The Door to the Tabernacle
September 20th, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
THE DOOR TO THE TABERNACLE
Hebrews Series – Part 32
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-20-59 7:30 p. m.
Usually we read our text. Following the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we are preaching on those little verses one by one. So instead of reading again our text in Hebrews 9, I thought we would read the background of the message that it brings in John 10. Turn to the Gospel of John, the fourth gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – and chapter 10, and we read the first nine verses.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Way to God: The Door to Heaven, and it is a sermon on the tabernacle, the entrance, that God made for a poor sinner – for us. John 10:1-9 – now all of us read it together:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out.
And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers."
This parable spake Jesus unto them, but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door. By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.
Now that’s the background: "I am the door" [John 10:9]. And the sermon is from the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews: "Then, verily, the first covenant" – the Old Covenant, the covenant of shadow and type and promise – "had also ordinances of divine service" – a ritual, a Levitical ceremonial worship – "and a sanctuary in this earth. For there was a tabernacle made" [Hebrews 9:1-2]. Then he describes the court and the holy place and the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:2-5]. And the message tonight is the entrance into the presence of God: the door of glory – the door that leads to heaven.
Now the tabernacle [Exodus 27:9-18]: draw on the sand of the desert a parallelogram, a rectangle. Make it forty-five feet this way; make it fifteen feet that way and then back again. And where you have the outline, put down silver sockets of redemption money. Then where you have the silver sockets, place boards fifteen feet tall, covered with pure gold [Exodus 26:15-30]. Then over it all, spread the beautiful curtain of blue and purple and scarlet and fine-twine linen [Exodus 26:1-6]; then over that, the covering of goat’s hair [Exodus 26:7-13]. Over that, the covering of the ram skins dyed red [Exodus 26:14], then over that, the badger skin rubbed to keep it away from the weather. Then on the inside, come back thirty feet and put a veil in between making a Holy Place, thirty by fifteen, making an inner Holy of Holies – a sanctuary, a perfect cube, fifteen by fifteen by fifteen [Exodus 26:31-37]. That is the tabernacle.
Then around it, make another parallelogram for the court: 150 feet this way and seventy-five feet this way, 150 feet back, and seventy-five again; and that is the court [Exodus 27:9-21]. Where you’ve made the outline, place sockets of brass – every few feet, a pillar of brass – and hang thereon a curtain seven-and-a-half feet tall all the way round [Exodus 27:18], and that is the court. The floor is the sand of the desert, and all of it is considered a most holy place consecrated and separated unto God.
The entrance into the court is always from the east, and the tabernacle always faces the east [Numbers 3:38]. There are three entrances into these holy places. The entrance into the court is called the gate [Exodus 27:16]. The entrance into the tabernacle, into the holy place, is called the door [Exodus 26:36], and the entrance into the Holy of Holies is called the veil [Exodus 26:31-34]. All of them bear a marvelous witness and a glorious testimony to the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
First, the gate: that court was made, as I described, of a curtain all the way round, and that curtain was made out of fine linen [Exodus 27:18]. It had a meaning. In Revelation 19, I read:
Alleluia! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints, the righteousness of God’s people.
So it is a holy place, and it is surrounded by a court made of curtains woven of fine-twined linen [Exodus 27:18]. So the curtains around that enclose the sacred place represent righteousness, holiness, perfection all the way around.
Another thing: the curtains were exactly the same all the way around: seven-and-one-half feet high – just the same all the way round [Exodus 27:18] – and they were held up in sockets of brass and with pillars of brass [Exodus 27:10-12, 14-18]. That represents that God’s demands and God’s righteousness is always the same – always. God never lowers His standard. God never lowers His law, but it is always upright; it is always full; it is always complete. God doesn’t ask righteousness one day, half righteousness the next day. God expects and demands a holy and complete righteousness [Matthew 5:20, 48], and those sockets and those brazen pillars represent the righteous judgment of God.
