Friday, January 3, 2014

The Altar of Burnt Offering and the Cross of Jesus Christ

The Altar of Burnt Offering and the Cross of Jesus Christ

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Revelation 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.

Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The cross of Jesus Christ is the center around which all else revolves. Jesus, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, was the center of entirety of the ancient Hebrew Sanctuary service. Indeed the Sanctuary and all the rites and rituals associated with it can be thought as a year-round passion play presented in types and symbols.

The apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews, having introduced his readers to the High Priestly ministry of Jesus Chris, speaks briefly of the milk of the word saying; “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 5:13-14, 6: 1-3).

“Let us go on” Paul says, beyond the milk to the solid food, to the meat of the word ”and this we will do if God permits.” Having said this, Paul then (through the next several chapters) launches into a discussion of the Hebrew Sanctuary as built by Moses, and of how it all relates to the ministry of Jesus. And this we also, God permitting, we will do.

The Outer Court

The outer courtyard of the sanctuary was an enclosed space of about 150 by 75 feet.  All around this courtyard was a fence of white linen hung from pillars of brass.  This linen fence enclosing the courtyard was half the height of the tabernacle itself.  Thus the only way someone outside the courtyard could look at the tabernacle was to lift their eyes up higher than the curtains surrounding the courtyard, just as a person must lift their thoughts above earthly things in order to look upon the heavenly.  This curtain was thus an invitation to the people without to look up. 

On the east end of the courtyard was a single gate or doorway about 30 feet wide made of fine linen richly embroidered with “blue, and purple, and scarlet” threads.  There was this one gate.  There was no other way into the courtyard.  That gate, that doorway in to the courtyard is Jesus.

John 10:7 So Jesus said again, Truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and outlaws: but the sheep did not give ear to them. 9 I am the door: if any man goes in through me he will have salvation, and will go in and go out, and will get food. 10 The thief comes only to take the sheep and to put them to death: he comes for their destruction: I have come so that they may have life and have it in greater measure. 11 I am the good keeper of sheep: the good keeper gives his life for the sheep.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, I am the true and living way: no one comes to the Father but by me.

Approaching this gateway was to be a joyous experience. 

Psalms 100:1 … Come before His presence with singing. … 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

Once inside the courtyard, aside from the tabernacle itself, there were two principle pieces of furniture, the altar of burnt-offerings and the laver.  Both of these articles were placed in a direct line between the courtyard gate and the doorway into the tabernacle itself.  Thus, both stood in a direct line between the sinner and the law contained in the ark inside the tabernacle. 

It is the altar of burnt offerings that we are going to take a close look at today. Just exactly what did the altar of burnt-offerings symbolize?  And why were the sacrifices burnt by fire? 

I have presented what follows in a previous post some time ago, but as the Cross of Jesus Christ is of such central importance to everything else, it bears repeating.

"Crucify Him"

To understand why fire, why burnt offerings, we must first look at the crucifixion itself So turn now to Luke 23:21. 

Luke 23:21 But they shouted, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" 22 Then he (that is, Pilate) said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go." 23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.

The question here is, Why were the Jews so insistent that Jesus be crucified?  Why that particular manner of death and not another? And the answer to that question has everything to do with why sacrifices were burned by fire.

John 19:7 The Jews answered [Pilate], We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Ok, let’s take a close look at this verse. First of all the Jews say, “We have a law.” The law they are referring to is found in Leviticus 24:16 where we read: “And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death.”

Blasphemy was the primary charge the Jews had against Jesus. It is a charge that the religious leaders had been making against Jesus all through His ministry. When He was finally brought to trial before the Sanhedrin, it was the charge of blasphemy that secured His condemnation before that tribunal.

Matthew 26:62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" 64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 "What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death."

And so yes, they had a law, and by their judgment Jesus was guilty of transgressing that law, and thus by their judgment “deserving of death.”

So the question is, why in John 19 were the Jewish religious leaders still standing before Pilate trying to secure Jesus’ death? If you go just a few verses back to John 18:31, we find that Pilate had already told them to go and deal with Jesus according to their law.

John 18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.

