Jesus and the Tabernacle

by: Bill Bratt


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1-3 ).

These fascinating verses indicate that Jesus was the Word and that He has existed from all eternity. He was a real Person who lived with God and was part of the God family. He was the Word or spokesman for God. Jesus is the focus or center of the entire Bible.

(Request our free article: "Jesus is Your:". This article reveals the many jobs and functions of Jesus, such as: He is our Saviour, Lord, King, Friend, Apostle, High Priest, Shepherd, etc. )

Letís continue in John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Jesus became flesh when He was born of the virgin Mary as a baby in a manger at Bethlehem. He gave up His Godhead to become human and dwell with sinful man.

Jesus Tabernacled Among Us

Now, letís focus in on the phrase: Jesus "dwelt among us".

The following quotation comes from the Believerís Bible Commentary: "The word "dwelt" means "tabernacled" or "pitched His tent." His body was the tent in which He lived among men for thirty-three years". (1)

Other sources agree that the word "dwelt" means "tabernacled". Under the verse John 1:14, see Adam Clarkeís Commentary, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary and The Companion Bible.

Jesus came down to the earth and "pitched His tent" and "tabernacled" among us. Jesus lived as a human being upon this earth and He suffered (1 Peter 4:1) and He died for us (John 3:16).

The Tabernacle

God commanded that Moses build the Tabernacle. God gave Moses many instructions in how to build the Tabernacle. The intricate details that God gave to Moses in how to build this portable tent sanctuary are revealed in Exodus chapters 25-31 and 35-40.

The word "Tabernacle" occurs 328 times in the King James version of the Bible. "Fully fifty chapters in the Bible are devoted to the Tabernacle, showing its importance in Godís sight".... "Each part of the Tabernacle teaches us spiritual lessons concerning the Person and work of Christ and the way of approach to God". (2)

The Tabernacle was a place where God might dwell among His people. It played an important part in the life of Moses and the ancient Israelites.

The following excerpt will give us an overview of the Tabernacle: "Tabernacle (tab'er-nak-l, tent), portable sanctuary that served as a place of worship for the Israelites from the time of the wilderness wanderings until the building of the temple by Solomon; typified God dwelling with His people (Exod. 25:8); variously called (Exod. 25:9; 26:9; 33:7; 39:32; I Chron. 6:48; 9:23; 17:5; 2 Chron. 24:6); described in Exod. 25:10-27:19, 35-38; tabernacle stood in a court 150 feet long and 75 feet wide, the sides of which were covered with linen curtains, which were fastened to 60 supporting pillars of bronze. Within the court was the great altar of burnt offering (Exod. 27: 1-8) and the bronze laver used by the priests for ritual ablutions (Exod. 30: 17-21)". (3)

"The tabernacle, which stood at the west end of the court, was a wooden structure 45 by 15 feet, divided by a heavy veil into two parts, a holy place and a most holy place. This was covered on the inside with embroidered linen tapestry and on the outside with double blankets of skin. The holy place contained the table of showbread, a golden candlestick, and the altar of incense. The most holy place, or Holy of Holies, had in it only the ark of covenant, a small box-like structure of wood covered with gold in which therewere the tablets of the law, a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod (Exod. 25:16, 22; Heb. 9:4). The tabernacle was set up at Sinai the beginning of the second year after leaving Egypt (Exod 40:2 17); for 35 years it stood at Kadesh, and always preceded the Israelites when on the march (Num. 10:33-36). Later it was stationed at Gilgal (Josh. 4:19), Shiloh (Josh. 18:1), Nob (I Sam. 21:1), Gibeon (I 16:39; 21:29). David moved it to Jerusalem. It was superseded by the building of the temple. The old tabernacle was but a shadow of the true ideal (Heb. 8:5; 10:1)". (4)

Jesus and the Tabernacle

Letís compare the Old Testament Tabernacle with Jesus in the New Testament who tabernacled "among us".

The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Jesus is a perfect tabernacle: "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation" (Heb 9:11 ).

Jesus is our Gate

As we approach the Tabernacle we would head for the entrance or the Gate: "For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four pillars and four sockets" (Exod. 27:16 ).

The Tabernacle stood in a court 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. The gate was in the 75 foot section which was on the east side and the gate measured 30 feet in length.

(Note: We will assume that a cubit is approximately 18 inches.)

Jesus is our gate, our entrance to the Father and to eternal life. He is our saviour and redeemer: "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me"" (John 14:6 ).

Jesus is our Sacrifice and Atonement

As we continue in the court of the Tabernacle we would first come to the bronze or brazen altar of burnt offering: ""You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square; and its height shall be three cubits. {2} "You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. {3} "Also you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. {4} "You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. {5} "You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar. {6} "And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. {7} "The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it. {8} "You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall they make it" (Exod. 27:1-8 ).