The altar is made out of brass [Exodus 27:1-2], the burning brass of God: the holiness of God, the righteous demands and mandates of God – fine-twine linen all around [Exodus 27:9, 18] – righteousness and never lowered, always the same.
And the only entrance is through the gate – no other way. There’s not any corner. There’s not any loophole. There’s not any sagging. God’s demand and God’s law is always the same, and the only entrance is through the gate – no other way [Matthew 7:14; John 10:9]. You don’t crawl underneath; you don’t crawl over [John 10:1]. There’s no hole somewhere. There’s no loop somewhere. When we enter, we enter through the gate.
Now that gate represents Jesus, our Lord. There’s no other entrance into the sacred enclosure of God’s presence except through the gate of Jesus Christ.
There was one door in the ark – just one [Genesis 6:16]. There wasn’t a back entrance. There wasn’t a side entrance. Just as it is in this sacred enclosure, there wasn’t an entrance from the back [Exodus 27:12]; there wasn’t an entrance from the side [Exodus 27:9-11]. There was only an entrance through the east, toward the rising of the sun, through the gate [Exodus 27:13-16].
Thus it was in the ark [Genesis 6:16], and through that one door into the ark the big elephant lumbered in, and the little snail crawled in, and the great eagle swooped out of the blue of the sky and entered in, and the little wren hopped in [Genesis 7:8-9]. Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their families and Noah and his wife – all of them entered in that one ark [Genesis 7:7], that one door into the ark. So it is with this gate into the holy enclosure: there is one entrance [Exodus 27:9-16], just one; and that gate is Jesus Christ.
It’s a marvelous thing in the pattern that God gave for the tabernacle. The entrance, the gate; the entrance, the door [Exodus 26:36-37]; and the entrance [Exodus 27:16], the veil [Exodus 26:31-34]: all three of them were made exactly alike – all three of them – and they’re always described in the same way and in the same order.
More than twenty-four times in the Book of Exodus alone, you’ll find those curtains described – blue, scarlet, purple, fine-twine linen; and always in this order: blue, purple, scarlet, and fine-twine linen – always in that order: blue of heaven; purple, His royal glory; scarlet, His suffering and blood; fine-twine linen, His perfect righteousness. So the gate, the door, and the veil: all three of them represent our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now a poor sinner on the outside of the enclosure stands looking where God is and where life is and where forgiveness is, and he’s shut out. He’s on the outside. But God hath done a marvelous thing. There where the gate opens, just inside, is the altar – the brazen altar, the altar of sacrifice – and the first thing that a sinner does when he comes to God is first to pass by that altar of sacrifice [Leviticus 1:5]; and the altar is the cross [John 1:29; Hebrews 12:2]. No coming to God but by Jesus [John 14:6]; no being saved until first we trust in the remission of sins in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ [Romans 5:8]; no church without the cross; no salvation without the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]; no personal forgiveness, no coming to God until first we come by the way of the cross.
There at the gate is the brazen altar, and the first thing the sinner does when he comes before God is to stand before the altar, the cross of Jesus Christ. Any other way that a man comes is a wrong way, and the further he travels it, the farther he gets away from God [Matthew 7:13]. There’s only one door; there’s only one gate [Matthew 7:14]. There’s only one way, and that way is by the cross, through the gate by the altar.
I one time heard of an Arkansas boy who was asked directions from a feller going by. And he was going to a certain town, the feller was, and he asked the boy – he said, "How far is it to the town?"
And the boy replied, "Mister, the way you’re going, it’s 24,995 miles, but if you’ll just turn around, it’s only five miles the other way."
So it is with the man coming to God. When he comes in the wrong way, he gets further and further and further away from God [Romans 1:21-24]. But if he comes the right way, it is right here through the gate by the cross [John 14:6]. There stands the altar for the expiation of our sins [1 John 2:1-2, 4:10].
One other thing about that gate: it was wide. I am astonished when I read the pattern God gave to Moses. That gate was thirty feet wide [Exodus 27:16]. The whole front was only seventy-five feet [Exodus 27:12], and thirty feet of the seventy-five was the gate – wide for any Israelite to step in: just one step and you’re in. The gate, the altar, beyond the laver for regeneration and washing – just one step and you’re in.
