Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As we have pointed out a number of times, our aim is to study the book of Exodus in the way of experience and to apply the points as much as possible to our spiritual experience. It is not our purpose simply to know the pattern, materials, and measurements of the tabernacle in a doctrinal way. In the New Testament Paul established a good example of studying and interpreting the Old Testament types. Instead of applying these types in a doctrinal way, Paul applied them in an experiential way, either to Christ Himself or to the believers. Following his example, our emphasis will not be on the doctrinal significance of the types. Rather, we need to pray that we may be brought into the proper spiritual understanding of the types so that we may receive help in our spiritual life. In this message we shall consider the spiritual significance of the veil hanging on the pillars within the tabernacle.
Concerning the veil hanging on the pillars, we need to consider further why there was the need to have a veil separating the tabernacle into two parts. The Old Testament speaks of just one tabernacle. But when Paul refers to the tabernacle in Hebrews 9, he speaks of a first and a second tabernacle. If Paul had not written these words, we would not have the boldness to speak of two tabernacles. Instead, we would say that there was one tabernacle with two sections, an inner section called the Holy of Holies and an outer section called the Holy Place. Hebrews 9:2 and 3 say, “For a tabernacle was prepared, the first, in which were both the lampstand and the table and the loaves set forth, which is called the Holy Place; and after the second veil, a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies.” According to verse 2, the Holy Place was the first tabernacle. Paul’s reference to “the second veil” indicates that he must have regarded the curtain at the entrance to the Holy Place as the first veil. The first veil was at the entrance to the first tabernacle, the Holy Place, and the second veil was at the entrance to the second tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. In Hebrews 9:6 and 7 Paul speaks of the first and second tabernacles. Why did he regard the one tabernacle as two tabernacles? When Paul was writing the book of Hebrews, he was heavily burdened by the fact that the Hebrew Christians still held the Old Testament concept regarding many things. Therefore, Paul was burdened to show them that the old tabernacle was absolutely over. He considered that the tabernacle was actually two tabernacles, not one tabernacle with two sections.
There is an important difference between two tabernacles and one. For example, there is quite a difference between a duplex and two houses. According to the Old Testament, the tabernacle was a duplex. But according to Paul’s writing in Hebrews, it was two houses. There is nothing contradictory here, for both the Old Testament and the New Testament are accurate. The crucial matter is our understanding. When Paul was writing Hebrews, his feeling was so strong and his understanding was such that he considered the tabernacle in the Old Testament as two separate tabernacles, just as the old covenant and the new covenant are two distinct covenants. We cannot say that the two covenants are one covenant with two sections. In like manner, Paul regarded the tabernacle as two tabernacles, not as one tabernacle with two sections.
Hebrews 9:8 and 9 say, “The Holy Spirit showing by this, that the way of the Holy of Holies has not yet been manifested while the first tabernacle still has its standing; which is a figure for the present time.” Here Paul does not say “the first section of the tabernacle”; he speaks of “the first tabernacle” having its standing. The relative pronoun “which” in verse 9 refers not to standing, but to the first tabernacle. This pronoun is emphatic and refers definitely to the first tabernacle. This clearly indicates that the first tabernacle is a figure for the present time.
Bible translators and expositors have debated the meaning of the phrase “the present time.” This expression refers to the New Testament age. Thus, the first tabernacle was a type of the New Testament age. It was a figure, not the reality. Likewise, the table and the lampstand in the first tabernacle are also types, figures, not realities. Those in the Old Testament did not have the reality in the first tabernacle. What they had was only a type, a figure. We today have the reality. The first tabernacle was a picture, a figure, a type, of the present time, of the New Testament age.
Although the first tabernacle, the Holy Place, was a type, Paul does not say that the second tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, was a type or figure. The reason for this is that the first tabernacle was a figure of the New Testament age, but the second tabernacle was the reality of the New Testament age. The showbread on the table in the Holy Place was not a reality; it was not Christ Himself. Rather, it typified Christ. Hence, it was a figure. Likewise, the lampstand shining in the Holy Place was also not Christ Himself shining. It was a figure, a type, of Christ. However, the shekinah glory of God in the Holy of Holies was a reality, not a type or a figure. God was actually in the second tabernacle. Therefore, when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he could actually see the glory of God and receive a word from God. Hence, the second tabernacle was not a figure of the New Testament age. Instead, to some extent, it was the reality of the New Testament age.
The two tabernacles also typify the two covenants—the old covenant and the new covenant. The first tabernacle, a type of the present age, signifies the old covenant. The second tabernacle, the reality of the New Testament age, signifies the new covenant.
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