The Question Box

Does the layout of the Fourth Gospel parallel that of the Old Testament tabernacle?

Yes—it would seem so.

When this question arose, we went back to some notes which we had made many years previously, when our Bible class was studying Tabernacle Shadows. In some notes I found a notation to that effect. Unfortunately, my notes do not reveal the name of the author to whom I was indebted for the suggestion, but I think it may have been Edersheim.

Some time after, the same suggestion came to my attention in a later work entitled Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 8, verse 5, the writer refers to Israel’s tabernacle as a symbol and shadow of the true tabernacle; while in the 9th chapter of that epistle, after briefly mentioning the two compartments into which the tabernacle was divided, and after enumerating the furniture in each, the writer goes on to say that the annual entrance of the High Priest into the Most Holy was but a figure, pattern, type, or illustration of the passing of the antitypical High Priest (our Lord Jesus) through the two compartments of the true tabernacle—to appear in the presence of God, in heaven itself.

If the tabernacle were standing today, and it were possible to walk through it and take note of its layout and of its several items of furniture, we should find ourselves walking from east to west.

We should walk first into the Court and then into the two divisions of the sanctuary proper, namely the Holy and the Most Holy.

We should enter the Court through the Gate, the Holy through the Door, and the Most Holy through the Vail.

As we entered the Court, the first piece of furniture we would see would be the Brazen Altar.

A little further along we would see the Laver.

After going through the Door into the Holy we would see to the north (on the right) the Table of Shewbread.

And, to the south (on the left) the Candlestick (or Lampstand).

Further along still, close to the Vail which separated the Holy from the Most Holy, we would see the Incense Alter.

Inside the Most Holy we would see the Ark.

The Ark had a lid or cover called the Mercy Seat.

Upon the Mercy Seat a supernatural light appeared known as the Shekinah light. It represented the Divine Presence.

Now whether the author of the Fourth Gospel purposed to tell his story of Jesus in the same order as we find in the tabernacle arrangements, or even whether he was cognizant of the fact that he did so, I do not know. But the more we study his Gospel the more evident it appears.

The true order of approach to God has always been the same. And it becomes increasingly evident that in this Gospel its author leads us in exactly the same order as the compartments, and their items of furniture are seen in the tabernacle to the great spiritual realities which they typify.

As in the Court of the tabernacle, the first thing to be seen is the Brazen Altar and its Sacrifice, so in the opening chapter of the Fourth Gospel we have the Baptist pointing us to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29,36).

The next thing in the Court was the Laver; the 13th chapter of John shows us Christ washing the disciple’s feet and, by the spiritual import of his action, seeking to prepare them for service in the true tabernacle arrangements.

In Chapter 14, 15, and 16 he takes them into a realm of much deeper truth than previously, teaching them much about the holy spirit, typified by the oil of the Golden Lampstand; talks with them about prayer in his name, typified by the incense on the Golden Altar; in chapter 17 we have, in our Master’s matchless intercessory prayer, that forcibly reminds us of the High Priest alone, in the Most Holy.

Then, in the heart-subduing climax of Calvary we see, in chapters 18 and 19, how our Lord Jesus becomes the very Ark of the Covenant, and that the Antitypical Mercy Seat forming its cover or lid was sprinkled with the blood of his own vicarious self-offering.

Following, in chapter 20, (the Resurrection Chapter) our Risen Lord makes the announcement of the [new relationship] we (the church which is his body) may now have with God: I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Finally, in verse 22 of that Resurrection Chapter, he disclosed to the disciples what was the reality to which the Shekinah light pointed. It was the holy spirit which was to be poured out on the waiting church at Pentecost. The verse reads: He breathed on them, and saith unto them: `Receive ye the holy spirit.‘ The breathing on them was evidently symbolical; and was in illustration of his words Receive ye the holy spirit. By this illustration they would realize (after Pentecost) that while the holy spirit is "of" or "from" the Father, it is nevertheless "by" the Son. In John 14:26 and 15:26 Jesus had previously told them this. And Peter’s words, on the Day of Pentecost (as he explained the matter to the amazed multitude), are in full agreement with those of his Lord: This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the holy spirit, he heath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear (Acts 2:32,33).

—P.L. Read