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THE TEMPLE IN HEAVEN AND
THE TABERNACLE OF MOSES

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, September 19, 2015

“Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5).


It was more than a thousand years before Christ. The Hebrew people were in the desert. Moses had led them out of Egypt. Now Moses went up Mount Sinai. There God spoke to him. He told him to build a tabernacle. The Tabernacle was simply a tent. The Hebrew priests offered blood sacrifices in the Tabernacle. The presence of God came down in the Tabernacle.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “The tabernacle was called a tent, the sides of which were upright boards, covered on both sides with gold. It measured thirty cubits long and ten cubits wide [about forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide]” (Thru The Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 558; note on Hebrews 8:5).

The innermost part of the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies. It was separated from the rest of the Tabernacle by a veil. Only the high priest could go in there, and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Dr. McGee wrote, “On the great Day of Atonement the high priest passed through the separating veil to the inner compartment, the Holy of Holies” (ibid.). Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, a box made with wood and covered with gold. “The Ark of the Covenant was covered with a highly ornamented top called the mercy seat...Once a year the high priest placed blood on the mercy seat, and that is what made it a mercy seat. That was God’s dwelling place; that is, the place where God met with the children of Israel” (McGee, ibid.). That was where blood was poured out once a year as an atonement for the sins of the people. The word “atonement” means “covering.” The blood was given as a covering for sin.

The Tabernacle couldn’t be built in just any old way. In the Book of Exodus God told Moses how to build it. God said,

“According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle...even so shall ye make it” (Exodus 25:9).

God told Moses, “Build it the way I say! Follow the pattern I show you!” He showed Moses exactly how to do it. He commanded Moses to make everything “after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exodus 25:40).

The Bible spoke of this in the New Testament, in our text,

“Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5).

What was the pattern God gave to Moses? What was this architectural plan? The Tabernacle was built to follow the pattern of the temple in Heaven. Yes, the Bible tells us there is a temple in Heaven. It says, “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament” (Revelation 11:19). There is a temple in Heaven, with an Ark of the Covenant (the word “testament” means “covenant”) inside it. The Tabernacle on earth was built as its copy. The Bible says, “The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened... And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power” (Revelation 15:5, 8). God’s presence dwells in the temple in Heaven, just as it dwelled in the Tabernacle on earth.

There is a temple in Heaven. And God told Moses to build the Tabernacle following the “pattern” of that temple. He told Moses, “See...that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5).

Someone may say, “How do you know there’s a temple in Heaven? I’ve never seen it.” No one here tonight has seen the temple in Heaven. How do we know about it?

That takes us into the subject of epistemology. “Epistemology” is a word in philosophy. It is the subject of how we know things. How do we know what we know? How do we know about Heaven? One person says one thing, and another says something else. You see it everywhere. People talk like they’re experts, but they don’t know much. But people talk about Heaven all the time.

Right now there’s a movie showing in theaters called “90 Minutes in Heaven.” It’s about a man who says he died in a car accident and went up to Heaven. There he met his dead great-grandmother and got to sing in a heavenly choir. After all that he came back to earth. Don’t go to see that kind of silly junk! Last year there was a film called “Heaven is For Real.” It was about a child who said he went up to Heaven while he was having surgery. There he met his dead great-grandfather, his dead sister, and Jesus. I’m glad I didn’t see it!

A few years ago I met a woman who told me that for forty nights Jesus woke her up, took her to Hell, and then brought her back to her bedroom. She told her story in a book called “A Divine Revelation of Hell.” A lot of people bought that book. People tell so many stories. People say they saw a light as they were dying and then came back. Some say one thing, and some another. But how do we know about Heaven?

Most people go by their feelings and experiences. Others follow their own minds. If they can’t understand something, they reject it. They don’t care that God said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). They don’t care that God said, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). They forget that God is smarter than any of us. So if they don’t understand something, they throw it out! That’s what theological liberals do. If they don’t understand what the Bible says, or don’t want to believe it, they reject it! They trust in their minds and not in God.

Dr. John MacArthur is one of them. Our text says that God told Moses to build the Tabernacle “according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5). Dr. MacArthur doesn’t understand this, so he rejects it. When he read that verse, he said,

This does not mean that there are actual buildings in heaven which were copied in the tabernacle, but rather that the heavenly realities were adequately symbolized and represented in the earthly tabernacle model (The MacArthur Study Bible; note on Hebrews 8:5).

