After focusing on evidence for a heavenly sanctuary last week and being convinced that a real place does exist for very real purposes in the heavens above, we turn our attention this week to the many places God has chosen to “dwell with us” or “tabernacle” with us here on earth.

We find that our heavenly Father has found many ways to maintain His relationship with His earthly children, before and after the fall of Adam and Eve. From Genesis to Revelation, God has devised methods to make His plan of salvation known so all may come into a saving relationship with Him.

The tabernacle Moses was instructed to build in the wilderness was a powerful illustration of what God is doing for us in His heavenly courts above. Psalm 77:13 KJV says, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great as our God?”

Memory Text: “Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5 NKJV

Sunday: The First “Sanctuary” on Earth

When we think of a biblical sanctuary, the wilderness tabernacle in the Old Testament usually first comes to mind. But have you ever considered the Garden of Eden a sanctuary also? Many interesting parallels were brought out in our lesson this week.

  • The account of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 mentions God’s completion, approval and blessing on all things created. We see similar language used as God announces His approval and blessing on the various phases of the tabernacle construction as they were completed. (See Exodus 38:32, 43 and 40:33.)
  • Just as God was found walking in the Garden “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8), we find that His presence was also “in the midst of the people” in the sanctuary (II Samuel 7:6, 7). Both places were His chosen meeting places for communicating closely with His friends on earth.
  • Adam was to “tend” and “keep” the Garden, as the Levites were instructed to care for the services of the sanctuary. (See Genesis 2:15 and Number 3:7, 8.)
  • Cherubim were mentioned guarding the Garden, specifically the way to the tree of life after the Fall (Genesis 3:24). Two cherubim were positioned on the ark in the Most Holy Place of the wilderness sanctuary (Exodus 25:18-22).
  • Throughout creation week, we heard the words “God said” as He introduced each new day of creation, followed by the blessing of the Sabbath on the seventh day. Similarly, there are six “the Lord spoke to Moses” in Exodus 25:1, 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1), following each section of construction on the tabernacle, ending with a seventh section about the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17).
  • We also mustn’t forget the pieces of furniture that Moses was instructed to build for the sanctuary. They were full of imagery from the garden, things of nature depicted on items like the candlestick. “And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knobs, and his flowers, shall be of the same…” Exodus 25:31-36 KJV

Discussion Questions: Why was a garden sanctuary needed even before Adam and Eve sinned? Describe your personal “sanctuary”, if you have one–a place where you feel especially close to God.

Monday: Copy of the Pattern

Although last week established that there is a heavenly sanctuary, as well as an earthly one, this week we were shown what the relationship between the two are.

As our memory text clearly indicates, the earthly sanctuary is a copy, a model, a shadow of the one in heaven. Exodus 25:9, 40 and Hebrews 9:23, 24 also verify this relationship, with Hebrews even referring to the one in heaven as offering “better sacrifices”, with Christ entering into the “true” holy place, not made with hands.

“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;” Hebrews 9:11 KJV

In the art, antique, and even the fashion world, originals are prized. It makes sense to us that the heavenly sanctuary, being the original, would be “better” and of more worth. But copies are also treasured, and the closer the copy is to the real, the more it is valued. Studying and knowing all that is revealed to us about the earthly sanctuary can provide us with our best view of the God of the heavenly one.

By the time of Moses, God’s people were in desperate need for a new illustration of salvation, one that not only portrayed their escape from slavery and sin, but the future Messiah, the Savior of the world. Each loving detail Moses was shown was significant in portraying the full story of salvation.

Our lesson mentioned the word “typology”, which would be a study of “types”. Strong’s Concordance defines a “type” as a divine illustration of truth, and can be demonstrated as a ceremony (Passover), an event (wilderness journeys), institution (the priesthood), person (Adam), or thing (the temple veil). On the other hand, an “antitype” is considered the fulfillment of a “type”.

M272BThe teacher’s helps used the example of a mold, such as a cake pan used in baking. The mold shows the contours of the original and allows copies of that original. Hence, we have the portable tabernacle that the children of Israel carried with them in their wilderness journeys, copied from the pattern or mold that God gave Moses on the mount.