Pilate, who most likely had been called out of bed a little sooner than he would have liked, and who had probably not yet had a chance to have his morning cup of coffee, was saying in a quite irritated manner to the Jews, “What in the world are you doing bringing one of your petty religious squabbles before me? Go and deal with him according to your own law.”

So then, why didn’t the Jews simply take Pilate at his word and take Jesus and deal with Him in accordance with their law? After all, they had already judged him guilty and deserving of death. Their answer to Pilate was, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”

OK - Time for a reality check. That last statement was not exactly true. Remember the woman caught in adultery?

John 8:3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"

They had brought this woman before Jesus, ready to stone her on the spot, and except Jesus had intervened they most likely would have, and that without having first sought any permission from the Romans to do so.

Then there is the case of Stephen.

Acts 7:58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Again, no permission from the Romans needed. At this time a great persecution broke out against the Christians and Paul speaking of his role in this persecution says:

Acts 26:9 "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 "This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 "And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

And so, yes, contrary to what the Jewish leaders had just said to Pilate, it was lawful for them to put people to death, and they could do so without any Roman permission - and they did so with great zeal in persecuting the church.

They had even tried to stone Jesus at various times in the course of His ministry. In one instance it was their intention to pick Him up and throw Him onto the stones.

Luke 4:28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

In another instance they picked up stones to throw at Him.

John 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God."

Whether the stone hits you or you hit the stone, the results are pretty much the same.

And this was fully in accordance with the law given in Leviticus 24:16. Not only did that law say that one guilty of blasphemy was to be put to death, it specified that that person was to be killed by stoning.

[A little side note here: We all stand guilty and all are deserving of death. And the Bible clearly states, in full accordance with the law given in Leviticus 24:16, that every person who ever has or ever will live, will be stoned. Don’t believe me. You can read all about it in Luke 20:18 ( also Matthew 21:44)

Luke 20:17 Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone'? 18 "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Yes, you will be stoned, and one way or another you will die. You are either going to hit the stone (the Rock of Ages) or the stone (the Rock of Ages) is going to hit you. Your choice.]
As we have already seen, stoning was the one form of execution that the Jews were freely allowed to use.

So the question remains: Now that they finally at last truly had Jesus under their control, why didn’t they simply take Jesus out and stone Him as they had tried to do at other times? Why did they even bother with bringing Him before Pilate? Why all of a sudden this incessant insistences on crucifixion? Especially when the very law they claimed, the very law by which they had condemned Him, specified stoning as the means of death?

Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Coming back to John 19 beginning with verse 6, we read: “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.” (John 19:6).

Remember, in chapter 18 Pilate had already told the Jews to go and deal with Jesus according to their law. But the Jews refused, claiming that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death. What they really meant was that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death BY CRUCIFIXION. As we have already seen, they could and did freely put people to death by stoning. But putting someone to death by crucifixion, which is what they wanted for Jesus, was strictly a Roman prerogative. That they could not do.

Now it may look as if Pilate is giving them permission to crucify Jesus in John 9:6, but appearances can be deceiving. The Jewish leaders had been incessantly insistent that Jesus be crucified. At this point an exasperated and somewhat irritated Pilate essentially says to them: “OK, let’s just see how badly you want Him crucified. I find no fault in Him. I find Him innocent. So if you’re really that desperate to crucify Him, take Him and crucify Him yourself - without authority, without my consent, on your own responsibility, and in the face of Roman justice.” The Jewish leaders did not take the bait. They knew full well that any such act on their part would be seen as usurpation of Roman authority, and could easily result in them hanging on a cross. And so they rather lamely answered Pilate with the text we read at the beginning:

John 9:7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

A lame answer because as we have already seen there was nothing preventing them from following through and executing sentence according to that law. But why did they want Jesus crucified? What was the real reason for this fixation of theirs? Was it simply because they wanted Jesus to suffer all the more? After all death on the cross was one of the most awful deaths imaginable. No, that was not it. The agony Jesus would endure on the cross (though it might be considered an added bonus by the religious leaders) was not what the Jews had in mind.

