Book Reviews

Book Review: God Dwells Among Us (ESBT), Beale & Kim

This is the fifth volume in a 10-volume series called the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series. Each book looks at an aspect of God’s plan of redemption in the Bible. Each volume is meant to be a primer, accessible to all people, that introduces them to a particular biblical theme while tying it to how we live and minister as Christians in God’s world. Instead of getting into the weeds like many of the NSBT volumes do, the ESBT volumes show us the fruit of the authors’ close exegesis.

Benjamin Gladd’s first volume looked at who the people of God are. The church, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, is the restored people of God, true Israel, because of their identification with him (xi). Michael Morales looks at God’s redemption through exodus. Matthew Harmon shows how Jesus restores not only Israel but all of humanity from their exile away from God, and Brandon Crowe studies how God’s covenant and law functions in Christians’ lives. In this volume, Beale and Mitchell show how the temple pervades the biblical storyline, enters our lives, and encourages us in missions.

In 2004, Greg Beale—presently Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX—came out with The Temple and the Church’s Mission in the NSBT series (which I reviewed). In 2014, Beale and Mitchell Kim—lead pastor of Living Water Alliance Church—came out with the shorter God Dwells Among Us. Kim turned Beale’s discussion into a seven-part sermon series. God Dwells Among Us expanded Kim’s sermons into a written format with material from Beale’s original work.

This volume is Beale and Kim’s work with a new cover. So if you already have the book from 2014, there is nothing else new here. But if you don’t, then you should really consider buying this volume. This is an excellent volume fitting with the aims of series.

Why would you want to read this book?

The goal of this book “is to strengthen biblical conviction for sacrificial mission. When we are motivated to mission through occasional experiences or isolated Bible verses, the springs of such motivation can run dry in the face of costly challenges. Persevering missions demands full-orbed conviction that is born out of careful and prayerful study of God’s Word” (3).

Just as troops need to know their commander’s intent, so we learn God’s intent for us when we read Revelation 21–22 (3–4). The new heavens and earth is juxtaposed with the new Jerusalem. Interpreting each other, the expansive new creation is God’s dwelling place. The picture here fulfills what was started in Genesis 1–2. Missions didn’t begin with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20, but in Genesis 1.

Chapter 1: Just as the Holy of Holies sat within the Holy Place, which led out to the outer court, so was Eden within the garden, which led to the outer world. That is, Eden was God’s dwelling place. Like the tabernacle and temple priests, Adam was a priest who worked and kept the garden. This was a priestly work (the Hebrew words  behind “work” and Keep” are found in some places like Lev 18:5 and Deut 4:19); as he kept the garden, he kept God’s words and guarded the Garden from pollution and corruption (p. 12). But Adam failed when he let the defiling serpent into the garden.

Chapter 2–3: Adam and Eve were God’s imagers who were called to be fruitful and multiply, this imaging God to their children, and so on and so forth. Just as a temple has idols, in God’s temple/garden was Adam and Eve, and as they multiplied they would expand the garden to fill the world with God’s imagers. The result would be a world full of God-imaging people glorifying God together. But Adam failed his task. Yet the same commands God gave to Adam and Eve, he gave to the patriarchs.

Chapter 4 shows how the tabernacle was divided into three parts and how each part represented God’s presence, as well as how the tabernacle matched the temple and also the cosmos. Chapter 5 surveys the promises the prophets made to Israel. Israel would go to (or was already in) exile, but God promised to bring them back to an expanded Eden that would cover the globe.

For example, Daniel 2:34 tells us of a stone “cut out by no human hand” that smashes the grand image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This uncut stone probably refers to the temple. In the OT, uncut stones are only used for altars (Ex 20:25; Deut 27:6; Josh 8:31; 1 Kgs 6:7), and the NT authors use that same phrase to describe the new, end-time temple (Mk 14:58; Acts 7:48; 17:24; 2 Cor 5:1; Heb 9:24). This uncut stone that strikes the great image becomes a “great mountain.” As the authors note, mountain and hills frequently refer to the temple (Ps 15:1; 24:3; Is 2:2; Jer 26:18), and this great mountain/temple does what Adam and Eve were commanded to do: it fills the whole earth. God would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. It will break to pieces the other kingdoms and it shall stand forever (Dan 2:44). Even though Israel sinned and raged against God so much that they had to be sent into exile away from God’s presence, God continued to give them great promises of salvation and restoration.

Chapter 6 shows us how Jesus is that temple. Jesus opposes Satan in ways where both Adam and Israel failed. Jesus’ miraculous healings “not only inaugurated the end-time kingdom but signaled the beginning of the new creation, reversing the curse of the old fallen world” (77). Jesus is the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13, the one who is given all “dominion and glory and a kingdom” (7:14). This Jesus ends the book of Matthew telling his disciples, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). Making disciples to obey all that Jesus commands fulfills Daniel 7:14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him

Chapter 7 surveys how the church continues as the true temple. We are reconciled to God and have his Holy Spirit within us. We have his presence and we are cleansed and made pure. This temple grows as we share God’s word with others and with each other. This temple grows as more people come to faith and also as Christian are encouraged and built up by the Word. Chapter 8 explains how Christians serve as priests in this new temple. We are called to holiness and to flee idolatry.

Chapter 9 ends with some key thoughts on the all-encompassing new creation and some practical implications. Chapter 10 answers the question, “Why haven’t I seen this before?” First, our understanding of the world today is different than of how those 4,000 years ago understood it. We think of the world according to its physical components and separate it from anything spiritual. Since we cannot scientifically verify that the world is the dwelling place of God, it seems unreasonable to many. Also, many people read the Bible in its immediate context (say, Philippians 4:13) without any regard to the canonical context. This includes how the NT interprets the OT. Chapter 11 concludes the book with practical reflections.  

Recommended?

This is a fantastic resource to have. It has plenty enough content from Beale’s original volume to connect the dots between the testaments, and it has application for you to know why any of this matters at all. The authors skillfully draw out the riches of the OT, and then show how it fills the NT with meaning. The NT authors weren’t making things up. They had a reason for everything they wrote. It was Beale’s original volume that helped me understand and grasp the idea of the NT’s use of the OT. This book, at a mere 153 pages, will reward you richly.

Highly recommended.

Lagniappe

    • Series: Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (Book 5)
    • Author: Greg Beale & Mitchell Kim
    • Paperback: 176 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 21, 2021)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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