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House of God

“In sum, Israel’s relationship with God was preserved and cultivated by the sacrificial system of the tabernacle, enabling the Maker of heaven and earth to dwell with His people and fellowship. To understand the depth and wonder of such a purpose, we will reflect upon the meaning of the tabernacle first within God’s goal for creation and then as the heart of God’s covenant with his people—a purpose taken up and fulfilled by Jesus Christ.”[i] “When God ushers in the new heavens and earth, creation having been cleansed by Christ’s atoning work and renovated by the fires of the Holy Spirit, there will be no need for a temple—for God’s people will dwell with God in the House of God’s new creation. The tabernacle and temple were provisional for the era between creation and new creation.”[ii]

The residential and relational themes associated with the tabernacle and temple begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and just like many other sacerdotal structures and procedures commanded in the law of Moses they find their telos or embodied fulfillment and completion in Jesus Christ. The design of the tabernacle was modeled after the creation, notes Morales, in its three spheres of heaven, earth, and sea. If the creation was a sort of residence for God to share with his creatures, then the tabernacle (and ultimately the temple) further develops the intention of God to dwell among His people (Ex 6:7; Lev 26:11-12).[iii] With this in mind, Timmer draws attention to the supplementary themes of priestly work and sacred space and concludes, “It is quite significant, therefore, that Exodus echoes Eden intentionally and in significant ways.”[iv] Additionally, the themes of rest (redemption) and domicile go hand in hand throughout Scripture. Rest is the state one enjoys in the place God employs. As Leder dutifully explained, the text of Gen 2:8 says Adam was “restfully placed” by God into the garden of Eden. “That is, although the common translation ‘to place’ or ‘to put’ is not in itself incorrect, the shift from śym to nw characterizes this placing in some sense as restful: The man is not merely placed in the garden, but restfully placed.”[v] The following chart demonstrates the regular, observable, and conclusive association of rest and place.

PlaceText (šbt=cease nwḥ=rest šbbt=Sabbath)
EarthGe 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested (šbt : ceased) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Garden of EdenGe 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put (nwḥ: restfully placed) the man whom He had formed.
Noah’s ministryGe 5:28-29 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noah (nwḥ), saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”
Noah’s arkGe 8:4 Then the ark rested (nwḥ) in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.
Noah’s offeringGe 8:21 And the Lord smelled a soothing (nwḥ) aroma.
Abraham’s journeyGen 12:1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. [Note the triad of relationship spheres that Abraham leaves, and that ultimately he will be the fountainhead of a new society in Canaan—from tent to city—projecting a future restful relationship between God and his people, as expounded in Heb 11:8-10.]
Jacob’s blessingGe 49:15 He saw that rest (nwḥ) was good, And that the land was pleasant; He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, And became a band of slaves.
CanaanJos 1:13 The Lord your God is giving you rest (nwḥ) and is giving you this land.
CovenantDeut 5:3, 12 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us … Observe the Sabbath day (šbbt), to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
SabbathEx 16:23 This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a sabbath (šbbt) rest (šbt), a holy sabbath (šbbt) to the Lord.’ Lev 25:4 But in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath (šbbt) of solemn rest (šbt) for the land, a sabbath (šbbt) to the Lord.
Day of AtonementLev 16:31 It is a sabbath (šbbt) of solemn rest (šbt) for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.
ArkNu 10:33 The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place (nwḥ) for them.
TabernacleEx 29:41-46 And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet (nwḥ) aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
Jerusalem1 Ch 23:25 The Lord God of Israel has given rest (nwḥ) to His people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem forever.
Rahab’s protectionJos 6:23 So they brought out all her relatives and left (nwḥ) them outside the camp of Israel.
Ruth’s InheritanceRu 3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security (nwḥ) for you, that it may be well with you?
Temple1 Ki 8:56 “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest (nwḥ) to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses.” (Solomon’s prayer)

The point here is that the Sabbath is not in a class of one, but joins many other OT symbols, types, and shadows of God’s post-creation rest of peace, fellowship, satisfaction, abiding, and harmony. Even the symbolic number seven or the six-plus-one pattern can be shown to be a relevant feature of these types and narratives. The weekly Sabbath was not the only OT figure that foreshadowed the glorious rest in Christ (i.e., the predestinating, the calling, the justifying, and the glorifying of His people), so, it need not be the only OT figure that must continue to be observed in order to keep the hope of eternal salvation-rest before our eyes.

There was no tabernacle or temple for the first two thousand years of biblical history (2 Sam 7:6-7) and there has been no such structure for the past two thousand years (Lk 21:5-6; Heb 9:8). However, the prototype for the tabernacle is discernable in the creation narrative. In this present age the Lord’s temple presence continues metaphorically through the new covenant (Acts 7:44-50; 2 Cor 5:1; Heb 9:11; 9:23-26; Rev 3:12), but at the end of the ages, the convergence of all these themes (place, dwelling, tent, house, tabernacle, temple, city) will find their ultimate completion in the unending state of the new heavens and earth (Zech 14:16-17; Isa 2:2-3; Jn 14:2; 2 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Jn 3:2; Rev 21:22).

