THE ANALOGY OF THE TABERNACLE (Part 2): The Symbols Behind the Temple
Updated: Oct 29, 2021
The temple was divided into three areas; the outer court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The high priest would move from the outer court to the Most Holy place as part of the sacrificial service. The offering for the remission of sins occurred outside in the outer court with the sacrifice, in the Holy Place there was worship and communion with God. In the Most Holy Place, we find the atonement, forgiveness and direct contact with God. In short, the outer court was dedicated to sacrifice, the Holy Place to the petition for forgiveness and the Most Holy Place to the atonement of sins and reunion with God.
The outer court was open to the view of others. This was the area where sacrifices were made at the altar. It is where we would offer up a scapegoat (a lamb, or another accepted animal) for our sins. This area was open to the public during offerings, sacrifices, and other rituals and festivals. However, inside the temple was reserved for the priests. Within the Holy place was found the ornaments representing the presence of God – the showbread, the Menorah (the seven branch candlestick), and the incense. Then the Most Holy place, which held the Ark of the Covenant, was reserved for the High Priest. In this chamber, the remission of sins was witnessed by the High Priest, and sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat – the symbolic throne of God. The High Priest is the only person allowed to be in the very presence of God, he was Israel’s mediator and he should have no unforgiven sin when entering this part of the temple.
The outer court
It is very easy to imagine that this temple is comparable to the living temple and even the cosmos. The outer court may be compared to the skin of the body. Everyone can see it and how it is adorned. This is the entrance to the body temple, because this is what usually attracts people to us first, that is, our physical appearance and how we carry our bodies. For this reason, we should take care in how we dress and adorn our bodies. For this is what observers will use to judge us and the credibility of our Creator. They say that first impressions lasts, this is true for the Spirit filled child of God seeking to win souls to Yeshua (Jesus). The eyes are also the entrance to the body temple, and the mouth the exit, and so we should be careful of what we feed our eyes with and what we say to others.
The items found in the outer court of the temple are also symbolic of the body itself. As we enter the outer court, we are first presented with an altar, where we will offer a sacrifice. Our body is a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:5). Our body must be sacrificed to God to do with it as He pleases. We are not our own and we certainly cannot treat our bodies any way we wish (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Leviticus 9:28). Our bodies must be holy to God (1 Corinthians 6:13). As spirit filled children of God we must sacrifice the wants and desires of the flesh (Romans 6:12, 8:13), and wholly dedicate our lives to God. What we eat, how we behave, what we do with our bodies must not be tainted with disobedience to God. Paul teaches that if we walk in the Spirit of God, we will produce the fruits of the Spirit, against which there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 8:4-7). However, if we live according to the flesh and sin, then we are accountable to both God and man; and the Laws of God and the laws of men will be against us. There is a liberty that comes from living a spirit-filled life, but this comes with a tremendous sacrifice. We must give up all to gain something far more precious (Matthew 13:44).
The first step to becoming a living temple of God is to sacrifice the flesh and renounce the world (Romans 6:11, 8:13, Colossians 3:3). The next step is to be baptised, a declaration that we have made a commitment to walk in the ways of God. In the ancient temple, after we have made our sacrifice, the priest armed with some of the blood from the animal throws it against the altar. Then with his thumb, he smudges some of the blood on the four horns of the altar. Then he takes the internal organs and washes them. The organs and skins with all its fat are then burned. However, before even making the sacrifice, the priest must first wash his hands and feet in the bronze basin to become fit for service, that is, to become acceptable to God (Exodus 30:17-21).
The blood and the water symbolise a cleansing from sin. It is a witness to God and to the world that we are set aside for holy service (1 John 5:6-8, Leviticus 14:49-53). When we confess our sins on the head our scapegoat, our messiah; and come to accept the blood of Yeshua as the price paid for our sins; and have washed ourselves with the water of baptism, that is when we become acceptable for service to God and are allowed to enter the Holy Place and receive the light of His Holy Spirit. In essence, we are begotten into the congregation of God to grow into the perfection and the character of God, in preparation to being born into His family. Because we are begotten into the family of God, we become inheritors to His Kingdom and the divine nature, but it is only until after we are born into the family of God do we partake or share the divine nature with Him (2 Peter 1:14, 1 Peter 5:1, Hebrews 3:14, 6:4). For now, we are just heirs to this promise.
The outer court may also be compared to the earth, our dwelling place. This is where we interact with each other. However, it is through the temple that we interact with heaven. It is our first contact to God. The outer court is dedicated to sacrifice. Having rejected the world, the world also rejects us. Every morning, every hour, every day, every week that we spend with God is an act of self-sacrifice. Liberty from sin comes at a price in a world where everything is reversed - where evil is called good and good evil, where good is rewarded with evil and evil with good. In a world that teaches that selfishness is a virtue and selflessness a vice. Where self-discipline is punished and instant gratification is rewarded. The world is carnal and what is of the flesh is unacceptable to God.
