In 1 Chronicles 22:6-11 David informs his son Solomon that God has chosen him to be the builder of the temple. Intimately connected to the theme of temple building are the themes or “rest” and “kingship”, “behold, a son shall be born of you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Chron. 22:9-10). These themes of rest, kingship, and temple goes all the way back to the beginning of Genesis and follows all throughout the Holy Scriptures. While at the initial creation rest, kingship, and the completion of the cosmic temple all occur simultaneously after the initial fall of Adam the proper order is rest, which is tied together with a victory over enemies, enthronement, and then the building of the temple. After the enemies of God have been defeated and He has brought rest to His people then the enthroned king can begin the temple building project. All of this culminates throughout the history of Israel with the victory of Christ over His enemies, His enthronement as the King of Heaven and earth, and His building of the new Temple; the Church.
The creation narrative of Genesis presents God building Himself a cosmic temple. Just as the tabernacle and the temple consist of three rooms with unique items within them so too when God created the world He first divided between three different spheres and once He had made these divisions He filled each sphere[i]. The creation narrative culminates with the declaration that on the seventh day God rests[ii]. This parallels the end of the book of Exodus where the glory of God enters into the tabernacle; sitting upon the ark of the covenant as upon a throne[iii]. With these parallels in mind it becomes apparent that the rest of God at the end of creation is in fact His royal enthronement within the cosmic temple. Having subdued all creation[iv] by forming it according to His heavenly pattern[v] we see that God’s rest, the foundational Sabbath, is nothing other than His being seated upon His throne in His completed temple building project. The concepts of Sabbath-rest and royal enthronement are fundamentally linked together along with the building of temples.
After the initial rebellion of Adam, and the subsequent fall events narrated throughout the beginning chapters of Genesis, God’s Sabbath is broken and a spirit of rebellion enters into the world. Thus to restore His Sabbath reign, so that His temple can be reestablished, God will first conquer His enemies, thereby restoring rest; rest being the prerequisite for the temple building projects post-fall. This is seen clearly in the life of Noah. When Noah is born His father Lamech prophesies that his son will bring rest[vi]; a fact attested to by his very name meaning “to give rest”. Genesis 6 begins by announcing how corrupt mankind has become and that God has chosen Noah to be the head of a new people[vii]. Since the world has become restless, rebellious, and corrupt[viii] God overcomes the corruption of the world through the flood and raised Noah up as a king in His new creation[ix]. As the flood waters recede the ark of Noah rests upon Mount Ararat[x]. The waters of heaven and earth have exalted Noah and lifted him on to the mountain; an image of kingship and enthronement[xi]. Having conquered His enemies, brought rest to the world, and enthroned Noah upon the mountain God has reestablished His cosmic temple through Noah, and as Noah descends from the ark he builds an altar and makes offerings to God; signifying the restoration of the cosmic temple[xii]. Just as God rested upon His initial completion of His cosmic temple so too Noah rests in his tent inaugurating the Sabbath reign of God[xiii]. The Noah narrative clearly shows us the pattern of conquering, enthronement-rest, and the reestablishment of the temple.
The book of Exodus begins with Israel being denied rest. Israel has become enslaved in the land of Egypt due to their unfaithfulness to God by turning to the idols of the Egyptians.[xiv] Once Israel was finally ready to cry out to God in their affliction He raised up a new Noah to bring judgement against His enemies, to bring His people rest, and to build a new place of worship[xv]. The whole story of Moses returning to Egypt is a story of the God of Israel waging war against Egypt and her gods. By sending plagues against the entirety of Egypt from the ground up to the very sky[xvi] displays God’s supremacy over the so-called gods of Egypt who rule everything from the waters to the sky. God’s final strike against Egypt, which secures His victory, is when He collapses the walls of water on the head of Pharaoh and his army; claiming victory over His enemies through water just as He had with Noah and the flood. Having delivered Israel from her bondage in Egypt God has given His people rest[xvii]. Having been victorious against His enemies and haven given rest to His people God then brings Israel to the holy mountain of Sinai in order to establish His national kingdom[xviii]. Israel followed the glory-cloud of God out form Egypt and the glory-cloud led them to the mountain. As they approach the mountain the glory-cloud ascends to the top of the God; the victorious King ascending His mountainous throne.[xix] As the enthroned King of Sinai Who has brought rest and Sabbath to His kingdom the final step is to establish a place of worship; which is what we see the second half of Exodus describe. Most of chapters 25-40 are prescriptions for the tabernacle; what materials are to be used to construct it, what items are to be made, how it’s supposed to be ordered, who will offer service in it, and how they are to serve. After the tabernacle is completed the glory-cloud of God enters into the tabernacle; which as we’ve seen earlier signifies His enthronement and establishment of His Sabbath reign. The book of Exodus is therefore the story of God conquering His enemies, giving Sabbath rest to His people, establishing His kingdom, and erecting His tabernacle.
