The tabernacle, as was explained, stood for an action that consisted in God’s holding His people at a distance from Him and in His causing the high priest alone to enter His immediate presence in the Holiest. The High Priest went in alone “once every year, nor without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing” (Heb. 9:7, 8). This scripture sets forth the purpose of God’s bringing into being the tabernacle. The purpose was to provide Himself, in particular the Holy Ghost, with an instrument for signifying that the way into the holiest of all—His immediate presence—was not yet manifest. This the tabernacle (temple), as including the service connected with it—in particular the High Priest entering alone with blood, its holiest compartment—signified. Strictly speaking, it was only by this service—the High Priest alone entering—that the signifying was done. But this service could not take place without the tabernacle, so that plainly this structure was reared to make this service possible.
Herewith has been set forth the purpose and design of the tabernacle. Its purpose was to make possible a service by which the Holy Ghost could signify that the way into the holiest was not yet manifest, but eventually would be. To specify this as the purpose is not to minimize the importance of the tabernacle. To the contrary, it is to set this structure forth in its true significance. To make apparent the truth of this statement, all that is necessary is to explain and show what is implied in the notice to the effect: “the Holy Ghost thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.” Let us attend then to this scripture.
As has already been explained, the holies is the gracious and immediate presence of God to which believers now draw near in the assurance of the atonement made for them and of their acceptance thereon. This assurance or boldness is now theirs because the way into the holiest is made manifest. This way is the sacrifice of Christ, the true high priest of the church. He is the way, that is, the meritorial instrument by which the believers draw near to God. The manifestation of this way consists in the actual exhibition of Christ in the flesh and His sacrifice of Himself. It consists further in the full, plain declaration of Christ and Him crucified, of the nature of His person and work in and through the gospel. It consists finally in the revelation in the gospel of the privileges which the believers now possess. Now while as the first tabernacle was yet standing, the sacrifice of Christ, though promised and shadowed, was not in itself made manifest through its actually being made. Yet it did exist as an object of thought in the mind of God. Because it did so, because this mind, the mind of God, was the cause of its becoming existent when the fullness of time was come, the coming of Christ in the flesh and His sacrifice of self was truly a manifestation. To manifest, to make visible to the eye, is an action that implies the existence of what is manifested, in this case Christ and His cross.
Now this, namely, that the way, Christ and His self-sacrifice, was not yet made manifest, the Holy Ghost signified, declared, through the High Priest’s going alone into the Holiest Place. This statement of the sacred writer, found at Hebrews 9:7, 8 is, as has already been pointed out, of great importance as a clue to guide us into the knowledge of the purpose that God had in rearing the tabernacle (temple) and in His inaugurating the service connected with it, particularly that part of it that consisted in the high priest’s going alone into the holiest on the day of atonement. The purpose was to provide the Holy Ghost with an instrument for signifying, declaring. For declaring what? That the way, that Christ, was not yet manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. There is much more contained in this statement that at first glance appears on the surface. Through His declaring that the way, namely, the meritorial instrument by which believers go into the holiest, was not yet made manifest, the Spirit at once was declaring that the way that was then manifest—the sacrifice by which Aaron went into the holiest of the first tabernacle—was so far from being the true way that it was but shadow, symbol, type, that it was thus not the way by which men, by nature sinful and condemnable, could go to God. Through the sacrifice (by blood) as such, the Holy Ghost signified that, God being what He is, righteous and holy, there can be no forgiveness of sin without shedding of blood. Through the high priest’s entering alone the holiest place, He signified that this sacrifice together with all the institutions of the law was but shadow, symbol, type, and that thus the true sacrifice and the true priest had still to be made manifest and that when these would have been made manifest the true worshipers of God would themselves be entering the holiest to abide there everlastingly. Such was the declaration of the Holy Ghost which He made by the high priest’s entering alone. That all God’s people would eventually be going into the holiest place the Holy Ghost clearly signified also by the following typical things of the law. First to be mentioned is the altar of incense and the holy incense in a state of burning upon it. This altar stood in the holiest place, before the veil that was by the ark of the testimony. The cover of the ark was God’s throne. Upon it and between the cherubim hovered the cloud—the symbol of God’s presence. Close by the ark hung the veil and by the veil stood the altar of incense, so that the burning of the incense by the priest took place in the immediate presence of God. Now the holy incense in a state of burning upon the altar of the first sanctuary was the type of the glorified company of redeemed as they now stand in God’s immediate presence everlastingly crying out His praises. It was thus to the Holy Ghost the instrument by which He was then plainly signifying that the church would eventually dwell with God in His house to eternally declare His glories.
