Podcast Episode

What’s So Special About the Tabernacle?

You may have heard that God’s holiness keeps him from getting close to sinful humanity, but in the Bible we see God regularly doing the opposite, drawing near to dwell with human beings. We encounter this reality again and again, including in a surprising place—the tabernacle blueprints. In this episode, join Jon and Tim as they walk through the opening act of the third movement of Exodus and explore the relationship between the tabernacle, the garden of Eden, unconditional love, and eternal life.

Episode 8
1hr 17m
May 2, 2022
Play Episode
Show Notes


[The tabernacle] flips a well-known Christian phrase that is a dangerous half-truth, which is that God can’t have anything to do with sin, or sin cannot be in the presence of God. The tabernacle actually turns that over and says, “No, God’s purpose is to live among his people.” That means God moves into sin. God stakes out a claim in the region of sin and dedicates it and redeems it by his holy presence.


  • God wants to dwell with his people on the land, so he instructs Moses to build a tabernacle that mimics his dwelling place, the heavenly temple.
  • Every element of the tabernacle structure is meant to draw ancient Israelites and readers back to the Eden narrative.
  • The tabernacle overturns a popular misconception in Christianity, that God’s holiness prevents him from being near human sin. On the contrary, God makes it his purpose to live among his people, and he draws nearer and nearer throughout human history.

The Third Movement of Exodus

In part one (00:00-13:00), Tim and Jon begin discussing the third and final movement of Exodus (Exod. 25-40). In the first movement, we followed the theme of the name of Yahweh, and then explored the theme of the test in the second movement of Exodus. In this movement, we’ll be tracing the theme of the temple.

The third movement of Exodus centers around Moses’ experience with Yahweh atop Mount Sinai, where he has a vision, or apocalypse, and sees the heavenly temple. God wants to dwell with his people on the land, so he instructs Moses to build a tabernacle that mimics his dwelling place, the heavenly temple.

The Tabernacle and the Garden

In part two (13:00-45:45), Tim and Jon discuss the literary structure of the third movement of Exodus, which divides evenly into three parts, just like the scroll as a whole. In the first part of movement three (Exod. 25-31), Moses receives the tabernacle blueprints. The narrative advances only when Yahweh speaks in this section—something he does seven times. These seven speeches convey the idea of completion in the tabernacle blueprints, but they also conjure the image of Eden for readers.

Yahweh instructs the Israelites to collect gold and precious stones, animal skins, and fine fabrics, and then tells Moses why.

Exodus 25:8 Let them construct a sanctuary (miqdash) for me, that I may dwell (shakhan) among them.

Miqdash is related to the word qadosh, which means holiness. A miqdash is a holy place—in this case, a place unique and set apart for the elohim above elohim to dwell within. Shakhan means to dwell in a tent. Yahweh shows Moses the heavenly temple and then gives him a pattern to follow as he organizes the construction of the earthly tabernacle.

When humans enter this earthly tabernacle, they are meant to realize they’re inhabiting two spaces at once, both heaven and earth. Every element of the tabernacle structure represents some element that would draw people back to the Eden narrative, from its three-tiered structure that mimicked the ancient Hebrew conception of the garden, to the cherubim carved by its entrance, to its furniture that represented different elements of the garden.

In a way, when we see moments in the Bible where a place represents Eden, this is actually Eden reappearing. Eden isn’t just a place where heaven and earth symbolically meet—it’s a place where literally heaven and earth are one, which is why it rematerializes in other geographic locations throughout the story of Scripture. It exists in such a way that it can touch down in many different earthly locations, including in the tabernacle. However, in the tabernacle, only a priest selected once a year could enter into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies—a sharp contrast to the garden in which humans walked freely with Yahweh. The priests’ activities in the tabernacle are an enactment of humanity’s eventual return to Eden to dwell with Yahweh. The rituals and tabernacle articles are part of how God makes a way for humans to come into his presence. The tabernacle is truly Eden, but a limited Eden.

The tabernacle overturns a popular misconception in Christianity, that God’s holiness prevents him from being near human sin. On the contrary, God makes it his purpose to live among his people, and he draws nearer and nearer throughout human history.

The Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth

In part three (45:45-1:03:30), the guys continue exploring the relationship between the tabernacle and Eden, both of which are places where heaven and earth unite.

If you’re familiar with the story of the Bible, you know where the story is going: God dwells with humans first in Eden, then in the tabernacle and temple, and then finally in the presence of Jesus, who announces he is the greater temple. Consequently, it’s easy to downgrade the significance of God’s presence in the tabernacle and temple as a mere symbol, when it’s actually a reality. God is dwelling with humans in these sacred places.

Eden is a space that operates outside the laws of the four dimensions we are familiar with, including time. In this way, Eden and eternal life are closely linked. Eternity is not a future state we are solely meant to look forward to, but a quality of existence that can be accessed at any time.

What Is Eternal Life?

In part four (1:03:30-1:16:12), Tim and Jon conclude with a final look at how we should understand eternal life within the framework of the temple/tabernacle.

At its most basic level, eternal life is unconditional life. In other words, the reality in which we currently live is conditional—the existence of children is conditioned upon the existence of their parents. Conditional beings cannot generate their own existence, but rather they are generated by the eternally existent, unconditional God, Yahweh. When Yahweh gives unconditional life as a gift to conditional beings, that is eternal life. Our eternal life is participation in Yahweh’s own life.

The temple and tabernacle remind us we can participate in God’s life and dwell with him even now. Jesus demonstrates to us that one day we will share in a fuller, resurrected human life like he does. Jesus’ life is that of a human fully surrendered to the love of God.

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Covet” by Beautiful Eulogy
  • “Beautiful Eulogy” by Beautiful Eulogy
  • “Come Alive” by Beautiful Eulogy

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Frank Garza. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Annotations by Ashlyn Heise.

Powered and distributed by Simplecast.

Scripture References
Genesis 2:12
Exodus 40:34-35
Daniel 7
Luke 23:43
Matthew 18:20
Exodus 24:9-11
Genesis 28:10-17
Isaiah 6
Exodus 25:9
Exodus 25-31
Exodus 25-40
2 Peter 1:4
Leviticus 16
Exodus 25:8
Exodus 13-24
Exodus 25:1
Exodus 25:2-5
Acts 1:6-11
Exodus 1-13
Exodus 8-13
Genesis 1-9
Genesis 18:1-15
1 Samuel 4-6
Exodus 29:45

What’s So Special About the Tabernacle?

Series: Exodus Scroll E8

Podcast Date: May 2, 2022, 76:18

Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie


Jon: We are reading through the scroll of Exodus, which has three literary movements. In movement one, God liberates Israel from slavery. In movement two, God brings Israel through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. And that leads us to where we are today, movement three, in which God gives Israel the blueprints for a sacred tabernacle. At the end of movement two, we left Moses up at Mount Sinai. He is in the spot where Heaven and Earth are one.

Tim: He just penetrated through the lid of the heavens up into the sky. He's seeing the heavenly temple, and then what is going to be described is called a pattern, a model, that is the thing that they are to make.

Jon: God wants to be with his people, and so he gives them access to his space in this mobile temple that they can carry around with them. It's a symbol of God's true heavenly temple, but it's more than a mere symbol.

Tim: When you go (00:01:00) into the tent, you will be, as it were, in two places at once. God's heavenly temple is going to have a direct portal.

Jon: What we read in this section feels kind of boring on the surface. It's ancient architectural blueprints for the tabernacle and all its furnishings. But pay attention to all the symbolism of the space because it's telling us something remarkable about God.

Tim: It flips a well-known Christian phrase that is like half-truth, but a dangerous half-truth, I think. That God can't have anything to do with sin. Sin cannot be in the presence of God. The tabernacle actually turns that over and says, no, what God's purpose is, is to live among his people, which means God moves into sin. God stakes out a claim in the region of sin. So all of the symbolism and ritual of the table of bread and the menorah (00:02:00) and incense and offerings on the altar are all these ritual images communicating God's desire to create a way for his people to come into his presence.

Jon: I'm John Collins. This is BibleProject podcast. Today Tim Mackie and I begin the third movement of Exodus, tracing the theme that we call temple. It's the place where God and humans unite, a theme that begins with Eden and is now explored here in a mobile tent.

Tim: The holy of holies (the top of the mountain, the center of the garden with the tree of life) is a way of trying to give us language and categories for what if the source of all life could give as a gift participation in that eternal, unconditional life, but give that as a gift to conditional creatures. Participation in God's own eternal life. 

Jon: Thanks for joining us. Here we go. (00:03:00) 

Hey, Tim. 

