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Fighting for Real Estate: Part #5 - “What is the Tabernacle of David?”

 By Richard Allen – April 15, 2024

Several Weeks ago on March 25th, I wrote a Blog: Fighting for Real Estate: Part #4 - “Why Would God Build Another Physical Temple for Worship that Was Done Away in Christ?” I used Biblical examples to show how modern-day teachers misunderstand Old Testament Passages, and end up “spiritualizing away the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles.”  Make no mistake, Jesus and His Apostles are the authoritative guides for all Scriptures, not just those from the Old, but also from the New Testament. In the process of writing, we discovered that some of these modern expositors actually contradict the teachings of Our Lord.  As my First Example, I used the prophesied coming of Elijah – which Jesus clearly said was fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). The Second Example I cited in a subsequent Blog was the “supposed rebuilding of the physical Temple” in Jerusalem – using a passage from Acts 15:16, which clearly had no reference to the physical temple but rather, the “Tabernacle of David,” a smaller “tent-structure” used to house the Ark when David brought it up to Jerusalem, after it had been captured and returned by the Philistines. The Ark then spent approx. 20 years in the household of Abinadab, and several months in the house of Obed-Edom before David retrieved it.

In the passage in Acts Chapter 15, James, the Pastor in the Jerusalem Church, proclaimed that the “pitching again of David’s tent” – an obscure prophecy from the Book of Amos – was fulfilled by Gentile conversions being witnessed by the Jewish Church. This all happened after the pouring out of the Spirit on Gentiles at the House of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-10:48). James’ words beg the question: What does the “setting up David’s Tent again” have to do with the Gentiles coming to Christ?  Since many modern writers – obsessed with “Fighting for Real Estate” – insist that God must rebuild a physical temple in Jerusalem so unbelieving Jews can once again offer animal sacrifices of blood. This certainly seems to be a regressive concept, going backwards in Redemptive History.  So, it implores us to ask why James the Elder, inspired by the Holy Spirit, linked these two concepts. In fact, it’s well worth considering!

I have previously written about the Church Council in Acts 15 at length, but let me provide a shorter answer: The Gentile conversions the early Jewish Church was witnessing, fulfilled the prophecy of Amos regarding “The Tent of David” in three waysFirst, the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12 literally foretold the conversion of the Gentiles:

“ ‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing.”

James quotes this passage in Acts 15:16-17 which says almost the same thing:

“After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.”

The Second way this prophecy was fulfilled in Gentile conversions, is the whole rationale that James spoke in the context of this story:  Just like the mixed multitude of people flocking with King David to Jerusalem in the very presence of God (before the Ark of the Covenant), these Gentiles were now in the very presence of God, worshiping without circumcision, law-keeping or a physical Temple!  This is the part of David’s story that is most fascinating. David had tried and failed to bring the Ark up three months prior, when through David’s own neglect of Levitical Law, failed to handle the Ark with proper reverence. As the ox pulling the Ark stumbled, an unconsecrated Levite name Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark, and God struck him down. David was so concerned that he took the Ark to Obed-Edom’s house and left it there for three months before making another attempt.  On his second try, he succeeded, but still took liberties with the Levitical ordinances.  David himself dressed as a priest (2 Samuel 6:14), and was even involved in offering sacrifices to some extent. 

The irony of the whole story is that David’s predecessor, King Saul, had done much the same thing – not waiting for Samuel – and forcing himself to “play priest and offer sacrifices to obtain God’s blessing before battle (1 Samuel 13:8-14). As a result, Saul had the kingdom ripped from him because of his disobedience. And here is David, dancing and partying with the servant girls before the Ark! This sounds like a “two-tiered” set of Laws – one for David, and another for Saul!  The story gets even stranger as we see David bring the Ark into a simple tent structure, one without any “Holy of Holies,” and allow both men and women, slave and free, and probably some Gentile servants along with other Jews – all into the presence of God!  And though God had “broken-out” in wrath against Uzzah, and stripped the kingdom from Saul, David appears to get preferential treatment by God. The question we have to ask is, “Why?”

It’s because David prefigured the one to “come from his lineage,” embodying all three roles before God: Prophet, Priest and King – Jesus Christ, the Son of David and Son of God!  When the mixed multitude of people were with David, the Law no longer kept the common people from the presence of God! Here’s how 2 Samuel 6 describes this event:

“And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house”  (2 Sam 6:12-19).

