It was interesting to learn in Tuesday’s lesson that the word translated as “to dwell” and the word translated as “tabernacle” are almost the same word, except the first is the verb and the second is the noun. So when John writes in John 1:14, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” he was basically saying that the Word “tabernacled” among us.
And then in John 2:19-21 when Jesus said that “this temple” (meaning His own body) would be destroyed and then rebuilt in three days, He was signalling that the significance of the earthly Tabernacle would be at an end after He died and was resurrected, because it was His body being killed and resurrected that was important now, not the earthly building.
Why Call Jesus a Lamb?
The earthly Tabernacle really only existed to point forward to Jesus. It didn’t have a mystical power in itself. It was a teaching tool. The people before Jesus used it to look forward to a coming Savior who would truly cleanse them from their sins.
The frequent references to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament seem like clichés to us today — they hardly seem to mean anything — but think what it would have been like to everyone in Israel and the surrounding countries in the 1st century AD.
Many of them had actually been to the Tabernacle and seen the Altar of Burnt Offering in the Outer Court where the spotless lambs were slain for sins. Also, they had been raised to look up to Father Abraham, and so they would all have heard as kids the story of Abraham saying to Isaac, “God will provide the Lamb” (Genesis 22:8).
So clearly the New Testament authors were telling everyone that the ancient Tabernacle had pointed forward to Him with its frequent sacrifices of lambs, but now the real Lamb of God had come and replaced that ritual.
Jesus Replacing the Curtain, Furniture, and Light
In Matthew 27:50-52, Matthew wrote that the curtain in the Tabernacle hiding the Most Holy Place was torn in two at the moment of Jesus’ death, again showing that the Tabernacle building, the structure of wood and stone, was no longer necessary.
Also, Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life and the Light of the World. Well, two of the most significant pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle, in the room called the Holy Place, were a table with bread on it and a golden lampstand — furniture providing bread and light. So Jesus the Bread of Life and the Light of the World was clearly replacing those significant objects in the Holy Place.
Then in John 1:14, John wrote, “we have seen His glory.” Well, in the original Tabernacle in the wilderness, Moses recorded that the Shekinah glory of God glowed out from the Most Holy Place (or “Holy of Holies”) — the most private chamber of the Sanctuary where even the High Priest only entered once per year.
And when Solomon’s temple was dedicated, according to 2 Chronicles 7:1-2, fire came down from Heaven, and a glory shone over the whole place so that the priests couldn’t even enter for a time.
So when John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt (“tabernacled”) among us, and we have seen His glory,” again, it seems like Jesus is replacing a significant aspect of the earthly Tabernacle.
The three main areas of the Sanctuary were the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. Jesus replaced the slain lamb in the Outer Court, the bread and the light in the Holy Place, and the glory in the Most Holy Place — among other symbols and furniture that He also replaced and we haven’t discussed. Plus, He replaced the High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)!
All the Riches of God
Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). And Paul wrote that all the riches of God are revealed in Christ (Colossians 1:26-27).
So I hope that more than ever, you see from this how central Jesus is to everything. He replaced the Tabernacle not because it was wrong, but because He fulfilled the message it had been teaching for centuries by dying for us and coming back to life. And now serving He’s serving me and you in the Heavenly Tabernacle and getting ready to come back for us.
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)