THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: FIVE (EXCERPT OF THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION)
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Five” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries
The Three Lights
Table of Contents
The Setting up of the Tabernacle
Anointing the Tabernacle with Oil
The Lord’s Fire Consumes Our Offering
The Morning and Evening Sacrifice
Following the Glory of the Lord
The Work of the Priests and Levites
Israel on the March
History of the Tabernacle of the Congregation
History of the Ark of the Covenant
The Three Lights
There were three basic areas of the Tabernacle of the Congregation: (1) the Courtyard area; (2) the Holy Place; and (3) the Holy of Holies.
One important way in which these three areas differed from one another was in the manner in which they were lighted. The Courtyard was lighted by the sun. The Holy Place was lighted (at night) by the Lampstand. The Holy of Holies was lighted by the Glory of God.
When we first come to Christ and accept the redemption made for us on the cross, we do so in the light of day, as it were. Christ was crucified in plain view of the world; not in a church building but outside in the daylight for all people to see. However, when we enter the mysteries of the Body of Christ we pass from sunlight to the supernatural ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit—to the light of the Lampstand, to speak symbolically.
As the disciple presses into Christ each day he learns more and more to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit and leans less and less on his own understanding.
During the Kingdom Age we will pass from the light of the ministries and gifts of the Spirit to the light of Christ Himself. Christ always walks in the fullness of the Glory of God, not in ministries and gifts. Paul explains this transition in I Corinthians, Chapter 13 when he indicates that the gifts of the Spirit are temporary, incomplete in the ability to reveal God, and are not a sign of maturity. Rather, they bring us to what is perfect, which is the fullness of the Glory of God in us.
The Lampstand was lighted at night. This tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the “evening” of the Day of the Lord, which is the two-thousand year Church Age. During this period we see through a glass dimly. When we come to the “third day,” the Kingdom Age, we shall be in the “morning” of the Day of the Lord. Then the gifts, the flashes of light from the darkness, no longer will be needed. We shall have that which is perfect.
We notice the transition from the partial ministry, in the following verse:
And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. (Luke 13:32)
During “to day and to morrow,” the two “days” of the Church Age, we experience the casting out of devils and the curing of illnesses. These are works of partial redemption. But during the “third day,” the Kingdom Age, the Body of the Lord will be brought to perfection. The emphasis of the third day (and it is beginning already) will be the perfecting of the Bride of the Lamb in preparation for receiving the fullness of the Bridegroom.
However, this is not to discredit the need we all have for ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is our opinion that one of the greatest needs of the Body of Christ in the present hour is the restoration of all the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit; for it is through the ministries and gifts that we all shall come to maturity as measured by the fullness of Christ.
It is good, however, to keep our eyes fastened on the goal, which is the fullness of God’s Glory through the Lord Jesus Christ. The fullness will come to us when the Lord Jesus returns from Heaven to the earth, bringing with Him our eternal houses.
The Setting Up of the Tabernacle
In the fortieth chapter of Exodus we read of the setting up of the “tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.” The Tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month of the second year of the forty years in the wilderness.
And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars. And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark: And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail. And he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord; as the Lord had commanded Moses. And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward. And he lighted the lamps before the Lord; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail: And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle. And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal. And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat: When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses. And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. (Exodus 40:18-33)
All things were done “as the Lord commanded Moses.” Moses was very careful to do exactly as God had commanded—no more and no less. He was obedient to the Lord.
Numbers 4:16 states that Eleazar, the son of Aaron, had considerable responsibility in the work of the Tabernacle:
And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.
Anointing the Tabernacle with Oil
All the parts of the Tabernacle had to be anointed with the holy anointing oil, just as it is true today that every person and activity of the Christian Church must have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, nothing of eternal value is accomplished in the Kingdom of God.
And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, 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 with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. (Exodus 30:25-30)
The Lord’s Fire Consumes Our Offering
At the first consecration of the priests, Aaron and his four sons, the fire of God consumed the burnt offering:
And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:24)
If we hold up our body as a whole burnt offering on the bronze altar of our soul, in due time the Lord will pass by and accept our offering. We have need of patience when presenting ourselves to the Lord. Sometimes the Lord waits to see what we are going to do. If we hold steady and keep on presenting our life to Him, in His time and in His manner He will accept our offering. He will consume our sacrifice in the fire of His holiness and love.
