By J. Vernon McGee
We now pass from the outer court into the Holy Place. The articles of furniture in the outer court, as we have attempted to show, dealt with solving the problem of sin. There the sin question was forever settled, never to lift its ugly jaws again in condemnation of the child of God.
The articles placed in the Holy Place spoke of communion and worship. There can be no communion or worship until sin is out of the way as an issue between God and man. After the sin question is dealt with, it is removed in such a way that it constitutes no part of worship. Only a remembrance is made of it. But God in His fellowship with His children remembers their sin no more. As we pass from the outer court into the place of worship, we shall expect to find a radical change in the articles of furniture. However, before considering this change, it will be helpful, before proceeding further in consideration of the articles of furniture, to turn our thoughts to a description of the three entrances of the Tabernacle.
As stated in the second chapter, the most important part of the Tabernacle was the furniture. The Tabernacle furnished a setting for the furniture, and it may well be viewed from the standpoint of these furnishings, which we are endeavoring to do. We pause, however, to examine the three entrances which furnish a background for the articles in the Holy Place. The three entrances were respectively, these: first, in the gate of the court; second, the door of the Tabernacle but the first to the Tabernacle proper; and third, the veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. The way into the presence of God, for the Israelite, was through these three entrances. Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). It is interesting to note that this threefold definition that Christ made of Himself dovetails into the three entrances of the Tabernacle.
First, the gate of the court corresponds to Christ as "the way." The gate led into the outer court from the outside. It was the first threshold crossed, and it separated the sinner on the outside from all within. Immediately upon coming through the gate, the entrant was confronted by the brazen alter and the laver in the background. The way to God today is by way of the cross. Christ is that way. The way is not a highway on which one travels by following a highway number, but is a person who is to be trusted. Many folk depend on some highway marker (denomination) to keep them on the right way, and they are proud of the fact that they are Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian. These are all very well, but it needs to be emphasized that the way to God is a person. Christianity is not a church, denomination, system of ethics, rule of life, or a ceremony; Christianity is a person and that One is Christ. He is the way to God. It is all important that God be approached in the right way, for there is a right way and there is a wrong way. The right way is exactingly right and can be dogmatically stated as such, and the wrong way is absolutely wrong and can be dogmatically expressed as such. The right way leads to God, and the wrong way leads from God. Any other way than Christ is wholly and incurably wrong and leads to destruction. Christ emphatically declared, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Sincerity does not overcome willful ignorance or error in this important matter. A traveler may get on a wrong way by mistake, and may go in the opposite direction from the desired goal. In all this he may be perfectly sincere, but he is on the wrong way and his sincerity, no matter how intense, will never enable him to arrive at his destination. On the contrary, the farther he goes, the farther he is from being right. The only possible alternative is for him to get on the right way or be utterly wrong. "I am the way. . . ." In making this tremendous claim, He repudiated every other way. The way into God's presence, the place of communion and worship, is through Christ. We must settle the sin question in our lives before we can come into God's presence to worship. In the Tabernacle it was essential for a priest, coming into God's presence to worship, to pass through the gate and by the altar. There was no other way.
The way of the cross leads home,
There is no other way but this.
All worship is predicated on the cross of Christ. He not only constitutes the object of worship, but He makes the basis of worship. Sin must be settled at the cross before there can be real worship.
Second, the door of the Tabernacle corresponded to Christ who is "the truth." The door led from the outer court to the Holy Place. It separated the one who had made the sacrifice from worship. The priest, having made the proper offering, must pass through the door of the Tabernacle if he would worship God. So today, God is worshiped in truth through Christ.
That was a novel thing that Christ introduced to the Samaritan woman at the well: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father" (John 4:21). Both the Samaritan and the Jews agreed that God was worshiped in one place. They disagreed concerning the place. It was a question with them of "either/or." Christ said something new when He removed the place by the "neither/nor." Certainly, the Scriptures confirmed the belief of the Jews that Jerusalem was the proper place. There, and there alone, the Jew understood that he could worship God. He never believed that he could worship God elsewhere. In this he was correct. The earthly place of worship was Jerusalem. Again in the future it is to be the place of worship for all earthly people, both Jews and Gentiles:
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16, 17)
God had declared to His people, Israel, that it was in Jerusalem that He set His holy name. Christ had given commandment not to swear by Jerusalem, and the reason given was that it was the city of the great King. Therefore, the statement of Christ to the woman at the well, as well as to the Jews, was a radical one. But He spoke of the church age.
During this time the place of worship would not be localized:
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worship pers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:23)
The place was removed from Jerusalem to "in spirit," and the manner would be "in truth."
The door of the Tabernacle suggested Christ as the truth, for it led into the place of worship, and the manner of worship now is "in truth." God is worshiped today anywhere (in spirit), but the way is not just any way. He is worshiped "in truth," which corresponds to the Holy Place in the Tabernacle. We shall see this more fully as we consider the articles of furniture in the Holy Place.
Third, the veil corresponds to Christ as "the life." The veil separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. A separate consideration of the veil will be made when we come to consider the furniture in the Holy of Holies. It was the veil that was rent in twain from top to the bottom. A person who enters by faith in Christ into the Holy Place today is in the Holy of Holies. True worship now brings the worshiper into the very presence of God. But it must still be offered in truth, for the door of the Tabernacle was not rent in twain. God is worshiped only in truth, and that which is false does not get to Him. It is therefore imperative that a believer think clearly and sharply about worship and that he be led aright, for all that parades in the name of worship is not worship.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bear ing his reproach. (Hebrews 13:13)