A similar declaration the Holy Ghost was then making by the twelve cakes called shewbread. These cakes were continually before Jehovah’s face in His immediate presence. Thus also by this bread the Spirit was then declaring that the blessed prerogative of the believers will be to dwell continually in God’s immediate presence before His very face as His eternal refreshment, joy and delight, and that thus His bread and wine is His people whom He possesses in Christ Jesus.
The golden candlestick, too, imaged the church.
We learn this from the first chapter of Revelation, Being turned, John saw seven golden lamps; and in the midst of the seven lamps one like unto the Son of man. . . . In the sequence, these lamps are said to be seven churches. In the fourth chapter we again meet with seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are explained to mean the seven spirits of God—either the one Spirit in the diversity of His spiritual and sanctifying working or seven spirits of men qualified by the One Spirit for the office of pastors and shepherds in the Church. Thus the true candlestick is the Church. Now the candlestick stood in the holy place on the south side of it. It is plain what the Holy Ghost was signifying through this piece of furniture, namely, that the Church is light in Christ and that with it therefore God everlastingly dwells.
Thus through the high priest’s entering alone, the Holy Ghost declared that the things of the law were but shadows. This raises the question with what purpose this declaration was made. Certainly that these things might stand out in the mind of God’s believing people for what they were, namely shadows and this in order that by these things believers might be caused to look forward to the manifestation of the body foreshadowed. And this raises another question, namely, whether the believers were empowered to read in the shadows any distinct reference to Christ. That the saints of the Old Dispensation saw not Christ as the Church is now privileged to behold Him in the Scriptures is certain, “We believe that we have access to God alone, but only through the only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ, the righteous, who therefore became man, having united in one person the divine and human natures, that we might have access to the divine majesty which access would otherwise be bared against us” or, “my only comfort in life and death is that with body and soul, both in life and death I belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who with His own precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins. . .” Such language is not found in the Old Testament Scriptures. This statement, of course, has reference to the form of the words of this confession and not to the essence of the truth of which it is the formulation. This truth as to its essence, the Church possessed from the beginning.
Yet the Church had been trained to expect Christ. The two wayfarers to the village of Emmaus said, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” Simeon took the Christ-child in his arms, and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.” And Anna the prophetess spake of Him to all them that looked for the redemption in Jerusalem. The Church had never been without the promise of the Savior.
Immediately after the fall the gospel was preached to her, “And the Lord God said, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, and he shall crush thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The seed of the woman is in the central sense Christ. His victory through suffering is here plainly predicted. This prediction was repeatedly reiterated in subsequent history of the Church by God Himself directly and by His prophets. The Psalms are interspersed with lively descriptions of His sufferings. So Psalm twenty-two: “Be not far from me; for trouble is near and there is none to help. Many bulls have encompassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and thou hast brought me in the dust of the earth.”
But the prophets of God also spoke of the triumphs of the promised deliverer, “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder and cast their cords away from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: . . . .Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath. . . . yet have I set my King upon my holy hill in Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt brake him with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:8-9). “The Lord saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. . . . The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the days of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. And He shall smite the earth with rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4).
