SYNOPSIS – The prologue to the gospel of John presents Jesus as the True Tabernacle in whom the glory of God is revealed and now resides – John 1:14.
In its opening paragraph, the gospel of John presents the major themes that are explicated in the body of this work. For example, in Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” life and true Light are found. Moreover, John employs imagery from pivotal events in the history of Israel to illustrate what God has achieved in Jesus – (John 1:9-18, 5:21-26, 9:5, 8:12, 12:35-40).
A key theme is that Jesus is the place where the presence of God dwells, and His glory is manifested for all men and women to see. He is the means of access to God, the greater Tabernacle and Temple where true worship of the Father takes place in His real presence – “in spirit.” Access to the “glory of the Father” is no longer confined by the physical walls or geographical boundaries of the Old Order – (John 1:14, 1:47-51, 2:13-22, 4:20-24).
The prologue declares – “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us; we beheld his glory; glory as of an only-born from a father; full of grace and truth.” This alludes to the incident at Mount Sinai where God inscribed His ten “words” on stone tablets. In Jesus, the word of God has now “become flesh.”
The “word” or Logos “tabernacled among us,” a clause that uses a Greek verb, skénoō – (Strong’s – #G4637), meaning, “to tabernacle, pitch a tent.” It is related to the noun skéné or “tent,” the same one used in the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus for the “tabernacle” in the wilderness. Now, in the man Christ Jesus, God dwells or “tabernacles” among his people.
Yahweh commanded Israel to “construct a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them,” a portable structure fashioned “according to all that I am going to show you, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings” – (Exodus 25:8-9). In the account recorded in Exodus 33:7-11, Moses—
“Proceeded to take a tent and pitch it by itself outside the camp…and he called it, the Tent of Meeting…it came to pass that when Moses entered the tent the pillar of cloud came down and stood at the opening of the tent.”
In the Greek Septuagint version of this passage, the “Tent of Meeting” is skéné martyriou or “Tent of Witness.” The presence of Yahweh in the Tabernacle was represented by the pillar of cloud. Just as God revealed His presence among Israel in the Tabernacle, so now He now makes His habitation among His people in Jesus, “the Word become flesh” – (Exodus 40:34-35, Numbers 9:15-23).
The gospel of John states further – “We beheld his glory…full of grace and truth.” This statement employs further imagery from the book of Exodus. Moses asked Yahweh to show him his “glory.” God responded – Neither Moses nor any man “can see my face and live”; therefore, He placed Moses in the “cleft of a rock” when He passed by to permit him to see only His “backside.”
Yahweh descended in the cloud and passed before him, proclaiming, “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God of compassion and grace, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and faithfulness” – (Exodus 33:17-23, 34:1-6).
The glory of God is now revealed in Jesus, a proposition expanded in this gospel. Unlike Moses, the disciples beheld the full glory, not God’s “backside,” a glory like that of “an only-born from a father” – (John 17:24).
The glory revealed in Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” This corresponds to the proclamation by Yahweh – He is “abundant in loving-kindness and faithfulness.” The glory seen by Moses alone is the same glory revealed in Jesus for all to see. He is the True and Greater Tabernacle in whom God dwells and through whom He manifests His unfiltered grace and truth to humanity.
With the coming of Jesus, the presence of Yahweh is no longer restricted to the Tabernacle or any other manmade structure – No longer is it limited to specific geographic locations. The wilderness structure was made obsolete by what Yahweh did in Jesus, who is the ultimate place where God reveals Truth and Grace – (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:4-6).
The wilderness Tabernacle was glorious and revealed much about the nature of God. Nevertheless, its glory was limited. In contrast, the glory found in the True and Greater “Tabernacle,” Jesus is full, visible, and available for all to behold.