When the Lord gave to Israel the original directions for the making of the sanctuary, that was to be a figure for
the time then present, he said, "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them."
That He might "dwell among them" was the object of the sanctuary. This purpose of the sanctuary is more fully
stated in the following: "And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle [margin, "Israel"] shall
be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also
both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and
will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of
Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God." Exodus 29:43-46; also
Leviticus 26:11, 12.
This purpose was not that He should dwell among them simply and only by the tabernacle's being set up in the
midst of the camp of Israel. This is the great mistake that Israel made in the use of the tabernacle and so almost
wholly lost the true purpose of the sanctuary. When the tabernacle was made and was set up in the midst of the
camp of Israel, many of the children of Israel supposed that that was enough; they supposed that to be the way
in which God would dwell in the midst of them.
It is true that by the Shekinah, God did dwell in the sanctuary. But even the sanctuary with its splendid furniture,
standing in the midst of the camp—this was not all of the sanctuary. In addition to the splendid building and its
furniture, there were the sacrifices and offerings of the people and the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the
people. There were the priests in their continual services and there was the high priest in his holy ministry.
Without these the sanctuary was for Israel practically an empty thing, even though the Lord did dwell in it.
And what was the meaning and purpose of these things? Let us see: When any of the children of Israel had
"done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done,"
and so was "guilty," then "of his own voluntary will" he brought to the door of the tabernacle his sacrificial lamb.
Before the lamb was offered in sacrifice the individual who had brought it laid his hands upon its head and
confessed his sins and it was "accepted for him to make atonement for him." Then he who had brought the
lamb and confessed his sins slew it. Its blood was caught in a basin. Some of the blood was sprinkled round
about upon the altar of burnt offering," which was at the door of the tabernacle; some of it was put "upon the
horns of the altar of sweet incense, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation;" some of it was sprinkled
"seven times before the Lord before the veil of the sanctuary;" and all the rest of it was poured out "at the
bottom of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." The lamb itself
was burnt upon the altar of burnt offering. And of all this service, it is written in
conclusion: "and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him." The service was similar in
case of the sin and confession of the whole congregation. Also there was a similar service, a continual service
morning and evening, in behalf of the whole congregation. But whether the services were
individual or general, the conclusion of it was always declared to be "The priest shall make an atonement for him [or them], and it
shall be forgiven him." See Leviticus chapters 1 to 5.
The course of service of the sanctuary was completed annually. And the day of the completion of the service,
the tenth day of the seventh month, was especially "the day of atonement" or the cleansing of the sanctuary. On
that day service was concluded in the Most Holy Place. That day was the "once every year" when "the High
Priest alone" went into the "Holiest of all" or Most Holy Place. And of the high priest and his service that day it is
written, "He shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle
of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of
the congregation." Leviticus 16:2-34; Hebrews 9:2-8.
Thus the services of the sanctuary, in the offering of the sacrifices and the ministering of the priests, and of the
high priests alone, was for the making of atonement and for the forgiveness and sending away of the sins of the
people. Because of the sin and guilt, because of their having "done somewhat against any of the
commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done," atonement must be made and
forgiveness obtained. Atonement is literally at-one-ment. The sin and the guilt had separated them from God.
By these services they were made at-one with God. Forgive is literally give-for. To
forgive sin is to give for sin. Forgiveness of sin comes alone from God. What does God give, what has He given, for sin? He gave Christ,
and Christ "gave himself for our sins." Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:12-16; Romans 5:8-11.
Therefore when an individual or the whole congregation of Israel had sinned and desired forgiveness the whole
problem and plan of forgiveness, of atonement, of salvation, was worked out before their faces. The sacrifice
which was brought was in faith of the sacrifice which God had already made in giving His Son for sin. In this
faith sinners were accepted of God, and Christ was received of them for their sin. Thus they were made at one
with God, and thus God would dwell in the midst of them; that is, He would dwell in each heart and abide in each
life to make that heart and life "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." And the placing of the
tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration, an object lesson and suggestion, of the truth that
He would dwell in the midst of each individual. Ephesians 3:16-19.
Some of that nation in every age saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body in all ages Israel
missed this thought, and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the
camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their
worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual. Therefore, their own lives continued
unreformed and unholy, and so those who came out of Egypt missed the great thing which God had for them
and "fell in the wilderness." Hebrews 3:17-19.
The same mistake was made by the people after they had passed into the land of Canaan. They put their
dependence on the Lord only as He dwelt in the tabernacle and would not allow that the tabernacle and its
ministry should be the means of His dwelling in themselves through faith. Consequently their lives only
increased in wickedness. Therefore God allowed the tabernacle to be destroyed and the ark of God to be taken
captive by the heathen (Jeremiah 7:12; 1 Samuel 4:10-22) in order that the people might learn to see and find and
worship God individually and so find Him to dwell with them individually.
After the absence of the tabernacle and its service from among Israel for about a hundred years, it was restored
by David and was merged in the grand temple that was built by Solomon. But again its true purpose was
gradually lost sight of. Formalism with its attending wickedness more and more increased until in Israel the Lord
was compelled to cry out: "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
Though ye offer Me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace
offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy
viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." Amos
Also in Judah, by Isaiah, He was compelled to make a like plea: "Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom;
give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices
unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the
blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at
your hand, to tread My courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new
moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I can not away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your
new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And
when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not
hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine
eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for
the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be
as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:10-18.
