The latest History of Redemption Series book was published at the end of last year, and its title is Zerubbabel’s Temple and the Consecrated Genealogies of the Returnees. It covers the return of the returnees from Babylonian exile, with a special emphasis on the returnees who rebuilt the temple. These people who came out of Babylon foreshadow the ones who will come out of spiritual Babylon in Revelation, who will build the new temple. The first temple, the Garden of Eden, was where God dwelt with His people. However, Adam and Eve were forced to leave because of sin. Ever since then, God has been working to restore the temple, to restore the relationship between God and His people. The temple is where we can go, as God’s people, to come back to God.
The temple also became a visible gauge of the spiritual state of God’s people. When the people sought God, God gave them a temple. But when the people turned away from God, the temple was destroyed. Furthermore, the temple foreshadowed Jesus Himself. Jesus is God who came down to dwell with us. Jesus begins His ministry at the temple and talks about destroying the temple, and its rebuilding in three days; the temple He was referring to was His own body.
God gave the pattern of the Tabernacle on Moses’ 6th ascent up Mt. Sinai, along with the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. The purpose was so that God could meet with them (Exodus 26:22; 25:9). It was constructed on the 1st day of the 1st month, one year after the Exodus. From that point on, the Tabernacle became the centre of the Israelites’ faith.
The Garden of Eden was the first model of human relationship between God and God’s people. However, when the serpent came in, Adam and Eve followed the word of the serpent. From then on, they had to toil to survive because they lost the Sabbath rest. And most importantly, they could not come close to God or the tree of life. That’s why God needed to create the temple. Adam and Eve had exchanged the image of God for the image of created things, and now God wants to reverse that. So God brings His people to the wilderness, where they were surrounded by danger on every side. There were wild beasts. The sun, scorched them by day. They had no food or water. But amazingly, Deacon Stephen in Acts 7 calls the people in the wilderness a church (ekklesia). Why? Because the Tabernacle was in the midst of them. God provided the Israelites with food and manna and protected them from the wild beasts, the harsh weather, and the lack of food and water. The presence of the Tabernacle turned the campsites in the wilderness into something like the Garden of Eden. We are now living in the wilderness, but God has allowed us His Word. May we take advantage and find the peace of God, the Sabbath, and the spiritual water of life here.
The Bible uses the word ‘consecrated’ (qadash) in the piel stem to describe the extent to which the Tabernacle was holy (Numbers 7:1). The Tabernacle must be set apart and prepared to welcome the presence of God. Our church and our homes must be like this. Our hearts, too, must be set apart for God alone.
The Presence of God
God met the Israelites in the Tabernacle and spoke to them from the Tabernacle. Exodus 29:42-43 says, ‘“It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. “I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory.’ God keeps talking about how He will meet with His people in the Tabernacle. He keeps talking about it throughout Scripture, which tells us how excited He is to meet with us (Exodus 25:22).
God also showed His presence in the Tabernacle through His glory. Exodus 40:34-35 says, ‘Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.’ Wherever we go, the presence of God can be felt through His glory. God has to show His presence through us to those around us. Later when Jesus comes, it says that the glory of God was beheld in Him (John 1:14).
God designated the Levites for His priests (Deuteronomy 33:10). Their task was to proclaim the Word of God, teach the Word of God, and perform the sacrificial offerings.
There were five kinds of offerings given at the Tabernacle. Burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:3-17). The purpose of the burnt offering was that it symbolized repentance. Grain offerings (Leviticus 2:1-16) signified loyalty and dedication and were offerings made of finely ground grain. Peace offerings (Leviticus 3:1-17) symbolize thanksgiving for God’s grace. Sin offerings (Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13) were given in the event of someone’s sin. The people would prepare it for their own sin. Blood would be sprinkled in the Tabernacle. Guilt offerings (Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7) were given when someone sinned against a holy thing. If someone broke something or defiled a holy thing in the Tabernacle, they had to replace it. They would also offer up a ram, and bring an additional one-fifth of the cost of that which they broke or defiled. These offerings have already been given for us on the cross. Jesus fulfilled all these offerings in His life, and so we can come to our heavenly Father.
Since the destruction of the first temple, God has been working to restore the temple. We see this fulfilled in the conclusion of the book of Revelation: ‘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, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”’ (Revelation 21:3-4). In the final Tabernacle, there will be no more tears, crying or pain. Let us believe and enter into God’s presence today in the Tabernacle He has provided.