The Spiritual Meaning of the Tabernacle


Throughout history, humanity has sought to connect with the divine in various ways. One profound example of this pursuit is found in the ancient Israelites’ construction of the tabernacle. The tabernacle served as a physical and spiritual dwelling place for God during the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. However, beyond its practical function, the tabernacle holds rich symbolism and spiritual meaning that transcends time. Here we are going to we explore the deeper significance of the tabernacle and uncover the profound spiritual truths it conveys.

  1. A Place of God’s Dwelling

Exodus 25:8 (NIV)
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

This verse, spoken by God Himself to Moses, encapsulates the essence of the tabernacle. It represents God’s desire to have a tangible dwelling place among His people, where His presence can be experienced and His glory manifested.

The construction of the tabernacle was a divine commandment given to the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness. It was a physical structure meticulously designed according to God’s specifications, with every detail serving a purpose and conveying a deeper spiritual truth.

Through the tabernacle, God sought to establish a personal and intimate relationship with His chosen people. It was not enough for Him to be a distant deity; He desired to be intimately involved in their lives. The tabernacle served as a constant reminder of His closeness and accessibility.

Within the confines of the tabernacle, the Israelites believed that they were in the very presence of God. The Holy of Holies, separated by a veil, housed the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s presence among His people. It was a sacred space where the high priest could enter once a year to make atonement for the sins of the nation.

The tabernacle was a place of worship, sacrifice, and intercession. It was where the people could bring their offerings and seek forgiveness, commune with God through prayer and worship, and receive guidance and direction through the priests.

While the physical tabernacle is no longer present, its spiritual significance remains. It serves as a reminder that God desires to dwell among His people, not only in a physical structure but also in our hearts and lives.

As believers today, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s presence dwells within us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are called to honor and reverence the sacredness of our bodies and live in a way that reflects His presence within us.

Just as the tabernacle was a place of encounter with God for the Israelites, our lives should be a dwelling place for His presence. We can experience His closeness, guidance, and intimacy through prayer, worship, and obedience to His Word.

  1. Symbolism of the Tabernacle

The intricate design and construction of the tabernacle were not merely for aesthetic purposes. Every aspect of its architecture and furnishings held symbolic meaning, representing deeper spiritual truths. Let’s explore some key elements:

a. The Outer Court

The outer court of the tabernacle held significant symbolism and served as the initial step towards encountering God. It was a place accessible to all Israelites and represented the importance of repentance and purification.

Within the outer court stood the bronze altar, where sacrifices were made. This altar symbolized the need for atonement and foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Israelites would bring their offerings to the altar, acknowledging their sins and seeking forgiveness through the shedding of blood.

The sacrifices offered on the bronze altar were a temporary solution, pointing towards the future redemption and forgiveness that would be achieved through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus, the Lamb of God, would become the ultimate sacrifice, offering Himself as a perfect atonement for the sins of humanity.

The bronze altar emphasizes the significance of repentance and the acknowledgment of our need for forgiveness. It reminds us that our sins separate us from God, and it is through repentance and the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice that we can be reconciled with Him.

The bronze material of the altar highlights the aspect of judgment. It signifies that sin must be dealt with and that justice is required. The sacrifices made on the bronze altar demonstrated that sin carries a price and that someone must pay the penalty.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the symbolism of the bronze altar through His sacrificial death on the cross. He bore the judgment and penalty for our sins, providing a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to God.

b. The Holy Place

The Holy Place, situated beyond the outer court of the tabernacle, was a sacred space accessible only to the priests. Within the Holy Place, three significant elements were present: the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. Each of these elements held deep spiritual symbolism.

Firstly, the golden lampstand represented spiritual illumination. It was made of pure gold and consisted of seven branches with lamps on top. The light from the lamps symbolized God’s presence and guidance, illuminating the path for His people. It reminds us of the importance of seeking divine wisdom and understanding through God’s Word, which serves as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Secondly, the table of showbread represented sustenance through God’s Word. It was a table made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, and held twelve loaves of bread. The bread symbolized the provision and nourishment God provides for His people. It reminds us that God sustains us physically and spiritually, providing the nourishment we need to thrive in our spiritual journey.