The Morning and Evening Sacrifice
Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering. And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. (Exodus 29:38-43)
There were several ceremonies that the priests were commanded to observe twice daily, at sunrise and at sundown. First, as we have seen, there were the morning and evening lambs—burnt offerings to the Lord. Then a drink offering of strong wine was poured out in the Holy Place, by the Table of Showbread, on each occasion of the offering of the morning and evening lambs.
And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the Lord for a drink offering. (Numbers 28:7)
The Altar of Incense was replenished twice each day, at the time the seven lamps were refilled and the wicks were trimmed.
And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:7,8)
The high priest had four major responsibilities to be performed twice each day, including the Sabbath day: (1) the morning and evening lambs; (2) the drink offerings; (3) filling and trimming the wicks of the Lampstand in the morning and lighting the lamps in the evening; and (4) replenishing the Altar of Incense.
What a picture of Christ was portrayed twice each day! First the lamb was offered as a burnt offering, a sweet savor unto God—the perfect offering of Christ. Next, the blood of Christ was shed, in type, in the pouring out of the drink offering adjacent to the twelve loaves of showbread—the showbread being the type of the broken Body of Christ.
The seven lamps were trimmed and filled, and then lighted in the evening showing, in type, that the revelation of Christ through the Holy Spirit in ministries and gifts is to be kept blazing through the Christian Church during the dark night of the Church Age. The ministries and gifts are expressions in the earth of the resurrected and ascended Christ.
Finally, the holy incense was burned on the coals, bringing up before God the sweet smell of His beloved Son, the Perfect One, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. This aroma comes from the unceasing prayers of those who are dying to their self-will and are worshiping God in faith and obedience.
Following the Glory of the Lord
The Tabernacle of the Congregation was the Glory of God to the Israelites, just as Christ is the Glory of God to us. They were to stop with the Tabernacle and move with the Tabernacle, just as we are to follow Christ through the Holy Spirit each day, stopping when He stops and moving when He moves.
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:34-38)
The cloud over the Israelites would shade them from the burning heat of the desert sun. So it is that we are protected when we are following the Lord closely.
Also, clouds are associated with rain, for clouds actually are water vapor. Water is life when one is in the wilderness of Sinai. Following the cloud is symbolic of following the protection and blessing of Christ. But there come times when it is not as apparent that we are experiencing the blessings of the Lord. During such periods we are to follow the fire.
We follow the fire at night, that is, when we cannot see the way we are going. To follow the Lord’s fire at night means to adhere to His Word in the Scriptures during seasons of fiery trial. All of us must experience the refreshing blessing of the Spirit, and all of us must experience the fire of God’s judgment on our behavior, if we are to be healthy, strong Christians.
The Work of the Priests and Levites
The high (anointed) priest, the common priests, and the Levites performed the work and service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Jacob, the son of Isaac, had twelve sons, one of whom was Levi. Levi had three sons—Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
The oldest son of Kohath was Amram. Amram had two sons, Aaron and Moses. All the priests of Israel, without exception, were descendants of Aaron. It was the Aaronic priesthood. So we see that the priests were a special branch of Levi through Kohath. The priests were of great importance to the service of God, so we will discuss them first. Then we will mention the Levites.
The main task of the priests was to perform the animal sacrifices that made an atonement for Israel; also to minister at the Altar of Incense, at the Lampstand, and at the Table of Showbread. The priests waited on the Altar of Burnt Offering, performing the ordinances associated with the burnt offerings, the meal offerings, the peace offerings, the sin offerings, and the trespass offerings.
Although the Levites were appointed to assist them, it was the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who were to minister before the Lord in the making of an atonement through the slain animals and in the golden furnishings of the Holy Place.
The Altar of Burnt Offering was placed in front of the door of the Tabernacle building, the location also of the Laver. There the blood ran continually as the Israelites made peace with God through the ordinances of sacrifice God had ordained through Moses, and that the priests administered.
