The Earthly Tabernacle

The ancient tabernacle pointed to Jesus.

Hebrews 8 and 9 (3)

When the apostle John described the earthly sojourn of our Lord Jesus Christ, he used a verb which means “to tabernacle” (Jn. 1.14). He certainly meant to identify the Lord with both the ancient tabernacle of Israel and the temple which replaced it. All that was bound up in the service carried out in those holy places is embodied and fulfilled in Jesus. Why would anyone want to leave Jesus, the new and complete tabernacle, for those rites and ordinances which never could take away sin, and therefore could not bring us into the Lord’s rest? Which is exactly the question our writer is trying to stick in the brains of his first readers. Why, indeed?

Read John 1.1-14; 2.13-22.

Read Hebrews 9.1-10.

Think it through.

1.  The writer mentions the layout and furnishings of the ancient tabernacle. Each of these pointed to Christ. Can you see how in each case?
  - lampstand:
  - table and showbread:
  - Holy of Holies (Holies of All):
  - golden censer:
  - ark of the covenant:
  - mercy seat:
  - contents of the ark:

2.  The priests of Israel functioned in, around, and with all these things, thus engaging sacred mysteries on behalf of the people of God, to restore them to His favor. Yet none of these could “make him who performed the service perfect,” much less the ones on whose behalf they were performed. He mentions the perfecting of the conscience in verse 9. What is the conscience? What is its role in the soul? Outward rites and applications cannot reach to the depths of the soul. They could suffice for a temporary stay of judgment, so to speak, but they had to be repeated over and over again. Once a year, the Atonement was accomplished on behalf of the entire nation, and that “not without blood.” But even this needed to be repeated annually. How does all this priestly activity point forward to Jesus? Why is His office and sacrifice better? What is “the time of reformation” mentioned in verse 10? Reformation of what? Why is our writer belaboring these points?

“He begins to say how there were symbols in the law and the types of things in the era of grace and how it was possible to see clearly the things of the new covenant glimpsed beforehand in the things of the old covenant, even as he shows in comparison what sort of preeminence the new covenant things have over those of the old covenant.” Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD)

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6.19, 20

Lord Jesus, tabernacle in me fully, increasingly, so that You increase and I decrease, for then I…

Pray Psalm 22.19-25.
As you pray, ask the Lord to remind you of everything Jesus accomplished through His suffering and blood, and give Him thanks for all of it.

Psalm 22.23-25 (Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
All you who fear the Lord, now praise His holy Name!
You children of His glorious Word, declare His fame!
We stand in awe of our eternal God, and on His mercy call.

For He has not despised the anguish of our King,
Nor from Him hid His eyes, Who knew such suffering.
Let praise arise from all who love and serve the Ruler of the skies!

T. M Moore

For a better understanding of the book of Hebrews, and all the books of the Bible, order a copy of the workbook, God’s Covenant, from our online store. The studies in this workbook will show you how the parts of the Bible connect with one another to tell the story of God’s redemption and glory (click here). To learn more about Christ in His exaltation, order the book, The Kingship of Jesus (click here).

Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute buttonat the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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