The Tabernacle Foreshadowed Christ

Shortly after the exodus from Egypt, God called Moses to Mount Sinai and told him to build a tabernacle in the wilderness according to the pattern He showed him. Exodus. 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”

God wanted a physical place where He could dwell among His earthly people, Israel. Hebrews 10:1 calls the tabernacle “a shadow of good things to come.” This "shadow" would be Jesus Christ, God manifest in an earthly body.

Centuries later, years after Christ died to redeem His people, the writer of Hebrews explained the spiritual significance of God, in the form of Jesus Christ, dwelling among His people.

Hebrews 8:1-2. "We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man."

God gave Israel pictures of Christ in the Tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, in order that man would recognize the promised Savior when He came. These things pictured His sacrificial death for our sins and His Priesthood.

Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, in John 5:39, “Ye search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me:"
Vs 46: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me."

When He said, “Moses wrote of me,” that included the book of Exodus and the things portrayed by the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was a type of Christ and His redemptive work on the cross. The ministry of the priests in this “earthly sanctuary” served as a series of object lessons concerning salvation, the sinner's access to a holy God, and the worship of the Redeemer.

Some fifteen hundred years before Christ was born into the world and “tabernacled among men,” God was painting a portrait of His Son. Christ would be the final sacrifice that God would accept to redeem mankind from our sins. Had the Jews believed the Old Testament instead of the traditions of men, they would have recognized the Messiah when He came to earth.

Genesis tells the story of man’s failure. It opens with, “In the beginning God-" and closes with the words that are symbolic of all men, --"in a coffin in Egypt."

From a perfect creation the world went to sin and death. But, even back then, God promised hope through a coming Savior. That is the story of Genesis.

Then comes Exodus , the book of Redemption, followed by Leviticus which tells how sinful man can worship a holy God. Numbers records God's guidance in spite of human failure and rebellion. And Deuteronomy repeats how God patiently guides His redeemed, although sometimes wayward, people.

Now, the rest of the story of how the tabernacle in the wilderness came to be.

Jacob and all his family had moved to Egypt because of a famine. Joseph, who was their protector there, had died; the good Pharaoh had died, too. Nearly 400 years had passed and Israel had been made slaves by the Egyptians.

Exodus 1 tells the story of slavery under a Pharaoh "which knew not Joseph." Israel’s bondage to Pharaoh is a picture of the sinner’s bondage to Satan. Egypt is a picture of the world who are like Pharaoh who said, "I know not God."

Israel had no place to worship God, no deliverer to lead her out of slavery, no Shekinah Glory cloud over them to assure them that God was still with them.

Before the sinner can know anything of God’s guidance, we have to come to know Christ as our Deliverer, our Redeemer, and our Savior. The children of Israel were given Moses as a deliverer from their physical bondage. Sinners are offered a spiritual Deliverer from Satan's bondage in the Lord Jesus Christ. God's judgment was going to fall on Egypt in the form of ten plagues. The first three also came on Israel. God wanted Israel to understand that He wanted complete obedience from them as well. These plagues were God's wrath meted out to a stiff-necked Pharaoh and his people who defied God.

If we defy God and refuse to accept salvation in Christ Jesus we will suffer God's wrath for eternity. We'll go into judgment and everlasting torment and eternal separation from God. Faith in the shed blood of Jesus is the only way a sinner can be saved and spared from bondage and everlasting torment in hell.

Let's take a bird’s-eye-view of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The people lived in tents on their wilderness journey. The tents of three tribes of Israel were pitched on each side of the court that surrounded the tabernacle.

Numbers 2 gives us the location of each of the 12 tribes. Judah was on the east, directly in front of the only entrance. Christ was to come from the tribe of Judah, and the entrance speaks of 'the way' to God. The tribes of Issachar and Zebulun were also on the east.

On the south were Reuben, Simeon, and Gad; on the west, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; on the north, Dan, Asher, and Napthali.

Some 400 years before this, Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, had three sons and their descendants were obviously called Levites.

Moses and Aaron descended from Levi. Their tents were on the east guarding the entrance. The rest of the Levites were on the other three sides between the court and the other tribes.

All the Levites had special duties in connection with the tabernacle. All the priests descended form Aaron. Only the priests could go into the Holy Place and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year.

The other Levites took down the tabernacle when they moved, carried it, and erected it where God wanted His people to rest.

The court of the tabernacle was enclosed with a white linen curtain, fastened on pillars of brass, set in the sand in sockets of brass.

There was only one entrance, just as there's only one way to God. The gate speaks of Christ, the only Way to God and heaven. Every article of furniture in the tabernacle pictures Christ.

Directly inside the entrance was the brazen altar, or altar of burnt offering, where animal sacrifices were offered up to God. All the sacrifices took place there.

Those sacrifices foreshadowed the Lamb of God who would one day be sacrificed for you and me.

West of that was the laver, a huge basin where the priests washed their hands and feet before they entered into the Holy Place to minister before God.

The laver is also a picture of Christ, the believer's Cleanser from the daily defilement of sin. The only piece of furniture in the tabernacle that God didn’t specify a size for is the laver. It's a picture of God's grace which can't be measured in forgiving the believer's daily defilement. Our defilement is washed away through honest confession and repentance. 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Next was the tabernacle. It had two rooms: the first was the Holy Place and then the Holy of Holies. The veil separated the two.

There were three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place: the golden altar of incense centered in front of the veil, the golden candlestick on the south; and the gold-covered table of shewbread, sometimes called the bread of the presence, on the north, directly opposite the candlestick.

The altar of incense speaks of Christ as our Intercessor and Priest. The priests stood before the golden altar and offered incense daily while they prayed for the people. In Revelations 8: 3-4, God likens the Believer's prayers to incense going upward to Him.

