There are several points of comparison to be made between the tabernacle and temple of old and the church. Let’s notice…
The expense that went into constructing the tabernacle and temple of old was very great. The lampstand was crafted from a talent of pure gold (Exodus 25:37-39), modern price was approximately $1.2 million (figure based on $1,000 an ounce). David gathered approximately $120 billion of gold and $18 billion of silver to go into the temple [1 Chronicles 22:14 (figure based on $1000 an ounce for gold and $15 an ounce for silver)]. A total workforce of 183,000 worked seven years on the first temple (1 Kings 5:13-16; 6:38). It must have been an awesome structure.
The church is described as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17); Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). It did not come about without great cost. The cost was the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28 cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19).
The structure of old (tabernacle, temple) were built according to a God-given pattern. The tabernacle was to be built according to a pattern (Exodus 25:9, 40). This pattern was followed (e.g., Exodus 25:10-ff cf. 37:1-ff; 25:21 cf. 40:20). Moses did as the Lord commanded (Exodus 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 29, 32). Solomon likewise was provided a pattern or “blueprint” for construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19).
The church is likened to the temple of old (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). Question: If the temple of old was to be built according to a pattern, could it be that the church, likewise is to be built according to a divine pattern? God has specified such things as the entrance into the church; the organization of the church; the work of the church; the worship of the church; and the fellowship of the church. Yes, there is a pattern.
1. The golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40; 2 Chronicles 4:7) was within the tabernacle and temple. It was to continuously burn through the darkness (Leviticus 24:1-4; Exodus 27:20).
We are to be a light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:14-16). The world needs to see the Gospel both preached and practiced.
2. Opposite the lampstand stood the table of showbread (lit. “bread of presence”) within the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:23-30; 2 Chronicles 4:19). This bread was to be consumed by the priests only, and such was to be done each Sabbath day (Leviticus 24:5-9), as a memorial to god (Leviticus 24:9).
We too are to partake of bread on a certain day of the week, the first day (Acts 20:7). It is to be done in remembrance of the death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). It is for the disciples alone (Acts 20:7 aka priests cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 9). When we partake, Christ is present (Matthew 26:29).
3. The next piece of furniture is the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10; 40:5; 2 Chronicles 4:19). The Jews considered the incense as symbolically transporting their prayers into heaven (Psalm 141; 2; Luke 1:9-10). Note: Not all incense was acceptable (Exodus 30:9).
Even so, today our prayers are pictured as incense coming up before the Lord (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). Note: not all prayers are acceptable to God (James 4:2-3; 1 John 5:14).
4. The mercy-seat was also a part of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:10-22; 2 Chronicles 5:2-9). Mercy, atonement was connected with the tabernacle and temple of old (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:11-ff).
Mercy is available today as well. It is connected with the church (Ephesians 5:23 cf. 1:21-23).
Prior to entry into the tabernacle of old, there was a washing (Exodus 29:4-5; 30:17-21; 40:12). It was at this point, and not before, the priestly garments were donned (Exodus 29:5; 40:13). The priests were to remain holy (Leviticus 21:6), without physical blemish (Leviticus 21:16-23), and clean (Leviticus 22:5-6).
Think about us. We are to be washed (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Revelation 1:5; 7:13-14). We are to remain holy (1 Peter 1:16) and faithful (Revelation 2:10).
May we be holy priests, serving in the church, offering up spiritual sacrifices to God by Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:5).
Meditating on the imagery ought to cause us to think very deeply about our duty. We are both His tabernacle/temple today, and His priests in service to Him.