What the Temple Represents
Between Exodus and 1 Kings 8 there are several times where the Scripture passively mentions that the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s very presence. It is also mentioned that The Ark should be in the Holy of Holies. Further still, it is mentioned that, at that point, there was no place for God to permanently be through the Ark. This was so because the Ark stayed in a tabernacle as opposed to having its own house. David, in 2 Samuel 7, asked God and Nathan if he could build a house for God. He noticed that he himself had a house, but God was still dwelling in tents. He wanted God to have a place as he did. God rejected the idea of David building it, because of his bloody nature, but allowed David to gather materials for it so that Solomon could build the temple. A temple gives the people a confidence in God because they see that his presence will remain there. Victor P. Hamilton suggests in Handbook on the Historical Books that, “David has two choices if he is interested in equalization . . . David can put his house on the market and move into a tent . . . Let God have a house, too” (316).
In Chapter 8 of 1 Kings, Solomon completed the temple. He sacrificed and said a prayer to God. He recognizes in his prayer that the temple was only symbolic and that the Lord’s presence could not be contained in a human-made building. He continues to recognize that the building represents a holy place of God’s presence and that God’s name and authority are there. If man would only pray towards the temple, he could be blessed.
First, the Alter of Burnt Offerings represented the sacrifice of sinners. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, there must be a sacrifice for every sin. However, as the writer of Hebrews proclaims, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away the sin of man. It is obvious that the sacrifice must represent something so much more than itself. Christ was that perfect sacrifice for the world (Isa. 53:5-6). Douglas and Rainsford states in The Tabernacle that, “Only a man partaking in flesh and blood, a perfect man, a sinless man, could suffer in our stead and die; only a man could be the last Adam . . . (2 Tim. 2:5)” (47).
Second, the Laver represented one needing to be cleansed before he is allowed to enter into the Sanctuary of the presence of God. It could easily be said that this represents Christian baptism. Jesus’ blood continually cleanses the Christian (1 Jn. 1:7).
Third, the Table of Showbread represents the a table that is never empty and Christ who is the Bread of life (John 6). God feeds those who hunger and thirst for His righteousness. They will never go hungry (Matthew 5-7).
Fourth, the Lamp Stand represents the Lord being our light. The light of the Lamp Stand was the only light in the Tent of Meeting. If the Lord is not present, there is no light. The follower of God must walk in the Light in order to follow Him (1 John 1:7).
Fifth, the Alter of Incense represents the prayers and intercession of God’s followers. It should always be burning by the fire of the Alter of Burnt Offerings. The perfect sacrifice of sinners was made a sweet aroma to the Lord. Christ is now our intercessor and our avenue of prayer.
Sixth, the Ark of the Covenant represents God’s presence. It is where He dwells. The 10 commandments represent the authority and character of God. We know that He is the true definition of love and righteousness through these commands. The rod and manna represent God’s wisdom, power, provision and providence. God’s character is the same as Christ’s.
Last, the Mercy Seat represents the throne of God/the Messiah. He was the king of the Jews. He was the true leader of Israel. No man was or could ever be good enough or holy enough to bring salvation and glory to man. James Strong in The Tabernacle of Israel says that, “The Mercy Seat was in fact a moveable lid of the same size as the Ark itself . . . ” (86). He says that it was like a crown of the presence of God (Strong 86).
All these things represented just how far sin is from God. How was Israel to be holy as God was Holy? It was impossible on their own accord. Alfred Edersheim says in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services says that, “The object of reconciliation was holiness” (85).
To enter into God’s presence, one must have a perfect sacrifice from old sins. One must cleanse themselves in God’s graces. One must walk in the light. One must partake of the manna from heaven. One must have an intercessor. All of these things must be done for one to enter into the Holy of Holies. There the individual will find the presence of God, His Character, and the mercy of the Savior. Jesus has 7 “I AMs” in John, and almost all of them can be somehow connected to the Temple and its greatness. He is truly the answer. Longman and Dillard say it best in An Introduction to the Old Testament when they say, “The details are lovingly dwelt on because the tabernacle was the primary was the primary of God’s presence with Israel” (71).
Hamilton in Handbook on the Pentateuch talks about the connection between the creation and the tabernacle (temple). He says, “ . . . binding the two together is the reference to the ‘Spirit of God’ in both creation of the world and the creation of the tabernacle” (234).
One of the more interesting parallels is that the entrance of the Garden was from the east, which is where the light of the world comes. The garden represented the presence of God before the fall of man.
In the same way, one enters the tabernacle by the east, which is where the light of the world comes. The only problem is that one cannot enter the true presence of God until there is an intercessor between Him and man.
In the same way once more, Christ is the light of the world. Through Jesus Christ, one can enter into the presence of God. There is no more sacrifice of man. There is no more washing of man. There is no more light needed. There is no more manna needed. There is no need for an intercessor for prayers. There is no more veil. There are no more angels guarding the entrance of God’s presence. Christ is all in all. In Him we have all of these things. Because of Christ we have the Holy Spirit within us. How is this so? We have the Spirit of God within us because He made us His dwelling place. A disciple of God can do nothing more to merit holiness and enter into God’s dwelling place, but the good news is that Christ did what no man could ever do. – Jesse
Suggested Reading Before This:The Significance of the Dwelling Place of God’s Spirit (Romans 8:9-11) Part 1
Suggested Reading After This: The Significance of the Dwelling Place of God’s Spirit (Romans 8:9-11) Part 3