by Michael Hatcher
Taken from “John 9:31" in Defender, November 2004
The physical structures of the Tabernacle and the Temple were typifying the spiritual aspects of the New Testament system (Hebrews 8-10). God gave specific instructions as to the making of these structures, and the Israelites were to follow the pattern God gave them (Exodus 25:40). The Tabernacle proper was surrounded by the outer court, representative of the world. In that outer court were two things of importance: the brazen altar and the brazen laver. The brazen altar represented the cross where the Lamb of God shed His blood for man's sin (Galatians 1:4; Titus 2:14; et al). The brazen laver represents baptism where we wash ourselves clean from our sins (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; et al) and qualify us to enter into the Tabernacle (Acts 2:41, 47; I Corinthians 12:13).
The Tabernacle proper was in the western part of the court. It was divided into two compartments separated by a veil. The first compartment was the holy place in which were three pieces of furniture – the table of shewbread which had twelve loaves of unleavened bread on it, the golden candlestick or lampstand, and the altar of incense or golden altar. Inside the veil was the most holy place or holy of holies. It contained the ark of the covenant, and on top of the ark was the mercy seat.
The most holy place represented heaven itself: the dwelling place of God. The holy place represented the church of Christ. The three pieces of furniture in the holy place each typified something God placed in the church. The candlestick had a twofold application:
- the Word of God which gives light to the church (Psalm 119:105; II Corinthians 4:4; II Peter 1:19; et al),
- the light Christians are to have before a darkened world (Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 5:8; Revelation 2:5).
The table of shewbread typified the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; I Corinthians 11:20-29). Before the veil was the golden altar which typifies the prayers of the saints. John wrote, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints" (Revelation 5:8). “Odours” is translated "incense" in the American Standard and New King James. Later John adds, "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out the angel's hand" (Revelation 8:3-4).
God placed the altar in the holy place, not in the court! The altar represents prayers and the holy place represents the church. While the denominational world has always tried to take prayers out of the church a put them in the world (so one can say the "sinner's prayer" for his salvation), such is a violation of what God has established.