God Present to Redeem in the Person of Christ
The presence of God in the Old Testament was a preparation for a greater manifestation of God’s presence, one that would finally consummate the goals initiated at creation and continued throughout his redemptive plan. So what remained a mystery in the Old Testament, in a sense, becomes uncovered in the New (Rom. 16:25–27; Eph. 1:9–14; 3:1–13; Col. 1:25–27; 2:2). The redemptive presence of God, once mediated by fire, cloud, and smoke, now stands face-to-face with his people in its clearest expression in the person of Jesus Christ. For it is in Christ that the presence of God is most fully manifest in history for redemption.
So with the arrival of Christ, the “new prophet,” we enter a new period in salvation history. All that was formerly promised finds its completion in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the one who, as Paul explains, sums up all things (Eph. 1:9–11). This is why, from the very beginning of the New Testament, the Gospel writers proclaim him to be the seed of the woman, the son of Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, the suffering servant, and the Anointed One. And yet Jesus Christ is so much more than a human completion of God’s promises; the New Testament also proclaims him to be the divine Immanuel and the Son of God. In Jesus we have the presence of God incarnated to accomplish all that Adam’s race was incapable of accomplishing on their own (Rom. 5:12–21). I want us to see God present in Christ, the long-awaited Messiah who is Immanuel, the glory of God, the better temple, and the Son of God. When we understand Christ as the fulfillment of these promises, we understand him as the greatest expression of the redemptive presence of God. It is in Christ that God draws near to complete redemption and consummate his redemptive agenda.
Outside Looking In: Exile and the Need for God’s Presence
Now under the control of the mighty Roman Empire, Israel is again a small and insignificant tribal community intermixed with a pagan people and oppressed by a foreign ruler. Once the center of God’s redemptive and eschatological agenda, Israel now languishes as an outcast on the world’s stage. Yet this all changes with the coming of Christ—though in a way that the Israelites do not expect. Their Messiah does not come as a political warrior who will judge Israel’s oppressors and return Israel to her “rightful” place of militaristic and political prominence. Instead, as hinted at in the Latter Prophets, the Messiah comes as the suffering-servant and Immanuel promises combined. He is the presence of God in redemptive history to deal with sin and provide access to the Lord’s eschatological promises. He does so not by overthrowing Rome or clawing his way upon another’s throne, but by bearing our grief, carrying our sorrows, and being crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:4–5). Through Jesus’s blood God establishes the true kingdom. In Christ, God provides the means to the ends of redemptive history. Wherever Jesus stands becomes the epicenter of God’s mission. With the arrival of this true servant-king, God walks through the dusty streets of Israel so that “cool waters” of salvation will spring forth from the dry well of Israel once again.
God’s redemptive efforts recorded in the New Testament diagnose and treat the root cause of Israel’s dilemma, the nation’s covenant infidelity and sinful nature. As the Old Testament consistently tells us, the depravity of the people leads to their rejection of salvation and the painful consequences of judgment. So even though God has drawn near to set up the law, the sacrificial system, and the temple, clearing a path to his eschatological presence by way of Israel’s covenant faithfulness, his chosen people do just the opposite. Instead of abiding by the law, they turn to lawlessness; instead of entering God’s presence, their sins push them into exile. And as a consequence, these provisions become tools of condemnation rather than instruments of commendation in light of Israel’s propensity for wickedness.
In particular, as the Old Testament drama demonstrates repeatedly, the law does not reveal that Israel can be holy as God is holy. In actuality, it shows us the exact opposite: Israel is not holy and is incapable of being holy on her own account.1 Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness and lawlessness display themselves in the nation’s consistent decline into apostasy, idolatry, and wickedness, which leads to their exile from the Lord’s presence and promises. God scatters his people and drives them from the Land of Promise. Yet more than just the loss of land and line, the Israelites’ sinfulness leads to the temple’s destruction and their severance from the very presence of God.
The Old Testament, therefore, ends in what seems to be the demise of God’s purposes and promises. But the New Testament shows that Yahweh is not done. “Out of the ruins of human effort,” the biblical account makes it evident “that God’s purposes can never fail and that all He purposes to do will be accomplished” (cf. Isa. 9:7).2 God provides a better way, a way reliant not on man but on God and his power to redeem. This new way, as the New Testament proclaims, is the manifest presence of God in Jesus Christ—“the promised Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Son of Man, Immanuel, the one to whom the Old Testament points.”3 The law, sacrificial system, and even the tabernacle/temple are in a sense “failures” in the hands of man because they do not bring forth the promises of God. Yet their purpose is always to point us to what God is going to do and fulfill in Christ. They accomplish their God-ordained intention by preparing the way for Jesus Christ, the one who comes and who will culminate and complete each aspect of these institutions (Gal. 3:24).
As the fulfiller of the law, the once-for-all sacrifice, and the true and final temple, Christ provides the final way for the people of God to be holy. Salvation is of the Lord, and therefore redemption is based not upon our own account but on the righteousness of Christ. In short, believers can be holy because God is holy; the Lord draws near to us to be holy for us. So, through the restoration of his presence in Jesus Christ, God brings forth redemption and inaugurates its eschatological outcome for our joy.
Who Is This One? Christ as the Presence of God
We must know Christ as the presence of God before we make any claims that the presence of God in Christ is the means to the ends of redemptive history. Therefore, understanding the person of Christ precedes our understanding of his redemptive work. So, to begin, we ask a question similar to Christ’s question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20). When we allow Scripture to answer Christ’s question, it becomes clear that the biblical authors recognize Christ to be the very presence of God incarnated for the purposes of redemption.
From a New Testament perspective, then, Jesus fulfills the prophetic promises of God’s presence to save. He is the sign of Immanuel. He is the new and better temple. The biblical authors characterize Jesus as the very glory of God incarnate, the Son of God. In the New Testament’s development of these ideas, we see that there is more to the promise of presence than was initially sensed in the Old Testament. With the incarnation of God’s presence in Christ, we can now see that the promises, which once seemed to run parallel in the Old Testament, intersect in the New. In particular, the salvation promised through the human line of Adam’s seed (Gen. 3:15; cf., e.g., Luke 3:38), the Abrahamic descendant, and the son of David collide with the presence of God in Jesus Christ.
