Tabernacle Christians:Dwelling with God
By D. Kris Minefee, Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
Applying the lessons of the Tabernacle to New Testament Believers.
Background of the Tabernacle
When God called Israel out of Egypt it was to take them to the land promised to Abraham their forefather. God wanted the descendants of Abraham to be His people, His desire was to form a relationship that was much closer than anything they had shared previously. Along the way to Canaan there would be extreme hardships, dangers and difficulties. God's presence in the midst of his people was a necessity if their relationship would deepen and the difficulties overcome.
God led Moses to Mt. Sinai, here the law and the plans for the tabernacle were given. The Tabernacle would be the place where the nation of Israel would meet with God while they traveled to Canaan. God's power and presence could be felt and seen as the tribes camped around the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle became the focal point of their lives in union with their God.
The tabernacle was not just a beautiful tent, however, it was also a symbol of heaven where God dwells and of a relationship every believer shares through Jesus. Each piece of furniture, each covering and tapestry pointed to the Savior who would come and give his life to redeem all of mankind.
As a symbol of heaven the Tabernacle was God’s revelation to His people of His dwelling place and what would one day be our dwelling place. As a symbol of the coming Messiah, the tabernacle would be a prophecy of the coming Annointed One. It also stood as a picture of how do draw nearing to God by passing from the outer courct in the Tabernacle to the Most Holy Place. Therefore it still has much to teach New Testament believers today. Each part of the tabernacle can be applied to our relationship with Jesus, each room points to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God through our high priest Jesus Christ.
The Model of Heaven
2 Corinthians 12:1-5
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Paul and the third Heaven
The Bible speaks of three heavens, the atmosphere of the earth, the heavens of the stars and planet outside of earth and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Related to the tabernacle then the outer court is earth, the inner court is space and the most holy place is where God sits on his throne. In Hebrews Paul says the tabernacle was a pattern or things in heaven, figures of the true. The Tabernacle gave Israel and now us a glimpse of Heaven and through its symbolism of God and the coming Saviour.
The Context of the Tabernacle
The location of this mountain is uncertain. Tradition and most of the modern scholars accept Jebel Musa as Mt Sinai. The tradition in favour of Jebel Musa is so ancient (about 1,500 years) and the granite formations so imposing that it is quite probably Mt Sinai. Furthermore, a few stations en route to the mountain point to the same conclusion. Mt Sinai is also called Mt Horeb in the OT. Traveling past March and Elm, the Israelites reached Sinai in the 3rd month after their departure from Egypt (Ex. 19:1), and camped at its foot on a plain from which the top was visible (Ex. 19:16, 18, 20). The Lord revealed himself to Moses on this mountain and gave the Ten Commandments and other laws. The covenant made here between God and the people played a major role in binding the tribes together and molding them into one nation serving one God.
Bibliography. B. Rothenberg, God's Wilderness, 1961; W. Beyerlin, Origins and History of the Oldest Sinaitic Traditions, 1965; B. Zuber, Vier Studien zu den Ursprüngen Israels, 1976, pp. 16-49. f.c.f.
The main passages dealing with the tabernacle are found in Exodus 25-31, 35-40.
Read Exodus 25:8, 21-22. What is the purpose of the tabernacle?
It would be a place for God to dwell with his people. A meeting place.
In the New Testament, Stephen's sermon before being stoned uses the tabernacle as an illustration of God dwelling with men. The writer of Hebrews uses the tabernacle as an example of more excellent way of Christ over the OT traditions. The word tabernacle is used often by Paul to point out the temporary dwelling place we have in our earthly bodies.
The Construction of the Tabernacle
According to Exodus 25:1-9 Where did the material for the tabernacle come from?
The people of Israel were to bring offerings that would be used to construct the tabernacle.
Where did the former Israelite slaves get these materials?
When the Israelites left Egypt God told them to go to their Egyptian neighbors and ask for gifts. The Egyptians gave precious metals, jewels, clothes, etc. to urge the Israelites to leave. (See Exodus 12:33-36)
Materials are listed in Exodus 25:3ff.; 35:4ff.: gold, silver, bronze; blue, purple. scarlet material, fine twined linen; goats' hair, dyed rams' skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for lamps, spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for the ephod and the breastpiece. The three metals of ancient times-bronze, silver and gold are used in meaningful gradation from the outer court to the most holy place. The most artistic use of the metals is found in the cherubim and the golden lampstand. The wood used throughout the structure was shittim or acacia wood, known for its durability. The material employed was linen, also fine twined linen. dyed blue, purple, and scarlet (25:4). The yarn was spun by women in charge of the weaving (35:25, 35); the work included both embroidery and tapestry.
