Three Crosses In The Midst Of God's People: A Look At The Tabernacle Of God

 

- Guest Blog -

 

NOTE: This is a term paper I wrote while attending World Harvest Bible College for a class on Pentateuch (the Greek term for Torah). I have the paper dated November 28, 2001, probably the date that it was to be submitted. I am not changing it at all, except for a few very minor grammar corrections I needed to make. Some of the citations may not appeal to everyone today, and had I written this now I would likely use different sources to support the same points. But again, this was written almost 20 years ago. Allow the content to speak to you and do not get hung up with “who” I cite or the use of the name “Jesus” instead of “Yeshua”. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as you do my current writings.

 

Introduction

 

            There is much to be learned about the reality of God by looking at the accounts of the Hebrew people as recorded in the Old Testament of The Bible. One way that this can be done is through what is commonly known as typology. In typology “persons, institutions, and events are understood as ‘types’ (models, prefigurements) of the decisive work of God which was to take place with the coming of Christ” (Alexander 189). One of the major areas where typologies are found is in the many aspects of the Tabernacle of Moses used for worship during the wilderness wanderings of the Hebrews after their exodus from Egypt. John F. Walvord states, “Of all typical things in the Old Testament, undoubtedly the tabernacle was the most complete typical representation of spiritual truth,” and that, “Taken as a whole, the tabernacle speaks of Christ in every part” (73). In this writing I am going to look at the whole of the Tabernacle from the arrangements of the tribes encamped around it all the way to the most sacred aspect, the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement, and reveal three crosses that can be found and show a revelation of Jesus Christ and the day He would be crucified.

 

A Hill Called Calvary

 

 

            In the New Testament book of Luke there is recorded the account of the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth at a place called Calvary. On this particular occasion there would be three men put to death by a method called crucifixion, where the Roman soldiers of the day would nail the body of the persons being executed to a wooden cross and torture them until they died. Normally they would execute hundreds of criminals at a time, but on this day there were only three. The account in Luke 23:39-43 records the only record of conversation between Jesus and the other two men saying, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Each of these three men who hung on Roman crosses that day on a hill called Calvary are represented by a cross found in Old Testament Israel.

 

The Unbeliever’s Cross

 

 

            The first cross that is found I will call the cross of the unbeliever. This cross is found around the outside of the Tabernacle in viewing the arrangements of the tents of the twelve tribes of Israel as they surrounded the tent of meeting. As Pastor John Hagee points out in his teaching series on the Tabernacle, the tribes on the east side were twice in number as those on the north, south, or west sides, thus creating an image of what a Roman crucifixion cross looks like. Hagee goes on to point out how Balaam sees the glory of God in the arrangements of the tents of Israel. Numbers 24:2-5 records these words, “And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he took up his oracle and said: ‘The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, the utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with his eyes wide open: How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!’” The reason that the Spirit of God came upon Balaam when he saw this great sight is because he unknowingly saw the symbol of Christianity revealed in the way that God arranged His people to camp.
 

            In diagram 1 on page 8 you can see how the arrangement of the twelve tribes literally makes the shape of a cross. “An area is assigned to each of the tribes on the east, south, west, and north side of the tent of meeting, an area that is to be maintained, whether one is encamped or on the march” (Hamilton 317). The shape of the cross could be seen at all times in the lives of the Israelites through this first cross. As you can see in diagram 1 and by reading the account of the census from Numbers chapter 2 the tribes on the north and south were almost equal in number, while the tribes on the east had the greatest population and those on the west had the least.
 

            Why do I call this the cross of the unbeliever? This cross is found by looking at the encampment of the tribes of Israel outside of the tent of meeting (or Tabernacle). The Tabernacle was the place of worship among the Israelites and the place where God could dwell among His people. In order to be in the presence of God you had to be inside the Tabernacle. Being outside of the Tabernacle was symbolic of being outside the presence of God.
 

            In the account recorded in Luke the first man to speak was the one who blasphemed God by sarcastically saying to Jesus, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” This man did not really believe in Jesus as the Christ, the One who would save His people from their sins. Oh, he may very well have believed that Jesus was truly the Christ, intellectually, but he did not have real faith. This is like so many in the world today. They believe that there is a God, but they do not place their faith in Him. That is why they go to church and yet still live in sin. They are only seeking after what they can gain from God. This particular man really had only one thing on his mind, to himself be freed from that Roman cross. He really didn’t care whether or not Jesus was who He claimed to be. He figured that if Jesus was truly the Christ, then perhaps He would show mercy and take him off of that cross. So many people today do not really care if God is real or not; they only want to be blessed by Him. They care nothing about living a righteous and holy life. Many of them only even go to church twice a year, all while saying, “If you really are God…?” Such people have the nerve to call themselves Christians, but the fact of the matter is that they are living a life outside of the presence of God.
 

