Question: "What was the tent of meeting?"
Answer: The phrase “tent of meeting” is used in the Old Testament, specifically in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, as another name for the Tabernacle of Moses, which was built after Moses descended from Mt. Sinai carrying the Law. In the Law, God gave the Israelites specific instructions (Exodus 25–27) to build a worshiping place that could be taken up and moved each time they changed locations while wandering in the wilderness. The word “tabernacle” is an English rendition of the Hebrew word miskan, or “dwelling place.” The tabernacle was a temporary dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant and the other holy items that the Israelites were instructed to use in the worship of and sacrifice to Yahweh.
Interestingly, the word “tent” or “tabernacle” is also used in the New Testament to draw profound spiritual conclusions about salvation. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews make a distinction between a heavenly tent and an earthly tent, between what was “built by human hands” and what is “not part of this creation” (2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 9:11). Hebrews 9:1-10 describes the earthly tabernacle, or “tent of meeting,” as a place into which the priests would go to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Then, in verse 11, Christ is shown to be a better “high priest” who entered once through the “greater and more perfect tent,” referring to His body, to offer a sacrifice that would satisfy the wrath of God completely, for all time. This refers to His blood. The point of the passage is to show how, if the blood of animals could temporarily cleanse worshipers of the guilt of sin, the perfect blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, would cleanse His followers perfectly – that is, eternally – of their sins.
In Hebrews 10:14, the writer goes on to say that Jesus has “perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” On a closer reading, this seemingly redundant verse is actually expressing a spiritual paradox. By entering the “tent of meeting,” which was His own body, and offering up His own blood, Christ “perfected forever” those who have faith in Him. And the symptom or result of belief in Christ is sanctification, a continual upward spiral of holiness and closeness to God that the Holy Spirit performs within Christ’s followers, drawing them ever upward to Himself. In this way, we are both eternally “perfect” because of the preciousness of Christ’s blood applied our lives as a remedy for our sinful state, and at the same time we are “being sanctified” by the Holy Spirit who, by grace through faith, indwells us and changes us into the image of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 8:29).
Paul also mentions the “tent of meeting” or the tabernacle, comparing it to the earthly human body: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).
When Paul says “the tent that is our earthly home” he is referring to our earthly body, our temporary dwelling place. Just as the Israelites moved the tent of meeting from place to place waiting for entrance to the Promised Land, believers in Christ are wanderers on the earth—people who are not “at home” in the world and those who “seek a city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Paul tells those reading his letter that those who belong to God will be “further clothed” with immortality upon their deaths and that their earthly tent (their body) will be replaced with a “heavenly dwelling.” God does the work of preparing us for that day of glorification by the process of sanctification by the Spirit, and that work happening within us is a “guarantee” that our inheritance and our heavenly dwelling are real. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-15).
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