Lastly, the altar of incense represented the power of prayer and worship. It was a small altar made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, and placed before the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The burning incense on the altar produced a fragrant aroma, symbolizing the prayers of the people rising to God. It emphasizes the significance of prayer and worship, reminding us of the power and privilege we have to approach God’s throne through communion with Him.

Together, the elements in the Holy Place signify the importance of spiritual illumination, sustenance through God’s Word, and the power of prayer and worship in our relationship with God. They remind us to seek His guidance, rely on His provision, and maintain a vibrant connection with Him through prayer and worship.

c. The Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies, situated at the innermost part of the tabernacle, held profound significance. It was a sacred space separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a veil. Within the Holy of Holies resided the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This space symbolized the presence of God, veiled from the people due to their sinfulness.

Access to the Holy of Holies was restricted to only the high priest, and that too, only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This emphasized the need for a mediator between God and humanity. The high priest, representing the people, would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for their sins.

The veil that separated the Holy of Holies symbolized the barrier between humanity and God’s holiness. It served as a reminder of the consequence of sin and the separation it creates between God and His creation. The people were not able to directly approach God’s presence due to their sinfulness.

However, through the sacrificial system and the work of the high priest, a temporary reconciliation was made possible. The high priest’s entrance into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement demonstrated the importance of atonement and the need for forgiveness to restore the relationship between God and His people.

The Holy of Holies points forward to the ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Through His sacrificial death on the cross, the veil was torn in two, signifying that the barrier between God and humanity was removed. Jesus became the ultimate mediator, granting direct access to God’s presence for all who believe in Him.

  1. Foreshadowing Christ

The tabernacle, with its design and rituals, served as a remarkable foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. Through its various elements and practices, it pointed to the ultimate fulfillment found in Christ.

The sacrificial system within the tabernacle was a important aspect of its symbolism. The offerings made on the bronze altar were temporary and served as a reminder of the need for atonement. These animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the perfect and ultimate sacrifice that would be offered by Jesus Christ on the cross. He became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, providing full and eternal atonement for humanity’s transgressions.

The priesthood established within the tabernacle also played a significant role in foreshadowing Christ. The high priest, who entered the Holy of Holies once a year, represented the need for a mediator between God and humanity. In the New Testament, Jesus is depicted as the ultimate High Priest who intercedes on behalf of His people. He is the bridge between humanity and God, offering access to the Father through His sacrificial death and resurrection.

The emphasis on God’s presence within the tabernacle finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. The Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant resided, symbolized the presence of God among His people. In the person of Jesus Christ, God took on human flesh and dwelt among humanity. He became Immanuel, “God with us,” bringing God’s presence closer than ever before. Through Jesus, believers have direct access to God’s presence and can experience His love, grace, and guidance in their lives.

The tabernacle’s intricate design, with its construction materials, measurements, and arrangement of its various components, also holds symbolism pointing to Christ. For example, the use of gold, representing purity and divinity, foreshadowed the deity of Jesus. The precise measurements and perfect order in the tabernacle highlighted the perfection and fulfillment found in Christ.

  1. Personal Application

While the physical tabernacle no longer exists, its spiritual lessons are still applicable today. We can draw valuable insights from its symbolism:

a. Intimacy with God

The tabernacle serves as a reminder of our innate longing for intimacy with God. It reflects our deep desire for a meaningful connection with the divine. The tabernacle’s purpose was to create a space where God’s presence could dwell among His people, emphasizing the importance of a personal relationship with Him.

Through the symbolism of the tabernacle, we learn that God desires to dwell within us. Just as He dwelled within the Holy of Holies, He longs to reside in the innermost chambers of our hearts. He wants to have a personal and intimate relationship with each one of His children.

The tabernacle also highlights the significance of seeking God’s presence. It teaches us that intimacy with God requires intentional effort and a heart that seeks after Him. Just as the Israelites had to approach the tabernacle and enter its various areas, we too must approach God with a humble and open heart, seeking His presence through prayer, worship, and the study of His Word.