The golden candlestick speaks of Christ as the Light of the World. The golden candlestick burned continually and was the only light in the Holy Place.

There were twelve loaves of bread on the table of shewbread, one to represent each tribe of Israel before God. The table of shewbread speaks of Christ as the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. The veil, too, was a type of Christ. It separated the sinner from God’s immediate presence and consequently from God's judgment.

When Christ died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, opening the way for man to come to God. That signified that God had accepted the blood sacrifice of His Son for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

His blood sacrifice opened the “way into the holiest of all.”

Behind the veil was the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant rested, and covering it was the mercy seat. God Himself dwelt in the Shekinah Cloud that hovered over the mercy seat.

Once yearly, on the Day of Atonement, blood from the sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy seat and in front of it. There is no indication that this blood was ever removed. It remained there as a constant reminder to the high priest and to God of the coming blood sacrifice of the Son of God to redeem mankind.

The Mercy Seat was truly a throne of Grace. Underneath the Mercy Seat in the Ark of the Covenant were the Ten Commandments, the proof of man's sin. God dwelt over it in the Shekinah Cloud.

God's righteousness demanded death for the guilty sinner who was condemned by the Law, but because of the blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat it became a Throne of Grace. When God saw the blood, judgment was forestalled for another year or until a greater sacrifice would come, the blood of the Lamb of God.

There were four coverings layered over these rooms forming the “roof” of the Tabernacle. These coverings picture the total covering of our sins by the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A more complete study would show how the boards and bars and sockets that formed the complete structure, the curtains, the coverings, and the pieces of furniture-all are detailed pictures of Christ. I'm just attempting to present some idea of what the tabernacle foreshadowed.

The sacrifice the Lord Jesus made when He left heaven’s glory to “tabernacle” among men was very costly. It cost His precious life and blood. The people that He came to redeem lived in “earthly tabernacles” of the flesh. In order to save sinners He became a Man, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).

Let's start at the gate and proceed toward the presence of God. Man had to bring an animal as his substitute and shed it's blood there. The sinner has to meet God at the altar of sacrifice before he can talk to Him in prayer and "come boldly to the throne of grace." The only way we dare go there is through faith in the shed blood of Christ.

The sinner looked inward from the gate where the brazen altar stood. God dwelt at the far end in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat were. Only the sinner's representative, the priest, could enter the Holy Place; and only the high priest could go into the presence of God in the Most Holy Place once a year, and only with blood, first for himself and then for the people.

The furniture in the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was of gold. Where did Israel get the gold and silver and brass and jewels there in the wilderness for the tabernacle? Exodus tells the story: Israel had worked as slaves for a long time. Before they left the land, God told them to ask their neighbors for jewelry and such. He put it into the hearts of the Egyptian women to give them a tremendous amount of wealth when they left.

God told Abraham about this almost 500 years before. Genesis 15:13-14. "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14: And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance."

Those who wanted to contribute to the building of the tabernacle were to bring only such things as they wanted to present willingly unto God, “an offering” from “the heart.” Exodus 25:2. "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering."

The result was they brought so much Moses had to tell them not to bring any more. Exodus 36:5-7. “And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make.
6: And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.
7: For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."

No stranger was to have a part in the building of the tabernacle or to enter it. Only God's people. This pictures God's church. No stranger to God will be a part of it.

The tabernacle was built so that God could dwell among His people and have fellowship with His creatures. He had fellowship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But sin entered into that beautiful fellowship, and it was broken.

God’s love for man remained the same but man put himself at a distance from God through sin.

Before the flood, God walked with Enoch for more than 300 years.
He was with Noah in the ark because He told Noah to “Come” into the ark.
During the time of the patriarchs, He talked with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the wilderness, He wanted to dwell in a tent, in a pillar of cloud and fire, and have communion on the basis of the shed blood of animal sacrifices that pictured the future shedding of the blood of His Son.

After the wilderness journey, when Israel possessed the land of Canaan and lived in houses, God told Solomon to build Him a house and Solomon built the beautiful temple in Jerusalem. Again, God filled it with His glory, and He only departed from it when the sins of His people separated them from their God.

Centuries later, God came down to “tabernacle” among men. This time God was manifest in the flesh. Jesus.

The tabernacle portrays the Lord Jesus, but it also speaks of a later temple, the living temple which is His church.

Today the church is “the habitation of God through the Spirit.” Each blood-bought child of God, from Pentecost to the Rapture, is a “living stone” in that building for eternity. God wants the fellowship of His redeemed.

He'll dwell in the midst of His people on earth again in the coming Millennial reign. During that time the raptured church will reign with Christ in heaven. After the Millennial reign, the eternal state will come for believers of all time, and His blood bought children will be gathered together in the New Jerusalem. That will fulfill His wish for fellowship with His creature, man.

It will be absolutely glorious. John wrote about this future day in Revelation 21:3. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God."

Revelation 21:16 tells us the New Jerusalem is a 1500 mile cube.

I don't know if we'll be able to walk on the ceiling or not, I always wanted to. When my oldest daughter was little, she could come pretty close to walking on the ceiling.

John 14 promises us King James Bible readers a mansion. You folks who read a newer translation will get a room, but I'm holding out for my mansion as promised.

Until that time our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” It's a solemn thought that we were “bought with a price,” the precious blood of the Son of God!

In the typology of the tabernacle and the sacrifices, God was preparing His people for the Son of God who was to “tabernacle” among men. He was also picturing the union of Christ and His church.

The priests were a picture of the believer-priest of this age. Only the believer-priest can enter into His presence!

If you're not saved, Jesus still invites you to meet Him at Calvary and be born again by faith in His atoning blood. Then you can enter His presence for eternity and be with Him and like Him forevermore.