This pattern underlies the chronology of the book of Joshua. Joshua 1-12 is all about God overcoming His enemies in the land of Canaan. The conquest narrative of Joshua is about the true King of the land triumphing over the false kings[xx]. Following the victories against the inhabitants of the land the text summarizes the conquest, finishing with the words, “then the land rested from war” (Josh. 11:23). The victories of God in the land of Canaan has brought His Sabbath reign to the land. Having brought His Sabbath reign to the land and having consolidated His kingdom[xxi] the time has come for the establishment of His temple. Having established the tabernacle after brining Israel out of Egypt God repeatedly told Israel that He will reveal to them the place to set it up once they entered the land[xxii]. Having completed the Canaanite conquest, God leads the people of Israel to set up the tabernacle at Shiloh, “now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh and set up the tabernacle of testimony there; and they subdued the land” (Josh. 18:1). After the establishment of the tabernacle at Shiloh and the distribution of the land to Israel we read in chapter 21, “the Lord gave them rest all around” (Josh. 21:48). Having secured His kingdom in Canaan, and with His royal palace[xxiii] set up, God rests and brings rest to His people and His land.
This pattern continues throughout the history of Israel. Throughout the period of the Judges when Israel turns from God to idols He allows them to be enslaved by the nations. When Israel cries out to God in repentance He raises up a judge for them. The judges wage war against the oppressing nations and God delivers Israel from their bondage, bringing rest and restoring right worship of Himself[xxiv] It continues through into the kingdom period with Solomon, as we saw in the introductory paragraph, and even characterizes the return from exile period of Israel’s history[xxv] All of this was ultimately a shadow and type of the greatest work that God would perform in the midst of Israel. When the God of Israel came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary He came in order to defeat His enemies, inaugurate His Kingdom, and build His temple. The climactic moment in all four Gospels is when Jesus is hung on the tree of the cross. The kingly imagery of the cross abounds throughout the Gospels; Christ bears a crown of thorns and is crucified with the notice “King of the Jews”. Being lifted up on the cross was the beginning of Jesus’ royal ascension and His judgment against His enemies[xxvi]. While the enemies of Christ considered the cross to be His defeat in fact He “disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15). His death upon the cross is only the beginning though. As He is taken down from the cross He’s wrapped in linen clothes and laid in a tomb; an image which relates to the adorning of kings in royal vestment and their resting upon a throne. Providentially He is crucified on Friday and rests in the tomb of Saturday, the Sabbath. By resting in the tomb on the Sabbath He fulfills the old Sabbath that He might inaugurate the Great and Perfect Sabbath. By entering into the realm of death He vanquishes the kingdom of Hades and releases all the righteous who had been held in bondage from Adam to John the Baptist. His resurrection from the dead is the true Exodus and His victory over hell and the devil brings true rest and Sabbath to His people. After rising from the dead Christ announces His royal inauguration, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Through His death He triumphed over His enemies, freed His people from bondage, and fulfilled the Sabbath of the old creation. By His resurrection He was inaugurated as the King of Heaven and earth and announced His Sabbath reign over all creation. When He ascended into heaven He sat down at the right hand of the Father; enthroned as Lord and King. Having conquered and been enthroned all that was left was to build a new temple. From His heavenly throne He sent down the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, forming the living temple of God; the Church. Through the work of the Holy Spirit Christ has continued to build His temple throughout all time and all creation until He will bring it to a completion and the end of the age where He will bring to completion His victory over the devil, fulfill His kingdom over all creation, and transform all creation into a glorious temple; a temple where He will rest and rule for all eternity.
