Description of Tabernacle
The Tabernacle is the most complete and marvelous type or “picture” of Christ in all of the Old Testament. As we study the Tabernacle, you will want to refer frequently to the picture of the Tabernacle and its courtyard here (click to open and view this PDF document, which you might like to print out so that you can have it handy as you go through the remaining lessons.)
The Tabernacle was approximately 45 feet in length and 15 feet in width. The rear end and the two sides were made of boards, standing upright. Each board was approximately 2 feet wide, 15 feet in height, and 2 inches in thickness.
The Tabernacle itself was divided into two unequal chambers. The larger, outer chamber was about 15 feet wide and 30 feet long. It was called “the Holy Place.” It contained three articles—the Table of Show-bread, the Golden Candlestick and the Altar of Incense. The priests went into the Holy Place daily, performing their duties.
The smaller, inner chamber was approximately 15 feet by 15 feet. It was called “the Holy of Holies.” It contained the Ark of the Covenant with the blood-stained Mercy Seat, overshadowed by two cherubim made of pure gold. This was the dwelling-place of God. God told Moses,
“There I will meet with you, and I will commune [speak] with you from above the mercy seat…” Exodus 25:22
Only the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, and he went in only once a year, bearing the blood of the sin offering.
The Tabernacle stood in a courtyard surrounded by curtains of fine, white, pure linen, about 8½ feet high. The curtains enclosed an area of approximately 175 feet in length and 87½ feet in width.
Inside the courtyard were the Brazen Altar where the daily sacrifices were offered and the brass Laver, filled with water, where the priests washed.
There was but one entrance into the courtyard and this was on the east side. Over the entrance hung a curtain of fine-twined linen in blue, purple and scarlet.
Every detail of the materials and construction of the Tabernacle was according to the pattern which God showed Moses on the mountain. The Bible says,
“Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.” Exodus 39:43
The Tabernacle was set up for use exactly one year after the Passover, when the children of Israel left Egypt. The Bible says,
“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34
Everything about the Tabernacle speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who lets the Holy Spirit teach him about the Tabernacle will never be led astray into false cults, but will be sure that Jesus Christ is the way to God—the only way.
Let us look down on the children of Israel encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. We see hundreds and hundreds of tents—as far as the eye can see. In the center of this vast encampment we see the Tabernacle. The courtyard is enclosed by a “fence” of white linen curtains.
There is only one entrance into the courtyard. Just inside that entrance is the Brazen Altar upon which the sacrifice is burning continually. The Brazen Altar points to Christ—the Lamb of God, who died to take away the sin of the world.
Beyond the Brazen Altar is the Laver where the priest washes his hands and feet daily before he goes into the Holy Place. The priest then goes into the Holy Place to trim the lamps on the Golden Candlestick and to place the bread upon the Table of Showbread. Then he goes to the Altar of Incense and places sweet incense on the coals of fire.
On one day out of the year, the Day of Atonement, the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, with the blood of the sin offering. He sprinkles this blood on the Mercy Seat. There the very presence of God was manifested in a glory cloud which is called “the Shekinah glory.” It was there that Jehovah, the God of Israel, dwelled with His people. God said,
“There I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony…” Exodus 25:22
In the daytime a great pillar of cloud stood over the Tabernacle like a vast umbrella. The pillar of cloud shaded the children of Israel from the burning rays of the desert sun.
In the evening, as the night shadows fell, the pillar of cloud changed slowly into a pillar of fire! In the night time it became a protective light for the children of Israel. How tender is God’s care for His people!
What did the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire represent? It represented the presence of God in the midst of His people. Even the children of the camp understood this. If you were to ask a small child in the camp about the meaning of the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, he would say, “It means that God is with us.
The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of Jehovah—the God of Israel. It stood in the center of the tents of the twelve tribes of Israel. The courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle was enclosed by a “fence” of white linen curtains, standing about eight feet, nine inches high. No one could see over or under these curtains. (If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to open a larger version of this diagram here.)
The courtyard was rectangular in shape being about 175 feet long and about 87½ feet wide. The “fence” of white linen was held up by 60 pillars, set into 60 brass sockets which were buried in the sand for a foundation. Each pillar was made secure by cords fastened to brass tent pegs. The pillars were all connected to each other by a silver connecting bar.
