I love how the Bible is so intricate in its design. It is truly amazing. Especially when studying something like the Tabernacle (or Temple for that matter). Know this, God never issued arbitrary commands. Everything he instructed the Israelites to do had a purpose as a “shadow of things to come” (Col 2:17).
It was also told to us that Jesus was the subject of all of these things. The entire book is about Him in one way or another.
…in the volume of the book it is written of me…
– Psalms 40:7, Hebrews 10:7
The symbols exemplified in the Tabernacle are no different. These symbols are multilayered and do not just have one meaning. For example, the Tabernacle emblems all individually point to Jesus: the shewbread (“I am the bread of life” – John 6:35), the menorah (“I am the light” – John 8:12), the sacrifice (“Behold the Lamb of God” – John 1:29), the high priest (Hebrews 3:1), etc.
But the Tabernacle is also a pattern of the church, it is a pattern of a Christian walk, and it is even a pattern for a Christian heart. Those studies are actually way to big for this blog (I may do more later), so for now I want to focus on another pattern from the Tabernacle I recently considered: Jesus’ crucifixion. Let’s start here:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
– John 1:14
This verse is, of course, referring to Jesus Christ. Let’s look at the word “dwelt”. It is translated from the Greek word, σκηνόω (skay-no-o) which means to encamp, “like God in the tabernacle”. The statement could then be phrased as, “and tabernacled among us”. This has a deeper meaning than simply living with us. The tabernacle was not just a place for God to physically dwell with us, it was also a place of sacrifice and atonement for sin. Jesus was made flesh for this purpose as well (Hebrews 9). This is also referenced in the Revelation:
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.
Let’s examine the three major parts of the Tabernacle: the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. Three is an important number to God as He uses it to represent Himself and His involvement. The crucifixion also took place in a location divided into three major parts: Golgotha, the Garden, and the Tomb. If we look closely, there are some startling similarities between these two locations. Too startling to be anything except a well devised plan on God’s behalf. Let’s look at a few of these:The Courtyard and Golgotha – This was the place of sacrifice. When sacrifice was made for sin on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice was made in the Tabernacle Courtyard upon the Brazen Altar. Here is where blood was shed for sins and the cross of Golgotha was the place Jesus shed blood for our sins. The Altar was raised above the surrounding area just as Golgotha stands on a hill. In fact, the Garden Tomb area (known now as Gordon’s Calvary) in Jerusalem sits at the highest point of Mount Zion (Moriah) at 777 km above sea level. The Holy Place and The Garden – The Holy Place had little ritual involvement on the Day of Atonement, however the High Priest had to pass through it to carry the blood of the sacrifice into the Most Holy Place. Likewise the Garden is not mentioned much in scripture. Only John mentions it, but he states the Garden was located near the place of execution and the Tomb was actually inside of the Garden (John 19:41). This means the body of Christ had to be carried through the Garden on its way to the Tomb. This follows the Tabernacle pattern in that the Most Holy Place was inside of the same structure as the Holy Place. It may also be interesting to note, the Most Holy Place was separated from the Holy Place by a heavy veil. The Tomb was separated from the Garden by a huge rolling stone which covered the door. The Most Holy Place and The Tomb – Inside the Most Holy Place sat the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a physical representation of the promises (covenants) to Israel that God was with them. The Ark was covered by a separate utensil called the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat served as a lid to the Ark and two golden Cherubim sat on each end of it. The High Priest then sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice upon the Mercy Seat. This is where the Spirit of God (Shekinah) dwelt and accepted the blood as an atonement for sins. In comparison, inside the Tomb was laid the body of Jesus (Emmanuel, or God with us) which was a physical fulfillment of the promises made to mankind. On this body was blood made in sacrifice for the atonement of all sins. After the resurrection, Mary found two angels in the empty tomb, one at the foot and one at the head of where Jesus’ body had laid, echoing the arrangement of the Cherubim on the Mercy Seat (John 20:12). But Jesus was gone, for God had resurrected Him in acceptance of the sacrifice. Praise be to God for the fulfillment of His exalted plan for our salvation.
These are just a few of the similarities I found in this pattern and I am confident there are just as many not yet realized. More than likely I will try to follow this study up with further patterns of design in the Tabernacle / Temple and how these like-figures foreshadow God’s plan, for He is indeed a master architect. Revelation 21 also confirms that the Tabernacle/Temple design will ultimately be fulfilled when we dwell with Him in eternity:
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
– Revelation 21:22