If I were to harvest the spiritual sentiment of the devout during the short span of my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, it might be captured by this notion: “Oh Lord, I want to be near to you. Draw me nearer Oh Lord.” Would they find comfort in King David’s words?

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? 

And who may stand in His holy place? 

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood

And has not sworn deceitfully. 

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord

And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5)

So the hungry, devout soul who wants to experience God’s nearness now has some tools in its hands if it can avoid fibs, get its heart pure, and keep its hands out of trouble. David seems to be promising righteousness and blessing to those who follow this script. David was devout in his context—the law-based monarchy of ancient Israel. However, I believe David’s council is unfit for followers of Jesus under a radically different and improved covenant. Even so, David may still assist us in his reference to the ancient gates.

Lift up your heads, O gates, 

And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in! 

Who is the King of glory? 

The Lord strong and mighty,

The Lord mighty in battle. 

Lift up your heads, O gates,

And lift them up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in! 

Who is this King of glory?  

The Lord of hosts, 

He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:7-10)

I’m not actually sure which gates David is referring to, but the most ancient one that comes to my mind is the one that exists between unspoiled Eden and Satan-ruled earth.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

Even Joni Mitchell expressed our longing for reentrance in her 1970 cultural anthem Woodstock: “We are stardust / Billion year old carbon / We are golden / Caught in the devil’s bargain / And we’ve got to get ourselves / Back to the garden.”

I don’t believe we can help Joni or the dreamers of any age by suggesting a course of self styled righteousness as a key to this ancient door. I believe that key has already been given to us in Jesus Christ, who is the Tree of Life. For those who have believed in him, Jesus, the King of Glory, has unlocked that ancient portal on our behalf, has come into our hearts, and has astonishingly made them his residence. We are now, individually and collectively, the temple of God on earth.

Sadly, even we believers continue in our dirges, lamenting the absence of God’s presence in our lives and in the affairs of man in our generation. Granted, longing is native to sojourners in a foreign land, but I wonder how much satisfaction and peace yet awaits the Church as she learns to actually rest in that presence of God she has even now as her new-creation inheritance.

Jesus Christ in now our life. We have been grafted back into The Tree of Life. This is a present-tense kingdom reality. However, the Tree’s sap does not flow well when we live as if that Tree is still guarded by cherubim and flaming sword, attempting to secure our righteousness with mere discipline. It is true:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,

The world, and those who dwell in it. 

For He has founded it upon the seas

And established it upon the rivers. 

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? (Psalm 24:1-3)

It is not those who simply master a circumspect life. I am not immune from longing nor above exercising discipline (it is a fruit of the Spirit), but I elect to transfer as much of my angst as I can into prayer: that the Church would in fact demonstrate God’s glory to all who recognize they were initially golden—created in God’s image, yet disfigured in the Adamic devil bargain. Oh that the Church might demonstrate to the world what life lived out of The Tree of Life actually looks like. Thy will be done, oh Lord, on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus has in fact gotten us back into the garden. Paul knew this.

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8-12)

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)

Christ lives in us. The King has reentered through the ancient gate into the temple. His glory is now present in us. In Christ, the new exodus is underway; the new creation has begun and his long awaited glory will one day be manifested in a people living out of the reality that Christ is their life. As I have said before, the kingdom has come and is coming.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)


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