Tim: Hey, Jon. Hello.

Jon: Hello, hello. We're cruising through Exodus. Are we going fast or slow? 

Tim: I can't tell. We're going at the pace we're supposed to go.

Jon: We're going at our pace.

Tim: I mean, we're not covering everything. We're doing a big picture overview with little dives, little probes, down into certain parts.

Jon: I've said it before. I really like this strategy. It's helping us get through the books and talk about things we wouldn't normally talk about. But it's allowing us to move at an adequate pace.

Tim: Yeah, you got it. We've been in the Exodus scroll, and we are following an organizational outline of the book that takes it in three large movements. And today represents a turning point in our journey through Exodus because we are now entering the third and final literary movement of the book that goes from what we call chapters 25 through 40, through the end of the scroll.

Jon: Okay, so (00:04:00) Exodus has three movements. Walk me through them. Give me the overview, the quick 30,000 foot.

Tim: Okay. First movement goes from chapter 1 verse 1 to chapter 13 verse 16. And that's a natural and, I think, planned literary arc where it begins with the descendants of Jacob of the family of Abraham being fruitful and multiplying down in Egypt. Their oppression and slavery begins because of a cruel Pharaoh. And that plot conflict gets intensified as God raises up a deliverer for them, Moshe, in Hebrew, and his brother Aharon (Aaron). And they confront Pharaoh … What's wrong? Why are you laughing?

Jon: Have you seen that Key & Peele? You know Key & Peele?

Tim: I do. Yeah. 

Jon: Well, he's a substitute teacher and he's mispronouncing everyone's name during roll call, and he calls Aaron A-A-Ron. 

Tim: Oh, yeah, sure. 

Jon: Have you seen that one. 

Tim: Yes.

Jon: Okay. (00:05:00) 

Tim: Yeah, totally. 

Jon: Anyways, Aharon. 

Tim: Aharon. Yeah, Aharon, is how you … Not A-A-Ron. 

Jon: Not A-A-Ron.

Tim: Not Aaron, but Aharon. 

Jon: Aharon. And Moshe. 

Tim: And Moshe, the brothers. 

Jon: Moshe.

Tim: Moshe, yeah. Moshe and Aharon. Those two go to confront Pharaoh ten times over, famously saying, "Let my people go." And that conflict intensifies through ten acts of de-creation that God sends upon Egypt, the ten plagues. The 10th one being the death of the firstborn throughout the land. But Yahweh provides a merciful covering in a substitute for the firstborn through the Passover lamb.

So the first movement ends with the night of Passover and then a long ritual description describing the seven-day celebration that kicks off with Passover every year. The narrative just stops, and it becomes a little handbook for how to celebrate Passover.

So it's from their enslavement to the night of their liberation (00:06:00) culminating in a long description of a seven-day feast with no work on the first day and the seventh day. So it has a nice arc to it from they were fruitful and multiplying to rebellion and sin to a de-creation, and then to a liberation through death culminating in a seventh day.

Jon: A new seventh day. 

Tim: Yeah. Just like Genesis 1 through 9. Second movement begins in chapter 13, verse 17, and it goes through the end of chapter 24. And this is their journey through the wilderness to Mount Sinai where you could say it's from Egypt … 

Jon: To Sinai.

Tim: ... to Sinai, with the journey through the wilderness in between. And what we focused on—

Jon: And through the sea.

Tim: Yes, that's right. What we focused on for the first movement was the name of Yahweh in the story. What we focused on in the second movement in the wilderness was the test of both Israel testing God and God testing his people. So that was the stories of them going through the wilderness, grumbling and complaining because of lack of food and water. (00:07:00) 

Moses has some leadership consultations with his father-in-law, Jethro, and then they end up at Mount Sinai where they see the fire in the cloud, and the people are afraid and don't want to go close. And they send Moses up as their covenant mediator on their behalf. And God reveals the covenant laws of the ten commandments, plus 42 more. Then the people say, "Sign us up. We want to get married and enter this covenant of Yahweh." And then it ends with Moses sitting on the middle of the mountain for six days. And on the seventh day, he goes up through a wall of fire into the clouds on the top of the mountain.

Jon: And we ended when he gets up there on the seventh day?

Tim: Correct.

Jon: Because then he's gonna hang out there. 

Tim: Yeah, he's gonna be up there for 40 days. 

Jon: For 40 days.

Tim: We're told 40 days and 40 nights. He goes up, waits six days. On the seventh day, he ascends.

Jon: So just like the first movement ends with the seventh day, the second movement ends with a new seventh day.

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: And the third movement now begins (00:08:00) with Moses experiencing the seventh day up on the mountain.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. You could say this last section is the apocalypse of Moses.

Jon: Because he's gonna have a vision. An unveiling.

Tim: An unveiling. He's penetrated through the clouds, and he's up. 

Jon: He's in the sky realm.

Tim: Yeah. Here being on top of Mount Sinai with the cloud upon it, he passes through a wall of fire. And he's gonna see a realm and be shown a vision of the heavenly temple and how to make a small-scale model of it.

Jon: He's up in the heavens seeing a heavenly temple so he could bring it back down.

Tim: Yeah. You're actually told in chapter 24, right before he goes up, that he and the elders went halfway up the mountain, and they were looking at the rakia (the sky-dome). And they could see through it, and they could see Elohim and Elohim's throne through it.

Jon: The rakia being, in the ancient’s imagination, a solid dome like a snow globe above us. (00:09:00) 

Tim: Yeah, exactly.

Jon: And above that is God's throne, and you can see through it like a snow globe. 

Tim: Yeah, totally. So where we're at in the story is God wants … Now that he's made a covenant with his people, joined them to himself, what God says is—and we're going to read this—he wants to go live with his people by coming from the heavens down to the land. So God's going to create a local incarnation of the heavenly temple in a symbolic Eden-like temple structure in the form of a tent that will live right at the center of Israel's camp. 

Jon: He's making Heaven mobile.

Tim: He's making Heaven mobile, and he's gonna come move in and live with the people that he just entered a covenant with. That's the basic arc. So the theme that we're going to be exploring is the theme of temple. I mean, really, it's tabernacle.

Jon: Yeah, it's a tabernacle.

Tim: Tabernacle. 

Jon: It's the tent version of the temple.

Tim: It's the tent. But within the biblical story, both the tent, which is a mobile version, or the temple, which is a brick and mortar (00:10:00) permanent structure, both of those are later manifestations of the core idea and theme that Eden is like the real thing, which is a place where Heaven and Earth are one, where God and humans live together as one. And the tabernacle and temple are later, more diminished forms of the reality that Eden was.

Jon: Yeah, because Eden was a true overlapping … It was up on a mountain. Kind of what Moses was where he gets the blueprints. But when he brings the blueprints down and they build the version below, it's like a representation now of what we're hoping for, which is a renewed Eden.

Tim: That's right. We'll get into all these details even more as we go through it. But that's the big idea. That in this third movement God has liberated his people through movement one, liberated them out of slavery. Movement two has taken them through the deadly wilderness (00:11:00) and brought them to himself on a mountain.

And on top of that mountain, they have a Heaven and Earth spot. And since the people are not all going to be up on top of the mountain, God is going to take the Eden presence on top of the mountain and bring it down to the foot of the mountain where the people are. And that's what the third movement is all about. Out of slavery, through the wilderness, and into God's presence.

Jon: They’re gonna get a double wide temple to move in with God.

Tim: Yeah, I guess it would be about that size too. Anyhow. So there we go. What we're gonna do for these next few conversations is get nerdy with the tabernacle blueprints, man, and the symbolism, and all the stuff going on with them.

Jon: Should I be excited about that?

Tim: You should. It's so fascinating. 

Jon: Okay.

Tim: It's really cool. 

Jon: All right.

Tim: Tabernacle blueprints here we come.

Jon: If you've been reading through the Bible from the beginning, you're trying to read through the whole Bible, you've gotten through 52 law codes (00:12:00) that just kind of jump out and they're like, "By the way, here's …" Ten commandments would be easy to read. 

Tim: Yeah. Yeah. 

Jon: You're like, "Oh, I know these." Then you get these 42 … We didn't even walk through those.

Tim: Nope. 

Jon: And you're kind of like, “That'd be a slog.” You're like, "Ooh, what the heck? Okay, cool. More narrative." And then you turn the page and you've got just line after line, page after page … 

Tim: Verbal blueprints.

Jon: … of verbal blueprints. And then you begin to question your life decisions.

Tim: Of your Bible reading plan. This is a place where a lot of people fall off. They fall off the train. And understandably so. So yeah, what we're gonna try and do is we can't read all of it right now, of course, but give a lay of the land, understand the key meanings of the core symbolic furniture, and all this stuff. It actually makes a lot of sense once you get that.