The priests carried the ashes from the Altar of Burnt Offering. They pronounced judgments concerning leprosy. They ate of the sacrifices of Israel. They taught the Law to the people. The priests officiated in the rites of purification. It was the responsibility of the priests to minister in the Holy Place.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest went inside the Holy of Holies, having the golden censer and the holy incense. He threw the incense on the coals of fire in the censer. A cloud of incense filled the Holy of Holies. The high priest then sprinkled the blood of a young bull and of a goat on the Mercy Seat and in front of the Mercy Seat.
The high priest had charge of the Altar of Incense that was located in the Holy Place in direct line with the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark being on the other side of the Veil. The incense was to be kept burning day and night just as the prayers of God’s saints are to ascend to Him continually. The high priest bore on himself the sins of Israel and their needs before the Lord. On the Day of Atonement he confessed the sins of Israel and placed them on the head of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21).
In the fourth chapter of Numbers we find the furnishings of the Tabernacle had to be wrapped carefully by the high priest and the other priests before the Kohathite Levites were allowed to approach the holy vessels and pick up the carrying poles inserted in the receptacles of the vessels.
Aaron and his sons were chosen by the Lord to minister before Him, and their priesthood lasted until Christ, the Lamb of God, was offered for the sin of the world. A careful study of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers will give the student an understanding of the Aaronic priesthood. A modern translation is useful in this kind of study.
The Levites were given to the priests as helpers, and the priests directed their activities. The Levites assisted in the multitude of duties associated with the Altar of Burnt Offering; but they were not allowed into the sanctuary, the Holy Place, under penalty of death.
As you can imagine, with two or three million people engaged in offering animal sacrifices for their sins, the Altar of Burnt Offering was a center of activity. The priests and Levites were busily engaged, attempting to keep up with the needs of the Israelites who were waiting their turn within the Courtyard.
One of the main tasks of the Levites was setting up, taking down and transporting the Tabernacle. The sons of Gershon had charge of the curtains, the coverings, the linen of the fence, the gate of the Courtyard, the door of the Tabernacle, and the necessary cords. They carried these parts in two wagons when Israel was on the march.
The sons of Kohath were in charge of the seven furnishings of the Tabernacle: the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Laver, the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy Seat. They carried these on their shoulders by means of carrying poles.
The sons of Merari were responsible for the hardware of the Tabernacle—the great boards, the bars, the posts (or pillars as they were called), the silver sockets, the bronze sockets and pins, and the cords that accompanied the hardware. These were transported in four wagons.
To give some idea of this mass of material, just think about the fact that one of the acacia boards, of the forty-eight boards that made up the Tabernacle building, was fifteen feet tall, twenty-seven inches wide, and perhaps four or five inches thick. The silver used in the sockets is estimated at six tons.
God is particular about who does what in His Kingdom, and He made abundant provision for the care of the Tabernacle. There were 7,500 Gershonite Levites to take care of the coverings, curtain, and hangings; 6,200 Merarite Levites in charge of the boards, pillars and other hardware; and 8,600 Kohathite Levites to attend to the seven holy vessels.
Israel on the March
It must have been thrilling to see Israel on the move after the tribes left the Sinai area and started toward Kadesh Barnea. At the forefront went the great Divine cloud by day and the blazing pillar of fire by night. Following the Lord came Judah, then Issachar, then Zebulun.
Following the tribe of Zebulun were the Gershonite Levites with two wagons carrying the skins and cloths that composed the coverings, curtains, hangings, the gate of the Courtyard, the door of the Tabernacle, and the cords that went with these materials.
Following the Gershonite Levites were the Merarite Levites with four wagons full of the hardware of the Tabernacle, the boards, bars, silver sockets, wooden pillars, bronze pins, and the cords that held up the pillars of the Court.
Following the four wagons of the Merarites were the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. Next came the Kohathite Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat lid, and the remaining five holy furnishings of the Tabernacle. These were not to be put in wagons but carried on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites.
Following the holy furnishings were the rearguard tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher and Naphtali.
The sounds and sights of the procession, as the priests blew the silver trumpets and the mighty army of God took up its march—mighty because Almighty God was in their midst—truly must have been one of the greatest sights ever witnessed in the history of man on the earth. The more so because of the contrasting appearance of the desolate countryside through which they were marching.
