Man has suffered an existential crisis ever since the Fall of Adam; a crisis of home. Home is the structural context in which a man’s soul is anchored, his personhood is grounded; in a word, where he can rest. Adam had a home where he was able to know God, and rest in His presence.
Now, Christians are pilgrims, and thus, not at home on Earth. Our ultimate rest is in the New Heaven and Earth. It is instructive that Cain made Earth his home, building a city when it was forbidden. Thus, it is imminently plausible that “in some sense, Cain’s exile is a repetition and intensification of Adam and Eve’s exile.” The Bible tells us that sin destroyed man’s first home, and continues to destroy homes today.
The image of pilgrimage and homelessness applies to the New Testament portrayal of Christ, as well. In John’s Gospel, he writes that the Logos was “with God” and “was God” from the beginning, and “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). “Dwelt” literally means “tabernacled,” or that Christ, the Logos, “pitched His tent” among us.
Thus, it is Christ who is the Pilgrim. Christ left His heavenly home to undergo the ‘miseries of this life,’ that we who believe may dwell with Him one day.
We also know that Heaven is God’s throne, and the Earth is His footstool (Isa. 66:1). Isaiah tells us that there is no ‘house’ we could build for God to dwell in. Yet, nevertheless, in a fascinating paradox, God ordered Israel to build a home for Him, that He might dwell with the sons of Israel.
A Biblical view of home, then, entails knowing and being known.
God’s purpose for the Tabernacle is for a home, as an analogical picture, declaring, “There I will meet with you…” (Exo. 25:22). YHWH elaborates:
I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and I will be their God. They shall know that I am YHWH their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am YHWH their God. (Exo. 29:45-46)
Just as marriage models the heavenly union of Christ and His Bride, in some sense, so does the earthly home model the heavenly. God chose to dwell with His people, and so commissioned the building of a home, that Israel may know God in a personal and sacred way.
The tabernacle consisted of the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The sacrifices would be made in the Outer Court. The Holy Place housed the Showbread which was always present on a specially dedicated table. The Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the stone inscriptions of the Decalogue. Michael Morales has shown that the “loss of the divine Presence [is] the central catastrophe of the Biblical drama.” The Tabernacle worship, then, taught how we may know God, and how the restoration of fellowship with Him could take place.
This three-fold division of God’s dwelling place corresponds to a three-fold division of relationships and intimacy. The average Israelite did not enter beyond the Courtyard; only a Levite could enter into the Holy Place; Only the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Most Holy Place, the sacred of sacreds. The parallel with human dwellings is striking, indeed.
Anyone may provisionally enter the gate, the fence, into the yard of a man’s house. A salesman, a policeman, a neighbor, may, only if he has business, enter the outer threshold of another’s dwelling. Even fewer may enter into the holy place, where a meal is served. This is shared only with those who are close and intimate. And what child does not naturally feel the ‘off-limits’ respect of the parent’s bedroom? The most sacred place in the house is reserved for the most closest of fellowships, a relationship that the Old Testament calls “knowing” one another (Gen. 4:1, 17). Knowing one another is always in the context of a home, either breaking bread in the Holy Place, or in the more intimate kind of knowing in a more sacred place.
The Old Testament tabernacle was but a shadow of things that were to come. Sacrifices were made for the sin that threatens the relationship between God and His covenant people. And the Pilgrim, Christ Jesus made the final sacrifice that His people may enter into eternal rest, a mansion with “many rooms” (Jn. 14:2).
Home, as the sacred text seems to suggest, is a dwelling place to rest by knowing and being known. When we know God and are known by Him, fully, yet, accepted despite our sin, we can rest.
Only when man realizes his sin has destroyed his home, on a global level (Rom. 8:22) and a familial level (Gen. 4), and accepts God’s plan of restoration can the soul start to make peace with this world. Only in knowing and being known can our spirit be at ease. First and foremost, with God.
Christians, then, are continuing the dominion mandate; yet fulfilling a different mission. The dominion mandate was to transform the earth into the Garden of Eden. Scholars tell us that the Garden seems to have been the ‘backyard,’ as it were, of God’s house. Adam was tasked with spreading that garden. That is, to turn the world into an extension of God’s home.
The dominion mandate is a home-building mandate; creating the context where we can rest in each other, by knowing and being known. The Fall of Adam has devastated our homes; in fact, we have forgotten how to turn a house into a home.
A house is a place to eat, a home is a place to fellowship. A house is a place to sleep, a home is a context to rest. A house provides mere security, a home also provides purpose. That purpose shall ever be, as it was always destined to be, the purpose of ‘glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’
Citations & References
- L. Michael Morales, ‘The Tabernacle: Mountain of God in the Cultus of Israel’, in Ancient Temple Worship, ed. by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks, John S. Thompson(Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014), p. 29.
- Morales, ‘The Tabernacle: Mountain of God in the Cultus of Israel’, p. 29.
- See: From Eden to New Jerusalem, T.D. Alexander; Dominion and Dynasty, S.G. Dempster.
Robert J. McPherson IISee More Essays
Robert J. McPherson II is a graduate of RC Sproul’s Reformation Bible College with an honors degree in theology. He has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Buckingham; conducting research under the guidance of Sir Roger Scruton. His thesis is on personal responsibility and social justice.