The Parable of the Tabernacle

An Unlikely Parable

Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1877)

When I think of parables I think of Jesus and the Beatitudes, or the parable of the soils. My thoughts go to any of the illustrations and stories Jesus used when describing the Kingdom of Heaven or the End of the Age. What I don’t think of as a parable is the Tabernacle. I see the ministry of sacrifices and priestly intercession of the Tabernacle as pointing to Christ’s role and what He would ultimately fulfill. I see it as an illustration pointing to the heavenly. But today how I think about the Tabernacle has dynamically changed in light of one Greek word used in Hebrews 9:9. I know nothing about Greek except how to look it up in my Bible software. I am more familiar with Biblical Hebrew and even that is limited. However, I stumbled on something that not only caught my attention, it arrested me, and ultimately shifted my perception.

Hebrews 9:9-10 This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established.

(see the Scriptural Reference at the bottom of this post for context which is Hebrews 9:1-12) 

The English Revised Version of this verse uses the word parable rather than illustration.

The ESV uses the phrase “which is symbolic for the present age“, other translations use  terms such a symbol, a figure, an image and an example. This is the Greek word parabole. It carries a sense of a comparison of things placed juxtaposed to one another.

Strong’s Concordance (entry for parabole Gk 3850) a similitude (“parable”), i.e. (symbolic) fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral), apothegm or adage — comparison, figure, parable, proverb. Strong’s expounds: “a narrative, fictitious but agreeable to the laws and usages of human life, by which either the duties of men or the things of God, particularly the nature and history of God’s kingdom, are figuratively portrayed”

It’s more than just a picture, it is a story; a figurative story with a moral. Like all of Jesus’ parables which give us a picture of the kingdom of God there is more than what is on the surface.  I like the parable of the sower (Mark 4, Matthew 13 & Luke 8). I like it because Jesus explains a deeper meaning to the disciples and we benefit from that explanation. He told them if they couldn’t understand the parable of the sower how were they going to understand any of His parables? (Mark 4:13) You got me on that one. I think I know some things but the Spirit is always revealing something I haven’t seen before.

The parables that Jesus spoke were word pictures carefully crafted to create an image in the mind of the listeners. For those who had eyes to see and ears to hear (Mark 4:9) they perceived more than the simple earthly imagery. They understood the deeper, spiritual application of the parables. But the Tabernacle wasn’t just a word picture.

The French call it a tableau vivant. 

The earthly Tabernacle is an amazing tableau vivant. It is an intricately detailed living three-dimensional model of the heavenly Tabernacle. While most tableau vivant are stationary and silent the Tabernacle is living and full of wonderful sights, sounds and activities. When we look at the Tabernacle, the Feasts and the service of the priesthood we are seeing a figurative portrayal, an illustration of the true and more perfect Tabernacle, the heavenly Tabernacle. (Hebrews 9:11)

Tableau vivant is French for a living picture. A tableau vivant is a static scene containing one or more actors or models. They are typically stationary and silent. The actors are usually in costume, carefully posed, with props and/or scenery, and may be theatrically lit. A tableau vivant combines aspects of theatre and the visual arts.

Tabernacle in the Wilderness

A Living Parable

The living picture of the Tabernacle is the backdrop, the set design. The Tabernacle in fact goes beyond even that of a tableau vivant. It is more like an elaborate theater in the round. The Tabernacle is the scene where the lively play written by God and rehearsed by Moses, Aaron and the Levites is performed. God is Writer, Director, set designer and A-lister starring in this no expense spared extravaganza. Moses is like a producer or co-director who takes what has been conveyed by God and he gives it physicality. Moses also sees to it that the actors, (Priests and Levites) adhere to God’s original script.

This action based, God designed, production illustrates actual events Christ would later carry out. They don’t just tell a nice story. Like all the parables of Jesus, they are intended to impart spiritual truth. They are designed to provoke us to seek God for spiritual implication and significance.

You can’t have a Tabernacle without the Feasts. You can’t have the Feasts without the Tabernacle. They are interrelated and interconnected. God calls the Feasts His holy convocations (miqra); His appointed times (moed).

These holy convocations, the Feasts of the Lord are dress rehearsals pointing to a future event. In the case of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost these events were fulfilled in the earth by Christ at His first coming. The Fall Feasts are yet to be fulfilled in the earth.

Quote below from The Seven Festivals of Messiah by Eddie Chumney (Chapter 2) –

In Leviticus 23:2 it is written, “……the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations….” The Hebrew term translated as convocation in Leviticus (Vayikra) 23:2,4 is miqra, which means “a rehearsal.” From this we can see that G-d gave the festivals to be yearly “rehearsals” of the future events in the redemption. Because G-d gave the “rehearsals” to teach us about the major events in the redemption, if we want to understand the major events in the redemption, then we need to understand what G-d was teaching us by these rehearsals. 

click link to read Eddie Chumney’s book in its entirety online.

What struck me about the concept of the Tabernacle being a parable is that, like all spiritual things, there is always something you can learn from it even if you’ve heard it a thousand times. Every time I read the parables of Jesus in scripture the Holy Spirit will highlight some aspect of it, giving it meaning in my life today. I may have read that parable many times over the years but today God breathes on it giving it new life and granting me another facet of understanding. The same is true of the Tabernacle along with all of its furnishings, sacrifices, offerings and priestly service.

There is always something we haven’t seen before. That is the nature of God’s word. That is the nature of Jesus’ parables. Jesus explained the parable of the soils to the disciples and every time I read through that parable I see something I didn’t see before.

Ephesians 1:18 TPT

I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones!

Jesus used parables describing mundane earthly things to convey deep spiritual concepts. He did this in an effort to describe the kingdom of God. The earthly tabernacle is a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle. It is intended to give us a glimpse into the Kingdom of heaven. As I ponder the idea of the Tabernacle being a parable pointing to the true and more perfect Tabernacle, the Tabernacle made without hands, my thoughts go to the amazing things the apostle John experienced when he stepped through the door in the spirit and entered heaven.

Until next time. Blessings and may God grant you eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

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Scriptural Reference:

Hebrews 9:1-10 (NLT)

That first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.

When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room[c]as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.

This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.