Coupled in the incarnation of Christ are the two Old Testament promises of a Savior coming from Eve’s womb (Gen. 3:15) and the pledge of God’s presence and power for salvation. Jesus, as both Son of God and Son of Man, “embodies all of the promises of the Old Testament; indeed, he is the goal of all of Scripture, as all of the law and prophets are fulfilled in him (Matt. 5:17).”4 By uniting divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ, all of God’s redemptive promises find their “Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20).
From the outset, the New Testament links Jesus Christ with the coming of God’s redemptive presence. In Matthew 1:17–25, Scripture confronts us with the reality that Jesus is the culmination of the Isaiah references to the virgin-born child, Immanuel.5 As addressed in the last chapter, when we read Isaiah, we see that there is one to come, one to be named Immanuel, who will represent God and usher in the goals of redemption (Isa. 7:10–23; cf. 8:8–10). Here, Isaiah foretells God’s coming to be with his people. Interestingly, Matthew 1 clarifies that the ultimate fulfillment of the Immanuel promise takes place in Jesus Christ. The sign of Immanuel is not only for Isaiah’s own historical context, but also for the eschatological objective of God’s salvific mission which Christ inaugurates and consummates.
Matthew’s link between Christ and the Immanuel sign of Isaiah 7 would surely have flooded the Jewish mind with further testimony of Christ and his fulfillment of Old Testament promises. Not only would this gospel declaration prompt his prophetically minded audience to hear the echoes of Isaiah 7; it would also have reminded his readers of the fuller Immanuel promise detailed in Isaiah 9. When Matthew declares Jesus to be Immanuel, then, he also proclaims that Jesus is the “Wonderful Counselor,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and, perhaps most significantly, “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6). Undergirding the promise of divine presence in Jesus Christ is the explicit announcement that this coming Immanuel is God Almighty.6 This is why Christ’s birth narrative is so important. It shows him to be the fulfillment of the Immanuel sign, meaning that Christ is also mighty God who comes to be manifest in this world for the finalization of God’s redemptive purposes. It is unmistakable, then, that in Christ, God comes to dwell among his people, walk among them as their God, redeem them as only God can, and set them apart for God (Lev. 26:11–12).7
Christ’s being Immanuel is a gateway to the promises of God and his redemptive purposes. The presence of God once enjoyed in a measure by the patriarchs and by Moses and Israel at Sinai is now manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. And like the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament, Christ comes to his people to work salvation and restore to them the covenant blessings.8 Moreover, Jesus as God-with-us unpacks the promises revealed in the divine name Yahweh. His coming shows that God, as he assured Moses through his name, commits to being the “I am/will be” with his people again in the person of Christ for their redemption and their future.9 This christological connection between Jesus and Yahweh is also evident throughout the Gospel of John, as well as in the “I am” sayings of Christ (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).10 Thus, as the New Testament depicts, Christ is the Lord (κύριος, יהוה) and “he is” and “will be” present with his people.
Being the fulfillment of the Immanuel sign and all its implications reveals that Christ is the completion of God’s Old Testament promise to be with his people for their redemption, while simultaneously working to consummate God’s promise to reopen access to God’s eschatological presence. The New Testament announces that Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God’s redemptive presence among man (e.g., John 1:14; Heb. 1:1–3). In the Messiah’s arrival, “what has come near is not simply the transcendent rule of God that has governed all of God’s dealings with Israel but, specifically, the eschatological rule of God that brings fulfillment of all God’s promises.”11 Through Christ and Christ alone, God will save humanity from the curse of the fall, thereby reconciling his people to Yahweh and restoring them to God’s eschatological presence. So, just as the “loss of the garden or the land [in the Old Testament] was understood to imply the loss of the presence of God . . . the promise of restoration [declared in the New Testament] includes at its most fundamental level the promise of the restoration of God’s presence in the midst of his people.”12 What is incomprehensible about this restoration is that, in order to bring people back to the divine presence lost in the fall, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the world, comes to suffer the curse for that fall on our behalf.
The Glory of Christ
Alongside the Immanuel sign is the announcement that Jesus is the glory of God, the manifest presence of Yahweh in creation for the purposes of salvation. We see this in John 1:1–14. Contending for Jesus’s deity—specifically his being very God of very God (John 1:1)—John explains that Jesus is the Word made flesh, the new location of God’s redemptive presence among his people. Reading this passage,
Hellenistic Jews with at least a smattering of Hebrew would be quick to see another connection between John’s words and the Old Testament. The corresponding Hebrew verb for “to dwell,” sˆa¯kan, sometimes used of God “dwelling” with Israel (e.g. Ex. 25:8; 29:46; Zech. 2:3) and the noun for “tabernacle,” misˆka¯n, are cognate with the post-biblical term šekîna¯. This word, strictly speaking, means “residence,” but most commonly refers to the glory of God who made himself present in the tabernacle and the temple. The bright cloud of the presence of God settled (sˆa¯kan) on the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled it (Ex. 24:16; 40:34–35; similarly the temple 1 Kings 8:10–11). . . . The šekîna¯-glory was nothing less than the visible manifestation of God. By alluding to such themes, John may be telling his readers that God manifested himself most clearly when the Word became flesh.13
Simply put, Jesus is the “en-fleshing” of the Old Testament promise of the redemptive presence of God. As such, all that was promised in the Old Testament concerning the redemptive objectives to be consummated by the divine presence finds its ultimate expression here in Jesus Christ, the “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
In yet another way, the Gospels announce the arrival of the presence of God through the pronouncements of John the Baptist, the herald of the glory of God in Jesus Christ (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2–3; Luke 1:76; John 1:23).14 To signal the coming of Christ and his kingdom, John, in a telling move, cites Isaiah 40:3, which promises,
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
John the Baptist casts himself as the current fulfillment of the “voice crying in the wilderness” who prepares the way for God’s coming to be with his people. In applying to Jesus these promises in Isaiah, such as “the way of the LORD” and the “highway for our God,” the Gospel authors conclusively demonstrate “that the Baptizer is not simply the herald of the Messiah but of God himself, appearing in Jesus of Nazareth.”15 And if we continue to read in Isaiah 40:5, we see that in Jesus’s coming to his people, God’s glory is revealed and all people can see God’s presence. When John prepares the way for the Messiah, he prepares the way for the very glory of God manifest in history for salvation.
