Moses constructed the Tent of Meeting based on the design that God had revealed to him from heaven. Priestly duties were carried out daily in the Holy Place (replacing the bread on the Table of Showbread and keeping the lampstand of seven oil lamps filled with oil). A thick veil separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, where the ark of the covenant rested. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place; there he sprinkled blood on the lid of the ark of the covenant ("the mercy seat") to cover his sins and the sins of the people. In the Old Testament the ark of the covenant represented the meeting place of God.
When the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem for the final time (586 BC) and destroyed the temple, the ark of the covenant was either lost, destroyed, or hidden. The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple rebuilt after Judah's captivity did not contain the ark of the covenant.
The ark is not mentioned again after Jeremiah 3:16 until Hebrews 9:4, where the writer describes the earthly tabernacle with its ark and introduces the heavenly reality of that earthly picture. He elaborates on the heavenly reality: "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (9:11-12).
Replicas duplicate an original. Moses' Tent of Meeting was a replica of the true Tent of Meeting in heaven. It was never meant to replace the heavenly tabernacle, but rather to point people to a fulfillment of all that the replica represented:
No deed on earth, but one, could satisfy man's need for forgiveness; therefore God became man and lived a perfect life on earth, died a substitutionary death, and rose again. When Christ ascended to heaven, He ascended as man's eternal high priest and offered His own blood as man's perfect substitute upon the eternal mercy seat of heaven.
The writer of Hebrews summarizes the main point of his letter: "We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man" (8:1-2).
Therefore, the one who trusts in Christ need never fear loss of that salvation. It is eternal.
Compare the service in the earthly tabernacle with that in the heavenly.
Explain why God had to become a man and die (Heb. 9:17).
What are new covenant people invited to do that those under the old covenant were prohibited from doing? How would this truth sustain Jewish background believers from returning to Judaism during times of persecution?
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