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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Exo 25; 40; Christ in the Tabernacle

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Portraits of Christ
“Christ in the Tabernacle” (Exodus 25:8-9, 40)

  1. While Jesus hung on the cross, priests were hurriedly preparing to slay Passover lambs in the Temple.
    • The sun was about to set and a still darkness hung over the city like a shroud.
    • With His last gasp of air, Christ shouted, “It is finished!”
    • At that moment the ground began to shake, as an earthquake violently shook the city.
    • To the astonishment of the temple priests, the veil separating the Holy of Holies began to tear from top to bottom.
    • For the first, time the Ark of the Covenant was exposed for all to see.
  2. Questions:
    • Was this some kind of coincidence of time and nature or a divine sign?
    • Does the Bible give an explanation for this?
    • The answers to these questions are found in ancient types and shadows given to Moses more than 1500 years before Christ.

Moses received from God on Mount Sinai a specific and detailed architectural design for a Tabernacle. (Exodus 25:8-9, 40)

  1. This blueprint was for a portable tent in which God would dwell.
    • The Tabernacle was to be a place where God’s glory would be revealed.
    • The plan was simple, functional, yet filled with prophetic promise.
    • It was a replica of heavenly and spiritual realities.
    • The Tabernacle was a foreshadow of Christ.
    • God even instructed Moses to anoint it with oil.
    • It is significant that the name “Christ” means “the anointed One.”
    • God was making a profound promise, “I will provide redemption through my anointed one.”
  2. Hebrews 9:11-12 makes a direct correlation between Christ and the Tabernacle.
    • He says Christ was the greater and more perfect Tabernacle than the one made by the hands of Moses.
    • He would be the one to enter into the Holy of Holies once and for all to offer His own blood for our eternal salvation.
    • The Tabernacle points to Christ and His work on the cross.
    • He and He alone is the architect of our salvation. (Matthew 16:18)
  • One of the great provisions of God’s covenant was the promise of His divine presence. (Exodus 29:43-46)
  • As God previously had fellowship with Adam and Eve in the Garden, He was once again promising to dwell with His people.
  • Adam’s sin however brought death, enmity and condemnation.
  • The solution to this separation required God to take the initiative by making a divine provision for the sin of the world.
  • The Tabernacle, then, was a prophetic picture of how Christ’s redemptive work makes fellowship with God possible.
  • The “Tent of Meeting” was placed in the center of the 12 Tribes.
  • They were commanded to pitch their tents around the Tabernacle according to God’s instructions.
  • He divided the 12 tribes into prescribed locations in the North, South, East and West.
  • Based upon our study of Genesis, which tribe to you think was directly in front of the eastern gate leading into the Tabernacle? It was Judah.
  • The presence of God in the midst of Israel was predicated upon their obedience to the covenant.
  • When Moses returned from the Mount he heard a rebellious people.
  • They had decided to make for themselves gods out of gold, who would go before them in their pursuit for happiness.
  • In anger Moses cast the Tablets of God down.
  • The shattered stones were in recognition of breaking God’s covenant.
  • God then instructed Moses to speak to the people. (Exodus 33:1-6)
  • It was great to have God dwell in the midst of Israel, but it was also dangerous.
  • His holy presence could not tolerate their idolatry and harlotry.
  • So God commanded Moses to come out of the camp to meet with Him.
  • However, Moses did not like this arrangement.
  • Therefore, he pleaded to behold God’s glory and interceded on behalf of His people.
  • God made provision for this request. (Exodus 34:5-9)

There is an important lesson for the church today.

  • The church is tempted to have God go before it at a safe distance.
  • We want just enough of God’s presence to warm us but not enough to threaten our comfort zones.
  • We say we desire to make “the pursuit of God the central priority of our lives.”
  • Or have we penciled God into the margins of our already-full calendars?
  1. God did keep His promise to tabernacle with His people.
    • In John in 1:14 it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [pitched His tent or tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
    • Jesus is Immanuel or God with us. (Matthew 1:23)
  2. God prepared a divinely gifted artisan to build the Tabernacle. (Exodus 31:2-5)
    • I find it fascinating that God chose and spiritually gifted Bezalel to build the Tent of Meeting. (1 Chronicles 2:18-20)
    • He is Caleb’s great grandson of the lineage of Judah, David, and Christ.
    • Bezalel foreshadows Jesus as the author and the finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
  3. The blueprint for the tabernacle portrays God’s plan of salvation. (Hebrews 9:1-5)
    • The tabernacle is an earthly type of a spiritual reality.
    • For no temple made by the hands of man could contain God. (1 Kings 8:27)
    • Not only are the furnishings in the tabernacle typologically significant, but even the floor plan is important.

There are definite theological implications in the layout of the Tent.