Later, Solomon’s temple, very different in appearance, was built from the same mold. It had the same proportions, furniture, a veil, and the same sacrificial system and priesthood service. The contours of the mold were the same, the symbols and types were left intact to continue instructing the Israelites in their homeland.

Discussion Questions: Just how important are all the types and symbols used in the Bible? Why are they necessary and how might they be important to our understanding of basic gospel truths? What sanctuary types pointing to Christ are most meaningful to you personally?

Tuesday: Jesus as the Sanctuary

The theme of the Gospel of John is the divine nature of Christ. He identifies Him in the first chapter as “the Word who was made flesh, and dwelt among us; (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)…” John 1:14 KJV

This temple imagery is appropriately ascribed to the life of Jesus. When He was born as a babe in Bethlehem, He fulfilled the temple promise to dwell among the people. He was declared “the Lamb of God” at His baptism. And at His death on the cross, the temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50, 51), thus officially ending the temple ceremonies and animal sacrifices that pointed forward to His First Advent.

Discussion Questions: What new ceremonies did Jesus Himself institute just before His crucifixion? Discuss the imagery in the Last Supper or Communion Service. What do they point forward to? And how do they point us upward to God? What new commandment did Jesus give and was it really so new? How did Jesus Himself portray the spirit of the law for those who had lost sight of it?

Wednesday: The Church as the Sanctuary

After Christ’s ascension, was there no evidence of a sanctuary, where God could dwell among the people? The answer is that with Jesus no longer present on earth in person, His church is the vehicle He has chosen to spread the gospel to the world, preparing the world for His Second Coming. It is the sanctuary given where people can feel safe and secure, but most important, where they can minister to others more effectively.

I Corinthians abounds with temple imagery in describing God’s church. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” I Corinthians 3:16 KJV “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” II Corinthians 6:16 KJV

Peter concurs with the church sanctuary idea. He says in I Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” KJV

Individual believers are also asked to become “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) and to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Fine linen (more temple imagery) is also referred to as “the righteousness of saints” in Revelation 19:8.

Thought Question: How can I fulfill my priestly duties and represent God to the world when I feel so inadequate? Lord, help me this week to look to You for promises and the strength to perform such solemn, holy responsibilities.

Thursday: New Creation

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

This is speaking of “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2). Interestingly enough, John says in verse 22 of this same chapter that he “saw no temple therein”. Some Bible scholars have concluded that this is because New Jerusalem itself is now God’s sanctuary or temple.

23First of all, the cubical form of the city matches that of the cubical dimensions of the Most Holy Place. Other similarities observed are its heavenly origin, the fact that “nothing unclean” is allowed there, and most of all, the ever abiding presence of God there.

Several passages in Revelation also talk about the work of the redeemed. They will reign as “kings and priests” with Him on the throne (Revelation 1:6 5:10, 20:6).

Discussion Question: What significance is there in the New Jerusalem and the Most Holy Place being in the shape of a cube?

Three Phases of New Testament Sanctuary we studied this week:

  1. Inaugurated: Christ’s earthly life and death
  2. Appropriated: The Church (corporate and individual)
  3. Consummated: The New Jerusalem as the eternal tabernacle

Three Phases of the Old Testament Sanctuary:

Do we not see similar phases in the earthly sanctuary we are studying this quarter? Later we will discover that it was divided into three parts:

  1. the outer court (where the sacrifices were made),
  2. the Holy Place (where the priests ministered daily),
  3. and the Most Holy Place (where the Shekinah glory shone from the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s throne).

The number three is used often in Scripture and perhaps reminds us of the three members of the godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Although all three are present in each of these phases, could the Son be identified more in the first phase  where the sacrifice is offered, the Holy Spirit in the second where the Comforter guides the church, and God the Father in the third when the throne and judgment take place? These three phases in the plan of salvation are portrayed in the Old and the New Testaments.

Discussion Question: How close are we to reaching that Most Holy Place? Should we not be preparing our souls earnestly, as the Israelites did for the Day of Atonement, which prefigured the Day of Judgment? We’ll be exploring these things more as we continue our study of the sanctuary this quarter.

Next week we’ll take a look at the idea of sacrifice as it pertains to the sanctuary, and more widely to our salvation.