• The Tabernacle

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Look with me at Exodus 24:16. The revelation of the Tabernacle was so sacred, so powerful, so vital to God that He made Moses stand for six days and would not speak the instructions to him until the seventh day.

Now look at Exodus 25:9, where God showed Moses a pattern in the Heavenly Tabernacle, and then starts with the furniture. Most people fit furniture into the house; God built the tent around the furniture! Note that God's thinks of the Tabernacle from the Ark outward. Now also note Exodus 27:1: the Brazen Altar that speaks of Christ's cross is the tallest piece of furniture in the Tabernacle. As Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory in anything but Christ's cross."

The Tabernacle is God's photo journal documenting salvation. The furniture and the layout are not after thoughts; they are His premeditated explanation of what Jesus would do perfectly on the cross. The Tabernacle is one of the clearest portraits of Christ and His redemption to be found in the Old Testament. While God only uses one verse to record Creation (Genesis 1:1), and two chapters (Genesis 1-2) to explain it, He takes fifteen chapters (Exodus 25-40) to explain the construction of the Tabernacle and twenty-seven more to describe it in action (Leviticus). This task was so important that God did not depend on the ingenuity of craftsmen to follow a blueprint, He actually came into them through His Spirit and guided each step of their work (Exodus 31:1-6).

The Tabernacle is the ABCs of Christian doctrine; it is a systematic theology that Paul actually uses in Romans to explain salvation. In the Old Testament the Tabernacle is the dwelling place of God. In the New Testament the Church becomes the dwelling place of God. Before the cross, before Christ came, God established ceremonies to typify, shadow, and explain the cross. The observant would clearly see that sin must be dealt with before God could be approached. Fellowship with God was only possible when the sin problem was settled. That was the message of sacrifice and the meeting place called the Tabernacle.

Now on this side of the cross, the meaning of the death of Christ to God, and the effect of Christ's death for us who believe is still clearly taught by the Tabernacle. Even the New Testament reverts to the Tabernacle to explain Christ's work (Romans 3; Hebrews 8-9).

The cross of Christ is God's First Aid plan for mankind, it is not His secondary or contingency plan. Christ was slain before the foundation of the world as God's Lamb. The death of Christ on the cross was the plan and purpose of God from eternity past; it was not an after thought brought forth as an emergency solution to the sin dilemma. So when we say that Christ and His cross are set forth in the Tabernacle, it is only a reflection of the grander truth that the death of Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago is part of God's infinite plan. Before Golgotha, the cross was God's plan. Before Calvary, Christ's death was God's plan. So in the Old Testament Tabernacle God planned out every color, every thread, every article of furniture, and even every tent stake that would all speak of Christ's sacrifice.

The Key Doctrines of Salvation

The Tabernacle is God's Portrait of Christ. In it we see the key doctrines of Salvation.

1.      The Altar of Brass: The Doctrine of Satisfaction

2.      The Laver of Brass: The Doctrine of Sanctification

3.      The Three Entrances: The Doctrine of Worship

4.      The Table of Showbread: The Doctrine of Worship

5.      The Lampstand of Gold: The Doctrine of Worship

6.      The Altar of Gold: The Doctrine of Worship

7.      The Veil Which Was Rent: The Doctrine of the Incarnation

8.      The Ark of Gold & Wood: The Doctrine of Christology

9.      The Mercy-Seat of Gold: The Doctrine of Propitiation

The Meaning of the Tabernacle

"In the first place, the tabernacle is a type, a visible illustration, of that heavenly place in which God has His dwelling. In the second place, the tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ, who is the meeting-place between God and man. And, in the third place, the tabernacle is a type of Christ in the Church-of the communion of Jesus with all believers."[1]

Commentator Arthur Pink continues:

The key to the Tabernacle, then, is Christ. . . . As a whole and in each of its parts the Tabernacle foreshadowed the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Each detail in it typified some aspect of His ministry or some excellency in His person. Proof of this is furnished in John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (R. V. margin). The reference here is to the divine incarnation and first advent of God's Son to this earth, and its language takes us back to the book of Exodus. Many and varied are the correspondences between the type and the [fulfillment of the type in Christ].[2]

The first description of the Tabernacle signifies God's initiative in salvation. Pink states:

The first thing mentioned is the Ark (25:10) and its covering-the mercy-seat (25:17), which was Jehovah's throne in Israel's midst. Then comes the table (25:23) and the candlestick (25:31), the curtains (26:1), and boards of the Tabernacle proper (26:15), with the separating veil (26:31). Last comes the brazen altar (27:1) and the hangings of the court (27:9). Thus it will be seen that the order is from the interior to the exterior. It is the order of sovereign grace, God coming from His throne right to the outer door where the sinner was. How this reminds us of the Incarnation; the sinner in his sins could not go from earth to heaven, so God in the Person of the Son came from heaven to earth, and died "that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Christ emphasized this picture in His teaching-the Shepherd going after the lost sheep (Luke 15:4), the good Samaritan journeying to where the wounded traveler lay (Luke 10:33), etc.[3]

The second description of the Tabernacle signifies the individual's experience of salvation.

Instead of beginning with the contents of the holy of holies where Jehovah dwelt, we have described for us the Tabernacle and curtains of the outer court, which the common people saw. Here the order is from without to within-the experimental order, the order in which divine truth is apprehended by the soul. This same twofold order may be seen in the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians. In Romans, the Holy Spirit begins with man's sinfulness, guiltiness, and ruin; goes on to speak of God's provision in Christ, and then closes the doctrinal section by showing us the redeemed sinner in the presence of God, from whom there is no separation. In Ephesians the Spirit begins with God's eternal counsels, choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and then treats of redemption and regeneration and the consequent privileges and responsibilities flowing therefrom. In Romans it is the sinner going in to God; in Ephesians, God coming out the sinner. Such is the double teaching in the twofold order of the description of the Tabernacle.[4]

The order of the pieces that made up the Tabernacle is fascinating. Marvelous is the progressive order of teaching in connection with the various objects in the Tabernacle.

  • At the brazen altar sin was judged, and by blood-shedding put away.
  • At the laver purification was effected.
  • In the holy place provision was made for prayer, food and illumination. In the holy of holies the glory of the enthroned King was displayed.
  • The same principle of progress is also to be seen in the increasing value of the sacred vessels. Those in the outer court were of wood and brass; whereas those in the inner compartments were of wood and gold. So too the various curtains grew richer in design and embellishment, the inner veil being the costliest and most elaborate.
  • Again, the outer court, being open, was illumined by natural light; the holy place was lit up by the light from the golden candlestick; but the holy of holies was radiated by the Shekinah glory of Jehovah.
  • Thus the journey from the outer court into the holy of holies was from sin to purification, and from grace to glory. How blessedly did this illustrate the truth that "the path of the Just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).[5]

The Tabernacle was dictated completely by God.

No less than seven times are we informed that Moses was commanded to make the Sanctuary after the pattern of it which was shown him in the Mount-see Exodus 25:9; 25:40; 26:30; 27:8; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5. Nothing was left to man's wisdom, still less to "chance"; everything was to be in exact accordance with the Divine model. Does not this teach us that everything concerning Christ and His people has been wrought out according to the eternal purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will! May Divine grace enable us to rest there in perfect peace and Joyous worship.[6]


                [1] Adolph Saphir, quoted in Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), accessed online at http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Gleanings_Exodus/exodus_34.htm.


                [2] Pink, Gleanings in Exodus.


                [3] Ibid.


                [4] Ibid.


                [5] Quoted from Ibid.


                [6] Ibid.


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