Along with John 1 and the Baptist’s testimony, the Gospel accounts of the transfiguration communicate the manifestation of divine glory in Jesus Christ as well (Matt. 17:1–13; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36). There are numerous correspondences between the transfiguration and other Old Testament revelations of divine presence. For instance, Christ escapes to the top of a mountain where he and his selected company hear the voice of the Lord16 just as Moses did atop Sinai (Exodus 32–34).17 At the transfiguration, Moses is once again on the peak of the mountain basking in the glorious presence of God, this time manifest in Christ’s transformation. The same is the case for Elijah, who, like Moses, is linked closely with the presence of God in the Old Testament, owing to his unique and personal experience of it as God’s prophet. Like the earlier descriptions of the Lord’s presence, the Gospels too portray Christ’s manifestation of divine glory in terms of brightness (garments are dazzling white in Mark 9:3) and pure light (seen in the face of Christ in Matt. 17:3), both of which remind us of Old Testament revelations of God’s presence in creation.18
The transfiguration quite visibly depicts the glorious presence of God incarnate in Christ.19 As one of the disciples chosen to accompany Christ to the mountaintop, Peter later reveals, “We were eyewitnesses of [Christ’s] majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16), a description that links Jesus to God himself (Deut. 33:26; Job 31:23; 37:22; Pss. 68:34; 104:1; Isa. 35:2; Mic. 5:4). The account of this temporary glorification of Christ demonstrates to the disciples, and the New Testament audience as a whole, that “God’s very presence is associated with Jesus, through whom they have access to full communion and presence with God.”20 Most importantly, “at the transfiguration Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus the forthcoming ‘exodus’ in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31–33). The new exodus promised in Isaiah and the new creation anticipated therein will become a reality only through Jesus’ exodus at the cross.”21 Christ, the glory of the Lord, the divine presence manifest, stands atop this mountain not only to unveil his glory, but also to show that God is manifest to be hung on the cross for the purpose of reconciling humanity.
Beyond the transfiguration and the Gospels themselves, Paul applies similar “glory-presence” language to Jesus when he speaks of the “glory of God in the face of Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 4, the apostle, responding to those who reject the gospel, reminds his audience that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4). He continues in verse 6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In these statements, Paul places the divine presence of God now incarnated in Christ on center stage of the history of redemption. From the beginning,
Adam was created in the glorious image of God, but fell from it. God consequently barred Adam and Eve from his presence. Israel encountered the glory of God on Mount Sinai, but fell from it. Moses consequently veiled his face. Christ did not fall, but is the revelation of the glory of God to his people. . . . As a result, [Christ] mediates the glory of God in Christ, unveiled, in order to reverse the effects of the Fall as manifested in Israel’s history of hard-heartedness.22
Echoing the Old Testament background of creation and the glory of God in the exodus, Paul clarifies that Christ’s work begins both a new creation and a new exodus. It is the God of creation, the one who commands light to come out of darkness, who ultimately “un-blinds” the eyes of unbelievers to see the new light of glory shining in the face of Christ. Likewise, the testimony of God’s presence seen in the shining face of Moses is now evident to believers in a greater way in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:16–18).
As the New Testament exhibits, in Christ, we come face-to-face with the presence of God. For this reason, Donald Macleod concludes:
[Jesus] is the glory of God, the very Shekinah itself, tabernacling among men. The tangible physicalness of this form of the divine presence should not be overlooked. During those years men could see his glory (John 1:14). They could witness with amazement His mighty acts. They could literally hear Him expound the ethics of His Kingdom. God was on earth, experiencing the human condition at first hand and engaging the Enemy at close quarters. He was present in our poverty, our suffering and our temptation until the last moments of supreme paradox when He dwelt in the anathema.23
In short, Christ is the very presence of God who has worked redemption for his people. To see the glory of God in Christ (2 Cor. 4:4, 6) “with an unveiled face ([2 Cor.] 3:16–18) is to begin to come face to face with the presence of God as enjoyed by Adam before the Fall.”24 God’s command to “let there be light” is now the light of divine glory shining in the face of Christ.
The New Temple
Along with the glory-presence of God in Christ, the New Testament also identifies Christ as the fulfillment and replacement of the temple and all it represented.25 As noted in the last chapter, the temple was God’s designated location for his dwelling in the midst of his people. The temple and the mobile tabernacle disclosed the Lord’s intimate nearness with Israel as well as his commitment to be present redemptively for salvation and judgment. Still, there were limitations and parameters to this Old Testament reality, particularly those associated with the law, the sacrificial system, and the architectural divisions built to ensure separation between God’s divinity and his people’s humanity.
But in Christ we have both full divinity and full humanity, and the divisions within the temple are no longer necessary. This is why the New Testament “portrays Jesus as not only revealing the divine presence in the midst of the Temple, but also replacing the Temple as the locus of divine presence.”26 As we touched on earlier, John 1:14 picks up on Christ’s completion of the tabernacle/temple. There John explains that Christ “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This prologue shows that the Word (another name for Jesus) who was God (John 1:1) is also the one who has come in the flesh to dwell in the creation. Verse 14 “presents Jesus as the dwelling place of God among his people . . . the fulfillment of and replacement for the Tabernacle and its successor, the Temple.”27 When we translate John 1:14 in a more literal sense, it reads, “the Word tabernacled [ἐσκήνωσεν] among us.”28 The verb “tabernacled” (σκηνόω [ske¯noo¯]) is simply the verbal form of the Greek noun for tabernacle (σκηνή). This verb, Andreas Köstenberger explains,
commonly translated “dwelt,” more literally means “to pitch one’s tent.” This rare term, used elsewhere in the NT only in the Book of Revelation (7:15; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3), suggests that in Jesus, God has come to take up residence among his people once again, in a way even more intimate than when he dwelt in the midst of wilderness Israel in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35).29
This reminds us of God’s presence in the wilderness. As with the tabernacle/temple of old, God is now with his people in the person of Jesus Christ. For those with ears to hear “the [verb “dwelt”] would call to mind the ske¯ne¯, the tabernacle where God met with Israel,” implying that “God has chosen to dwell amongst his people in yet a more personal way, in the Word-become-flesh.”30 As John 1:14 reveals, Christ is the true temple of God; he is the new and better location of God’s presence with man. This passage, and the rest of the New Testament for that matter, makes it explicitly clear that God is present with his people in Jesus Christ.
