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
With. It’s such a short, yet powerful word that kindles some of the deepest emotions of the human heart. An engaged couple eagerly counts down the days until they can be “with” each other at last. A soldier fights against all odds in the hope he can get home to be “with” his family again. A grandmother longs for the next time she can be “with” her grandkids.
When we talk about being “with” someone, there are really two aspects to what we mean: presence and relationship. We use that word, “with,” to communicate both ideas. To want to be “with” someone, on one hand, means simply to want to be where they are, to be around them and enjoy their company. On the other hand, it can mean to be connected to someone in relationship, like when we say, “She’s best friends with her,” or when the celebrity tells the security guard, “He’s with me.”
We see both of these elements of “with-ness” in Revelation 21:3. There, the voice from the throne proclaims that God will be “with” his people in both senses of the word. We will forever enjoy both the glory of his presence and the goodness of relationship with him.
What makes this reality so stunning is that this “with-ness” is the merciful reversal of our former situation. See, while we were created to be in God’s presence, one of the tragic consequences of our sin was that God could no longer dwell “with” us. Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” Were God to dwell “with” us, his holiness would consume us because of our sin.
But our separation wasn’t only spatial; it was also relational. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:12 that we were “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.” Let the bleakness of that statement land on you. We were without God. He was not our God, and we were not his people. God was not “with” us in either sense of the word.
But the bleakness of that word “without” only serves to heighten the beauty of the word “with” in our verse. Because in order for us to get to the “with” of Revelation 21:3, Jesus came to dwell “with” us as a man. And not merely to dwell with us; he also died for us. When Jesus died for us, our sins were nailed to the tree and we were crucified “with” him (Gal. 2:20), we were raised “with” him (Col. 3:1), and made alive “with” him (Eph. 2:5).
That’s what makes Revelation 21:3 so glorious. Because of Jesus, God can and will one day dwell “with” us! We will finally be “with” the One our souls long for, and in his presence we’ll find fullness of joy. He will be “with” us as our God, and we’ll be “with” him as his people.
So this Christmas let us celebrate the coming of Immanuel, “God with us,” and long for the day when he comes again to be finally and fully “with” us!
What do you most look forward to about God dwelling with us? How does that hope sustain you in the midst of hard times?
How does it encourage you to remember that God is with us even now by his Spirit? What difference does that truth make in your day-to-day life?
What can you do this Advent season to stir up deeper longing in your heart for the Second Advent when God comes to dwell with us? How can you seek to tell others about this hope?