It is possible that there will never be seen the like again until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth at the head of His army (they being clothed in the pure white linen that is the righteous behavior of the saints), having the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
History of the Tabernacle of the Congregation
The Tabernacle of the Congregation was set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the wilderness wanderings (Exodus 40:17). God had directed that the history of His people should begin with the first Passover (Exodus 12:2). Some believe the work on the Tabernacle was begun six months after the exodus from Egypt and that it required six months for its completion. Thus it was set up at the beginning of the second year.
At the time of the consecration of the priests, the fire of God came forth in the Tabernacle area and consumed the offering on the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering (Leviticus 9:24). The fire of the Altar of Burnt Offering and the perfume arising from the Altar of Incense were maintained day and night. In addition, there always were twelve loaves on the Table of Showbread—even on the march.
It appears, although scholars differ somewhat, that the Tabernacle was set up about 1445 B.C. and was incorporated in Solomon’s Temple around 959 B.C. So the Tabernacle of the Congregation was in existence nearly 500 years.
In fact, I Kings 6:1 informs us that it was four hundred eighty years from the first Passover until the time when Solomon began building the Temple. Since the Temple was seven years in building, and dedicated eleven months after the structure was completed, it seems a little more than four hundred eighty years transpired from the time the Glory of God first filled the Tabernacle of the Congregation, as described in Exodus, Chapter 40 until the Ark and the remainder of the Tabernacle were placed in the Temple of Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple (I Kings, Chapter Eight).
What happened to the Tabernacle of the Congregation during those four hundred eighty years? After the Tabernacle was erected Israel traveled north to Kadesh-Barnea where the spies were sent out (Numbers, Chapter 13). Because of the unbelief of these scouts, and of the people to whom they reported, Israel was condemned to turn back into the wilderness until forty years of wanderings were fulfilled.
For thirty-eight years Israel journeyed from one camp to the next, in the wilderness region between Kadesh-Barnea and Elath. The Tabernacle was set up, taken down, carried, and set back up as Israel went from place to place.
When the time came to cross the Jordan River into the land of promise, the Ark of the Covenant became prominent in the crossing and in the battle of Jericho. But the Tabernacle itself is not mentioned very much in the account of Joshua. However, you might want to study the following Scripture references: Joshua 6:24; 9:23; 18:1; 19:51; 22:19,29; and 24:26. It appears that Joshua had a camp at Gilgal (Joshua 9:6; 10:43), and it is possible that the Tabernacle was maintained for a while at that camp. However, the main location of the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, although it may have had a temporary location at Shechem (Joshua 24:1-26).
Joshua 18:1 is especially informative because we find the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh where it remained for more than three hundred years. In fact, the Tabernacle was still at Shiloh when the Ark was removed from the Most Holy Place by Hophni and Phinehas and then captured by the Philistines (I Samuel, Chapter Four).
Shiloh, which means rest, was a city a little more than twenty miles north of Jerusalem, twelve miles north of Bethel, and ten miles south of Shechem. Shiloh was a central location for the tribes of Israel.
Joshua 19:51 indicates that the land of promise was divided among the tribes by means of Joshua and the elders casting lots at the door of the Tabernacle. In the Book of Judges, the Tabernacle was located at Shiloh and was referred to as the “house of God” (Judges 18:31; 19:18; 20:18; 21:2; for example).
We come now to the birth of Samuel, about 1105 B.C. In the first three chapters of I Samuel we find the story of the boy, Samuel, who used to sleep in one of the tents outside the Tabernacle building near the high priest, Eli.
One night, just before dawn, Samuel heard the voice of the Lord. By this time the Tabernacle was called the “Temple,” not to be confused with Solomon’s Temple, which came about one hundred thirty-five years later. Also, it appears that doors had been put on the Tabernacle building in place of the hanging that God had commanded Moses.
We note in many places in the Scripture that the Israelites changed the specific directions that God gave Moses, perhaps to adjust to “practical requirements.” So it has been true that throughout the two thousand years of the history of the Christian Church there have been many adjustments because of “practical considerations.”