I held a meeting when I was a youth in the city of Chicago, and they were playing there a World Series. After forty years, I think, they’re going to play another World Series there in the American – no, you got an American association there: Chicago White Sox.
And the pastor of the church told me that this thing happened when, years and years ago – whenever it was, forty years ago now – they had played a World Series game there in Chicago. He said to me that there was a bunch coming back from a World Series game, going back to their neighborhood, and the car was jammed. The streetcar was filled with people; and they were standing in the aisle, hanging on the straps, and just willed in there as close as they could get.
And while the car was streaking out toward the suburban home where they lived, one of the fellers up at the front said, "Hey, hey, shh, shh, shh. Hey, hey," he said, "Look down there. The preacher’s going to get on the streetcar." He turned around and said, "Let’s all be quiet. Let’s all be quiet. Let’s don’t say a word."
So the streetcar went down to the corner and stopped, and the parson climbed on, jammed himself in. When he got in, not a word said – just as still and as quiet as death. And finally, one of the smart alecks broke the silence. Turning to the preacher he said, "Say, parson, how far is it to heaven?" And they all burst out in an uproarious laugh – thought that was a good joke. How could the parson answer that?
And when the raw, riotous laughter died down, the preacher turned to the feller that asked the question and humbly and simply replied, "Just one step. Will you take it?"
And the pastor told me that that night when the preacher was in his study, there was a knock at the door. And when the preacher went to the door, there stood a young feller, embarrassed, with his hat in his hand. And the boy replied when the preacher asked him why he’d come: "Sir," he said, "I’m that feller that asked you today how far it was to heaven, and you replied, ‘Just one step. ‘ And sir, I have come for you to show me how to take that one step."
It’s a wide gate in the tabernacle. There is the altar, the cross. One step and you’re in. God made it that simple and that way. Then when the sinner steps in and the cross and the laver, there is the tabernacle itself.
Guess how wide the door is to the tabernacle. I was astonished to learn the entire side is all door! All of it is door. The whole thing is open on the east side. That curtain – remember what I told you about that curtain made out of blue, made out of purple, scarlet, fine-twine linen – always in that order? [Exodus 26:36] The blue of God’s glory in heaven, the purple of His kingly majesty, the scarlet of His suffering, and the fine-twine linen of His purity and His righteousness – that door is Jesus. And the entire front of the tabernacle is the door – all of it is door. It is held up on five pillars made out of gold [Exodus 26:36-37]. They were made out of acacia wood covered with gold [Exodus 26:37]. All that’s a picture of our Lord Jesus: the wood is His humanity and the gold is His deity.
Did you ever notice how many times in the Bible you’ll find those five things referring to Christ? "And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]. Or again, over here in Timothy: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God" [1 Timothy 1:17]. Or again, here in Ephesians, the gifts of Christ: "And He gave apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers [Ephesians 4:11]. Those five golden columns that hold up that curtain beautifully, ingeniously, curiously wrought of blue and purple and scarlet and fine-twine linen [Exodus 26:36-37]. That door is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, what a marvelous message we find in the door into the Holy Place of God. There is the light to enlighten our hearts. There is the bread of communion and fellowship [Exodus 25:30; Hebrews 9:2], and there is the golden altar of prayer and incense [Exodus 30:1-10; Hebrews 9:4]. And we enter it through the door of Jesus Christ [Hebrews 10:19].
What a marvelous thing, I say it is, when God shows us how we come to Him through the door of the tabernacle itself. You see, that door was made, like the tabernacle was made, to be transported – to be carried. That door was made, like the tabernacle was made, to be placed anywhere that the people camped [Exodus 40:36-38]. Where the people were, there the door was.