Upon the connecting bar of silver hung a curtain of fine-twined white linen. There was only one place of entrance into the courtyard—the “door” of colored curtains on the east side. The one gate or “door” of entrance represents the Lord Jesus. He said, “I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John 10:9)
In the courtyard with its one door, God is giving us a picture of salvation. Those outside the courtyard are lost; those inside are saved. To be inside the courtyard, in the family of God, is most blessed. It is no wonder that David said,
“A day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84:10
The whole purpose of the Tabernacle was to show sinful men how they could approach the holy God and have fellowship with Him.
What is the first thing the sinner meets as he turns toward God? He meets the curtains of white linen, a type of the righteousness which man must have to approach God.
As a man stands before the white curtain of linen, he is faced with the fact that he is a sinner. He does not have the righteousness which God requires. The Bible says,
“We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6
Apart from Christ, our very best righeousnesses are as “filthy rags.” This is the emblem chosen by the Spirit of God to describe the best of human righteousness, in contrast with what God requires—”fine linen, clean and white.”
God uses this picture of the courtyard with its fine linen, clean and white, to show man his sins and the desperate wickedness of his heart which shuts him out from a holy God.
Shuts him out? No! God has provided a way for sinful man to approach Him. He may enter by the one gate on the east side—the God-provided way! That one way is by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me.” John 14:6
There was but one way of entrance into the courtyard of the Tabernacle. In front of the Tabernacle, facing east, was the one “gate,” composed of beautifully colored curtains. The east in the Scripture is always connected with the rising of the sun. Thus the beams of the rising sun would fall first on the beautiful curtains of blue, purple and scarlet.
What does this one gate represent? It represents the Lord Jesus Christ. Why was there but one gate? Because there is but one way by which the sinner can come to God. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved….” (John 10:9)
How definite are the words of the Lord! There is but one door to heaven—the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says,
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
The gate was a wide gate—some 35 feet wide. It was wide enough so that any or all might enter freely. God is a Savior-God, and when He says, “Whosoever will, may come,” He means it.
The gate was an attractive gate—a beautiful curtain of blue, purple and scarlet. The blue speaks of Jesus as the heavenly One. The purple speaks of Him as the royal, kingly One. The scarlet speaks of Him as the Savior, the One who shed His blood for our sins.
The gate was an accessible gate. We often see gates or doors which are locked or bolted. This gate was closed, but it was never locked. All one needed to do to enter was to reach out with the hand and push back the curtain and enter. It was so simple that a child could do it.
So it is with our great salvation. All we have to do is reach out the hand of faith to the Lord Jesus by believing on Him.
Dear friend, have you entered the one gate of salvation by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Conversion is not an accident; it is a real, personal experience with the Lord Jesus.
In Old Testament times the heathen Gentile nations worshipped many false gods. But God revealed Himself to Israel as the one true and living God. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
God likewise revealed to Israel that there was only one way sinful man could approach Him. There was only one gate leading into the courtyard. Why was there only one? Because God had provided for no more. God is sovereign; He has the right to do as He pleases. God has given Jesus Christ, His Son, to us to be our Savior. He is the way to God—the only way.
The gate was for all: the wealthy and the poor, the prince and the beggar alike. A grey-haired grandfather and a little child might enter it side by side.
The gate of the court was wide so that any or all might enter there.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
God has made it abundantly clear that He loves sinful men and wants them to be saved. The Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Why then do men not step through the one gate of salvation? Jesus said, “You will not come to Me, that you might have life.”(John 5:40)
Some might say, “But I am too bad to come to Him.” Oh, but that gate was not for “good” people; it was for sinners. The gospel is God’s good news to guilty sinners. Jesus is the sinner’s Friend, and He wants to be the sinner’s Savior. He said, “I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John 10:9) “Shall be saved” is the Lord’s word. There is no doubt about it.
It was only one step. One moment the guilty sinner was outside the gate, the white linen curtain was against him, keeping him out. The next moment he was inside, and the curtain was for him, keeping him in.
Receiving Christ as Savior is not a long, tedious process. It is done in a moment. That moment is when the person comes as a sinner to Jesus and receives Him as his Savior.
What a transition takes place in that moment! The sinner has stepped from darkness to light, from death to life, from being an enemy of God to a child of God!
If by chance there is someone reading this who is yet unsaved, let me plead with you to come to God by Jesus Christ. He is the way, the only way, of approach to God. Unless you come God’s way, you will spend eternity in separation from God. But this is not God’s will. He has provided a great salvation for you. Come to Jesus today!