It is the opinion of this author that if we would wait on the Lord and do exactly what He says, without attempting to be “creative,” we would take a huge step forward in the Kingdom of God.
About 1075 B.C. the Ark of the Covenant was removed from the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, as described in I Samuel, Chapter Four, and it was never returned as long as the Tabernacle was in existence—another hundred years or so.
When David was fleeing from Saul, about 1020 B.C., the Tabernacle was located at Nob (I Samuel 21:1). Nob was a small town in the vicinity of Jerusalem. From there the Tabernacle was removed to the idolatrous “high place at Gibeon,” its last stop before being placed in the Temple of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (about 959 B.C.).
As we said, the Ark of the Covenant had been removed from the Most Holy Place around 1075 B.C., as described in I Samuel, Chapter Four. The Ark was taken to Ashdod and Ekron, two cities of the Philistines, and then started on its journey back through Israel, going from Bethshemesh to Kirjath-Jearim, a short trip to Gibeah, then back to Kirjath-Jearim to the house of Obed-Edom.
It was then brought by King David to his city, Zion, a suburb of the larger city of Jerusalem. The Ark arrived in Zion about 1000 B.C. Therefore, the Ark was taking this circuitous journey from the Tabernacle at Shiloh back to Zion over a period of seventy-five years or so. Remember, these dates and times are approximate.
From around 1075 B.C. until it was folded up and incorporated in the Temple of Solomon (about 959 B.C.), the Tabernacle of the Congregation was without its most important furnishing—the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat (Atonement cover). The remaining five sacred furnishings, the Altar of Incense, Lampstand, Table of Showbread, Laver, and Altar of Burnt Offering, were still in the Tabernacle. But the moral law had departed along with the Ark.
To add to the confusion, the Tabernacle was set up at the great high place at Gibeon, a center of idolatrous heathen worship. The native tribes of Canaan practiced the worship of demons on top of hills.
Gibeon, it may be recalled, was the tribe that outwitted Joshua and saved their lives. As God had warned, the idol-worshiping Gibeonites proved to be a snare to Israel, and the Tabernacle of the Congregation was erected at the abominable high place at Gibeon.
And Zadok the priest, and his brothers the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon, To offer burnt offerings unto the Lord upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the Lord, which he commanded Israel; (I Chronicles 16:39,40)
While the Tabernacle remained at Gibeon, David brought trouble on himself and Israel by numbering the people. As an outcome of this sin and its consequences, the Lord directed David to set up an altar for offering on the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, on Mount Moriah.
This was a very unusual command, because the Lord had stated previously that offerings were to be made only at the Altar of Burnt Offering at the door of the Tabernacle, this being one of the strictest of the Levitical injunctions. In obedience to the Lord, and contrary to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings at the new site (I Chronicles 21:26). God answered David by fire on this altar.
At that time when David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. (I Chronicles 21:28)
Then David said, This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. (I Chronicles 22:1)
David knew now for certain that God was indicating to him that the Temple of God was to be built on the site of the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. The Temple was not to be established at Zion, where the Ark was, nor at Gibeon, where the rest of the Tabernacle was, but at the new location.
The change in site typifies that at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age (the Kingdom Age being symbolized by David’s Tabernacle at Zion) God will create a new heaven and a new earth. All the ministries and operations of the Spirit in the Church and in the world by that time shall have brought forth the end God has in mind. The Church will be in a state of total reconciliation to God, and God and the Lamb will be dwelling in the Church in perfect love and harmony of being.
In that day there will be no more temporary tabernacles. The entire Christian Church will be the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb—the spiritual fulfillment of the Temple of Solomon. The Throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it forever.
We find just before David’s death he gave specific instructions for the offices of the priests and Levites, in preparation for the building of the Temple (I Chronicles 23-26). David’s charge concerning the building of the Temple of God is found in I Chronicles, Chapters 28 and 29.
Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering at the high place at Gibeon (I Kings 3:4), and the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream. Solomon then went to Jerusalem, to the place of the Ark of the Covenant in the city of Zion, and stood before the Ark of the Covenant and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, followed by a feast for his servants.
There was some kind of altar of sacrifice at the site of the Ark in Zion.
