The True Tabernacle
August 9th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRUE TABERNACLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-9-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The True Tabernacle. It is a message on types. Last Sunday we left off at the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And in our preaching through the Bible we have come to the eighth chapter, chapter 8. And the sermon this morning is from the first five verses of the eighth chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 8:1-5]. The sermon tonight will begin at the sixth verse and will continue to the end of the chapter [Hebrews 8:6-13]. It is entitled The Two Covenants. The sermon this morning is from the first five verses of chapter 8, and it is entitled The True Tabernacle.
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
A Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to offer.
For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, even as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith the Lord, to Moses, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.
At the conclusion of chapter 7, the author concludes his word about Melchizedek [Hebrews 7:11-28]. And he begins the eighth chapter with an emphasis of the principal point of his argument. “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the kephalaion” [Hebrews 8:1]. The Greek word for “head” is kephalē. “Of the things which we have said this is the kephalaion, the main part, the principal thing, namely, that we have such an High Priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens [Hebrews 8:1].
This new and greater High Priest is not after the order of the sons of Aaron who had a temporary ministry and whose ministries were dissolved by death [Hebrews 7:23]. But He has just proved that the Scriptures themselves avow that there is to be a new and another Priest, not after the order of Aaron but after the order of an endless life, a higher and sublimer order, a high priesthood that is underived, and untransmitted, and clothed with a dignity and an authority that could not be invested in the mortal man. This new and greater High Priest after the order of Melchizedek is unique; He derives it from no genealogy, He inherited it from no predecessor, and he bequeathed it to no successor. But it abides forever, alone, the great Mediator and Representative and Intercessor of God’s people in heaven [Hebrews 7:15-16, 24-28].
Then he says that this new High Priest serves in a new sanctuary, in the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man [Hebrews 8:1-2]. And then in the next verse, he avows that He has gifts to offer [Hebrews 8:3]. And then in the next two verses, he says for the priests who serve in the earth, in his day, in the temple, before the day of Solomon in the tabernacle, those priests, he says, “who serve in this earth and who offer according to the law, they are serving according to the example and shadow of heavenly things” [Hebrews 8:4-5], according to the hupodeigma, translated here “example.” You could translate it “figure,” you could translate it “copy,” you could translate “visible illustration.” What the priests do who serve in the earthly tabernacle is by way of figure or copy or illustration of the heavenly sanctuaries and institutions, the shadow of heavenly realities.
Then he illustrates it, “As God said to Moses,” as God admonished Moses when Moses was about to make the tabernacle, “See, said God, that thou make all things according to the,” the Greek is tupos, the English is type. You have it translated it here “pattern,” which is just as well. “For, see, says God, that thou make all things according to the pattern, to the type which was showed to thee in the mount” [Hebrews 8:5]. These Jewish institutions were copies of, types of, figures of, visible illustrations of the great spiritual realities that existed from the beginning in the mind and heart of God.
Now those institutions had a great and deep meaning to the Jews themselves. The curtains, the veil, the altar, the laver, the vessels, all of the Levitical rites and rituals, they had to the Jew a deep and abiding significance. So deep was the impression made upon the Jewish mind of the spiritual realities represented by those Levitical ceremonies that they have been indelibly impressed upon the nation to this present day. And for fifteen hundred years the tabernacle, temple, the sacrificial system, the intercessory high priest, the laver of washing and regeneration, all were faithfully observed by the devout and worshipping Hebrews.
Year after year the high priest entered beyond the veil with blood of atonement in reverence and in fear [Hebrews 9:7]. Year after year the festivals brought to the outer courts of the tabernacle and the temple the feet of those who called upon the name of the Lord. This was God’s house of worship. And these were the approaches by which a sinful man sought reconciliation with God [2 Chronicles 6:19-23].
Now those meanings that were known to the Jews are no different from the great meanings and revelations that God has made to us. They meant the same things to them that those things mean to us. The great truths of God are eternal truths. They never change and they never vary [Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:89]. To Moses, it might have taken the form of tabernacle and veil and curtain and socket and offering and laver, whereas to Paul it took the form of great, beautiful, oratorical flights as he glories in the person [Philippians 2:5-11], and the sacrifice, and the resurrection [Philippians 3:10], and the enthronement of Jesus our Lord [Hebrews 8:1]. But whether it was by type to Moses or whether it was by full revelation to the apostle Paul, the eternal truth was ever sustained. Back there, as today, the same truths of God were revealed to Adam as to Abraham as to Moses as to us. Only we have in it the full reality whereas they saw it by shadow and by type. The truths of God never vary [Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8].
