Tim Challies has posted an interesting infographic on the theological message-symbols behind the elements of the Tabernacle.
Not noted on the infographic (as it is outside the scope of the infographic) is that the configuration of the Tabernacle also sheds light on one of the more perplexing images of the New Testament: Why is the New Jerusalem a cube (Rev 21:16)? What is the significance of the cube shape?
The appearance of the enormous cube shaped New Jerusalem can be jarring for many first time readers of the New Testament. By the time we get to John’s Revelation we are well versed in the fact that Bible is rich with symbols. We are used to symbols like olive trees, branches, fruit, blood, lambs, gardens, crowns, the number 12, rivers, and so on. But cubes? Where are there cubes in the bible?
It is interesting and helpful to note that the Holy of Holies of both the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple are cube shaped and that they are the only cube symbol in the Old Testament.
This helps to shed light on the otherwise inexplicably cube shaped New Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was thought to be the nearest point of contact with God’s holy presence on earth. John’s Revelation points out that entirety of the New Jerusalem is a sort of Holy of Holies. The shape reinforces the fact that in the New Creation “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14)
There is no temple inside the New Jerusalem as God Himself is our temple just as there is no need for a temple inside the Holy of Holies as it represented in the OT the very nearest presence of God on earth.
The shape of the New Jerusalem reminds us that in the New Creation there is no need for a temple, or sacrifices, or prophets, or priests, or any other sort of mediating symbols since we will see “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12) with “faces unveiled” the reality of God-with-us: Immanuel.
The symbology also points to the fact that Jesus Christ is not a mere stepping stone to our greater goal of heaven but that He Himself is heaven and eternal life itself (John 17:3). To be in “heaven” (more correctly the New Heavens and Earth) is to be in Christ and the experience is inseparable. He is our final goal, our final resting place, our final temple, our final Sabbath, our final King, our final Promised Land, our All-in-All.
“The New is in the Old concealed.
The Old is in the New revealed.
The New is in the Old contained.
The Old is in the New explained.”