[i] God divides the light from the darkness, the waters above from the waters below, and the land from the sea; three spheres. He then fills the light with the sun, the darkness with the moon and the stars, the heavens above with the birds, the waters below with the fish, and the land with animals and man (Genesis 1:1-31).
[ii] See Genesis 2:1-3.
[iii] See Exodus 40:27-28.
[iv] See Psalm 104:9 where the waters appear to flee from the voice of God; the imagery of fleeing is connected with conquering (see for example Leviticus 26:8).
[v] The initial tabernacle was build according to the design shown by Moses on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 25:8-9). That the earthly tabernacle was an image of the heavenly tabernacle is displayed clearly throughout the book of Hebrews (see Hebrews 8:4-5 for example). Since the tabernacle was a microcosm, and the tabernacle was based upon the heavenly model, it follows that all of creation is an image of the heavenly tabernacle (especially considering the tabernacle shape of creation in Genesis 1).
[vi] See Genesis 5:28.
[vii] See Genesis 6:8.
[viii] See Genesis 6:5.
[ix] The kingly vocation of Noah is seen quite clearly when God gives him the authority to execute judgment (see Genesis 9:1-7).
[x] See Genesis 8:4.
[xi] See Psalm 9:11 where God is described as being enthroned on Mount Zion; as well as the imagery of hills/mountains are connected to kingdoms in Revelation 17:9.
[xii] See Genesis 8:20.
[xiii] See Genesis 2:1-3 and Genesis 9:20-21.
[xiv] See Ezekiel 20:7-8.
[xv] The Noah connected with Moses is seen most clearly in the infancy narrative of Moses in Exodus 2 where Moses’ mother places him in an ark.
[xvi] The progression of the plagues begins with the lowest point of creation, the waters, and progresses up to the ground, to the animals, to man, to hail and locusts that come from the sky, to the very sky itself when the plague of darkness is sent upon Egypt. The plagues of Egypt is a de-creation of their world and final plague, the death of the firstborn, parallels the height of the creation narrative where man is taken from the ground and given the breathe of life. In this inverted typology God de-creates Egypt and takes the life from the firstborn and makes their bodies return to the dust.
[xvii] See Exodus 16:22-30.
[xviii] See Exodus 19:6 where God calls Israel a “royal priesthood and a holy nation”.
[xix] See Exodus 13:17-22 which describes Israel following the glory-cloud, Exodus 19:3 which speaks of God calling to Moses from the mountain, and Exodus 19:20 where the glory-cloud is on top of the mountain.
[xx] The entrance of Israel into the land of Canaan is a royal procession. At the head of the procession are the Levites carrying the ark of the covenant. The ark of the covenant is nothing other than the throne of God (see Psalm 99:1 which speaks of God being enthroned upon the cherubim; the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant was topped with golden cherubim upon which the glory-cloud of God rested and from where He spoke to Israel – Exodus 25:17-22). Crossing the Jordan is the King of Israel followed by His royal army who have come to wage war against the kings of the land.
[xxi] The distribution of the land between the tribes of Israel throughout chapters 13-21 reflect the full victory of God in the land and the establishment of His rule. By distributing the whole land to the twelve tribes God is giving His victory spoils to His subjects.
[xxii] See for example Deuteronomy 12:10-11, “but when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and His gives you rest from all your enemies round about, and you dwell in safety, then there will be the place the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.” Notice how the pattern of victory, rest, and then temple establishment.
[xxiii] Ie: the tabernacle. Since the tabernacle is the “house of the Lord” and God is the King of Heaven and Earth it follows the tabernacle is nothing other than God’s earthly palace.
[xxiv] This is the consistent pattern throughout the book of Judges (the first judge Othniel serves as a fine example: Israel worships the Baals, the king of Syria enslaves Israel, Israel cries out to God, God saves Israel through Othniel, the land remains at peace for 40 years; which implies Israel’s faithfulness to God since the following verses relate how after the death of Othniel Israel again turns to idolatry – see Judges 3:7-11).
[xxv] God defeats the Babylonians by the hand of the Persian king Cyrus who in turn frees Israel from their captivity, granting them rest, and decrees that Israel should rebuild the temple of God (see 1 Ezra 1:48-2:4).
[xxvi] See John 12:31-33 where the imagery of the cross is connected to a royal enthronement and royal judgment.