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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Living for God's Glory - Excerpt from Preface | Main | The Daily Scroll »

    Images of the Savior (26 -- The Tabernacle)

    And they shall make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell in their midst. According to all that I am showing you, according to the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, even so you shall make it. – Exodus 25:8-9

    When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai, and was given instructions to make a tabernacle where God might dwell among his people, he was strictly enjoined to make it precisely in accordance with the pattern that God had shown him. This is because the tabernacle was symbolic of heavenly realities, and was intended to instruct the people of God concerning his holiness and the way into his presence through Jesus Christ, every part and arrangement answering to the true dwelling place of God and the manner in which his people might come before him (cf. Hebrews 9:23-24). The ways in which the tabernacle symbolized God's presence among his people are many, but every way is united and brought into harmony in the person of Jesus Christ: for the tabernacle was in one sense a microcosmic model of the entire universe, in which God created the earth for the habitation of men, the heavens where they might behold his glory, and the highest heavens in which is his very throne room, and into which they might not at all enter; and in another sense, it is constructed to depict the process of redemption, in which, through the shedding of blood, the washing of water, the fragrant incense of intercessory prayer, and so on, a sinner is brought from profane earth into thrice-holy heaven; and yet again, it depicts the movement of redemptive history as a whole, being reminiscent of the original paradise in Eden, prophetic of the New Covenant Church of Christ, and answerable to the final city of New Jerusalem, in which all history will find its fitting conclusion. But in all these things, there is brought about an admirable unity in Christ, through whom the universe was created, redemptive history is realized, sinners are brought to God, and New Jerusalem becomes the place of God's dwelling among men. But let us reflect on these things a little further.

    First, in its arrangement, the tabernacle serves to interpret to us the nature of this world's construction, and is built in such a way as to admit of ever-increasing degrees of perfection, holiness, and majesty. In regard to the first, we notice that the broadest level within the tabernacle arrangement, the courtyard, was designed in the pleasing and symmetrical proportion of fifty cubits by one-hundred cubits, surrounded by a curtain of five cubits' height; which is a precise proportion of two-to-one, and all constructed upon a like pattern of fives. Then, in the Holy Place, the same perfect two-to-one ratio is maintained, but with the added perfection of a corresponding measurement of width and height, the proportions being ten cubits wide by ten cubits high by twenty cubits long. And finally, in the Holy of Holies, the proportion is fully perfect, all three dimensions being ten cubits. In the same way, in this universe, the very dwelling place of God is precisely perfect, and is pictured often as being in the highest heavens, where man cannot see or enter into it (e.g. Psalm 2:4; 11:4; 103:19; 123:1; Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34; Acts 7:49); and from this perfect dwelling place God has constructed the heavens, which peculiarly display his glory (see Psalm 19:1), and which men can see but not enter; and beneath the heavens, God has made the earth as the habitation of men, which reflects his perfection, only not so exactly, just as the courtyard is an inferior reflection of the perfect Holy of Holies. Then, we see as well the increasing degrees of holiness, in that God's people alone could enter the courtyard; his priests alone could enter the Holy Place; and the High Priest alone, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies. We see also the increasing degrees of splendor in the bronze furniture of the courtyard, which shifts to the gold nails and furniture and fine blue and scarlet fabrics of the Holy Place, and the pure gold furniture of the Holy of Holies. To confirm our view of this nature of the tabernacle as instructive of the divine arrangement and purpose of the universe, we may notice that the courtyard, answerable to the earth, is indeed earthen, with much of the earthly element of bronze, and also with the water of the laver, which corresponds to the sea that God created together with the dry land; and the Holy Place is filled with the lights of the candelabrum, answering to the lights of heaven, and the bread of the presence, signifying God's provision of food from heaven (cf. Psalm 105:40). Furthermore, the blue fabric covering the Holy Place is suggestive of the blue of heaven; and so, being covered with goat skins and ram skins died red as if with blood, the point is made that there is no entrance into heaven, or the presence of God, without the shedding of sacrificial blood.

    But we must move on for now, to observe how the tabernacle is also significant of the movement of redemptive history: for in the first place, it is similar to the garden in Eden, which was also a place where God's presence dwelt, and which was in the midst of the earth that God had created, just as the tabernacle was in the midst of the courtyard. Then, in the Holy Place was the candlestick bearing almonds and blossoms, and hence suggesting a tree that sheds forth light, which is the substance of life; and this answers to the tree of life in Eden. Furthermore, the fact that, in Eden, God came down at appointed seasons to walk among men, which suggests that at other times he was in an even loftier abode, indicates that there was even then a more perfect place where his presence most fully dwelt; just as in the tabernacle there is a place more perfect than the Holy Place in which was the almond-bearing candlestick. So the tabernacle suggests the beginning point of redemptive history, in the Garden of Eden; but it also suggests the next great phase of redemptive history, in which God redeemed his people from Egypt, and made them his own nation: for at that time, he saved them by the blood of the passover lamb, then brought them through the Red Sea, then, bringing down his presence to them in the pillar of cloud and fire, he sustained them with manna, and finally brought them into the promised land. In the same fashion, in the tabernacle one had to pass first by the altar where sacrificial blood was shed; then by the laver of purification, corresponding to the baptism in the Red Sea; then into the Holy Place, in which was the candelabrum, answering to the pillar of cloud and fire, and the table of the bread of the presence, recalling the heavenly manna; and from there, the High Priest passed into the Holy of Holies, just as Israel would pass into Canaan, signifying the land of God's presence. Furthermore, in this present day, we must come to the cross, where Christ's blood was shed for us, then pass by the laver of baptism, where we are purified, then travel through this world sustained always by the light of God's presence and the food of his sustenance, and then we pass into God's perfect dwelling place. And finally, at the conclusion of history, we will all be brought into God's perfect dwelling place; and so the New Jerusalem is a perfect cube (Revelation 21:16), like the Holy of Holies, lighted with the presence of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:5): for at the conclusion of redemptive history, we will be brought closer to God than we had been in Eden, into the very perfection of his splendor, through Jesus Christ our Immanuel. So from the beginning to the end of history, the tabernacle is suggestive of the way in which God accomplishes great redemption of his people.

