The Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany is one of the most majestic and exquisite structures in existence today. The medieval themed castle overlooks the German landscape beneath it and is picturesque from any angle and elevation. This castle, with 65,000 square feet of total floor space and plans for over 200 rooms, has its own resume of great facts about itself. Yet this astonishing castle bares marks of shame. Neuschwanstein was never completed. Neither did it have any tangible purpose. Nor did its king ever take up permanent residence. In fact, King Ludwig II of Bavaria ran himself into tremendous personal debt to fund the castle of his dreams and when he died, he only knew it as a construction site. The king likely spent more hours watching the building process across the valley through a telescope than he spent living within its walls.
When we think of a castle, what do we think should be its main purpose? The simple purpose of any castle, and history bears witness to this, is that it is to house royalty or nobility. If we combine this logical idea with the Scriptural concept that God is King over everything (Ps. 24 & 47), then we must ask the question; where does God live? Does He have a castle of His own?
For starters the Bible makes it clear that God is not restricted by time and space. His existence does not depend on Him being found at certain physical coordinates. We do know however that God the Father is in heaven and Psalm 115:3 is a tremendous verse of Scripture to prove that. It simply states that, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” We also know that Jesus is currently in heaven at the Father’s right hand until His second coming (Matt. 24:29-31, Eph. 1:20, Col. 3:1, & Heb.1:3). The fact that God dwells in heaven alleviates the need for Him to have an earthly dwelling. Again, God’s existence isn’t restricted to a physical structure. Nevertheless, even though there is no necessity within God, He has still chosen to dwell amongst men in different ways throughout history.
The first example that comes to mind is the tabernacle. This was where God first chose to make His habitation amongst sinful men. To be precise, God did not dwell in the tabernacle in His fullness, but a portion of His glory filled the tabernacle. This is just what we see at the end of Exodus when the Tabernacle is completed. We can also be certain that while the glory of the Lord was over the Tabernacle, heaven was no less glorious. God simply does not have a maximum amount of glory to display that must be moved around to where he wants it. No, He is in fact the King of Glory. Now, all of this seems peculiar doesn’t it? A completely sufficient God who dwells in heaven, and in fact it is only heaven because He is there, chooses to live amongst His people who have disobeyed and rejected Him in many ways. How could this be?
First of all, we can be certain that God saw this as the best possible choice to not only show His glory and be glorified, but also to enact His sovereign will. Secondly, we see His mercy and grace in giving His people His presence. This alone would have been a gift worth rejoicing over. Also, God chose to use the tabernacle, and later on the temple, to begin pointing to greater things which were yet to come. God chose to have His glory dwell in man-made buildings in the Old Testament. But clearly these structures did not define His existence or glory. The tabernacle was forgotten and the temple was dismantled yet God remained with absolutely no tarnish to His glory.
When we look into the teaching of Paul in the New Testament we see a new angle on God’s real estate choices. First off, Paul affirms that God is not dependent on a physical building to dwell in. As he addressed some of the major players of Greek philosophy at the time, Paul seeks to correct their view of who God is and what His nature is really like. This includes relaying the truth that God does not live in a confined space or that he had a sacred dwelling on the earth as the Greeks thought their mythological gods had. Rather Paul says that God is Lord of heaven and earth, and that He “does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:24-25).
Then, in writing to the church in Rome, Paul unravels one of the most astounding truths imaginable. God has now chosen to live inside of His people. Paul shares that a person belongs to Christ if the Spirit of God dwells within them. He also shares that this indwelling Spirit will give resurrection life to the finite vessels in which He resides (Rom. 8:9-11). This concept pops up again as Paul admonishes the Corinthian church for its sexual immorality. Paul questions whether or not they have the knowledge that it is their very own bodies that are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. It seems like Paul has already been very well acquainted with the idea that God now dwells within those whom He has redeemed. This seems to be a major jump from where we were before. For us it might be helpful to ask the same question as before. How could this be?
To be fair, a lot happened in between the close of the Old Testament and the ministry of Paul to make this shift possible. Ultimately the catalyst for this change was Christ himself. As Jesus taught His disciples hours before His arrest, He made sure to inform them that God would soon be living inside of them. No longer would it be a temple that the glory of the Lord would reside in but rather it would be the only object created in God’s image. This Spirit of truth would comfort and help those who had faith in Jesus for salvation. And it would be personal for He would also dwell within them (Jn. 14:16-17). All of this was only made possible because of the victory that Jesus won on the cross. With redemption realized, salvation would now make the necessary change in a man, or woman, so that God could live inside of that individual. Not only does the gospel deal with our sin and gain us forgiveness, it also grants us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). This is how Paul had confidence to proclaim that a believer is truly the temple of the Spirit of God.
The history of God living amongst mankind was only a glimpse of something greater to come, and it is that God would dwell in mankind. This is God’s address. He is not looking for fancy buildings or temples to live in. His address is not your church’s address. If you have experienced the salvation of your soul, then you are God’s address. His Spirit lives inside of you and He has no intention of leaving. And as we look ahead to the future, there is still one more improvement yet to be made. This is that one day redeemed mankind will fully dwell with God forever, beholding Him face to face (Rev. 21:3-4). In the meantime, dwell with God and be pleased to have Him dwell with you because that is greater than any man-made castle can ever be.
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