The Messiah shall set Himself against the opponents of God. It indicates that He loves truth and righteousness. Such being the case He will judge the poor with righteousness and argue their case. “And He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: . . . . And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins” (Isaiah 11:3, 4).
The question is whether the church, in particular the prophets of God were empowered to read in the rite of their expiatory sacrifices any references to the sufferings of this promised Deliverer? Fact is that the only prophet who ascribes to the sufferings of the servant of Jehovah atoning virtue is Isaiah. He was the only one of all God’s prophets to declare, “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his strips were we healed. . . .and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all. . .”
But if the believers of the Old Dispensation had not Christ as the direct object of their vision, the question arises how they could be saved—saved in connection with their sacrifice, an animal sacrifice, that was but a shadow? They could be and were saved. In explaining this regard must be had firstly to a scripture found at Heb. 9:9, “Which are a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” The apostle here silently acknowledges that these sacrifices—those by blood—did make the sacrificer perfect in the sense that they freed him of the necessity of undergoing the penalty of physical death, so that his life and inheritance should be continued in the land of Canaan and his state preserved entire in the commonwealth of Israel. Thus these sacrifices were able to free the sinner from temporal punishment, and give him outward peace in his possessions and in God’s country—the land of Canaan. But what these sacrifices could not do is to make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience. As to the conscience, they had no efficacy.
The first manifestation of the presence of the Spirit of regeneration in the heart of the sinner is the opening of his eyes to the seriousness and enormity of his guilt and his crave for God’s pardon. This sinner, if he lived in the Old Dispensation, would turn to his sacrifice for relief. But he learned that his trusting in that sacrifice brought him no assurance that his sins were actually forgiven and thus no peace. Yet the believers of that time knew the peace of God that springs from the consciousness that sin has been pardoned, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guilt. . . . I acknowledged my sin unto thee. . . . and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Ps. 32:1-5).
The prayer does not read, “Blessed is he whose sin is covered by the blood of the animal sacrifice,” but it reads, “Blessed is he whose sin is covered.” The psalmist understood that the blood of an animal sacrifice did not truly cover sin. Yet he was fully aware that sin, to be forgiven must be atoned. But if the psalmist did not pray, “Blessed is he whose sins are covered by the blood of an animal sacrifice, neither did he pray, “Blessed is he whose sins are covered by a human sacrifice, Who as to His person is God.” The believers had not Christ as the direct object of their vision. How then could God give them that peace that springs from assurance that He has truly forgiven? The reason is that the animal sacrifice set forth the virtues of God—His justice, mercy and truth—that men must have knowledge of in order to be saved. The animal sacrifice set forth the truth that without shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin, that thus Zion could not otherwise be redeemed than by the power of a righteous love, mercy. And it was upon this mercy, that believers of the Old Dispensation would cast themselves. “For we are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in Thy wrath: we spend our years as a day that is told. . . . Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath. So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return O Lord, how long? And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. O satisfy us early with Thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 19:5-14). “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide neither will He keep His anger forever. He hath not dealt with us according to our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. . . . But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting unto everlasting upon them that fear him, and His righteousness unto children’s children” (Psalm 103).
The last sentence appearing in the above excerpt is to be especially noticed, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting. . . . and his righteousness unto children’s children.” The believers of the old covenant were made to understand that they were saved also with righteousness. But how the Lord could justify the ungodly, on the ground of whose merit, they could not explain. This was hid from them, “but is now made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26, 27).
The believers were taught to expect all from Jehovah, not only salvation, but the righteous means as well. Finally when the expectation of the church reached the heights determined by God, “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:8). “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all Thy people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32).
It is plain how God could commence saving His people before the manifestation of the appearance of Christ in the flesh had taken place. They who were saved were the contrite and broken-hearted, such who cast themselves upon God’s mercy and realized with which they were satisfied was just. Such He could pardon and save. For He had taken care to reveal to them that the pardoned guilt had to be expiated and expiated by the shedding of blood.