The framework of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:15-37; 36:20-38) was made of forty-eight wooden The The boards, forty-eight in number, were overlaid with gold. The construction was divided into two compartments separated by a veil, hung from four pillars overlaid with gold and set in sockets of silver. The veil, like the covering of the Tabernacle, was woven with blue, purple, and scarlet, with figures of cherubim. The holy place was 30 ft by 15 ft broad; the most holy place was 15 ft. square.front was closed by an embroidered screen (26:36,37).
frames, l5 ft. high by 27 in. wide with three vertical arms joined by three cross pieces. These were placed in wooden supports and over them were hung the large curtains. Over all were spread three covers. The framework was constructed using uprights of acacia wood, making three sides of the oblong structure.
Covering. The Coverings of the Tabernacle are described in Exodus 26:1-14 and 36:8,9. The wooden framework of the Tabernacle had three coverings: the total covering of Tabernacle itself, the covering of goats, and the covering of rams' and goatskins spread over the entire structure. The first covering was made of ten curtains of fine twined linen woven with blue, purple, and scarlet, with figures of cherubim. The second covering was of eleven curtains of goats' hair. The top covering was made of rams' skins dyed red and goatskins.
Court of the Tabernacle. The description of thee court is found in Exodus 27:9-18 and 38:9-20. the court of the Tabernacle was a rectangle on an E to W plan, 100 cubits (c. 150 ft.) long and 50 cubits wide. To the W was the Tabernacle proper and to the E, the altar. The court was screened off from the camp by five white curtains five cubits high. It was an enclosure of 150 ft. in length and 75 ft. in breadth, with curtains of fine twined linen supported on bronze pillars and attached by silver hooks. In the court stood the altar of burnt offering and the laver, the latter being set between the altar and the Tabernacle proper (30:17-21). The entrance to the court was from the eastern side through a "gate" or "screen" with its hangings. -Bibliography; Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 5
Dimensions ( One cubit equals approximately 1.5 feet)
Court: 100 x 50 cubits, 150 x 75 ft; Gate: 20 cubits, 30 ft; Tabernacle: 30 x 10 x 10 cubits, 45 x 15 x 15 ft; Holy Place: 20 x 10 x 10 cubits, 30 x 15 x 15 ft;
Most Holy Place: 10 x 10 x 10 , 15 x 15 x 15 ft
Outer Court Christians
Separation: The Wall
The Physical Wall
Read Exodus 27:9-18
A cubit is roughly 18 inches or 1 1/2 feet in length. Keeping this in mind how big was the tabernacle court yard? 100 x 50 cubits or 150 x 75 ft.
There were 60 total posts, 20 posts on the N & S, 10 on the E & W. 5 cubits (7.5 ft.) apart
Each post was made out of acacia wood on the bottom was a bronze socket, a silver capital on top and silver hooks just under the capital. Cords would be tied to these hooks and the post held in place by stakes on the inside and the outside of the wall. Along the tops of each post was a connecting rod made of silver which spaced the pillars and upon which the fabric that made up the wall rested. There were 40 curtains that made up the wall. These were made out of finely woven white linen, 5 cubits by 5 cubits.
On the east side of the tabernacle was the gate, 20 cubits wide. All of it's posts were made out of bronze. The fabric of the gate was different than that of the wall. It was actually four different colored threads embroidered together to make one cloth. The colors of the gate were blue, purple, scarlet and bright white. The gate was the only entrance into the courtyard and it always faced East, the direction of the rising sun.
The Spiritual Wall
The wall of the tabernacle showed separation between God and the people. There was no free access to the tabernacle proper. Once the wall was in place there was no way under, over or around, those who wanted to come near to God had to go through the gate.
All mankind is separated from God, not by a physical wall but by a spiritual one. We cannot draw near to God because of this separation. Why are we apart from God? Read the following passages.
Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Isaiah 59:1-2
What has separated us from God?
Sin separates from God because He is Holy and righteous. Sin cannot be in the presence of God.
When did this occur?
Sin entered in to the world with the sin of Adam in the Garden. See Gen 3:1-6 for more information.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
The outer court gate, the curtain to the holy place and the veil of the most holy place were all made of the same materials. Let's look more closely at these four fabrics.
The fabrics came in four colors blue, purple, scarlet and white. Each of these used so often and in such places of prominence are an outstanding type or symbol of Jesus Christ.
Blue was the color of the sky, the color of heaven. It points to Jesus, God the Son coming from heaven down to earth to become man.
Purple was the color reserved for royalty. It was very scarce and hard to obtain. Jesus is the king of glory, the king of creation. In mockery the Roman soldier put a crown of thorns and a purple robe on him and called him, "King of the Jews."
