Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
During the last century and a half, many books have been written on the typology of the tabernacle. The Bible teachers among the Brethren in particular devoted a great deal of time to the study of the tabernacle. Today we stand on the shoulders of those Bible teachers. Although many of the books written on the tabernacle are quite good, there is a great lack in them. For the most part, these books were written from a doctrinal point of view. There is not much emphasis on Christian experience.
In his writings John twice refers to the tabernacle. John 1:14 says that the Word, which is God, became flesh and tabernacled among us. When Christ was in the flesh, He was God’s tabernacle, God’s dwelling place on earth. Prior to Christ’s incarnation, God dwelt in the tabernacle built at Mount Sinai. Then God moved with the tabernacle and later consolidated it with the temple. Thus, the tabernacle and the temple should be regarded as one dwelling place, not two.
Centuries before Christ was born, God left the temple and returned to the heavens. In Ezekiel 10 we see that the glory of the Lord left the temple and, in a sense, never returned. Hence, there was a period of several hundred years when God did not dwell on earth. Nevertheless, God did not altogether give up the temple until the Lord Jesus was rejected by God’s people. According to Matthew 23:38, the Lord Jesus said, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.” From that time onward the temple was no longer the house of God; it had become the house of the degraded Israelites. It had been the house of God, but it was now called “your house.” The prophecy that their house would be left to them desolate corresponds to that in Matthew 24:2, which was fulfilled when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The time the Lord Jesus was on earth was a transitional period. Before the temple made with hands was destroyed, Christ was incarnated and became the real tabernacle of God. When Christ came forth to minister, God dwelt in Him, not in a temple made by human hands. One day, the Lord Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). John 2:21 says, “He spoke of the temple of His body.” Both the temple made by human hands and the body of Jesus as God’s temple were to be destroyed. This was a transitional period, a time of change from the material temple to Christ as God’s temple. The Lord realized that by His death on the cross, the temple of His body would be destroyed. But on the third day, in His resurrection, He would raise it up again. At that time the tabernacle, the temple, would be enlarged into the church. Therefore, the church today is the tabernacle. Ultimately, this tabernacle will consummate in the New Jerusalem as God’s eternal dwelling place. Concerning the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall tabernacle with them.” The New Jerusalem will be the enlargement of the church, and the church is the enlargement of Christ. Christ is the tabernacle, the church is the enlarged tabernacle, and the New Jerusalem will be the consummate tabernacle. The tabernacle not only typifies Christ as an individual person, but also typifies the church as a corporate dwelling place of God.
As we have pointed out, the book of Exodus may be divided into two main parts: the first part consists of chapters one through twenty-four, and the second part, chapters twenty-five through forty. The first twenty-four chapters are a record of preparation, and the last sixteen chapters are a record of the building of the tabernacle. The first nine verses of Exodus 25 are crucial. When we begin to read this chapter, we may not pay adequate attention to these verses. We may have little interest in the different materials mentioned. In 25:1-9 the emphasis is not on the furniture— the ark, the incense altar, the lampstand, the showbread table, the laver, and the altar—but on the tabernacle. In verse 8 the Lord says, “And they shall make for Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” The sanctuary here is the tabernacle as God’s dwelling place. This sanctuary typifies the church. According to the context, we can see that this sanctuary is not an individual person; rather, it is a corporate people, for God speaks of dwelling “in their midst.”
These verses are related to the vision of the tabernacle, not to the vision of the ark. To be sure, the ark typifies the individual Christ. The tabernacle, however, typifies both the individual Christ, the Head, and the corporate Christ, the Body. The New Testament reveals clearly that the individual Christ is the Head. But this Head must have a Body. The Body of Christ is the church. In Ephesians 1:22 and 23 Paul speaks of the church which is Christ’s Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. In Exodus we have not only the ark-Christ, but also the tabernacle-Christ, not only the individual Christ, but also the corporate Christ.
If we apply the type of the tabernacle only to Christ individually, everything about it may be objective and doctrinal. There will be very little place for spiritual experience. But if we realize that the vision in Exodus is not merely a vision of Christ as the ark but also of the tabernacle as the enlargement of Christ, the church, we shall realize the need for experience. To repeat, in Exodus we have not only the ark, but also the tabernacle. This means that we have not only Christ, but also the church. In 25:8 God did not say, “They shall make for Me an ark that I may be expressed.” He said, “They shall make for Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”
It is vital for us to see that the second section of the book of Exodus is concerned with the tabernacle as a type of the church as the enlargement of Christ. In order for Christ to be enlarged into the church, we need to have many spiritual experiences. For this reason, as we consider chapters twenty-five through forty of Exodus, our emphasis will be more on experience. This certainly does not mean that I reject the doctrinal aspect. The point here is that the emphasis is on Christian experience more than doctrine. My burden is to show that this portion of the Word is full of experiences.
Again and again, I wish to emphasize that in chapters twenty-five through forty of Exodus we have a vision of the tabernacle not merely as a type of Christ, but especially as a type of the church, Christ’s enlargement. In order for Christ to have the Body, the church, as His enlargement, we need to have much experience of Christ. If we do not experience Christ, there is no way for Him to be enlarged, to have the Body, or to have the tabernacle as the enlargement of the ark.
Both the ark and the standing boards of the tabernacle were made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. This indicates that the tabernacle is the enlargement of the ark. In the same principle, the church is the enlargement of Christ. The process by which this enlargement comes into being requires the genuine experience of Christ.
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