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Heaven on Earth


"Heaven on Earth"

October 12, 2013


The title of today’s lesson reminds me of the song entitled “Heaven Came Down” by John Peterson. The first line of the chorus: “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul” reflects what must have happened in the Garden of Eden when God came down when His glory filled the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. And they worshipped Him. God loved to communicate with the two of them and this must have brought joy to God’s heart as well as to theirs.

Then… You know the story. Adam and Eve, enticed by the enemy of God, turned from Him. But He never gave up on them (or on us). The patriarchal system of worship was established by Him. This was family-oriented. Centuries later, a nation, Israel, was born. God gave to Moses specific instructions for building a tabernacle in the wilderness. Moses was first given a vision of the original heavenly sanctuary in its vastness and glory (Exod 24:10; see Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 343).

God told Moses to make the tabernacle according to a “pattern.”  “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Ex 25:8-9). The word for “pattern” is tabnit, which means a written detailed plan, such as an architectural drawing, including a model for the construction of the wilderness tabernacle. God “presented before Moses a miniature model of the heavenly sanctuary and commanded him to make all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 5). The tabernacle was ultimately a copy of the original heavenly sanctuary/temple.

The special endowment of the Spirit of God in the artisans and in those who worked with Him in constructing the tabernacle and its furniture attested to the importance the Lord attached to the aesthetic beauty of the tabernacle.

Then, when the tabernacle was finished, “Heaven Came Down” and God filled that tabernacle with His glory. That sanctuary was a copy of the heavenly one. Later, a temple was built in Jerusalem. These structures were not only copies of the heavenly temple, they were also symbols of that temple and its functions (Heb 8:1-9:24). There is more. Christ and His people are also illustrated by the use of temple talk. Applications of the tabernacle are seen individually, and corporately, and in the Person of Christ in the Incarnation.
Individually: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). Again, heaven comes down and fills our souls – our hearts, our minds.

Corporately or Collectively: The body of believers, the Church (2 Cor 6:14-18; Eph 2:20-21)

“The church on earth is God’s temple, and it is to assume divine proportions before the world. This building is to be the light of the world. It is to be composed of living stones laid close together, stone fitting to stone, making a solid building. All these stones are not of the same shape or dimension. Some are large and some are small, but each one has its own place to fill. In the whole building there is not to be one misshapen stone. Each one is perfect. And each stone is a living stone, a stone that emits light. The value of the stones is determined by the light they reflect to the world... This is God’s plan, and He desires all who profess to believe the truth to fill their respective places in the great, grand work for this time” (RH, Dec. 4, 1900).

The tabernacle, and later the temple, especially foreshadowed Jesus coming from heaven to earth. And as it was both in the tabernacle and temple, so in the Incarnation “heaven came down” and God drew near to His people with salvation and wonder and divine fellowship.
Jesus: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The term “dwelt” means to live, to settle, to take up residence, to tabernacle. Here was heaven come down to earth, come down to live and to die for sinful mankind, so that sinful man might be redeemed and go up to heaven to live forever. It is here that heaven begins, because Jesus came down to dwell among us and to die for us and as us.

“As through Jesus we enter into rest, heaven begins here. We respond to His invitation, Come, learn of Me, and in thus coming we begin the life eternal. Heaven is a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ. The longer we are in the heaven of bliss, the more and still more of glory will be opened to us; and the more we know of God, the more intense will be our happiness.” (DA 331).

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Saviour made me whole;
My sins were washed away -
And my night was turned to day -
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

“As we walk with Jesus in this life, we may be filled with His love, satisfied with His presence. All that human nature can bear, we may receive here. But what is this compared with the hereafter? There ‘are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ ” Revelation 7:15-17. (DA 331-332).

As it was in the beginning, in Eden, so shall it be in heaven and in the earth made new – God spoke with man face-to-face in Eden. He will do so again without an obscuring veil between God and us.

In the tabernacle in the desert, the glory of God appeared in a perfect cube in the Most Holy Place. The New Jerusalem will also be a perfect cube, and “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Rev 22:3) and “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22). That’s where we will come to Jesus to worship Him (Rev 21:24) and to serve Him as priests (Rev 20:6).

-Jerry Finneman