Although the description of the tabernacle is one of those sections of the Old Testament that we’re tempted to skip over when we’re reading through the Bible, this was a part of Israel’s history that is critical to understanding and relating to God and to his Son, Jesus Christ. In the last post, we saw that the tabernacle was inconvenient and dangerous for the children of Israel, but that it was the only way to God. The reason that the Lord had them build the tabernacle was so that there could be a place where a holy God could dwell with a sinful people whom he loved. The tabernacle simultaneously affirms that the Lord is holy and that the Lord is loving; he is both transcendent and immanent.
Eventually, the tabernacle—a royal tent, but a tent nonetheless—was replaced by a far grander temple constructed by King Solomon. Solomon made sure to replicate many of the features of the tabernacle; even the proportions were kept the same, with the Holy of Holies remaining a perfect cubic shape, just as in the tabernacle. The Jerusalem temple was one of the most glorious buildings ever constructed, and when it was finished, “the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:11).
Eventually, this temple was destroyed, but it was merely a shadow of what was to come. God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus became the ultimate tabernacle or temple; in fact, he referred to his own body as a temple (John 2:21). Finally, Immanuel had come—”God with us”!
However, the great problem remained—how could we approach an infinitely holy God through this new tabernacle? The answer was given when Jesus Christ died on the cross. The book of Hebrews reminds us of the Old Testament’s “Day of Atonement,” a yearly event in the Israelite calendar (Leviticus 16). On this day, the high priest would open a curtain within the tabernacle and bring the blood of a bull and a goat into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it onto the golden mercy seat, the throne of God. So when Christ died, he entered into heaven bearing his own blood, making atonement once for all with a far superior sacrifice (Hebrews 9).
Don’t lose sight of how remarkable it is that we can now stand in the presence of the Almighty! Hebrews 10:19–22 reads:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
This was the sort of thing that would get you killed under the old covenant! But under the new covenant inaugurated through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can now boldly enter into the holy presence of God, confident that our sins have been atoned for by the blood of Jesus. What an unimaginable blessing—and at what great cost! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1)! Through faith in Christ we can enter into the presence of a God who loves us and welcomes us home.
Someday, this era of world history will come to an end. “The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” (2 Peter 3:12). But there will be a re-creation, a new heaven and a new earth. In the book of Revelation, John saw a vision of a city descending from heaven—New Jerusalem. And this city appeared as nothing less than an enormous cube, 1380 miles on each side, made of pure gold (Revelation 21:15–21). The shape and material of this city recalls the shape and material of the tabernacle. At long last God has come to dwell with man! There is no temple in the city, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (v. 22). There is no longer anything separating you and me from God; he has come to be with us, and we have been made holy, just as he is.
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3)
If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as the only way by which you can stand before God, through his blood shed for your sins, then this is the future that awaits you! The Lord is eagerly waiting for the day when you will be presented holy and glorious in his presence. Even now, he loves you dearly and has given everything he has to make you his own. He longs to be with you.