So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God. (I Chronicles 16:1)
We can see that by this time, with the Ark at Zion, the remainder of the Tabernacle at Gibeon, and the newly-designated site of the Temple at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, the Divine commandment concerning the Tabernacle of the Congregation was being withdrawn in order for the Presence of God to be associated with the coming Temple.
Solomon now undertook to build the Temple of God, and it was seven years in the process of building. Eleven months after it was completed the Temple of Solomon was dedicated with great ceremony. Part of the ceremony was the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant from Zion, and the remainder of the Tabernacle from the high place at Gibeon, and the incorporating of them in the new Temple.
This event marks the formal conclusion of God’s use of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark. And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up. Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims: For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. (II Chronicles 5:2-10)
It is sad to think of the coming to an end of the glorious history of almost five hundred years of service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation to the children of Israel. Yet it was not an end, for the elements of the Tabernacle found their permanent rest in the Temple of Solomon.
The swallowing up of the Tabernacle of the Congregation by the Temple of Solomon is typical of our own mortal body being swallowed up by our house of resurrection life, which will descend on us from Heaven at the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the kingdom-wide interpretation of the Tabernacle, the incorporating of the parts of the Tabernacle in the Temple of Solomon typifies the gathering together of all the members of the Body of Christ in the holy city, the new Jerusalem.
We are sad to leave, speaking figuratively, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, the Ark of the Covenant—all the parts that have been so precious to us as we have plodded our way through the wilderness of this life, learning our lessons from God, gaining victories over all obstacles through His strength and wisdom.
But then we rejoice, because none of these has been lost to us. They have been brought to an eternal glorified state in the new Jerusalem, the holy city, where we shall reign with God and see His glorious Face forever.
Speaking of the Tabernacle of David, that is, of the tent David pitched for the Ark in his city of Zion while the rest of the Tabernacle remained at the idolatrous high place at Gibeon, James comments:
After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. (Acts 15:16,17)
James was quoting from Amos 9:11,12. When we study Amos 9:11-15 we notice that this passage refers to the glories of the Kingdom Age that are yet ahead of us. No doubt we are in the days when the Ark is at the house of Obed-Edom, to speak symbolically, and our heavenly King David, the Lord Jesus Christ, is even now preparing to set up the Ark in the heavenly Mount Zion. Then the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever (Revelation 11:15-19).
History of the Ark of the Covenant
The history of the Ark of the Covenant was closely identified with that of the entire Tabernacle of the Congregation until the fateful day when the two wicked sons of Eli, the high priest, removed the Ark of the Covenant from the Most Holy Place (I Samuel, Chapter Four).
The Ark of the Covenant was established in the Most Holy Place when the Tabernacle was first erected (Exodus 40:21). When Israel went on the march toward Kadesh-Barnea, after receiving the Law on Mount Sinai and setting up the Tabernacle, the Ark was wrapped in the Veil and carried on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites in the center of the line of march (Numbers 10:21).
On one occasion the Lord evidently directed Moses to put the Ark at the head of the line of march, to “seek out a resting place” for Israel (Numbers 10:33). The cloud hovered over them while the Ark led the way. It must have been a great blessing to have the cloud of the Lord’s Presence over them because the sun burns with terrible heat in that wilderness area.
Israel wandered for thirty-eight years in the desert between Kadesh-Barnea and Elath. No doubt the Levites had plenty of practice setting up the Tabernacle and taking it down.
The next time we see the Ark out of its customary position, in the center of the marching order, is at the end of the wilderness wandering when Israel was getting ready to cross over Jordan into the land of promise. In the third chapter of Joshua we read that the Kohathite Levites stood in the Jordan River, and God held back the Jordan until the children of Israel passed over.
The Ark was prominent in the assault on Jericho (Joshua, Chapter Six). The Ark at the battle of Jericho represented the Presence of the Lord of Hosts as the Israelites fought their way into this, the first of the cities of the land of promise (see Joshua 8:33).
The Ark contained the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone (the testimony; the covenant). It was the holy Law that was coming against the ungodly lusts and worship of demons that prevailed among the Amorites, the Philistines, the Jebusites, and the other tribes who lived in Canaan.
