There were many duties for the priests to carry out in the Tabernacle—not only spiritual duties but also ministering to the needs of the people.
The Tabernacle consisted of three sections:
- Outer Courtyard
- Holy Place
- Holy of Holies
The outer courtyard consisted of the brazen altar where animal sacrifices were performed, as well as the brass laver filled with water for purification of the priests.
The Holy Place and Holy of Holies was enclosed in a separate structure, and only certain chosen priests could enter into that restricted area because it was hallowed. Anyone who was unauthorized to enter into the Holy Place, and especially the Holy of Holies, was struck dead.
If a priest was authorized to minister in the Holy Place, or the High Priest in the Holy of Holies, but had not properly purified himself with the sprinkling of blood and the washing with water, he could be struck down dead.
It is not that God struck a priest down out of wrath, but rather that the priest had come into contact with God’s holiness, glory and power—which is like electricity—without being properly covered by the blood, or the priest had demonstrated irreverence (much like Aaron’s sons offered up strange fire and were struck dead).
Carnal flesh cannot stand in God’s presence. We can only approach God by being covered with the Blood of Jesus, and showing Him reverence and respect.
God is so Holy that sin, or anything that defiles, cannot survive in His Presence. The Lord is merciful and gracious, and He instituted atonement by innocent blood. It used to be animal sacrifices until Jesus offered Himself as the Lamb of God to make eternal atonement of sin.
When God first instituted the Levitical priesthood, He gave specific instructions about how to approach His Presence, as well as specific instructions about cleansing, purification, the sprinkling of blood, the ingredients used for the incense and the duties of the High Priest and the priests.
Aaron’s two sons may have formulated their own ingredients for the incense and offered it to the Lord—thus producing strange fire—and that is why they were killed.
As long as the High Priest and priests obeyed the Lord’s instructions exactly, they were safe. The Lord had strict standards in place to teach respect and reverence for the Tabernacle and His Presence.
We now live in the era of grace because Jesus gave His life for us, and now we can come boldly to the Throne.
At the present time, there is not the same level of respect and honor for the things of God, and for the House of God, as there once was back in the day. This grieves the Holy Spirit. To come into the Greater Glory, there needs to be a greater level of reverence for the Presence of God.
Bells and a rope were tied around the ankle of the priest chosen to minister in the Holy Place or the High Priest to go into the Holy of Holies. Just in case he fell down dead, the other priests could drag his body out of there.
Chosen priests ministered daily in the Holy Place, the area which consisted of the seven-branched Menorah, Table of Shewbread and Altar of Incense. Every day priests burned the holy anointed incense on the altar.
In addition, fresh loaves of bread and wine were laid out on the Table of Shewbread, and the wicks of the Golden Lampstand (also known as the Candlestick or Menorah) were trimmed and the pipes of the Lampstand were kept filled with oil so that it continually burned 24 hours a day.
Only the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The Holy of Holies was separated from the Holy Place by a thick veil behind the Altar of Incense. Beyond the veil was where the Ark of the Covenant rested with two golden cherubim on either side of the Ark facing one another with their wings outstretched overshadowing the Mercy Seat.
Inside of the Ark of the Covenant, three items were placed there:
- Ten Commandments
- Jar of Manna from the wilderness
- Aaron’s rod that budded
The Mercy Seat was the lid of the Ark, made out of a slab of pure gold. The High Priest would sprinkle the blood of an animal on the Mercy Seat on the Day of Atonement for the propitiation of sin for the entire nation and for himself.
The Day of Atonement took place during the September/October time of the year on the 10th day of Tishri.
I’ve gone into detail about the Tabernacle for a reason. When you look at the picture below, what shape do you see? Yes, it’s the shape of a Cross.
The Tabernacle is all about Jesus, foreshadowing Him. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Him.
In other words, Jesus was saying that He is the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. That is because the Jews call the Outer Court “The Way”. They call the Holy Place “The Truth” and they call the Holy of Holies “The Life”.
