Purpose of this Session
To track the history of God’s dwelling with His people, from Eden to the present day and beyond, and to consider His dwelling place today – the Ecclesia.
Throughout history God has ensured that avenues of grace have been provided for Him to dwell amongst His chosen people. From the fellowship He enjoyed with Adam in the cool of Eden’s evening, through to the glorious structures of successive temple’s in Jerusalem, and now to His many membered Body, the Ecclesia, God’s desire has been to know and fellowship with mankind. This will be gloriously consummated in the foursquare city of New Jerusalem mentioned in the closing chapters of Revelation.
The picture we are given of God’s dwelling is not only that of a building however, but of a living, breathing vital Body of many parts, all functioning as one to fulfil His purpose.
In this lesson we take time to consider these two awe inspiring realities in some detail, and in doing so we will surely be left aghast at the implications that the Almighty would dwell not only with us, but in us – the Ecclesia.
God’s Dwelling through Scripture
““However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is the footstool of My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord; ‘Or what place is there for My repose?”
(Acts 7:48-49 NASB)
From the very outset of the Scriptures we find that God has sought a place to dwell with His people. In the garden of Eden He walked and talked with Adam (Gen 3:8); He directed Abraham to the Promised land and settled His people there, dwelling among them in the Tabernacle. He revealed to David plans for a Temple, and had Solomon build that temple in Jerusalem, the glory of the nations. He dwelt in fullness in the Person of His Son (Col 2:9), through whose sacrifice the possibility of a new dwelling place was made available; the corporate temple of the Body of Christ on the earth. This is the Church, the dwelling place of God.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1Corinthians 3:16 KJV)
God cannot be contained nor confined to any geographic place, nor for that matter even to time. The Scripture’s declare that He inhabits eternity (Isa 57:15), a realm beyond the confines of the created order. He has however chosen to commit Himself to manifest His Person here in time and space at different times and in different ways, most fully in the Person of His Son Jesus, and now in and through the mystical Body of Christ – the Church.
Special Places of His Presence and dwelling mentioned in Scripture
- The Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8)
Before the terrible breach caused by the fall, we witness the Lord walking in the garden with his created son, Adam, fellowshipping in the cool of the day. From the very outset we are introduced to God’s desire to embrace mankind as His companion and friend.
- Sacrificial Altars (Genesis 8:20; Exodus 20:24-25)
After the fall God provided stone altars as a place of sacrifice, through which He was able to manifest His presence to those who sought after Him.
- The Tabernacle of Moses (Exodus 25-40)
Moses was given specific instruction regarding this tabernacle. Whilst on Mount Sinai He was told:
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8 NKJV)
The intricate and detailed plans for the tabernacle, and its subsequent construction, sacrifices and symbolism comprise some 37 entire chapters of the Bible, New and Old. Thirteen chapters in the book of Exodus discuss the Tabernacle and its priesthood. Eighteen chapters of Leviticus discuss the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle. Two chapters in Deuteronomy are set aside for the study of the Tabernacle. In the New Testament, the Tabernacle is discussed in detail in four of the 13 chapters in the book of Hebrews.
Rich in symbolism and the most detailed typical representation of Jesus Christ, the true tabernacle, Moses Tabernacle in the wilderness is deserving of serious study by any hungry Bible student. (Kevin Conner’s book, ‘The Tabernacle of Moses’ is highly recommended for an in depth consideration of this powerful and enlightening subject).
Moses was instructed to build according to all he had been shown, because it was a pattern revealing heavenly realities, pointing to the true Tabernacle and priesthood (Hebrews 8:1-5).
As with all the places of meeting prior to Christ’s advent, this tabernacle was a mere shadow of the glory that would follow.
Col. 2:17 - Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body
is of Christ.
