After seeing that the entire Bible speaks mainly of life and building, we today come to the matter of the tabernacle and the priesthood: the tabernacle is the priesthood, and the church is both a spiritual house and the priesthood.
The basic and central revelation of the Bible are life and building; from Gen. 2 all the way to Rev. 22, life and building pervade the entire divine revelation. God Himself is life to man for man to take in and be filled with Him so that man may become the building of God, the corporate expression of God in man.
When God created man, He desired to gain a corporate expression in man; man fell, so God chose Abraham so that he and his descendants would become God’s corporate expression, and with Moses God had a way to gain a tabernacle, a dwelling place for Himself.
However, the tabernacle is only a type: God doesn’t dwell in temples or physical buildings made by man, He dwells in man and among men.
The tabernacle that God designed and gave the pattern of to Moses is the dwelling place of God, and if we read Exo. 27-28 carefully we will realize that, right after God speaks of the blueprint of the tabernacle, He goes on to speak of the priesthood – as if He speaks of the same thing.
In God’s eyes the tabernacle is the priesthood, that is, God’s dwelling place is not a physical tent but His people, His priests who are being built up into a “hood”, a priesthood.
Today we as believers in Christ are living stones built up as the house of God (the dwelling place of God, God’s building), and we are a holy priesthood, a group of priests who are being built up into the “hood”, the priesthood for God’s corporate expression.
It is wonderful to realize that we are not only the house of God but also the priesthood, and the priesthood is the building of God. When the Lord has a way to build us up together into a priesthood, He gains the building; when He gains the building, this building is the priesthood, His built-up Body.
Spiritually Speaking, the Priesthood and the Tabernacle are One Entity (Exo. 27-28)
In the sequence of the divine record in Exodus 27:20 – 28:2, the priesthood follows the tabernacle. First God gave Moses the blueprint of the tabernacle, and as He is speaking about the details of the tabernacle, He suddenly speaks of the lighting of the lamps and then of the priesthood.
Why is the sequence like this? To understand the Bible we need to know the underlying thought of the chapter or portion that we read; we need to know what concept is beneath the surface.
Why does the divine record speak of the priesthood immediately after the description of the tabernacle? The main reason is that we cannot have the tabernacle without the priesthood, and the priesthood cannot be without the tabernacle; in other words, the priesthood and the tabernacle are one entity in God’s eyes.
Exo. 27:20-21 reveals that immediately after the tabernacle came into existence, there was the need of the priesthood for the lighting of the lamps; this indicates that, spiritually speaking, the priesthood and the tabernacle are one entity.
There was a physical building and there were some priests; one was a physical structure while the other was a composition of living human beings – these are both types, showing us that, spiritually speaking, the building is the priesthood, and the priesthood is the building.
God doesn’t dwell merely in a tabernacle – as per Exo. 25:8 and 28:1, God wants that His people would make a sanctuary for Him so that He may dwell in their midst. The tabernacle is the sanctuary where God dwells in our midst.
God wants to dwell in the midst of His people; He wants to live among them and abide among them, and in His eyes the house of God and the priesthood are one entity.
Where does God dwell today? He dwells in His building, the tabernacle. Also, He dwells in the priesthood, for the priesthood are the tabernacle, and their service was the tabernacle; without the priesthood, there would be no tabernacle, and without the tabernacle, the priests have nothing to do.
It is the same spiritually today: the church is the house of God and at the same time the church is the priesthood. We are both God’s house and His priests, and as the priesthood we are God’s house, God’s corporate expression as His building.
Thank You Lord, we are living stones being built up into a dwelling place of God, the house of God, the building of God. Hallelujah, we are a royal priesthood and a holy priesthood, a group of priests built up together in God’s life to be the building of God, the house of God, the dwelling place of God! We praise You, Lord, for making us Your dwelling place, Your priesthood, Your house! Hallelujah, in God’s eyes the priesthood and the tabernacle are one entity, just as the church is both the house of God and the priesthood!
