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I believe I heard the Spirit say recently, “Enlarge your tabernacles.” Understood in terms of the purpose of the Old Testament tabernacle[1], and later temple, this means to be filled with the glory of God[2]. God came down and lived in the tabernacle/temple as his home[3]. Since these are types of heavenly realities, they signify that God created the universe as a “living space”[4] for his indwelling. If the ultimate divine purpose is to “be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), then home building is the way this will be fulfilled.

The end of Revelation ties it all together in a fusion of images. In being shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” John is actually given to behold a “holy city” filled with the glory of God (Rev 21:1,2,10, 11). That is the Bride is a city. The city’s “length and width and height are equal” (21:16), which means that it shares the dimensions of the holy of holies (1 Ki 6:20). This means that the Bride, the city and the temple are one. The new universe will be a house of God filled with God’s presence (Rev 22:4). The climactic utterance of scripture is, ““Behold, the dwelling place[5] of God is with man” (Rev 21:3). Home is what it is all about.

This is why the Father and Son are building a Temple for the Spirit to dwell in, the Father and Spirit are forming a Bride for the Son to be one with, and the Son and Spirit are preparing a family for the Father to live with. Everything is being directed to the building of God’s home.

This however raises an important question, if the eternal temple is made up of people[6], how large will God’s home be? The answer depends on how much we allow the Lord to empty us of ourselves so that he might fill us with himself. Since the individual believer and the church are now “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19), the command, “Enlarge your tabernacles.” is a call to create room in our lives for God to fill us with his glory. The purpose of this teaching is to inspire us to obey this call. The initiative however belongs with God.

An Open Temple

The second prophetic experience that inspired this article came upon me as I was speaking to a couple recently about the kingdom of God. I had a distinct first – time impression of God’s temple being opened in heaven. If this was really from the Spirit it must be a participation in what scripture describes. “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.” (Rev 11:19). This vision signifies God’s active presence, represented by the ark, with his people in a time of tribulation. The opening of heaven signifies an action proceeding from the throne of God situated in the heavenly temple. I believe that we are about to experience an open heaven over our city in a distinct way.

To understand what the Spirit is trying to say to the church today it is important that we first set a biblical framework.

The Glory – Temple in the Old Testament

A physical dwelling for the LORD only needed to be constructed in Israel because Adam and Eve rejected the divine presence in the glorious Word (Gen 2:17). In doing so, they excluded themselves from Eden, which was the first temple of God on earth. God no longer walked, that is, dwelt, with man[7]. To act as the divine habitation, other temples needed to be built.

From earliest times, the sanctuary of God in the midst of his covenant people was understood to be a replica of the heavenly temple[8]. In the Old Testament, the heavenly beings that surround the throne of God are so impacted by the divine radiance that they ceaselessly cry out, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” ” (Isa 6:3). The “sons of God”[9] “in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Ps 29:1, 9) as they stand amazed at the power and wisdom of the Creator. It is from his temple in heaven that the Lord initiates his actions upon the earth. David, speaking of a time well before the Jerusalem temple was built, confesses, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. “The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry.” (2 Sam 22:7 – 8)[10].

When the temple of Solomon was opened “the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (2 Chron 7:1), because, as God’s house, that was its purpose. The climax of the prophecy of Ezekiel is that the glory of God enters and remains in the new end – time temple (43:4 – 5; 44:4) as the eternal dwelling place of God in the midst of his people. God’s goal in revealing these images of the celestial and eschatological temples was to inspire his people to enact his will on earth as it is done in heaven. Sadly, but necessarily, this was impossible apart from the coming of Jesus.

Jesus is the Glory – Temple

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Using Old Testament temple language, the Word literally “tabernacled among us”. The home of God is now in Jesus[11], who in his human nature (“flesh”) is both God’s highest act of creation and in his divine nature (“Word”) God. The apostle John is conscious of this when he refers the glorious throne room vision of God recorded in Isaiah 6 directly to Jesus, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his (Jesus) glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:41).

The pinnacle of the opening of heaven to earth necessarily centred on the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matt 3:16 – 17). As Jesus is filled with the Spirit as Messiah – King he senses powerfully within the divine glory he has always shared with his Father (John 17:5). He unashamedly confesses, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51). He is entirely aware that he fulfils the vision of Jacob concerning “the house of God” (Gen 28:10 -22), he senses that he is the stairway between earth and heaven and the site of the radiance of the divine glory.

Christ’s thought world was informed by the Hebrew Bible. As such he understood that the basic meaning of the term for “glory”, kabod, is “weightiness”. It was in a state of being filled with a sense of “weightiness” that Jesus went forth from his baptismal experience to confront Satan and to preach the kingdom of God (Mat 4:1, 17). From this time on Jesus’ words, whilst remaining ordinary human words, were words full of the glory of heaven[12]. As glorious words, they had the power to give the blind their sight, make the lame walk, cleanse lepers, make the deaf hear, raise the dead, and bring good news to the poor.[13] The glory of God in the Word of God always imparted Spirit and life (John 6:63). This is what makes Jesus own suffering so profound.