From that day when man fell [Genesis 3:1-6] and God determined that we should be saved by the sacrifice of His Son [John 3:16], the revelation has been always the same. God has always been One, has been holy and just and righteous [Psalm 111:3]. And a man has always been a sinner [Romans 3:23], shut out from the glory of the presence of God [Isaiah 59:2]. And the reconciliation between the two has always been achieved by the shedding of life. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” [Hebrews 9:22]. And the approach to God has always been the same, whether by the sacrifice of the substitute in a lamb, by type and pattern [Genesis 4:4], or whether by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross [1 Peter 1:18-19], the approach to God, to the Jew and to us, has always been the same.
Now this is confirmed by two things. By being “confirmed” I refer to the fact that those institutions had the same meaning to the Jewish people that they have to us. This is confirmed by two things: first, their spiritual life was just like ours is. We sing in their psalms, we weep in their lamentations. And our own spirits are raised to the heights of ecstasy by their messianic prophecies and the glory of their visions.
You would think that the Book of Psalms was a Christian devotional hymnbook. It is the hymnbook of the tabernacle and the temple. And the spiritual aspirations that rose in their souls are the same spiritual aspirations that arise in ours. And the way they said it, the nomenclature they used, the language by which they clothed their souls, outpourings unto God, is the same language, the same nomenclature, the same expressions that we use today.
The other great factor that confirms it is this: all through the New Testament, it is unfailingly presented that the Old Covenant, the old rituals, the old ceremonies, were introductions to the fuller revelation we have in Jesus Christ. If it is the introduction to the great truth we have in Jesus, then it is not contradictory to it. But it is rather inevitably in harmony with it. All of the institutions of the Old Bible were God’s ways of preparing us for the fuller, deeper, realization that should be bestowed upon us in “the fullness of time” in Christ Jesus our Lord [Galatians 4:4-5]. But it is the same thing, here by type, by picture, by pattern, by figure, by illustration, and here by substance and by reality [John 5:39].
They had the example; we have the reality. They had the picture; we have the person. They had the shadow; we have the substance. They had the type; we have the anti-type.
So the author speaks here and will continue until the tenth chapter and the eighteenth verse of his book—the author speaks here of the institutions of Judaism, the Levitical rites and rituals, as being heavenly examples, types and patterns of the great and eternal truths that from the beginning, lived, existed in the mind of God [Hebrews 8:1-10:18].
Then he illustrates it by the building of the tabernacle “For said God,” when He admonished Moses who was about to build the tabernacle. “For said God, see that thou make all things according to the pattern, the type, showed to thee in the mount” [Hebrews 8:5]. When we turn back to the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Exodus, God said to Moses, “According to all that I do show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all of the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” [Exodus 25:9]. And the chapter concludes, “And says God, Look, see, be careful that thou make them after their pattern which was showed thee in the mount” [Exodus 25:40]. And I have many other passages like that. I haven’t time to read them. All through that is that same reiteration. “See that thou make them after their pattern which was showed thee in the mount” [Hebrews 8:5].
In other words, when Moses was on top of Mt. Sinai, in the presence of the divine Majesty, God showed to Moses some kind of a spiritual phenomenon, a glorious apparition; there on the mount, God showed to Moses the true and the heavenly tabernacle [Hebrews 8:2, 5].
I do not know how it was done. Did God cast its image against the cloud, and Moses looked upon the pattern shaped against the clouds? Or did God build it on the solid rock, on the top of the mount? I cannot enter into it. All I know is that on top of the mount, Moses walked the aisles of the heavenly sanctuary. He saw the whole tabernacle. This great truth and reality that existed from the beginning in the mind of God took some kind of a visible form. The invisible became visible. The spiritual became real. And God admonished Moses, “When you make the tabernacle, shape it, form it exactly according to that pattern, that phenomenon that was showed unto thee in the mount” [Exodus 25:9-40].
So when Moses made the tabernacle [Exodus 35:1-40:38]—and chapter after chapter after chapter, you have the description of the minutest detail, every socket and board, every sash and hook and clasp, every part and every piece—all of it had a heavenly counterpart, and all of it possessed a deep and spiritual meaning. For the material substance that was shaped under the hands of Moses in the earth, was a representation of the tabernacle that Moses saw in heaven, the pattern of which was showed unto him in the mount. So when we enter the tabernacle, with its furniture, with its furnishing, with all of its parts and pieces, we are looking upon a materialization of great spiritual truth and realities [Hebrews 8:5].
I wonder if I would be amiss if I described it like this: in order for God to reveal to us the great spiritual truths that God has in His being, in His mind and heart, God had to create a language, a nomenclature in which He could speak and through which He could reveal the great and eternal truth in His soul. And God created that language, the vehicle of His revelation, God created that language, that nomenclature, those words; He did it in the sacrifices and in the tabernacle.