The self-sacrifice that He commands is not the piety and humble living often witnessed in zealous Catholics and other religious persons who sacrifice wealth and do good works in an attempt to earn salvation. Salvation cannot be earned, salvation is freely given by God to us, but after we have accepted this gift, humility and good works follow automatically because of the spirit of God working within us. Self-sacrifice is not simply giving up wealth and living a pious life, this is whitewashing the surface of our bodies while our heart remains filthy and untouched by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 23:27). True self-sacrifice is obedience to God even if doing so means that we must give up our own desires and even our own lives. True sacrifice comes from the heart. It is the love we have for God that compels us to obey Him, even if this means giving up everything. The motive behind the sacrifice is selfless. We give up our desires for the benefit of God.
This is the same kind of sacrifice that we make for our children. As parents, we live a life of constant sacrifice while attending to the needs and even the wants of our children. The reason behind the sacrifice is love, the kind of sacrifice God requires from us. Our sacrifice must be an act of love for him. By living for God, meeting His needs and wants, we must sacrifice ours simply because they are in opposition to His (Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 10:21, Matthew 6:24). The consequence of this is separation from the world.
We do not separate ourselves by any acts of our own. The separation is inevitable once we decide to truly love God. It is a “non-act”. The sacrifice is an act of omission and obedience, as well as neglect to the needs and wants of the world while being proactive to the needs and wants of God. Faced with a fast-passed world that glorifies instant gratification and selfish ambitions, when we decide to obey God we stop pursuing our ambitions and indulging in our selfish desires. We actively turn around, and turn our backs on our lives in our pursuit for God. We have stopped striving with the pace of the world, so the world passes us by, and automatically so do some of the rewards – like wealth, our jobs, our spouse, and even our own family. God does not require that we actively give up our wealth or our possessions. However, in order to love Him in spirit and in truth we must give up our desire for them. We simply stop pursuing them. Things may seem to fall apart at first, but God promises that if we seek Him and love Him above all else, then all our needs will be met by Him. We will be in want of nothing. It is the motivation behind the sacrifice that counts, not the act. Simply giving away our possessions to serve God is an act of selfishness; the motive is to get, in this case, salvation through good works. On the other hand, if we simply give up our desires of indulgence and ambitions to compete in this world, the motive is to give, and in this case to give undiluted love to God. If we love God, good works will indeed follow because we will love all His creation as well; and yes, that includes the very selfish people we have rejected to have an influence over us.
To be a living sacrifice to God, we must reject self by being holy, not by doing holy. We must obey God’s commands even when it conflicts with our own desires. Furthermore, our natural desires are carnal and will always conflict with God’s. Obedience to God feels like giving up everything, but just like the man who when he found treasure in a field, he reburies it, and sells all he has to buy that field, so should the Christian walk be when we are following Yeshua (Matthew 13:44-46). We must give up everything in our human nature to follow Him including our fear of death (Luke 22:41-44, Mathew 10:16-33). Loving God leads to greater treasure than the world can provide, and everything that the world could give to us is temporary pleasure that often turns around and bites us. To the man who sacrifices all his kingdoms here on earth, against him there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Holy Place
The Holy Place is relatable to within the body - our organs, the blood, the brain. It is veiled and protected by the skin. There is a development in the field of genetics that shows evidence that the human soul may be found in the blood, or more precisely in our genetic code. There is even research in DNA that shows that lifestyle choices are found on our epigenetic marks that can be passed on to our children. Also that these very epigenetic marks can be switched on or off according to our lifestyle choices (Courtney Griffin, 2012). The Scriptures tell us that the life is in the blood (Genesis 9:5, Leviticus 17:11-14) and of generational curses (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:9). Science is now discovering that how we live do matter, the Scriptures have been trying to tell us that for millennia. Important lifestyle choices include, how and what we eat, our daily activities and the time we take for rest and recreation, our values and the rules we live by, our sexuality and our health. The lifestyle choices we make are important, right down to even the genetic level, and we pass these habits on to our children. God, as our creator, obviously knows more about the upkeep and maintenance of His creation than we do. We, the created, cannot know more about how to treat our bodies than the person who created it. It would be like a computer program telling the programmer how to troubleshoot it whenever there is a problem. Even if the computer program is able to tell us how to fix it if it malfunctions, a virus could be installed that prevents basic troubleshooting from working. If this happens, we call an expert, a programmer, to fix it. If the world is one giant computer and we are the programs that function within it to make it work, then sin may be considered a virus that comes and tries to rewrite all the programs on this computer system and cause malfunction. God is the programmer who knows how to fix the entire system. He rewrites certain programs and deletes the bad ones. He is the one who truly knows how everything works. The corrupted program is misled and deceived and eventually is destroyed. For the Spirit-filled children of God how we live is even more important than our appearance. What counts is what is on the inside. If after our sacrifice nothing changes on the inside, we have not made the sacrifice with the right motive. A great part of worship involves the mind. We must constantly analyse not only the Scriptures, but also how we live and carry ourselves. This will be a sign to all, the world, that we are true children of God. The Holy Place represents our lifestyle choices and thoughts. After we have sacrificed our desires, we walk into a new life. Everything changes, our habits, attitudes, the way we think, the way we eat and drink, our behaviours, and how we spend our time.
