The author of Hebrews explains about the Old Testament’s importance and meaning of the tabernacle and the role of Jesus as the high priest.
God’s desire is to meet with us again, but because of sin, a blockage has been created. Therefore, God gave us the tabernacle as a hint and method for us sinners to be redeemed and restored to the presence of our God, to find salvation.
The author of Hebrews explains these different parts of the tabernacle and how to get to where God is, from where we are.
1. The atoning path of the high priest (Heb 9:1-7)
(i) Gates / doors. First, we have to go through the door, in order to receive atonement and forgiveness. The door of commitment, the door of opening into the life of a Christian, believing in Jesus. If not, we cannot receive the forgiveness to our sins.
(ii) Altar of burnt offering. Represents a sacrifice offering. There has to be a sacrifice. In the OT, the sacrifice of an animal, shedding blood and burnt with fire in order for sins to be covered. For the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.
(iii) Laver / basin. The priest would go to this water basin to wash his hands and feet of all the blood, stain and dirt before entering into the Holy Place, because the Holy Place is a place of purification and sanctification. Our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice, and we need to be washed and purified. This is the process of sanctification.
(iv) Table of Showbread / Bread of the Presence. The bread represents our life, our food, our daily need.
(v) The golden lampstand. Seven lights represent the seven spirits of Jesus, seven eyes, referring to the complete powerful spirit of the Lord described in Revelation 1. Light and bread represent the Word of God.
(vi) Altar of incense. Incense in Revelation 5 and 8 represents the prayers of the saints.
Holy of Holies
(vii) Veil. The veil is what divides the Holy Place to the Holy of Holies. (Mark 15) When Jesus died on the cross, this veil ripped open from top to bottom, leaving it open for those who come through Jesus to be able to take from the Tree of Life.
(viii) Ark of the covenant. This represents the presence of God. Inside the ark of the covenant, there are 3 items representing Jesus Christ:
- Golden jar of manna = the bread that came down out of heaven
- 2 stone tablets of the 10 Commandments = perfect Word of redemption in Jesus Christ
- Aaron’s budded rod = life came out of death
2. The path of atonement that Jesus walked (Life of Jesus in the gospel of John)
The gospel of John chapters 1 – 9 describes how Jesus is the tabernacle.
(i) The Lamb for the atonement sacrifice (John 1:29). In this work of atonement, there has to be sacrifice and shedding of blood. John 1:14 Jesus is the Word that came down.
(ii) The Source of Water of Life (John 2,3,4,5,6,7).
- John 2 – Jesus turned water to wine; giving life to the water which represents world
- John 3 – one needs to be born again of water and the spirit. That is the water of purification and forgiveness (baptism, being born into Jesus Christ).
- John 4 – Jesus gives the water to the Samaritan woman, the water that will quench our thirst forever.
- John 5 – Jesus becomes the stirred water for him, the healing water for the man who has been sick for 38 years.
- John 6 – Jesus walks on water. Jesus has power and control over all water of this world, and He is the giver of the spiritual, heavenly water.
- John 7 – Jesus who gives the water in heaven. Jesus says those who are thirsty come to Me, and there will be water flowing out of your belly, your life forever and ever.
Even physically on the cross, Jesus gave up all of His water for us (John 19:34). Jesus refers to the cross as the true baptism, He wants to give us that eternal water (Luke 12:50).
(iii) The true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6). Jesus provided bread on this earth when he fed the 5,000 by multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus also says He is the living bread that came down out of heaven (John 6:41; 51). Jesus is heavenly God, but He came as a flesh, as human being. His Word is heavenly Word, which gives us spiritual understanding.
(iv) The light that shines upon darkness and illumines with understanding (John 8-9).
- John 8 – Jesus as the Light of the world gives the light of life to the darkness (John 8:12). It’s the Light that saved a sinner from death (John 8:10-11).
- John 9 – Light that gave sight to the blind (John 9:5). He will allow us to see the kingdom of heaven in this life. The 7 lamps in the tabernacle represent the complete and perfect light that Jesus is to us, and to the world.
(v) The Ark of the covenant: Place of God’s presence, place of life that the cherubim are protecting.
From John chapter 10, Jesus is taking us step by step starting from the gate of the courtyard.
John 10 – Jesus is the door, the gate.
John 11 & 12 – Jesus’ sacrifice.
- John 11, Jesus is resurrection and life.
- John 12, The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to be the Passover Lamb. The sacrifice of Jesus transfers us from death to life.
John 13 – Washing of disciples’ feet and Last Supper.
Washing at the laver before entering the Holy Place, washing with water represents work of the Holy Spirit through which we can partake in the spiritual feast of bread and wine.
John 14 – Comforting of the disciples, teaching about the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Through the basin, that water, we receive the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us without the Holy Spirit, we cannot say Jesus is my Lord and we cannot say we believe in Jesus. It is through the Holy Spirit we come to understand His Word.
After receiving the blessing of the water, we come into the Holy Place, and Jesus speaks about our relationship with the Father.
John 15 – Relationship of Father, Jesus and disciples, becoming one.
Father, Jesus and us can become one as long as we are in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is taking us closer and closer to God, now we are in the Father, the Holy of Holies.
John 16 – Promise of the Holy Spirit, connection to the Father.
John 17 – High priestly prayer: Jesus lifts the incense of prayer lifted up to Father in heaven, on behalf of all mankind interceding and mediating for us to the Father. Heb 8:1, 12:2.
John 18 – Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and Jesus’ arrest.
John 19 – The Cross.
When Jesus died, the veil ripped open, opening up the way to the Holy of Holies. Jesus’ 3 years of ministry was truly the path of the tabernacle (atonement work).
3. Jesus fulfilled the mediating work of the high priest
High priest in Latin = pontifex, meaning bridge. High priest is the bridge that connects us to God. That bridge was broken and burnt through Adam’s sin. But Jesus became the Second Adam that became the bridge for us. Heb 9:24-26.
Jesus’ cross is the new covenant. The author of Hebrew talks of the new covenant given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Heb 9:11-15, 24-28.
What did Jesus do with His life of tabernacle atonement? When we believe in Jesus and the cross, that is the atonement power, the power of the Holy Spirit works in us. That is why apostle Paul says now we are the tabernacle, the temple.