THE TABERNACLE MADE BY HAND—A SHADOW
In thinking about the articles of furniture that Moses was instructed to build and place within the tabernacle and the fact that all of this, including the ritual of the priests, were shadows or pictures of something greater—I’d like to interrupt the flow of thought in our study in order to reflect on how these picture the Lord Jesus in one way or another.
The tabernacle shows how we are to worship God. To begin, the structure itself only had one entrance. This reminds me of Jn. 14:6 where Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one is coming to the Father except through Me” and Acts 4:12 where Peter says, “there is no salvation in any other one, for neither is there any other name, given under heaven among men, in which we must be saved.” Likewise in John 10:7-9 Jesus speaking of Himself, says, “I am the door. Through Me if anyone should be entering, he shall be saved, and shall be entering and coming out and will be finding pasture.”
So then, being inside the structure we could say we are in Christ and are in a relationship with God. Once we are in Christ we then begin to know Him and grow into understanding and appreciation of all that He has done for us in the past and continues to do for us at present.
The Brazen Altar
When one enters through the gate the first article of furniture he comes to is the brazen altar. The altar is the place of sacrifice. In 1Cor. 5:7-8 the Apostle Paul states, “For our Passover also, Christ, was sacrificed for our sakes so that we may be keeping the festival, not with old leaven, nor yet with the leaven of evil and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth.”
The evangel for today is 1Cor. 15:3-4—that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the Scriptures.” Just as the altar is the first thing one comes to when entering through the gate, so Christ’s death for our sakes is the foundation of blessings and spiritual growth that follow.
Underneath the altar was a fire. In 1Cor. 3:10-17 we read that every man’s work will be tried by fire. Some of our works will be burned up while other works represented by gold, silver and precious stones will be preserved. These are the works that God delights in. So the altar also speaks of God’s purging/purifying work.
The Brazen Laver
Moving on from the altar we come to the laver. This speaks of our baptism in Christ. Paul states that “whoever are baptized into Christ, are baptized into His death. We, then, were entombed together with Him through baptism into death, that, even as Christ was roused from among the dead through the glory of the Father, thus we also should be walking in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
This speaks of our cleansing and identification in Christ. “Though we have many members, yet all the members of the one Body, being many, are one Body, thus also is the Christ. For in one Spirit also we all are baptized into one Body” (1Cor. 12:12-13). Our cleansing and identification in Christ is not of water but of Spirit.
In order for us to continue to grow spiritually we need to see that our salvation was based on Christ Jesus’ faithfulness in becoming obedient unto the death of the cross for our sakes. Our salvation and cleansing is completely the work of Christ in giving of Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.
The Apostle Paul touches on this in Eph. 5:25-27. In Christ giving Himself for us, He is hallowing us and cleansing us in the bath of water (in His declaration) that He should be presenting to Himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that we may be holy and flawless.
The basis for us being hallowed and cleansed and made righteous is by Christ giving Himself up for our sakes. This sacrifice and redeeming work of Christ goes back to His suffering on the cross, but His work in cleansing us is an on-going work that is made possible by His death. There is a sense in which He is still cleansing us with His declaration.
The Greek word for “declaration” here is not “logos,” but is “rhema.” It has to do with Christ’s body of instructions as to how the ecclesia must conduct itself being His Body. Not only have we been cleansed and set apart by the blood of Christ, but we are in the process of being cleansed on a daily basis as we walk in alignment with His instructions. This is where the Apostle Paul’s ministry comes to the forefront because Christ has given ecclesiastical instructions to Paul to give to us that we might walk in them. God’s saving grace (made known to us through What Christ has given to Paul) trains us that, disowning irreverence and worldly desires, we should be living sanely and justly and devoutly in the current eon, anticipating that happy expectation, even the shining forth of the glory of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who gives Himself for us, that He should be redeeming us from all lawlessness and be cleansing for Himself a people to be about Him, zealous for ideal works (Titus 2:11-14). Thus we have confidence, that He Who undertakes a good work among us, will be performing it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Said another way—as believers, we are on a designated and on-going path of being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29).
The brazen altar and laver are in the courtyard within the tabernacle structure. As we’ve suggested, these speak of our deliverance through Christ’s blood, and our identification in Him by the baptism of the Spirit, and the on-going process of being cleansed by the renewal of holy Spirit. As great as these blessings are, there are still more blessings to come that are based on that which is represented by these structures in the courtyard. There may be a tendency for some to become complacent—thinking that it is enough that they have salvation in Christ. Others may be attempting to contribute works of their own to compliment the work of Christ on the cross while others may still be struggling in the flesh. The courtyard then is a picture of immaturity so we all need to keep moving forward into the holy places—or maturity. Knowing that we have been delivered is just the beginning. God wants us to continue to grow in realization of Him and His will and as we do so, in Spirit, we in turn become more mature. This occurs as we move from the outer court into the holy places.
WITHIN THE HOLY PLACE
The Seven-Branched Lampstand
Once we go beyond the first curtain into the holy place, the only light given is that which comes from the seven-branched lampstand. The Lord Jesus is life and the light of men (Jn. 1:4). He is our Source of light. John the Baptist came that he should be testifying concerning the light. The Lord Jesus is the true Light which is enlightening every man coming into the world (Jn. 1:8-9). Speaking of Himself, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world. He who is following Me should under no circumstances be walking in darkness, but will be having the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).
