An overview of the Tabernacle



  • The Altar of Burnt Offering
- Christ our Sacrifice

The altar of burnt offering was the first item placed at the entrance of the Tabernacle. This position indicates that the sinner first needs to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ, and until this is done he must not worship God or even enter His presence. At the stated hour for worship, the priest placed the lamb on the altar; this Old Testament description of the ‘sin offering’ takes us forward to the New Testament and the trial of Jesus Christ, the true ‘sin offering’ for mankind.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Hebrews 9:13-14 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.

Hebrews 10:12,14 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

  • The Brazen Laver
- Christ our Sanctification, Recovery

Within the door of the Holy Place were furnishings that represented God Himself. The priests were obliged to wash their hands and their feet before entering God’s presence. The priests hands and feet would be defiled, therefore they had to wash before any ministry at the altar, to make them clean before communion with God and before service to man.

Exodus 30:19-21 Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet with water from it.  When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die. They shall wash their hands and feet, lest they die; it shall be a statue for ever to them, even to him and his descendants throughout their generations”.

Although Jesus was without sin, He was baptized by John in water to fulfil the model of the Brazen Laver that required purity through washing prior to entering the holy place. Jesus was about to embark on His great work, and it was appropriate that He be recognized publicly, and John was the voice crying in the wilderness, calling people to repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah.

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”.

Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and behold the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

By stating that it was fitting for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness, Jesus suggests that He provides to all who come to Him, to exchange their sin for His righteousness.

1 Corinthians 6:11 “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”.

  • The Table of Showbread
- Christ the Bread of Life

The table and the bread were a picture of God’s willingness to fellowship and communion with man. It was like an invitation to share a meal, eating together often is an act of fellowship. God was willing for man to enter into His presence and this invitation was always open. God so desires our fellowship that He was willing to come to earth from heaven as our “bread of life” to give eternal life to all those who would partake in it.

Exodus 25:30 “And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me always”.

Jesus exemplified this when He ate with tax collectors and the sinners. But this was more than just a gesture of friendship on earth. Jesus came to call sinners to Him, make them right with God, so that they could enjoy everlasting fellowship with God. 

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.

At the last Passover meal Jesus described Himself as bread again to His disciples. Jesus’ broken body is our only access to fellowship with God. Today, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, or communion, to remember this important truth. And today, as in the day of Moses’ tabernacle, God still desires to have fellowship and sit down for a feast with His people.

Matthew 26:26 “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body”.

  • The Menorah
- Christ our Light

The design of the 7-candle menorah resembles the burning bush, from which God called Moses. God appeared as a flame embedded within a bush. Moses realized the fire was burning, and yet the bush was not consumed. When he approached the bush, God instructed Moses to take off his sandals, as it was holy ground. This is the first of many times that God’s presence is described as a perpetual flame. God appeared as pure light!

 Exodus 3:5-6 Then God said,  “Do not come near, put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob”.

The Menorah stands for light, wisdom, and Divine inspiration. The design reflects its exact purpose in the Holy tabernacle, which was to spread the light of Godliness to the entire world, and not just to illuminate the tabernacle. God dictated the creation of the Menorah from one piece of solid gold. Similarly we too must strive for “solid gold”, thus teaching us to bring out our inner Divine light so that we shine internally and externally.

Gold is obtained through the process of refinement, and Gods instruction to make the Menorah out of one single piece of gold, signifies Our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins, so as to shine His light in our lives. It speaks of the purification process one undergoes in an ongoing relationship with the living God.

Exodus 25:36 “Their capitals and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it one piece of hammered work of pure gold”.

John 12:35-36 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light believe in the light, that you may become sons of light”.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

  • The Altar of Incense
- Faith, Rest and our Prayer Life

The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. Our prayers should always be offered with a sense of reverence and awe before God, they should be pure and should come from a heart that longs to please God; to follow His Word and walk in His Light. Often our prayers will be a sacrifice, especially when they are prayed according to the will of God; rather than our own will.

The golden altar is a representation of Jesus Christ, who is our intercessor before God the Father. Just before He was betrayed, the veil in the tabernacle separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two – thus signifying that God’s front door that was closed behind the altar of incense was now open to all who would accept Christ as their personal Saviour. 

Ephesians 5:2 Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them

Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.

The Ark of the Covenant
- Christ our all

The ark was the most significant item in the tabernacle and in it were the 10 commandments; a golden jar of Manna and Aaron’s rod that had budded.

God gave the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai, accompanied by smoke, earthquakes and the blast of a trumpet to emphasize the importance of these laws. These 10 beneficial laws were given to show us how to live a better life now and please God forever.

Leviticus 22:31-33 “So you shall keep My commands and do them; I am the Lord. And you shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; I am the Lord who sanctify you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord”.

The Manna in the golden bowl represented the life-sustaining food that God gives His people in Jesus Christ. When they were in the wilderness, God sustained them with this mysterious bread. Later Jesus fed the multitudes; and when they came seeking Him, He said:

John 6:26-27;32-33  “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for on Him has God the Father set his seal. Very truly I say to you, it is not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”

Aaron did not have an easy time being accepted by the people as their high priest, and they often rebelled against him. To put and end to this, God asked all the leaders from the 12 tribes to put their rods in the tabernacle, and the rod of the chosen one would blossom to show them who was the chosen one.

Numbers 17: 6-10 Moses spoke to the people of Israel; and all their leaders gave him rods, one for each leader, according to their fathers houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses deposited the rods before the Lord in the tent of the testimony. And on the morrow Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold the rod of Aaron’s for the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the people of Israel; and they looked and each one took his rod. And the Lord said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their murmurings against Me, lest they die”.

  • The Mercy Seat (Lid of Reconciliation) – Christ our Propitiation

In the tabernacle God spoke to Moses and his people from the mercy seat, and promised to meet them there and grant them mercy. God appeared in a cloud above the Mercy Seat. Clouds always represent the glory of God and are revealed as God’s glory all through the Bible.

Now God appears to us, speaks to us and has mercy on us through His son Jesus Christ.

John 14:6-7, 9 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; henceforth you know Him and have seen Him. He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'”.

1 John 2:1-2 “I am writing this to you so that you may not sin, but if one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”.

Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

The pieces of furniture were thoughtfully placed in the structure. The priest’s daily approached each piece showing to all of us, how God is to be approached.

Every part of the Old Testament tabernacle points forward to Jesus Christ.

– – –

There are more than 50 chapters in the Bible that are devoted to the discussion of the tabernacle, explaining its pattern, construction, and service. Moses built the tabernacle according to God’s exact instructions. 

The special garments for the priests were holy; if they did not wear the right clothing in serving the Lord, they could die.

Exodus 28:2, 43 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bring guilt upon themselves and die. This shall be a perpetual statue for him and for his descendants after him”

Any irreverence in worshiping inside the tabernacle, either at the Table of Showbread; the Altar of Incense or unauthorized entry behind the curtain inside the Holiest of Holy place; could lead to dire consequences. 

The tabernacle, also referred to as a tent or a booth in the bible, is presented in the Word of God as a building and in simple words it means “a dwelling place,” for God to dwell among His people.

– – –

1 Corinthians 15:22  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.


John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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