            It is like those who say, “God is everywhere, I don’t have to go to church to find God.” That’s not exactly true though, God is not everywhere. Yes, God is omnipresent, I am not denying that, but He is not everywhere. When it comes to such people, my response is this: Yes, God is everywhere, He stands above you to watch over you, He is beneath you lifting you up, He goes before you to lead you in the right direction, He follows behind you to watch your back, and He walks beside you closer than a brother, but unless you are truly a born-again believer in His Son Jesus Christ there is one place He is not…inside you. The cross of the unbeliever represents those who choose to remain outside of the presence of God even though He stands in their midst.

 

The Believer’s Cross

 

 

            The second cross is probably the most well known of the three crosses. I will call this one the cross of the believer. This cross is made up of the arrangement of the furniture inside of the tent of meeting. In his teaching on the Tabernacle, Bishop T.D. Jakes has his congregation draw a cross on a piece of paper, label each piece of furniture as it lines up on that cross, and says, “The furniture in the Tabernacle was placed in the form of a cross. It lines up with the place Christ was to be slain.”
 

            An illustration of this is provided in diagram 2 on page 8 where it can be viewed how the furniture lined up in such a way that it creates the image of the cross. If you were to draw a line straight from the Ark of the Covenant to the altar of burnt sacrifices and then draw another line perpendicular to the first going from the table of showbread to the golden lampstand, as Bishop Jakes instructs his congregation to do in his teaching, you will find that it creates the image of the cross. You can also see this illustrated with the red outline of a cross around the layout of the furniture as illustrated in diagram 2.
 

            I have called this cross the cross of the believer because this time the cross is found actually inside the presence of God. This is the place where the true believer dwells in unity with the God that he serves. Unlike the first cross, which represented exile, this cross is made up of six pieces of furniture that all have some significance to the life of the believer. Although I am not going to go into detail about what each piece of furniture signifies I do want to bring out one specific point about the furniture as a whole. Pastor Rod Parsley says, while teaching on the Tabernacle, that, “The first piece of furniture that was built was not out here [speaking of the outer court]. It was not the Brazen Altar. The first piece of furniture that was built was inside the holiest of holies, and it was the Ark of the Covenant. God works from the inside out, not from the outside in.” Unlike the first cross which seemed to show, in addition to the aforementioned representations, the attempt of men through vain religious tradition to reach God from the outside in, this second cross shows the work of God in man. Man will never reach God through his own good works and effort. He must allow God to come into his life and remove the sin that separates him from God.
 

            The second man viewed in Luke 23 turned to the first and said, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Remember me.” This man recognized that there was no way to reach God in his own strength and efforts. He saw the need for a savior who could come in and cleanse his life from the innermost parts of his being out. This is what the cross of the believer symbolizes more than anything.

 

The Cross Of Christ

 

 

            The third cross that is found in the Tabernacle represents the cross of Jesus Christ Himself; the third person seen crucified that day on Calvary as recorded by Luke. This cross was only found once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and was only viewed by one man, the high priest. I first came across the information on this third cross in the study notes for Exodus 25:17 n the Spirit-Filled Life Bible (Hayford 118). Seeking to find out more I contacted the author of those notes, Dr. James Caroll Tollett, a professor at Oral Roberts University, by e-mail. He stated in his reply e-mail that, “First, years ago in a class I took on the Tabernacle a former professor gave me this information in a lecture.” Then he mentioned that he has come across the information in other sources and pointed me toward one of them where I found it says, “On the Day of Atonement the high priest sprinkled the blood on the kapporet and in front of it (Lev. 16:14-15) thus symbolically making a barrier between the outraged law and God, and between it and the people. Traditionally this was done in the shape of a cross” (Ellison 142). The author goes on to say that, “When the Ark had to be carried, the kapporet was not visible for it had to be carefully covered (Num. 4:5-6)” (Ellison 142). This can further be pictured by looking at Leviticus 16:14 from the Jerusalem Bible which says, “and he shall take the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the covering eastward; and before the covering shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.”
 

            This ceremony took place only once a year and was performed by only one man, the high priest. Under the New Testament Jesus is our high priest (see Hebrews 4:14-15) who shed His own blood on a cross at the hill called Calvary. Like the cross made on the Day of Atonement that was not seen by the majority of Israel’s population, the cross that Jesus hung from is not seen by the vast majority of Christians. We must accept by faith that Jesus died for us just the same way that the Jews had to accept by faith that the blood hit the Mercy Seat on that solemn day once a year. The cross of Christ is a cross that must be accepted by faith.
 

            Another significant aspect of this cross is how it was connected to the second cross portrayed by the Tabernacle. This third cross was placed directly on the Mercy Seat, which was the covering to the Ark of the Covenant. As I mentioned before the Ark of the Covenant was the first piece of furniture made for the Tabernacle, symbolizing God’s work from the inside out. It is interesting also that the Ark was placed at the part of the cross where a man’s head would be. The very first thing that must take place in the life of a believer is repentance, which is a change of the mind. Most people place the emphasis on a change of heart, but unless a change of mind takes place a change of heart will never truly occur. Because of this misconception many people today say that they love Jesus, and in their heart they truly do love Him, but they have never changed their way of living, which stems from the decisions made in their minds. The very first message preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles in Acts was to repent. Jesus said in Luke 13 that, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Salvation begins in the mind with a decision to live for Christ and works its way throughout the rest of the body. The cross of Christ provides this.
 

