A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
Here the contrast is not so much that of law and gospel, of grace and works, as in other epistles; the contrast is between the earthly and temporary and the heavenly and eternal. While the temple was still in existence, it was difficult for the Hebrews to understand the heavenly character of their calling and worship.. The apostle shows that Jesus is High Priest in heaven, and that therefore ours is a heavenly sanctuary, where all is substance, and possessed of an eternal vitality and glory. He is the minister of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. This tabernacle is contrasted with the tabernacle in the wilderness. It is "true," in the sense in which Jesus says, "I am the true vine"; that is, the real and substantial vine, of which the outward and visible vines are merely emblems. In the second place, this tabernacle was made, not with hands, and not through the mediation of human beings, as was the tabernacle in the wilderness; but it was made by God Himself. And, in the third place, this tabernacle is not a tent in the wilderness, but it is an abiding place in the heavenlies, there to be for ever. The tabernacle is one of the most important and instructive types.
1. In the first place, the tabernacle is a type, a visible illustration, of that heavenly place in which God has His dwelling.
2. In the second place, the tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ, who is the meeting-place between God and man.
3. And, in the third place, the tabernacle is a type of Christ in the Church — of the communion of Jesus with all believers. The tabernacle presented wonderful truths to Israel. In the sacrifices and ordinances of the tabernacle God declared unto His people the forgiveness of their sins: He brought them near unto Himself through expiation and mediation; He healed their diseases and comforted their hearts. But the ultimate object in all this was to reveal Himself, to manifest His Divine perfection, to show forth His glory. Everywhere the twofold object was accomplished, the need of sinful, guilty, and failing man was supplied, and in this very grace the character and glory of Jehovah was revealed. Thus, as in Christ crucified we possess all we need, and behold all the thoughts and purposes of God, so in the tabernacle the believing Israelite, receiving pardon and help, was taught to exclaim, "Who is a God like unto Thee?" The tabernacle was a symbol of God's dwelling. There is a sanctuary, wherein is the especial residence and manifestation of the glorious presence of God. The throne, from which He issues His royal law and the declaration of His sovereign grace, is between the cherubim, a symbol of the heavenly throne of Divine majesty. "The temple of Thy holiness," is the name both of the earthly and heavenly sanctuary. God, who dwells in heaven, and from His heavenly throne dispenses all blessings, manifests Himself on earth and holds communion with His people, and the place or sanctuary chosen for this purpose is a symbol of heaven, and there subsists a real connection between the celestial archetype and the earthly image. When Jacob awoke out of his sleep, in which the Lord appeared unto him, he said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." In the sublime prayer of dedication, Solomon constantly expresses the same thought. But the tabernacle is, secondly, a type of the Lord Jesus Himself. For it is in Him that God dwells with us; in Him dwells the fulness of Godhead bodily, that we dwelling in Him should have communion with the Father. See the fulfilment of the type in the first place in the Incarnation. "A body hast Thou prepared for Me." He dwelt in the midst of us even as the tabernacle was in the midst of the people. And as that tent, although it was made of materials which were common and earthly, was irradiated and sanctified by the indwelling glory of the Lord. so although He was born of the Virgin Mary, and was in every respect like unto His brethren, and was found in fashion as a man, yet is the humanity of Jesus called that holy thing, for it is the tabernacle in which was beheld the glory of the Only-begotten. It was by a gradual development that Jesus became the true tabernacle. First, by His Incarnation. The tabernacle was pitched of God, and not of man. The Holy Ghost came upon the Virgin Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her. Then Jesus, in His holy humanity, in His perfect walk of obedience, in His words and works, manifested the Father: God was with Him: the Father was in Him; the glory of the Only-begotten shone through His body of humiliation. Then, by His death on the cross, the holy place became, as it were, the holy of holies; the veil being rent, all that separated God from sinners was removed according to righteousness. Then, by His resurrection and ascension, He actually entered in — as our representative for us, and, so to say, with us. It is difficult to combine all the aspects of Christ, who is Sanctuary, Priest, Sacrifice; but the more we dwell on Him as the One who is all, the more fully are our hearts established. Behold Him, then, as the tabernacle where all sacred things arc laid up. All that was in the tabernacle is in Him. He is the true Light, the true Bread of the countenance, the true Incense of intercession, with which our prayers and offerings come before God. All spiritual blessings in heavenly places are in Christ. But the tabernacle has yet a third aspect. There God and His people meet. God now dwells in His saints by His Spirit, whereby they become an holy temple unto Him. We are builded together in Him (Christ) for an habitation of God through the Spirit. We are, according to the testimony of another apostle, a spiritual house, in which sacrifices and offerings of thanksgiving and obedience are continually brought unto God. In this chosen Temple God has His rest and His joy. This is the glorious gospel: God in Christ, we in Christ, Christ in us. Thus we have seen that the tabernacle was a picture of heaven, a type of Christ Jesus, and of Christ Jesus in the saints. And therefore, when Jesus Christ comes again with His saints, it will be said, "Lo, the tabernacle of God with men." True, there is a locality where Christ and His saints have their abode. But the glory and substance of that heavenly place in the Lord Jesus, one with the saints.
Parallel VersesKJV: A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.