This bronze altar measured 7-1/2 feet square and 4-1/2 feet high. This was the great altar for the sacrifice of animals signifying the shedding of blood which is required for atonement which is basic to manís approach to God. This would symbolize the death of Christ, as our burnt offering, who offered Himself without spot to God.

The Apostle Paul said that Jesus was sacrificed for us: "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Cor 5:7 ). Blood must be shed for the remission of sin: "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb 9:22 ). Jesus was sacrificed to bear the sins of all mankind: "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Heb 9:28 ).

Jesus is our Cleansing and Sanctification

As we continue our journey in the court of the Tabernacle we would next come to the bronze laver.

"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: {18} "You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, {19} "for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. {20} "When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. {21} "So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them; to him and his descendants throughout their generations"" (Exod. 30:17-21 ).

This bronze laver was made of bronze mirrors donated by the women: "He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting" (Exod. 38:8 ).

This bronze laver was a basin in which the priests would wash their hands and feet before they entered the Tabernacle. The priests went barefoot during their ministrations of their duties.

The laver symbolizes that we are to be spiritually and morally clean before entering any service to God: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb 10:22 ).

Jesus is our cleansing and sanctification: "that He (Jesus) might sanctify and cleanse her (the Church) with the washing of water by the word, {27} that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:26-27 ).

How does Jesus sanctify us and make us holy? By Godís word which is truth. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17 ).

Jesus is the Door

We now come to the Tabernacle, which stood at the west end of the court. It was a wooden structure 45 by 15 feet and was divided by a heavy veil into two parts, a holy place and a most holy place. On top it was covered with four coverings: a fine woven linen with artistic designs of cherubim, next was "the tent" made of goatsí hair, the third covering was made of ramís skins and the fourth covering was made of badgersí skins.

The tent door was made of fine woven linen: ""You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver" (Exod. 26:36 ).

The linen curtains were made of different colors. The white color symbolized purity, blue the color of heaven, purple the color of royalty and scarlet the color of blood. These symbols represented the various aspects of the personal work of Christ.

Now letís notice that Jesus is the door that we must go through to gain salvation: "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. {3} "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. {4} "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. {5} "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." {6} Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. {7} Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. {8} "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. {9} "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:2-9 ).

Jesus is our shepherd and the door to the sheep (vs. 7). Once we go through the door it is Jesusí job to care for and protect us, His sheep. It is our job to know our Shepherdís voice and we can only do that by reading the Bible. Letís notice another verse that says that Jesus is the door: ""Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev 3:20 ) .

Jesus is the Light of the World

We have entered the Holy Place through the door of the Tabernacle. On the left (south) side of this room we see the Golden Lampstand or Candlestick.

"You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. {32} "And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. {33} "Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower; and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. {34} "On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower. {35} "And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. {36} "Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold. {37} "You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. {38} "And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold. {39} "It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils" (Exod. 25:31-39 ).

The natural light was shut out of the tabernacle and the lampstand provided the light inside the tent.

The world is like the darkness inside the tabernacle. We need Jesus as a lampstand to give us light: ""And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19 ).

Jesus is the light of the world: "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life"" (John 8:12 ).

Jesus is the Bread of Life

We now look to the right (north) side of the Holy Place and see the Table for the Showbread: ""You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. {24} "And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around. {25} "You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around. {26} "And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs. {27} "The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table. {28} "And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them. {29} "You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold" (Exod. 25:23-29 ).

This Table for the Showbread is about 3 feet long, 1-1/2 feet wide and 1-1/4 feet high made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. The showbread that was placed on the golden Table was made of fine wheat flour and baked into 12 loaves, which was renewed every Sabbath and was to be eaten only by the priests. This Bread looked forward to Jesus Christ, the Bread of life.

"For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. {34} Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." {35} And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:33-35 ).

Jesus is Our Intercessor

As we look straight toward the west side of the Holy Place we see the Altar of Incense.

"You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. {2} A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width; it shall be square; and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. {3} And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. {4} Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. {5} You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. {6} And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you. {7} Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. {8} And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations" (Exod. 30:1-8 ).

This Altar of Incense is 18 inches square and 3 feet high and is made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. Incense was to be burned on the altar every morning and every evening. The incense signifies prayer which is like a sweet smelling odor that ascends to heaven.

"Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. {4} And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. {5} Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake" (Rev 8:3-5 ).

"The incense altar pictures Christ as the believerís intercessor through whom the believerís prayer and praise rise up to God." (5)

Jesus is our intercessor before God the Father: "It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Rom 8:34 ). See also Heb 7:25.

The Flesh of Christ

As we proceed beyond the Altar of Incense we come to the inner Veil.

"You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim" (Exo 26:31 ).

This inner veil was made of the finest linen, blue, purple and scarlet, exquisitely embroidered with Cherubs. It separated the Holiest of Holies from the Holy place.

Now letís notice what was going on when Jesus was dying on the cross.

"Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. {46} And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" {47} Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!" {48} Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. {49} The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him." {50} And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. {51} Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, {52} and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised" (Mat 27:45-52 ).