The incarnation, therefore, makes way for the new temple. In Christ taking on flesh, “God’s dwelling place among his people takes on a new form, a human body.”31 In this simple yet critical passage, John identifies Jesus with the temple because he wants us to see that the Word-become-flesh is the new residence for the shekinah glory. According to the Evangelist, Christ is, one might say, the “more personal” dwelling place of God. Thus Gregory Beale contends, “Not only is Jesus identified with the temple because he is . . . the unique place on earth where God’s revelatory presence is located. God is manifesting his glorious presence in Jesus in a greater way than it was ever manifested in a physical temple structure.”32 When we read John’s prologue, we should be struck with the fact that Christ—the glory of God incarnate, the promised new temple of God—replaces the temple and completes its divine purposes and function.33
This temple fulfillment in Christ extends well beyond the implications of John 1:14. Take, for instance, Christ’s cleansing the temple (Matt. 21:12–17).34 Jesus, the new temple, enters the old temple—formerly a site of sacred worship and now a market for greedy street vendors looking to profit off Israel’s “superstitions.” Christ responds in righteous anger, overturning the tables and driving the merchants out of his Father’s house. This shocking reaction seems to stem from more than just the economic exploitation of Israel’s religion. Instead, we should take Christ’s actions against these iniquities as “a parable of judgment against the temple . . . because it represented Israel’s rejection of God’s word and commandments and ultimately of Jesus himself.”35 Christ comes to remove the profiteers but also to correct the Jewish misinterpretations of the temple and relocate its eschatological purposes in himself.
To emphasize this, Christ recites the prophecy of Isaiah 56:7, claiming that the house of God will be a house of prayer. This passage has eschatological implications for the salvation of Gentiles and their inclusion in the temple presence of God (Isa. 56:3–8; see Mark 11:17, which adds to “house of prayer” the phrase “for all the nations”). In quoting this text from Isaiah, Jesus condemns the people and the temple itself for losing sight of the eschatological function of this “sacred space.” Remember, this building was to be the point from which the presence of God would spread to the ends of the earth. But it did not, which meant that the temple now forecasts something better that was to come and had come in Christ.
So while he brings judgment, Jesus also tells us that salvation has come in him. Because Jesus is the new temple—the locus of God’s presence in the midst of his people—the promises and objectives seemingly lost in this crowd of selfish money changers and merchandise can only be accomplished by the One who stands before them as their judge. What is more, Christ’s coming actually inaugurates what Isaiah’s prophecy foretells. On the heels of his corrective action, Christ opens the temple to all those once declared unfit and unclean for entrance. The lame and the blind come to him in the temple for healing (Matt. 21:14). In an ironic twist, Christ heals those once deemed unfit for salvation in the very place once identified with the presence of God. He is fulfilling the purpose of the temple right before the eyes of the chief priests and scribes (cf. Isa. 56:8). The restorative and reconciling work of Christ makes way for God’s eschatological promises, all while the innocent voices of Israel’s children—declaring, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”—fill the air with the sweet song of his messianic fulfillment (Matt. 21:9, 16; cf. Ps. 8:2).
In the parallel account in John, Christ’s recognition of himself as the new temple is even more apparent. Responding to the Jew’s defiant challenges to his authority, Christ makes a yet bolder claim. He gives them a sign: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Missing the point altogether, the Jewish audience arrogantly balks at Jesus’s prophetic declaration. In a literalistic way, they remind Jesus that it has taken forty-six years to build this (second-rate) temple. But to keep his readers from similar misconceptions, John clarifies that Christ “was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21), not the temple of stone in Jerusalem. John continues to explain that when Christ rose from the dead, “his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (2:22). James Hamilton writes, “As God formerly dwelt in the temple, now the Father dwells in Jesus: ‘The Father is in Me and I am in the Father’ (John 10:38; 14:10; see 1:14, 51; 2:19; 4:21–26; 10:30).”36 From this Gospel account, then, it seems quite apparent that Christ understands himself to be the culmination and replacement of the temple and its purposes.37 In his defeat of sin and death evidenced in the resurrection,38 Christ both opens access to God’s eschatological presence and expands God’s dwelling place to all the nations. Christ “builds the new temple by fulfilling the function of the temple eschatologically, i.e. by offering his life for all.”39 So although the temple’s eschatological role stalls in the sin and fall of Israel’s covenant infidelity and lawbreaking, Christ, the new and better temple, does what the first temple could not, opening the way to the presence of God in eschatological fullness.
The Seed of the Woman and the Son of God
Coupled with the redemptive presence in Jesus is the culmination of the protoevangelium, that first gospel of Genesis 3:15. As early as Adam’s exile from the garden, God has been at work in redemptive history to save humanity from the fall and its consequences. Robert Reymond comments, “The promise [of Gen. 3:15] is given in ‘seed-form,’ true enough, but God clearly stated that someone out of the human race itself (the woman’s offspring), although fatally ‘wounded’ himself in the conflict, would destroy the serpent (Satan).”40 So even in its earliest expression, God declares to Adam and Eve that one of their descendants will deal righteously and punitively with the Serpent, an act that will bring forth redemption to God’s people.
