John – Cycle 1

Just as the Tabernacle was a “microcosmos” which served as a sacrificial substitute for the world, so John 1 presents Jesus as a human tabernacle. In the first Covenant-literary cycle of his Gospel, John works through the Bible Matrix with a focus on the Creation Week. Just as Day 7 was to be an entering into God’s rest for Adam, and the final step in the Tabernacle construction was its filling with God’s glory, here the Christ is the Adam who himself is a Tabernacle filled with glory, in this case, Ethical glory—grace and truth.

CREATION – Sabbath

In the beginning was the Word, (CREATION)
and the Word was with God, (DIVISION)
and the Word was God. (ASCENSION)
He was in the beginning with God. (TESTING)
All things through him emerged, (MATURITY)
and without him emerged (CONQUEST)
not one thing that has emerged. (GLORIFICATION)

This stanza is divided into two parts, the first three lines describing the to-and-fro between the Father and the Son which is the basis for the cruciform pattern of history and sacred architecture:

WORD  <  WITH  >  G  O  D

This “dividing asunder” and “reunion” should be familiar. It is apparent in the division of Adam’s flesh to construct Eve and their subsequent reunion as “one flesh,” resulting in the “fullness” of the Land and womb, and the world.

Every “to” delegation of authority is fulfilled perfectly in the Son’s “fro”, and the Father’s Word is vindicated every time. In this case, the Son’s abundant faithfulness in the Forming half of the stanza gives us the act of Creation as the second half of the stanza—a Filling. This is why the fact that the Word was with God is repeated at the center of the stanza. It means that the three-level pattern of the first three lines is now extended via the Son’s faithfulness to the Creation. This gives us the same progression of Above – Beside – Below evident in Exodus 20:4 and indeed in the entire structure of the Ten Words. See God-In-A-Box.

(Lines 1-3: GODHEAD – Above)
(Lines 5-7: CREATION – Below)

DIVISION – Passover

In him was life, (SABBATH – Ark of the Testimony)
and the life was the light (PASSOVER – Veil)
of men. (FIRSTFRUITS – Altar & Table)
The light shines (PENTECOST – Lampstand)
in the darkness, (TRUMPETS – Incense/Clouds)
and the darkness (ATONEMENT/COVERINGS – Mediators)
has not grasped it. (BOOTHS – Shekinah)

The second stanza maintains the theme of uncreated light, yet moves into festal/Tabernacle architecture to describe it, as pictured in the Veil in the Tabernacle and the flesh of the incarnate Son (Hebrews 10:20).

As in Genesis 2, the Man is placed in the Sanctuary and whether or not the “waters” remain divided or are reunited in a flood depends upon His faithfulness.1See Covenant Structure in Genesis 2. The architecture here is a conquering Man walking upon the face of the deep. In the beginning, Adam was with God, made in the image of God. All things on earth were to be made through him. He was to be the light of all men by overcoming the darkness. The expansion of God’s household rested upon the shoulders of Adam as an earthly son of God (Luke 3:38; Exodus 28:9-12). Some translations render the verb in line 7 as “overcome,” others as “comprehend.” Perhaps the English word “grasp” covers both meanings, and also alludes to the Son’s unwillingness to “grasp” equality with God as Adam did (Philippians 2:6).

The contrast between the Man in line 3 and darkness of the Deep in line 5 is that pictured in the division of Adam-kind by circumcision into Jew and Gentile by the Law (the Ethical center of this stanza) and reversed at Pentecost (also the center of this stanza). This is why the references to “men” in the Revelation all refer to the Jews who served as “Adams” on the Land. It was the fulfilling of the Law by the Son and His sending of the Spirit which “closed up the flesh” and made of the two “one new Adam.” In Covenant history, circumcision is Division and baptism is Conquest, thus Adam was divided that he might be conquered.

ASCENSION – Firstfruits

There was a man (INITIATION – Ark of the Testimony)
sent from God, (DELEGATION – Veil)
whose name was John. (Levite) (ELEVATION – Altar)
He came as a witness, (Law given) (PRESENTATION – Table)
to bear witness about the light, (Law opened) (PURIFICATION – Lampstand)
that all might believe through him. (Law received) (TRANSFORMATION – Incense Altar)
He was not the light, (VINDICATION – Mediators: Laver, High Priest and Sacrifices)
but came to bear witness about the light. (REPRESENTATION – Shekinah)

The Light theme is now carried through in a Levitical Man, namely, John the Baptist.2The author, also named John, and also a Levite, puts himself at a similar point in the architecture of Revelation 1. See Revelation – Cycle 1. The structure now takes on its sacrificial clothing, and alludes to Day 3 in the splitting of line 3 into Land and fruits, or Bronze Altar and Golden Table. The central line is John’s Spirit-filled preaching, especially to Israel’s king, and all the related Pentecostal symbols of threshing and fire. The baptism of John made obsolete all the Levitical washings, beginning a “lay ordination” of both men and women as blameless human sacrifices (Acts 2:18; 5:14; 8:12; 22:4). 3Baptism represents the delegation of mediatory authority. It is not for infants any more than washing in the Laver was for anyone beyond the priests and the sacrifices which represented them. To claim so is to grossly misunderstand Covenant theology, most importantly the difference between the Oath and the Sanctions.

TESTING – Pentecost

The true light, (INITIATION)
which enlightens (DELEGATION)
every man, (PRESENTATION)
was coming into the world. (PURIFICATION)
He was in the world, (TRANSFORMATION)
and the world was made through him, (VINDICATION)
yet the world did not know him. (REPRESENTATION)

The combination of Day 1 and Day 4 is the light of God as High King and the lights of men as lesser rulers, the sun, moon and stars. Once again, the process is Above – Beside – Below, with light in the first half and the world in the second, and a failure of the world to recognize the light, which, at the Ethics point of this structure, was an Ethical glory visible only to those called by God.