The Holy of Holies depicts the Throne Room of God where His glory dwells, and cherubim surround His Throne (Psalms 99:1, Isaiah 37:16).
The Father is depicted by the Ark of Covenant in the Holy of Holies. To get to the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the priests had to pass through the Outer Court and Holy Place first. To get to the Father, one must go through Jesus and be sprinkled with His Blood.
The Ark was a carrier of the Presence and Shekinah Glory of God. The Shekinah Glory is the tangible, visible, manifested presence of the Lord.
The Veil signifies Jesus’ Body and Blood (Hebrews 10:19-20). Through the Blood of Jesus, we now have access to enter boldly beyond the Veil into the Holy of Holies to come before the Father’s Throne, and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-20).
At the moment that Jesus died on the Cross, the Veil in the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom (Mark 15:38), thus signifying that there is now no more barriers between God and mankind, but the way has been made for us to come freely to the Throne.
Only God could have torn the Veil in two because it was said to have been over three feet thick. It was made out of many layers of cloth, and the layers overlapped.
The gate, with the curtain of four colors, represents the four Gospels.
Purple represents Matthew, written to the Jews, depicting Jesus as King of the Jews.
Crimson represents Mark, written to the Romans, depicting Jesus as suffering servant.
White Linen speaks of Luke, written to the Greeks, depicting Jesus as the perfect Universal God-man (Jesus is fully God and fully man).
Blue speaks of John, written to all, depicting Jesus as the Son of God, Divinity.
The four Gospels speak of the salvation message. The gate is the entrance into the Christian life (initial salvation).
The Brazen Altar represents Jesus, the Lamb, being slain and His Blood shed for the redemption of mankind. The four horns on the Altar represent the four corners of the earth (North, South, East and West). Jesus died for the whole world.
The Brazen Altar also speaks of dying to our flesh (carnality). It speaks of sanctification.
The Laver represents water baptism, consecration and the washing with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).
The Laver was made out of the mirrors of the women. The Word of God is like a mirror. As we look intently into the Word, we begin to see ourselves for who we really are. The more we look into the mirror of the Word of God, we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another.
Second Corinthians 3:18, in the Amplified, says: “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continue to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.”
The priests used the laver to wash their hands and feet before entering the Holy Place.
Hands speak of our deeds and feet speak of our walk with God. The Lord wants to cleanse our walk and our deeds so that we may enter into the Holy of Holies being blameless in His sight.
The five pillars speak of grace. We are saved by grace, and by grace we may enter into the Holy Place and Holy of Holies.
Grace is unmerited favor, mercy and pardon. The Father has lavished grace upon us because of the shed Blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
The five pillars also represent the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. They are the pillars of the Body of Christ. Their job is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and to bring the Church to full maturity in Christ and in the Word.
The door to the Holy Place speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in Acts 2.
The Bible mentions three baptisms:
- Water baptism (Acts 2:38, Matthew 28:19)
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5)
- Baptism into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
The Table of Shewbread, which is the bread and the wine, speaks of Holy Communion or the Eucharist.
It also represents Jesus being the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and that God’s Word is manna (Revelation 2:17).
The Table of Shewbread also represents koinonia, which is sweet fellowship with the brethren. Fellowship, in the Bible, usually took place around the dinner table.
The seven-branched Candlestick (Menorah) represents the seven Spirits of God, which is the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-4, Revelation 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). It also speaks of revelation (Ephesians 1:17), illumination (Ephesians 1:18) the seven churches (Revelation 1-3), and the seventh day, which is the Sabbath.
The Altar of Incense speaks of intercession, prayers, praise and worship ascending to the Throne of God as a sweet-smelling fragrance, which is pleasing to the Lord (Revelation 5:8, 8:4). The smoke it produces speaks of the Shekinah Glory of God (Revelation 15:8).
Psalms 100:4 teaches us the protocol for entering the presence of the Lord. We come before the Lord with thanksgiving and praise.