Section break (00:12:55)

Tim: So what we're looking at is Exodus 25 through 40. Lo and behold, it has been neatly divided into three parts. The first part is the first set of blueprints. And this is in chapters 25 to 31. And just a quick overview here, Moses is up on the mountain and he's going to be shown … Actually, here, let's just read the first paragraph. I think that'll be more appropriate. 

So the story just continues on where Moses went up through the wall of fire, and he's up on top of the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. Chapter 25 then just begins, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying ..." (00:14:00) This is pretty cool. So all the tabernacle blueprints are speech from Yahweh to Moses up on the mountain. The narrative only moves forward a few times when it says, "And then the Lord said this to Moses." So that's the only action that happens is God speaking to Moses. And then the speeches are really long, and they're the blueprints. Just try and take a guess at how many times God speaks to Moses on top of the mountain. 

Jon: How many times does it say, "And then God spoke to Moses?" 

Tim: How many times does—

Jon: It's either seven or ten? 

Tim: Yeah, it's seven. 

Jon: It's seven.

Tim: It's seven. So the speech of God to Moses that reveals the tabernacle blueprints is you can just count it up. There are seven speech blocks. It's a complete statement, but also seven is a number that reminds you of the creation beat or the Eden beat in the melody calling back to God's creation of a complete ordered world in seven days, which is then described in Genesis 2 (00:15:00) as an Eden spot. So the first time it appears out of seven is in chapter 25 verse 1—

Jon: Right off the bat, "The Lord spoke to Moses saying ..."

Tim: "The Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for me.'"

Jon: Let's get some fundraising going. 

Tim: Yeah, it's a capital campaign. 

Jon: Let's get that thermometer filled up.

Tim: Totally. The contribution is going to consist of gold, silver, and bronze—cool—blue, purple, and scarlet red material—

Jon: We're gonna need that.

Tim: Yeah. Lots of just fine linen, white linen, and also goat skins. A lot of animal skins. Also, ram's skins dyed red and then—

Jon: Porpoise skins. Why are you giggling?

Tim: I still remember … So Exodus 25:5, there's different—

Jon: Translations here?

Tim: Translations here. So the Hebrew word is tachash. This will be humorous. The King James translated it “badger skins.”

Jon: That kind of makes a little more sense than a porpoise skin. Where are they going to get these porpoises?

Tim: The New Revised Standard just punted "fine leather." The New American Standard went "porpoise skin." ESV went "goat skin."

Jon: But we already got goat skin. 

Tim: The NIV says durable leather. 

Jon: Okay, NIV, I see what you're doing there.

Tim: Totally. Just because it's good to do this now and then.

Jon: Whenever you see that much … 

Tim: Diversity.

Jon: ... diversity, something's happening.

Tim: It's a good place to know, hmm, we're not quite certain. So here. Here's The Standard Hebrew English Lexicon of the Old Testament. “Tachash—The origin of this noun is uncertain.” And then they just start listing … Ah, there may be …  Oh, okay. So there's an Arabic cognate word, “dukhas.” That's the ancient Arabic word for "porpoise."

Jon: And NASB was like, “Good enough. We're going to go with porpoise.” 

Tim: But there's also an Egyptian word that could have corresponding sounding letters (inaudible 00:17:14) that means "stretched skin or leather."

Jon: So that's the NIV. 

Tim: The NIV took that. Because of the connection with Arabic, tachash is most often taken to mean some sort of dolphin or porpoise skin, but there are—

Jon: I mean, is that a thing to even get a dolphin skin or a porpoise skin?

Tim: Well, okay, but then they're citing a thorough study by a scholar with the last name Galling who said, “But it can hardly mean a tanned skin of a type of dolphin. But more likely fine leather.”

Jon: How could it mean? 

Tim: Well, here's the thing. The Israelites were not for the most part a seafaring people.

Jon: But they could have traded. 

Tim: They were around bodies of water, but we're not told that they were anywhere near the Mediterranean, which is where dolphins would have lived. (00:18:00) 

Jon: They would have had traded with some Phoenicians or something. 

Tim: Yeah. Interesting. Here in this dictionary, they just say, "It is sometimes felt best to just keep this Hebrew word untranslated." 

Jon: Oh, okay. 

Tim: That's what they think. Anyway—

Jon: Which would be what again? 

Tim: Tachash. 

Jon: Tachash. Or the plural tachachim. Anyway, all right, that was a detour. But every now and then it's just good to remember this is an ancient language. It's an ancient form of a language that even though there's a modern form of it, its ancient form still has linguistic puzzles that scholars aren't fully certain about. And the skin.

Jon: So if we were trying to remake the tabernacle perfectly, speed bump here … 

Tim: Speed bump here. 

Jon: ... do we get dolphin skin? 

Tim: Or badger skin.

Jon: Or badger skin. 

Tim: Or fine imported Egyptian leather. 

Jon: Let's just roll the dice. Maybe make three versions and see which one God comes down and lives in. 

Tim: Okay, all right. Let's see. Also on the inventory list (00:19:00) for the fundraiser is oil for lighting, spices for the incense and anointing oil, also onyx stones. And you the reader are like, onyx stones. There's only one other passage in the entire Hebrew Bible where such stones are named. I feel like I've heard that before. Let me look it up. Oh, yes. It's the description of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2 described as being a land of gold and onyx stone.

Jon: What is an onyx?

Tim: Isn't it a glossy black?

Jon: Not really up with my gems. 

Tim: Let's see. Onyx is layered chalcedony and is often black with a white banding or a band of solid black. It's like a glossy black stone. Sharp.

Jon: Do you know what layered chalcedony means? You said that like you know what it means.

Tim: Oh, no. Here. Now I have to look up chalcedony. I think—

Jon: It's a cryptocrystalline form of silica. (00:20:00) Oh, silica. This is like a proto computer. Oh, we can get some conspiracy theory going here. 

Tim: Interesting. Okay. 

Jon: Okay, silica. It's a black—

Tim: Whoa, yeah. Look, it's a silicate mineral chalcedony. Wow.

Jon: Cool. 

Tim: That is super cool. It actually still is marvelous now as it ever was that there are these remarkable elements that make up the material of our planet.

Jon: It's unbelievable.

Tim: And some of them are really rare. And so they become what we call precious stones or gems. But they have remarkable properties, and obviously look cool. I don't know, my kids are so into it. They've been in a rock collecting phase for a while. They just like pile up on their bedroom dresser or something. Anyway, onyx stones. 

That's the inventory list. So basically (00:21:00) gold, then a bunch of colored fabrics, bunch of animal fabrics, spices and oil and precious stones. Exodus 25:8, here's why. "Let them construct a miqdash for me so that I may shakan among them." Two key words. Key words. So miqdash is related to the noun kadosh or kodesh, which is a holiness. So a miqdash is the place that is itself …

Jon: A holy place.

Tim: … a holy place.

Jon: Cool. Miqdash.

Tim: A place that is set apart and made unique because it is for the one and only unique Elohim of all to take up residence in. Which is what the word "shakan" means, which means to live in a tent. Mishakan means tent. A general term "to live among." But if you're migratory, living among the way—

Jon: You're using a tent.

Tim: At least a tent. That's it. "So let them make (00:22:00) a holy space that I can take up residence among them in the form of a tent." Verse 9, "Let them build it according to everything I'm about to show you. The pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all its furniture, that's how you shall make it." So in other words, everything that's going to be described in the blueprints represents a replica, a pattern of something that he's going to see. 

Jon: Oh.

Tim: In other words, the thing that's described is not the thing that Moses sees. 

Jon: Oh, okay.

Tim: Does that makes sense?

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: According to everything that I'm going to show you, make it according to the pattern of the tent—

Jon: You're gonna see some heavenly thing, and then we're gonna get a bunch of earthly material and replicate it.

Tim: Yeah. The wording here is pretty key. “According to everything I'm going to show you, the pattern of the tent, and the pattern of all its implements, that is the manner in which you should build it.” (00:23:00) That's why I called it an apocalypse. The biblical term "apocalypse" means to uncover or reveal. So it's like the lid of the heavens. He just penetrated through the lid of the heavens up into the sky. He's seeing the heavenly temple. And then what is going to be described is called a pattern, a model, that is the thing that they are to make. Because Moses is not going to build the heavenly temple. It already exists.

Jon: Well, and maybe like, in what real sense could you build something heavenly with earthly materials?