Notice what happened when Jesus died. Verse 51 says: "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom".

"The inner curtain which divided the Holy Place from the holiest of all in the Tabernacle; a technical term not applied to any other curtain. It was a symbol of God's unapproachability."(6)

Letís notice Jesusí role as our High Priest and His connection to the veil. Hebrews 9:11-12 ( ) says: "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation."
{12} "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once, for all, having obtained eternal redemption."
Letís continue in Heb. 10:19-22: "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, {21} and having a High Priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."

William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible series relates: "The Temple veil was rent from top to bottom. That was the veil which covered the Holy of Holies; that was the veil beyond which no man could penetrate, save only the High Priest on the Day of Atonement; that was the veil behind which the Spirit of God dwelt. There is symbolism here. Up to this time God had been hidden and remote, and no man knew what he was like. But in the death of Jesus we see the hidden love of God, and the way to the presence of God once barred to all men is now opened to all men. The life and the death of Jesus show us what God is like and remove for ever the veil which hid him from men." (7)

Jesus made it possible for us to be able to go directly to God without going through a "middle man" or a "priesthood". Since the veil was torn God is now "approachable" by mankind and we can pray directly to God the Father.

The Holy of Holies

After we have past through the Veil we are in the Most Holy Place, The Holy of Holies. This was a room on the west side of the Tabernacle. It was 15 feet wide, long and tall, a perfect cube. It represented Godís dwelling place. The only thing that it contained was the Ark of the Covenant also known as the Ark of the Testimony. Only one person was allowed to enter this room and only once a year. This one person was the High Priest and the only day he was allowed to enter was on the Day of Atonement.

"And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. {11} "And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. {12} "You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. {13} "And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. {14} "You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. {15} "The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it" (Exod. 25:10-15 ).

The Ark was a chest 3 feet and 9 inches long, 2 feet and 3 inches wide and 2 feet and 3 inches high made of acacia wood and overlaid inside and out with pure gold. The Ark contained the two tables of the Ten Commandments, a pot of Manna and Aaronís Rod that budded.

"Being small and provided with carrying poles, the ark was mobile. Thus the ark served two important purposes during the history of early Israel. During the wilderness wanderings, when the people of God were on the march, the Tabernacle was packed away and the Ark led the way, representing Godís leadership of the tribes (of Israel) as they made their way toward the land of promise (Num. 10:35-36). This use of the ark is closely tied with the second purpose. The ark was taken by the army as it engaged in battle with foreign foes. It represented the presence of the divine warrior with the army. The famous battle of Jericho is one of the more notable examples of the Ark symbolizing Godís presence and power with the army of Israel (Josh. 6)." (8)

The Ark contained the two tables of the Ten Commandments and envisions Jesus Christ as having Godís law in His Heart.

In the Tabernacle the Ark was understood to be the throne or the footstool to the throne of God. Above the Ark were placed two cherubim with outstretched wings. God was envisioned as enthroned between the wings of the Cherubim.

"Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: "O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim" (2 Kings 19:15 ).

"The Mercy-Seat was the top of the Ark, a lid of solid gold. A Cherub at each end, of one piece with the lid, facing each other, their wings spread out, looking down toward the Mercy-Seat. The Mercy-Seat being just above the Two Tables of the Ten Commandments, represented the meeting place of Law and Mercy: thus, a "shadow" of Christ." (9)

In Revelation 11:15-19 the events surrounding the blowing of the seventh trumpet are given. Jesus will return at the seventh trumpet and will judge the living and the dead: "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom" (2 Tim 4:1 ).

The Mercy Seat represents Christís judgment seat.

Jesus is the New Testament Tabernacle

The writer of Hebrews gives us a beautiful description of Jesus being our Tabernacle: "Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. {2} For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; {3} and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, {4} which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; {5} and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. {6} Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. {7} But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; {8} the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. {9} It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience; {10} concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. {11} But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. {12} Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb 9:1-12 ) .

In Conclusion:

Jesus came in the flesh and tabernacled among men (John 1:14). Jesus is our High Priest and our perfect spiritual Tabernacle (Heb. 9:11-12). Each part of the Old Testament Tabernacle teaches us spiritual lessons concerning the Person and work of Christ and the way of approach to God.


Footnotes: (1): William MacDonald "Believerís Bible Commentary",1995, p. 1468.

(2): William MacDonald "Believerís Bible Commentary",1995, p. 114.

(3,4):"The New Compact Bible Dictionary",1967, p. 574.

(5): Merrill F. Unger "Ungerís Bible Handbook",1967, p. 102.

(6): F.B. Huey, Jr. "The Zondervan - Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible",- 1976, page 862.

(7): William Barclay, "The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Matthew", 1975, p. 371.

(8): C. L. Seow, "Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Ark of the Covenant", 1998, p. 43.

(9): H. H. Halley, "Halleyís Bible Handbook", 1965, p.130.