By Ben Temperley
My experience with the Tabernacle began through a daily Bible reading plan. I found the Tabernacle difficult to picture at first. The biblical language is very precise, but my understanding was lost in the many details and terminology. If one struggles with what the Tabernacle looked like and how the components fit together, there are many fine commentaries on the subject with excellent diagrams and artists’ renderings.
In 2004, I visited Living Waters Bible Camp in Westby, WI. The staff of the camp built a full size replica of the Tabernacle. I helped on a couple of weekends in the construction. The experience helped me immensely to understand what the Tabernacle would have looked like and felt like to experience.
My interest in the Tabernacle was renewed in fall of 2010 when I decided to study the Tabernacle of David for my thesis project. The Tabernacle of David has its roots in the Tabernacle of Moses. This truth plus the fact that the Tabernacle is written about in the Bible and that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) led me to pursue a greater understanding of Moses’ Tabernacle.
The truths and symbolism of the Tabernacle are vast. Under the New Covenant, I believe that a deep understanding of the Tabernacle has been revealed by God through the New Testament Scriptures. Bible teacher, William MacDonald, illustrates many truths of the Tabernacle through an understanding of the New Testament book of Hebrews in his Believers Bible Commentary on page 121. I will share truths from MacDonald in the following commentary. The Tabernacle was God’s earthly sanctuary. It was a picture of God’s heavenly sanctuary. The true tabernacle in Heaven is much greater with Jesus Christ as the high priest (Heb. 9:1-5; 8:2; 9:11-15). The earthly Tabernacle had a Most Holy Place that only the high priest could enter, one day a year. Through the blood of Christ, all believers can enter God’s presence at any time (Heb. 9:3; 10:19). The earthly Tabernacle had a Veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The true veil is the flesh of Christ which was torn on Calvary. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ give all believers access to God. It is important to note that the Veil of the Tabernacle was torn in two miraculously when Jesus died on the Cross.
The Tabernacle required animal sacrifices. The priests offered these sacrifices daily. They were a temporary means of covering sin. They foreshadowed the blood of Christ’s sacrifice which occurred once for all time (Heb. 9:13-14). The Tabernacle had the Altar of Burnt offering. This was symbolic of Christ, the true altar. Christ himself was the offering on the Cross (Heb. 7:13; 13:10). The Tabernacle had a line of high priests who ministered on behalf of the nation of Israel. The high priest foreshadowed the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Christ is the sinless Son of God who always lives to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25). The sacrifices of the Tabernacle were many and temporary. The sacrifice of Christ was efficacious in dealing with sin. “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:26, 28). The Ark of the Tabernacle was a throne where God’s presence was manifested. It also housed the tablets of God’s law. Under the New Covenant believers can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Lastly, the Tabernacle contained the Altar of Incense. The incense typified the prayers of the saints that ascend before God. The greater reality is the altar in heaven where incense is offered continually “with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne” (Rev. 8:3).
The truths of the Tabernacle are more than I can present in this short paper. The reader is encouraged to study the Tabernacle on their own. There are many great resources on the Tabernacle. Lastly, the truths of the Tabernacle transcend the Old Testament—pictures of Christ and heavenly worship abound.
Photo is by Andy Scott.