Tim: Yeah, totally. That's right. So that little paragraph right there just gives you this—It’s the macro introduction to all the blueprints. God's heavenly temple is going to have a direct portal to an earthly incarnation of the heavenly temple in the form of a pattern or model that will be the place that God takes up residence. When you go into the tent you will be, as it were, in two places at once. (00:24:00) 

Jon: Well, now you're taking a step there.

Tim: Yes, I am.

Jon: Because it could just be a miniature. 

Tim: Okay, yeah. 

Jon: When you go and you look at a miniature of a World War II plane or something, and you're holding it, in no real sense is that a portal to an actual World War II plane.

Tim: Okay, good. All right. Here's the step that I'm making here, and here's just a little chart that I made. So the last paragraph right before the apocalypse of Moses begins is about how Moses went up the mountain, the cloud covered it, the glory of Yahweh descended on top of the mountain, six days on the seventh day. So the last paragraph of the book of Exodus is, "And the cloud came to cover the tent and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle." 

Jon: I see.

Tim: And in contrast to Moses going through the flame on top of the mountain, the last paragraph, Moses is not able to go into the tent. (00:25:00) And that becomes a plot conflict that Leviticus solves. So the whole point is the presence that marked the union of Heaven and Earth on top of the mountain is now moving to—

Jon: I see. So in that way it is what you're calling a portal. 

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Whoever goes in there—

Jon: You get to experience what Moses experienced on the mountain. But now it's down here.

Tim: But now it's down here. It's Heaven come to Earth in the incarnate form of a symbolic tent. So what we're gonna see is that the design of the tent is very much modeled after the symbolic geography of the mountain. And both are modeled after the symbolic geography of Eden. 

So here's a quick way to think about the mountain. The Exodus story had the people down at the base of the mountain. And there's that whole thing we talked about. On the third day, they are to come up to the mountain or onto of the mountain, and people can debate those things. (00:26:00) So the people are at the base of the mountain. And then you're told that Aaron and the 70 elders and Joshua got to go up with Moses to the middle of the mountain. They have a meal, and then they see through the sky and see God's throne. And Moses alone goes up to the summit.

Jon: Three sections of the mountain. 

Tim: Yeah, three sections of the mountain. In the same way … Do you remember Eden had three sections to it? 

Jon: Oh, yeah.

Tim: You had Eden as a land called delight. Then within Eden, there's a garden. And then the narrator is really specific to mark off "and in the middle of the garden is the tree of life." So that's a horizontal map of an outer area, a garden area, and then the inner area. 

Jon: Yes, sorry. For Eden, there's a land of Eden. That means delight. But then there's a garden in Eden. We usually say garden of Eden or the garden ... conflating the two. But it's a garden in Eden. 

Tim: It's not the garden of Eden. Actually, that's a misnomer. It's a garden in a region called Eden. (00:27:00) 

Jon: Got it. And then within the garden, in the center, is the tree of life.

Tim: Tree of life. That's horizontal.

Jon: Three sections.

Tim: Mount Sinai flips it vertical. You have the base of the mountain, which is cool. I mean, you're in the action. You're in Eden as it were. But then just a few are invited up to the middle of the mountain—

Jon: The garden.

Tim: And there they have a meal. The few who get chosen to go up the middle of the mountain, they have a meal where they eat and drink and see God and eat in God's presence. And then only one is invited to go past the fire, or the wall of fire, up to the summit.

Jon: To the tree of life. 

Tim: The tree of life. So similarly, the tabernacle is going to be designed with a three-tiered structure. So you've got the courtyard, the big courtyard, like with a screen fence all the way around it or like a fabric tent fence. You know when you go to like, whatever, some convention center, (00:28:00) and they … What do they call it? Pipe and drape?

Jon: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Okay. 

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: We need a little section here. Throw up a little—

Tim: Pipe and drape. Made a wall from PVC pipe and drape. So the courtyard is marked off, a big area, by pipe and drape. It's really fancy.

Jon: Just the goat skins?

Tim: Oh, I forget. I think so. 

Jon: Might be the badger. 

Tim: And into that area the people can go, just like the people have access to the base of the mountain. 

Jon: Cool. But then there's the tent proper. The tent proper is divided into two spaces. Think of a rectangle. There's two-thirds of the rectangle, you have to go through a two-cherubim door, pass into it as it were—

Jon: To get to the last part.

Tim: To the first third. 

Jon: Oh, to get to the first third. 

Tim: Yeah, which is called the holy place. 

Jon: And this is like the center of the mountain or the garden of Eden. Because the cherubim guard the garden?

Tim: Cherubim guard the entrance to the garden. 

Jon: And there's cherubim on the outside of that. (00:29:00) 

Tim: There's cherubim woven into the fabric doors as you go into the tent, into the first chamber, which is called the holy place. 

Jon: Cool.

Tim: And there you'll see a few things. You'll see an altar of incense that's constantly raising up the smoke of incense, you're going to see a golden table with fresh bread on it. And two loaves of … excuse me. Yeah, two rows of bread. And then you'll see a seven-candle menorah, which just means lamp. What you'll see across is a blue divider veil with more cherubim on it. And that blue is important because it's the sky. So one time a year on the Day of Atonement, one of the priests is selected to go through that sky veil into the holy of holies.

Jon: Which is like Moses going to the top of the mountain. 

Tim: Which is like Moses going to the top of the mountain, going through the sky-dome, which maps on to the garden, which is going into the middle of a garden, that is (00:30:00) to commune with God’s own life by eating the tree of life. That's super important.

Now to explain that verbally. For y'all listening, that may have been murky. Just think of a concentric circle, and you have an outer circle, and you have one circle on the inside, and then another circle on the inside of that. Three circles. At the middle is the center of the garden, the tree of life, or the top of the mountain, or the holy of holies. And then you can go out from there. And they're all three mapped onto each other in terms of narrative analogy and shared vocabulary in the descriptions. It's pretty cool. So what does it all mean? 

Jon: What does it all mean? 

Tim: You told me how it strikes you to see all those three places mapped onto each other. 

Jon: So it seems to mean that humanity was meant to live in this place that is intense. (00:31:00) 

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: It's kind of an intense spot. When we read the garden of Eden story, it doesn't feel that intense. It feels very inviting. Right? 

Tim: That's true. 

Jon: It's only intense when they eat of the forbidden fruit.

Tim: Which is breaking the one command that God gave them.

Jon: Breaking the command. And then it gets intense. But this is the place where humanity was meant to go to be connected to God's life. And from that place the rivers flow out and the garden extends, and you get this sense of this is supposed to be a place where God's presence then will infiltrate the rest of creation. 

Tim: Yeah. It's like the source of all life. The source from which all life and abundance flows.

Jon: Humanity begins there. And humanity is meant to go out—

Tim: Humanity begins outside of there. 

Jon: Oh, yeah, yeah. Is placed there—

Tim: But then God takes a human and places them in the garden in proximity to the middle.

Jon: And humanity is told to multiply (00:32:00) and fill the Earth and subdue it. But they're placed in the hotspot to begin their journey of subduing the Earth. And instead of eating of the tree of life, they are banished from it because now it's a liability in some sense. God doesn't want them to have it and they're outside the garden. So when you get here, and Moses gets access to it, you're like, "Whoa, someone got back in."

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: "Someone got back in the hotspot. That's not supposed to be possible."

Tim: Totally. For example, when Jacob, back in the Genesis scroll, fell asleep in a field and he saw a dream of Heaven and Earth united by means of a stairway ramp. And what he saw, he saw a human form on the top of the stairway, like at the union of Heaven and Earth. And it's Yahweh appearing to him. You're like, "I guess that makes sense." And there's angels, heavenly beings, going up and down. But in no (00:33:00) version of that experience does he go up the stairway. So Moses is the first. This is very significant.

Jon: Moses gets through.

Tim: He ascends to the heavens. He goes to Heaven. 

Jon: And then he comes down and he builds a replica of something … Now, this is where maybe it gets blurry in my mind. There was an actual place where Adam and Eve lived on Earth, where there was fruit trees and the tree of life was there. I suppose some people may take an interpretation of that's all figurative or symbolic.

Tim: Or just as a third option is that Eden is the kind of place where Heaven and Earth are one, and it's a place to which access was lost. Which means that it would be impossible to locate that place on what we call Earth. Because it's not a place that is only on Earth, it's a place where Heaven and Earth are one, which is why it (00:34:00) seems to be able to appear anywhere as you go on through the story. Does that make sense?

Jon: No. 

Tim: Actually, it doesn’t to me either. What I think the narrative is trying to say—I think I understand. Why is it that the Heaven on Earth spot can be encountered on different map locations of what we would call Earth?

