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A More Perfect Tabernacle

by David Palmer

When we think of the Feast of Tabernacles, we often shorten our conversation to simply “the Feast.” Have you ever considered the other word in God’s command to keep this annual festival – the word “tabernacle”?

We come to the Feast with great enthusiasm to hear inspiring messages, to enjoy good food, to fellowship with old friends and make new ones. God fully expects us to do this. He wants us to enjoy ourselves to the fullest. God ordained that we experience the Feast as a joyous physical occasion. But how often, as we are busy making arrangements to get together with friends to take in the various activities, do we pause and reflect on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? In Hebrews 9:11 the Apostle Paul wrote, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.” What exactly does that mean and how does it relate to the Feast of Tabernacles?

When we attend the annual festival, what is our relationship to “the Tabernacle built without hands?” If we leave the true Tabernacle, Jesus Christ, out of our Feast we will miss one of the most important lessons of the festival. We need to realize that God, through the holy day plan of salvation, is molding a more perfect you. The Feast of Tabernacles is a very important part of that overall plan!

We observe the Feast in the physical, but what about the spiritual application? Jesus came to magnify the law emphasizing faith, justice and mercy, as explained in Matthew 23:23. He expounded the rich meaning of the commandments, and, in a subtle way, gave a spiritual insight into the Holy Days, of which He is the focus, including the Feast of Tabernacles.

Notice these instructions to ancient Israel: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:8-9). Israel made a physical sanctuary after the pattern given, and God dwelt or tabernacled among His people.

The Apostle John tells us in his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).

There are two interesting points related to these Scriptures. The word “became” (“made” in the original KJV) can be translated assembled or built. The word “dwelt” is described as: reside (as God did in the tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion) or tabernacle. So we could read John 1:14 “And the Word was (assembled, built or constructed) of flesh and (tabernacled) among us.”

Even today, He tabernacles among His people. Recall what He promised His disciples, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him’” (John 14:21-23). The original King James Version uses the term “abode” – a dwelling place, a place of residence, the place where He resides, where He tabernacles.

Jesus Himself made it clear that He is the True Tabernacle. “So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body’” (John 2:18-19, 21).

Jesus Christ is the True Tabernacle of God, yet the Church that Jesus built is also recognized as the “body of Christ.” “And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the Church is His body; (Temple-Tabernacle) it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence” (Ephesians 1:22-23 NLT). His body, by metaphor, is also the Church, which simply means those called into the Body are the tabernacles of God, in whom dwells the spirit of God.

“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2). “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building” (Hebrews 9:11 KJV). The writer is explaining that the building is not the physical structure with four walls and a ceiling. The building, (tabernacle) is Jesus Christ, who said “I will build My church.”

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house (Greek for house is “OIKOS” meaning temple, tabernacle, tent, or dwelling). For this One (Jesus) has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:1-3). “But Christ as a Son over His own house, (tabernacle) whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:6).

The Apostle Peter explained it this way: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Recall Peter’s statement related to his death: “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle” (2 Peter 1:14).

Notice Paul’s explanation in a letter to the Church in Corinth. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Do you not know that your body is the temple (tabernacle) of the Holy Spirit which is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Feast of Tabernacles is a good time for us to comprehend that we are part of the spiritual tabernacle of God. We must be the light that shines through a dark world by following the example of our true and more perfect tabernacle, God’s beloved Son Jesus Christ.

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