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03 March 2020

Jesus, the True Tabernacle

SYNOPSIS:  The Prologue to the Gospel of John presents Jesus as the True Tabernacle in whom the glory of God is revealed and resides.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
The Prologue of the gospel of John presents themes explicated in the body of his work (John 1:1-18). For example, in Jesus “was life”, and he was the “true light.” John also employs imagery from pivotal events in Israel’s history to illustrate what God achieved in Jesus (John 1:9, 5:21-26, 9:5, 8:12, 12:35-40).

A fundamental proposition in this gospel is that Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” the place of God’s habitation where His Divine glory is made visible and resides forevermore (John 1:14).

Jesus is the means of access to His presence, the greater Tabernacle and the final Temple where true worship of the Father takes place “in spirit,” no longer confined by physical walls or geographical boundaries (John 1:47-51, 2:13-22, 4:20-24).

Verse 14 declares that “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us; we beheld his glory; glory as of an only-born from a father; full of grace and truth.” This alludes to when at Mount Sinai God’s inscribed His “word” on stone tablets (Exodus chapters 33-34), a word that has now “become flesh” in Jesus Christ.

This word or Logos “tabernacled among us,” a clause that uses a Greek verb (skénoō) that means, “tabernacle, to pitch a tent.” It is related to the noun skéné or “tent.” With the Wilderness Tabernacle in view, John indicates that God dwells among his people in the man, Jesus.

Yahweh originally commanded Israel to “construct a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them,” a portable structure fashioned “according to all that I am going to show you, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings.” The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament uses skéné in this verse or “tabernacle” (Exodus 25:8-9).

In Exodus 33:7-11, Moses “proceeded to take a tent and pitch it by itself outside the camp…and he called it, the Tent of Meeting…it came to pass that when Moses entered the tent the pillar of cloud came down and stood at the opening of the tent.” In the Septuagint, the “Tent of Meeting” is skéné martyriou or “Tent of Witness,” and “tent” is also skéné.

The presence of Yahweh in the Tabernacle was represented by the pillar of cloud (Exodus 40:34-35Numbers 9:15-23). Just as God revealed His presence among Israel in the Tabernacle, so He now makes His habitation among His people in Jesus, “the Word become flesh.”

John states further, “We beheld his glory…full of grace and truth,” also employing imagery from Exodus. Moses asked Yahweh to show him his “glory.” God responded: neither Moses nor any man “can see my face and live”; therefore, He placed Moses in the “cleft of a rock” as He passed by to permit him to see only God’s “backside.” Yahweh descended in the cloud and passed before him, proclaiming, “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God of compassion and grace, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and faithfulness” (Exodus 33:17-2334:1-6).

The glory of God is now been revealed in Jesus, a proposition expanded elsewhere in this gospel (John 17:24). Unlike Moses, the disciples beheld the full glory, not God’s “backside,” a glory like that of “an only-born from a father.”

The glory revealed in Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” This corresponds to Yahweh’s proclamation that He is “abundant in loving-kindness and faithfulness.” The glory seen by Moses alone is the same one revealed in Jesus for all to see; he is the True and Greater Tabernacle in whom God dwells and through whom He manifests His unfiltered grace and truth to humanity.

With the coming of Jesus, God’s presence is no longer restricted to the Tabernacle or other manmade structures; no longer is it limited to locations or select individuals. The Wilderness structure and its furnishings are made obsolete by what Yahweh has done in Jesus, the place where all His truth and grace are unveiled. God’s glory is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:184:4-6).

The Wilderness structure was certainly glorious and revealed much concerning the nature of God. Nevertheless, its glory was limited, whereas, the Divine glory found in Jesus Christ is full, visible and available to all.

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