And the phraseology and the spiritual conceptions that we have been taught in the Christian faith, we first learned them like a child, by picture language as God materialized the heavenly sanctuary and the heavenly worship in material form, and placed it here in the earth. Our language today, by which we come to know the great eternal realities in the mind of God, that language we have learned from the pictures that God gave to Moses when they materialized in tents, and tabernacles, and altars, and laver, and veil, and sanctuaries, and propitiatories. All of those things were given to Moses in order that God might be able to speak to us in the language of heaven and with the thoughts of glory.
Now before I leave it, may I make this observation about the study of the types, the figures, the examples, the rituals, the tabernacle, back there in the Old Testament? Sometimes we can learn more by the study of a picture than we can by a study of the thing itself.
May I give you an example? In our recent days, we have been able to take photographs of the sun. And it is far more rewarding to study the sun in picture photography than it is to try to look at it in its unbearable glory. So it is, in many instances, with the great eternal, divine truths in God. Sometimes we can learn them better by looking at the picture, at the photography, at the figure, at the illustration, than we can by looking into the unbearable glaze of the majesty itself. For remember, all of those details, every one of them, all of those ritual furbishes, each one of them, all of those pieces and parts of the tabernacle, every one of them, had a spiritual counterpart in glory. And when we study this, we are learning that.
Now in just the little moment that remains, may I take time to point out some of the great lessons that God has taught us in the type, in the figure of His tabernacle? I almost apologize to do it because there is so much that ought to be said when one attempts such a thing as this.
And please the Lord, I have already prepared—and have been preparing it for two or three years—I have prepared material that I hope to work into sermons that I can preach at the 8:15 o’clock service, which sermons will take two or three years to deliver. They are messages built on the types and the figures and the patterns of the Old Testament that have come to their fullness and their realizations in this Christian dispensation in the love and mercy of Jesus.
But this morning, may I just take one or two or three, as the time shall allow, to show you what it is that God teaches us by His pictures, by His types, by His figures and copies? “See, said God, that thou make all of these things according to the pattern, to the type that was showed unto thee on the mount” [Exodus 25:9-40; Hebrews 8:5].
All right, let’s start with one. First of all, the tabernacle was a message from God that God Himself condescended to live among men, our body, our flesh. “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” [Exodus 25:8]. Oh, how God repeats that, “I will dwell among My people and will be their God and they shall know that I am the Lord their God” [Exodus 25:8, 29:45; Leviticus 26:12]. God’s house is pitched among the common houses of common men. There it is. On the same level sand on which the tents of the people were pitched God’s house was pitched and struck. It bore the same vicissitudes of weather and of travel. God’s dwelling place is among men [Exodus 25:8].
Had the only revelation of God we had ever known been in the fire and the fury, the blaze, and the thunder and the lightning on Mount Sinai [Exodus 19:16-18], had the pavilion of God been that sapphire, that blaze, that unbearable glory before which even Moses said, “I do fear and quake” [Hebrews 12:21], had God’s house and God’s tabernacle been only like that there could never have been any community of interest between us and God. Like the children of Israel, we would have fled to the far side of the valley before Sinai and looked with terror upon the burning majesty [Exodus 20:18].
No, says the Lord, “pitch Me a tent in the midst of the camp and let Me dwell among My people” [Exodus 25:8]. He is not far off [Ezekiel 37:27]. Here He is; nor is there any measurable distance between us and God. There He is. And of course, the anti-type is the house, the body of Jesus Christ. “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” [Isaiah 7:14]. Look, God is with us [Matthew 1:23], living our life, breathing our air, weeping our tears, buried underneath our burdens. Does a man suffer death? He died [Matthew 27:32-50]. Does a man cry in agony? He had His Gethsemane [Luke 22:44]. Is somebody poor? He was poor [Luke 9:58; 2 Corinthians 8:9]. Is somebody alone? He was alone [Matthew 26:56, 27:46]. Is somebody sick? He bore our infirmities [Matthew 8:17]. God is among men; there is His tabernacle [Matthew 1:23].
In the passage you just read you don’t get the thing because it is in a Greek word. You read just while ago, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” [John 1:14]. The Greek word for “tabernacle” is skēnē. And the Greek word translated “dwelt” there is skēnaō. “And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us,” skēnaō, skēnē , the tent, the tabernacle of God [John 1:14]. There it is. There it is, the pattern, the example. This is the substance and the reality.
Now, I have time for another. The pattern of the tabernacle [Exodus 25:9, 40; Hebrews 8:5], its type: it revealed a picture of the moral spirituality of God. In the day when the tabernacle was cast, in a flood and in a sea of idolatry, in that day, you could have entered an Egyptian temple made somewhat on the same pattern. There would have been an outer court. There would have been an inner court. There would have been a holy place. There would have been a veil. There would have been an inner sanctuary. And when you entered that Egyptian temple and pulled aside the veil to look upon the deity himself, what would you have found? You would have found a leopard or a serpent on a soft cushion. Or you would have found an ox. Or you would have found an ibis, a sacred wading bird like a crane or a heron.
