Symbols in the Tabernacle
The tabernacle was a portable sanctuary for the Levites to do their holy work in. It was constructed according to the strict and precise blueprint that God gave to Moses. This tabernacle of Exodus served a real purpose for the Israelites but it also served a prophetic purpose being an image of the things to come. The objects within the tabernacle combined with the activities that took place there stood for things that we are now able to enjoy, thanks to Jesus’s finishing work of Law (Heb 9, Mat 5:17).
The tent of meeting (aka tabernacle) had three compartments: the Outer Courts, inside of that the Holy Place, and inside of that the Holy of Holies each with a veil or curtain door separating it from the outside area. These compartments have many interpretations such as the three persons of God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit), the three parts of our being (mind, body, & spirit), and the process of drawing near to God (Salvation, regeneration, & intimacy). God dwelt in the Holy of Holies via the Ark, this is a picture of how God created a place in our hearts where He should dwell but because of sin, God could not dwell in us. Now that we are redeemed (if you are a believer) God can inhabit your heart and the Spirit can dwell within you (unlike before the cross where the Holy Spirit came upon you only temporarily).
As the Levite priest entered the tent of meeting they would go through the first curtain door and would approach the altar of burnt offerings which is a symbol of the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s death. You can approach no further unless an offering is made. After this you come to the golden laver which was a vessel that held water for ceremonial washing and this symbolizes the washing water of the Spirit or baptism. The priest would then proceed to enter the Holy Place after passing through a thick curtain; there were three objects in the Holy Place. The things in the Holy Place were symbolic of Christ’s work but other things in the tabernacle were also symbolic such as the colors and materials used. Here are the three items in the Holy Place:
Table of Showbread – on the right was a golden table on which 12 loaves of bread were baked daily and set on the table for each tribe of Israel. The daily bread represents how Christ is the bread of life, broken to give us wholeness.
Altar of Incense – in the middle was an altar where incense was burnt which produced smoke in the room, some say the priest would at time have to operate without sight while doing his priestly duties in the Holy Place (“we walk by faith not by sight). The incense is symbolic of the pleasing fragrance or life of Christ unto God; He served completely and sacrificed all.
Golden Lamp Stand – On the left was a large golden lamp stand which would have been the only source of light in the dark tent room. This light represents how Jesus is the light of the world and the light by which we live our life.
Inside the Holy Place was yet another curtain behind which was the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place. This is where the Ark of the Covenant resided. In this small compartment was where one could approach God presumably in the fullest measure possible only once a year. The picture of the priest entering through the curtain in to the Holy of Holies is a prophetic image of us entering in to the fullness of God via the flesh of Christ which was opened, wounded, and who’s body died for us all. When Christ died the curtain in the temple of Jerusalem was torn from the top down (which would have been impossible for anyone to do), this symbolized the open access for all who believe in Jesus. No longer did one have to be a Levitical priest purified according to all the laws and restrictions. No, all you have to do is believe in Christ as your savior through faith and you qualify for access to God. You can enter the Holy of Holies and know God personally and directly like never before.