If at all there was a time of utter religious confusion—the time is today! With so many different voices, all claiming to be proclaiming the gospel of salvation, a child of God, who is in search of the Bible truth, becomes totally perplexed as to who is preaching the truth. It is not that all that is spoken from various pulpits are errors. There are various degrees of truth in all of them. But a little error is enough to make the gospel a false gospel. The gospel that saves sinners will be free from all errors—it will be true all the way; it will be full truth and nothing but the truth! And when the seeker of the truth hears the real voice of the gospel of Jesus, the counterfeit gospels lose their hold upon that soul. For truth sets people free!
The Gospel is the good news of how God saves sinners. It is called the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1) because God saves sinners only through the Saviour Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God’s way of redeeming and restoring mankind from the clutches of sin and Satan. It is not just the privilege of the New Testament believers to know the way of Salvation, but it was the privilege of the Old Testament believers as well.
There is only one way of how God saves humanity and that is through His Son. He is called the “One mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5). He is not only the mediator for the people in the New Testament, but also for the people in the Old Testament.
Gospel in the Old Testament
The Bible is clear that people in the Old Testament as well heard the gospel of Jesus. The Apostle Paul says, Abraham heard the Gospel directly from God who was his preacher. Galatians 3:8 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham”. And Jesus adds, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)
How did God teach the way of salvation to the Old Testament people? It was through types and symbols that were vivid and in detail.
To Adam and Eve God revealed the death of the coming Messiah when He made the first garments for them—the garments of skin.
Genesis 3:21, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”
God did not clothe them with fur of some animal, but with skin! You can take the fur of an animal out without killing it, but to take its skin away, the animal has to die, it has to be killed. The blood has to be spilt. So in the first preaching of the gospel in symbolism God showed them that someone innocent would die for them—someone would shed blood for their sins.
The symbolism starts of as a little seed in the Garden of Eden that grew into a big tree in the wilderness when God brought out His nation from Egypt and gave them the sanctuary details that contained amazing truths of the plan of Salvation that would be manifested in the life of Jesus. As Adam and Eve were the first couple on earth that received the gospel seed in symbolism, nation Israel that received the complete details of the full grown tree in symbolism, was the first born of God. Exodus 4:22 “Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn”.
The tough act
When God drove out the couple made in His own image and after His likeness, it hurt God deeply; it was a tough act indeed. How He wished them to continue to stay in the blissful paradise. The Garden was a symbol of heaven, a place of purity and holiness. As the fallen angels couldn’t reside in heaven, fallen humanity couldn’t reside in heaven’s paradise on earth.
It hurt God to drive them out. It hurt Adam and Eve too, to be driven out. They went not alone from the Garden; God went out with them! He couldn’t bear being separated from His very own. God desperately wanted to live in the presence of man once again. But how would He do it? Sin stood as a big barrier.
God’s earthly house
In Eden He plated a Garden for man to live in. In the wilderness He asked man to make a house for Him in the midst of them. O how He longed to keep company with us! O how He longed to live with us! Oh how He longed to dwell among us!. Through Moses God sent an invitation to man to make a house for Him.
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,.” Exodus 25:8
The Sanctuary contained the gospel is full detail. From the building to its services it reflected the ministry of Jesus on sinners’ behalf. Its ordinary exterior reflected the One who “ hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him”, Isaiah 53:2. But its inner beauty reflected the character of the one who is “altogether lovely”, Song of Solomon 5:16
God’s way of salvation
God revealed His way of dealing with sin and sinners in the sanctuary details. The psalmist understood it and wrote,
“Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” Psalm 77:13
The sanctuary reveals a great God with a great plan of salvation.
The three steps to the Father
God, whose house, is in “the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) told man to build a house for Him that had three distinct places—the courtyard, the holy place and the most holy place. This is like Jacob’s ladder—that connects earth to heaven. One end touching earth, where man lives, and the other end that touches heaven where God lives.
Exodus 27:9 “And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle”
Exodus 26:33 “…and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”
So the three steps to the Father in the sanctuary sketch were the court, the holy place and the most holy place.
The sanctuary reveals the gospel of Jesus—of how God saves us through Jesus. Jesus came from the third heaven—the most holy place to earth, the court. The three steps to the Father are told to us by Jesus Himself in clear language.
John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
To reach the Father in the symbolic gospel there were three steps—the court, the holy and the most holy. To reach the Father in the gospel in reality there are three steps again—Jesus the way, Jesus the truth, and Jesus the life.
Many people know only Jesus the way. But to meet the Father we need to take all the three steps forward.
The court represents Jesus’ ministry for sinners on earth. There were two items in the court. The altar of burnt offerings and the laver filled with water.
The altar of burnt offering was made up of wood and had four sides.
Exodus 38:1 “And he made the altar of burnt offering of shittim wood”.
Exodus 27:2 “And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof”.
It perfectly represented the cross on which Jesus died, that was made up of wood and had four sides.Just as the blood of Jesus touched the four corners of the cross through His bleeding head, hands and feet, the altar of burnt offering was always touched with blood at the four corners silently reflecting the real altar of burnt offering on Golgotha’s hill.
Ezekiel 43:20, “And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners”.
The laver was filled with water, with which the priests washed their hands and feet before they entered the holy place of the sanctuary with the blood of the sacrifice.
