Continuing our series, Next in the book of exodus, we have God asking Moses to build Tabernacle. There are 40 chapters in the book of Exodus and 15 chapters (from 25 to 40) are devoted to the tabernacle. God told Moses why tabernacle was needed. “And there I will meet with the children of Israel… (Exo 29:43).” Thus tabernacle was a place of union of God and man. It was a place where God met men. New Testament reveals that Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of the tabernacle. In the body of Christ, men and God unite to have fellowship as the tabernacle foreshadowed (see John 1:14, 2:19-21). New Testament is replete with imagery of tabernacle pointing to Christ. For example;
- John 6:35 (Jesus said, I am the bread from heaven – table of showbread),
- John 8:12 (Jesus said, I am the light – candlestick kept in the tabernacle),
- John 13:5-8 (Jesus washing feet of disciples like laver of brass was used to wash. He is the word of God that cleanses us)
- John 17 (priestly prayer, Psalms 141:2 – prayer as incense. Further Jesus is our mediator who sits a right hand of Father and prays for us).
We assume you know about this and much more. Therefore, let us meditate on this subject a little differently.
Comparing the Tabernacle of Moses with the Vision of Revelation
In earlier articles of this series, we observed that Exodus was a prophetic fore-bearer of the great and final departure of spiritual church from this world. We saw how Pharaoh was portrayed as a pointer to future Anti-Christ and Moses as a type of Christ. The ten plagues as type of God’s apocalyptic punishment through bowls, seal and trumpets, and so on (see article 2, article 4, for more). Continuing on the same line we will see how the tabernacle of Moses is also expressed in the vision of John, in the book of Revelation. The writer of Hebrews says the tabernacle of Moses was a copy of the heavenly one as it was shown to Moses (Heb 8:5, Exodus 25:40). Let us see how John sees the same.
The ark of the covenant in the holy of holies and the mercy seat where the glory of God abode in the tabernacle of Moses was the throne of God. Therefore, we can say that the Throne of God which John sees in heaven (Rev 4:2) must correspond to the Ark of the Covenant of the tabernacle of Moses. With this assumption let us dive into more details presented to John. The Four Beasts which John sees in Rev 4:6-7, are symmetric to the two Cherubim on Mercy Seat of the tabernacle and the two on curtains which separated the Most Holy place from the Holy place (Ex 26:31, see also I Kings 6:33-35). Just as in tabernacle of Moses, the throne and glory of God were surrounded by Cherubim, two on the mercy seat and two on curtains (making them 4), so do we find four living creatures in the heavenly throne room in Revelation 4:6-7.
Further the “Twenty four Elders (Rev 4:4)” appears to correspond to “Priestly Ministries” of Tabernacle of Moses. Just like musicians in the temple of David (I Chronicles 6:31-38, 15:16) were ordained for worship ministry so do we find the 24 elders singing with harp (Rev 5:8-9). The combined group of 4 living creatures and 24 elders are seen as worshipping God with harps, song, offering incense (Rev 5:8-10), which is a sort of priestly duties done before the throne of God both in heaven and the earthly temple and tabernacle. It appears that John is shown the vision of the heavenly tabernacle.
To confirm our analyzing of the imagery of vision of John is right, we have Seven Lamps described in Revelation 4:5 as additional detail. John writes, “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are seven spirits of God (Rev 4:5).” So John was beholding a candlestick just like in the tabernacle of Moses. So the people who knew tabernacle immediately understood that John was in the heavenly tabernacle – a real one of which Moses erected a copy on earth (Heb 8:5, Exo 25:40). To provide further conviction to our line of thinking, we have the “Sea of Glass-like crystal (Rev 4:6)” which corresponds to with the “Molten Sea of Davidic temple (I Kings 7:23) and Brazen Laver of the tabernacle of Moses” And the most important of the imagery of the vision of John is the “lamb standing in the midst, as one that had been slain (Rev 5:6).” These words “lamb sacrificed standing in midst” reminds us of the altar of sacrifice of the tabernacle of Moses.