Our Lord had a great sermon to preach about that in the fourth chapter of the Book of John: "Verily, I say unto you," He said to the Samaritan woman, "neither in this mountain" – on Ebal or Gerizim – "nor at Jerusalem" – on Mount Moriah – "will they worship the God. But anywhere that a man will call upon the name of the Lord, there can he worship God for God seeketh His people to worship in spirit and in truth" [from John 4:21, 23]. And wherever a man is, that’s a good place to call on the name of the Lord.
And that was the sermon of Stephen before the Sanhedrin [Acts 7:1-53]. He said it wasn’t just here in the temple that God made it that we call upon the name of the Lord. In the days of the patriarchs, they built their altars anywhere and called on the name of God. Then he referred to the tabernacle [Acts 7:44-45], and the tabernacle was set up wherever the people were; and there was a door, an entrance, into the worship of God. And Stephen’s sermon was: so it is with God’s great open door today. Wherever men are, wherever people are, there they can call on the name of the Lord and enter in and be saved. And how wonderfully true that is. Wherever somebody is that needs God, there is the tabernacle with the door open wide. Come in, come in.
I have knelt down in a barn, prayed with a young fellow whose life and story remain with me forever. Extend my hand, he respond with his soul and his life: "I take Jesus as my Savior" and entered in in a barn. I have knelt in a corral lot with a young man, prayed with him, asked him to give his soul to Jesus. He give me his hand: "I give my soul and life to Jesus. "I have prayed in some of these office buildings and seen these men take my hand: "I give my heart and life to the Lord Jesus."
I have knelt in some of these factories in Dallas, put my arm around a poor sinner. He’d take my hand: "I give my heart and my life to Jesus." I’ve stood on a street corner many, many times, preached the gospel, knelt there with lost sinners, and there on a street curb, they’d take my hand: "Today, I give my life to the Lord Jesus." The Lord only knows how many times I’ve have knelt down here at the front of the church with my arm around a poor, lost sinner, and he’d take my hand: "Today, I give my heart to the Lord Jesus." Wherever the people were, there was the tabernacle erected, and there the door wide open: come in, come in – just a step and you’re in.
There was one other entrance, and I just mention it because it has a whole message in itself. The third one was the veil – the veil [Exodus 26:31-34]. When we entered the gate and entered the door, there was the veil shutting us out of the Holy of Holies, the immediate innermost sanctum sanctorum, the very presence of God Himself [Exodus 25:21-22, 26:33-34]. What of that? When the tabernacle was built, it stayed. It blocked the way. It was a barrier. The author here speaks of it. It stayed because the way was not yet made manifest while as yet that veil where the tabernacle was standing [Hebrews 9:3-9].
But now, today, the veil is taken away. There’s not any veil [Matthew 27:50-51]. They worshiped in shadow, in type, in hope, in promise [Hebrews 8:1-5, 10:1]. We worship in the full light of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. There’s not any veil [Hebrews 10:19-22]. Right here a man can look up into the sanctuary of God Himself – no priest, no hierarchy, no human intercessor or intermediary. A man can stand where he is and talk to God for himself, face to face, in the name, in the merit, in the grace, in the love, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ [Hebrews 4:16].
Come, come. The way is open wide. God made it for you. Come, come. While we sing this song of appeal, somebody you, take our Lord Jesus as Savior tonight. Would you come? One step, and you’re in. Would you? Would you?
While we sing this song and make this appeal, in this balcony around, somebody you, down one of these stairways, up here to the front: "Pastor, tonight, tonight I walk through that door to Jesus. Here I am, and here I come." On this lower floor, somebody you, taking Jesus as Savior, "Here I am and here I come, simply trusting."
We don’t come to God in our own righteousness. That curtain has just one gate. That tabernacle has one door. That door and that gate and that veil is Jesus [Hebrews 10:19-20]. We come through Him by faith and trust and committal: "Pastor, here I am and here I come."
Is there a family to put their lives with us in the fellowship of the church or one somebody you? While we earnestly, prayerfully sing this hymn of appeal, into the aisle, down to the front: "Here I am, and here I come. I make it tonight." Will you while we stand and while we sing?