The Church is Composed of God’s Redeemed People as a Spiritual House and a Priesthood
What we see in Exo. 27-28 in type we see in the New Testament as a reality; in typology the priesthood and the tabernacle as one entity signify the church composed of God’s redeemed people as a spiritual house and a priesthood.
In Exodus we see that God’s intention in saving people out of Egypt, delivering them from the slave house, and bringing them to the wilderness was for them to serve God, hold a feast unto Him, and offer sacrifices to Him. What does this really mean and how is this carried out?
The means by which God’s desire is carried out is the tabernacle and the priesthood. Without these two, the children of Israel had no way of making sacrifices to God or serve Him.
They passed through the early journey in the wilderness where they enjoyed the manna, the water flowing from the rock, and the healing of bitter waters, but this didn’t constitute them as serving ones; even the defeat of Amalek didn’t constitute them as the serving ones.
It was after they received the pattern of the tabernacle on the mountain that they were constituted into a priesthood and the tabernacle came into being. If we want to serve the Lord today we must have the tabernacle and the priesthood, both of which are matters of building.
Through the pictures in the book of Exodus, God reveals that His redeemed people are BOTH the tabernacle and the priesthood; in the New Testament we have the fulfillment of this – in 1 Pet. 2:5 we have the tabernacle and the priesthood put together.
Today we as believers in Christ are beings full of the divine life, and we are being built up together into God’s house, the church as the Body of Christ. At the same time, we were born priests of God, we have a priestly life, and we are being built up as the priesthood.
In the typology in the book of Exodus, God uses two matters to portray the function of the church. First, the church functions as God’s dwelling place. Without the church, God would be homeless. He would be like a person wandering in the wilderness, a person without a home. But with the church God has a home, and He is now in His home. Therefore, the church functions as God’s home, His dwelling place. Another function of the church is to serve God. As we afford God a dwelling place, we also serve Him. God’s dwelling place is a group of serving priests. This twofold function of the church, that of the dwelling place and the priesthood, is typified by the tabernacle and the priesthood in the book of Exodus. We all need to see that the church has a twofold function, the function to house God and the function to serve Him. (Life-study of Exodus, p. 1331, by Witness Lee)
We need to be built up as the tabernacle and be built together as the priesthood; only then can we offer spiritual sacrifices and render God the worship He desires, and hold a feast unto Him.
If we are not a spiritual house, we cannot be the priesthood; likewise, if we are not the priesthood, we cannot be a spiritual house. The tabernacle is for dwelling and the priesthood is for serving; in reality, these two are the same.
Our living Christ and our serving God must be one. God’s dwelling among us as His house must be our enjoyment of Him as His priesthood, and this is the church today. The church life is just the tabernacle life and the priesthood life.
The twofold function of the church – that of the dwelling place of God and of the priesthood of God – is typified by the tabernacle and the priesthood (Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).
Thank You Lord for the church as the tabernacle of God, God’s building, and as the priesthood. Hallelujah, the church is God’s home, God’s dwelling place, the place where God can rest and make His home. Praise the Lord, the church is the priesthood, the people who serve God as priests and who are built together into a “hood”, the priest-hood! Lord, we praise You for showing us that the priesthood is God’s dwelling place, and God’s building is simply the priesthood. May our living be our serving, and may we afford God a dwelling place as we serve Him in spirit!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Minoru C. for this week, and Life-Study of Exodus, msg. 116 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Crystallization-Study of Exodus (part 4, 2016 Summer Training), week 41 / msg. 5, The Tabernacle and the Priesthood.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Holy priests are living stones / For God’s building work today; / If these stones would builded be / All the priests must learn to pray. (Hymns #849)
# Living stones, we’re built together / And a house for God must be, / As the holy priesthood serving, / In a blessed harmony. (Hymns #913)
# Now the church is but the priesthood; / Thus the priesthood formed we need; / When the priests are knit together, / Then the church is built indeed. (Hymns #848)
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