These physical structures of the tabernacle and temple were the heart of Israel’s life with God and God’s presence among Israel, but they were, as Morales correctly stated, “provisional.” The tabernacle and the temple were not merely static structures designed to please the senses or to intrigue the mind. Within their confines a priesthood operated incessantly according to the circumstances and calendar events contained in the law. This system of worship functioned synergistically to give Israel a glimpse of the promised state of eternal redemption and perfection, yet their experience of it was limited by those stated conditions and the dates on the calendar. All of this was designed to be temporary until the incarnation of the promised Son of David. According to the law, each civil year came to an end in the seventh month (Tishri) with a triad of feasts: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. Rosh Hashana was the seventh New Moon celebration of the year, but it was the beginning of the new civil year (cf. Ex 19:18-20). And as with every new year the people renewed eschatological hopes for complete redemption (Zech 9:14).[vi] Tradition associates this feast with the creation of the world and the resurrection of the dead. The trumpet blasts foreshadowed the gospel call to the nations and the future call of His saints into His everlasting presence (I Thes 4:16-17). The Day of Atonement was designated as the Sabbath of Sabbaths (Lev 16:31; cf. Ex 30:10) during which one was to afflict their soul in repentance and contrition. This is still a requirement in coming before God, only during the new covenant we are assured that our sins will be remembered no more (Jer 31:31-34). Following this chief calendar event, was the eight-day celebration called the Feast of Tabernacles which began with a Sabbath and ended with a Sabbath on the eighth day. It recalled the years of wilderness wandering—a metaphor for the church age—and ended with a promise of eternal rest after the completion of God’s temporal plan for the first creation.

Getty image

What we have now as “true Israel” surpasses what “Israel after the flesh” had then; and there is even more to come, and in a greater degree, when Jesus returns a second time as the true tabernacle of God with men (Rev 21:3). We shall finally experience the glorious beauty of that eternal rest and perfection (Isa 11:10). So, what the last three feasts of the year forecasted, along with the New Moon and Sabbaths, the temple and the priesthood, was the reality of Christ’s full redemption and the finalization of that redemption when a new heaven and earth are presented to His elect (Rev 21:3). Even though the calendar rituals and the temple are fulfilled in Christ—and partially so—we sense no moral obligation to keep these ceremonies alive just to convince ourselves that what they forecasted will eventually be fulfilled. It is proper then to treat the Sabbath in similar fashion.

The building in which new covenant church-life occurs is no tabernacle or temple, for we are the “house of God” collectively—the church of the living God (1 Tim 3:5). The fact that Christianity continues to assemble together on a weekly basis no more makes the day holy than it makes the place holy; yet we are a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5-9). The day on which we meet is no more a Sabbath than it is a Day of Atonement or a Sabbath for the Land, for in our perpetual rest of redemption we work out our salvation with fear and trembling as God continues to work unceasingly in us (Php 1:6; 2:12-13). We do the work of building up one another (Heb 3:4), always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58). And even though we await the new heavens and new earth that the temple anticipated, we obviously do not need such a temple to validate our expectancy of a new heavens and earth, nor to feel God’s presence with us or in us. We may call the building in which our church assembles a “temple,” but God does not do so. We are the temple of God, which means that temple typology has been completely fulfilled, even though there is a remaining aspect of that fulfillment to come.

Artwork: The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans A.D. 70, David Roberts 1850 Collection of Yeshiva University Museum.

[i] Morales, L. Michael. “The House of God” Tabletalk, December 2017 p. 7.

[ii] Morales, L. Michael. “The House of God” Tabletalk, December 2017 p. 9. Morales’ article is outstanding and the lengthiest of the series; however, I would like to clarify a small point of terminology. He states that upon completion of creation God enjoyed a “Sabbath rest” (p. 8). The narrative is clear: God did rest from His work of creation; that is, He finished creating, and He set that day apart with the significance of sanctification. But God’s solitary day of “rest” (Heb. shabat) was not same as the cyclical and ceremonial day of ceasing (Heb. shabbath) that Israel by covenant with God was commanded to obey.

[iii] It may be observed that the earth, Eden, and garden also convey a tripartite division of land.

[iv] Timmer, Daniel C. Creation, Tabernacle, and Sabbath (Göttingen, Germany: Vanderhoek & Ruprecht: 2009), p. 86.

[v] Leder, Arie C. Awaiting the Rest that Still Remains (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021) p. 186. Note that Adam was “restfully placed” on the sixth day, the day of his creation, in anticipation of the seventh day, that would symbolize the ultimate period of redemptive rest between God and His people.

[vi] Howard, Kevin and Rosenthal, Marvin. The Feasts of the Lord (Nashville: Nelson, 1997) p. 112-113.


  1. Manfred says:

    I’m teaching a series on eschatology and love how all things are summed up in Christ. We await the glorious revealing of His consummated kingdom when He returns – once – with the SHOUT of an arch-angel and the BLAST of the last trumpet to judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new!

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