Dr. MacArthur says there are no “buildings in heaven,” even though the Bible tells us there’s a temple there. How does he know? He’s never been there. He trusts his own mind. If he doesn’t understand something, he rejects it. It’s no surprise that Dr. MacArthur does the same thing with the Blood of Jesus. He says the Blood of Jesus doesn’t save from sin, and that even the word “blood” is only a symbol of Christ’s death. He says the Blood doesn’t exist now, that it ran down into the dirt and perished. He says there is no Blood of Jesus in Heaven to wash sin away. He doesn’t understand it, and so he rejects it. Just what does he believe is in Heaven? Empty space? At least that’s something he can understand. But empty space can’t wash away sin. It is only the Blood of Jesus that “cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).

Some people trust their feelings and experiences. Some people trust their minds. But how can we know about Heaven? What knowledge can we have?

We do have a trustworthy source of knowledge! God has given it to us Himself in the Bible! In the Scriptures we have a “more sure word of prophecy” (II Peter 1:19). The Bible isn’t a set of things that people made up a long time ago. The Apostle Peter wrote, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation [not what someone thought]. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man [not what people made up]: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost [what God moved them to write]” (II Peter 1:20-21).

We can know about Heaven – we know what God has revealed to us in the Bible. But we cannot know more about Heaven than what God has told us in the Scriptures. All we know about the heavenly temple is what the Bible tells us about it. And the only way we know the true meaning of the Tabernacle on earth is what the Bible tells us. The Bible answers the question of epistemology – how do we know what we know? We know because God tells us in the Scriptures! In the Reformation, this doctrine was called sola scriptura – which means “the Scripture alone.” We get our knowledge about spiritual things from the Bible – and only from the Bible!

The Bible says that the Tabernacle wasn’t built just any old way. It was built according to the pattern of the temple in Heaven. And the sacrifices in the Tabernacle weren’t done just any old way. What meaning did they have?

The Tabernacle and the sacrifices were an “example and shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). They were types of the heavenly things they represented. In theology, a “type” is a person or thing in the Old Testament that pictures or represents a higher fulfillment in the New Testament, called the antitype. I’ll give you an example.

In the wilderness the people of Israel sinned against God. And the Lord sent fiery serpents who bit them, and many of them died. The people said, “We have sinned” (Numbers 21:7).

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9).

Moses put a serpent of brass up on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten – if he looked at the serpent of brass – he lived!

But the serpent of brass had a deeper meaning. It was a type of Christ, who was its fulfillment or antitype. Jesus said,

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

The serpent lifted up on a pole was a type, a picture, of Jesus lifted up on the Cross. If you look at Jesus in trust, you will be pardoned of your sin. You’ll receive the gift of eternal life. You will live! You won’t suffer judgment and Hell. You will live! That’s all you have to do. Look to Jesus and live!

The Bible says that the sacrifices of the Tabernacle were “the example and shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, “into the [Holy of Holies] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Hebrews 9:7). The Jewish high priest brought animal blood into the Holy of Holies once a year and poured it out on the mercy seat before God.

But that was only a type of the true Blood sacrifice of Christ. How do we know? Because the Bible tells us so! It says that the sacrifice in the Tabernacle was “a figure [a type, a picture] for the time then present [for that time]” (Hebrews 9:9). It was a type, a picture, of what Christ did for you. What the priest did in the Tabernacle with the blood of an animal, Jesus did in the heavenly temple with His own Blood! The Bible says,

“Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

Where did He go? Into the Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple! “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself” (Hebrews 9:24). What did He take there? His own Blood! Not “with blood of others... but now once...hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:25, 26). The animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle were just a type – a picture. Jesus took care of sin completely and forever with His own sacrifice of His Blood!

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood on the Cross to wash your sin away. He rose from the dead to give you life. And He took His Blood into the temple in Heaven and put it there on the mercy seat as an eternal testimony before God the Father that your sins are covered. If you trust Jesus, your sins are pardoned! I pray that you will trust Him soon. Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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