A distinction must be drawn between the tabernacle as such and the furniture contained in it and the service with which it was inseparably associated and which was performed within its sacred precincts. In this article I purpose to set forth the typical significance not of this furniture and service (this has already been done), but of the tabernacle proper, by which is to be understood the “tent of meeting” as such, thus this tent as disassociated from the sacred things which were found in it and from the various kinds of offerings that formed its service.
The tabernacle is the type of the human nature of Christ in its union with the person of the Son of God. The view here expressed is grounded in Scripture. The epistle to the Hebrews contains this passage (9:11, 12), “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place. . . .” In this passage “the greater and more perfect tabernacle” and “his own blood” are one and the same, and so, the tabernacle by which Christ entered the holies, is His own flesh and blood, the slain and resurrected human nature with which the Son is personally united. The circumstance that this nature, formed as it was (and is) of a human body and a human soul, bears in the text the name of tabernacle, implies that when the sacred writer penned this passage, Moses’ tabernacle, the one made with hands, stood out in his mind as the prefiguration of the tabernacle “greater and more perfect,” of Christ’s human nature.
Pre-figuring Christ, Moses’ tabernacle had to have agreement with Christ. So it did. Let us attend to this agreement. As to its interior, the tabernacle was a costly and beautiful structure. As has already been pointed out, its walls were composed of planks overlaid with gold, which rose perpendicularly from sockets of silver, held together by transverse bars of gold, passing through rings of gold. The inner tent cloth that formed the tabernacle proper was also a thing of beauty, the colors employed in its construction being white, blue, purple and scarlet. As to Christ, the perfect tabernacle, He, too, and we speak now of His human nature, is a creature of glory. And His glory is the brightness or splendor of His spiritual beauty, of the grace and truth of which He is full. Christ, however, stands not alone. Joined to Him is His body, the church, of which He is head, His temple of which He is the cornerstone, His branches of which He is the true vine, and of whose fullness all the members of His body partake. And as coming to Him, as to a living stone, the chosen of God are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood. And as abiding in Him, they bear much fruit. Thus His body, too, is glorious. And its glory is the effulgence of the fullness that dwelleth in Him. Now of this spiritual splendor of both Christ and His people, of the variety, manifoldness and totality of the spiritual gifts which God bestowed upon this people, the beauty of the earthy tabernacle was the prefiguration. That the costly materials that were made to enter into the construction of the tabernacle thus formed a kind of glass in which could be seen the glory of Christ, is a view that, as has already been made plain, is grounded in Scripture.
But the agreement between Moses’ tabernacle and Christ (and His body) does not stop here. It was not enough that the materials of which the tabernacle was constructed were costly; nor that the whole was built according to the pattern let down from heaven. After it had thus been constructed and before it could be used as the Lord’s dwelling-place, it had to be consecrated by the application of the holy anointing oil, the instructions for the preparation of which are found in Exodus 30:22-25, “Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: and thou shaft make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.”
This was to be an holy anointing oil unto the Lord throughout Israel’s generations. It is pronounced to be a most severe and punishable offence for the common members of the theocracy to aspire to make any other like it. Upon man’s flesh, that is, upon the flesh of common men, it might not be poured. And whosoever should put any of it upon a stranger, should even be cut off from his people (Ex. 30:31-33). The only men to whose flesh it might be applied were the priests and kings and God’s prophets. It is no different now. The Spirit of Christ, symbolized by this oil, was poured out upon the church, thus upon the chosen ones, made unto God priests and kings by Christ.
With this oil was anointed also the tabernacle and the ark of the testimony, “and the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering and his vessels, and the laver and his feet” (Ex. 30:26-28). “And thou shalt sanctify them,” was the Lord’s word to Moses regarding this anointing oil, “that they may be holy.”