Comparing the Tabernacle of Moses with the Garden of Eden
It is interesting to observe that the tabernacle of Moses had the imagery of trees and Garden built in it. Elements like bud, flower, branch of a tree, almond fruit, were used for Menorah [candlestick] (Exodus 25:32-33). Later the temple of Solomon also depicted the same garden imagery. We read that Solomon built inner chamber (most holy place) carved with cherubs and palm trees (1 Kings 6:29). The collective usage of cherubs along with palm trees reminds us of the Garden of Eden when God placed flaming swords with cherubs to protect it (Gen 3:24). This seems to indicate that God was reminding humanity of the Garden of Eden through the tabernacle of Moses.
Let us see the remarkable similarities. As in Garden of Eden, God communed with Adam in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8), so God desired to have fellowship with the Israelites, through the tabernacle of Moses (Exo 29:43). God used to walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). Similarly, the tabernacle was something which was described as God walking in the camp of the Israelites (Deut 23:11, Lev 26:12) due to tabernacle. Then Adam was kept in the Garden of Eden to dress the trees and to take care of the trees (Gen 2:15). Similarly, the priests were commanded to trim the wick of the tree-like candlestick and oil it morning and evening to take care of it (Ex 27:20-21, 30:8, Lev 24:3-4). Just like Levites were given the privilege to eat of the bread from the tabernacle (Matt 12:4, Lev 24:9), so was Adam in Garden of Eden made to eat the fruits of the garden of which he served (Gen 2:16).
Then we read about the river flowing from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:10). In the same way, we read about water body (laver of brass) in the tabernacle of Moses. This picture gets clearer as tabernacle turns into the temple. We read about the river flowing from the temple which Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 47:1). We also read about the river from the temple in the temple which John saw in revelation (Rev 22:1). This river in Ezekiel is said to heal (Ezekiel 47:9), and the laver of brass in the tabernacle was for washing uncleanness (Ex 30:18-19). Both Garden of Eden and Tabernacle were eastward protected from stranger coming near it (Gen 3:24, Num 3:38). As the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched, so was the ark of the covenant which had ten commandments was not to be touched (2 Sam 6:6-8).
Just as in Eden event, an animal was sacrificed outside the garden when Adam was banished, so were animals sacrificed in Tabernacle of Moses in the outer court. Finally, the words used in Genesis when God finished his work including the creation of Adam and placing him in the garden of Eden are “God saw everything he made [Gen 1:31,28]” are strikingly similar to those used when Tabernacle of Moses was finished, “Moses looked upon all the work and blessed it (Ex 39:43).” These striking similarities between Eden and Tabernacle are hard to ignore. It implies as though Tabernacle was an attempt to restore the fellowship which man lost in Tabernacle of Garden of Eden.
The Golden Calf
We also read about people dancing before the golden calf in these 15 chapters as God was giving pattern of the tabernacle to Moses. This passage is already discussed in our earlier article (Check this and check this).
With the study of the tabernacle, we end our Gospel in the Exodus series. We haven’t covered the subject of Tabernacle in greater details because we are aware that Christendom is replete with such studies. It seems unnecessary to bore you down with things you already know. However, my advice to people who are desirous to pursue this study is that they should keep away from TPM interpretation of the tabernacle. This we say because TPM’ interpretation of tabernacle is like slow poison. TPM version is always seeking to glorify a human group of TPM celibates, in every opportunity they get. Even in TU Thomas’s Christ-likeness study on Tabernacle, you will find that TPM has exalted their group of whitewashed perverted monks in Christ-likeness interpretation of tabernacle. So my advice is to avoid their literature on this subject if you pursue this subject further.
Finally, the book of Exodus ends with Tabernacle description. In the end, we read that tabernacle was finally completed and the glory of God came inside it (Exo 40:34-38). We can therefore say that with making up of Tabernacle, God dwelling with man is the grand climax of the story of the redemption of Exodus. Likewise, the final departure of the New Testament church from this world will result in God dwelling with man forever. Amen