God Dwells Among Us

God Dwells Among Us

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G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim’s book, God Dwells Among Us (GDAU), is essentially a distillation of Beale’s more substantial work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission. The benefit of a book like this is it’s accessibility and readability for an audience that is either seeking an example of, or unacquainted with biblical theology. Biblical theology being a discipline that attempts to organize the theology of the Bible with an emphasis on it’s historical development (synchronically or diachronically).The subtitle, Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth, briefly expands upon the title and gives the reader a hint as to what should be expected. What one finds when reading GDAU is an attempt to summarize the biblical theme of God’s dwelling place (i.e. temple/tabernacle) and it’s cosmic implications. 

The introduction lays out the what and why of the book. The what, is the claim that there is a biblical theme that runs through the the pages of Scripture. This theme is the notion that God desires to dwell with his people. According to Beale and Kim, the commission given to Adam in Genesis 1-2 is fulfilled in Revelation 21-22. Namely, that when God commands Adam to bear children and subdue creation, God is beginning a program that will spread his image and the borders of the Garden across the face of the earth. The spreading of his image created in humanity is in effect the advance of his kingdom, and the expanding of the Garden is the spreading of his dwelling place. The accomplishment of this goal is pictured in Revelation 21-22, when John equates the new heaven and earth with the new Jerusalem and then declares, “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” (Rev 21:3).

The why is picked up intuitively, when one recognizes that the Church’s mission as given by the Lord in Matthew 28:18-20 has been the plan of God since the opening chapters of Genesis. Just as Adam was to spread the image and glory of God to the ends of the earth, so Christ, who is the second Adam, and the Church is to spread the image and glory of God by the proclamation of the gospel. The word of the gospel is the power of God to excite the new birth in those who have been adopted as God’s children and who are now apart of the new creation. Therefore, the intent of the authors is to ground the Church’s mission of global evangelization in biblical convictions as we play out our role in this story. As I have written, the primary focus of GDAU is to trace the development of the temple motif from Genesis to Revelation. What follows is a brief summary of GDAU. To begin, the Garden of Eden is pictured as the place where God dwells with his people and is thus a type of temple. Temple language is prevalent through the Genesis account of the Garden. One such parallel is the description of God’s “walking” in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8) as he walks in the tabernacle (2 Sam 7:6). Further, the commission given Adam to “work” and “keep” the Garden reappears in the priestly ministry to “keep guard over the sanctuary” and “to do the work of the tent of meeting” in Num 18:5-6. In sum, Eden is the first temple and place where God’s presence resides with his people. 

The loss of God’s presence in the Garden does not prevent the completion of God’s plan. Beale and Kim continue to trace the temple motif by showing that God’s mandate to Adam is extended to Abraham and the patriarchs as they establish small sanctuaries. Then again to Israel in the construction of the tabernacle and temple. In the prophets, there is a new development since Israel has been unfaithful to the convent which resulted in God’s presence departing from the temple. The prophets announce a day when the temple will be restored and God’s presence will fill it as it did was Solomon dedicated Israel’s temple in 1 Kings 8. This fulfillment is ultimately realized in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The temple narrative climaxes in the story of Jesus who claims to be the true temple. Beale and Kim point to John 2:18-22 when Jesus answers the Jews demand for a sign, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The author of Fourth Gospel comments that, “[Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” According to Beale and Kim this is a development from John 1:14 when John writes, “And the Word become flesh and tabernacled among us.” As Beale and Kim summarize: 

“Jesus promises that the temple would be destroyed and raised up in three days. According to his promise, the death of his body led to the destruction of the temple veil, showing the beginning of the dissolution of the old temple. However, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead demonstrates the inauguration of a new order, with Jesus as the new temple… God’s original purpose for the temple in Eden—that it would be a place to expand and fill the whole earth—begins to be fulfilled in Jesus, the new temple.” (P. 97-98)

UnknownAdditionally, as Beale and Kim show, the Church is also referred to as the God’s temple in 1 Cor 3:16, 1 Pet 2:5 and Eph 2:22. Following from this, the authors continue to define what is means for Christians to serve as “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9). Finally, Beale and Kim move to the consummation of the “World-Encompassing Temple” in Revelation. 

Some (minimalists) might be put off by the continual use of parallelism and what some like Samuel Sandmel call “parallelomania.” However, I have heard G.K. Beale address this issue by suggesting that none of these parallels stands by themselves but together present a case for their argument in GDAU. I agree that even if some of the connections used in Beale and Kim’s thesis are without integrity, their argument still stands. 

As I have said at the beginning, GDAU is a great book for those looking for an introductory sampling of the fruits of biblical theology. It is also profitable for those who are interested in understanding how the Church’s mission is connected to the narrative of the Bible. The majority of christians that I know would benefit from this book, and others might be more likely to read The Temple and the Church’s Mission or G.K. Beale’s, A New Testament Biblical Theology, a whopping 900+ pages. Admittedly, I just believe that everyone should be able to read something from G.K. Beale and they can because he has made is accessible to all levels of readers. - Dan Marino

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