When you went into the tabernacle, there is the outer court. There is the inner court. Here is the holy place and the veil [Hebrews 9:2-3]; beyond the veil a perfect cube [Exodus 26:15-29; 1 Kings 6:20] like the New Jerusalem whose length and height and breadth were all the same [Revelation 21:16]. And in the heart of it, not an ibis or a serpent or a sacred cow or a leopard, but an ark of the covenant in which was placed the Ten Commandments, the moral holiness of God [Deuteronomy 25:16]. And above the commandments, the propitiatory, the mercy seat [Exodus 25:21]. And above, the lambent shekinah glory of the presence of the Lord, for God is Spirit [John 4:24].
In sixty-three BC, when Pompey conquered Judea and added it to the Roman Empire, for the first time a Gentile strode through the sanctuary up to the veil. And though the Jews bowed, asking that their heads be severed, but he not enter; no one had ever gone beyond that veil but the high priest, once a year, with unsandaled feet and with blood of expiation. But that proud, condemnatious Roman soldier strode through the temple and, with his hand, pulled aside the veil that separated in between and saw emptiness and nothing. Strolled out, looked around, and said in astonishment and amazement, “Why, why, there is nothing in it! It is empty.” For “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” [John 4:24]. The tabernacle was the visible realization of the invisible truth of God. He is Spirit. And oh, how I hate to close.
And He is approached, not like Pompey, striding through the courts of the glory of God, proud. He is approached with blood of expiation [Leviticus 4:32-35]. And the lamb is brought to the altar, and the worshiper clasps his hand over the head of the victim and confesses there all of the sin and the shortcomings and infirmities of his life [Leviticus 4:33, 5:5]. He identifies himself with the lamb. Then the high priest lifts his knife, and the life of the innocent substitute is taken in judgment upon our sin [Leviticus 5:6]. Its blood poured out and brought into the sanctuary unto God [Leviticus 5:9].
God’s language, to teach us that no man can walk into the presence of the Most High, proud and self-righteous, but we come in penitence, pleading the mercy and forgiveness of heaven [1 John 1:9], “Lord, remember. Remember me” [Luke 23:42]. All of it, the language God taught in these Old Testament institutions; and the truth of them, the fullness of them we find in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:3], our substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21]; God’s Lamb that takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29].
I must close. May the Spirit of Jesus, who speaks to our hearts today, teach us the fullness of His truth in the Book. Whether it is there in Genesis, or here in Exodus, or there in the Psalms, or here in Isaiah, or there in John and in Paul, it is ever the same; God’s message to sinful man that someone must die in our stead [Galatians 3:24]; and the grace, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness of God are mediated to us in the expiation of sacrifice, the atonement by blood [Romans 3:25, 5:11; 1 John 2:2], even Jesus our Lord who died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3].
While we sing our song, while we make this appeal, somebody you give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “Just like those Old Testament worshippers, I, too, need a Savior. And I come, looking unto Jesus.” Would you approach God in humility and repentance and confession and receive His grace [Ephesians 2:8] and mercy [Titus 3:5], life poured out to you? [Philippians 2:7]. Or somebody to put his life in the fellowship of our church, would you come? [Hebrews 10:24-25]. At our 8:15 service there were five: three by letter, one by statement, one by baptism. And we rejoiced. If God speaks the word to your heart today, would you make it now?
Down one of these stairways and to the front or into the aisle and here to the pastor, “I give you my hand. I give my heart to Jesus.” Or “We’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this beloved church.” Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
has shown the Scriptures avow there is to be a new and greater high priest
High Priest serves in a new sanctuary(Hebrews
The service of the Jewish priests was an example, figure, illustration(Hebrews 8:4-5)
The institutions of Judaism are represented as invisible illustrations of
spiritual and eternal realities
A. These institutions
had deep meaning to the Jews themselves
B. The deep spiritual
meanings were known to the Jews as well as to us
truths of God are eternal truths – never change
have the full reality whereas they saw it by shadow and type
is confirmed by two things
Their spiritual life was like our own
Testament presents the old institutions as introductions to the fuller
revelation in Christ
III. The tabernacle
A. Earthly tabernacle
made according to a pattern(Exodus 25:9, 40)
knob, tack, curtain, vessel, piece of furniture had some spiritual counterpart
of which this was the material expression
we can learn more by the study of a picture than we can by the study of the
Some of its meaning
tabernacle of God, His dwelling place, is among men(Exodus
The same truth in a far more wonderful form – dwelling place of God in a human
body(Isaiah 7:14, John 1:14)
a picture of the moral, spiritual character of God
The holiness of God
a. Approached only
through blood of expiation