THE TABERNACLE PATTERN
(Ex. 25--30; Heb. 8:4-5)
--A. Ralph Johnson
Holy Place Altar Laver Lamps Incense 6 Ark Holy of Holies 1
THE TABERNACLE, or Tent of Meeting, was a portable temple made from free-will offerings of the people. It could be dismantled and carried from place to place as the Israelites journeyed. This was a replacement of an earlier tent of meeting. At the time of Solomon this was again replaced by the building of the permanent temple on a much grander scale. It represented the kingdom of God or church through which we enter heaven.
The tabernacle was set up at the center of the camp. A pillar of cloud by day and fire by night rested above it. When this visible sign of God’s presence moved they broke camp and followed in three stages covering three days. When they camped, ten of the tribes plus the two half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh camped around the outer perimeter. Inside this, on the north, west, and south camped the Levites. Aaron, Moses and the priests camped to the east by the entrance to the court.
THE COURT (perhaps symbolical of faith) was an area, 150 feet by 75 feet, around the tabernacle enclosed by a 7 ½ ft. high fence made of linen curtains suspended from 60 brass pillars in brass bases and topped with silver capitols. These were held erect by ropes and brass stakes. Between the pillars ran silver “fillets,” or rods. The curtains were white, except for 30 ft. across the entrance. The entrance curtains were embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet.
ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING (symbolic of repentance)
Inside the court, near the entrance, was the brazen altar used for burning the sacrifices. It was 4 ½ ft. high by 7 ½ ft. square, encompassed by a ledge half-way up. On the sides were brass rings through which poles were passed by which it was carried.
It was made of acacia wood covered with brass (or bronze), with brass horns on the corners. It seems to have been hollow and at each stop it was probably filled with rocks and earth. God lighted its fire (Lev. 9:24) which was to be kept burning continually (Lev. 6:12-13). The Altar was open to all of the people but only the priests (Aaron and his descendents) could make the offerings.
The sacrifice had to be without blemish. The person bringing the offering put his hands on the head of the animal as it was sacrificed, perhaps symbolizing repentance—giving one’s self.
The laver was between the altar of burnt offering and the door of the Tabernacle. The Priests washed their hands and feet before entering the Tabernacle (Ex. 29:4). It was made of the brass mirrors of the women who helped before the Tabernacle (Ex. 38:8). It consisted of two parts, a bowl and a pedestal.
THE TABERNACLE (Figure of the church or kingdom of God)
The Tabernacle was located in the rear half of the court. It was 15 ft. wide, 15 ft. high and 45 ft. long. It was divided into two areas, the Holy Place in front (30’x15’), and the Most Holy Place (15’x15’) behind. The back and sides were made of 48 gold-covered acacia wood panels standing upright in silver bases and joined together with long gold-covered bars. Over this were four coverings. 1. Linen, woven with blue, purple and scarlet with figures of cherubim (angels). 2. A “tent” of goats hair. 3. Rams skins dyed red. 4. Over everything was a covering of badger (seal or porpoise) skins.
The Tabernacle was entered through a linen curtain embroidered with scarlet, blue and purple, hung from five gold-covered pillars set in brass sockets. None but the priests were permitted beyond this point. The room occupying the front 30ft. of the structure was called the “Holy Place” (Heb. 9:1-2; 24-25). It held three pieces of furniture (cf. Ac. 2:42).
1. THE LAMP STANDS, or “candlesticks.” (Exodus 25:30-40) –symbolic of the Holy Spirit giving light through the word of God)
To the left of the entrance stood the lamp stand, consisting of a central stem and three branches on each side, on which were seven lamps filled with olive oil and wicks lighted each evening. This was all made of a talent of pure gold elaborately formed with “knops,” flowers and almond blossoms.
The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 10:38) giving light through the word of God (cf. Ps. 119:105; Jn. 1:4-5; 3:19-21; 12:46-48. Also 2Peter 1:21).
2. THE TABLE OF SHOWBREAD (Ex. 25:22-30) -symbolic of the Lord’s Supper.
On the right of the entrance stood a table made of acacia wood overlaid with gold having a gold rim around the top and gold rings in the sides for gold-plated staves with which to carry it. It was 2 ft., 3 in., high by 3 ft. long by 18 in. wide. Upon it were placed 12 flat unleavened cakes in two piles on dishes. With these were cups for incense, flagons for drink, bowls for oil—all of pure gold. Each Sabbath the priests were to eat or burn it and replace it for the next week (Lev. 24:5-9; 1Ch. 9:32). This symbolizes our Communion of the Lord's Supper each first day of the week in remembrance of the death of Jesus for us (Ac. 20:7; 2:42; 1Cor. 10:16-17; 11:17-34).
3. THE ALTAR OF INCENSE (Exodus 30:1-10) -representing prayer –Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4
At the back of the Holy Place, next to the curtain separating the Most Holy Place, stood an altar, 3ft high by 18 inches square, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Around the top was an ornamental rim or crown of gold with a golden horn protruding from each corner. The sides contained the usual rings and staves. Each morning and evening the priests brought fire from the Brazen Altar and burned incense on it. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, blood was placed on the horns.
THE VAIL (Exodus 26:31-33) -representing the body of Christ
This was the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. When Jesus died, it was torn from top to bottom, indicating the way into heaven was now open. It Represented Christ’s body through which we must pass into heaven (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 6:19-20; 9:8, 24; 10:19-20).
It was made of linen embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet, with figures of cherubim. It was suspended from four golden pillars set in silver bases.
THE MOST HOLY PLACE (Ex. 26:33) -representing heaven
Through the vail it opened into the 15 ft. cubical called The Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies. (Heb. 9:3, 8, 24)
Just inside the veil was the ark (“chest”), 3 ft long, 27 in. wide by 27 in. high, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold inside and out. Around the top was an ornamental crown of gold. On the sides were rings of gold through which staves were passed. The pure gold cover was called “The Mercy-Seat.” On the ends were two golden cherubim angels facing each other with wings outspread over it. From here Jehovah God often spoke to Moses (Ex 34:34-35). Within the ark was a golden pot containing some of the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the two tables of stone upon which were engraved the Ten Commandments. Later, the writings of Moses were kept beside the ark. The only light in the room was the glory of Jehovah.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest brought blood from the Brazen Altar and sprinkled the Mercy Seat. In the anti-type, Jesus, once for all, provided sanctification through the sprinkling of blood for our sins and then sat down on the right hand of God (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:19, 22; 1Pe. 1:2)
The high priest of Aaron of the tribe of Levi was later superseded by Jesus, the Christ (The Anointed One, Priest after the order of Melchisedec –Heb. 7), who was sanctified by offering his own blood for us (Heb. 13:10; 9:11-14). We serve as priests with him (1Pet. 2:5, 9; Heb. 13:15-16; Rom. 12:1-2).
Hebrews 9:1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
23 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. 24 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: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Hebrews 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.