Introduction to the Study of the Tabernacle

Submitted by E.R. Higgins

What is a TYPE? It is a divinely appointed illustration of some scriptural truth. The word is used 16 times in the New Testament. It is translated:

  • “print” – John 20:25
  • “figure” – Acts 7:43; Romans 5:14
  • “pattern” – Titus 2:7; Hebrews 8:5
  • “fashion” – Acts 7:44
  • “example” – 1 Cor 10:6, 11; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:7; 2 Thess 3:9; 1 Tim 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3

The original significance of the word is the effect of a blow, an impression or stamp, a mark, pattern, form, or mould.

A type always prefigures some future reality called the antitype and the two are connected in the following ways:

  1. There must be some notable, real point of resemblance (as well as possible differences).
  2. The type must be designed by divine appointment to bear a likeness to the antitype. In other words, there must be some scriptural evidence that it was so designed by God.
  3. A type will have its own place and meaning independent of that which it prefigures.

A type may be a person (e.g. Isaac, Gal 4:28), an event (e.g. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt’s bondage, 1Cor 10:11), a thing (e.g. Brazen serpent John 3:24), or a ritual (e.g. the Passover, 1 Cor 5:7).

A type must never be used to teach a doctrine, but only to illustrate a doctrine elsewhere taught, as in John 3:14, “And As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”.

Reasons for Studying the Tabernacle as a Type

  1. God places value on it by the space devoted to it in the Scriptures and the repetition.
  2. The references to it in the New Testament by our Lord Jesus and in the writings of the apostles.
  3. It prefigures our Lord Jesus and also His Church.
  4. It brings enlightenment and understanding to certain New Testament passages, (e.g. parts of the Epistle to the Hebrews).
  5. It presents valuable practical lessons for the believer.
  6. It provides many good illustrations of gospel truths.

The Preliminaries

I) The PURPOSE of the Tabernacle

“That I may dwell among them” Ex 25:8

The Tabernacle was God’s first dwelling-place on earth. He walked in the company of Adam in Eden. He visited Abraham at Mamre but He had no dwelling-place there. At the completion of the Tabernacle, He came down to dwell with His redeemed people, and from then on He will have a dwelling-place on earth. After the Tabernacle, God dwelt in the Temple in the land (2 Chron 6:3-6). Then the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14), when the Son of God came to earth to dwell among men. In this dispensation, each scripturally gathered assembly is the dwelling-place of God, (Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:15). In a day yet to come “the Tabernacle of God” will be with men and “He will dwell with them and they shall be His people” (Revelation 21:3).

II) The PATTERN of the Tabernacle

“The pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Ex 25:8; Heb 8:5).

The word “pattern” means model or fashion, something visible (Ex 25:9) as well as verbal directions. No less than seven times in Scripture we are informed that Moses was to make it after the pattern – nothing was left to man’s wisdom. The reality is in heaven – Christ ( Hebrews 8:2; Colossians 2:17). The tabernacle is an earthly shadow of a heavenly substance.

III) The PLAN of the Tabernacle

The outer court of the tabernacle measured 100 cubits by 50 cubits. It contained the brazen altar and the laver. The holy place contained the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the golden altar. The holy of holies contained the ark of the covenant.

Two different words are used for “Tabernacle.” One is translated “Tabernacle” and means “the dwelling-place of God” (Ex 25:8). The other is translated “Tabernacle of the congregation” but means Tent of Meeting (Ex 25:22; 29:42). The idea here is the place where the people could meet with God.

Other names for the Tabernacle:

  • Sanctuary – a place of separation and holiness (Ex 25:8).
  • Tabernacle of Testimony – a place of witness (Numbers 1:50).
  • Jehovah’s Pavilion – a place of safety (Psa 27:5).
  • Where the Lord dwells between the Cherubim – a place of authority (Psa 80:1).
  • House of the Lord – a place of fellowship (Psa 27:4).

IV) The PROVISION for the Tabernacle – (Ex 25:1-8; 35:20-29)

A) The Proclamation: God’s command to His people. “Take from among you an offering” (Ex 35:5).

B) The People: Those who obeyed the command. The willing hearted (Ex 35:5, 22), and the wholehearted, “whose heart stirred them up” (Ex 35:21, 26).

C) The Procession:

  1. “And they came” (Ex 35:21, 22)
  2. “And they brought” (Ex 35:21)
  3. “And they wrought” (Ex 39:6; 36:1)
  4. Until they were restrained from bringing (Ex 36:6)

D) The Power: Special endowment was given to selected men to use and fashion the materials which were brought to conform to God’s instructions (Ex 31:2, 6).

  • Bezaleel – from the tribe of Judah – the First tribe in order (Num 10:14).
  • Aholiab – from the tribe of Dan – the Last tribe in order (Num 10:25).

E) The Presents: The kinds of materials which were brought to the Lord (Ex 35:20-29).

  1. Gold (v22) The word “offering” in this verse is actually “wave offering.”
  2. Silver and Brass (v24) The word “offering” in this verse is actually “heave offering.”
  3. Blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams and badgers’ skins (v23).
  4. Acacia (“shittim”) wood (v24).
  5. Precious stones (v27).

Note: The “wave offering” was waved before Jehovah for His scrutiny and pleasure. The “heave offering” was lifted up to Jehovah in separation for His possession.

V) The PROPHECY of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle had a two-fold message:

  1. It shows us God’s desire to approach mankind (John 1:14).
  2. It shows us that a way is possible and can be provided for sinful man to approach a holy God (John 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5).