Jon: Are you talking about when Abraham meets with the angels at the oaks of Mamre or something?

Tim: No, that's very clearly happening like at a place called Mamre near Beersheba at a tree near there. What I'm talking about—in these moments where people see or have an experience of Eden.

Jon: Like what?

Tim: Like Jacob's dream in the middle of a field and like Moses on top of Mount Sinai.

Jon: Oh, okay. 

Tim: In nobody's reconstructions of where (00:35:00) the garden of Eden might be is like the middle of the Sinai Peninsula on anybody's list. 

Jon: You're saying it doesn't actually matter where it is. What matters is that Heaven and Earth have united as one in some meaningful way that we really can't explain.

Tim: Yeah. I mean, the only language I have accessible in my imagination is that of dimensions. That Eden is a dimension where Heaven and Earth are one. But it exists in such a way that it could actually touch down and connect with Earth on many different … what we would call separate locations. But on the plane of Eden it's just … Yeah.

Jon: Yeah. So it's meant to be a place where humanity has access. And then through that access extends the blessing of the garden, the blessing of God throughout all the Earth. And now in this story, it's become packaged up (00:36:00) into this little tent.

Tim: A pattern.

Jon: A pattern, which Israel is given access to, but not olly olly oxen free access.

Tim: No, it's very particular, if I'm understanding what you're saying.

Jon: Like Israel can get to the outer courts.

Tim: Oh, I see. It's very much a tiered … In other words, it's an architecture mapped onto Eden, but clearly, we are building this outside of Eden reality. Because only one symbolic person can go into the middle.

Jon: Because you can imagine the story where God says, like, "I'm gonna give you this Eden portal and everyone can just go in." And that's cool. We all get to like enter and invite all the immigrants and strangers and they’re like, "The Eden portal!"

Tim: "Let's go."

Jon: But this Eden portal is like, actually, only the priests can get into the middle section. And once a year, only one priest, the high priest, (00:37:00) can ascend the mountain per se … 

Tim: As it were.

Jon: … to the tree of life and go to the holy of holies. So what does it mean? It means God wants to reestablish Eden, give access to Eden, but there's still …  but this isn't actually access to Eden. This is access to a pattern of Eden, which is different than actual Eden. 

Tim: When the Eden presence takes up residence over the tent, walking into that room is a Heaven on Earth spot, which is why it's so guarded. Why? Because it flips a well-known Christian phrase that is like a half-truth. But a dangerous half-truth, I think. That God can't have anything to do with sin. Sin cannot be in the presence of God.

The tabernacle actually turns that over and says, no, what God's purpose is, is to live among his people, which means God moves into sin. God stakes out a claim (00:38:00) in the region of sin and dedicates it and redeems it by his holy presence, and then begins to invite traffic in between sin and holiness but through a mechanism to account for it.

Jon: He plants a little holiness seed in the midst of all the sin.

Tim: And that's what all the ritual is about the altar because nobody can come into the tent, no priest can come into the tent, without first stopping by an altar that stands in front of the door and surrendering a blameless life that covers for the compromised life of the priest.

Jon: Are you talking about the Day of Atonement?

Tim: No. Anytime, every day and night, there are animals offered as blameless substitutes on the altar. So that anytime—

Jon: Which is in the outer courts.

Tim: Which is right outside the door of the tent.

Jon: Oh, right outside the door. 

Tim: So in other words, this whole thing is a symbolic ritual lesson. It's an enactment of the return to Eden of how God is going to open up (00:39:00) a way back to Eden for a representative one on behalf of the many. And every day it takes place that the one can go in on behalf of the many through the surrender of a blameless life that covers for the non-blameless life. 

And then once a year … Now we're getting into Leviticus. But the Day of Atonement will be … Even with that mechanism, Israel's brokenness, their injustice, their neglect of their neighbor and of the poor, their mistreatment of each other is going to actually vandalize the land and vandalize God's holy space. So once a year it needs to be purified through an extra special ritual called The Day of Atonement. 

But the whole point is it's a spot where Heaven and Earth are one, God stakes out a claim in the middle of sin, God actually moves towards. He doesn't stay away from it; he moves towards it. But they're like two magnets. You know, the opposite ends of a magnet. So all of the symbolism and ritual of the table of bread and the menorah and incense (00:40:00) and the offerings on the altar are all these ritual images communicating God's desire to create a way for his people to come into his presence. But it's limited. So it's Eden, but a diminished form of it for only one representative to go into the middle. So it's both like hurray, and oh, man, we are not really in Eden, are we? This is just a little microform. 

Section break (00:40:29)

Tim: I don't know if I'm clearing up any of your—

Jon: Oh, no, I was just wondering if I should push back on that because you did say in a real way God is there. 

Tim: Oh, yeah.

Jon: God's presence comes down and lives there.

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: It's not diminished. God's presence isn't diminished. 

Tim: Oh, sure. But it’s sure not filling all of creation.

Jon: But neither was it on Mount Sinai. 

Tim: Oh, okay. That's true. That's right. And neither was it in the garden of Eden story. 

Jon: Yeah, not quite yet.

Tim: It was one localized place. But the whole point of that river and of the human vocation to be fruitful and multiply and fill the land is that Eden is meant to push out of its original boundary—

Jon: And the whole point of Israel now is for Eden to burst out.

Tim: To be a kingdom of priests with me dwelling at your middle. That is, when I'm in your middle, out of me will come … 

Jon: All the nations will be blessed.

Tim: … all life and blessing for you, Israel, (00:42:00) so that the blessing could spread through you to all the nations. That's right.

Jon: So in what way is it diminished?

Tim: Oh, that it takes up … Okay. Okay. Thank you. Diminished.

Jon: It's compact.

Tim: It's compact. You know, you're right. Thank you for that. Actually, maybe you don't know that you're doing this, but you're countering a trend that's even built into vocabulary that we often use, which is to downgrade … because we know where the story is going in terms of this takes the form of the temple. And then when Jesus arrives, he says he is the temple. So it's easy in Christian vocabulary about these holy spaces to downgrade them.

And Jesus says that he is one who is greater than the temple. But that doesn't mean he thinks the temple as such was like a bad thing. It was a symbol that pointed to a reality of Heaven and Earth—

Jon: Being one.

Tim: God and human is one and he is. (00:43:00) 

Jon: In some real way, it's a symbol, a pattern, pointing to something else that Moses saw that is divine Heaven meets Earth. But then also, when God comes to dwell there, it becomes more than a pattern. It actually becomes a place where Heaven and Earth are one. 

Tim: Thank you. It's a good point. But it's a symbolic Eden.

Jon: But it's still a symbolic Eden. It's interesting to think about … Gosh, what would be a good metaphor here? 

Tim: We just had a friend who went to the big Star Wars exhibit down in— 

Jon: I was thinking Disneyland. 

Tim: Oh. 

Jon: That's where my mind was.

Tim: Oh, funny. I'm just saying our friend went to the life size replica of the Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. And the pictures he showed me made me kind of want to spend the incredible amount of money it would take to go there. But that's another matter. But the thing is, that's a replica of a thing that lives in my imagination. You know what I'm saying? So that's where the analogy (00:44:00) maybe doesn't fit. 

Jon: I'm trying to think of the category of there's a reality and then you create a replica of that reality, but the power of that reality decides to use that replica to actually then give access to the reality itself. I mean, “portal” is the right word.

Tim: Okay. Yeah. Here's an analogy that’s occurring to me. We live here in the northwest region of the United States of America. The northern border of Oregon is a river with the state above it to the north of it called Washington. And it's a gigantic river called the Columbia. You go miles from where we live in Portland up the Columbia, and you get to Bonneville Dam, which is a gigantic hydroelectric dam. So cool. Tours they offer, so rad for kids. It's really cool. 

So that thing generates power and then travels really far to this network (00:45:00) of power stations throughout the Portland metro area. There's actually one a few blocks from here. And it's buried in a neighborhood. But it's half a square city block with a huge fence around it and barbed wire. These massive structures that are humming, vibrating—

Jon: With energy.

Tim: You can hear it. I ride my bike by them on my way here. 

Jon: Wow. 

Tim: Any day I ride here I ride by them. 

Jon: That's the energy of the dam. 

Tim: It is. It's the actual energy that was generated by the river turning the turbines that is concentrated in its most dense form in the turbine, whatever that thing is.

Jon: Yeah, that's interesting.

Tim: But then here's a little localized expression of that electricity that gets condensed in a real form and then distributed to a neighborhood at this transformer station or something. Is that a good analogy? 

Jon: That's an interesting analogy. That's helpful in just thinking about how can the power of something kind of show up in what you might call diminished, but it's the true energy. 

