Summary: The Heavenly Tabernacle
Tabernacle: Where God Dwells
Turn with me this morning in your Bibles to the book of Hebrews, chapter 9. Growing up, I often heard the quote about the Bible: “The New (Testament) is in the Old Concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” We are continuing on in our study through the Old Testament. I hope you have had a chance to read along with us in Exodus 24-30 this week. We want to talk about the Tabernacle today, the tent where the Jews met with God, and I can’t think of a better place to turn than to Hebrews 9.
In Hebrews, the author - I believe most likely the Apostle Paul - writes about two covenants, a covenant of law and a covenant of grace, a covenant of works and a covenant of faith, a covenant of condemnation and a covenant or salvation. He states that we have been given great blessing to be part of the New Covenant between God and man that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. In describing this covenant, the picture of the Tabernacle is referred to. Let’s use this as our starting point today. We’ll read Hebrews 9:1-5 - “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”
The writer here gives us a quick description of the tabernacle. It was a travelling sanctuary in the wilderness. It was a place for the Jews to worship. But much more importantly, it was the place where the presence of God dwelt. But to understand it’s significance, we will refer back to Exodus. In Exodus 19, God brings the Jews to Mt. Sinai, his holy mountain, the “mountain of God” as it is called in Exodus 24:13. In Exodus 20, God declares His covenant to his people, the Jews. Moses comes up on the mountain, and God declares the terms of this covenant. In Exodus 24, we see Moses reads the terms of God’s covenant with the leaders of the Jews. They agree, and 24:10 tells us, “they saw God, and they ate and drank.” God makes his covenant, and bread is broken, and the cup is taken.
Compare that with what Jesus does with his disciples during the last supper. In a remembrance of the Passover, celebrating under the Old Covenant, according to the law, there is bread and wine. And Jesus, we see in Luke 22:19-20 - “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” He takes the bread and cup and signifies the start of a NEW covenant.
Back to Exodus. On the mount, God reveals to Moses elaborate plans for a tabernacle, a tent, and all the furnishings to be put in it. Actually Exodus 25 tells us that Moses was given a “pattern” on the mountain. “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” God showed Moses a pattern. What was this pattern? This is just my thinking, but I believe that God actually let Moses look into heaven and see what things look like in heaven.
I believe there is a “tabernacle” in heaven, complete with furnishings like there was here on earth. Hebrews 8:5 tells us that priests “serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” Revelation 15:5 tells us “After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened.” Revelation 11:19 - “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.” So the tabernacle was a shadow of what awaits us in heaven. I believe God let Moses see that, and that was his pattern for constructing the earthly tabernacle.
But why? Exodus 29:44-46 tells us, “So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.”