).
From this time, Abraham’s family began to grow, just as the Lord spoke. Throughout the Old Testament, we continue to see the special relationship between God and humanity being reestablished through Abraham’s lineage. Just as the promise was received by faith, this relationship was to be continually cultivated by faith.
The Priesthood of Melchizedek
One of the first outworkings we see of Abraham’s faith, in relationship with God, comes in his brief encounter with Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). This man is the King of Salem (translated as King of Peace). When he comes to meet Abraham, he brings out bread and wine (which should bring to mind another important “supper” in the scriptures.) And then this “Priest of the Most High God” blesses Abraham, who also gives a tithe to this priest, even though the law of Moses was still hundreds of years away.
This priest, according to Hebrews 7, was a forerunner and picture of the Messiah to come. (Full disclosure, I am of the opinion that Melchizedek is a “preincarnate appearance” of Jesus Christ, rather than only a picture. Nevertheless, Melchizedek points to a priesthood ordained by God, outside of the Mosaic law.)
The Passover Lamb
A few generations later, God has taken Abraham’s family through many good times and bad. Abraham’s family, through his son, Issac, and grandson Jacob (Israel), has flourished, and Jacob becomes father of 11 sons who would eventually grow to form the tribes of Israel.
Through the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, at the end of Genesis, we see God’s presence upon a defendant of Abraham “blessing the whole world” by preserving them from famine, as well as giving the family space to grow from a small clan of 70 people to a nation of hundreds of thousands 400 years later. Of course, this time of growth also shifted the people’s status in Egypt from guests to slaves. Still, God’s sovereignty was at work.
Just as He had revealed to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, after the 400 years were completed, God brought Abraham’s family out of Egypt. For their grand escape, however, the people of Israel had to once again demonstrate their trust in the Word of God, through an action that would seem barbaric to the civilized Egyptian mind. They would slaughter a lamb and use the blood as a covering for their household so that the angel of death would “pass over’ their family. As God brought his final judgment in Egypt for Pharaoh’s sin, all the firstborn sons of every household in Egypt died, except those covered by the blood of the lamb.
This became an annual event for the Lord, remembering what God did in Egypt, but also pointing to a bigger, future event, in which God would provide a Lamb to cover the whole world and remove the power of death completely.
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
As Abraham’s family journeyed through the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, God established His presence with them continually. First, in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, He led them. Then as they camped near Mount Sinai, He met with Moses on the mountain, surrounded by clouds and lighting. Then finally, God commanded the people to build a tabernacle (tent) for His presence to abide in, which would be the first recreation of Eden – Heaven’s home on the earth – and would be mobile, so as to journey with the people until they reached their promised home.
This tabernacle would be the place where the priests would meet with God, interceding on behalf of the people. It would be where their sacrifices of lambs and other animals for sin would take place. And it would be the place where the glory of God would rest, in power, among the men and yet just out of their reach.
In the tabernacle, to touch God’s glory meant immediate death. Yet this earthly tent pointed to a future, better, heavenly reality, still yet to come when God’s presence would dwell with all mankind, in perfect union (see Hebrews 9).
The Promised Land
Finally, after 40 years of wandering, God brings the people into the land promised to Abraham. It was a land of blessing. It would be a land of God’s presence. But it was also a land built on a covenant. Deuteronomy 28 guarantees that so long as the people would remain faithful to God, He would fill the land with blessings and peace. Yet, if they traded their worship of Him for the worship of false gods, and allowed sin a place in their lives, they would lose the blessing, and eventually, be cast out of the land.
Even the promised land, however, was only a shadow of God’s promise still yet to come. Hebrews makes clear that when Abraham followed God from his home, he was looking for a supernatural home;
For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11:10
Abraham was not just looking for a plot of land, but for that future city where God’s presence and reign is over all! (I believe Abraham saw ahead to the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21.)
The Throne of David
Once established in the land, the hearts of the people became hardened against the Lord. No longer being satisfied by God’s direct rule over themselves through prophets and judges, they called for a king. This sinful desire led to the Lord sending a brutal man to rule over them, just as in the other nations. A man, Saul, who would abuse the people for his own benefit. Eventually, however, in another shadow of what is to come, God supernaturally overcame King Saul and his earthly pursuits and replaced him with a heaven-focused king named David (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Throughout the book of 2 Samuel, and all throughout the book of Psalms, we see David set up as a picture of the Messiah-King who would one day rule all the nations. Not only would this Messiah-King be of the line of Abraham, but He would also be a son of David.
The Temple of God
After the city of Jerusalem is established as the capital of David’s Kingdom, his one passion becomes bringing the Ark of the Covenant – the resting place of God’s presence among men – into Jerusalem. With great worship and fanfare, David achieves this goal and sets out to build a house for the Lord. No longer a tent, that can be moved at will, but a permanent residence for the Lord among His people. Another Eden, yet still not the perfect dwelling place still to come.
God’s presence did fill the temple and dwelt there among His people. The king would worship while the priests made atonement for sin. Picture upon picture, things were taking shape. Yet one thing kept God’s perfect plan from coming into existence.
Despite all the promises and all the forward motion set in place through these events and achievements, sin still reigned in the hearts and minds of men.
From Abraham’s sinfulness of giving away his wife and doubting God’s ability, to the Jewish rejection of Moses’ prophetic leadership (Exodus 2:14; Numbers 16:1-3), to the sons of Aaron’s sacrilegious actions in the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:1-2), to David’s sinful distractions from his relationship with the Lord (2 Samuel 11:1-5; 1 Chronicles 28:2-3), the problem has always been sin.
The Prophecies of Restoration
God’s presence cannot abide forever where the sin of man persists. Nevertheless, the promise of God for Heaven’s full return to the earth continued to be promised and proclaimed throughout the generations of Israel.
In every season of life, God raised up prophets calling people to repent of sin and return in faith to the Lord. True, God’s judgment would come on the sin of the world (see for example Isaiah 13:11; Malachi 4:1-3; Joel 2:11), but His restoration of creation is still certain. He will overcome sin. He will rebuild what was broken. And He will dwell with mankind, personally and permanently!
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34
Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it. Ezekiel 36:33-36
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Joel 2:28,32
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Isaiah 65:17
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Anthony Scott Ingram.