Introduction To The Study Of The Tabernacle



There has been only one building ever erected on earth that was perfect in every detail from the start and never needed to be added to or changed; the tabernacle in the wilderness.

The blueprint, layout, plan and design with all the specifications were designed in heaven. It was conveyed to Moses from the Lord for Israel. Moses received it while he was on Mount Sinai, shortly after Israel's exodus and deliverance from Egypt.

The finest detail of the tabernacle, every particular aspect, was designed by the Almighty God. Every aspect has a prophetic redemptive and type meaning which was fulfilled in Christ.

There is no Scripture richer in meaning, more perfect in teaching the plan of salvation, than this divinely designed building - the tabernacle.

God was the Architect. Every detail points back to a certain aspect of the character and work of the person of God's Son, Jesus Christ. In its completed form, the tabernacle is probably the most fully detailed revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the plan of salvation in the entire Old Testament.

At first glance, the outward appearance of the tabernacle was not very appealing. From the outside, there was very little indication of the glory, splendour, beauty and magnificence that existed within it. The priest looking from the outside could not see the intrinsic beauty and breathtaking glory.

Only after he entered the forecourt through the gate on the east side, stood still at the brazen altar with his burnt offering and then washed his hands and feet in the laver, could he enter to see the glory of what was inside the tabernacle.

This tabernacle in the wilderness/desert would become the central place of all worship for the children of Israel during their wanderings, as determined by the God of heaven.

Moses was repeatedly ordered to make an exact replica of the one that God had shown to him on Mount Sinai (Exod. 25:40; Heb. 8:5). What God showed him was therefore one that already existed in heaven. The tabernacle was a type, an image, a shadow of something with real substance that already existed!

One thing is absolutely certain; the tabernacle of God on earth was a type or foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ! This is where God and man meet, where Deity and humanity converge in one person (Heb. 8:1, 2). So in Christ we find the perfect answer to the spiritual significance of the tabernacle. We read in John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (literally: tabernacle).

Every detailed aspect of the tabernacle refers back to different aspects of the person and work of Christ our Saviour. The tabernacle would be the epitome of the all-sufficient and complete provision of salvation in Jesus Christ. The tabernacle is more than just an image of Jesus Christ, in a secondary sense, it is a picture of the believer.

The believer IN CHRIST is the dwelling place of God. We are also the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). It's not just an image of the Lord Jesus Christ and the believer, but also a complete picture of the plan of salvation in a sevenfold plan:

One: As a sinner standing outside, we have to go through the door (gate) and stop at the ALTAR: the place of sacrifice (the cross, the starting point of our experience of salvation).

Two: Thereafter, seclusion and daily cleansing at the LAVER follows.

Three: Then we move into the community with the Word or bread at the TABLE WITH SHEWBREAD. 

Four: We learn to walk in the light of the GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (1 John 1:7).

Five: Now, and only now, do we come to the place of power in prayer at the GOLDEN ALTAR OF INCENSE.

Six: Now we are ready and we go into the HOLY OF HOLIES for the highest service of the tabernacle in God's intimate presence.

Seven: This brings us to complete rest and peace at the blood sprinkled MERCY SEAT of the ARK OF THE COVENANT under the shadow of the cherubims of glory.

It's amazing to think that all of this takes place on a small patch of land in the midst of the people in the desert.

The size of the rectangular plot of land was: 75 feet wide (23 meters) and 150 feet long (46 meters).

It was the same size as a normal plot for a home in the later city life of the nation of Israel. The rectangular plot on which the tabernacle would stand was enclosed with a fence of seven and a half feet (2.3 meters) high. To the east was the entrance gate which was the only place of access to this sacred area.

The idea of the tabernacle was that God became a pilgrim with pilgrims and lived in a "tent" with people living in tents or, God came down to where man was so that He could have fellowship with man. And there I will meet with you (Exod. 25:22). In Christ, God would dwell below the cloud column (John 1:14). Tabernacle is a name formed from the Latin word meaning TENT, literally in Hebrew: DWELLING (Exod. 25:8, 9). Jesus came to live with us (John 1:14), and in Revelation 21:3 God the Father dwells with man forever.

The tabernacle, made by human hands, was designed by the Lord Himself. The whole design and layout of the tabernacle of the Lord was shown to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses was commanded to build the tabernacle in strict accordance with the Lord God's clear instructions.