Moreover, the tabernacle demonstrates the accessibility of intimacy with God. It was accessible to all Israelites, regardless of their status or position. Similarly, God’s desire for intimacy extends to everyone. He invites us to come to Him as we are, without any barriers or prerequisites. He longs to have a personal relationship with each individual, offering His love, grace, and guidance.

b. Purification and Repentance

The outer court of the tabernacle carries a profound message of purification and repentance. It serves as a reminder that in order to draw closer to God, we must examine our lives, seek forgiveness, and embrace the cleansing process.

In the outer court, sacrifices were offered on the bronze altar, symbolizing the need for atonement and the acknowledgment of sin. This act of sacrifice called for repentance and turning away from wrongdoing. It teaches us that genuine closeness to God requires a humble and contrite heart, willing to acknowledge our faults and seek His forgiveness.

The emphasis on purification in the outer court highlights the transformative power of God’s grace. It reminds us that forgiveness and cleansing are essential for our spiritual growth and for establishing a deeper connection with God. Just as the Israelites underwent ceremonial washings and sacrifices, we are called to undergo a spiritual cleansing through repentance and the acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

The outer court also speaks to the ongoing nature of repentance in our lives. It serves as a constant reminder to continually examine our hearts, identify areas of sin, and seek reconciliation with God. Repentance is a lifelong process of turning away from sin and aligning ourselves with God’s will.

Ultimately, the message of purification and repentance in the outer court points us to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate sacrifice who cleanses us from sin and offers us forgiveness. Through His death and resurrection, we have the opportunity to experience true repentance and purification, enabling us to draw near to God with a cleansed conscience and a renewed relationship.

c. Prayer and Worship

The Holy Place within the tabernacle holds a profound message regarding prayer, worship, and the study of God’s Word. It reminds us of the vital role these practices play in our spiritual journey and the nourishment they provide for our souls.

Prayer is a direct line of communication between us and God. It is a powerful tool that allows us to express our deepest thoughts, desires, and concerns to our Heavenly Father. The Holy Place reminds us of the importance of setting aside dedicated time for prayer, seeking God’s guidance, and pouring out our hearts before Him.

Worship is another integral aspect emphasized in the Holy Place. It involves acknowledging and honoring God for who He is and what He has done. Through worship, we express our adoration, gratitude, and reverence towards our Creator. The Holy Place encourages us to engage in heartfelt worship, both individually and collectively, recognizing the significance of praising God and aligning our hearts with His.

The study of God’s Word is also emphasized in the Holy Place. It signifies the importance of seeking spiritual nourishment and guidance through the Scriptures. Just as the table of showbread was present in the Holy Place, symbolizing the provision of sustenance, the study of God’s Word provides spiritual nourishment, guidance, and illumination for our lives.

Together, prayer, worship, and the study of God’s Word form an interconnected foundation for our spiritual journey. They allow us to deepen our relationship with God, grow in our understanding of His character, and align ourselves with His will. These practices provide the sustenance and guidance needed to navigate life’s challenges and draw closer to God.

d. Access to God

The torn veil in the Holy of Holies holds profound significance regarding our access to God. At the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion, the thick curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two, symbolizing the removal of barriers and the opening of direct access to God through Christ.

In the Old Testament, the veil served as a symbol of the separation between a holy God and sinful humanity. Only the high priest, once a year, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people. However, when Jesus died on the cross, His sacrifice fulfilled the need for atonement once and for all. As a result, the veil was torn from top to bottom, signifying that the way to God was now open for all who believe in Jesus.

Through Christ, we no longer require a human mediator to approach God. The torn veil represents our direct access to the Father. We can boldly come before Him in faith, knowing that Jesus has reconciled us to God and made a way for us to have a personal relationship with Him. We can approach God with confidence, knowing that we are welcomed into His presence as His beloved children.

This access to God is not limited to a select few but is available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. It is a profound expression of God’s grace and love for humanity. Through Christ’s sacrifice, we have been granted the privilege of direct communion with the Father, experiencing His love, guidance, and transformative power in our lives.

Read also: The spiritual meaning of Stars


The tabernacle stands as a remarkable testament to the Israelites’ desire to commune with God and their recognition of His dwelling among them. Its spiritual meaning surpasses its historical significance, pointing to the profound truths of God’s presence, redemption, and our intimate relationship with Him. May we reflect upon these timeless lessons and seek to experience the spiritual reality the tabernacle represents in our lives today.

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