People of the Presence
Robert Wurtz II
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)
God desired to make known to the Gentiles the great mystery of His plan to tabernacle in man. It had been hidden in times past, though in hindsight the early believers could see types and shadows of this mystery throughout the Old Testament. The tabernacle motif is a common theme in both Old and New Testament. It begins revealing God’s dwelling place (tabernacling) among his people. It finds its ultimate fulfillment in God tabernacling in His people.
Where Heaven touches Earth
In Genesis 28 Jacob is fleeing from his brother Esau that was angry over Jacob gaining the birthright. Passing through the land he grows tired and sets up some stones as pillows to rest his head. He dreamed a marvelous thing; behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The Lord spoke from above this ladder and promised him the land and a seed much as He had promised Abraham. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28:16, 17) Jacob named this place Bethel.
The House of God
The word Beth-El means house of God. Jacob saw the ladder up to heaven with angels ascending and descending and called the place after this name. He knew he could reach God from there. It was the gate of Heaven. God desired to tabernacle among His people as He had done with Adam before the fall, but even more so. As a sidebar it would be useful to point out that when Nathanael was taken by Jesus knowledge of him under the fig tree Jesus answered him; verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:49-51) This would serve as a sign that Jesus Christ was ‘the gate of heaven’; that is to say, He was Bethel- the House of God. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
A Mobile Palace
Later on after the time of Jacob God would give the Israelites the Wilderness Tabernacle as a mobile palace from which He could rule as King in the midst of His people Israel. The first covenant worship was dominated by ceremonies and sacrifices that the tabernacle (and later the temple) utilized. This palace was to be the Oracle; the place from which God speaks. Walking horizontally into the tabernacle was akin to ascending vertically up to the throne room of God. It was all figurative, but in a sense God was uniquely present in His Glory. The Ark of the Covenant represented His throne and the mercy seat was where the blood was offered. Keep this in mind.
A Covenant Agreement
The Old Covenant was a binding contract between God and Israel. It was loaded with ‘if-then’ clauses. If Israel obeyed God would dwell among them and they would be His people. His presence is what made Israel unique among the rest of the nations. The covenant was a means to an end. We have to understand this. The covenant did not make the people unique. Keeping laws was a limited means of making a distinction. The GREATEST distinctive feature of Israel was God’s unique presence among them. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. (Exodus 33:15, 16) Nothing is holy if God is not present. (G.W. North)
God always kept His end of the covenant, but Israel transgressed. So there had to be a way to keep the covenant functional by dealing with breaches in the contract. God designed that the covenant be maintained by the offering of blood for transgressions. Almost all things by the law were purged with blood and without the shedding of blood there was no remission. The covenant was serviced in this way in order to allow the relationship between God and Israel to continue. God’s glory ‘tabernacled’ among the people so long as they kept His covenant.
When Israel sinned in the days of Eli and his wicked sons the Ark was carried away by the Philistines and had to be recovered later on. This recovery was made and later David danced before the Lord as there was great cause for celebration. David decided to purchase Arnon’s threshing floor for the spot to build the Temple (though he could not build it himself). This is the place where the hand of God’s wrath was stayed when he had numbered Israel. This is important. God can build His house in the brokenness and appreciation for God’s forgiveness of our sins. (See Isaiah 66;1-2)
In time the Temple was built and Solomon dedicated it. He brought many sacrifices until an area had to be set aside to contain them all. When the altar was full and Solomon had prayed the FIRE fell. This is always how the Fire falls- when we get totally on the altar in such a way that God will believe us. Solomon understood the altar. He brought a sacrifice that to some might have seemed excessive or even reckless. This is the sacrifice God desires- all out dedication. When that animal was slain it was not coming back. When we come to God in utter offering of ourselves the Fire will consume us in love and zeal for Him. The Sacred Fire was rekindled there near the brazen scaffold for service by the priests. They needed this fire to offer burnt offerings, the incense and for the Menorah. The Glory of returned. God was there. But it would all be short lived.
The Temple Destroyed
Israel sinned again and would not heed many prophetic warnings. Eventually the Glory departed and the Temple was destroyed. This plays out in Ezekiel. The Ark was lost as it was all carried to Babylon. Here for 70 years Cyrus later sent the Jews to rebuild the Temple. This was called Zerubabel’s Temple and never saw the glory of the previous temple. Herod expanded this temple but as far as we know God never showed up here in the way He did in Solomon’s time. It was abandoned for the most part. God was not there. Yet they continued on oblivious to Moses’ comments; For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? (Exodus 33;16) They created a religion that did not require God’s Glory. Religion has been defined as worship in the absence of God. There was no Ark signifying that the authority of God was no longer in view. This was manifest much later when the Jews decided ‘it is not in heaven’ and usurped all authority from God and gave it to the Rabbis. God wanted to tabernacle among His people but they would not abide by the terms. God will not just dwell with people. There has to be an agreement and the people have to live by it. Yet God did not give up, His plan was right on schedule!
Destroy THIS Temple
When Jesus came into the world we have this language:
And the Word was made 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 1:14)
Our language here is that of tabernacling. Jesus Christ was THE Temple of God while on earth. He said destroy this Temple and I’ll restore it in three days. It was His body the Temple. John said it and later Peter said similarly, “We beheld His Glory”. They saw the tangible evidence of the Shekinah Glory in the miracles, etc. They identified the Finger of God, ie., the ARK or authority of God being manifest in their midst. The Ark had returned in the person of Jesus Christ. Nathanael would see the angels ascending and descending upon Him.
Christ in You, The Hope of Glory
Jesus told the disciples that it was expedient for Him to go or the Comforter would not come. No man could be in Christ while Christ walked the earth. Our Lord’s death on the cross enabled the ‘Temples of men’ to be cleansed by the blood and readied to receive the Holy Spirit in such a way as described by Steven in Acts 7 and Isaiah 66:1-2. Men always resisted the Holy Ghost and did not want Him near. This is still man’s problem; they want to receive and resist at the same time. It is impossible. To those that truly ‘receive Him’ He gives the authority to become the sons of God. He transforms them by the Spirit by baptizing them into His Body by the Spirit. Simply put, regenerate man is now the Temple in one sense and living stones in the Temple in another sense. Yet for all this Ephesians tells us it is only the EARNEST of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. It is what the New Covenant provides.
The Celebration of God’s Will Fulfilled!
God is now focused in the lives and spirits of regenerate New Covenant believers. Our bodies are viewed as the ‘tabernacle’ or ‘tent’ (Hebrew booth), that is, a temporary shell that will pass away at physical death and allow the human spirit to enter into the heavenly dwelling of God and Christ. We will then be resurrected and receive a ‘spiritual body’ like unto His Glorious Body. This is the spiritual reality to which the old covenant tabernacle pointed. Zechariah 14 points to a time when there will no longer be a need to distinguish between Holy and Profane as it is described in the Old Testament. God will put away evil and sin. ALL will be Holy. Christ having died on the Cross for our sins supersedes any animal sacrifice, so we know that is not in view here. My hypothesis is that the Prophet is foretelling of a time when all things will be cleansed and we can perpetually offer ourselves holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2) unthwarted. We will celebrate the fact that God has accomplished what He said out to do from the beginning.
Notice how in Zechariah 14 the phrase “in that day” is used seven times (v. 4,6,8,9,13,20, 21). Compare that with John’s words:
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
In that day (en ekeinēi tēi hēmerāi). The New Dispensation of the Holy Spirit, beginning with Christ’s Resurrection and the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Shall know (gnōsesthe). Future middle of ginōskō. Chapters 1 to 3 of Acts bear eloquent witness to these words. (Vincent)