As shown earlier, this “seed” promise—though faced with great obstacles and threats at times—continues to advance through Israel’s Old Testament story. From the lists of generations in Genesis to the lists in Chronicles, Yahweh has drawn near to move his promise forward in powerful and miraculous ways. In particular, the seed of redemption promised to the woman continues in the line of Abraham41 and the royal house of David. Over time, however, the bright promise of Israel’s future redemption begins to fade behind the ever-dimming history of Israel, especially in the nation’s monarchy. The consistent sins of humanity, including those in the line of the promised seed, continue to raise issues concerning the validity of such a salvation and the place of Adam’s line in this promise.
Yet with the dawning of the New Testament and the introduction of Jesus Christ, God responds to the question of sin in the line of Adam’s redemptive seed. In his grace and mercy, Yahweh brings together that which was assumed to be mutually exclusive. In the coming of Immanuel (Isa. 7:14; 8:10; 9:6–7; Matt. 1:23) we have both the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the promised seed of Adam, Abraham, and David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32–33; 3:31–38; cf. Matt. 21:5, 9, 15); greater still, he is the divine presence in the midst of his people (Matt. 1:23), “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (Heb. 1:3). From this perspective, the Old Testament promises of a coming seed, a covenant king, and the future presence of God merge together in Jesus Christ. So while God’s promise to make a people is very strong and reaches significant fulfillment, each expression points to Jesus Christ, the true seed. In being fully God and fully man, Christ fulfills both divine promises: he is the Serpent-crushing seed of Adam as well as the redemptive presence of God manifest to the world for salvation. For this reason, Jesus is the climactic end of all of the Lord’s redemptive promises and goals.
These categories are quite significant for understanding who Christ is. They are so important that I would contend that the Gospel of Matthew builds its introduction around these dual realities. In Matthew 1:1, the Gospel begins with an emphasis on Christ’s being a descendant of Adam. In particular, Matthew highlights that Christ is “the son of David, the son of Abraham,” titles that associate him with the fulfillment of the protoevangelium (Gen. 3:15).42 Christ’s own genealogy, therefore, is wrought with references to the promises afforded Adam and his progeny. As the son of Abraham and David, Christ clearly represents the place of humanity in God’s redemptive mission. Matthew underscores Jesus’s pedigree and distinct family tree in order to tie Christ’s humanity to the redemptive promises ringing in the ears of the long-suffering Hebrews. As they hear Christ’s ancestry, they hear that their Messiah has come. Christ is a human king in the line of David, Abraham, and Adam who will conquer their enemies and defeat their oppressors once and for all (cf. Heb. 2:14–18).
But the promised seed of the woman is not the only promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Remember what Matthew does next. He tells us that Christ is God with us (Matt. 1:23). So not only is Jesus the human son of Abraham and David; he is also the very presence of God in history to redeem. It is in his being the Son of Man and the Son of God that Christ is able to bring a true salvation to his people. As the angel Gabriel foretells, “[Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). The prophecy reveals the means of God’s redemption: Christ, the seed of the woman and the son of David, is also the Most High God who comes to secure the covenant objectives. Stephen Dempster summarizes:
One of the most important [Gospel emphases] is that both meanings of the Davidic house merge in the person of Christ. He is the descendant of David who, by virtue of his resurrection, sits on the throne of David as the long-expected descendant of the Davidic house (understood as dynasty) (Luke 1:32; Acts 20:30–35). . . . But Jesus is also the Davidic house understood as temple, in which God’s presence is incarnated, a presence that flows out of him like a surging river giving life to all (John 2:19–22; 7:37–39; cf. Ezek. 47:1–12).43
In other words, Jesus Christ, is the Son of Man and the Son of God. In being the Son of God, Jesus “is not simply representing the Father but in some fashion is bearing the Father’s presence to the world.”44 The redemptive outcome accomplished in Christ’s work is only available because Christ himself is the seed of Adam, Abraham, and David, as well as Immanuel, the full expression of God’s divinity incarnated (e.g., John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20; cf. Luke 1:35; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16).45
So who is Christ? Jesus Christ is God present in human flesh for the redemption of God’s people and God’s place. His coming
is not just another Christophany but something completely different—incarnation: “the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial to us according to Manhood.”46
In this new temple of Christ, deity dwells in man and among men for the purposes of redemption and reconciliation (Col. 2:9). God has come among us, as one of us, in order to save us. By introducing the theme of divine presence and its fulfillment in Christ, the New Testament reinforces the Old Testament reality that salvation is still from the Lord and that his manifest work is still the agency of redemption (Isa. 9:7; cf. Pss. 37:39; 68:20; Isa. 40:9–11; 43:10–13; 59:15–20; Jer. 3:23; Jonah 2:9; John 1:1–18).47 Simply put, God has come to complete his redemptive agenda by being present in Christ, who is the Messiah, Immanuel, the glory of God, the better temple, the seed of the woman, and the Son of God.48
Excerpt from The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives, Copyright © 2015 by J. Ryan Lister, Published by Crossway
J. Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of The Presence of God. He and his wife, Chase Elizabeth, have three children.
1 Thomas Schreiner writes: “The Qumran community and the Pharisees believed that if the Torah were kept more faithfully, God would fulfill his promises. Israel had been unfaithful to the Lord because it repeatedly sinned and violated his law. Hence they urged rigorous and meticulous observation of the ways of the Lord. By way of contrast, Jesus called on the people to repent and to recognize that God had sent him. The focus is not on the Torah but on Jesus himself and a right relation with him. What Jesus called for was, in one sense, stunningly simple, but it was also remarkably different from the views of his contemporaries, and so opposition developed.” Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 52.
2 John Sailhamer, First and Second Chronicles (Chicago: Moody, 1983), 115.
3 D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 81.
4 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, NAC (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 27.