The import of this action can be known from the Old Testament Scriptures. Said Samuel to Saul, after having poured the horn of oil upon his head, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee.” “. . . .and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward,” namely, from the day on which Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren. Thus in the history of these two kings, the anointing oil is expressly associated with the communication of the Holy Spirit. This coupling of the oil with the Spirit tells us, as plainly as words could, that of the Spirit it was the sign. The conclusive proof of this is that the Savior, though He was never anointed in the literal sense, was called the Christ, that is, the Anointed One. Anointed was He with the Holy Ghost and with power. The reason that in His case the symbolical rite was omitted, was His being the Anointed One. And because God’s believing people are united to Him by faith and thus partake of His anointing, they, too, are said to be “anointed by God” or “to have the unction of the Holy One which teacheth them all things.” Under the dispensation of the New Testament, the symbolical rite continued to be observed for a time and in regard to outward and miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit, “The apostles anointed many sick persons with oil, and made them whole in the name of the Lord” (Mark 6:13).
This sacred use of oil had, as its background, a common use of it in the east, especially in Egypt, Arabia and Palestine. Its use there finds its explanation in the circumstance of its being regarded as singularly promotive of bodily health and comfort, and so the custom persisted and descended even to modern times. The inhabitants of Africa anoint their bodies when the day becomes intensely hot, because it serves the purpose to exempt them from enervating effects of the climate. Even in Greece, where the heat is less intense, the combatants in public games, had their bodies copiously rubbed and supplied with oil. As anointed with such oil, the body would feel itself invigorated and refreshed, and became fit for the performance of any active labor. Oil, therefore, was an apt figure of the soul, replenished with the Holy Spirit. As endowed with grace, it can engage heartily in God’s service, and run the way of His commands. In the language of one writer, “the anointed man was he who, being chosen and set apart by God for accomplishing something connected with God’s glory, was furnished for it by His good hand with necessary gifts. And the more noble the office to which anyone was anointed, the greater was the supply of the Spirit’s grace which the anointing brought him.” But what the Spirit supplied was not always grace for the recipient. Nor was it always sanctifying as to its character. In the case of Saul it was a “kingly heart,” that is, merely such courage and aptitude, as he needed to function as king.
In the light of these observations, it is not difficult to perceive the significance of the anointing of the tabernacle. This being, as has been proven, the type of Christ’s human nature, the anointing of it with the holy oil was the sensible representation of the communication of the Holy Spirit to this nature. To Christ the Spirit was given. It rests upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And He is of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord and judges with righteousness the poor, and reproves with equity for the meek of the earth. And righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins (Isa. 2:1-6). To Him the Spirit was successively given without measure. The Spirit was given Him during the period of the preparation of His human nature in the womb of Mary, so that He was born without sin. The Spirit was given to the Christ-child, so that through the years this child increased in favor with God and man and was conscious of being impelled by the love of God to be about His Father’s business. And when the time was at hand for Him to begin His public ministry, John saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And being raised up unto the justification of His people, and being by the right hand of God exalted, He received of the Father the Spirit for Himself and His people. And the Spirit glorified Him, the exalted Christ, beautified exceedingly His human nature; and the Spirit also imparts unto His body, the church, the fullness of grace of which His suffering and death is the meritorial cause, and His human nature the eternal seat and channel, and His Father the creative fountain. And as the Spirit is God, of one essence with the Father and the Son, and as the grace which He imparts is God’s creature, the anointing of the exalted human nature of the Savior with the Spirit marked the beginning of the everlasting indwelling of God in Christ and of Christ in His church. At the close of his public ministry and just before His crucifixion, Christ prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . .And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23). The answer to this prayer was the Father’s anointing the exalted Christ. But the prayer is still being answered through the ages and will have been fully answered when the new heavens and the new earth will have appeared and when on this earth, as cleansed from the race of men that now corrupt it, the church will have appeared with Christ in glory. Of the anointed Christ and His body in glory, the anointed tabernacle of Moses was the type, the prophetic emblem.