The answer has to do with another Old Testament text.
Deuteronomy 21:22 "If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

By this time merely killing Jesus was not enough. He had stepped on too many raw nerves. They did not just want Him dead. They wanted Him to be accursed of God. They wanted him eternally dammed. And they believed that by having Him crucified (hanged on a tree) they could accomplish this end.

As we know, Pilate eventually caved in to the demands of the Jewish leaders and handed Jesus over to Roman soldiers for crucifixion. Now the question is, did God do what the Jewish leaders hoped He would do? In other words, when Jesus died on the cross (hanging on a tree) was he accursed of God, eternally dammed? The Bible says of God:

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

So, was God true to His word? Yes God was true to His word. Jesus was cursed, and died not the death of sleep that all must die and from which all will awaken, but died the second death from which there is no hope of resurrection. However, Jesus did rise from the dead. Jesus conquered the hopelessness of the second death because although condemned by the Jews and hanged from a tree, He was truly innocent. Had there been but a single sin to be found in Jesus, just one, the grave would have held Him forever. But because He was truly and absolutely innocent, the Bible says that it was not possible for the grave to hold him. Because He was truly and absolutely innocent not even the second death could hold him in its grasp.

Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- 23 "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

The New Testament writers fully understood the true significance of Jesus hanging on the cross. We read: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13).

Time and again you find the writers of the New Testament making reference to Jesus being hanged on a tree. They understood the significance of what was written in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as it applied to Jesus.

Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

Acts 13:28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30 But God raised him from the dead:

1Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

And it is because Jesus was hanged on a tree, that is, because He was cursed for our sakes, that we have hope of life. God was true to His word. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). And because God was true, Jesus conquered not merely the death of sleep, but the second death itself. Jesus took upon Himself the very curse that rightfully should fall on each of us and conquered on our behalf. We live because He died.

Like the thief on the cross, our only hope is to put our faith in the One who had conquered the second death itself. So long as our lives are hid in Christ His death is our death, and consequently His resurrection is our resurrection. As the apostle Paul put it:

Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.

Revelation 20: 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Revelation 21: 7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Altar of Burnt-offering is a miniature representation of the lake of fire in which/by which, the wicked die the second death.

Psalm 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

Something went into grave with Jesus that did not come up out of the grave with Him.  Our sins.  For more on this will have to wait till we come to the topic of the day of atonement in this series.

Another little interesting note before we finish here.

The fact that God in Deuteronomy 21:23 had declared that anyone who is hung from a tree is “accursed of God” helps to explain why it was so hard for the disciples to understand what Jesus was saying whenever He tried to tell them about how He was going to be crucified and then rise up again the third day. When Jesus said such things as “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20: 18-19) it just boggled their minds. To speak of crucifixion (death by hanging on a tree) and resurrection in the same breath was totally nonsensical to the disciples. They just could not wrap their minds around it. The “accursed of God” just did not go around rising from the dead. By everything they had ever been taught what Jesus was saying simply made no sense at all.

And if it was hard for the disciples to grasp what Jesus was trying to tell them about His crucifixion and resurrection, imagine then the sheer magnitude of the leap of faith that the thief on the cross had to make. Here he was, hanging a cross, doomed by everything he had ever been taught to be eternally dammed. What faith then did it take for this man to reach out to yet another man hanging on a cross, doomed to the same fate, and ask for eternal life. We can hardly comprehend the magnitude of faith for the thief on the cross to utter those words, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).]

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Sanctuary Service and Christianity

The Sanctuary Service and Christianity

The Sanctuary and all the services associated with it were designed to illustrate the ministry of Jesus.  The whole system was in effect one gigantic acted prophecy of the life, death, and ministry of Jesus.  Or if you will, a year round passion play.

Since the Israelites were nomads in the Sinai desert at the time God gave the instructions for building the Sanctuary (or Tabernacle) He designed a Sanctuary for them that was portable - made of cloth like a tent.  If you were to drop back in time and visit this Sanctuary, the first thing you would notice is that the tabernacle sat in the middle of a large and empty square defined by the tents of the Israelites.  The distance from the nearest tents, which would be those of the priests, to the tabernacle was somewhat over a half mile.  This meant that nobody could approach the tabernacle without being seen.  If you went to the tabernacle with your sacrifice you did so in the full light of day in the sight of all.  There were no secret worshipers, and as there was only a single door in to the courtyard, there was no slipping in by the back way. 

