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Parallels between Creation and the Temple

July 27, 2012

I’m working through G. K. Beale’s excellent The Temple and the Church’s Missionand lights are going on everywhere. I’ve been impressed with his insights in identifying the Temple as a representation of creation itself,  showing that God’s intention for the temple was to display His plan for extending His presence throughout the cosmos (as we see fulfilled in Revelation 21-22). Beale’s thesis is that the new heavens and earth are themselves the eschatological worldwide ‘temple’ of God, and that this is hinted at even from as far back as the garden of Eden.

In a small section of his argumentation, Beale notes the connections between the accounts of creation and the building of the tabernacle. These were particularly eye-opening so I thought I’d share.

Parallels between the creation and tabernacle construction accounts.

  • “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31)
  • “And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it.” (Ex 39:43)
  • “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” (Gen 2:1)
  • “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished.” (Ex 39:32)
  • And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Gen 2:2)
  • And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.” (Ex 40:33)

God’s seven commands in both creation and tabernacle construction.

  • “God said” (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26)
  • “The LORD said” (Ex 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12)

Rest in creation and temple construction.

As the LORD rested on the seventh day of creation, so the Temple was designed to be a place of ‘rest’ for Him:

  • This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:14; Cf. 1 Chron 28:2, Isa 66:1, 2 Chron 6:41).
  • David conceived of building the temple only after “the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies” (2 Sam 7:1-6), but is unable to as he was a man of war.
  • His son, Solomon decided to build the temple when he reflected on the fact that “the LORD my God has given me rest on every side”. (1 Kings 5:4-5)

There is a close connection between creation and temple/tabernacle building. In Beale’s words, “the two projects cannot ultimately be distinguished or disengaged. Each recounts how God brought about an environment in which He can rest” (Beale, 62). This connection of rest and temple building underscore, “the close relation of temple building and complete sovereign rest as a result of defeating all enemies” (Beale, 63).

What does all this mean and why does it matter?

1. It sheds light on Revelation 21, showing us that the absence of a temple doesn’t point to it’s inferiority, but rather that God’s original intention was for the temple to effectively stand as a promise and a hope of His future universal dwelling in all creation. The temple is not done away with, it is fulfilled in the new heaven and earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb…But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life…No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

— Sections from Revelation 21-22

2. It gives us a fresh insight on our mission as the church and how we fit into the larger story of God extending His presence and universal rest.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

— Revelation 22:20

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