The record of the instructions for the anointing of the tabernacle contains also this statement, “Whatsoever toucheth them (the anointed tabernacle and its furniture) shall be holy.” Now the tabernacle was but an inanimate thing. Its holiness was its separation from things common and profane and its consecration to sacred use, to God and His service. But there is also the holiness of a moral-rational nature,—a holiness that is purity of heart, a sanctified energy under the impulse of which the one holy is pitted against sin and is seeking with all the power of his mind and will and with his whole heart after God. Such was the holiness of Christ. And such is also the holiness that He imparts unto all who touch Him, unto all who, by a living faith, are grafted in Him and possess Him as their dwelling place. For He, being the Anointed One, is the sanctification, the justification, the wisdom and the redemption of His people.
But the observations thus far made, do not exhaust the typical significance of the tabernacle. This structure prefigured even the union of the person of the Son of God with the assumed human nature. Consider that out of the midst of the tabernacle a voice spake to Moses the words of God. The first to hear this voice speaking the gospel of redemption were our first parents just after the fall. And through the centuries this voice continued to speak. It spoke to the patriarchs. It spoke to Moses, first out of the burning bush, then out of the cloud enveloping the summit of the mount and finally out of the tabernacle. It spoke, did this voice, to all the prophets of God who came after. Whose voice was this? With the exception of a few, all the passages contained in the Old Testament Scripture that record the speaking of this voice ascribe it exclusively to Jehovah. So the passages contained in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. It is Jehovah Who is presented as saying to Moses, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. . . . (Ex. 6:1). See I have made thee a God to Pharaoh. . . . (7:1). Go unto Pharaoh and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go. . . . (8:1). Go unto Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart. . . . (10:1). These are but a few of the numerous scriptures in which the name used to designate the communicator of the divine word or message is the name Jehovah. However, there are some passages, found in the Pentateuch, in which the name used is not Jehovah but the angel of the Lord. The first of these is the record of His appearance unto Hagar in the desert. “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness. . . . And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return unto thy mistress. . . . And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child. . . .” (Gen. 16:7-11). It was the angel of the Lord who called unto Abraham out of heaven and said to him that he should not lay his hand upon the lad, Isaac (Gen. 22:11), Who spake unto Jacob in a dream that He had seen all that Laban had done to him (31:11), Who appeared unto Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush (Ex. 3:2). In all these passages the name employed is angel of the Lord. Who now is this angel? Light is shed upon this question by what the Holy Spirit records in the third chapter of the book of Exodus. Here we read, “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: . . . .And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said. . . . draw not nigh hither. . . . Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . . .” In this passage, it is to be observed, the voice that called to Moses out of the bush is ascribed both to the angel of the Lord and to God, the triune Jehovah. Thus this angel is no ordinary angel. If not, is He then to be identified with the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? And if so, how can He at once be Jehovah’s angel? And if He be an angel, how can He be God? Is the latter too, an angel? Having been led into all truth by the Spirit of Christ exalted, the church of God can and is now answering these questions.
The Church now understands and believes that there is only one God, Who is the one single essence, in which there are three persons, really truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost; that Jesus Christ, according to His divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, co-essential and co-eternal with the father, the express image of His person, and the brightness of His glory, equal unto Him in all things; that God sent into the world, His own, only-begotten Son, Who took upon Himself the form of a servant, and became like unto man, and did not only assume human nature, as too the body, but also a true human soul, that He might be real man; that, finally, this Son was from eternity ordained to be our Savior, our prophet, priest, and king, that thus even before His incarnation, the Son of God, in His capacity of Mediator was teaching His people, revealing to them the Gospel of God, was ruling His people by His word as applied to their hearts by the Spirit, and was also atoning the sins of His people not by His own blood but by the blood of His animal sacrifices.