5 The whole Gospel of Matthew highlights the importance of the divine presence for redemptive history and how that helps organize the Gospel itself. In fact, a “de facto consensus exists: current students of Matthew generally agree that the Emmanuel prophecy and Jesus’ promise of presence form a redactional and christological theme of secondary significance in Matthew.” David D. Kupp, Matthew’s Emmanuel: Divine Presence and God’s People in the First Gospel, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 90 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 19. Many see that “allusions to God’s being-with-us are drawn throughout the whole Gospel (17:17; 18:20; 26:29). Above all, however, Matthew has created an inclusion throughout the last verse of his Gospel (28:20), which marks a fundamental theme: The presence of the exalted Lord with his community proves to be Immanuel, God with us.” Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1–7: A Commentary, trans. W. C. Linss (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989), 105. R. T. France contends, “This highest level of Matthew’s Christology is effectively summed up in two verses (1:23; 28:20) which are often regarded as a ‘framework around the Gospel.’ ” R. T. France, The Gospel according to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1985), 48. Taking the significance of divine presence and its role in the Matthean Gospel even further is Kupp, who works to show that the presence motif helps establish the Gospel’s “inherent dramatic structure.” Kupp, Matthew’s Emmanuel, 26.
6 See Robert L. Reymond, Jesus Divine Messiah: The New and Old Testament Witness (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2003), 97. Reymond also cites “numerous New Testament applications to Jesus of other descriptions of the Child found in Isaiah 7–12, the so called ‘Volume of Immanuel’” (ibid.). To support this he reveals the following examples of Immanuel’s deity as shown in the New Testament: “(1) the ‘Lord of hosts’ of 8:13 is the ‘Lord Christ,’ according to 1 Peter 3:14–15; (2) this same ‘Lord of hosts’ of 8:14 who is ‘a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall’ is the Christ whom the Jews rejected, according to Romans 9:33; (3) and yet he is to be distinguished from the Lord in some sense for, according to the Author of Hebrews, it is the Christ who says in 8:17: ‘I will put my trust in him’ (Heb. 2:13); (4) the geographic locale specified in 9:1–2 is applied to the locale of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 4:13–16; (5) the nature of the Child’s reign described in 9:7 is the background to Gabriel’s statement in Luke 1:32–33; (6) the statement that only a remnant in Israel rely upon the Lord and return to the mighty God in 10:20–23 (see ‘mighty God’ in 9:6), Paul in Romans 9:27–28 applies to the then-current wide-scale rejection of Jesus Christ; and (7) the root of Jesse to whom the natives will rally in 11:10 is the Christ, according to Paul in Romans 15:12” (ibid.).
7 Hamilton concludes, “Also adding to the idea that God is present where Jesus is are the prophetic indications that one day Yahweh Himself would tabernacle among his people.” James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 148. Hamilton goes on to cite Craig Koester, who maintains that the verb dwell/tabernacle as it is applies to Christ in John 1:14 “may also echo passages from the prophets, where God promises, ‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I will tabernacle (κατασκηνώσω) in your midst’ (Zech. 2:14 ); ‘So you shall know that I am the LORD your God who tabernacles (κατασκηνῶν) in Zion’ (Joel 3:17); and ‘My tabernacling-place (κατασκήνωσίς) shall be among you’ (Ezek. 37:27; cf. Lev. 26:11 MT). The promise of God’s tabernacling presence was realized when the Word became flesh.” Craig R. Koester, Dwelling of God: The Tabernacle in the Old Testament, Intertestamental Jewish Literature and the New Testament, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 22 (Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1989), 104.
8 Robert Reymond makes an interesting point in his evaluation of the Immanuel title and its application to Jesus. He picks up especially on the preposition “with,” arguing that this simple word indicates the gracious and salvific nature of Christ’s presence. Reymond writes: “When one reflects on the two parties on either side of the preposition: on the one hand, God, infinitely holy, in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), who is of purer eyes than to behold evil with any degree of approbation (Hab. 1:13); and on the other hand, men, of whom none is righteous (Rom. 3:10) and who are all children deserving God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3); one could hardly blame God had he sent his Son as ‘God against us’ or ‘God opposed to us.’ When, however, he reveals his Son as ‘God with us,’ the messianic task, full of grace and the promise of salvation, is suggested.” Robert L. Reymond, “Immanuel,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 550.
9 As Christopher Seitz contends, “The sentence I am the Lord your God,’ is a dense confession, combining two things: the personal and the sovereign.” Furthermore, “the phrase ‘say to them, “I will be has sent you”’(Ex. 3:14) harks back to the response of God to Moses at verse 12 about his own adequacy (‘I will be with you’) before the formal explanation is given at verse 14.” Thus the “name is presence and testimony to a specific shared history that will continue with this people. . . . God’s name is himself; God’s name expresses his promise and faithfulness to that promise, to his elected people.” Christopher Seitz, “Handing Over the Name,” in Trinity, Time, and Church, ed. Colin Gunton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 33–35. When this name is given to Christ, it transfers the same meaning and character to him. Thus, one aspect of the shared title reveals that Christ is the presence of God working to save his people, just as was the case when the title Yahweh was first announced.
10 Through the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, we see that Christ associates himself with Yahweh in yet another revelation of his being the presence of God. In Christ’s entering human history, he has come to unveil the Father to the world. In Christ’s being the Lord, or in Christ’s being the I Am, Jesus’s divinity is once again in the spotlight of John’s Gospel. For it is in his use of the “I Am” that Christ “is publicly applying the divine name of God—and God’s authoritative presence—to himself. No prophet or priest in Israelite history would ever have done this. For Judaism it is the most severe christological affirmation of all, leading audiences in the Gospel either to believe in Jesus or accuse him of blasphemy.” G. M. Burge, “‘I Am’ Sayings,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. J. B. Green, S. McKnight, and I. H. Marshall (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 356. This union of the Son and Father “is the remarkable step taken by the Fourth Gospel. Jesus is Lord incarnate, and thus, he himself bears this divine name. . . . In fact, it is the Father himself who is present in Jesus.” From this reality of deity expressed in Christ’s words, we see that “the principle theological contribution of the ‘I AM’ sayings is therefore christological. It buttresses Jesus’ divine status by showing that he can work, speak, and act in the Father’s stead. He is no mere human. He is the Word of God dwelling in human flesh. . . . The ‘I AM’ title he bears is simply one more of his many credentials” (ibid.). For other texts identifying Jesus with Yahweh, see Acts 2:21, 34–35; Rom. 10:13; Phil. 2:9–11; 1 Pet. 3:15–16; Rev. 19:16.