            In Luke 23, after the two criminals speak, Jesus speaks. It is interesting that Jesus speaks only with the second criminal, the one who cried out, “Remember me.” Jesus does not associate with those who are not willing to accept Him and His way of living. Those masses who remain a part of that first cross, the cross of the unbeliever, are those who do not have any true fellowship with Christ. Though some of them may go to church and even sing in the choir, they do not have any true communion with Him. Just like the blood that creates the third cross was applied to the origins of the cross of the believer, the shed blood of Jesus is only available to those who are willing to make the sacrifice of their own lives and accept what God has provided for them. When Jesus answered the second criminal and said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” He was showing the same relationship between God and man that is viewed in the second and third crosses found in the Tabernacle.
 

            There is a connecting bond made when we accept the blood of Jesus as a part of life. It is a bond that changes our life completely. No longer are we like those represented in the first cross who are outside of God’s presence, but we become as those who served in the Tabernacle, living our lives in the presence of God.

 

Take Up Your Cross

 

 

            The words are recorded in Luke 9:23 from the Amplified Bible, “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example of living and, if need be, in dying also].” This was not necessarily a prophecy given by Jesus about His death, but it would seem that it holds much more significance than that by understanding the layout of the Tabernacle and the tribes camped around it.
 

            The Israelites did not just stay in one place for the duration of the forty years they spent wandering in the wilderness. They had to pick up and go when God told them to. Scripture tells us that God went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the people picked up their tents and carried them to the next place this was a picture of what Jesus was revealing to us through this verse in Luke 9. The Israelites were literally taking up their cross and following Him all forty years that they spent wandering in the wilderness. This is clearly a picture of the life that God has always intended for humanity.
 

            Another aspect of this is seen by the need for the Israelites to deny their selves. The children of Israel were constantly complaining against Moses, saying that they desired to go back to Egypt. Well, they could have gone back anytime they wanted to. Moses was not going to stop them. This was a picture of them denying their selves of the desire to go back. It shows us how we must deny the urge to go back to a life of sin and press on to follow Christ, even when hard times come. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He also said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.” Paul was a man who understood what it meant to take up his cross daily and follow Christ. He understood how the times and trials of the Israelites in the wilderness was all a picture of the Christian life.
 

            Just like those who lived during the time of Moses, we too must live a life where we deny our own desires and follow Christ in every area of our life. Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness no man shall ever see the Lord, and unless we take up our cross and follow Christ we will never find holiness. The key to living a holy life is found in the cross.
 

            The real question that remains is which cross are you going to take up? Is it going to be the cross of unbelief, the cross of dead religious tradition? Or will it be the cross that leads to life, the cross that is joined to the cross of Christ in unity?

 

Conclusion

 

            In looking at the Tabernacle and the three crosses that are formed in it we can see God revealed in all of His glory. The revelation of man and his relationship to God is magnified by this picture to such an extent that we cannot deny God’s love for man and His desire to be reunited to him. The Tabernacle is a picture of the death of Jesus on the cross between two other crosses as well as a portrait of the process of man’s redemption. It reveals to us the life of the unbeliever as well as the life of the believer. It shows us the pattern of how we must accept Jesus into our life and dwell in His presence from that moment on. It tells how we must live a holy and godly life or else we will remain separated from God for all of eternity. These three crosses will forever remain as a symbol of the reality of Jesus Christ and His willingness to come to a sin stricken world and become the redeeming sacrifice that can save His people from their sins.

 

 

List Of Works Cited

 

 

1. Alexander, Pat and David. Zondervan Handbook To The Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

2. Ellison, H.L. The Daily Study Bible Series: Exodus. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1982.

3. Hagee, John. Tabernacle in the Wilderness: Teaching From Israel. Houston: Global Evangelism, 2000.

4. Hayford, Jack. Spirit-Filled Life Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

5. Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982.

6. Jakes, T.D. The Tabernacle Series: A Six Audio Tape Teaching Series. Dallas: T.D. Jakes Ministries, 1999.

7. Parsley, Rod. Behold His Glory. Columbus: Breakthrough Ministries, 2001.

8. Tollett, James. E-mail interview. 11 November 2001.

9. Walvord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1969.

10. Scriptures taken from THE BREAKTHROUGH COVENANT PARTNER DEVOTIONAL BIBLE, King James Version, copyright © 2000 by Results Publishing. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11. Scriptures taken from the SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE BIBLE, New King James Version, Copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

12. Scriptures taken from THE JERUSALEM BIBLE Copyright © 1998 by Koren Publishers Jerusalem LTD. Used by permission. All right reserved.

13. Scriptures taken from THE AMPLIFIED BIBLE Copyright © 1987 by Zondervan Corporation and the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

~Blessings And Shalom~

 

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