This garden-temple theme continues with the building of the permanent temple under King Solomon. Now the Israelites have a homeland and capital city, David’s son builds a “permanent” home for his God, and again fire falls as Yahweh “moves in” (2 Chron. 7). God is present with His people in this way, right through to the dramatic visions of Ezekiel, in which the prophet sees the glory of the Lord depart. Coupled with the destruction of the temple, it would seem that God had left His people. Hence the incredible opening of John’s gospel, where we read, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14, author’s translation). God has returned to dwell on earth; indeed, Jesus Himself is the true temple (2:21). As His body is broken and then raised, He ascends to pour out His Spirit on the church and thus can promise them that He will be “with [them] always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Between Christ’s first and second comings, God is present with His people in a way that means that both the individual believer and the church can be described as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). Finally, on the day of Jesus’ return, the dwelling place of God will be with man again, as heaven and earth are reunited. Indeed, the new Jerusalem is described as a perfect cube to symbolize that the whole new earth has become a Most Holy Place, as God lives with His people.
Covenant and God’s presence are just two “major roads” through the Bible. We could have traced the theme of God’s people—from Adam and Eve in Eden, through the godly line of Seth, the family of Abraham, the Israelites at Sinai, down to the multinational church of our age. We might consider the kingdom of God. Adam was given dominion over all creation but lost his throne as he submitted to Satan’s word. Israel as a nation was a “kingdom of priests” but failed to exercise its duties well. David, who together with his descendants had the privilege of being called “sons of God,” was at best a mixed blessing to God’s people, and the kingdom of Israel was divided, conquered, and in large part destroyed under his successors. But with the resurrection of Jesus, we finally meet a King who has been given all authority and can therefore rule over a kingdom that knows no end. For now, that kingdom is found in the church (Matt. 16:18–19), though one day it will encompass a whole new creation.
So Scripture is bound together by myriad intertwining themes. Pulling on even minor threads can prove fruitful. Think of the thorns that we meet for the first time as part of the curse but that we find ultimately woven into a crown adorning the Messiah’s brow as He bears that curse for His people. Similarly, the fall leads to sweat: work has become unpleasant and tiring, forcing life to ooze out of us. What a relief, therefore, to see that Jesus sweats blood for us in the garden of Gethsemane, a reminder that the work of our salvation lies in His hands alone as He pours His life out for His people. Marriage, too, runs from Genesis to Revelation, painting the story of redemption. Marriage was created to depict Jesus’ love for and union with His bride, the church, but that picture is distorted in adulterous Israel before it climaxes in Christ’s sacrificial death and will be consummated at the great wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6–7).
These last examples are clearly less central than those of covenant, kingdom, or God’s presence. But they help show that although there is not one single theme that binds the Bible together, there is one main character on whom it all centers. While there are villains, victims, servants, and sidekicks aplenty, there is only one hero. Wherever we find ourselves in Scripture, the spotlight is always shining on the triune God and the rescuing work of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the melodies of God’s one great symphony combine to sing His praise.