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 dwelling place of God dwells, the Greater Tabernacle where his glory is seen, and the true worship of the Father takes place “in the spirit.” Access to His glory is no longer confined by the physical walls of the Temple or Tabernacle or limited to the geographic boundaries of the land of Canaan.
The relevant statement in John echoes the incident at Mount Sinai when God inscribed His ten “words” on the stone tablets. In Jesus, His word has now “become flesh” in the man from the small and insignificant village of Nazareth. As the prologue 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).
“Tabernacled” translates the Greek verb skénoō (Strong’s – #G4637), a term that means “tabernacle, to pitch a tent.” It is related to the noun skéné used for “tent,” the same Greek word used in the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus for the “tabernacle” of Israel where the nation worshipped in the wilderness.
Thus, in the man Christ Jesus, God “dwells” or “tabernacles” among his people. And in the wilderness, Yahweh commanded Israel:
“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).
In the Tabernacle, the presence of Yahweh was represented by the pillar of cloud. Just as God revealed His presence among Israel in the Tabernacle, so He makes His habitation among His people in His Son, Jesus, the one in whom “the word became flesh” – (Exodus 40:34-35, Numbers 9:15-23).
John continues, “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 could “see my face and live,” not even Moses. For that reason, 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 in the new age that has dawned in His Son, the glory of God is revealed in Jesus. Unlike Moses, his disciples now behold God’s full glory in Christ and not just His “backside.”
And this is the glory like that of “an only-born from a father…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 behold. Jesus is the True and Greater Tabernacle in whom God dwells and through whom He manifests His unfiltered grace and truth.
The presence of God is no longer restricted to the Tabernacle or any other man-made structure. No longer is it limited by specific geographic location. Jesus is the ultimate and final place where God dwells and reveals His Truth and Grace, the FULFILLMENT of all that the original Tabernacle foreshadowed – (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 forevermore.