Discover the Book - Oct. 9, 2008


Three Meanings of the Tabernacle


1. In the first place, the tabernacle is a type, a visible illustration, of that heavenly place in which God has His dwelling.

2. In the second place, the tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ, who is the meeting-place between God and man.

3. And, in the third place, the tabernacle is a type of Christ in the Church—of the communion of Jesus with all believers" (Adolph Saphir).

The key to the Tabernacle, then, is Christ. In the volume of the Book it is written of Him. 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 Sea 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 anti-type. We take leave to quote from our comments on John 1:14.

1.  The order in which the Tabernacle and its contents are described is most significant. 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 (26:15) of the Tabernacle proper, 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 His Son came from heaven to earth, and died the Just for the unjust "that He might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). Blessedly was this emphasized by Christ 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.

2.  The second description of the Tabernacle, where we have the record of its manufacture and set up, there is a notable variation. Instead of beginning with the contents of the holy of holies where Jehovah dwelt, we have described 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 blessings 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.

3.  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" (Prov. 4:18).

4.  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.



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