  1. Let’s begin by taking an overview of the layout of the Tabernacle.
    • We cannot help but see that man must come to God on His terms.
    • We also see that there is only one entrance into this Tabernacle.
    • I believe Jesus had this gate in mind when he claimed in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
    • Notice the dimensions of the Tabernacle and the courtyard.
    • Everything is designed around a scale of 5 or 10
    • In Biblical numerology, 5 represents grace and 10 represents God’s completeness.
    • The Bronze altar is 5 x 5 x 3 for the perfect instrument of God’s grace.
    • The Holy of Holies is a cube 10 x 10 to remind us God inhabits completeness.
    • The arrangement of the furnishings tells of God’s provision for our sin.
  2. The outer court represents the Earth.
    • This area represents the Earth and God’s redemptive plan for it.
  3. The Bronze Altar stands as the place of sacrifice:
    • It is placed before anything else to remind worshippers that, “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.”
    • The lamb slain on the bronze altar foreshadowed the death of the Lamb of God on the cross. (Exodus 27:1-8)
  4. The Bronze Water Laver reminds worshippers they must be cleansed before the approach a Holy God. (Exodus 30:18-21; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
    • After the shedding of blood it was necessary that one be ceremonially cleansed, so they could serve as priests.
    • The Bronze water basin foreshadowed our cleansing from sin through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
    • Water baptism represents our identity with Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
    • In Titus 3:4-7 it says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
    • I also found a curious reference in John 7:37-39.
    • Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
    • Then in John 19:34-35 there is this strange observation—
    • “One of the soldiers pierced Christ’s side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”
    • At the Bronze Altar there was blood to atone and at the Bronze basin water to regenerate and cleanse defiled sinners.
  5. After the priest had offered a blood sacrifice and been cleansed, he then entered the Holy Place, which represented Heaven.
    • There to the south was the golden lampstand. (Exodus 25:31-39; John 1:3-5)
    • The lamp was made of gold and shaped into the form of a seven-branched tree.
    • The lamp was to burn all the time.
    • The burning oil came out of what looks like an almond.
    • The lamp was like a tree that bears the fruit of light.
    • Is this what John 1:4 means? “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men?”
    • We see a similar analogy made in Revelation 1:12-13.
    • Christ was seen walking in the midst of the seven lampstands, which represented seven churches.
    • He sovereignly walks in the midst of His people to see that they bear the fruit of His light.
  6. A golden table of Showbread is in the Holy place. (Exodus 25:23-30; John 6)
    • On this golden table are twelve loaves of bread.
    • The Show bread means “Bread of His Presence.”
    • Just as there are twelve months of seed growth in our calendar, so God provides for the growth of His spiritual Seed, the twelve Tribes.
    • Alongside the bread is a cup of wine.
    • The bread and the wine are a perpetual reminder of God’s presence, power, and provision for His people.
  7. The table of Showbread bears a striking resemblance to the Lord’s Table that has bread and wine to remind us of Christ’s bodily presence.
    • God graciously provides for His people.
  8. The golden altar of incense is positioned directly before the veil in front of the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 30:1-10; Hebrews 5:7; 7:25)
    • The altar is not for burning sacrifices, but rather for burning incense.
    • The incense is a sweet fragrance that drifts into the Holy of Holies.
    • The incense represents how pleasing the aroma of God’s sacrifice is in heaven.
    • Incense is also a symbol of intercessory prayer that ascends up to God.
    • Christ is our High Priest, Who always lives to make intercession for us.
  9. The veil that hides the Ark of the Covenant represents God’s glory hidden in heaven. (Exodus 26:31-33; Matthew 27:51)
    • The veil is blue with a multitude of cherubim symbols woven on it.
    • Once a year, the high priest would come into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood from the Bronze Altar onto the Ark of the Covenant.
    • The moment Christ’s body was torn on the cross, so was the veil in the Jerusalem Temple torn.
    • It was a sign that the sacrificial system was finished.
    • He broke through that wall of partition, as our Great High Priest, to make intercession for His people and to atone for their sin. (Hebrews 10:19-20)
  10. The Holy of Holies represents the Throne of Heaven. (Exodus 25:8)
    • There is only one article of furnishing in the Holy of Holies, the Golden Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 25:10, 18-20)
    • It was designed like a throne or a king’s footstool.
    • It represents God’s heavenly throne, from which all of creation is ruled.
    • The Ark contains the Tablets of the Law, Aaron’s budding rod, and a jar of manna.
    • The Law reminds us that man falls short of God’s glory.
    • The rod is a symbol of God’s power to make lifeless things become His instruments of deliverance.
    • The manna is a symbol of God’s great provision for His people.
    • Jesus identified Himself as the manna that came from heaven.
    • The lid to the Ark was called the “Propitiary” or the “Mercy Seat.”
    • It was here that the blood of the lamb was sprinkled to satisfy God’s justice.
    • God’s grace is like the mercy seat in that it more than covers the demands of the law. (Romans 3:23-26)
    • Two golden Cherubim stand with their wings spread over the Mercy Seat, as symbols of God’s glory in heaven.
    • It was between these angels and above the Mercy Seat that God’s Shikinah glory was revealed to Moses and the high priests.

An explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, using the pattern and furniture of the Tabernacle. (Colossians 1:19-20)

  • I want to begin in the Holy of Holies.
  • The Triune God, in His heavenly glory, sent the Son to earth.
  • He set aside His eternal glory, in obedience to His Father, to take upon Himself the form of a man. (Philippians 2:6-8)
  • When He arose from His throne to enter the earth, he was answering the prayers of His enslaved people.
  • He came to earth as the light and life of man.
  • It pleased the Father for the fullness of deity to dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:19-22)
  • At the age of thirty He began His ministry with baptism.
  • For the joy that was set before Him Christ endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)
  • He was like a lamb led to slaughter. (Isaiah 53:7)
  • He willingly offered up His life as a sacrifice for our sin.
  1. Now let’s apply this to Israel’s deliverance.
    • Israel first offered the Passover lamb as a sacrifice, then it went through the water of Jordan, then God provided from heaven light and daily bread, and then God’s people stood before God’s presence at Sinai to offer prayer.
    • Then the glory of God “tabernacled” or “dwelt” with them throughout their wanderings.
  2. The same is true of our salvation.
    • One can enter into salvation only by faith in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, Whose blood cleanses us from all condemnation and whose water regenerates and cleanses us for service.
    • He is faithful to provide light and Himself for His people to feast upon.
    • They have become a nation of priests, interceding through prayer.
    • God now inhabits His people like He once dwelt with Israel.
    • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
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