Hebrews 8:1-5 – NT
Yesterday, I noted how the plan of the Tabernacle as laid out in Exodus is patterned after the throne of God in Heaven. Today, the passage in Revelation (and the two bonus passages in the link*) is an attempt by a sinful, mortal man to describe the scene within the severe limitations of human language and understanding.
We get creatures with multiple animal heads covered in eyes. We get fire and glass and jewels and haze. It seems like God had His throne room designed by David Lynch or Tim Burton. Also, unless I missed something, there are no multi-species/multi-headed, eye-covered creatures mentioned in Exodus; so where’s the similarity that we would expect to be borne out if the Tabernacle was patterned after God’s dwelling place in Heaven?
The first thing I have to remind myself is that the Tabernacle is a model of the Heavenly throne room, not an exact replica. What’s in Heaven is not going to actually be on Earth until the end of history. Until then, we get analogies and models and patterns.
Additionally, I have to remember that John’s description here is not a complete depiction of the reality that he saw in his vision. His understanding and language limit his ability to describe what he saw and force him to pass it through the interpretive lens of his words. It’s like Lewis says with Jesus described as ascending to Heaven or walking through walls to where the disciples were eating dinner. Did he really go up to Heaven the way a balloon goes up into the sky? Did he really walk through walls, either dematerializing on one side and materializing on the other or passing through the wall via osmosis? Who knows? All we do know is that the prepositions we’re limited to, like ‘up’ and ‘through,’ best capture the reality that was seen by the disciples on those occasions. The post-Resurrection Jesus, like the Heavenly throne room, inhabits a spiritual plane, a dimension for which we have no normal frame of reference, no prepared set of prepositions.
Because of this, we can look at both the Tabernacle described in Exodus and the throne room described in Revelation as interpretations of the reality of God’s presence, some degree removed from the real thing.
* Fifty Nat-points to the first person to identify the bonus passages by book!