BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 91
Copyright 1997 Biblical Horizons
The square, rectangle, and cross shapes appear all over the sanctuaries God reveals in the Bible: Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, Ezekiel’s Temple, New Jerusalem. One thing that can be said right away about these designs, and the occasional perfect circle (the lavers), is that they do not occur in nature. They are not part of the original creation. Thus:
1. They are imposed on the creation by the rulers of creation: God and His assistants, humanity. These shapes are always signs of dominion.
2. They are eschatological, being later than the original creation. These imposed shapes are always signs that the world is being moved forward to its destiny.
I should like to suggest one more aspect of the rectilinear shapes found in the sanctuary, and that is that they reflect the fundamental construction of the world. To put it another way, while straight lines do not occur in "nature," the first creation, the basic rectangle and cross designs can be teased out of Genesis 1 as an aspect of how God designs things. If this is so, then the appearance of these designs in the Tabernacle is not something sudden and new, but reflects a new application of an aspect of the created cosmos.
If we look at Genesis 1, we find on the first four days that the fundamental aspects of the world are created; followed by three days of extension and blessing. These four aspects are found in the four points of the cross formed by the furniture in the Tabernacle (and I suggest also correspond to the four elements of the ancient world).
Day 1: God enthroned above the waters, corresponds to Ark-throne, to Lion cherub, and to element of water.
Day 2: Firmament in the earth-world as platform on which man stands before God, corresponds to Altar, to Ox cherub, to the element of air. Now, this is the upper Altar (= incense), but things are not "good" until the middle of Day 3, when the lower Altar (= bronze) is also made. Thus, conceptually the bottom of the altar is on earth, though the top reaches to the firmament.
Day 3: Land and plants on earth platform, corresponds to Table, to Man cherub, to the element of earth.
Day 4: Lights in heavens, correspond to Lampstand, to Eagle cherub, to the element of fire.
(For more on these models, see my paper, Behind the Scenes: Orientation in the Book of Revelation, and my little book, Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future.)
Now, since heaven is above and earth below, this sequence has a movement down and up. It also has a lateral movement because of the sequence of events. Because of these two factors, a square or rectangle emerges:
|1. Throne in heaven||4. Lamps in heavens|
|2. Altar on earth||3. Table on earth|
This order of creation is simply reversed in history, as the creation grows toward God and returns to Him:
|2. Throne era (David)||3. Lamp era (Restoration)|
|1. Altar era (Moses)||4. Table era (Jesus)|
Now, if we apply this movement to the sanctuary configuration seen in the Tabernacle and Temples, we get a cross-shape; thus:
|2. Throne||1. Altar|
Since the Table of the New Covenant unites us to Jesus’ death, we are returned to the Altar as living sacrifices, and the spiral movement begins anew.
1. We start as living sacrifices.
2. We grow to immediate kingly dominion in our calling.
3. We grow to wider prophetic influence in our calling.
4. We are rewarded at the table with Jesus, which returns us to
1a. Starting anew as living sacrifices; etc.