In the Old Testament, God would meet with His people, the nation of Israel, primarily in the Temple, or the Tabernacle (which was like a proto-portable-temple). This was a very specifically designed building, explained to Moses (Tabernacle) in remarkable detail in Ex. 25-28, and again to Solomon (Temple) in 1 Chron. 28. The Temple was primarily a place where God’s people could commune with God, offer sacrifices and offerings of worship, prayers to God, and atone for their sins. But, for some reason, God is strangely descriptive about the most minute details of the Temple, “make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I show you” (Ex. 25:9). The copious and mind-numbing details of the Temple are probably the parts of your Bible reading that you skim through fairly quickly. Why would God care so much about little stuff like that?
The Point: Jesus
In the Gospel of John, we are told that when Jesus came he “dwelt among us” (1:14) – but a more literal translation of the Greek would be that Jesus “tabernacled among us”. John isn’t referencing the Tabernacle for no reason – remember, that the early church was almost entirely Jewish, and when they would have read what John was saying, they would have immediately seen that John is making some sort of connection between Jesus and the Tabernacle given to Israel under Moses. In fact, we see Jesus explicitly state this later on,
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22)
Jesus here is saying that He is now God’s dwelling among men. Theologian John Frame, in his book Worship in Spirit and Truth, explains,
The purpose of the temple was to point forward to him. In the final consummation of history, the “New Jerusalem,” there will be no temple, for “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). Therefore, all the tabernacle and temple furniture speak of Christ (Heb. 9:1-5). The altar of burnt offering speaks of his sacrifice of himself. The basin, like the sacrament of baptism, speaks of Christ as the priest who is perfectly clean, free from any defilement, and who cleanses his people. The lamp stand represents Christ as the light of the world. The bread of the Presence and the manna, like the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, present Christ as the one who feeds his people. The altar of incense and Aaron’s rod represent Christ as the priest whose prayers for his people always ascend to the Father’s throne. The Most Holy Place was opened to us at the death of Christ, when the veil of the temple was torn in two. Through Christ, we enter boldly (Heb. 10:19-25). The ark, God’s throne in Israel, represents Jesus as “God with us,” Immanuel. The tablets of the law speak of Christ as God’s eternal Word.
– pg. 27
And the beauty of this, friends, is that if we are in Christ, we too become temples of God, carrying God’s presence out with us into the world (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus is the truer and better Temple, not limited by a fixed location or continual sacrifices, but by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross, He has brought God’s very presence to be with us always.