The Ark of the Covenant remained in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation while the Tabernacle was located in Shiloh, until the days of Samuel. During a battle with the Philistines the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, brought the Ark to the Israelite camp at Ebenezer at the request of the elders. The Philistines captured the Ark and brought it to Ashdod, one of their own cities, and then moved it to Ekron.
When the Philistines had their fill of the plagues the Lord sent on them because of the Ark, they sent the Ark back to Israel. The Ark came first to the Israelite village of Bethshemesh, where the Lord slew many people for looking into the Ark. Then the Ark was brought to the house of Abinidab at Kirjath-Jearim. After a side trip to Gibeah it was returned to Kirjath-Jearim and remained there until David went after it (II Samuel 6:2).
The Ark had been at Kirjath-Jearim for fifty years or more at the house of Abinidab. Abinidab’s two sons, Uzzah and Ahio, drove a new cart with the Ark in it toward Jerusalem. Uzzah reached forth his hand and took hold of the Ark because the oxen were restive. Uzzah died there by the Ark, struck down by the hand of the Lord.
The Ark was then brought to the house of Obed-Edom. After three months David went after it again, this time having it carried on the shoulders of the Levites as the Lord had commanded Moses. In this manner the Ark was brought safely to the tent David had pitched for it in Zion, David’s fortress city within the area of Jerusalem. The remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation was by now at the high place at Gibeon.
From the time Hophni and Phinehas removed the Ark from the Tabernacle during the battle with the Philistines at Ebenezer, until the Ark and the Tabernacle were placed within the Temple of Solomon, the Tabernacle was without its Glory. The Presence of the Lord had departed from the Most Holy Place.
The Veil still partitioned off the cubical room ten cubits on a side, but the room was empty. There was nothing to sprinkle the blood on during the Day of Atonement. The walls and ceiling were still there but the authority and power had departed from the Most Holy Place. There was a form of godliness but no power. The rituals were still observed, but the Glory of God, the Ark of His Covenant, in particular the Ten Commandments, was gone.
The Ark never returned to the Tabernacle. David kept the Ark at Zion all through his reign, setting up the ministry of Levites to minister before the Ark (I Chronicles 16:4). There were praisers, singers, porters and musicians. David also assigned priests, musicians and porters to minister at the Tabernacle of the Congregation at Gibeon (I Chronicles 16:40), for the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering was located there.
The Ark of the Covenant remained in the Tabernacle of David in Zion until the Temple of Solomon was completed. Then, at the dedication ceremonies of the Temple, the Ark was placed within the Most Holy Place in the Temple of Solomon. This occurred about 959 B.C., as we have stated previously.
A little over three hundred fifty years later, when King Jehoiachin surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar II, all the vessels of gold in the Temple of Solomon were cut in pieces (II Kings 24:13). The Ark of the Covenant was never again seen on the earth as far as we know.
For eight hundred fifty years the Ark of the Covenant had been the most holy possession of Israel, being the place of the testimony—the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone. But Babylon succeeded in destroying the testimony of God, just as the forces of darkness of the days immediately preceding the victorious return of our Lord and Savior Christ will succeed in crushing the testimony of the saints (Daniel 12:7; Revelation 13:7).
Nearly six hundred years passed after the carrying away into Babylon, and then we see Jesus, the Word of God, the Ark of God from Heaven. He Himself is the testimony, the Law of God in human flesh. Jesus is the true Ark of God, the place of atonement.
But the Ark of the Covenant will be seen again, and its appearance is of the greatest significance imaginable.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
And then, four verses later:
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Revelation 11:19)
No doubt the appearance of the Ark of the Covenant (“ark of his testament”) symbolizes the restoration of David’s Tabernacle, of which James spoke (Acts 15:16), revealing the glorious work of God during the Kingdom Age in making the kingdoms of this world the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
The separation of the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle of the Congregation seems to us to portray the moving of God on His saints in preparation for the return of our Lord from Heaven. As soon as the firstfruits of the Bride have been fully prepared for total reconciliation to God in Christ (which is the marriage of the Lamb), then our Lord Jesus will return, fulfilling spiritually the Old Testament event of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Zion.
