So, where should we start if we’re trying to let the Bible reframe our understanding of the hope of the Gospel? Like most good stories, it’s best to start at the beginning.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1 ESV”
From sentence 1 in the Bible, we have two distinct spaces. Heaven, & Earth. God’s Space, and Humans’ Space.
We understand the Humans’ Space really well. We live here, there are trees, animals, mountains, birds, water, and so on.
God’s Space is harder for us to understand — we get lots of imagery in the Scriptures of attempts to explain what it looks like. This is why it’s so hard for people to imagine what it would be like to go there — it’s beyond our ability to understand it and put categories to it.
But what I want you to understand – and this is of titanic importance — in the Bible, these are not always separate spaces. Did you know that? In the Scriptures, Heaven & Earth form a single, dipartite created reality.
There are many, many places in the Bible where Heaven and Earth “overlap”. This is why I named my company “Overlap”. More on that later.
Think about it – in Genesis 1 & 2 in the Garden of Eden, are the humans and God in totally separate places? Or are they accessible to one another? Adam and Eve were said to be able to walk with God himself in the garden. They were together, able to see one another, touch one another, and interact.
Heaven & Earth are fully united spaces in Genesis 1 & 2.
The good times last for 2 pages, and Genesis 3 comes. What happens in Genesis 3?
The serpent comes and deceives Adam & Eve into eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And as a result, God banishes Adam & Eve from the garden. The Heavenly “God Space” and the Earthly “Human Space” are separated and driven apart.
However, God wants to unite them again. This is where, a little further on in the story, we come to the concepts of the Tabernacle and the Temple.
The entire reason for the existence of the Temple is that it served as an overlap of Heaven & Earth: a space where God’s presence and glory physically manifested into our space. Interestingly, the temple was decorated with fruit trees, flowers, images of angels, gold, and jewels, etc. It was designed to make you feel as though you’re going back to the garden.
But remember – Heaven & Earth were driven apart because of our sin, on the heels of which evil and death entered into our world.
So, our space is full of sin and evil and injustice and brokenness.
But God’s space is holy and good and beautiful and righteous and just. That is the fundamental problem for why they can’t unite in full yet.
Right away, God started to fix it. In the ancient temple system, you would sacrifice an animal – the animal would absorb your sin, and you would be “made clean” so you could go and be in God’s Space in the temple. However, this was a privilege that was only available to Israelites in Jerusalem, because that’s where the temple was, and those were the only people allowed in.
(I’m skipping over a lot here to give you the broad strokes, so bear with me!)
Now, the Jews KNEW that God’s plan was to restore things back the way that they were in the garden. If you were a Jew who knew your Scriptures, you KNEW that this story was not finished – this was not how God wanted things to work forever.
We know from the story of Abraham that God wanted to bless all of the nations & families of the earth through Abraham’s family. (Genesis 12:2-3).
Picking up on that promise, the prophets conveyed in many different ways that God wanted to restore His blessing to the entire earth. The sacrificial system at the temple was a way for God to keep Heaven and Earth connected through one people group, but it was not the end of the plan. This was just one of the earliest phases of His plan — somehow, this blessing would need to extend out to all of the nations through the people of Israel before it could be completed.
Which brings us to Jesus.
The arrival of Jesus is the fulcrum of history. Out of the promise God made to Abraham, through the people of Israel, to the promise of a future King, and the promises in the prophets of the Messiah — Jesus arrived and fulfilled them all.
“And the Word 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. – John 1:14 ESV”
That word for “dwelt”? That’s the same word used to describe the tabernacle. Remember when I said that there isn’t a single wasted word in the Scriptures? Here’s a good example. God is “tabernacling” with us through Jesus.
So John’s claim when it comes to Jesus is that He is now the place where Heaven & Earth overlap.
So now, when Jesus is walking around Jerusalem, Galilee, Capernaum, all these places – is he staying in “godly” places and talking to people who think they are holy?
No! He’s getting in with all of the muck and the sin and the grossness of humanity, healing the people of their sicknesses and correcting their misunderstandings about God, forgiving people of their sins, and creating little pockets of overlap in Heaven & Earth.
He even taught his disciples to pray that God’s Will would be done, and that His Kingdom would come on earth just as it is in Heaven.
This brings us to John 1:29, just a little bit further down the page:
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29 ESV
Now this claim is that Jesus is not only the temple – he’s also the temple sacrifice.
John the Baptist has inside information about who Jesus is and what He came to do. And John, the author of this work is looking back on this moment, probably with something like this in his mind:
When they crucified Jesus, the Romans had no idea that they just made the temple sacrifice that would create the clean space for humans to enter into God’s presence. And they had no idea that what they had just done was aid Yahweh, the God of Israel in destroying their own false national gods. They had just completed God’s plan to make a once-and-for-all sacrifice that opened wide the door for all humans to step into God’s Space again.
And the most important aspect of this story: did Jesus stay in the tomb? No, on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. And the Scriptures tell us that when He did, He defeated Sin and Evil and Death forever and ever.
And while that is absolutely incredible, this next part is where all the power is.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:7–10 ESV”
Friends, the redemption that we have through Jesus’s blood didn’t just bring forgiveness of sin – it also revealed to us “the mystery of his will” — something that God had purposed all along that was unknown before these things happened — which is…
To reunite all things in Heaven and on Earth in Christ at the fullness of time.
Read that again. And again, if you need to.
The ending, the “fullness of time”, “happily ever after” part of the Biblical story is NOT to destroy the Humans’ Space and bring us all up to God’s Space for eternity.
The ending of the Biblical story is God cleaning the Humans’ Space of all its evil, transforming the Humans themselves to be like Jesus, and uniting Heaven & Earth into one space through Christ — just like it was in the very beginning.
Paul is saying that the resurrection of Jesus was both the model and the means for the future restoration of all things; that is, Heaven & Earth fully overlapping again in the eternal future.
If we have ears to hear it, this message screams from every single page of Scripture!
Praise for The Overlap Life
“This is the message that will be at the heart of the next great awakening. It’s that powerful. I can’t remember a more impactful book, personally. The renewal of all things completely changes how I see my life, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up!”
“This is a very important book, as it exposes some of evangelical Christianity’s biggest misconceptions about some very important subjects. But Barber doesn’t just make outlandish claims. His premises are backed up with solid exegesis and biblical support. I like the fact that Mr. Barber is not content to just wax poetic on deep spiritual truths. He has a deep desire that we not only thoroughly understand and grasp scriptural truths, but that we direct this knowledge to application. That it actually changes our actions and approach to life. And he spends the last few chapters of the book outlining what such a change looks like.”
“This book has been so edifying for me. So few literary works out there willingly discuss the full effect of what God and His Kingdom coming here to Earth really mean. I desperately needed this tonight.”
“The Bible speaks of now and forever as a continuation of a single existence. Consequently, much of the transcendent purpose God has for human life can only be properly discerned in light of eternity. Such a perspective alone has the potential to revolutionize the universe!”
About the Author
Tim Barber has been working with Christians to elevate their understanding of the Scriptures, change their lives through the Gospel, and re-think their everyday lives in light of the Christian hope. He also runs a successful branding & web design agency called “Growth Sites”, where he specialize in helping his believing clients re-imagine their business, align their work with God’s work, and take on a new identity to live it out.