Yet His pleas were not regarded. Israel was therefore carried captive and her land was left desolate because of
their wickedness; and the like fate hung over Judah. And still this danger to Judah was from the same great
cause that the Lord had been striving always to teach the nation and which they had not yet learned: the holding
of the temple and God's presence in that temple as the great end, instead of holding that as only the means to
the true end which was that by means of the temple and its ministry in accomplishing forgiveness and
atonement, He who dwelt in the temple would dwell in themselves. And so again the Lord pleaded with His
people by Jeremiah that He might save them from this mistake and have them see and receive the great truth of
the real meaning and purpose of the temple and its service.
Thus He said: "Behold, ye trust in lying words, that can not profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and
swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand
before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is
this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it,
saith the Lord.
"But go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it for
the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I
spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore
will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and
to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren,
even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them,
neither make intercession to Me: for I will not hear thee.…Oh that My head were waters, and Mine eyes a
fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of My people! Oh that I had in the
wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave My people, and go from them! for they be all
adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not
valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not Me. Jeremiah 7:8-16; 9:1, 3.
What were specifically the "lying words" in which these people trusted? Here they are: "Trust ye not in lying
words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these." Jeremiah 7:4. Thus
it is made perfectly plain that the people though going through the forms of worship and of the temple service,
went through all this merely as forms, missing entirely the purpose of the temple and its services, which was
solely that God might reform and make holy the lives of the people by His dwelling in them individually.
And missing all this, the wickedness of their own hearts only more and more made itself manifest. For this reason all
their sacrifices, worship, and prayers, were only mockery and noise, so long as their hearts and lives were
unreformed and unholy.
Therefore the word "came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and
proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to
worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will
cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the
Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly
execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the
widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you
to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever." Jeremiah 7:1-7.
Instead of allowing God's great purpose of the temple and its services to be met in themselves, the people
utterly perverted that purpose. Instead of allowing the temple and its services which God in His mercy had
planted among them, to teach them how that He in truth would dwell among them by dwelling in their hearts and
making holy their lives, they excluded all this true purpose of the temple and its services and perverted it all to
the utterly false purpose of sanctioning grossest wickedness and cloaking deepest, darkest unholiness.
For such a system there was no remedy but destruction. Accordingly the city was besieged and captured by the
heathen. The temple, their "holy and beautiful house" was destroyed. And with the city and the temple a heap of
burnt and blackened ruins, the people were carried captive to Babylon, where in their sorrow and the deep
sense of their great loss they sought and found and worshiped the Lord in a way that so reformed their lives that
if they had done it when the temple stood, it would have stood forever.
God brought them back from Babylon a humbled and reformed people. His holy temple was rebuilt and its
services were restored. The people again dwelt in their city and their land. But apostasy again ensued. The
same course was again repeated until, when Jesus, the great center of the temple and its services came to His
own, the same old condition of things again prevailed. Matthew 21:12, 13; 23:13-32. In their hearts they could
persecute and pursue Him to the death and yet outwardly be so holy (?) that they could not cross the threshold
of Pilate's judgment hall "lest they should be defiled"! John 18:28.
And the Lord's appeal to the people was still the same as of
old—that they should find in their own personal lives the meaning of the temple and its services and so be saved from the fate which had overtaken their nation
through all its history, because of this same great mistake which they were repeating. Accordingly, one day in
the temple Jesus said to the multitude there present, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But
He spake of the temple of His body." John 2:19-21. When Jesus in the temple spoke thus to that people,
referring to "the temple of His body" he was still endeavoring, as through all their history, to get them to perceive
that the great purpose of the temple and its services always was that by means of the ministry and service there
conducted, God would dwell and walk in themselves as He dwelt in the temple, making holy His dwelling-place
in themselves, as His dwelling in the temple made that place holy so that their bodies should be truly temples of
the living God, because of God's dwelling in them and walking in them. 2
Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16,17; Leviticus 26:11, 12; 2 Samuel 7:6, 7.
And still they would not see this truth. They would not be reformed. They would not have the purpose of the
sanctuary met in themselves, that God should dwell in them. They rejected Him who came personally to show to
them this true purpose and the true Way. Therefore again there was no remedy but destruction. Again their city
was taken by the heathen. Again the temple, their "holy and beautiful house," was burned with fire. Again they
were taken captive and were forever scattered, to be only "wanderers among the nations." Hosea 9:17.
Again let it be emphasized that the earthly sanctuary, the earthly temple, with its ministry and services, was as
such only a figure of the true, which with its ministry and services was then in heaven. When the thought of the
sanctuary was first presented to Moses for Israel it was stated by the Lord to him,
"See…that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount."
Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:40; 25:30; 27:8. The sanctuary on the earth was therefore a figure of the true, in the sense of its being a pattern of the true. The ministry and
services in the earthly were "figures of the true" in the sense of being "the patterns" of the
true—"the patterns of things in the heavens." Hebrews 9:23, 24.
The true sanctuary of which this was a figure, the original of which this was a pattern, was then in existence. But
in the darkness and confusion of Egypt, Israel had lost the true idea of this, as they had also of many other
things which were plain to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; and by this object-lesson God would give to them the
knowledge of the true. It was therefore not a figure in the sense of being a type of something to come that did
not yet exist, but a figure in the sense of being an object-lesson and visible representation of that which then
existed but was invisible.
And by all this God was revealing to them and to all people forever that it is by the priesthood, ministry, and
service of Christ in the true sanctuary or temple which is in heaven, that He dwells amongst men. He was
revealing that in this faith of Jesus, forgiveness of sins and atonement is ministered to men so that God dwells
in them and walks in them, He being their God and they His people, and thus they be separated from all the
people that are upon the face of the earth—separated unto God as His own true sons and daughters to be built
up unto perfection in the knowledge of God. Exodus 33:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 7:1.