Tim: It's localized. 

Jon: It's localized. (00:46:00) It's gonna power your toaster the same whether or not you got it straight from the dam.

Tim: And it's the same thing at the neighborhood transformer station as the thing out by the mega station. It's the same electricity. Actually, I don't know, electricity travels pretty fast. But I kind of like this. If I were to stick my finger on one of those things here a few blocks from where we're located—

Jon: You're gonna get electrocuted by it. 

Tim: Yes! Wow, this is working for me. I'm getting electrocuted by something that's happening really miles and miles away, is the thing that I'm making contact with. But that thing is localized in two different spaces. Anyway.

Jon: I like that. Let me use another one.

Tim: Okay, please.

Jon: What's the thing called where you're in a sovereign country and you kind of say, "Hey, we're not in our country, but this building now is our country.” 

Tim: This building? Oh, an embassy? 

Jon: An embassy.

Tim: Okay. (00:47:00) 

Jon: So like we're Americans. So United States … This happens with every country, I think. Like if the United States has a presence in Italy and we have a building in Italy, and the building is in Italy, but in some way, the actual building is the United States. So when you're in that building you're in the United States.

Tim: Thank you.

Jon: Is there something interesting there?

Tim: I think so. It's also sparking a memory. Jessica and I were studying in Jerusalem for a year in graduate school. We went all over the Mediterranean, and we went down to Egypt and spent like a week and a half in Egypt. And we were in Cairo for a while … And I forget. We had to do … There was something with our visa or to check in and we went to the US Embassy located in Egypt in Cairo. And it was kind of weird. Because we walked into this building in the middle of downtown Cairo (00:48:00) and it actually felt like I just walked into America. 

Jon: A portal back into America.

Tim: In terms of the art, the people … It was just … Anyway. It was like that. 

Jon: I'm just trying to say, we're trying to imagine that there's this divine reality where Heaven and Earth are one. We don't know what that is. Moses got to see it. And Adam and Eve were experiencing it in some real way and perhaps we have had our own existential moments where it's like, “I think I'm experiencing that.” But there's something there. 

Tim: Yeah. This is not an insight that is unique to the Israelite or Christian traditions. 

Jon: Yeah, true. 

Tim: This is a pretty universal human experience that there's reality as our senses experience it. And then there are moments, ways, times, modes of consciousness that open up reality in a more rich, dense form that's very difficult for us to put language or imagery to. (00:49:00) It's a thing. 

Jon: It's a thing. And in the biblical imagination access to that happens all over the place.

Tim: Yeah. 

Jon: And in some real way, it's happening here in the tabernacle.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. So the imagery used in the pattern and the materials reflect the most precious, unique kinds of materials that would take the ancient Israelite imagination to think about the boundaries of reality. So precious stones that come from deep places in the earth, fabrics that don't appear in nature, like blue or dyed fabric, like you don't go find that somewhere. You make it and it's precious and valuable.

I guess gold appears in nature but then you turn it into forms that are, you know, handiwork. And then also the cherubim are important because they are hybrid creatures that represent creatures of the land (00:50:00) and creatures of the sky because they have wings, and they have legs and faces.

Jon: They are parts of creatures we know but then they make up some sort of creature that does not exist. 

Tim: So every part of this building is telling you don't mistake these physical tangible objects for the reality to which they point, which is a union of Heaven and Earth—a union of what we see and experience and a union of what we cannot see. 

Jon: That's interesting that you would phrase it that way. Don't mistake it. Because you could also say don't forget that you're actually in the place.

Tim: Oh, I see. Okay. All right. Thank you. Thanks. Thanks for that. Maybe you're checking my language. I need to think about that more. Because I think where the biblical story is going is that the real hotspot of the union of Heaven and Earth is not human-made. Eden, the heavens, it's not human-made. But God appoints (00:51:00) these human-made replicas and then sends some electricity down to a transformer station at the center of it. And it's the real heavenly presence but taking up residence in this human-made form. 

I do think there is something about not mistaking the symbol for the reality. Because there are going to be lots of stories where the Israelites start to take the symbol for granted, and God's not pleased with that. The ark that takes up residence in the middle, the Israelites, in 1 Samuel, bring it out in a battle with the Philistines as if the gold box is gonna save them. And God's like, "Forget that." And he lets the Philistines defeat them and capture the golden box. 

It's like an object lesson to say like I'm not your talisman or your little shaman object that you can just bring out this tent or this box and use the electricity for your purposes. I'm gonna send the electricity there (00:52:00) and I'm going to let you come in on my terms, not vice versa. So those are parts of how the tabernacle works in the biblical story that makes me think that it is a physical symbol, but it's charged with a localized expression of the real heavenly presence of God.

Jon: Yeah. I'm thinking of the Isaiah passage where the prophet Isaiah is in …  

Tim: He has a vision.

Jon: He has a vision. He's like in the earthly tabernacle. He's seeing that it's a portal to something more.

Tim: Right. Right. Now, he's not physically in the holy of holies.

Jon: In his vision, he's in it.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. That's right.

Jon: And in his vision—

Tim: Is something he recognizes as what the temple would look like inside, but then it's a portal to Heaven.

Jon: But then when he looks up, he actually sees what Moses would have seen on top of the mountain. 

Tim: Yeah, yeah, that's right. 

Jon: So in that way, there is still something … It's a transformer station, not the actual Bonneville Dam. (00:53:00) 

Tim: Maybe what's a hang-up for us here, I think, is the fact that we're four-dimensional creatures inhabiting four-dimensional space. Because you could try and press these categories. And I think this is where the biblical story is leading us is to think of time in the same way. We experience time as a linear forward continuum. But it's clearly—time is bound up with space. I'm thinking about Albert Einstein—

Jon: Clearly. Clearly. I mean … 

Tim: Unclearly time is bound up with space because our passage through space is our passage through time. This is why you get on a rocket going—

Jon: This is why a clock ticks faster on a mountain than the base of a mountain.

Tim: No, my kids tell me this stuff. I show them explainer videos on relativity, and then Roman will just bring it up—my son will bring it up on the way to swim practice and he's like, "Dad, if we drove to swim practice at 2,000 miles an hour, I would be (00:54:00) younger than everybody when we got there."

Jon: And that makes sense to him somehow.

Tim: Yeah. Well, he watched an explainer video where they use like throwing a ball on a train moves differently than people throwing a ball on the land. Anyway. But the whole point is that time for us is a dimension of experience as we go through space. Logically, that implies that if there are dimensions of reality that transcend those four-dimensional confines, that would be a space that relates to time in a different way than we do. Which means that—

Jon: Now you have the plot of Arrival. 

Tim: Now you have the plot of Arrival. For a creature that inhabits more dimensions, their interactions with us have to take place within individual moments of time that we might see as separate. But for a creature inhabiting more dimensions, that might all be one moment. And this is the classical Israelite Jewish Christian concept of eternity. (00:55:00) That it's not sequential time going on forever. But it's literally an experience of an eternal present. 

Jon: Really?

Tim: Yes. Yes. Yeah. To talk about God as an eternal being is not just to say God is outside of time. It's saying that God is being itself that is not bound by the confines of time and space dimensions. The eternal present. I Am. It's the meaning of the name I Am. I Am the one that I Am.

Jon: When you say that, though—

Tim: This is the classical classic Christian and across multiple monotheistic religions, the classical view of God's eternal existence. 

Jon: So by that do you mean that eternity, the gift of eternity, I'm not supposed to be thinking about a future state that I get to exist in forever. Are you saying (00:56:00) that it's meant to be a quality of state that just exists? 

Tim: I think this is where time and space are important analogies to each other. If Eden is a space by dimension where Heaven and Earth are one, which is why people can encounter an Eden space at different places geographically in the biblical story, in the same way, one could encounter eternity at multiple moments throughout the course of their lives and they'll feel like separate experiences. They're analogous to each other. 

I think it's bound up with this conception of God as the source of all existence. And so all time that we experience as separate moments are all one to the eternal one, just like all space can relate to God's being, which is Eden, Heaven, and Earth as one in multiple spaces. Does that make any sense at all?

Jon: Well, yeah, I think to the degree that … 

Tim: It can make sense. (00:57:00) 

Jon: … it needs to make sense. But then we can layer on top of that the biblical idea of and then death will be no more, and there is some sense of sustained life.

Tim: Right, right, right.

Jon: Life that continues on.

Tim: Sure. But what other imagery could humans have to describe such a thing except as life that doesn't end? And being described … I mean, we're clearly … Well, I don't know. Here I'm clearly talking above my pay grade. What we need is a trained philosopher.

