Ray Stedman

Ray Stedman on the Tabernacle as Symbolic of Man

 The Application to Christians (Hebrews 9:11-14)

The section from verses 11-14 confronts us anew with the question raised above, What is the reality of which the tabernacle was a copy? Verse 11 says it was a greater and more perfect tabernacle . . . not man-made, . . . not a part of this creation. Verse 24 adds, he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. We have already been given a clue to the meaning of this in 3:6, “For Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house.” He dwells within us as he said he would (Jn 14:23) and as Paul affirms (Eph 3:16-17). The fact that this house is also termed heaven is difficult for us to grasp, since we tend to think of heaven spatially. It is “up there” or “out there” or even in some distant part of outer space. If we would eliminate spatial terms from our thinking, we could come to think of heaven as simply another dimension of existence, as another realm of invisible realities just beyond our senses–in other words, the spiritual kingdom in which God, angels and even demons, function.

 What the Bible seeks to teach us, and what is difficult for us to apprehend, is that we too can function in this dimension. It is the dimension of our spirits. Thus, Paul can say, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). Jesus tells us, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24), and Paul adds, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). All of this strongly suggests that what Moses saw on the mountain was the human person as we are meant to be, the dwelling place of God—the Holy of Holies. John tells us in Revelation, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” If that language sounds reminiscent of the promises of the new covenant described in Hebrews 8, it is no accident. God had this in mind from the very beginning, as David declares in Psalm 8: “You made him [human beings] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” These words, as we have seen, were quoted by the writer in 2:58 and to this, he appended: “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus . . .” Jesus, as high priest of the good things that are already here, has found a way to repossess the human spirit and cleanse it with the “better sacrifice” of himself (9:23), and to dwell within forever by means of the eternal Spirit (9:14).

 9:11. In equating the human spirit with heaven, I do not mean to imply that the human spirit in which the Spirit of Christ dwells is equivalent with all that Scripture includes in the word heaven. I simply mean that there is an obvious correspondence between the two and that in the spirit we are in some sense living in heaven now (Eph 2:6). Moses saw, of course, the whole person–body, soul and spirit (Gen 2:7; 1 Thess 5:23). This would explain the threefold division of the tabernacle. The outer court corresponds to the body; the Holy Place, to the soul; and the Most Holy Place, to the spirit. Even the furniture of the tabernacle corresponds to elements in us. For instance, the furniture of the Holy Place was the lampstand, the table of bread, and the altar of incense. If the Holy Place is the soul of man, these pieces would suggest the mind (lampstand), the emotions (bread as a symbol of social intercourse) and the will (altar of incense, which reflects the choices God approves). But Moses was shown that though God dwells in the human spirit and makes us different from the animals, we have no access to him because of sin. We are described as “dead in trespasses and sins” and said to be “alienated from God,” “without God in the world.” But Paul states the great truth of Hebrews 9 in these words “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).


Stedman, Raymond C. Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Consulting Editors D. Stuart Briscoe, Haddon Robinson (InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 1992) 97ff. http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/hebrews2/heb2comm1.html
(emphasis added)

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