The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture
Lesson 1 – Introduction
Wednesday, October 11th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church, Centralia, WA
Most Holy God, and Author of our being, open now the eyes of our understanding, that we might behold wondrous things from Your Law. Give us Your Holy Spirit, who is the Interpreter of truth, for we ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This evening I want to begin a new series with you that I have entitled, The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture. The goal or final cause of this series is twofold:
I want you to become familiar with some of the most important symbols in the Bible, and
I want you to understand what those signs/symbols signify. To not just stop and look at the sign itself, but to see through the sign into the reality that God intends.
As an aside, learning to do this is an exercise in how to read Holy Scripture, wherein God not only makes words to signify things, but things to signify other things.
Overview of Material
In order to do this, we are going to focus on the literal architecture and furniture of the Tabernacle and Temple, and then later at the Hebrew calendar. These two creaturely structures of divinely organized time and divinely organized space are rich with spiritual meaning. And by reflecting on these two basic structures, what I am calling sacred time and sacred place, we are taught many things about Christ, the Church, salvation, and even how the human person can come to know God.
So this series will take us a good year or more to work through, and by the end of it, my hope is that you will all know these structures like you know your own home. That you will be able to close your eyes, and walk through the Tabernacle, or walk through the Temple, and experience the joy of Scripture coming to life, or more accurately, the joy of you coming alive to Divine reality. Those are high hopes and ambitions, but by God’s grace we can ascend.
With that, let me give you the biblical foundations for attempting such a task.
Q. Why study the architecture and furniture and calendar of the Old Testament?
1) Because large portions of Scripture are dedicated to describing these things in great detail (Exodus 25-40, Leviticus, Numbers, 1 Kings 6-8, Ezekiel 40-48, etc.), and “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
2) Because these are all shadows of the substance that is Christ and the Church. If the gospel was a literal physical building, it would look like the tabernacle and temple.
In proof of this second reason let me give you some examples.
Colossians 2:16-17 says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
So the dietary laws in Leviticus, the various feasts and sabbaths that God commanded them to observe, The Apostle Paul says “are a shadow of things to come; but the body (σῶμα) is of Christ.”
Likewise, it says in Hebrews 10:1, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image (εἰκών) of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”
Here we are told the sacrifices of the law were a shadow, and not the very image or substance that is Christ’s once for all sacrifice.
We see this same principle throughout the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 9:23-24 says regarding the sprinkling of the tabernacle with blood, “It was therefore necessary that the patterns (ὑπόδειγμα) of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures (ἀντίτυπος) of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
So again, the rituals and actions and furniture of the old covenant, were all “patterns” and “figures” of the true and heavenly things.
And if you miss this, you miss the gospel. Paul saysyou are like a child who refuses to grow up into his inheritance. In Galatians 4:3 he says, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.”
The “elements (στοιχεῖον) of the world” here refers to the old creation before Christ, which was regulated by the Mosaic law.
So everything in the old covenant that we are no longer bound to observe (Passover, circumcision, ritual washings, animal sacrifices, etc.), those are all signs/symbols that point to a heavenly/spiritual reality. And what we want to do is learn how to go from the shadow to the substance, from the sign to the thing signified. And when we do this rightly, we are coming to know God, “For from him, and through him, and to him, are all things (Rom. 11:36).
Q. What is the very first pattern we are given in the Bible?
A. The Creation Week.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Light/Dark Day/Night Waters Above/Waters Below Firmament Land/Seas Fruit Trees/Herb-Yielding Seed Lights in Firmament: Sun, Moon, and Stars. Fish and Birds Land Animals and Man Rest
God’s work of creation in six days and rest on the seventh is the foundational pattern for everything that comes after. God forms three spaces by making certain separations/divisions in three consecutive days and then goes back and fills those spaces on the following three days.
On Day 1 He forms light and day. On Day 4 He puts lights in the firmament (sun, moon, and stars) to govern the day and night.
On Day 2 He separates waters above from waters below. On Day 5 He fills the waters below with fish and sea creatures and the heavens above with birds.
On Day 3 He separates dry land from the seas and plants herb-yielding trees. On Day 6 he creates the land animals and mankind to cultivate those trees.
So this pattern of taking hold and dividing, forming and filling, organizing and restructuring is the work of God as Divine Architect and His work of creation is the archetype for every structure of time and place that He commands to be built later.
If the Creation Week is the foundational pattern and archetype for everything that comes after, the next question we should ask is: What is the telos or purpose of this pattern? What is it intended to teach us? Another way of asking the questions is…
Q. What is the one big story (meta-narrative) of the Bible?
The meta-narrative of Scripture is the story of God coming to live with man. It is the marriage between heaven and earth, and the union of human and divine.
So the creation week is a story about God building a place where God and man can dwell together.
The initial picture we have of our relationship with God before the Fall is that of God and man together in paradise. The Garden of Eden is the first sanctuary where God makes his home with man, and after the Fall, the story of the Bible is how God and man can eventually live together again. However, since man is now sinful and creation is cursed on his account, there must be some way of dealing with sin and making man worthy of living with God again. That is the problem that Genesis 3-Revelation 22 is addressing. And what we have in the construction of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Christian church, is God architecting a way for us to live together again.
We read in Revelation 21:1-3 what all of this architecture is leading towards. John says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
So this is the theme of all themes in the Bible and it is what human history is all about, the reunion between God and man.
Key Takeaways from Lesson 1
There are two key takeaways that I want you to leave with and remember as we go through this series.
The Tabernacle and Temple are physical models of spiritual realities, and the spiritual realities are more substantive (more real and true) than the physical structures.
The Tabernacle and Temple are the places where God makes His presence to dwell.
Of the Tabernacle it says in Deuteronomy 16:11, “And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there.”
Of the Temple it says in 1 Kings 8:2, “That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.”
Of the Restoration Temple it says in Ezekiel 48:35, “It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there.”
Of Christ it says in John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν, lit. tented/tabernacled) among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Next time we will give a theological account of God’s presence and the many ways in which can be said to be present.