11 Mark Allen Powell, God with Us: A Pastoral Theology of Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 9.
12 Roy E. Ciampa, “The History of Redemption,” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity, ed. Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 267–68.
13 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 127.
14 Another example in the Gospels that declares Christ to be the very presence and glory of God includes the birth of Jesus, in which “‘the glory of the Lord’ appears as dazzling light (Luke 2:9), evoking praise from the heavenly host, ‘Glory to God in the highest’ (2:14). Accordingly, the infant Jesus is himself ‘a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32; cf. Isa. 49:6; 46:13).” Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Glory,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 509.
15 James R. Edwards, Mark, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 28.
16 Christ’s deity is also proclaimed by the voice of the Lord, who—in responding to Peter’s christological error to build three tabernacles to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah—declares Jesus to be his Son and the one to whom the disciples should listen and obey. This declaration, says Stein, “was God’s seal of approval, the heavenly ratification, of Jesus’ teaching concerning his messianic calling. Jesus was indeed the Christ, the son of God.” Robert H. Stein, Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 174.
17 What is different, however, is that, “whereas Moses in his encounter with God on Mount Sinai radiated God’s glory (Ex. 34:29, 30, 35), Jesus on this occasion radiated a foretaste of his own future glory” (ibid., 169).
18 This connection between Jesus and the presence of God goes beyond the Pentateuch revelations. As Hamilton argues: “The Gospels present Jesus in theophanic glory at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2–8 par.), and the mountain setting, the radiant glory and the human response—a desire to worship—provide points of contact with the theophanies of Psalms” and, I would argue, the rest of the Old Testament. James M. Hamilton, “Theophany,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008), 820.
19 The transfiguration, however, is merely a hint of what is to come, and thus the full-on revelation awaits the resurrection and, moreover, Christ’s triumphal return as king and judge (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:16–18). Stein concludes that “the transfiguration is seen as foreshadowing the glory Jesus will possess at the parousia (the second coming). . . . Matthew 16:28 ties the transfiguration even more closely to the parousia by saying that they would not taste death ‘before they [saw] the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ It would appear, therefore, that both 2 Peter and the Gospel writers understood the transfiguration as a glimpse into the future splendor of the Son of Man at his glorious return.” Stein, Jesus the Messiah, 171. Furthermore, as Gaffin concludes, “Previewed in the transfiguration (Luke 9:31–32), this [messianic] glory is attained in his resurrection (Luke 24:26), and will be displayed in the future ‘when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’ (Luke 9:26 par.), in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27 par.).” Gaffin, “Glory,” 509.
20 Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 873.
21 Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 270.
22 Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 179.
23 Donald Macleod, Behold Your God, 2nd ed. (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 1995), 88–89.
24 Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 181.
25 See also Mary L. Coloe, God Dwells with Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001), 23; Alan R. Kerr, The Temple of Jesus’ Body: The Temple Theme in the Gospel of John, Journal for the Study of the New Testament—Supplement Series 220 (New York: Sheffield, 2002), 123.
26 Bill Salier, “The Temple in the Gospel according to John,” in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Simon Gathercole (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2004), 125.
27 Paul M. Hoskins, Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Temple in the Gospel of John, Paternoster Biblical Monographs (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2006), 124.
28 Koester argues that John’s application of σκηνόω (ske¯noo¯) in 1:14 is based upon the association found between “flesh” and “glory.” He writes that this verb “resembles the noun σκῆνος, which can be connected with the idea of ‘flesh’ because it often refers to the tabernacle of the human body (Wis. 9:15; 2 Cor. 5:1, 4; Par. Jer. 6:6–7), as does the term σκήνωμα (2 Pet. 1:13–14). The verb σκηνόω can also be connected with the idea of glory, for it resembles the noun σκηνή, which the LXX uses for the Israelite tabernacle. The tabernacle was the place where God spoke with Moses (Ex. 33:9) and where he manifested his glory (Ex. 40:34). Therefore tabernacle imagery is uniquely able to portray the person of Jesus as the locus of God’s Word and glory among humankind.” Koester, The Dwelling of God, 102. In sum, he finds that John is using an analogy here that links Christ’s flesh and the Hebrew tent/tabernacle/temple. See also Hoskins, Jesus as the Fulfillment, 117.
29 Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 41.
30 Carson, John, 127.
31 Hoskins, Jesus as the Fulfillment, 118.
32 Gregory K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, NSBT 17 (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity, 2004), 178.
33 As Hoskins notes: “John’s phrase, ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν (‘dwelt among us’) should be connected with God’s promise to dwell among his people in a new Jerusalem. In the Septuagint of Zechariah 2:14 and Ezekiel 43:9, one finds an appealing linguistic parallel to John 1:14b (‘I will dwell among’). Examination of the Hebrew Old Testament (MT) clarifies that Zechariah 2:10 and Ezekiel 43:7, 9 actually duplicate the wording of God’s initial promise to dwell among the people of Israel in the consecrated Tabernacle (Ex. 29:45). This promise is later repeated with reference to the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 6:13). It is therefore not surprising that identical language is used when the promise is picked up again in Zechariah 2:10 and Ezekiel 43:7, 9 with reference to the new Temple of God to be established on Mount Zion. The repetition of this promise indicates that dwelling among his people is a consistent aspect of God’s dealing with them. Furthermore, the expression of the promise with reference to the new Temple gives it a place within Israel’s hopes for the future. Consequently, two significant points follow from the allusion to this promise in John 1:14b. First, John 1:14b suggests that the incarnation of the Word is an event that fulfills God’s repeated promise to dwell among his people. Second, in doing so, the incarnate Word is fulfilling a promise whose most recent prophetic expression anticipated its fulfillment within a new Temple building.” Hoskins, Jesus as the Fulfillment, 118–19.
