Jesus is the True and Greater Tabernacle in whom the presence and glory of God reside – John 1:14.
The gospel of John presents Jesus as the place where God dwells, where His glory is manifested for all to see. He is the Greater Tabernacle where true worship of the Father takes place “in the spirit.” Access to the glory of God is no longer confined by the physical walls of a temple building or the geographic boundaries of Ancient Israel.
As the prologue to John declares, “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of an only-born from a father, full of grace and truth” – (John 1:14).
The statement echoes the incident at Mount Sinai when God inscribed His ten “words” on stone tablets. In Jesus, His word “became flesh” in the flesh-and-blood man from the small village of Nazareth.
And the “word tabernacled among us.” “Tabernacled” translates the Greek verb skénoō (Strong’s – #G4637), which means “tabernacle, to pitch a tent.” It is related to the Greek noun skéné used for “tent,” and the latter is used in the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus for the “tabernacle” of Israel constructed in the wilderness. Thus, in the man Christ Jesus, God “dwells” or “tabernacles” among his people.
In the wilderness, Yahweh commanded Israel to “construct a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them… 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, 33:7-11).
And in that tabernacle, the presence of Yahweh was represented by the pillar of cloud. Just as God revealed His presence among Israel in the Tabernacle, so now He makes His habitation among His people in Jesus, the one in whom “the word became flesh” – (Exodus 40:34-35, Numbers 9:15-23).
John continued, “we beheld his glory… full of grace and truth.” The statement employs further imagery from the Exodus story. Moses asked Yahweh to show him his “glory,” but no man, not even Moses, could “see my face and live.” Therefore, God placed Moses in the “cleft of a rock” when He passed by, permitting him only to see His “backside.” God descended in the cloud and passed before Moses while 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).
But now, the glory of God is revealed in Jesus. But unlike Moses, in Jesus, his disciples behold God’s full glory and not just His “backside.” And this is glory like that of “an only-born from a father” that is “full of grace and truth.”
The last statement corresponds to the proclamation that Yahweh is “abundant in loving-kindness and faithfulness.” The glory seen only by Moses is now revealed for all to see. Jesus is the True and Greater Tabernacle in whom God dwells and through whom He manifests His unfiltered grace and truth.
With the coming of Jesus, the presence of God is no longer restricted to the Tabernacle, or to any other man-made structure. No longer is it limited to specific geographic locations. Jesus is the ultimate and final place where God dwells and reveals His Truth and Grace – (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:4-6).
The wilderness Tabernacle was glorious and revealed much about the nature of Yahweh. Nevertheless, its glory was limited and, as it turned out, fleeting. In contrast, the glory found in the True and Greater “Tabernacle” is full, visible, and available for all to behold, both now and forever.