For those of you who study your Bible regularly, this picture should generate some “Red Flags.” Was David offering Sacrifices? What was the whole multitude of Israelites, both men and women doing in close proximity to the Ark? Wasn’t the Ark only approached once a year by the High Priest on “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement? And women were never allowed any closer than the “Outer Court of the Gentiles,” yet here they are in the presence of God, worshiping with musicians and singing – each attendee receiving a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins? Something is definitely different for the people of God when David was present with them. Again, why?

The simple answer is that David was a type of his coming Son, Jesus, the Son of David (Matthew 1:1). And with David – unlike Saul – the same rules didn’t quite apply.  Even though God reminded David to handle the Ark with “holy reverence” in David’s fated first attempt to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem, David still brought the People of God into the closest relationship that was ever enjoyed in the Old Testament, bar none! Sure, some individuals saw God and lived (Moses), and others heard His voice (Samuel), and some saw prophetic visions of God’s throne-room in heaven (Ezekiel), and others entertained the very Angel of God’s presence (Abraham).  But for “The People of God” – this one shining moment of “spiritual intimacy” was the most amazing encounter with God in the Old Testament!  No wonder the Holy Spirit prompted Amos to prophesy that God would “raise up the tabernacle of David, which had fallen down, and repair its damages!” David’s Tent represented a time when – the normal Temple restrictions keeping God behind the Veil in the Holiest Place – would be suspended. Those restrictions kept the people from approaching God. Only the High Priest could approach – on one day a year. And we know from the Book of Hebrews – Jesus was the Real High Priest of God!  Instead of the High Priest bringing in the “blood of a spotless lamb” to sprinkle on the “Mercy Seat,” David offered peace offerings, blessed the people and provided them food, drink and music to worship! 

By quoting Amos’ prophecy, James was alluding to David’s Triumphal celebratory procession with the Ark into Jerusalem. James was telling us that King Jesus had come into His Kingdom, inaugurating the AGE OF THE SPIRIT! Since Pentecost, God’s People – both Jew and Gentile were no longer to be governed by the Law!  Christ’s sacrifice had been accepted by God the Father – so Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:1-2; Mark 16:19).  By virtue of a better sacrifice, this High Priest had put away sin by the Sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:23; 26). Jesus, having obtained the “sure mercies of David” for His Heirs, brought both Men and Women, Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free into a full relationship with the Father apart from works of the law!  Amos foresaw Jesus’ Day in his prophecy concerning David’s Tent.  Now, in Acts 15, The Age of the Spirit had arrived, and David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ had redeemed His people, bringing us all into close proximity to a Holy God!

The Third way the Prophecy of Amos (as quoted by James in Acts 15:16) was fulfilled by Gentile conversions in the early Church – was how James made application for the Gentiles who were coming to Christ. Remember, the challenge brought up by the “Judaizers” to Paul and Barnabas, was that the Gentiles who were believing the gospel should also be circumcised:

“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ ” (Acts 15:1).

So, when James wrapped up his inspired teaching from Amos 9:11-12, he told the Jerusalem Church Council with Paul and Barnabas attending:

“Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:18-21).

The saddest part of how this Scripture in Acts 15 is misused to promote a false understanding of a coming physical temple, is not just the mishandling of the passage from Amos 9 and Acts 15, it is the failure of Dispensational writers to encourage Gentiles with the blessings we have in Christ during the Age of the Spirit. For one brief shining moment, Old Testament saints enjoyed a celebration of the “freedom we all have in Christ,” both Jews and Gentiles! I’m certain there are many who are wedded to their system, longing for a physical temple, where bloody sacrifices will once again be offered.

Why would God ever go back to those shadows, when Jesus Christ, David’s greater Son, was the fulfillment of all that the Temple and its Sacrifices symbolized?  By the authority of the New Testament Scriptures, I can absolutely state: GOD WILL NEVER AGAIN ACCEPT A BLOOD SACRIFICE FROM A HUMAN PRIEST, NEVER!

Jesus said it best when He died on Calvary’s Cross: “It is Finished” – literally, “Paid in Full!” 

Soli Deo Gloria!

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