The Book of Hebrews

THE OLD TESTAMENT TABERNACLE—continued (Hebrews 9:1-5)

There is a difference between the type and the parabolic. The type emphasizes that the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come and pointed toward the heavenly and antitypical reality in Christ, whereas the parabolic unscored the thoughts, the revelation of God. The parabolic pointed toward the content of the things exhibited and not directly to their fulfillment. The parabolic is a means of revelation in action. It belongs to the realm of symbolic prophecy. 

Perhaps it was for this reason that the writer here underscores that it was such a parabolic for the “time present.” In the Greek we read here “eis ton kairon ton enesteekota.” Literally this reads “into the proper time (season) which is present.” There are two interpretations of this phrase in question. The first is the interpretation which is given by Westcott and others. It then refers to the time of the Old Testament dispensation while the temple stood. As long as the temple stood it was a parable; it contained lessons concerning good things to come. The time present then refers to the time “pre-Christian epoch in which the unconverted Jews were still practically living.” (Fairer) Says Westcott “The Levitical system then, represented by the ‘first Tabernacle’ is described here as a parable ‘to serve for’ or, perhaps to last ‘as long as’ the present season.” It conveyed the lessons while the preparatory age continued up till the time of the change. . .As a parable (Heb. 10:19) it is regarded not so much in relation to a definite future which is directly prefigured (‘type’) as in regard to its own power of teaching. The parable suggests thoughts: the typex points to a direct fulfillment.” On the other hand the Dutch exegete Dr. F.W. Grosheide writes the translation of the phrase in question as follows “It was a type (afbeelding) in view of the present time.” and then he explains the phrase in question as referring to the time of the N.T. Dispensation wherein the Hebrews now live in these last times. Grosheide does not make a distinction, evidently, between the “parabolic” and the “typical.” As is evident from his translation “afbeelding” he takes the term “paraboleen” to be the same as “tupos.” And if the term is understood thus then the type simply refers to the time of the New Testament. 

It seems to me that since there is a unique thought in the interpretation which distinguished between “parable” and “type” we ought to choose for the former of the two above-given interpretations. For even when we understand the parable for the time present to refer to the Old Testament dispensation, we still have the idea of the imperfection of the type. Only we see the actions in the temple, the sacrifices and the feast day rites are one grand parable, earthly transaction of the heavenly. Such was its design and limitation!! 


The writer to the Hebrews elaborates the fact that there were three different rooms in the Old Testament tabernacle. And we may safely say that this parabolic arrangement ought to be noticed by us for the revelational content which is suggested and implied. This arrangement of the temple represented parabolic thoughts. Such was its very nature as is plain from the relative pronoun “eetis” in the text. 

The threefold division of the temple was as follows. There was, first of all, the outer court where the people lived, who were Israelites but who did not belong to the priesthood. (Exodus 27:9-17) Next, there was the holy place where the priest ministered continually for the people, in the morning and evening sacrifices. Here we find the temple furniture such as the golden candlestick, the table of shewbread, and, in the O.T., the altar of incense. The writer to the Hebrews places his altar within the veil. Perhaps he places it here whereas it is here where it ideally belongs in connection with the prayers of the saints before the throne. And, finally, there was the Most Holy Place, which symbolized the place where the Lord’s glory dwelt and was revealed. Here no sinful man or angel could present himself, much less could he dwell there. This was the place where the keepers of the throne, the Cherubim hide their faces from God’s glory, while they look upon the mercy-seat where the blood of atonement is sprinkled. Here is the place where the LORD’S glory dwells. 

Now it ought to be observed that all Israel was a priestly people. They were a kingdom of priests. Thus we read in Exodus 19:5 “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shah be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. . .” This passage is given in amplified and expanded manner in I Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people: that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. . .” From these passages it is quite evident that Israel itself was a priesthood. We might call this priesthood: the office of all believers. Apart from this. priesthood of the congregation (the people) there would be no point in the other two special, instituted priesthoods in Israel. The latter two priesthoods were there to serve the former, to wit, the priesthood of all the people. 