Exodus 30: 18, 19, “Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat”
After Jesus’ death that was symbolized by the altar of burnt offering, Jesus rose from the dead with a new body, a glorious body, that was symbolized by the water of washing in the laver. The body that Jesus had while on earth was just like ours. The apostle wrote,
Romans 8:3, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”
But the body with which Jesus rose from the dead, and has taken the same into the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, is His glorious body—the body that is washed at the laver. Paul called the resurrected and washed body as “his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21)
Water is a fit symbol of the resurrection from the dead. Paul compares baptism to the death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus. But Peter highlights baptism as a reflection of the resurrection of Jesus.
1 Peter 3:21 “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
The holy place
After Jesus completed His ministry on earth as the, “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), He commenced His ministry as the High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary.
Hebrews 8:1, 2 “Now of the things which we ha-ve spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”
As the priest took the blood of the animals into the holy place of the sanctuary to begin intercession on behalf of the sinner, Christ did likewise.
Hebrews 9:12, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
There were three articles in the holy place—the seven branched candlestick, the altar or table of incense and another table with twelve pieces bread. The Apostle Paul summarizes it for us.
Hebrews 9:2 “For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary.”
The word of God says, “The seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick” (Numbers 8:2).
The articles in the holy place reveal the work of Jesus as well. Jesus said about Himself, John 8:12 “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
There are seven continents in our world and Jesus is the seven branched candlestick that gives light to all the seven continents of the world. John adds, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9
The incense ascending from the altar of incense represents prayer ascending to God. The psalmist wrote, Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense”.
Jesus, is our Intercessor, our Mediator. praying for His people continuously placing their request before the Father for His sake. Looking at Jesus ministering in the holy place of the heavenly Sanctuary Isaiah wrote, He, “made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12)
The disciples of the first century whom Jesus left behind knew their Lord was always thinking of them and pleading for them in the courts above for grace and strength. Therefore they were bold knowing that Christ was indeed very closely connected with them through His intercession ministry.
“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34)
Christ still ministers to us through the bread of life. The table contained twelve pieces of bread. God told Moses, “And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof” (Leviticus 24:5)
While He was on earth Jesus plainly declared the bread represented Him. Jesus said, “I am that bread of life” (John 6:48). It also symbolizes the written word, too. In the temptation at the wilderness Christ compared the bread to the word of God.
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
The twelve pieces of bread represented God’s word—the written word and the Word made flesh—that is available to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, to sustain them spiritually for all the twelve months of the year. In our prayers we still pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11).
The most holy place
The second room in the sanctuary was the most holy place or the place that was the holiest of all. Hebrews 9:3-5, “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the Ark of the Covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat”
There were two items in the most holy place—the golden censer and the Ark of the Covenant that had three things within.
The golden censer again represents prayer. Christ always prays for His people—whether in the holy place of most holy place.
Inside the ark was the golden pot that had manna. During the wilderness journey for forty years God physically sustained His people miraculously. That manna represents God’s promise to sustain all His children, through Christ, not just spiritually but physically as well.
Also there was Aaron’s rod that budded. That rod was a symbol of God’s miraculous working power. Through that rod God did wonders in Egypt on behalf of His people. The rod in the most holy place is a guarantee that God will still work wonders and miracles on behalf of His people today, because of His Son Jesus.
Then there were the two tables of the covenant—the Ten Commandments written with the finer of God. This is the only part of the Bible that God personally authored.
Exodus 31:18, says “ two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” Why did God write this law? Because this law defines what sin is, this law will be the standard in the final judgment.
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”(1 John 3:4).
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”, (James 2:12)
The goal of the gospel of Jesus, as clearly revealed in the sanctuary, is not just to forgive man of His sin, that is, of transgressing God’s holy law, but to restore man to full obedience to all of its precepts.
Jesus, the One who shed His holy blood as the Lamb of God, pleads for us as the High Priest, and defends us as the Advocate, and rewards us as the Judge.
He loved us and died for us. That was the expression of His true love. He expects us to express our love to Him as well. Not in words but in deeds. He passionately pleads with all who have been forgiven and covered with His blood, John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
When the woman caught in adultery was supposed to be condemned to death, Jesus saved her. But notice that it was a two fold decree from Jesus—complete forgiveness granted and obedience required after that.
John 8:11, “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
The same is true for every sinner coming to Jesus. No condemnation for the sins committed but obedience to the law is required after that. The apostle Paul who understood the gospel clearly wrote,
Romans 8:1, 4, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.…That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
We have seen how beautifully and vividly the sanctuary covered every step of the gospel of Christ. One is not saved just at the court—where the altar of burnt offering representing the death of Jesus, and the laver representing Jesus’ resurrection is. The process begins there. It continues inside the holy place where a sinner forgiven by the blood of Jesus delights living by every word of God contained in scriptures, symbolized by the twelve pieces of bread. For it is written,
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” , (Matthew 4:4)
With a life of prayer symbolized by the altar of incense the believer connects himself to the Source of all power to live a godly life, and victory over the flesh. And when the branch is connected to the Vine, the life and nourishment of the Vine, Jesus, flows to it. Just as Jesus was the light of the world the believer too becomes the light of the world. The Vine tells its branches “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
Finally the plan of salvation meets its desired end when the glory of God is restored in the minds and heart of His followers. The apostle wrote,
Hebrews 10:16-20, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh”.
There are so many kinds of beliefs and gospels in Christianity today. Truths are given to various degrees. The details of the sanctuary teach us that we need to go all the way to meet God finally. Indeed The Sanctuary Unlocks the Mystery of the Gospel!