The tabernacle and the temple of God are mentioned a lot in the Bible. So why would God put so much information about a tabernacle and temple in the Bible? Do these “temple of God” details still matter today? Well, today we’re going to fast forward through Scripture to answer those questions. I pray this high-level view helps you understand God’s purpose for the tabernacle and temple because they are important to who we are.
These “buildings” have a significant role in God’s forever plan of dwelling with His people. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord?
The Tabernacle Defined
Before we open Scripture, we need to open the dictionary and look at the Hebrew and Greek meanings for the word tabernacle.
In both Hebrew and Greek, tabernacle means: a dwelling place or home; to dwell, encamp, or pitch one’s tent. In the Old Testament, you’ll see tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and the temple of God used and in the New Testament you’ll frequently see tabernacle translated as “dwell.”
Alright, let’s begin our temple journey “in the beginning…”
In the Beginning…
From the very beginning, God had a plan to dwell with His people. There wasn’t a need for a tabernacle or temple since God could meet with His image-bearers in the garden (Genesis 2:4-3:24). But…
Sin happened and sin + God don’t mix. Sin meant God could no longer meet face to face with His people; God and His image-bearers were now separated by sin.
There’s good news though…so let’s fast forward to Exodus.
What Was the Tabernacles Purpose
The book of Exodus is about God freeing His people from bondage and leading them to the promised land.
As Israel was trekking through the wilderness, God gave Moses instructions for building a tabernacle, a place where God could once again dwell among His people (Exodus 25:1-31:18).
Kinda like Eden, only instead of a garden we’ve got a portable tent and God’s image-bearers are in the middle of the wilderness.
And like us, Israel’s time in the wilderness taught them who God was and who they were to God. This was part of God’s purpose for the tabernacle. It also provided a way for God’s people to atone for their sins and this meant God could dwell with His people as they journeyed 40-years to the promised land.
This set Israel apart from the surrounding nations because no other “god” dwelt with the people who worshiped it. But…
The One True God, our God, is a relational God and the tabernacle meant He could once again dwell with His image-bearers.
There are several other purposes for the tabernacle but we’ll cover those over the coming weeks. Remember, today we’re taking a high-level view and fast-forwarding through Scripture.
So, let’s hit fast-forward again and look at what the temple of God was for.
What Was the Temple of God’s Purpose
Fast-forwarding again lands us in the promised land with Israel and King David. After many years David decided God needed a better dwelling place than a tent. But God had other plans and told David his son, not David, would build the temple, and that David’s family would sit on the throne forever. Remember that part…
When Solomon built the temple of God it was called a “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). God was dwelling among His people and extending His love and care to anyone who came to worship Him.
Once again, it’s almost like the relationship God had with His image-bearers in Eden but…like those first image-bearers, Israel sinned and rebelled against God. They ended up captured and drug out of the promised land and the temple, destroyed.
Back and forth this story of Israel and God’s temple goes: sin, repent, rebuild. But by the end of the Old Testament, we’re left wondering if it’s actually possible for God’s image-bearers to dwell with their God.
Yet despite Israel’s struggles, the temple, like the tabernacle, had great significance and purpose.
In the coming weeks, we’ll do a deep dive into all of what the temple of God was. For now, we’re fast-forwarding to the New Testament and the temple’s purpose as a shadow of things to come.
2 Samuel 7:1-17, 2 Kings 25:1-22, Jeremiah 52:1-30
The Temple of God in the New Testament
Hitting fast forward lands us in John with Jesus entering the story of the tabernacle and temple. John 1:14 says “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (remember those definitions?) and Matthew 1:23 says that Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.”
Jesus is God, dwelling (tabernacling) with His people.
Later Jesus refers to Himself as the temple and made some people pretty mad when He said “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
They’d spent years building the temple of God, how dare this guy say something like this. Who’d Jesus think He was, God?!? Ummm, really??? But…
As promised, Jesus died and rose in three days, and at His death, the curtain separating God from His people was supernaturally split in two (Matthew 27:51).
But what Jesus made possible was very different from how God used to dwell with His people. God was no longer hidden behind a curtain and separated from His people, He was now dwelling IN His people.
The temple of God in the New Testament involves God’s image-bearers being His temple and the Spirit of God dwelling in His people. Wow!
Let’s hit fast-forward again and arrive at today.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22
The Temple of God Now
Jesus left earth and said He’d leave us with the same helper He had, the Holy Spirit, and throughout the New Testament, God’s children are referred to as the temple of God, the Holy Spirits dwelling place.
Just as God’s temple was one of the ways His presence was made known, God chose His children to reflect Him to the world around us. Our lives should reflect God’s presence with us and instead of people having to travel to a temple in Jerusalem, everywhere we go, God is with us.
We’re called to make disciples and love like Jesus loved, and when we do these things, we’re making God known (Matthew 28:19-20, John 13:34-35).
My friend, you and I are God’s temple.
Everywhere we go, everything we do, anyone we’re with should be impacted by the presence of God with us.
Jesus’ death for our sins made it possible for the Spirit of God to tabernacle with us, God’s image-bearers. You are the temple of God and get to reflect God to the world around you.
Again, more on this in the coming weeks but for today, let’s fast-forward to the end of time.
John 14:15-17, Acts 1:5, Acts 2:1-36, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22
The Temple of God at the End of Time
Alright, we fast-forwarded and find ourselves with a new heaven and earth, a new Jerusalem, the City of God. But…
Something is very different in this city. There’s no temple building, just Jesus and His people. The end of time is just like it was at the beginning (only better) as God’s no longer dwelling in His people, instead, He’s dwelling WITH His people.
But the new Jerusalem is different from all of these, so different we can only imagine and eagerly await the day we’ll be face-to-face with our Savior and Lord.
We get to live our lives and reflect God to the world around us.
My friend, this is a rich subject. A subject with many layers and lessons, and today, we’ve only skimmed the surface.
My prayer is this little window into what the tabernacle and temple of God are and how they relate to us, has piqued your interest.
At Bought at a Price, we believe it’s important you know what it means to be the temple of God. After all…
This is a two-fold subject that includes the temple of God and the Holy Spirit so if you’re interested in learning about them both, you’re in the right spot.
Think about the physical tabernacle and temple described in Exodus 25-31, 1 Kings 5-6, and 2 Chronicles 2-7, and maybe read ahead. No worries though, we’ll be studying them and connecting them to what it means to us since we’re now the temple of God.
Until then meditate on what it means to have the Spirit of God tabernacling in you.
This is an exciting verse!
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16