It is amazing to note that the Tabernacle took approximately 9 months to complete, and was made after a perfect divine pattern, typical of the Lord Jesus Himself. The Tabernacle was created with one purpose in mind, to house the Glory of God. Without this Glory, the Tabernacle was incomplete. Once complete and according to the pattern, the glory of God filled and rested upon the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle of David
“For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought up Israel, even to this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.” (1Chronicles 17:5 NKJV)
Compared to its predecessor, Moses Tabernacle, little is recorded about David’s Tabernacle. Yet, the New Testament places an emphasis on the rebuilding of this Tabernacle in relation to the New Covenant seemingly disproportionate with its place in the Old. What is it about this typical tent that is so significant to the Ecclesia?
We find David’s Tabernacle specifically mentioned in:
2 Samuel 6:17-19 1 Chronicles 15-16
Isaiah 16:5 Amos 9:11-12
Acts 7:45-47 Acts 15:15-18
It appears that for a time (about 40 years), before the building of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, two tabernacles existed in Israel. The old Tabernacle of Moses remained erect on Mount Gibeon, with its attendant priests, sacrifices and functions (1 Chron 16:37-43; 21:28-30; 2 Chron 1:1-6). The one glaring omission was that the Holy Holies was now empty, and the Ark was in David’s Tabernacle on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.
Chapter 4 of 1 Samuel records the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines, a judgement for the ungodliness of the priesthood of Eli and his sons. Its journey is then recorded in subsequent chapters, but it never returned to Shiloh.
Psalm 78:60-61 describes this historical event:
“So that He forsook the tabernacle at Shiloh, the tent in which He had dwelt among men [and never returned to it again], And delivered His strength and power (the ark of the covenant) into captivity, and His glory into the hands of the foe (the Philistines).” (Ps 78:60-61 AMP)
When the ark was finally brought back it was placed in a tent created especially for it in Jerusalem (2 Chron 1:4). Religious observance continued in the tabernacle at Shiloh, but the Ark itself, representing the very presence of God, was now housed in another Tabernacle – the Tabernacle of David.
Some startling differences existed between these two tabernacles, which carry typical significance for the Ecclesia.
Some of the differences between the two tabernacles during this period are outlined here…
|The Tabernacle of Moses||The Tabernacle of David|
|Outer court and furnishings||No outer court or furnishings|
|Holy Place and furniture||No Holy Place or furniture|
|Empty Holy of Holies||Transferred Holy of Holies to here|
|A veil restricting access||No veil, open access to the Presence|
|Daily animal sacrifices||No more animal sacrifices following dedication, but daily spiritual sacrifices of praise and worship|
|Old Mosaic ministry & order||New order of ministry and worship|
|Very few singers or instruments||A great hosts of worshippers|
Some of the most significant differences include the fact that there was no veil to prevent access to the presence of God in David’s Tabernacle, speaking of a new and living way opened to all to approach God through Christ. It’s covering was that of continual praise, worship and thanksgiving. These were the spiritual sacrifices that were offered daily, not animal sacrifices. This too is the New Testament order of sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15).
Both the continual kingdom of David through Christ, and the new order of New Testament priesthood and worship are typified in this Tabernacle.
It is interesting to note the historical fulfilment of this time when two tabernacles were in existence. For approximately 40 years there were two tabernacles, two orders of worship, and two companies of priests. This was typical of the time between the death and resurrection of Christ, and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem 40 years later. During this time some rejected the new order of worship through Christ, choosing rather to maintain the old Mosaic order in the temple then standing, even though the glory had departed from the old temple and was now resting and dwelling in Christ, the new Temple of God. It seems that the rent veil must have been sown back up and the Aaronic priesthood perpetuated until AD70 when the temple was destroyed.
Isn’t it amazing how detailed these typical pictures are, and how accurate and enlightening their fulfilment!
- The Temple (2 Chron 3-7; Ezra 3-4; Mark 13:1-2, 14-23)
Over a period of approximately one thousand years three separate temples were built on the same site, Mount Moriah in Jerusalem (2 Chron 3:1).