Ichabod: the glory has departed[14]

““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”” (John 12:28)

It is because the Father speaks to him “without measure” (John 3:34) that Jesus is the Word filled with the Spirit and life[15]. The crisis at the cross can only be explained in terms of the absence of an indwelling word from heaven. When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34), it is because he has no sense of what God is sensing, no word from God. His is quoting Psalm 22; this is unremarkable, as Jesus often cited the Scriptures[16]. What is unusual is that here there is no introduction to the citation, such as “It is written” or “That the scripture be fulfilled”. This indicates that at the height of his suffering Jesus has no sense that the truth of God’s Word is being fulfilled in him[17]. In his becoming sin for us (2 Cor 5:21) Christ must be bereft of the sense of the Lord’s presence with him, the most terrible condition that can confront humanity, “my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37) has become true of the Word. As far as Jesus knows, he is no longer the Temple – house of the living God.

The wrath of God was exhausted at the cross. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God need never be silent in a way that deprives humanity of the glory of his indwelling word again. Far from being a source of morbidity, the dereliction of Jesus is the spiritual fulfilment of all the physical temple cleansings of salvation history[18]. It is the real and eternal cleansing of the house of God (Heb 10:11 – 14). By taking on our flesh under the divine judgement (Rom 8:3) Jesus has purified fallen human flesh (Heb 1:3) so that it now becomes the dwelling place of God. In Jesus, humanity can now become “the temple of the living God”, the dwelling place of the Father (2 Cor 6:16 – 18).

Coming Home to Glory

Jesus explained his ultimate purpose in dying and returning to glory[19] by saying, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2 – 3). This text has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Firstly, the rooms are, in some literal sense, constructions, “mansions in heaven” where the saints live. Secondly, the rooms are the spiritual positions the disciples enjoy as blessed by God and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3; 2:6). Both of these views need to be incorporated within the wider purposes of God in Christ. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus signifies humanity has come home to God in heaven in the person of Christ. Jesus has taken our humanity into the eternal glory of God. He is the absolutely worthy home for God in heaven. Such a transformation of humanity from its broken down condition to splendour is the fullness of the positive content of salvation[20]. It is the meaning of who Christ is for us.

Disciples are themselves dwelling places of God through their union with Christ. It is union with Christ that changes everything and brings us home to God. Since “our life is hid with God in Christ” (Col 3:3) and we are “partners in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), we are one with the eternal divine love (John 17:23, 27)[21], which is the divine glory itself (John 17:22). God now lives with us and us with him after the manner of his own eternal indwelling, “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 14:23). We have finally come home to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The consummation of this glorious relationship awaits Christ’s return and our table fellowship with him; meanwhile Jesus is actively making preparation for his Second Coming.

Jesus is presently in his Father’s house in heaven preparing the Messianic banquet for those who will believe in him. What sort of people are they? Jesus said, ““When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”” (Luke 14:12 – 14). It follows from the tone of Jesus’ words that the most likely candidates for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9) are disturbed, broken, addicted, dysfunctional, oppressed and impoverished human beings.

Such folk are those most likely to echo the words of this old song, “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee”. Such folk are those who have been emptied of their busyness in worldly pursuits[22] and are crying out for the reality of the divine presence. They earnestly desire to be a home for God with lots of space in their hearts for the Holy Spirit. There is clear evidence all about us of the Lord bringing people into this position.

[1] Sometimes called “tent of meeting” e.g. Ex 27:21; 28:43.

[2]When the tabernacle was completed, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Ex 40:34). Compare 2 Chron 7:1, “the glory of the LORD filled the temple”.

[3] “House of God” is the characteristic expression for tabernacle/ temple in scripture, about seventy five times.

[4] This was done in perfect freedom to reflect the absolute all sufficiency of the indwelling of the Persons of the Trinity in each other, creation was not an act to fulfil a divine need.

[5] The Greek word here is that for “tabernacle”.

[6] Compare,“the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God” (Eph 2:21 – 22; cf.1 Pet 2:5).

[7] Space forbids a proper development of this theme; reference can be made to G.K.Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Leicester, Apollos, 2004 pp.66 – 80.

[8] Moses was commanded, “And see that you make them (tabernacle furniture) after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” (Ex 25:40). Cf. Heb 8:2; 9:24 of the “true tent” in heaven.

[9] That is, the angels in heaven.

[10] Compare, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” (Ps 11:4); Mic 1:2.

[11] Christ’s point, when he says to the Samaritan woman, ““Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (John 4:21) is that worship in Spirit and truth (v.24) can only be centred on him.

[12] “He who is of the earth …speaks in an earthly way….he whom God has sent utters the words of God” (John 3:3). Compare the association “spoken to us by his Son… He is the radiance of the glory of God …he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:2 – 3).

[13] Matt 11:5 – 6 etc.

[14] “And she named the child Ichabod saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.” (1 Sam 4:21)

[15] This is what empowered him at his baptism and transfiguration. “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”” (Luke 9:35).

[16] E.g., his use of scripture in his battle with Satan, when he says, “It is written…” (Matt 4:1ff.).

[17] Recognising that after the height of his passion this is exactly what he senses, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”” (John 19:28).

[18] Such as under Josiah (2 Ki 22), Hezekiah (2 Chron 29) and by Jesus himself (John 2:13 – 21).

[19] “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5).

[20] The “negative content” is the removal of guilt and judgement.

[21] This means to be united, by grace, e the being of the Trinity itself for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

[22] Unlike those first invited to a great banquet but were preoccupied (Luke 14:15 – 24).

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