Once you passed through that door you would then find yourself in a large enclosed courtyard.  In this courtyard the first object you would see is the Alter of Burnt Offerings. Just beyond the Altar of Burnt Offerings was a laver of water.

Next you would come to the Sanctuary itself.  Stepping inside you would see a large chamber called the Holy Place with three pieces of furniture inside it.  To your left hand would be a seven branched lamp.  To your right would be the Table of Shew Bread. And straight ahead just in front of a thick curtain, the Altar of Incense. 

If you passed beyond that curtain you would enter the innermost chamber of the Sanctuary called the Most Holy Place.  In here you would see but a single piece of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant.  It is in the Ark of the Covenant that the stones bearing the 10 Commandments were kept.  On the Ark of the Covenant was a cover (or lid) which was called the Mercy Seat, indicating that justice and mercy were blended together at this place.

Overlooking the Mercy Seat were two cherubim or angels with wings stretched out over the mercy seat.  And it was here, above the Mercy Seat, between the two angels, that the Shekinah Glory, the literal visible presence of God on earth dwelt.

Each of these three divisions of the Sanctuary and their particular pieces of furniture and the rites performed within them, are symbolic and prophetic of various aspects of Christ’s ministry for us sinners.  And the one overriding theme of it all was:
“the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  (1 John 1:7).
Now what follows is a somewhat simplified overview of the Sanctuary service and its relation to Christ’s ministry to us today

Leviticus 5:6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.

When a person sinned in ancient Israel they took an animal, (and for simplicity sake, I will use a lamb in my examples throughout this discussion), and took it to the entrance of the courtyard of the Sanctuary.  There they laid their hand on the head of the lamb and confessed their sins over the lamb.  By this act their sins were symbolically transferred from themselves to the innocent lamb.  Thus, by faith, they confessed their sins upon Jesus the Lamb of God, who bore the sins of the whole world in his own body.  Then with their own hands they had to slay the innocent lamb, signifying both their own guilt and their acceptance of Christ’s death on their behalf.  By these acts they looked forward to a promised Messiah.

Beyond this point the sinner could do no more.  At this point the priest took over and placed the body of the slain lamb on the Altar of Burnt Offerings.  The priest then took some of the blood of the lamb and took it into the Sanctuary and sprinkled it in front of the veil, that is, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.  Thus symbolically transferring the confessed sins of the sinner from the lamb to the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary was the place where the sinner found forgiveness of sins. The work of the Sanctuary was the work of the removal of sin from the sinner.  The Sanctuary was the center of redemptive activity.  Anything that has to do with the plan of salvation focused on the Sanctuary. 

This work of sacrifice was performed for the sinner every day; thus it, this entire service, was known as the ‘daily’ or the ‘continual’ because it never ceased but continued 24 hours a day, every day, year around, symbolizing the fact that God’s amazing grace is always available day and night.

The Israelites did not design the Sanctuary themselves.  The entire design of the Sanctuary and everything that was associated with it was given them by God. 

Exodus 25:9 According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

Exodus 25:40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.

The Sanctuary Moses built was not the original.  The earthly Sanctuary was but a copy, an imitation, of a greater original.  And what was the original which the earthly Sanctuary was patterned after? Of this the apostle Paul wrote:

Hebrews 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

This text is very significant.  Most people look at the ancient Hebrew sanctuary service as a ritualistic observance that has little if any relevance to Christianity.  But the Old Testament sanctuary services, “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things” In the Sanctuary and its services God is trying to communicate heavenly things to us concerning our salvation.  In the Sanctuary and its services God is trying to illustrate to us great truths about the plan of salvation - and of things that are taking place in heaven itself on our behalf. 

Hebrews 8:1 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; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:  5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Thus we see that the ancient Israelite sanctuary service has everything to do with Christ’s heavenly ministry on our behalf.

The testimony of the Bible is clear - there are two sanctuaries: One, the original and true tabernacle in heaven; and second, a copy of the heavenly original on the earth that serves as an illustration of what happens in the heavenly sanctuary.

