THE HOLY TABERNACLE – A Representation of Christ and the New Testament Believer
The Holy Tabernacle, or “Sanctuary” of God, as alluded to in Exodus 25:8, constitutes a vast representation of Jesus Christ, and also serves as an inanimate prototype of the New Testament believer. The Hebrew word for Sanctuary is ‘miqdash’ meaning a consecrated place (Word Study, 71). Moving ahead to the New Testament, we see the significance of this: “And the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). I Corinthians 6:18 states, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you….”
The Tabernacle consisted of an outer court, an inner court, and the “Most Holy Place,” also known as the “Holy of Holies.”
The first object that is found in the outer court is the Brazen Alter (Exodus 30:1-3). This alter was the instrument upon which the blood sacrifices were carried out. As such it represents the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary. On the alter were four ‘horns’ of brass, which again speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ – “He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation” (Psalm 18:2).
The next item found in the outer court was the Brazen Laver, a reservoir of water that the priests used to cleanse themselves. This represents the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration – “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit….” (Titus 3:5). Other related verses include Ezekiel 36:25 and John 3:5. To the New Testament believer, we come first to the cross of Christ (Brazen Alter) for the blood sacrifice that covers our sins, followed by the indwelling presence and spiritual cleansing of the Holy Spirit at the Brazen Laver.
Upon entering into the inner court (specifically referred to as the “Holy Place”), we first encounter the Table of Shewbread. John 6:35 shows us the significance of that bread – “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is also called the “Manna from Heaven” in John 6:32. The feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14:18-22 symbolically represents the twelve disciples giving the bread of Jesus to the multitude.
The next item in the Holy Place was the Lampstand (Exodus 25:31). There are numerous references to light in the Bible, but for purposes of brevity the light represents Christ (“The light of the world” – John 8:12), as well as the New Testament believer (Matthew 5:14). The oil that fuels the lamp, and thus also fills the New Testament believer, is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (note the parable of the “Ten Virgins” in Matthew 25).
Next we come to the Golden Alter (Exodus 30:1-10), upon which incense was burnt. The significance of this is found in Revelation 5:8 – “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
Continuing on, we come to the veil, or curtain, separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The curtain represents the Body of Christ: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body….” (Hebrews 10:20). The rent veil of Luke 23:45 signifies that believers can now enter the presence of God through faith in His Son, irrespective of further animal sacrifices.
Finally, we come to the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10). The Ark consisted of two pieces – the rectangular “box” containing the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budding staff – and the second piece, the “Mercy Seat,” also known as the “Atonement Cover.” The tablets of the Ten Commandments represent God’s law to His people, and revealed to them the way they were to live their lives. The manna represents Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” who is the truth. The budding staff of Aaron represents the life that comes to us through Christ. Together, they are the OT representation of Christ, “The way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
Above the law (the Ten Commandments) was the Atonement Cover (Exodus 25:17), which represents the atoning sacrifice of Christ at Calvary (note 1 John 2:2). Above this cover was the Mercy Seat, where God Himself would dwell. Which brings us to the following summary, showing the typology of Christ as His plan relates to the New Testament believer.
1. We first come to God through His Son at the Brazen Alter of Calvary.
2. We are cleansed and reborn in Christ by the Holy Spirit at the Brazen Laver.
3. We enter the Holy Place, where we:
a. Partake of Christ, the “manna from heaven,” at the Table of Shewbread;
b. Are illuminated by Christ, the Lampstand (the “Light of the world”);
c. And, we offer the incense of prayer at the Golden Alter.
4. We enter God’s Holy of Holies through the veil (Christ’s Body – Hebrews
5. We are, like Christ, the New Testament Ark of the Covenant:
a. God’s laws (the Ten Commandments) are written on our hearts and minds
b. We have “budded” with eternal life (Aaron’s staff);
c. We have Christ (the jar of manna) in us (Colossians 1:27).
6. We are covered with the atoning sacrifice of Christ (the Atonement Cover).
7. And finally we are seated together in heavenly places with God (Ephesians
2:6) on His “Mercy Seat.”
The Complete Word Study Old Testament. AMG International. Iowa Falls; AMG Publishing, 1994.
The Life Application Bible. Tyndale House. Wheaton, Illinois; Zondervan. Publishing, 1988.
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