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God Dwells in Heaven as in a Tabernacle

Cornelius a Lapide

We offer our readers another text proving the traditional teaching of the Church that Heaven is a place. These texts aim to provide a defense against the progressivist attack on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
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And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be with them, and be their God” (Apoc 21:3).

"From the throne": Not from Christ’s throne at the Judgment in Josaphat Valley described at the end of the preceding chapter, but from the throne of God and of the Lamb in this same celestial Jerusalem. This throne, the gates, walls and foundations are described here [in this chapter]. Hence, from this throne, that is, from “the seat of God and the Lamb” John sees “a river of living waters flowing” (22:1); and in the verse 3 he says: “the seats of God and of the Lamb were in it (the celestial Jerusalem).” It seems that this throne is the same throne of God in Heaven, where the Lamb is, surrounded by the four beasts and the 24 elders (4:2-6).

Thus, the great voice signifies first, the greatness of celestial glory and the consequent goodness and mercy God shows for His elect. Second, it shows that God wants this voice to be heard by all, to invite to this glory all those who ardently desired and sought it while doing arduous holy and divine works. This great voice, therefore, announces the great weight and momentum of everything that has been called and proclaimed.

The voice comes from the throne, that is, from God, because only God prepared such a multitude of goods for His saints, and now He presents and offers them all these goods. …

A tabernacle where God dwells

"Behold the tabernacle of God is with men": Here Heaven is called a tabernacle and not a temple … to help us understand that the empyrean heaven, although splendid and most elevated, is less than the majesty of God. So it is not called God’s palace, but His tabernacle or tent, because He dwells most gloriously and immeasurably in Himself and in His very essence. He dwells with the blessed not as in His own palace, but as in His tabernacle, because His majesty is not fully comprehended by them. But God condescends to communicate with them and make Himself present to them. …

Luis Alcazar of Seville [1614] says that this tabernacle signifies the supreme union and communion of the blessed among themselves and with God because God serenely dwells with them and makes them blessed, pouring on them all the goods and gifts they enjoy with His presence.

Just as a King is continuously with his people, the father with his children, the master with his disciples, so also God will be continuously with the blessed in Heaven, directing them, entertaining them, delighting them and making them blessed. As strongly as they experienced His absence and His mystery in this life, they will experience His continuous presence in Heaven. They will see God present; they will see Him face-to-face; they will speak with Him with their own voices, and He will inundate them with ineffable consolations and joys.

He will be their God, that is, for the blessed God will be father, tutor, protector, provider, glorifier, the One who communicates, who dispenses His goods to them. And He does this in an omnipotent, excellent and most liberal way, and for all eternity. This is what Elohim [Hebrew for God] signifies.

Consolation for all the sufferings

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be anymore; for the former things are passed away” (Apoc 21:4).

He will do this just as the sweet mothers dry the tears of their children and caress them, kiss them and comfort them. Ephrem Syrus [4th century commentator] alludes to Isaiah (25:8) “He shall cast down death headlong forever; and the Lord God shall wipe away tears from every face.”

St. Bernard in his Declamations says this: Blessed are those tears that were wiped away by the benign Hand of the Creator; blessed are those eyes that preferred to lower themselves in weeping than to raise them in conceit, gazing at the brilliant things of the world, and serving avarice and arrogance.” …

And he who sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new” (Apoc 21:5)

That first old and miserable life and world with the outmoded and miserable man have gone. Now I create a new sky, a new earth, a new life and a new man. Therefore, do not marvel that you will see no tears, no mourning, no work and no pain in those who served Me. Here the old life has gone; now I renew everything. I make all things new.

Continued
Summarized and translated by the TIA desk from Cornelius a Lapide,
Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram, Paris: Ludovicum Vides, 1876, vol. 21, chap. 21
Posted October 15, 2011

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