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Symbolism in the Temple and the Priesthood

God told Moses to make the temple exactly according to his instructions, because every detail had meaning.¹ The temple was where God’s presence dwelt.² It had three sections: an outer court, a sanctuary (or holy place), and at the far back another inner sanctuary called the holy of holies. Each section of the temple leadinto the next, symbolically showing the way to God.

          The outer court, which was surrounded by a wall, was the first section of the temple, it had a purifying basin of water, and an alter for sacrifices. The first step to God is getting rid of sins, which separate us from him.³ The water is symbolic of washing away our filthy sins, and the alter is symbolic of the sacrificial punishment Jesus paid, so our sins could be washed away.⁴

          The next section is a large tent called the holy place. From the outside it appeared plain, being covered in goatskins, but once inside there were vivid colors and fragrant smells.⁵ This section of the temple represents the body of a believer. The new testament says God chose to dwell in clay vessels, because then the world would see that our life comes from God not ourselves.⁶ Though our outer body is fading away, our inner man is being renewed day by day into something beautiful.⁷ The holy place has three items, a menorah, with seven continually burning oil lamps, a table with bread provided by the Israelite's, and an alter of regularly burning incense.⁸ God told Moses that each of these vessels had to be purified with blood, this symbolizes that God sees us and our actions as pure because of the bloody death Jesus paid.⁹ The seven oil fed flames of the menorah represent the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a believer. Throughout the new testament oil and flame is used to represent the Holy Spirit, and the bible uses the number seven to show completeness.¹⁰ The bread was one of the regular provisions God gave the priests.¹¹ I believe this is symbolizing that God will provide the daily needs of believers.¹² The alter of burning incense stood directly in front of the curtain into the holy of holies; it represents the prays of believers, which God says are like sweet incense too him.¹³

God told Aaron to burn incense regularly twice a day, showing that he wants believers to pray throughout the day.¹⁴

          The final section, referred to as the holy of holies, was where God’s presence was the greatest. It represents heaven. To get into this section there was a thick veil, which the bible says represented Jesus earthly body.¹⁵ At Jesus death, this barrier between us and God was torn open, showing that Jesus completed the way into heaven.¹⁶ Like the new Jerusalem in heaven, the holy of holies seems to have had an equal width length and height.¹⁷ Like heaven, there was no source of light in the holy of holies, because God is the light of heaven.¹⁸ Also like heaven the holy of holies was covered in gold.¹⁹ Only the high priest could go into this section of the temple, once a year, to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Inside the holy of holies was the arc of the covenant, which represents the throne of God. The top of the arc had two cherubim, which are the angels who stand on either side of God’s throne in heaven.²⁰ On the cover of the arc, the place between the cherubim was known as the mercy seat, this was where the high priest sprinkled the blood for the sins of the people.²¹ Inside of the arc were the ten commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron's budded staff.²² Each of these items represent something about Jesus. Jesus was the only one to keep all the commands of God. The dead staff which budded, showed that God chose Aaron. I believe it symbolizes God’s bearing whitness to Jesus by raising him from the dead.²³ I believe the jar of manna is symbolic of Jesus being the source of life, just as manna was a life-giving food source to the Israelites. Jesus said that he is the true manna, whichcomes down from heaven and gives life. ²⁴

          The Priesthood also ties into the symbolism of the temple. There were two kinds of priests, regular priests and one high priest. The regular priests were all descendants of Aaron, who was the high priest.²⁵ The high priest had to be chosen by God, and he represents Jesus. The regular priests had to be blood related, and they represent believers, who are spiritual children of Jesus.²⁶ The regular priests were to carry out the daily sacrifices and teach the Israelites about God.²⁷ This shows that all believers are to serve God and teach his ways to those around them.²⁸ The regular priests had different garments than the high priest and they could not enter the holy of holies. This is because the high priest who represents Jesus, is the only person who can go before God to make a payment for sins.²⁹ The high priest garments also had meaning. He wore a linen undergarment (likely white), symbolizing purity; and an ornate and skillfully made outer garment of blue purple and scarlet yarns, symbolizing the kingly majesty of Jesus.³⁰ Over the outer garment were shoulder pieces, a breast-piece, and a gold band around his head covering, which also seem to represent kingly majesty. These garments also had the names of the tribes of israel inscribed on them three different places, showing that Jesus is a priest to us who believe.³¹ The high priest only took off all these kingly outer garments once a year when he went in to offer a sacrifice for the Israelites.³² This represented how Jesus humbled himself becoming a man.³³ When the high priest went into the holy of holies, and sprinkled blood on the mercy seat. It was showing that Jesus would go before God on our behalf pleading his own blood as a payment for our sins.³⁴ The scripture reveals that Jesus is both the God who sits between the cherubim, and our high priest, who lives to mediate between us and God.³⁵ After the high priest would offer his yearly sacrifice he would again put on his royal outer garments. This is why Jesus told the high priest at his trial, I am the Messiah, the Son of God, and “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”³⁶

① Exodus 25:9 / Hebrews 10:1 ② Exodus 25:8 / 2 Samuel 7:6–7 / Exodus 40:33–38 ③ Isaiah 59:2 ④ Hebrews 10:22 / Hebrews 10:1–10 ⑤ Exodus 36:14, 19 / Exodus 36:8 / Exodus 30:7–8⑥ 2 Corinthians 4:7 ⑦ 2 Corinthians 4:16 ⑧ Exodus 27:20–21 / Leviticus 24:2 ⑨ Hebrews 9:21 / Hebrews 10:19 ⑩ Acts 2:3–4 / Matthew 25:1–13 / Revelation 5:6 / Genesis 2:2 ⑪ Exodus 25:30 / 1 Samuel 21:6 / Mark 2:26 ⑫ Matthew 6:11 / Matthew 6:25 ⑬ Exodus 30:6 / Revelation 8:3–4 ⑭ Exodus 30:7–8 / Ephesians 6:18 ⑮ Hebrews 10:19–20 ⑯ Matt. 27:51 / Mark 15:38 / Luke 23:45 / Hebrews 10:19–20 ⑰ Revelation 21:16 / 1 Kings 6:20 ⑱ Revelation 21:23 ⑲ Exodus 36:34 / Revelation 21:18 ⑳ Isaiah 37:16 / Psalm 99:1 ㉑ Leviticus 16:15 / Exodus 25:18 ㉒ Hebrews 9:4 ㉓ Acts 17:31 / Matthew 12:39–40 ㉔ John 6:31-35, 57–58 ㉕ Leviticus 7:34 / Exodus 39:41 ㉖ 1 Peter 2:5, 9 / Revelation 1:6 / Hebrews 2:17 / 1 John 3:1 ㉗ Exodus 35:19 / Leviticus 10:8–11 ㉘ Matthew 28:19-20 / 1 Peter 2:5 / Revelation 1:6 ㉙ Hebrews 2:17 / Hebrews 7:26–28 ㉚ Mark 9:3 / Exodus 28:6 / Revelation 19:16 ㉛ Galatians 3:7 / Galatians 6:16 / Romans 9:6–8 ㉜ Leviticus 16:23 / Hebrews 9:7 ㉝ Philippians 2:5–11 ㉞ Hebrews 9:11–12 ㉟ Revelation 3:21–22 / Hebrews 2:17 ㊱ Matthew 26:63–64

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