MATURITY – Trumpets

He came to his own, (GENESIS)
and his own people (EXODUS)
did not receive him. (LEVITICUS)
But to all who did receive him, (NUMBERS)
who believed in his name, (DEUTERONOMY)
he gave the right (JOSHUA)
to become children of God, (JUDGES)

The three “Ethics” stanzas represent Priesthood, Kingdom and Prophecy. This is the Prophetic stanza, and thus refers to Christ being rejected by Israel, as were all the prophets before Him. The first half of the stanza is Adamic, those who remained an Israel according to the flesh. The Pentecostal kingdom is once again at the center, and the last half is the “Filling” of the Apostolic Church, an Israel according to the Spirit. Paul uses similar constructs in his epistle to the Galatians.4See The Shape of Galatians: A Covenant-literary Analysis. Overlaying the pattern of the first seven books of the Bible shows the same process in Israel’s “first” circumcision and the new generation which inherited the promises, circumcised “a second time” before the conquest of Jericho. In this case, of course, the promises concerned a truly heavenly country: enthronement in the courts of God (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 20:4).

CONQUEST – Atonement

who were born, (TRANSCENDENCE)
not of blood (HIERARCHY)
nor of the will of the flesh (ETHICS)
nor of the will of man, (OATH/SANCTIONS)
but of God. (SUCCESSION)

The next stanza, which relates to the “Day of Coverings” express the difference between the flesh and the Spirit more fully. What is interesting is that it is only fivefold, and thus an expression of a Covenant which is yet sealed and still unopened in history (the Ethics line expands into three lines to make it sevenfold: Priesthood, Kingdom, Prophecy). Just as stanza one expressed the relationship between the Father and the Son, here we see the difference between the offspring of Adam and the offspring of Christ, the first birth (flesh) versus the second birth (Spirit). The Day of Atonement cleansed the guilt of the Land and womb, just as the sacrifices in Genesis 3 opened the Land and womb to Adam and Eve. Here, however, that is rendered obsolete by a better atonement, once which gave the Spirit to men and women as the Spirit would have been given to Adam and Eve if they had believed God and obeyed. The Messianic genealogy came to an end and was testified to by two witnesses: the tearing of the veil at the death of Christ, and the destruction of all the genealogies in the final Day of Atonement in AD70, vengeance for the blood of all the prophets slain since Abel (Matthew 23:35).

GLORIFICATION – Booths/Tabernacles

And the Word (SABBATH)
became flesh (PASSOVER)
and tabernacled among us, (FIRSTFRUITS)
and we have seen his glory, (PENTECOST)
glory as of the only Son (TRUMPETS)
from the Father, (ATONEMENT)
full of grace and truth. (BOOTHS)

Finally, the theme of Light reaches its Day 7, the glory of heaven finding a clean place for its foot on earth (Genesis 1:2; 3:17; 8:9; Exodus 3:5; Matthew 3:16; Revelation 21:2-3). Just as the grain and fruit plants of Day 3 foreshadowed the “bread and wine” of communion with God on Day 7, and the harvest of the Land, here we see the “Shekinah” witness of John in line 7 of stanza 3 finding its fulfilment in the earthly glory of Christ. Full obedience in the construction of the Tabernacle meant that God could dwell in the tent of meeting. And the position of this statement at Booths hints at the faithful witness of Israel to all nations in the Gospel of Christ, gathering them to a greater city of God. The Word which was with God is now also God with men.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the [tabernacle] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:2-3)



After reading the above, my friend Chris Wooldridge summarised this passage as follows:

A: The Word of God
B: He is life
C: Israelite man
D: Light enters the world
C’: Israelite men
B’: He brings new life/birth
A’: The Word of the Father

Also, it fits the tabernacle furniture well:

Ark containing law – The Word of God (Torah)
Veil obscuring the glory – Light shining in darkness but darkness cannot grasp it
Altar & Table bearing food to God – John the Baptist bearing witness to men
Lampstand – Light of the world
Incense Altar (prayer) – Those who ask, receive sonship
Laver of Priesthood – Sons of God, who mediate divine authority directly (not indirectly via flesh, blood or man)
Shekinah Glory – Glory of God shines amongst us

Also, the “blood, flesh and men” at the Ethical center of stanza 6 are the architecture of Garden, Land, World expressed in a “carnal” (forming) fashion:

Blood – Sacrificial Altar in the Sanctuary (priestly)
Flesh – Circumcision in the Land (kingly)
Men – Witness in the World (prophetic)

The New Covenant equivalent would be birth of:

Water – Purification (priestly)
Spirit – Sanctification (kingly)
God – Delegation (prophetic)

Of course, it is in reality one act, the cleansing and delegation being part of the same birth which comes from the Spirit when we trust in Christ for salvation.

(Thanks also to Steven Opp for his contributions concerning this passage.)

References   [ + ]

1. See Covenant Structure in Genesis 2.
2. The author, also named John, and also a Levite, puts himself at a similar point in the architecture of Revelation 1. See Revelation – Cycle 1.
3. Baptism represents the delegation of mediatory authority. It is not for infants any more than washing in the Laver was for anyone beyond the priests and the sacrifices which represented them. To claim so is to grossly misunderstand Covenant theology, most importantly the difference between the Oath and the Sanctions.
4. See The Shape of Galatians: A Covenant-literary Analysis.

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