I am studying the Bible using a study guide and have come across a question that I am wondering about. I have come up with my own opinions, but would like to know how close I am (there are no answers in this book). They say that the Tabernacle built by Moses and his people represents the New Covenant. Each part of the Tabernacle represents something different. The example given was the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place represents the body of Jesus (through Jesus you get to God which is in the Most Holy Place). What do the other parts of the tabernacle represent - the laver, the lampstand, the table of showbread, etc?
The parts of the tabernacle and its pieces of furniture were a picture of Jesus Christ and His plan for the redemption of sinners. There were three veils that separated sinful men from a holy God. The first veil was the eastern gate which opened into the courtyard. Those who came to sacrfice could pass through this veil or gate (Ex. 40:33). The next veil allowed only the priests to enter the Holy Place (Ex. 40:28). This was the first veil into the tabernacle. The last veil was only for the High Priest, who once a year could enter into the Holy of Holies (Ex. 40:21).
The tabernacle and its furnishings are described in Exodus 25:1-40 and Exodus 37:1-28. The bronze altar was designed for animal sacrifices and the laver was for washing. They were located in the outer courtyard (Ex. 40:6-7). The courtyard surrounded the tabernacle (Ex. 40:8). The gold lampstand, the table of showbread, and the gold altar of incense were located inside the Holy Place. The lampstand was on the southside and the table of showbread was on the northside. The gold altar of incense stood just before the veil leading into the Holy of Holies where the ark and the mercy seat stood (Ex. 40:5, 21, 22-24, 26). The images in this document are provided by permission of Kregel Publications.
Pictures of Salvation
The tabernacle is a wonderful picture of Jesus. The courtyard including the altar, laver and the posts that held the linen “fence” were made of bronze but the only metal inside the tabernacle was gold. The bronze symbolizes sin and the gold symbolizes God.
The bronze altar was the place of sacrifice. Bronze speaks of sin and the perpetual fire (Lev. 1:5-7) on the altar symbolizes God’s judgment against sin. Jesus died on an altar; it was called the cross. He died for our sins on that cross. He suffered pain for our sins.
The bronze laver was filled with water, and its base was made from the women’s mirrors of highly polished bronze (Ex. 38:8). This is a great picture of a person who trusts Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. The laver symbolizes our cleansing from sin – our holiness. Once we are forgiven of our sins, God starts changing us to make us truly holy as He is holy (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:16). Water is symbolic of two concepts in scripture: 1) the Holy Spirit Who comes into our life, convicts us of sin (John 16:8) and starts living in us to change us (John 7:37-39); and 2) the Word of God which reveals to us our sin (John 15:3) and is useful for reproof, conviction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While the mirror at the bottom reminds us that we will still see our true sinful self (Rom. 7:24), it is also comforting because the symbolism reminds us that God knows we are not yet perfect in this life. We have not lost our salvation; we are just not yet free from sin in this life.
The lampstand, table of showbread and altar of incense are all made of gold. While bronze symbolizes sin, gold speaks of deity. The Holy Place is alive with symbolism about Jesus. The gold lampstand speaks of the One who revealed the Father to us – Jesus the light giver (Matt. 11:27). He is the light of men. The light was to burn perpetually. Today, Jesus is not here in body but His Word is. By reading and studying it we receive spiritual light.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. John 1:4
He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:8-9
Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (NASB) John 8:12
Table of Showbread
The table of showbread was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The wood speaks of Jesus’ humanity and the gold of His deity – Jesus the God-man. The bread that was placed on the table represents God’s presence in our lives.
And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times. (NASB) Exodus 25:30
So often we focus on the table or call the bread “consecrated bread,” but did you notice it is called the “bread of the Presence?” The actual Hebrew wording is the “bread of the Face.” It symbolizes Jesus’ presence. – His life. We live because He lives. And Jesus said,
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh. (NASB) John 6:51
The table with the bread symbolizes spiritual life in Jesus.
Altar of Incense
The gold altar of incense represents the intercession and the memorial of Jesus. While the golden lampstand was to burn perpetually, the bread of the Presence was to be replaced every Sabbath. The incense was to be burned every morning and evening. Blood was applied to this altar on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is our mediator according to 1 Timothy and Hebrews.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . (NASB) 1 Timothy 2:5
The second veil, the one separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies represents the flesh of Jesus’ body.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (NKJV) Heb. 10:19-22
Jesus’ flesh was torn and cut just like the veil was torn from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27:51). It is because of His death that we can come boldly to God.
Ark and the Mercy Seat
The ark with the mercy seat is where God meets with men. It represents our meeting place in this life and the place of our eternal salvation.
The bronze altar symbolizes the cross where Jesus died. The laver represents the forgiveness and cleansing of all our past, present, and future sins – Jesus declares it to be holy. The lampstand, table, altar of incense and veil represent the truth spoken by Jesus and His life giving power.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. (NASB) John 14:6
The bronze pieces also emphasize Christ’s ministry to us and the golden pieces emphasize Who He is. They also represent our spiritual growth in Jesus: the ministry of the Spirit in our life, the Word, prayer, and communion. Finally, the Holy of Holies represents heaven – eternal life with God.
1. H. W. Soltau. The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle. Kregel Publications.
Suggested Links:Picture of Jesus (Hebrews 9:6-10)
Smoke of His Glory
Searching For God
Why did the man who touched the ark of God die?
How many Arks of the Covenant were made? — Was there one in heaven too?