That the priesthood was the chief element and idea of the temple and its ordinances ought to be evident from the fact that the entire temple was built around the priesthood. Everything was subservient to the service of the priests and to their ministrations in the tabernacle. When there came a change in the priesthood there also was of necessity a change in the law. A case in point is that the priesthood in the Old Testament was out of Levi-Aaron, while in the New Testament the Lord of glory is born our of David-Judah. His is a different priesthood, and therefore a different law and ordinance applies. 

In the Old Covenant in the tabernacle there were the regular priests appointed for the temple service in the Sanctuary, while in “the Most Holy place, the High Priest might enter once each year on the great day of atonement. Thus everything in the temple was centered about this threefold priesthood. Yet this very arrangement suggests that there were really two walls of separation. It was a ministry in a threefold, divided tabernacle. These were not simply walls, but they were “walls of separation.” They were a twofold wall which proclaimed that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been manifested. The entire temple was so “prepared” as to teach this parabolic lessen. The tabernacle was builded, constructed, erected and adorned by the LORD. And all proclaimed in this temple: HOLINESS TO THE LORD! That was the very design. The Lord’s people are to be a holy people. And that which separates the people from the LORD istheir sin! All calls for the purifying blood of reconciliation and atonement; it calls for cleansing by blood. The justice of God must be satisfied! Such was the idea which was built into the temple in every part as well as into the design of the whole. 

It is for this reason that the Old Testament tabernacle is built as a pyramid, so to speak. In the outer court the congregation might worship from afar, but they might not enter into the Sanctuary. And, again, the common priests might be ministering daily, continually in the Sanctuary but they might never, never, never enter into the Most Holy Place, which symbolized the very presence of God. That was the point to be noticed. Even they, the priests, might not enter. However, the High Priest might enter into the Most Holy place, in the very presence of God, once per year, not without blood. He would bring a sacrifice for himself first of all, and then for the people. This is clearly stated in Leviticus 26. On this day all the sins of all the people, the uncleanness associated with the sins of the people as having contaminated the very tabernacle itself were all washed away, and Israel starts once more with a ceremonially clean slate. 

The walls of separation continued! 

The middle wall of the partition contained in ordinances stood as the end of all contradiction, as that which was settled and binding “for the time present,” as long as that tabernacle stood and was maintained by the LORD of hosts! It was a divine ordinance and arrangement till the time of reformation at the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ! 


The writer to the Hebrews attributes a certain presence and testimony of the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament dispensation. And it is noteworthy that the KJV translates not “Holy Spirit” but “Holy Ghost” The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the name “Holy Ghost” in various passages. It is found in Hebrews 2:4. Here the Holy Ghost is connected with the works of God in the church after Christ came on earth, and after His ascension into heaven. However this same Holy Ghost also is still testifying in what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 95:7-11, concerning the provocation of the Lord, and falling away from the living God through unbelief. And in Hebrews 6:4 of the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the natural enlightenment of those who live under the means of grace, yet who are not saved by the Lord and brought to the worship of the living God. And Hebrews 10:15 speaks the testimony of the Holy Ghost in Jeremiah 31:33 concerning the New Covenant which God will make in the latter days. This is the testimony not merely of Jeremiah, but it is the testimony of the Holy Ghost. Ever the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the Holy Ghost in connection with the Word of God, the Word of revelation, whether this be in the written record or whether this be in the signs which accompany the Word, or, as in our text, the pointing out of the divine meaning (deelountes) both of the words of Scripture and in the ordinances and arrangement of the tabernacle with its divinely arranged and instituted furnishings. 

The writer to the Hebrews does not go into the details of the meaning of the furnishings of the temple. How interesting that would have been. Jewish theology and heathen philosophy is full of speculation concerning the meaning of all this. Evidently the Holy Ghost did not mean it for us to need all these details. The central truth in the parabolic message of the temple ordinances ought to come through clear and strong! That is the very nature of the parable. Such is the case with all parables. And thus also here. The one central message in the entire worship service in the O.T. tabernacle as this culminated in the feast of the great day of atonement was: the way into the Most Holy has not yet been manifested! 

Such was the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the parabolic symbolism of the Old Testament tabernacle.