“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’ ” (Revelation 21:3).
WHEN GOD TOOK UPON HIMSELF HUMAN FLESH, HE DWELLED (“TABERNACLED”) AMONG US FOR A WHILE. The Gospel of John makes this point in 1:14, where it says that in Jesus Christ, God “lived here with us” (CEV). This is a staggering thought, that God would dwell among human beings, even those forgiven of their sins and living faithfully unto Him. And yet this is the language used to describe God’s relationship with His people. The words are used of Israel in the Old Testament (Leviticus 26:11,12), they are used of the church today (2 Corinthians 6:16), and they are used, in their most far-reaching sense, of the perfect relationship God will have with the redeemed in heaven (Revelation 21:3).
It can’t be emphasized enough that God’s people are a people. In today’s culture, where it’s so easy to get trapped in our own personal silos, we need to keep in mind that those who are in a right relationship with God are involved in something much bigger than their own private fellowship with Him. For one thing, there is the local congregation of Christians to think about, the welfare of which each of us needs to be actively concerned about. But beyond that, there is the body of Christ in its universal sense (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). And we need not be totally agnostic as to who those people are. They are those who have obeyed the gospel of Christ and are adhering to the New Testament. That standard is not so hard to understand that we can’t look around us and recognize people in various localities as being God’s people — or not.
Above all, we need to keep the focus on God and His eternal purposes. If He has a people, which He certainly does in Jesus Christ, it was not without purpose that He made them His people. On our side of the relationship, the promise that “they will be his people” was not made to give us a merely honorary position. God dwells with us in order that we may know Him — and knowing Him, that we might experience the joy of living within His wisdom.
“The greatest blessing of heaven will be unhindered fellowship with God himself. The goal of God’s covenant, ‘Immanuel (God with us)’ in Isaiah 7:14, foreshadowed in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, will be achieved” (Dennis E. Johnson).