Because the Church now has understanding of this the question, who was the angel of the Lord, can be definitely answered. That this angel did not belong to the class of ordinary angels, is plainly indicated by what we read of Him in Gen. 16:10, “And the angel of the Lord said unto her (that is, unto Hagar), I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” Ordinary angels, certainly, being created beings, have not the power to multiply seed. Of this working God alone is capable. Now in the passage just cited, this working is ascribed to the angel of the Lord. This angel, therefore, is, must be, as to his subject or person, God. There are several passages contained in the Old Testament Bible setting forth an identical teaching,—passages in which this angel appears as being one with God in power and in name, blessing, salvation, adoration, and honor. “And he (Israel) blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads (Gen. 48:15, 16). . . . And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him (Moses) in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush: . . . .And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush. . . . Moreover He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . . . And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians. . . . (Ex. 3:3-8). And he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Savior. In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bear them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9, 10).
But there are also passages that form a record of God’s sharply distinguishing between Himself, the triune Jehovah, and the Angel. Such a passage is Ex. 23:20-23, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.”
But if the subject of the Angel is God, and it is this, as has just been proven, how can the triune Jehovah distinguish himself from this Angel? There is but one possible explanation of this. The person of this Angel is the only-begotten Son of God, of one and the same essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and at once ordained to save God’s people from their sins. So, though the Angel is God, He is to be distinguished not from the Father and the Spirit but from the triune
Jehovah. For the distinction to be made here is not between the Son on the one hand and the Father and the Spirit on the other, but between the Son in His office of Mediator and as subject of the Angel, of the human nature to be assumed in the fullness of time on the one hand and the Son as the second person of the blessed trinity on the other; thus between the Son as Mediator and the triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God and Father of the Angel, of Christ.
Herewith the question, who is the Angel of the Lord, has been answered. This Angel is the Mediator; He is Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He is rightly presented in Scripture as being one with God in name and power and honor, as He, being of one and the same essence with the Father and the Spirit, is God. But it is also right to distinguish Him from God, as He is Mediator and as such the subject of an assumed human nature. Thus on the part of this Angel, the distinction concerns, rightly considered, solely this nature. Only because Christ is also man, the Word incarnate, can and may He be distinguished from God.
Now even before His incarnation in the fullness of time, the Son of God in His capacity of Mediator, was assuming especially in the epoch that commenced with the calling of Abraham and ended with the conquest of Canaan, an earthy appearance. This appearance varied with time. To Abraham during his residence in the plains of Mamre, He appeared in the form of a man of flesh and blood. The record of this appearance is contained in the 13th chapter of the book of Genesis. That being or person whom Abraham addresses as Lord, and whom he beseeches not to pass away from him and for whom he orders a little water to be fetched that He might wash His feet and whom he fetches a morsel of bread,—this person was the Son of God, the Christ, the Word, that, in a sense, had for the moment become flesh. The other material and visible forms with which the Son of God as Mediator associated His person and through or out of which he spoke to His servants, are the burning bush, the fire and smoke of the holy mount, the pillar of cloud, and the tabernacle of Moses. However, Christ’s association with these material forms and things did not of course spell for Him true and real incarnation. These things and forms, as associated temporarily with Him, were but a shadow of the true incarnation.