This is why the Apostle Paul entreats us not to become joint partakers with the sons of stubbornness, for we were once darkness, yet now we are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8).
Paul gives thanks to the Father Who makes us competent for a part of the allotment of the holies, in light, Who rescues us out of the jurisdiction of Darkness, and transports us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:12-13).
The Table of Showbread
The table of showbread goes back to the wilderness when God sustained Israel by manna. Bread also serves an important function. Speaking to the Jews, Jesus says, “My Father is giving you Bread out of heaven, the true, for the Bread of God is He Who is descending out of heaven and giving life to the world.” Then He says, “I am the Bread of life” (Jn. 6:33-35).
The bread coming down from heaven gave the Israelites life and energy in the wilderness until they entered into the Promised Land. It was special bread that kept them healthy and nourished. But there was a deeper spiritual meaning of this bread—it pictured the Lord Jesus Himself. He not only is the Source of light but is the Source of our nourishment that comes from heaven.
Even though the Israelites partook of the bread descending from heaven in the wilderness, they still died eventually, but all who take part in Jesus—the true Bread—will one day have life fully in resurrection, never to die again. Until then Christ Jesus is the Source “out of Whom the entire Body, being supplied and united through the assimilation and ligaments, is growing in the growth of God” (Col. 2:19).
Golden Altar of Incense
Continuing on within the holy place from the lampstand and the table of showbread, just before the second curtain, we come to the golden altar of incense. This altar represents prayers going up to the Father. It represents the ability to intercede. We can make intercession for others because Christ has interceded for all of us. He is the one Mediator of God and man (1Tim. 2:5). He is the only One Who could be such a Mediator for it was by His perfect sacrifice that both parties are brought together.
In Eph. 5:1-2 Paul writes, “Become, then, imitators of God, as beloved children, and be walking in love, according as Christ also loves you, and gives Himself up for us, an approach present and a sacrifice to God, for a fragrant odor.” Paul takes the old phrase used in Leviticus and uses it of the sacrifice that Jesus brought to God. Christ was faithful in all that He did, even to the death of the cross, so that we could be acceptable to God, to serve Him, and to be thankful for His great love and grace and mercy.
Next we come to the second curtain or the veil that separates the holy place from the holy of holies.
The veil represents Jesus’ flesh (Heb. 10:20). At crucifixion when Jesus’ body was broken, the veil was torn from the top down. Through His broken body we now have access, in Spirit, into the holy of holies—into the very presence of God.
WITHIN THE HOLY OF HOLIES
The Ark of the Covenant
Moving beyond the veil we enter into the holy of holies or the most holy place in which there is the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat on top.
Inside the ark of the covenant are the tablets with the ten commandments written on them. It is a continual reminder that we all fall short of God’s righteousness. This is why Paul says that the law is our escort to Christ that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24).
The law represents judgment and death yet on top of the ark of the covenant was the mercy-seat. This is an indication that God’s mercy is greater than His judgment. His grace overrides His judgment. We see this over and over in the Scriptures. As the Apostle Paul states, “Yet the law came in by the way, that the offense should be increasing. Yet where sin increases, grace superexceeds” (Rom. 5:20). The law produces death, yet grace produces life.
Many people make God’s judgments as the end all, or the overriding principle rather than His love and grace and mercy. The ark of the covenant with the mercy-seat above speaks of resurrection because the life that comes from the mercy-seat is greater than death. Of course this is all possible because Christ conquered death by His death.
The Two Cherubim
On both ends of the mercy-seat are cherubim with wings spread out covering the seat. These cherubim are protecting the sanctity of that throne.
Now we have to remember that the tabernacle that Moses was instructed to build came from a model of the original and true tabernacle in the heavens (Heb. 8:5). Therefore, there is a tabernacle/throne room in the heavens where Christ Jesus is now seated (Psa. 110:1). It is the very throne of grace that we may now be approaching with boldness that we may be obtaining mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16). It is from this mercy-seat that He operates in the lives of believers today and it is from this mercy-seat that we are getting to know Him.
The holy of holies is as far as one can go in the tabernacle, but this is where we want to be. Entering into this realm means we have left the flesh behind and we find our all in Him and realize that we are complete in Him. The holy of holies then represents maturity.
I believe this is what Paul was expressing in Phil. 3:7-11.
“But things which were gain to me, these I have deemed a forfeit because of Christ. But, to be sure, I am also deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming it to be refuse, that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him, not having my righteousness, which is out of law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God for faith: to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, conforming to His death, if somehow I should be attaining to the resurrection that is out from among the dead.”
This is the goal. The whole key is that we are found in Him, not having our righteousness through law, but the righteousness through the faith of Christ. This is the key to be getting to know Him. In Col. 1:9-10 the Apostle Paul is praying that they be filled with the realization of His will for this produces a walk worthily of the Lord for all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work.
This is the divine pattern of worship God has laid out and is pictured from the physical structure of the tabernacle. In one way or another, the entire structure is a picture of Christ.