Solomon’s temple, built on a scale never before seen in Israel, became the centre of religious life for the Jewish people. Its basic plan was similar to the Tabernacle of Moses, in structure and furniture, except this time on a stunning scale, and with no expense spared.
The original temple, built during the reign of Solomon and at the height of Israel’s glory, stood on a platform 10 feet high, with steps leading to its entrance. This was flanked by two enormous stone pillars. Literally thousands of craftsmen and labourers were involved in its construction (1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chron 3-4). With both inner and outer courtyards, the temple had within it a bronze altar used for burnt offerings, a huge laver of cast bronze held on the back of 12 bronze oxen. Inside were housed five pairs of lampstands, the table of shewbread and the golden incense altar. Further within the structure was the holy of holies, shrouded by a thick veil, behind which was the Ark of the Covenant. It was here that God’s presence was manifest as a thick cloud (1 Kings 8:5-11).
Solomon’s great temple was destroyed by Babylon when they captured Jerusalem in 586BC. Years later King Cyrus of Persia authorised reconstruction of the temple on the same site, and allowed the Jewish people to return to their own land. This structure, completed under the guidance of Zerubbabel, was completed about 515BC, but was inferior in size and quality to the original. This temple was shamefully desecrated by the Greek despot, Antiochus Epiphanes.
Several centuries later Herod the Great, Roman ruler of Palestine, ordered reconstruction of the temple built by Zerubbabel. It is Herod’s temple that was standing during Jesus time, and which is referred to in the gospels when the temple is spoken of.
Just as Jesus predicted, this third temple on Moriah was completely destroyed by the Romans approximately 40 years after His ascension, in AD 70.
As with the Tabernacle, the Temple was built for one purpose; to house the Glory of God. God’s Glory, His Voice and His Name were there, and it was this that gave the Temple its significance. Without it, it was merely an ornate, but lifeless building. We must always remember that it is the indwelling of God that gives vitality and significance to any temple. This is why it is incorrect to ascribe too much significance to a brick and mortar building, when today God does not dwell in houses made by men, but in the living temple of each believer. Reference to any physical building as ‘The house of God’ or ‘The Lord’s house’ is erroneous, however well intentioned it may be.
The Temple vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40:1-42:20)
Many believe this detailed vision is the blueprint for the temple that will be constructed during the Millennial reign of Messiah, and that to this temple the glory of God will return just as Ezekiel prophesied (Ezek 43:1-12; Zechariah 6:12,13).
- The Lord Jesus Christ
All of these previous temples prepared the way for the greatest expression of God’s desire to dwell among His people, Jesus Christ. John records that the Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14). Jesus Himself declared that He was the very Temple of God (John 2:19-21). The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus bodily (Col 2:9), and He was the very glory and Presence of God in manifestation (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Through His death and resurrection the Ecclesia, His Body and Building was brought into existence. We are His spiritual seed (Isa 53:10; 1 John 3:9).
- The New Testament Church
The Ecclesia is the present provision of God for His dwelling place on earth. We will consider this in more detail in the next section of this session.
- The Foursquare City of God
The Ecclesia in its present form will one day give way to New Jerusalem, the very highest expression of God’s dwelling with men.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.”
(Revelation 21:1-3 NLT)
Each of the places prior to the coming of Christ revealed aspects of God’s character and Person. They present us with typical pictures of God’s ultimate revelation that finally came in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In this respect, although we can draw much from these pre-Christ manifestations of God’s special dwelling, but must be careful not to carry over typical signposts, which were but a shadow of that which was to come, and apply them erroneously in a New Testament context. For example, the exclusive priesthood of the Mosaic economy has now been replaced by a universal priesthood of believers, with each and every believer now intimately connected to and responsible to God. The emphasis on a particular geographical location has been superseded by an indwelling of the Eternal Spirit who now lives with and in the Believer (John 14:16-17).