In the Holy Place of the terrestrial temple, we find a table with twelve showbreads, a Menorah and incense. All these items have symbolic meaning. The twelve showbreads represent the life-giving bread of God - the Word of God, or the testimonies of the promises of blessings and of eternal life as well as the revealed mysteries of the kingdom, which are to be eaten (consumed) by the priests (servants) of God (1 Corinthians 1, Revelation 1:1, Matthew 13:11, Leviticus 7:6). The Menorah represents the Holy Spirit and the seven Spirits of God leading His people throughout the ages (Revelation 1:20, 4:5, 5:6, Isaiah 11:2). The incense represents our prayers – a sweet fragrance going up to God daily, morning and evening and throughout the day (Revelation 8:3-4, Exodus 30:1-9). The Holy Place was where the priests would plead for the sinner after he has made a sacrifice on their behalf.
During our walk with God, we must eat from the bread of life, pray daily, and allow the Holy Spirit to influence our lives. Our Father requires holy temples. Our bodies are living temples and they too must be holy. Holiness is just as much a state of being as it is an act. We must constantly live our lives in obedience to God in our values and the decisions we make. These must be in accordance to the blueprint that He provides, because only He knows how to troubleshoot mortality. In the Holy Place, we learn the ways of God and His mysteries as well as His creation. This can only happen through Bible study, prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit. We must be a holy people, perfected by God and His Spirit. The light of his Spirit must shine from within us and order our lifestyle; to turn off bad epigenetic marks, and to become acceptable to God. There is nothing symbolic about salvation. A life of righteousness and the completion of redemption are literal; it is a physically observable phenomenon that can be scientifically tested and proven. The true convert undergoes physical and mental changes. For example, bad epigenetic marks are switched off and good ones are turned on. The laws of God act in the physical world and is just as unchangeable as laws relating to gravity and forces that hold the world together and control the movement of the objects within it (Matthew 5:17-18, Malachi 3:6, Romans 3:31, Hebrews 6:13-20).
In the cosmos, the temple is that bridge between Heaven and earth. It is the go-between where man is able to communicate with God. Yeshua was the ultimate sacrifice that made it possible for the presence of God to live in us and make us into temples. We are the bridges, where the world can meet our Father, and we are judged by the very people we would like to see saved. Our lives are sacrificial and it is the only thing they can see. They are only witnesses to the happenings in the outer court; but they are not privy to what happens in the Holy Place (Matthew 6:6). Our prayer life should be secret, and between our Almighty Father and us (Mathew 6:16-18). A veil is placed over the workings of our minds for a reason, and our motives are shielded from everyone, but God. Nonetheless, they must witness the fruits reflected in our lives as the consequence of an obedient prayer life. That is the Shekinah glory seen by the world as a sign that God is present and has accepted this body temple as Holy.
The Most Holy Place
The Most Holy place is where the throne of God rests. In the cosmos, this is where we call Heaven, the place where God lives and is the domain of the angels. In the congregation of God, this is the seat of consciousness, that is, the mind. Even the mind is separated by three areas, which is comparable to the three areas in the temple, the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious. With the conscious being the outer court, the subconscious the Holy Place and the unconscious the Most Holy Place. The unconscious mind is the place where the actual remission of sin takes place and where we are declared holy and without blemish (Leviticus 16:29-34, Hebrews 9:11-12, 22-26).
Consciously, we bring our sacrifice to God as a plea bargain for atonement. This is where He accepts or refuses our sacrifice. The subconscious is where He speaks to us and tells us what to do and how to live (Luke 12:12, Revelation 1:1-3, Daniel 5:11-12, Luke 1:66-7, 2:25-27, Exodus 4:14-16). Then, the unconscious could be the Most Holy Place in the mind, because this is the part of the brain where we have absolutely no control and where only the High Priest, Yeshua haMashiach, can make intersession on our behalf. A lot of our behaviour is unconscious, and this is where the influence of the Holy Spirit is most powerful. We cannot change our unconscious minds, only God can. This is why the fruits of the spirit that we later produce are behaviour that happens naturally when we dedicate our life and dreams to God. They are automatic responses because this is the automatic centre of the mind, and are simply a consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to work hard at it; all we must work hard at is obeying God without question – being receptive to Him and His Laws. In my opinion that is a heck of a lot of work to do already! It is important to concentrate on obedience, a true act of love, then relax and enjoy the ride as God brings out His fruits one by one in our lives. All we need to do is seek Him first, allow Him to perfect us and all else will be given to us (Matthew 6:33) – not only material wealth, but also true liberty and joy.
The Holy Bible.
Courtney Griffin, 2012