I can’t harp enough on how important it is to understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. When we don’t make proper connections, this impacts how we understand the events of the Old Testament apply to us. In a way, I suppose this post is a follow up to You Can’t Read the Bible Any Way You Want.
One such way is when Christians pursue the “shekinah glory” remiscent of how the glory filled the temple in the Old Testament. I spent many years in church circles where this was a common occurrence, especially at special conference type of events. The thrust of pursuit was worshipping hard enough so that that “atmosphere” was charged and that glory can fill the physical space.
I recently started reading Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, by Sam Storms. I purchased the book because of my shifting views on eschatology (end times) and seeing more and more, especially in context of Revelation, how biblical prophecy points more to what is accomplished in Christ than literal, physical interpretation of events. But I have another post on that! So this post is not necessarily about eschatology but about how we understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
I really appreciate Storm’s straight forward easy style of writing. In his first chapter, he appropriately lays the foundation that Jesus is the center of the Old Testament. Specific to the glory of the temple he explains what the shekinah glory in the OT means for the NT;
The starting point for understanding this crucial concept is the Old Testament narrative in which we find the visible manifestation of the splendor of God among the people, the shekinah of God, his majestic and radiant glory without which the Israelities would have been let in the darkness that characterized the Gentile world. Before Solomon’s temple was built, God revealed his glory in the tent or tabernacle which Moses constructed. It was there that God would come, dwell and meet with his people. “Let them make me a sancturay,” the Lord spoke to Moses, “that I may dwell in their midst” (Exod. 25:8). It was there that “the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and [there that] the Lord would speak with Moses” (Exod. 33:9). It was there that “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34). The tabernacle was where the people of Israel would draw near to hear from God, to worship him, and to stand in his presence (cf. Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10).
What was true of the tabernacle during the days of Israel’s sojourn was even more the case in the temple of Solomon. When the Ark of the Covenant was brought “to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim” (2 Chron. 5:7), “the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron. 5:14).
It is against this preparatory backdrop that we read the stunning declaration of the Apostle John that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word translated “dwell” (skenoo) literally means ‘to pitch a tent” or “to live in a tabernacle” and unmistakably points back to the Old Testament when God’s glory took up residence in the tent of Moses, the portable tabernacle, and eventually in Solomon’s temple.
John’s point is that God has now chosen to dwell with his people in a yet more personal way, in the Word who became flesh: in Jesus! The Word, Jesus of Nazareth, is the true and ultimate shekinah glory of God, the complete and perfect manifestation of the presence of God among his people. The place of God’s glorious dwelling is the flesh of his Son! The glory which once shined in the tent/tabernacle/temple of old, veiled in the mysterious cloud, was simply a fore-glow, a mere anticipatory flicker, if you will, of that exceedingly excelling glory now embodied in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 1:19).
Storms goes on to explain how the temple in the OT was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of all the temple was meant to do. So I look back on all my experiences of seeking the same kind of glory that the Old Testament saints did and can’t help but think pursuing such experiences really undermines how the glory of the temple related to the glory of Christ. I honestly believe that seeking such experiences actually undermines the glory and beauty we are to find in Him. We don’t get his glory by seeking similar experiences. Rather, we get this glory through the means of grace he has appointed – the preaching of his word and sacraments. We enjoy his glory through prayer and fellowship of the saints. We pursue his glory by pursuing him, not an experience.