Now it is only in the light of the above delineations, that certain passages in the book of Exodus take on meaning for us. Passages they are that have proved perplexing to many a Bible student. The Lord’s saying to Moses and the people of Israel, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared,” caused them to look forward to the appearance in subsequent chapters of some heavenly being or creature not before seen to bring the people of Israel into the promised land of their abode, and to speak to it the word of God. But as no such being appears and as the Sacred writer continues to use the name Jehovah to designate Him with whom the revelations communicated to Moses originate, the passage in question has occasioned no little difficulty. Yet needlessly so. This Angel as to His person is the Son of God in His office of Mediator. And He has already come. And the earthy, visible form by which He has already made His presence known is that same cloud by which the people of Israel will be led during the rest of the time of their wanderings and from out of which the Son of God will speak to Moses the Word of the triune Jehovah. That the subject of this Angel is the Son of God and is thus the same subject that spoke to Moses from out of the burning bush, is proven by the circumstance that also this Angel is one with God in power and honor. He will bring Israel to Canaan. The people are cautioned to beware of Him, as He will not pardon their transgressions, that is, being holy and righteous God, He will not condone and excuse sin in the ungodly but He will of course pardon such as truly repent and forsake their sins (33:21). Lastly, God’s name is in Him (33:22). That the sacred writer speaks of the works the Angel is to perform (He is to bring the people of Israel into the place which God has prepared) and the words He is to speak as being at once the works and words of the triune Jehovah, is because Jehovah speaks and works in and through Him. Though He already has made His appearance on the stage of Israel’s history, the Angel is now for the first time formally introduced. The reason is that whereas, through the ratification of the covenant Israel is now about to be constituted a royal priesthood, an holy nation, that as so constituted, it may hear and obey God, press on to Canaan and war God’s warfare, there is now need of a captain of salvation, qualified to speak unto the people the word of God and to give it the victory over the adversary. Whereas the Angel is this captain, the Lord tells His people to look to Him (the Angel) as the one to teach, keep, and lead it. For Jehovah this will not, to be sure, spell the commencement of a period of inactivity. Jehovah, too, will keep His people in the way and lead it, not apart from but through the Angel. For the task is one. And Jehovah and the Angel are one. This being true, the act of communicating the revelations of God to Moses and the work of leading the people of Israel to Canaan is now ascribed to the Angel and then again to Jehovah.
Let us now turn to 33:1-3, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham. . . . And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite. . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.”
The angel of which mention is here made is again the Son of God in His office of Mediator. The meaning of this notice cannot be that this Angel is to take the place of Jehovah as leader of Israel. Nor must it be supposed that the Lord here threatens to separate himself from the Angel and the people of Israel that they may go their way alone without Him, the triune Jehovah. The key to the correct interpretation of this passage is the clause, “For thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.” The people through their worshipping the golden calf, have revealed themselves as stiffnecked. So he, the triune God, cannot go up in the midst of them apart from the Angel, Who is Christ, thus by Himself, solely in His capacity of triune God. We are to distinguish here between God as such or by Himself and God in His capacity of God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. God by Himself, being the Holy One, can only find it in Himself to destroy this people; for it is stiffnecked. But as the Father of Christ, He will send His Angel before them and will go up in their midst as Christ’s God, thus as the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But the godless among them, the unrepentant, thus the carnal, reprobated seed, need take no comfort from this, as He will by no means clear, that is, condone sin, but visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. . . . of them that hate Him. So was God training His people, in connection with their great sin, to distinguish between Himself and His Angel, and to contemplate their salvation as somehow bound up with this Angel.
That the passage under consideration is thus to be explained, is evident from the Lord’s reply to Moses petition, “. . . .consider that this nation is thy people” (33:13). The Lord in responding, does not say, “I have heard thee. So, instead of sending an angel before thee, I, myself, will go up in the midst of thee,” but he says, “My presence (face in the original) shall go with thee. . . .” Now the face of Jehovah is identical with the Angel, as is evident from Isa. 54:9, where He is called “the angel of His face.” Now if the Angel is to be identified with God’s face or presence, it cannot be that the statement to the effect, “I will send an angel before thee. . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee” is to be explained to mean, “I will send an angel in My stead to go up in the midst of thee.”
Now this cloud, the Angel of the Lord, as to His person, Christ, the Son of God in His office of Mediator, took up His abode in the tabernacle. The cloud that hovered above the mercy-seat of the ark of the covenant that stood in the holiest place, was this Angel, the Christ. This visible, material cloud, together with Moses’ tabernacle formed in that epoch Christ’s earthy appearance. What a remarkable type, was this tabernacle, of the Christ, of the incarnate Son of God, of the indwelling of God in Christ and of Christ in His body. The tabernacle, on account of the indwelling of Christ, and of God, in it, was, as it were, a thing alive. From out of it came a voice, the voice of Christ and of God speaking through Him His word to His people. And if we now, as we should, associate with this tabernacle the typical priest with the sacrifice by blood, then this structure stands out in our minds as the perfect prefiguration of Christ in His office of prophet, priest, and king.