the weblog of Alan Knox

Pentecost and the Tabernacle/Temple

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in scripture, spirit/holy spirit | 8 comments

Our church recently began a study of the Book of Acts. Yesterday, we discussed most of Acts 2 together. While I was studying the passage last week, I noticed a parallel with an Old Testament event/passage.

In particular, I saw some similarities between God filling the tabernacle after it was built and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

For example, consider this passage that begins Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-3 ESV)

There are lexical similarities between the passage above and the description of God’s presence in the tabernacle. For example, consider this passage from Exodus:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:34-38 ESV)

There are other passages in the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) that describe the glory of the Lord as fire. Also, the passage that describes God’s glory filling Solomon’s temple is similar.

If Luke did intend a connection between the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the filling of the tabernacle (and later temple) by the glory of God, then there is a difference that is extremely important.

On the Day of Pentecost, Luke points out that the “tongues of fire” appeared above each of the followers of Jesus, not above a place as we saw in the Old Testament accounts.

Have you ever read anything that compares/contrasts the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost with God’s glory filling the tabernacle/temple? Do you think there are similarities here that Luke intended his readers to notice? If so, why would he want them to notice the similarities? What about the differences? Is the primary difference that I pointed out important?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-9-2011

    Hi Alan,

    Good post and good questions. I think there is a parallel between Pentecost and the OT passages pertaining to God’s glory or presence depicted among the people in the cloud or fire.

    I think the emphasis is on the “dwelling” place of God. It emphasizes that God is with His people in an intimate way, perhaps in a way He wasn’t before. The implications are huge for the priesthood of all believers. I ask a similar question here:

    – Chris

  2. 5-9-2011

    I don’t think (with respect!) that Luke has anything to do with it…! The Lord intended the similarities..and you would expect there to be similarities as it is ‘the same Lord’…modus operandi and all that. I have always thought that the main difference was/is that the Pentecost experience was for people and the Tabernacle/Temple experince was for a building (or a man-made structure). How much better the New Covenant than the Old, eh?

  3. 5-9-2011


    WE are the dwelling place. That’s a pretty big difference!

  4. 5-9-2011


    Thanks, and thanks for the link to your post. The post is very good! Do you find it interesting that even Moses could not approach the tabernacle when God’s glory first filled it, but at Pentecost, the people were not only able to approach God’s glory, they were the one filled with God’s glory?


    My question about Luke’s intention was not a question of authorship. I believe that Luke was inspired by God to write Acts. Instead, it was a question of intentionality. Were the similarities and comparisons intentional? If so, why?


    Yes, and if Luke did intend for his readers to notice the comparison between Pentecost and God’s glory filling the tabernacle, then they would also notice the very important difference.


  5. 5-9-2011

    I do find it interesting that Moses could not enter but at Pentecost, through the Spirit, God entered His church. It completly changes everything. Now the location of the people of God is not in a specific location, but in the whole world through His people (cf. John 15:1).

  6. 5-9-2011

    Amen! I am constantly reminding people in the church that we no longer have a temple, we ARE the Temple of God!

    The correlation is between a shadow (see Hebrews) found in the OT, and the REALITY found in the NT.

  7. 5-9-2011


    Good words!

    As alan says,”How much better the New Covenant than the Old”.

    The new living temple is much better to receive the Holy Spirit than the old!

    D.L. Moody wrote similarly in “Secret Power” ch. II, and I remember reading something, I think by John Frame, which was similar.

  8. 5-9-2011


    Thanks for the comments. My questions above were not about whether anyone else has recognized that God’s people are now his tabernacle/temple and thus that the presence of God is with his people. That is a very common view.

    My question was about whether anyone else had found (lexical) similarities between God’s glory filling the tabernacle/temple (Deuteronomy/2 Kings) and God’s glory filling the believers on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).