    Now, as we have noticed a few of the things that the tabernacle symbolized of the perfection and holiness and splendor of God's presence, and the way in which we are brought before him, we must likewise observe how all of those things find their unity and ultimate fulfillment in Christ alone, who is the true and perfect anti-type of the tabernacle.

    First, we will notice that Christ is the anti-type of Bezaleel, who constructed the tabernacle. For after God had given his precise instructions for the tabernacle's construction, in Exodus chapters twenty-five through thirty, he then relates how, having filled Bezaleel with his Spirit, he so superintended him that he was able to build the actual tabernacle in perfect correspondence with his instructions; and so he gives an account of the building of the tabernacle, in chapters thirty-six through thirty-nine, which corresponds exactly to the account of the pattern that Moses was shown. Now, all this repetition may at first seem laborious; but it underscores very emphatically the truth that, when God sent his Christ, he then filled him with his Spirit (see Isaiah 42:1; 61:1), so that he accomplished redemption precisely according to the divine plan, and ensured the outcome of his people's being brought unfailingly into his very presence, symbolized by the Holy of Holies. And just as the tabernacle signified creation and every stage of redemptive history, so through Christ was the world created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and so in him was every part and every stage of redemption accomplished: he was the Angel of the Lord who brought Israel out of Egypt, the Savior who came down to earth to win men back to God, the Light and Life of the New Jerusalem, etc. So then, in that he perfectly accomplished all of God's designs for creation and redemption, through the Holy Spirit of God, he is the anti-type of Bezaleel.

    Furthermore, Jesus was the perfect anti-type of the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle was primarily a place where God came down to dwell among his people. But the ultimate way in which God came down to dwell among his people was in the advent of Jesus Christ, who took on human flesh and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14), so that we might see God, and be in his presence. And so, every part of the tabernacle speaks most emphatically of Jesus' redemptive work: in correspondence with the brazen altar, which was a perfect square, he offered up his perfect blood to redeem his people (John 1:29; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19). In correspondence with the laver, he cleansed his people from their sins (John 19:34-35; Titus 3:5), sustained them with the water of eternal life (John 4:13-14), poured out his life-giving Spirit upon them (John 7:37-39; Acts 2:32-33; 10:45), and made them a pure and spotless bride (Ephesians 5:25-27). In correspondence with the candelabrum, he is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and the Life of men (John 1:4); and today, he fills his Church with his Spirit, so that she might shine among men (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15), just as the candelabrum was filled with oil by which it gave off a light which filled the whole tabernacle (cf. Zechariah 4). In correspondence with the table of the bread of the presence, he is the Bread of God which came down from heaven like the manna of old, so that the one who eats his body and drinks his blood is given eternal life (John 6:47-58), which is nothing but the presence of God (John 17:3); and he gives this life, through his broken body, to all his people, even as the twelve loaves of bread signified all twelve tribes of Israel. In correspondence with the altar of incense, Jesus ever intercedes for us, offering up the sweet smell of his sacrifice to the Father, so that he might be pleased with us, and hear our requests (John 17, cf. also Revelation 8:3-4). And in correspondence with the Holy of Holies, in which is the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the Law, and the Mercy Seat above which are the cherubim, Christ entered into God's very presence, where the veiled cherubim sing his praises (see Isaiah 6:1-4), having perfectly kept his holy Law; and so he provided mercy for his people. Today, he has torn down the veil which barred us from God (Matthew 27:51), so that we might boldly approach the throne of grace and find mercy and help for our journey home (Hebrews 4:14-16), where we will dwell in his presence forevermore in the perfect New Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb (Revelation 22:5).

    Having been brought into the very presence of God, dear brothers and sisters, by the flesh of Christ, which is the veil through which we enter into the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-22), let us live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world: for our wilderness sojourn, in which we are guided by Christ our Light and sustained by Christ our Bread, will soon be over, and we will rest in God's perfect presence for all eternity: but woe to that one who despises such abundant mercy, and turns the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4)! If the High Priest was immediately stricken dead, if he presumed to enter the Holy Place when he had not been sprinkled with the sacrificial blood (Leviticus 16:1-3, 11-14), how much more severe will our punishment be, if we presume to profane God's sanctuary by a casual and insincere trifling in the sacred mysteries of his holy Church, when our hearts have never truly been covered with his blood and cleansed with the water of his Spirit? When we are Christians in name and outward observance only, but inwardly are dead and wicked, are we not trampling upon the Son of God and profaning his blood (Hebrews 10:26-31)? Ah, it were better far to be the vilest pagan, than to be brought up in the outward embrace of the true religion, and to despise our birthright and turn to outward morality and self-motivated will-worship, instead of resting in the grace of Christ and him crucified. It were better for that man if he had never been born (cf. Matthew 26:24). But I trust it will not be so, dear Christian! And indeed it will not, if we but come in humble faith before the Son of God, crying out for mercy on the basis of his precious blood and sacrifice. Such a penitent sinner he will never turn away, though he were the most vile wretch in all the world, but forgiving and cleansing him once, he will guide and sustain him for all his life, until he bring him home at last, to the most holy New Jerusalem, where God will dwell among men and the Lamb will be the unfading light and glory of the sinless world.

    Posted by Nathan on October 3, 2008 10:46 AM

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