Revelation 21:3

Friday, 6 August 2021

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. Revelation 21:3

The New Jerusalem was seen to be descending from heaven. With this, John now says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven.” This is the voice of the Lord making the jubilant proclamation. It is to be understood this way, and some manuscripts say it explicitly –

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying.” ESV

Instead of “from heaven,” it says, “from the throne.” Either way, it is the Lord who is calling out the words. As such, He is “saying, ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men.’”

This is the last use of the word skéné, or “tabernacle,” in Scripture. It signifies a tent, booth, dwelling, and so on. At times, it refers to the tabernacle constructed in Exodus. That was given as a type, or representation, of the coming Christ. That is made perfectly evident in Hebrews 9. There the tabernacle was described by the author, and then he states that it was only a representation of Christ Himself –

“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.” Hebrews 9:11

For example, a part of the tabernacle of Exodus was the veil. The author of Hebrews explicitly states that the veil was a picture of Christ’s body in Hebrews 10:20. A cognate noun, skénos, is used to describe the body of the believer in 2 Corinthians 5:1 and 5:4. And the verb form, skénoó, is used when referring to the action of Christ “tabernacling” or “dwelling” among us in John 1:14. That verb form will also be used in this verse of Revelation now.

In fact, every single detail of the tabernacle, from the ark to the menorah and from the table of showbread to the brazen altar, points to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It exudes with pictures of the grace of God in Christ to be revealed in His coming and in the giving of the New Covenant for the people of the world.

The words of Revelation now tell us that this “tabernacle of God” is speaking of Jesus, not the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is where man will dwell with Jesus. He is the tabernacle, or dwelling, of God. He is Emmanuel, or God with us.

This idea is expressed in Ezekiel 37 to some extent. During the millennium, Israel was promised that the Lord would place his sanctuary among them. The sanctuary was the entire complex of the tabernacle. The tabernacle is what was in the midst of the sanctuary. As such, Ezekiel says –

“Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.” Ezekiel 37:28

The idea is similar here. New Jerusalem will come down and be the place where the Lord will reside with man. As John next says, “and He will dwell with them.”

Here, the verb form is skénoó, which was introduced in John 1:14, is now used for the last time in Scripture. Christ came and “tabernacled” with his people in His first advent. He will dwell among Israel during the millennium, and now we see that He will dwell with man in the New Jerusalem. He is the full expression of God, and thus in His dwelling among His people, we will have the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form – endlessly and ceaselessly revealing God to us. This continues to be revealed in John’s words, saying, “and they shall be His people.”

The redeemed of the Lord, from all ages and dispensations, will be brought forward to dwell with God forever. Jesus – the incarnate Word of God – will forever reveal the unsearchable riches of God to His people. Again, this is perfectly expressed as the verse finishes with, “God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

God is omnipresent, and so there is no time that we are not in the presence of God. What John is referring to is the fullest expression of God in a single spot. This was once said to be in the tabernacle –

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:17:22

That spot, between the cherubim, was the focal point of God’s meeting with Man. A study of the ark of the covenant clearly reveals that every detail points to Christ Jesus. With this in mind, that which only anticipated Him is seen in its fulness in Him. This is what these earthly types and shadows only anticipated. It is Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of them, and it is He who is being referred to in John’s words here in Revelation.

Life application: The message of this verse is one of absolute wonder, and it has been the true heart’s desire of the people of God since the moment we were sent out of the Garden of Eden.

Before that dismissal, the Lord walked with man (Genesis 3:8) and there was face-to-face fellowship. However, that was destroyed through sin. Now the restoration of that loss is finally being fully realized.

Israel was given an anticipatory taste of restoration with the giving of the tabernacle. That is seen in Leviticus 26:11, 12 –

“I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.
12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

This was the foreshadowing that God was providing at that time. He was hinting to us that this edifice was to be His dwelling place as a picture of the true Tabernacle, Jesus. He is the embodiment of God in human flesh. God has progressively brought man back to the point of full fellowship through these various stages of Him revealing Himself.

First was full access in the Garden. That was lost. Then came the various developments of restoration through the tabernacle, the Incarnation, the Transfiguration, the millennial reign, and then the final restoration of full and unfettered access to Him once again.

In these incremental steps, we are seeing how God is working in and through history, continuously and clearly unveiling His progressive plan of both redemption and restoration.

When the New Jerusalem comes, we will be there in His presence forever. The unveiled Tabernacle of God will be with men. The time of restoration anticipated by Adam and Eve and every person desirous of an intimate relationship with God since then will be realized in full measure.

As the writer and theologian C.S. Lewis stated, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And this is true. There is a desire in the hearts of humanity that will only be fully realized when we see the face of God in the Person of Jesus Christ. When we do, and when we dwell with Him, we will receive the fullness of what He has always intended for His people.

There will be the beauty of what the psalms anticipate; there will be the majestic fulfillment of what the prophets proclaimed; and there will be the ending of the yearning of the anxious human soul. At that time, we will behold God’s Messiah forever and ever.

Hold fast to this true and sure promise. Know now and understand that the temporary trials and sadness of this world will be utterly forgotten when we stand in the presence of Jesus and behold the beauty of the Lord.

Until that day, God has sealed us with His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of this wonder to come. We are asked to “be filled” with the Holy Spirit and that can only come by allowing Him to take over and be our Light, Guide, and Helper in this earthly walk, waiting upon the realizations of our hope. And that Hope will never disappoint. He is JESUS!

O Lord, there is no greater hope in our souls than to see You and to dwell with You in complete fellowship and peace. Until that time, fill us with Your Holy Spirit and keep us from sins that only hinder our fellowship. We long for the day of eternal joy in Your presence! Amen.