34 I am reliant upon G. K. Beale for this argument concerning the link between Christ’s temple fulfillment and his cleansing the temple. For his position, see Beale, Temple and the Church’s Mission, 176–80.
35 Ibid., 179.
36 Hamilton, God’s Indwelling Presence, 153.
37 This replacement and escalation of the old temple with the new temple of Christ is apparent in John 1:18 as well. In this text, John ends his prologue by declaring that Christ has made the invisible God manifest in a way that surpasses all other realities, including the limitations of the tabernacle/temple. As Hoskins concludes: “Previously no human being had ever seen God (1:18a). Even when God’s glory appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses was only permitted a partial view of it (Ex. 33:19–23). Jesus, however, has not only seen the Father ([John] 6:46), but is himself God (1:1, 18). Consequently, he is uniquely qualified to enable humans to see and hear the Father (John 14:9–10; 3:34). In short, John presents the revelation that comes through Christ as the pre-eminent revelation of God and God’s glory. It surpasses the revelation that was granted through previous events, persons, and institutions. This includes Moses, the Law, the Tabernacle, and the Temple.” Hoskins, Jesus as the Fulfillment, 124–25.
38 The work of Christ’s death and resurrection is vital for the appropriate interpretation of the Old Testament and God’s redemptive mission. N. T. Wright argues, “If Jesus has been raised, then this is how the Old Testament has to be read: as a story of suffering and vindication, of exile and restoration, a narrative that reaches its climax not in Israel becoming top nation and beating the rest of the world at its own game but in the suffering and vindication, the exile and restoration, of the Messiah—not for himself alone but because he is carrying the saving promises of God.” N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper, 2008), 237.
39 S. Kim, “Jesus—The Son of God, the Stone, the Son of Man, and the Servant: The Role of Zechariah in the Self-Identification of Jesus,” in Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne and Otto Betz (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 143.
40 Reymond, Jesus Divine Messiah, 69.
41 The New Testament makes the connection between the “seed” promise, Abraham, and its christological fulfillment in several places. For instance, per the apostle Paul, Christ is the promised seed of Adam because he is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. As T. Desmond Alexander argues, if we focus on the “announcement that ‘all the nations will be blessed through you’ (Gen. 12:3; 18:18) we will recognize Paul’s argument is that Christ ‘redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit’ (Gal. 3:14).” T. Desmond Alexander, “Seed,” in Alexander et al., New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 769. Later in Galatians, the apostle argues as well that “the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Consequently, “according to Paul’s reading of history, Christ is the true Heir of the promise, of the universal inheritance, and He determines the fellow-heirs.” Ronald K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 156. These along with other New Testament writings (cf. Acts 3:17–26) demonstrate that Christ in his humanity is the culmination of the seed promise of Genesis 3. He is the one who has come to create an even greater dynasty through faith, a people who will inherit the new creation, which surpasses even the reality of the first paradise, and ultimately will restore humanity to the eschatological presence of God. Through Christ the curse of sin and death are broken. He pulls believers from the grip of sin through the vicarious nature of his own atoning sacrifice. He is the entry into the new nation of the redeemed, and he is the last king who is to sit on David’s throne forever. In sum, “the New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the one who brings to fulfillment the divine promises associated with the unique line of seed descending from Abraham. Thus, through Christ God’s blessing is mediated to the nations of the earth.” Alexander, “Seed,” 772. His conquest then as the seed of Adam, Abraham, and David procures both salvation and its teleological outcome. Christ defeats the Serpent to bring salvation to a new dynasty that he will usher into a new land filled with the glorious presence of God in full.
42 Matthew, therefore, illustrates the “Messiah’s necessary lineage and royal rule (see 2 Sam. 7:11b–16)” in which Christ is revealed to be a “righteous warrior-king who establishes God’s rule in Israel.” Blomberg, Matthew, 52. Furthermore, the “son of Abraham” traces “Jesus’ lineage back to the founding father of the nation of Israel, ensuring . . . the echoes of God’s promises to Abraham that his offspring would bless all the peoples of the earth (Gen. 12:1–3)” (ibid.).
43 Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, NSBT 15 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 233.
44 Burge, “‘I Am’ Sayings,” 356.
45 As shown earlier, the introduction of Matthew’s Gospel reveals that Christ is divine in nature. Thus, as Macleod concludes: “The birth narratives, especially Matthew’s, contain clear hints of the absolute deity of Christ. He is Immanuel (‘God with us’) in Matthew 1:23. . . . Matthew’s assumption is the same as Mark’s who, at the beginning of his gospel portrays the advent of Christ as the fulfilling of the Old Testament prophecy that the Lord would come to his temple (Mark 1:3).” Donald Macleod, The Person of Jesus Christ, CCT (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 34. Contra C. Meyers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988).
46 Daniel Strange, “A Little Dwelling on the Divine Presence: Towards a ‘Whereness’ of the Triune God,” in Alexander and Gathercole, Heaven on Earth, 225. This is a paraphrase of the Chalcedonian Creed.
47 The name Jesus, which translates as “Jehovah saves,” also places emphasis on God as the author of salvation.
48 Moreover, the New Testament emphasis on the deity of Christ and his being the presence of God in this world answers the invalidity of the Adamic source of redemption. As all redemptive history has indicated and will indicate, sinners are unable to save sinners. For this very reason there is a sacrificial system put in place that requires the substitution of an unblemished animal in the place of the reprobate. The necessity of perfection in this atoning act points to the necessity of perfection in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thus, to save sinners, the Messiah cannot be a sinner himself. Instead, he must be holy as God is holy—he must be the perfect manifestation of God who fully meets the requirements of the law as only Yahweh himself could. So Christ, as the God-man, accomplishes what Adam could not because Christ is perfectly obedient (Matt. 4:1–11). Thus understood, Christ is not only fully man; he is also fully divine and thereby able to defeat the Serpent, death, and sin. Only through his sinless perfection as the Son of God can this Son of Man complete redemption and ready the world for the cosmological expansion of his divine presence. In sum, Christ fulfills the redemptive promises of God’s presence by doing just that—making God present.