The background to Jesus's promise to Nathaniel to reveal Man's reconciliation to God.
The Problem Death: Separation from God
Adam and Eve are separated from God as a result of falling to the temptation of the serpent, in disobedience to God.
God's solution for Man's redemption
Resuscitation: God acts to bring back His children, make them ”alive”, which can happen only by being in Him.
Details of redemption progressively revealed
God curses the serpent, the selfish drive, prophesying its elimination by Eve's offspring, removing the obstacle to redemption, by nailing to a pole.
Abraham's obedience to God's instruction to leave his country gains him much favour, enough even to earn him the overlooking of the infraction of the Abhimelech and Ishmael incidents. God is so pumped up He assigns the role of redemption of the world to Abraham's seed, a son of Man. His promise to redeem the world, to bruise the serpent's head, will involve Eve's seed, now narrowed down to Abraham's seed.
The world will be blessed through Abraham's offspring, but how? Logically, it would involve the reversal of the curse on Adam, and getting his race back on track to the original mission of subduing creation, breaking the horse, making it fit for service.
Jacob sees the shape of that redemption: it will involve a gate to heaven, access to God, for the purpose of forgiveness, restitution, rehabilitation, empowerment, a staging area for the restoration of the prodigal!
Further details not present in the text.
The house will be built by Abraham's Seed. It will model God's requirements:
- Fruit: it will display the result of obedience (benefit: Isaac not Ishmael)
- Root: it will display the source of the fruit (Benefactor: God not Abraham)
This will turn the world to God (Rahab). The world is blessed.
The motif is revealed throughout the OT: to be rescued, one must board Noahs ark, gain entry to Moses's Tabernacle, Solomon's Temple, Israel's Jerusalem. Sanctuary is to be found there, and only there, because that is where Heaven and Earth meet, where God and Man can be reconciled.
Each combination pair of Man and Sanctuary potentially could be used by God to fulfil His promise of using man as a partner in the rehabilitation of Creation, and each had its limitation, even in its best iteration, when God agreed to dwell amongst His people in a building, in a discussion with David. In that building could be found forgiveness of sin, restoration to fellowship, empowerment to act on the behalf of God: through these blessings, the world would be moved to turn to God, fulfiling the promise made by God to redeem it.
How Israel failed
First, Israel tried to produce fruit without displaying the Root:
Romans 9:32-33 NET Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
“Look, I am laying in Zion a stone that will cause people to stumble
and a rock that will make them fall,
yet the one who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Then, it tried to change the fruit:
Romans 2:6-8 NET He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.
Matthew 23:23 NET “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others.
Israel's disobedience resulted in its failure to participate in the fulfillment of that promise:
Hebrews 10:4 NET For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins.
How Jesus succeeded, led Abraham's Seed, and the world, to rest (sanctuary)
The sanctuary had to be maintained. It had to be ”prepped”:
2 Kings 17:25-28 NET When they first moved in, they did not worship the Lord. So the Lord sent lions among them and the lions were killing them. The king of Assyria was told, “The nations whom you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know the requirements of the God of the land, so he has sent lions among them. They are killing the people because they do not know the requirements of the God of the land.” So the king of Assyria ordered, “Take back one of the priests whom you deported from there. He must settle there and teach them the requirements of the God of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had deported from Samaria went back and settled in Bethel. He taught them how to worship the Lord.
Mark 11:17 NET Then he began to teach them and said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!”
Quote describing the real rest, where to abide, from Frame-Poythress Article
We may return to the same conclusion that we reached before: the sacrifice of animals is inadequate to achieve final cleansing, nor can it cleanse anything more than the copies of heavenly things. Then who will bring the definitive sacrifice? A man must do it. A similar point is made indirectly in Num. 35:33-34: "Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites." When a man had shed blood, the man must die. But there is one exception, when the blood of the death of the high priest releases a manslaughterer to return home (Num. 35:25-28). The blood of the high priest has special value. In agreement with this principle, Zech. 3 uses all the symbolism of a defiled human high priest Joshua and then speaks mysteriously of the Branch in connection with which "I will remove the sin of this land in a single day" (Zech. 3:9)
Nathaniel was promised he would see the Gate of Heaven:
Mark 14:58 NET “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands.’”