When we worship the Lord, we invite God’s Glory to come down into our midst.
In the original tabernacle, which Moses built, there was a fence of white linen with a silver cord running along the top of the fence.
Also, one of the layers of the roof of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies was made from rams’ skin dyed red.
The fence of white linen represents righteousness. The silver cord running along the top of the fence speaks of redemption.
The roof of rams’ skin dyed red represents that we are covered by the Blood of Jesus.
In Moses’ Tabernacle, holding up the tent were ropes of goat hair with the tent pegs half way in the ground and half way out.
The goat hair symbolizes judgment. Jesus took our judgment on the Cross. The tent peg half way in the ground and half way out symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. He was only in the grave for three days and then rose to life.
There was a scapegoat. The priests laid their hands on the animal, transmitting all the sins of the nation and the people onto the scapegoat, and then turned it loose in the wilderness.
This represents that Jesus became the scapegoat, with every sin of the world placed on Himself, and He has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12).
There is so much more symbolism in the Tabernacle, which is a whole other teaching.
Many Christians live their lives in the Outer Courtyard. They have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and have been water baptized, but that’s as far as they have gone in their Christian walk. They are still babes in Christ. There is so much more they could experience in God.
You have to have the hunger and thirst to want more of God.
The Holy Place is the place in our lives where we become more developed in our walk with God. It’s the place where we receive illumination and revelation of the Word of God, and thus grow from infancy to spiritual maturity. The Holy Place is the place where we worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
The Holy of Holies is the place of intimacy with Jesus (intimacy in spirit and soul). It’s the place of oneness with God. It is also the place of being filled with the Glory of God and His Glory being released through us.
Jesus is a High Priest
Jesus was, and is, a Great High Priest. Though He was not of the priestly tribe of Levi, He was related to it. His mother Mary and Elisabeth were cousins. Elisabeth was from the tribe of Levi.
Also, in the lineage of Mary, her ancestors were from both the line of Judah and the line of Levi. This is significant because the kings came from Judah and the priests came from Levi. Kings could not be priests and priests could not be kings. The exception was Melchizedek, King David and Jesus Christ—all three are both kings and priests.
Jesus fulfilled the Levitical priesthood, in His distinct priesthood of the Melchizedek order (Jesus is a Priest in the order of Melchizedek—Hebrews 6:20). The Melchizedek priesthood is an eternal priesthood mentioned in Hebrews 5:6-7, 6:20, 7:1-28.
Melchizedek, in the Old Testament, was a type of Jesus Christ. There were several similarities in their priesthoods.
The Easton’s Bible Dictionary says the following concerning Melchizedek:
The name “Melchizedek” means: king of righteousness and king of Salem (Salem means “peace”). Jesus is also called the King of Righteousness and King of Peace.
All we know of Melchizedek is recorded in Genesis 14:18-20. He is subsequently mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in Psalms 110:4.
The typical significance of his history is set forth in detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 7. The writer of Hebrews points out the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood to that of Aaron (the Levitical priesthood) in these several respects:
- Abraham paid Melchizadek tithes
- Melchizadek blessed Abraham
- Melchizadek is the type of a Priest who lives forever
- Levi, yet unborn, paid him tithes in the person of Abraham
- The permanence of his priesthood in Christ implied the dissolution of the Levitical system
- He was made priest not without an oath
- His priesthood can neither be transmitted nor interrupted by death
“This man, because he continues ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.”
The question as to who this mysterious personage was has given rise to a great deal of modern speculation. It is an old tradition among the Jews that he was Shem, the son of Noah, who may have survived to this time.
Melchizedek was a Canaanitish prince, a worshipper of the true God, and in his peculiar history and character an instructive type of our Lord, the great High Priest (Hebrews 5:6-7, 6:20, 7:1-28).
The Aaronic (Levitical) priesthood was all about judgment. The Melchizedek priesthood is all about grace. We now live in the dispensation of grace.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (KJV) tells us:
14 Seeing then that we have a Great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.