Pristine Grace

The New Covenant
Essay 06
Jesus Christ: The New Tabernacle
by Bob Higby

The New Covenant

"Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth . . . then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him." Acts 7:44-58 KJV

"Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. . . . When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. . . . For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Heb. 9:1,11,15 NIV

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Rev. 21:22 NIV

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1 Cor. 3:16,17 NIV

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord." Eph. 2:20,21 NIV

     So far we have looked at two entities of the former covenant that men have continually tried to inject into the new:

  1. Sabbatarianism (either 1st or 7th day)
     
  2. Water baptism for the remission of sins (a 'new' covenant of circumcision)

     The next issue is this: how important is a building in the new covenant? Do we need to be concerned for building and reverencing 'God's house' like David and Solomon? The above scriptures give a clear answer to this question: absolutely not. In spite of this, all of Christian history is saturated with admonition on the requirement to build a house for God. We have great competition in the world as to which sect can build the most awesome temples. Is it Buddhists, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, or Christians? The sad fact is that Christians have often been the primary cause of such vanity.

     The requirement to build a tabernacle was a part of the 'first covenant' (Sinai). But it is abolished in the New covenant. The following entities are all called God's 'house' in the dispensation of grace:

  1. Heaven itself (the 'other' creation).
     
  2. The Earth (God's footstool).
     
  3. The Lord God Almighty.
     
  4. The Lamb.
     
  5. The new people of God joined to Christ.

     That is it. No buildings in this creation are uniquely called the house of God. So here is another item from the former covenant that men have slaved to bring into the New: the tabernacle or temple in the form of 'church.'

     The word 'church' is not derived from the Greek ekklesia, even though it is the only word used to translate it in English. For this reason a good case can be made that serious mistranslation has occurred. It is derived from kuriokos using the same tense as in Rev. 1:10 (the Lord's ?). The question mark is there because a whole number of entities can be inserted. However, there is no question as to which entity is meant with the use of the word 'church' (& related words in other languages). It is referring to the Lord's house.

     This would not be a serious issue if the common use of 'church' was in reference to the spiritual house of God: his people. But in spite of the attempts of theologians and pastors to make this meaning prominent, the common use has never changed and will never change. When people use the word 'church' in society, the prominent meaning will always be a house or institution of religion. Even among professed Christians. 'Go to church,' 'build a church,' 'meet me at the church,' 'join a church,' 'start a church,' or 'growing church' will always refer to an institutional organization and physical building--not a spiritual people. For us it usually means a particular non-profit religious corporation (or organization) & its associated dwelling(s).

     Again, we are not talking about the ideal or theological use of the word--but its common use by ordinary people, 90% of the time.

     Let it be clearly stated that this is not a proposition of eliminating the word 'church' from our vocabulary! However, we need to be honest and admit that its common meaning is an institution of religion. We should therefore form a habit of using a different term when referring to the ekklesia: the new people of God. It would clear up a lot of confusion. This is discussed further in another study.

     A building for gathering together is certainly no sin. Neither is an outdoor place of worship. The whole Earth is the Lord's and he is equally present wherever God's people are. Our home dwelling is just as much the Lord's house as the place where we gather for corporate worship. So is our garden outside of the building. In denial of pacifist theology (that the whole world is the realm of the devil), we do need to confess that the dwelling of a Christian is sacred to the Lord. But not in the sense of the Old covenant. The present world is shared by both kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of evil. All things in the created order that function for the benefit of God's people are set apart unto him. For this reason the Christian can say of his dwelling place, 'the Lord is there' (Ezek. 48:35). The unbeliever cannot say the same thing. His possessions and dwelling are set apart for the kingdom of darkness, even though God is still present in judgment.

     Ahab learned of this fact when he killed Naboth and took his vineyard for a vegetable garden. He failed to take into account the fact that the person and property of God's people is sacred. For that act Ahab's final judgment and doom was made certain. God has the same jealousy for his people today: the way that he operates has not changed one iota.

     Any time a congregation is being swindled into a carnal and unwise building program, it is best to prophesy an objection with the words of Stephen in the opening scripture: "the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands." Then inquire if all present will agree that if the thing is built, God will not dwell in it. Most likely a number of individuals present will want to stone the objector--exactly like Saul did to Stephen many years ago. Some have actually been exhorted in prayer for the right 'church' (building) to be built, 'in order to save souls.' Not in a cult, in evangelical churchianity.