Jon: No, they’re just going to confuse us more. 

Tim: No, I’m serious. 

Jon: I think where the rubber hits the road with this is there's the classic conception of I'm a mortal being, I want to be immortal, I want to transcend … 

Tim: Yeah, the boundaries.

Jon: … the boundaries of mortality. I would call that eternal life. 

Tim: I see.

Jon: What you're describing as eternal life is just access to (00:58:00) a quality where Heaven and Earth are one connected to God, which is different than this idea of transcending mortality. 

Tim: But the idea of immortality could mean two things. It just means an undying state in these four dimensions of creaturely existence that we inhabit right now.

Jon: That's all I've known it to mean. 

Tim: But whatever the resurrection of Jesus means and the resurrection narratives means, Jesus is a kind of person that can inhabit both localized space. But then also, when he's translated in the ascension, he's translated so that now that localized expression of Jesus can be present in any space. 

Jon: What do you mean he was translated?

Tim: The ascension of Jesus.

Jon: When he goes to the sky?

Tim: Yeah. I mean, Jesus' ascension described in Acts is described using the imagery of … 

Jon: Going up to the divine.

Tim: … Daniel 7, using spatial imagery (00:59:00) to talk about the risen Jesus as a walking talking piece of new creation.

Jon: In the same way the tabernacle is this localized expression—

Tim: Expression of Heaven and Earth. But the risen Jesus is a being that takes up some kind of localized space in terms of his body. But at the same time, whatever the ascension is trying to communicate to us through these images of his vertical ascent into the heavens is about Jesus' localized presence becomes a universal presence after the ascension and then is accessible anywhere through the person and presence of the Spirit. 

I think the claim then is if all creation is destined for that similar kind of resurrection and re-creation, it will mean a transcendence. Not just a continuation of our present state, but a transcendence that will not cancel out our current forms of existence but actually raise them (01:00:00) to a new level of existence that fulfills and exceeds all of our current boundaries. I think that's what the biblical story is trying to communicate to us through these narratives. So the tabernacle would be a localized space that has at its heart cloud and fire through which one encounters something that transcends time and space.

Jon: In the biblical narrative, when Adam and Eve would eat from the tree of life or meant to … We don't actually ever get a story of them eating of it. 

Tim: Mm-mm. 

Jon: But is that the idea of that resurrection life, that new type of life, transcendent life?

Tim: Yeah, that would be taking the developed idea as you read through the whole biblical story. And then when you come back to Genesis and you say, “Ah …” 

Jon: That's what's going on. 

Tim: “… that's what the tree of life is."

Jon: It's access to a life that transcends mortality in the way … Now we have the category (01:01:00) of Jesus transcending mortality.

Tim: Yes. Okay. But the whole design of the tabernacle, which we're clearly going to have to do in the next episode, is that that's the heart … I am going to dwell in their midst. It's not like I'm going to send a symbolic replacement of me in their midst. I will dwell in their midst.

Jon: It's a replica of my house, but it's gonna be me.

Tim: It's gonna be me. And all of—The approach, to approach that presence living outside of Eden, as it were … If all humanity can't get back through, God moves into our neighborhood. And the way that we approach something that is so other, so holy, is the biblical Hebrew word to describe a being who is the eternal now.

Jon: The I Am. 

Tim: Yeah. That approaching that it would like obliterate my existence. It's like walking into a radioactive hotspot, or … Do you remember—

Jon: Or a black hole. 

Tim: Remember Into the Spider-Verse? (01:02:00) The cool Spider-Man movies. The one cool Spider-Man movie. I'm sorry. 

Jon: I like Spider-Man. All of them.

Tim: Do you like all of them? I just can't. 

Jon: I mean, I know. 

Tim: I can't get into it. Anyway. But Into the Spider-Verse was cool. And you remember Kingpin’s weapon of mass destruction is this like interdimensional destabilizer that he makes underground. And it's like this vortex of the multiverse coming together?

Jon: Yeah. 

Tim: Anyway, but the whole thing is … it's the boundary of existence itself. So for any creature to come in contact with it ... And it's represented by this big, perpetual explosion of fuzz and fire. It's like that. 

Jon: And it's the reason why God says, "I can't let you eat the tree of life anymore. This is not going to work." 

Tim: Creatures in a morally compromised state, which mirrors our physically compromised state—

Jon: It's why you can't go into God's presence and you can't see his face. (01:03:00) And it's why it's so shocking that Moses did it. And that's why when we get to … We're not even gonna get to this. But when we get to Leviticus and there's access to it, that should be just as shocking.

Tim: It's just shocking. Yeah, that's right.

Jon: Now, yep, we have to conclude.

Tim: Yeah, we do. But this is good. What we're talking about is the point of the whole tabernacle. So even though we haven't made progress through the story, we're talking about the main idea that's underlying the whole reason for what these blueprints are about. 

Section break (01:03:33)

Jon: I think we just need to conclude with me pressing on this a little bit. And I don't know if we're gonna get anywhere.

Tim: Okay. 

Jon: But maybe I'll ask it this way. What should be my expectations of eternal life? I feel like you've deconstructed a bit of maybe a simplistic perspective I have of … And already is a kind of a complicated idea of like, being resurrected into some new form in a renewed creation, but then getting to just live forever perpetually on. So immortality—

Tim: Life of the age.

Jon: Yes, life of the age. The way that you were having this conversation, I can imagine someone going oh, okay, it's not that, necessarily. It's just maybe something that you would maybe think of more of a Buddhist or kind of (01:05:00) like access to an experience. And whether or not I am resurrected, or whether or not I get to be immortal that's not the point. The point is that there is a quality of life that I have access to. I just want to make sure—

Tim: Oh, wow. Okay. What I was trying to communicate I think includes that as an aspect.

Jon: Okay. 

Tim: I mean, the biblical story is trying to articulate through its narrative something that sort of the classical tradition of theistic philosophy would say: all reality as you and I experience it is contingent and conditional. My kids can get this. Like, where did you come from? Me and your mom. Where did we come from? Go all the way back.

Jon: Okay. 

Tim: So where did all that come from? Where did the stuff we came from come from? Right? So you either have to say it's eternal regress. But—

Jon: Turtles all the way down. (01:06:00) 

Tim: Turtles all the way down. But something whose existence is conditional can't generate its own existence. And this is one of the most classical and often misunderstood arguments for theism. But a conditional reality cannot be the condition of its own existence. So this is fundamental to the biblical story's view of reality. That reality as we know, it must generate from some unconditioned source. Uncaused cause would be Aristotelian language around it. So the name of that reality is the Elohim, Hebrew Yahweh, the one who is.

Jon: The I Am.

Tim: I Am. So while all that we experience is conditional reality whose existence depends on something way up the chain. So therefore, its existence and its life and its power to regenerate or multiply all must come from a source. That's what Genesis 1 (01:07:00) is depicting in its own way through the seven-day structure. That's what the Eden story is depicting through talking about a hotspot of life touching the land of death, turning it into a garden that is itself a source of a river of life, and then caretakers who could mediate that life out to the rest of the land. 

And that is what the Mount Sinai is mapped onto. That is what the tabernacle and temple are mapped onto. So the holy of holies, the top of the mountain, the center of the garden with the tree of life is a way of trying to give us language and categories for what if the source of all life could give as a gift participation in that eternal, unconditional life, but give that as a gift to conditional creatures? Participation in God's own eternal life. 

Whereas Peter will say in 2 Peter, “become participants of the divine nature.” That's what his summary of what it's the journey of becoming … Here. Just real quick (01:08:00) so you know I'm not making this up. 2 Peter 1:4. "By all of these things that he just talked about, God has granted to us precious and magnificent promises, so that by means of them, y'all might become koinonas, sharers, participants of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through ..." Here, he says, "Misdirected desire or lust."

So I think the biblical story is trying to say humans have the capability to imagine and experience realities that seem to transcend our physical reality. And that's a much-debated thing nowadays, especially in our culture.

Jon: Sure. 

Tim: But there's something real that transcends creation. And in the biblical story, that's called the eternal I Am. And that's what these places and times represent in the biblical stories (01:09:00) where that reality contacts our world. And that is the claim Jesus is making when he says, "The temple is my body," or "that one who is greater than that the temple is here." He is eternity and time connected together in one. Which means that participating in that reality is going to mean a complete reconfiguration of every sense of reality that I know. But not in a way that cancels it, but in a way that fulfills it, which is I think what the resurrected Jesus narratives are trying to communicate. I don't know if that … I just talked for a long time. 

Jon: Yeah. So can I expect through the biblical narrative and how it ends, am I to anticipate never-ending conscious life?