Scarlet is the color of blood. It point to Jesus who poured out his life's blood on the cross as our substitute. Giving himself in obedience to the Father and in love for us.
White is the color of purity and righteousness. Only a pure, sinless offering could be the substitute for the sin of the world. Jesus live his life as a perfect, sinless man that He would show Himself worthy as our redeemer.
These same portrayals of Jesus in the colors of the tabernacle gate and veil are also seen in other "types" throughout scripture. In many places Jesus is seen in these for portraits of King, God, Man, and Servant.
The largest portraits of Christ are of course found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four accounts of the same story, yet each with a distinctive view of Jesus.
Read Matthew 1:1. What view of Jesus is Matthew showing by linking Jesus directly back to David?
David was the greatest king of Israel and his offspring would be the lineage of the Messiah. Matthew portrays Jesus as King.
Read Mark 10:45. Who does Mark see Jesus as?
The servant who came to give his life.
Read Luke 19:10. This title is use often by Luke of Jesus, what side of Christ does it show?
Jesus was man, a perfect sinless man.
Read John 1:1. Who is the Word? What does John want us to see about Jesus?
The "word" is Jesus. John shows us the deity of Jesus.
Also notice the cherubim and seraphim around the throne in Ezekiel and John's visions. Ezekiel 1:5-10, Revelation 4:7
The eagle represents deity; the ox/calf, service; the man; man and the lion, royalty.
Only Jesus Christ was and is all of these thing seen in the portraits. Only He is the God-man. Only He is the ruling-servant. Only He could be the gate for us to enter into a relationship with His Father.
Sacrifice: The Altar
Upon this altar the sacrifices of the people were offered to God. Only a person with a sacrifice could enter into the tabernacle courtyard. This sacrifice must be without spot or blemish, a lamb, ox, or turtledove to be offered to God as an acknowledgment of sin or thanksgiving.
The offerer would bring his offering through the gate and then in the presence of the priest would lay his hands upon the animals head, signifying it as his offering for sin. Then with the animal still alive, the throat would be slit and the blood collect to be put upon the horns of the altar. The animal then would be cut into pieces and arranged upon the altar to be burnt.
When we come to our gate Jesus Christ, it must be also with the understanding of an unspotted sacrifice. Salvation is accomplished by the sacrifice of "the lamb of God" Jesus. It is applied to us when we realize that Jesus died for us. When I accept the substitution of Jesus, His sacrificial death and shed blood save me. I am redeemed, brought back to God by Him.
Read John 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and Isaiah 53:5-12
Sanctification: The Laver
Read Exodus 30:17-21
Just behind the Brazen Altar stood the Laver. A large basin filled with water.There are no dimensions given for the laver, though it would be quite large and probably near a scale to the altar. It also was made of bronze. The laver was used by the priests who would wash themselves before they served God inside the tabernacle. The would wash their hands and their feet in the basin.
The laver was for physical cleansing, it points as a type to the spiritual cleansing from sin which is ours in Jesus' forgiveness. As there were no dimension given for the laver we are reminded that there is no limit to the forgiveness we find in Jesus.
Read Psalms 103:12. What does this verse tell us about the unlimited forgiveness of God.
The East and the West never meet. Our sins are completely gone.
Read 1John 1:9. What is the condition of forgiveness?
If we confess our sin. We must go to God and ask.
No past sin, no length of time, no repeated iniquity can extinguish the power of forgiveness found in the shed blood of Jesus.
The laver reminds us that to be dwell with God we must be clean, that cleanliness comes only with confess and forgiveness.
If I have entered into fellowship with God through the only gate, Jesus Christ. If I have made Him my substitute for sin. If I have been cleansed of my unrighteousness by His cleansing blood, I stand in the courtyard. I am a child of God, I am saved, I am on my way to heaven. I know the blessing of forgiveness. So much is mine here.
Yet, I have only begun my journey with God. The courtyard in Moses time was for those who were limited by rank or birth from becoming a priest. Those who were priest could enter into the holy place. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:9-10, the Bible says we are priests, we can enter into the presence of God ourselves. Here is privilege, here is honor to approach even closer to the presence of God. Though this privilege is ours most Christians remain in the courtyard. Content with their level of intimacy with God to be only the barest basics of what God can and wants to be to us. Having journeyed through the gate, they now sit stagnant as if there is no where else to go. Salvation is the most important thing in the world until you are saved, then it becomes the least important thing.
Hebrews 6:1 say, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.”
Look towards the tabernacle above it stands the glory of God, and within its walls there is a fuller, deeper relationship with God. We are priests, let us boldly enter where God is!