Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tabernacle that the Lord set up, not man.Hebrews 8:1-2
That which is visible is temporal, only a shadow of the true substance of reality, which is invisible and eternal — yet presently hidden from our view behind the veil of the spiritual realm. We walk by faith and not by sight, knowing that we yearn for a far better country — which is our heavenly home.
Our forever dwelling place.
But we, as God’s children, journey through a world that is not our home as we await our very great reward. Until that Day — the Day of the LORD — we must trust in what the Scriptures reveal to us about the heavenly realm.
God has revealed through His servants the prophets to His beloved people a gracious glimpse behind the curtain into the unseen realm. Sometimes the LORD uses visions and dreams to show His prophets a glimpse of heaven, and other times He uses patterns and copies of earth to teach us something about the true nature of His heavenly abode.
The tabernacle/temple motif is one that is interwoven through the entire scope of redemptive history. From Eden to Sinai to the Temple to the cross of Christ to His Return and His Millennium Kingdom, the climax of the gospel story will be the day when ultimately the LORD will say …
I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.27My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.Ezekiel 37:26-27
Nothing will be truly right in this age or the next until God is on His throne in the midst of His people — dwelling with us on earth as it is in heaven. Of Course the Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme and express revelation of God in the likeness of man, as the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, full of glory, grace and truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is Immanuel — God with us.
In Hebrew the word for tabernacle is מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan)– which means dwelling, tent, habitation. In Greek the primary word use for tabernacle is σκηνή (skene). The ultimate purpose of the tabernacle is to provide an earthly representation of a heavenly reality so that sinful man can learn how to approach the Holy One in sacred space.
The tabernacle is all about approaching God on His terms, not our own, and also about acknowledging that we are helpless and hopeless without One mediating for us to provide access to the Father. And the tabernacle of God — an early tent of meeting — provides one of the most significant prophetic patterns in all of Scripture.
This one topic will be difficult to exhaust in and of itself, but for now I would like to share two general observations that should help set the stage and lay the foundation for this study.
The HEAVENLY LIGHT Casts Earthly Shadows
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.Hebrews 11:16
The Scriptures are clear that the LORD dwells in the highest heavens (Psalm 115:16), which are His heavenly tabernacle.
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;Isaiah 40:22
Within this heavenly canopy there is a radiant city — The New Jerusalem — that God has prepared and will bring down with Him when He returns to dwell on earth with His people. This city is the true template for our future home with God.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband … And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.Revelation 21:2, 10-11
Fixed in the center of this heavenly city is God’s true temple — the heavenly tabernacle. Once again, this is the true tabernacle that the LORD set up, not man.
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.Psalm 11:4
And this heavenly tabernacle is the blueprint that the LORD used to show Moses and David and Solomon how to construct a copy on earth. The earthly was patterned after the heavenly [see Exodus 25:40]
And in this holy temple in heaven there is an outer court with the bronze altar and the bronze laver. There is a holy place with the golden lamp stand and the table of showbread, along with the golden altar of incense. And then there is a veil of separation that covers the Most Holy Place — the Holy of Holies — that contains the cherub-covered ark of the covenant along with the mercy seat.
The mercy seat is the throne of the Most High God. The inner sanctuary of the tabernacle is patterned after God’s heavenly throne room, as it defines the sacred space on earth for the manifest glory and presence of God in the midst of His people.
The Way, Truth and Life
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Hebrews 10:19-22
There are three distinct entrances to the tent of meeting and each corresponds to different levels of our relationship to God and of His provision for us. The first threshold is the door to the outer court. Everyone outside the court is separated from God and His sacred space. Yet once a sinner, separated from God, enters the door to the tent of meeting, he has come the only way possible to God.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one may come to the Father except through Him. This is a direct reference to the layout of the tabernacle. Let’s take a closer look.
Once a man entered the first door to the tabernacle he would immediately be brought before the bronze altar where an atoning sacrifice would be made for him. A sinner is not able to approach the Holy One without first confessing sin and seeking forgiveness and cleansing.
That is why the cross of Christ is the only way that man may come to God. If a sinner is to be reconciled to God, it will only be through the death of the Son. The bronze altar is the shadow of the cross, as Jesus became sin for us and laid His life down as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Christ serves as the high priest as well, who is our intercessor and mediator between God and man.
Once atonement has been made, the sinner may then wash in the bronze basin, which is a symbol of the cleansing power of the cross, as the blood of Christ purifies our hearts and provides a clean conscience to approach the Lord in worship.
The next door was the entrance to the holy place — which is the next level of our relationship with God. As a sinner has received mercy and a purified heart, he then is able to approach the LORD with a pure conscience to worship Him in Spirit and in truth!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
The holy place contains the golden lampstand — the menorah — which signifies the light of Christ that shines in the darkness and is the light of men. When we see Christ for who He is in the light, then we also see ourselves as we truly are. It is God’s word that is a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path.
Then there is the table of shewbread, which is a shadow of Jesus as the eternal bread from heaven who came to offer His own body for us. He is the bread of life, and we enter through the veil that is His flesh, which was torn for us. The shewbread also is a symbol of God’s personal invitation to come and dine with Him and abide with Him in fellowship.
Then there is the golden altar of incense, which always signifies the prayers of God’s people — representing deep communion with God. Prayer is in many ways the personification of worship, as we approach the God of the universe in humble adoration, in awe that He would desire relationship with us.
There is a veil in the tabernacle embroidered with cherubim — guardian angels — which covers the Most Holy Place. In this inner sanctuary, the ark of the covenant represents the LORD’s footstool and the mercy seat His throne. This is the throne room of God, containing His manifest presence and shekinah glory. Any man who approached the LORD casually or profanely would immediately be consumed by the fire of His glory. No man can look upon the face of God and live.
And yet, Jesus is the life. He is eternal life, and He offers eternal life to all who believe. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and through Him, we too will be raised in glory and be given immortal bodies. We are able to enter the Holy of holies because through the work of Jesus, the veil was torn and believers have gained access to the throne of God’s grace before His mercy seat.
We will dwell with God forever! He is our God and we are His people! Jesus has made the way to the Father, who from everlasting to everlasting is our God.