It is through understanding the significance of the earthly Sanctuary and its services that we can understand the work that is going on in the heavenly Sanctuary.  If you don’t have a truly Christ-centered understanding of the earthly Sanctuary, the services of the heavenly Sanctuary will forever remain a mystery.  And note that I said a Christ-centered understanding.  Every day, every year, the people and the priests acted out in broad outline God’s plan of salvation for a sinful world.  Some of the richest testimony of Christ that is to be found in the Old Testament is to be found in the Old Testament Sanctuary services.

Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Jesus is the high priest (our high priest) ministering on our behalf in the heavenly Sanctuary.  And if we would know something of the nature of his work in the heavenly Sanctuary, and just exactly what it is that he is doing for us there, then we need only to study the earthly illustration that God has so graciously given us.

Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God ... 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The ministry of Jesus is illustrated by the Hebrew Sanctuary service - and Jesus is the fulfillment of those services.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary

With God nothing is arbitrary.  God did not establish the system of sacrifices and offerings, all the rites and rituals of the sanctuary service, just to give the Hebrews something to do.  It was all designed as an object lesson of salvation.  The entire building of the sanctuary, every part of it, every article associated with it had a lesson to teach to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit was saying to them through these things.

Immanuel, God With Us

Gods command to Moses for Israel was: "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Exodus. 25:8). 

Why?  For what purpose?  That He, Almighty God, might “dwell with them.”  And He abode in the sanctuary, in the midst of His people. The sanctuary was set in the very center of the camp of Israel, indicating that God was to be the very center of their lives.  And for as long as they wandered in the wilderness, this symbol of His presence was with them. In this is prefigured the incarnation of Christ.  It is written: "they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23). 

"The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).

As a Root out of Dry Ground

The roof or covering of the tabernacle consisted of four curtains of cloth or skins.  The innermost curtain, glittering in the light of the seven branched candlestick, was glorious beyond description. This interior curtain was of fine linen. It was embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet threads. Cherubim made with threads of pure gold were sewn into it by highly skilled, indeed, divinely inspired, workers.  This formed the ceiling of the tabernacle, and as glorious as it was, it was but a faint shadow of the canopy of glory above the throne of God, and of the myriads of angels surrounding that throne, ready to fulfill His commands. 

Over this were three more layers of curtains made of various skins, all perfectly protecting the whole sanctuary from whatever weather may come, heat, cold, wind or rain.  This representing the perfect shelter the Christian has from the storms of this life.  Come what may, the Christian can stand secure and safe in the presence of God.

The outermost layer of skin had no outward beauty and bore the brunt of all that the wilderness could throw at it, the heat, the cold, the rain, frost, the sand and dust storms.  It protected the sanctuary against all.  Consequently, though the sanctuary glittered with gold on the inside, from the outside there was nothing special about its appearance.  Likewise of Christ it was prophesied of Him: “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2). 

In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him; yet He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth.  That we might behold Him and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity, the invisible glory in the visible human form, that He might draw near to sorrowful, tempted men.

1 Samuel 16:7 For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

The Shadow of the Almighty

Over the tabernacle rested the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night - the very pillar of cloud and fire by which God led the Israelites in all their wanderings in the desert.  In the midst of the desert heat those who came to the tabernacle to worship found a cool, refreshing shelter beneath that pillar of cloud, while beyond there was only the scorching heat of the desert.  This is symbolic of God’s protective covering over all His people in the midst of this wicked world.  The Christian is to stand so close to God as to stand in His very shadow. 

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."

Moreover, when the scorching heat of day gave way to the chill and darkness of night, that pillar of cloud became a pillar of fire, giving warmth and light to the whole camp of Israel.  God’s immediate, visible presence in the midst of His people lit up the entire camp so there was light for all, and none need to stumble through the darkness. 

John 8:12 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."

The world may be bitterly cold and wrapped in a darkness darker than the deepest midnight, but for the Christian there a warmth and light that the world knows nothing of.

David understood this when he wrote:

“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O, Lord, in the light of Thy countenance. (Psalm 89:15) 

This is also symbolic of the Christian walk.  In Christ the Christian also becomes a light to this darkened world.