There is much praise and rejoicing in the churches in the present hour because the Ark is getting close to its resting place in Zion, to speak figuratively; and King David, our Lord Jesus, is dancing and rejoicing before it.
Finally, in Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22 we see the time portrayed by the Temple of Solomon when God Himself, now dwelling in His fullness in the perfected Wife of the Lamb, comes to the earth to rule forever over His creation. This is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah:
And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:16,17)
If one had stood back and viewed the Tabernacle as a whole, there were at least three major impressions that would have come to the onlooker.
First of all, the whole layout, including the Tabernacle and the Courtyard, plus the appearance and actions of the priests and Levites, illustrated that this structure had to do with the worship of a holy, living God. His Presence could be seen in the cloud and in the pillar of fire.
The whiteness of the fence, the constant washing of the priests, the attitude and appearance of every person and object associated with the Tabernacle of the Congregation, gave the impression of a holy God whose Nature is as high above flesh and blood as Heaven is high above the earth; One who requires the same holiness of those who would approach Him. We must always remember that the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit, and that the new Jerusalem is referred to as the holy city.
Second, the entire Tabernacle spoke of righteousness, that is, of the observance of equitable law. The Mosaic Law working together with the animal sacrifices proclaimed the necessity for maintaining the perfect balance of the scales of the Divine Justice.
As far as sin between man and man was concerned, the Mosaic law stipulated that the loss of an eye would be the punishment for a blinded eye and the loss of a tooth would be the punishment for a tooth that had been knocked out. There was no hesitation in the judgment of crime. You had to treat other people in an equitable fashion. If you did not, justice swift and certain was executed upon you.
Relationships between person and person were set forth in writing. If you injured someone, or a charge was made against you, you were brought before Moses or the elders for judgment. Sometimes the Lord Himself was sought in order to ensure that justice was carried out. If you lived honestly and decently you were protected against those who would attempt to take advantage of you. The laws of God were just, and when people observed them there was peace in the camp.
As far as sin between man and God was concerned, the onlooker would be impressed with the constant shedding of blood and with the offering up of the sacrificial animals. Here was a God whose laws were being broken constantly and who required that He be appeased by the shedding of innocent blood. Animal life was being offered in order to save human life—human life that was in jeopardy because of violated Divine Law.
Jesus did not find fault with the Mosaic statutes. How could He? He Himself gave those statutes, He being the Word of God from the beginning. Rather, He brought to us the mercy of God that works side by side with the justice of God.
The Lord was merciful and compassionate under the old covenant and He is merciful and compassionate under the new covenant. His endless mercies have been revealed to us by the grace that has come to us through Christ.
In some instances today we find Christian people are under a misconception concerning the relationship of sin to the grace given to us under the new covenant. Christ has never changed as far as the application of Divine Law is concerned. Grace does not do away with Divine Law nor does grace turn a lie into the truth; lust into cleanliness; murder into love.
When a Christian sins the judgment of God is upon him (I Peter 1:17).
While grace in no manner alters the standard of Divine equity, it does make marvelous provisions for human beings to become reconciled to God. Grace comes to us as the Word of God, as the body and blood of Christ, and as the resurrection Life of the Holy Spirit. These are three aids to perfect reconciliation to God Almighty.
We can become one with God in Christ if we so choose, no matter how deep may be the pit in which we may find ourselves at this moment. But to continue in sin under the assumption that the Law of Sinai has given way to a more elastic set of rules, or that the Lord has changed His Divine Nature, or that there is some way to please God other than by doing His will, is to turn the grace of God into an excuse for lust and rebellion.
Third, the whole arrangement announced that the Tabernacle had its origin in Heaven. The gorgeous colors, the gold, the silver, the unearthly beauty of the building, the fragrance of the holy anointing oil and the perfume of the burning incense—all declared that this was a portrayal of the throne of God set up in a wilderness area of the earth. The Tabernacle came from Heaven, as anyone could see at first glance.
We understand, then, that the Tabernacle spoke of the holiness of God Almighty; of equitable law governing the conduct of people, necessitating the shedding of atoning blood when that law was violated; and of the Divine origin of the pattern of the structure. Such was the overall impression that a person would gain when viewing the Tabernacle of the Congregation for the first time.
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Five”, 3842-1)