There is a trilogy of Ts on my mind today. Tent – Tabernacle – Temple. All 3 were important to the Israelites. They still have relevance for us today.
A tent is a portable structure that functions as a temporary dwelling.
While traveling through the wilderness, the Israelites lived in tents. When the cloud representing God’s presence moved, they packed up their tents and moved. When the pillar of fire stood still, they stood still. They stayed in their tents. The Israelites had left Egypt, but had not yet arrived at the Promised Land. Exodus 13:21 says, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” Tents symbolize a nomadic lifestyle. No permanent dwelling place.
Jesus came to earth as God Incarnate. He lived in a human body, or tent, for 33 ½ years. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Christ Jesus, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Our human bodies are described as a tent in II Corinthians 5:1. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Our earthly existence is temporary. Our human bodies will not live forever.
The Israelites did not dwell in permanent homes. Neither did God. God’s portable sanctuary was known as the tabernacle. It was God’s movable habitation. Under Moses’ direction, the tabernacle was constructed the year after the exodus from Egypt. The story is recorded in Exodus 25-30. The tabernacle was where the Hebrew tribes worshiped while wandering in the desert for 40 years before arriving in the Promised Land.
The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God. Wherever the people went, the tabernacle went. When they packed up their own tents, they also packed up God’s tent.
After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised land, their first priority was to erect the tabernacle. A more permanent dwelling place was yet to come.
The Lord spoke in Ezekiel 37:27 NKJV, “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
John 1:14 NKJV says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word for dwelt is the same as for tabernacled. So, it can be said that the Word tabernacled among us. Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is our tabernacle!
The tabernacle was the center of the Israelites’ worship for approximately 500 years. Then Solomon constructed the temple according to the plans given to him by his father David. (see I Chronicles 28:9-21) II Chronicles 3 gives us the account of the building of the temple.
In II Chronicles 5, the temple is completed and dedicated. II Chronicles 5:13-14 says, “Then the temple, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud so that the priests could not stand there to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” The Lord says in Isaiah 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The temple in Jerusalem became God’s permanent dwelling place. However, Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 587/586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar’s army captured Jerusalem. (II Kings 25:8-9)
Ezra 3 records the restoration of the temple. This second temple was completed in 516/515 BC. It signified the renewal of Jewish life after the devastation of exile.
This is the temple where we find Jesus in John 2:13-16. “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’” Jesus is reminding the people of the words of Isaiah 56:7.
Let’s listen to the conversation between Jesus and the Jews in John 2:19-21. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” The Jews understood the temple to be a building while Jesus was relating His body to the temple.
Now for us. Paul asks in I Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
Remembering Jesus’ actions in John 2, we know that Jesus expelled the people who were selling doves. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit cannot be sold or bought. Let us honor this Spirit that lives in us! II Timothy 1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
Individually, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We also are part of a larger dwelling place for God. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
I want to highlight one more similarity between the tabernacle, the temple and us. All share a similar makeup. Both the Israelites’ tabernacle and temple had three divisions. The court (sometimes referred to as the outer court) – the holy place (or the inner court) – the Most Holy Place. God created us with body, soul and spirit. Comparisons can be made regarding our body and the court – our soul and the holy place – or spirit and the Holy of Holies.
Temporary to Everlasting
Tent, tabernacle and temple. Interesting symbols of dwellings for God and for us. However, all are only earthly reminders that the best is yet to come. Jesus says in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.”
Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.”