Tim: Hmm, that's a good question. I think so. I think so. Because the whole point of both the Genesis 1 creation story and the logic of the story is God’s desire is to share (01:10:00) his own divine existence but with others and sustain their existence through his own unending inexhaustible source of life and being. But they're genuine others, which is the whole meaning of love is to enjoy existence and to love the existence of an other without it having to be me. 

Jon: In order to do that, though, God takes something that doesn't have the ability to be eternal in and of itself, conditional, and wants to give the gift. And that gift is the tree of life, access to the top of the mountain, the holy of holies. And as the story moves forward, it is access to Jesus who then shows us this vision of a resurrected kind of humanity. 

Tim: Yeah. And what the resurrected humanity that is Jesus is, is a humanity that has utterly surrendered itself (01:11:00) to the life and love of God, even to the point of dying out of love for others. And that life-surrendering, self-giving love is the way that we are connected to the eternal life and love of God. And that Jesus has done it on our behalf. That's the claim of the biblical story. 

You know, these are moments where you're like, "This is so beautiful." And what the biblical story gives us is such beautiful stirring images. But the biblical story itself is a medium through which we are invited into a real experience ourselves. 

There's a prayer that I've been praying every day for a while on a really cool prayer app. But it's a prayer of St. Ignatius that I think takes this view of reality. And for me is a form of trying to make the surrender habitual into my mind every day. (01:12:00) But I'm trying to internalize the story personally. 

And the prayer goes like this. It says, "Take, God, and receive all my liberty, receive my memory, receive my understanding, receive my entire will because all that I have and call my own is what you have given to me. So to you, God, I return it. Everything is yours. Do with it what you desire. Give me only your love and your generous grace. That will be enough for me." 

Isn’t that beautiful? I feel like that's a prayer that represents somebody who gets what the biblical story is about. And what the tabernacle was all about is the gift of God's presence that reminds us everything that we have comes from him. And he's given us a chance to walk in through the representative to go into the heart of all creation. I don't know if I'm making any sense. (01:13:00) It makes sense to me. Though, it's taken a while for it to make sense to me.

Jon: And by walking to the heart of all creation you mean access to—

Tim: The holy of holies. 

Jon: The holy of holies. Which is?

Tim: Which could be accessed anywhere. 

Jon: At any time.

Tim: At any time. Yeah. Wherever two or three of you are together, Jesus said, guess what? Guess who's there? I'm there. Because I'm everywhere. 

Jon: As Jesus says to the guy dying with him, "Today you will be with me in the garden."

Tim: Today we are going to go to Eden. I'll see you in Eden later today. What does that mean? That's what he says. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Tim: "Later today I'll meet you in paradise."

Jon: Okay. Let's let that simmer. We will move on with this conversation next week.

Tim: Yeah. Next, we're gonna take a dive into the symbolism of the furniture and architecture of the tabernacle. (01:14:00) That will open up even more. But this conversation is important because we're talking about the heart of what the tabernacle means within the larger biblical story. This was time well spent in my book.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. Next week, we continue in the third movement of Exodus, looking at more of the instructions of the tabernacle, especially its furniture. 

Tim: So you got a seven-fold tabernacle, seven items that are designed and all of them are going to be about creation in Eden. Then you get a little instruction about make sure the lights, the lights that sit in front of the blue curtain inside the tent, make sure they are attended to every evening every morning so that they perpetually shine like the stars. 

Jon: Today's show is produced by Cooper Peltz, edited by Frank Garza and lead editor Dan Gummel. The show notes by Lindsey Ponder. The annotations for the podcast in our app are done by Ashlyn Heise and Hannah Woo.

BibleProject is a crowdfunded nonprofit. We exist to experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. Everything that we make is free because of the generous support of thousands of people just like you. Thank you so much for being a part of this with us.

12 Episodes

Episode 12
Did God Try To Kill Moses?
Why did God say he was going to kill Moses? What exactly was God’s test for Abraham on Mount Moriah and Israel on Mount Sinai? What’s the connection between the ten plagues and the Ten Commandments? In this episode, Tim and Jon respond to your questions about the Exodus scroll. Thanks to our audience for your incredible questions!
1hr 13m • Jun 22, 2022
Episode 11
Two Takes on the Test at Mount Sinai
Did Israel pass or fail God’s test at Mount Sinai? And what did Yahweh mean when he made Israel a “nation of priests”? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk with long-time friend and Hebrew Bible scholar Dr. Carmen Imes. Tim and Carmen share differing interpretive perspectives of the Exodus story, reminding us that the Bible is meant to be meditated upon and studied within a community.
1hr 2m • May 23, 2022
Episode 10
Why Moses Couldn’t Enter the Tabernacle
In the second movement of Exodus, Moses walks straight into God’s fiery presence on Mount Sinai without fear. But by the end of the scroll, he can’t enter God’s presence. What changed? In this episode, join Jon and Tim as they explore the final portion of the third movement of Exodus.
52m • May 16, 2022
Episode 9
Why Does the Tabernacle Furniture Even Matter?
Why does God seem to care so much about the furniture within the tabernacle? The instructions for the tabernacle furniture are about far more than aesthetics. They were means of dealing with Israel’s moral brokenness, they served as reminders of Eden, and they were designed to form Israel into a people of perpetual surrender. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they continue to trace the theme of the temple in the third movement of Exodus.
1hr 1m • May 9, 2022
Episode 8
What’s So Special About the Tabernacle?
You may have heard that God’s holiness keeps him from getting close to sinful humanity, but in the Bible we see God regularly doing the opposite, drawing near to dwell with human beings. We encounter this reality again and again, including in a surprising place—the tabernacle blueprints. In this episode, join Jon and Tim as they walk through the opening act of the third movement of Exodus and explore the relationship between the tabernacle, the garden of Eden, unconditional love, and eternal life.
1hr 17m • May 2, 2022
Episode 7
What Are the Ten Commandments All About?
We often think of the Ten Commandments as a list of dos and don’ts—the things you need to do to make God happy. But is that what they’re really about? In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they take a deep dive into the Ten Commandments and find out why they’re more about preserving proper worship of Yahweh and the shared dignity of humans.
1hr 10m • Apr 25, 2022
Episode 6
Testing at Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai is the famous spot where Yahweh gives Moses the Ten Commandments, and it is the location where most of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and the first 10 chapters of Numbers take place. When Israel first arrives at Sinai, they fail yet another test and try to get Moses to pass it for them. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they explore Yahweh’s fiery presence, the test at Sinai, and the question of Israel's national identity: Will they be the kingdom of priests Yahweh intends?
1hr 3m • Apr 18, 2022
Episode 5
Israel Tests Yahweh
The nation of Israel seems to go from one life-threatening situation to another in the Exodus scroll. From slavery in Egypt to being cornered between a hostile army and a vast body of water, Israel’s God has delivered them from everything so far. Now in the wilderness, they face a series of three tests. Will they trust Yahweh to deliver them again? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore Israel’s testing in the wilderness.
1hr 12m • Apr 11, 2022
Episode 4
God Tests His Chosen Ones
Nobody likes tests. But the test is a recurring pattern in the biblical story for how God relates to his chosen ones. So are humans just lab rats in a divine experiment, or is there something else going on? Join Tim and Jon as they talk about the theme of the test and the famous account of Israel crossing the Sea of Reeds, as we dive into the second movement of the Exodus scroll.
1hr 3m • Apr 4, 2022
Episode 3
Why Are There 10 Plagues?
The ten plagues—they’re fascinating, they’re famous, and they sometimes seem overly harsh. Where do they fit in the story of the Bible and the process of God revealing his own name and character? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about the ten plagues, or ten acts of de-creation, in which Yahweh uses his power over creation to undo his own creation in judgment. Listen in as we explore how God’s response to evil reveals another layer of his character.
1hr 1m • Mar 28, 2022
Episode 2
Yahweh and the Exodus
The story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is famous for good reason—a burning bush, a transforming staff, 10 plagues, and the Passover. The exodus is also the story that defines God’s personal name, Yahweh. What does this narrative show us about Yahweh? And why does God care so much that people know his name? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about God’s character revealed through his acts of deliverance and judgment.
1hr 6m • Mar 21, 2022
Episode 1
“God” Is Not a Name
God is not a name—it’s a title. In fact, the God of the Bible introduces himself by a specific name in one of the most famous stories in the Bible, the exodus event, when he works through Moses and Aaron to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. In this episode, Tim and Jon dive into the first movement of the Exodus scroll and explore the theme of God’s name.
1hr 6m • Mar 14, 2022
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