Are there lessons for Christians today in 2011 that we can learn from the ancient Hebrew Sanctuary that was given to the Children of Israel through Moses? Do these symbols means anything to us today? Have they deeper meaning than first seems apparent?


The first books of the Bible reveal that after Adam and Eve sinned man eventually was taken into slavery in Egypt. After 400 years God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery and gave Moses the plans how to construct a Sanctuary. Exact measurements and specifications were given in great detail. This Sanctuary, first constructed in the wilderness, was to be a lesson book full of deep symbolic truths.

These truths were first given to Israel but were to be revealed to all mankind throughout history and especially for us living in these last days. The study of the Hebrew Sanctuary is a very deep and rewarding study which opens to us deep and profound spiritual truths. It is said that the Bible is a great puzzle. When you look at it using the Hebrew Sanctuary as a pattern or template, many hidden truths can be seen. Things hard to understand become clear. It is a key that opens to us hidden treasure.

Many books have been written on this subject, some students have studied this for years. It is not my purpose at this time to delve into this subject deeply, but to have an brief overview of these truths. Hidden in each detail of the layout, the materials used, the building, services and ministries; every aspect of these point to Christ and His character, what He has done and what He is now doing for us. It is an outline of the entire plan of God’s redemptive work for the world beginning at Adam.

It takes us through history and culminates with our day and the eventual second coming of Jesus. God wanted to teach His people the enormity of sin and the price that was paid to forgive sin. He wanted to show them how He loved them and wanted to dwell among them.

Simply stated the Hebrew Sanctuary show us:

  • How we can have an intimate relationship with God
  • God gives us an illustration of how He plans to save each human

Follow the next steps to learn more truths.

The Israelites had come a long way from Egyptian darkness and depravity. They had crossed the sea and land to be taught about God’s Ten Commandments and what He desired them to be. He fed them, protected and guided them. They were slow to learn the lessons God wanted to teach them and had to wander about in the wilderness for forty years. They needed to learn to look to the Saviour for salvation and not trust their own works. For many of us our spiritual journey starts when we desire to come out of worldliness and materialism and want something more meaningful in our lives. We can search for this in many ways, often having to learn many lessons on the way. God places in our heart an emptiness that only He can fill and a desire to know Him at a more intimate level. He provides all our needs and wants us to trust Him completely. He must become our personal Saviour.
The Israelites learned the sacrificial system that should have revealed to them about the Saviour to come. They were slow to learn and many apostatised and lost their lives in the wilderness. Many people join churches finding doctrines and fellowship here. But we need to experience more than this. We need a living relationship with the Saviour. He must become the Lord of our lives.
The only way into the Sanctuary was through the curtained gate. In the courtyard was an altar where the animal sacrifices were made and the laver which was a basin that contained water for washing the priest’s hands and feet before he offered the sacrifice. Here is where we recognise how sinful we are and how we need a Saviour. We need to repent and ask forgiveness for our past life. The Laver represents what Christ called the new birth. This experience we must all have, and is called a washing or cleansing from sin.
To enter the Sanctuary itself, they had to pass through a veil into the first apartment which was known as the Holy Place. In this beautiful room with its polished gold walls, rich tapestries and veils stood a golden lampstand with seven lamps. On the other side was a golden table on which was placed twelve loaves of bread. Just before the second curtain was a golden altar on which burned incense giving off the most gorgeous perfume. The lampstand represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. The table of shewbread represents how we are grow by reading and studying the Word of God. This strengthens and nourishes our Christian experience. The altar of incense is represented by spending time in prayer. Mixed with the prayers of Jesus, our prayers ascend to the Father. God loves to hear our prayers and they are sweet incense to Him.
Another veil led into the second apartment or the Most Holy Place. Here is where the Golden Ark of the Covenant was placed. The mercy seat covering was made from solid gold and the Shekinah glory of God hovered over this. Inside the Ark was the two tablets of stone on which God wrote the ten commandments. The Most Holy Place is where God met with His people. He wants to write His law on our hearts and wants to have His glory reflected in our faces. God has communion with people who have this experience and whose lives reflect His character. They hear and know His voice. They have his commandments written in their hearts.


Surrounding the entire Sanctuary building and courtyard was a curtail wall two metres high made from fine white linen held up by sixty pillars. On the eastern end was the only entrance gate into the Sanctuary. This was a woven curtain of blue, purple, scarlet, and gold. The Levites were very careful when they approached and served God. They awakened early in the morning and sang praises to God respectfully and reverently. Everyone was ready, no one was late to perform their duties in the sanctuary. Their focus was entirely on the services they had to perform each day. The gate represents us giving our hearts and life to Jesus Christ. He surrounds us with a wall of protection and His righteous, spotless character. The only entry into heaven is through Jesus and by accepting what He has done for us as our complete sacrifice. God has given us special instruction of how to approach Him. God wants to meet with us early each morning to commune with us as we give Him praise and thanksgiving. This takes the focus from ourselves. If we want the power of God in our lives we must connect to Him. We are now ready to go further into the Sanctuary.
The first article the sinner sees is the altar of sacrifice where the animal sacrifices were slain each day and burnt as sin offering. These sacrifices had to be totally clean and undefiled, without any spot. Our Saviour ultimately became this totally clean, undefiled and sinless Sacrifice.
The sinner had to acknowledge then confess his sin over its head, place his hands on the head of the animal (it then became his substitute) and then he killed it with his own hands. The sin is placed on the animal. The substitute had to die. The blood was sprinkled around the altar and taken into the Sanctuary’s Holy Place and sprinkled before the law. This is the first step in separating sin from the sinner. Death is the consequence of sin. Christ paid the penalty, shed His blood and died for us so we can live.
We remember how Jesus hung on the cross for our sins. Each day we need to review our lives and consider our actions. We must confess our sins and surrender our lives to Him anew each day. God wants us to see the horror of sin and what it cost heaven. God will make us sensitive to sin if we ask Him. Most of us are so blinded by sin we are unable to see it and call it by its name. Others carry deep emotional wounds that have been caused by someone hurting them in the past and are unable to forgive. At the altar is where we get rid of this. We get healing by confessing it laying all our sins at the foot of the cross. We confess the sins that God reveals to us, specifically naming them as we remember them. God will bring to our memory any sins we need to confess which we may have forgotten.
Next was the Laver, a large brass basin that contained water for washing and cleansing the feet and hands of the priest before he ministered in the Holy Place or before he offered a burnt offering. The priests could not have one spot of dirt on them if they wanted to enter into the Sanctuary. If they did, it would mean instant death for the priest. He had to make sure he was completely clean. The Laver was made from the mirrors of the women. When the priest looked into the Laver, the water was like a mirror that reflected His image. The priest had to do all these services in sequence. He could never enter the Holy Place without spending time at the Altar and Laver. Jesus has forgiven me and washed away my sin with His blood. Daily contact with the world contaminates so He takes me deeper into His will. Water is symbolised by the new birth, or the washing away of sins. The Scriptures talk of three cleansings, by baptism, by the Word (the Bible) and by the blood. Only the living water of life can take away the contamination of sin. He re-baptises me daily and takes away my filthy garments and gives me His beautiful white robe (His character). I ask for clean hands and a pure heart that both my thoughts and actions may please God. I daily consider His Word, and He reveals to me any sin (dirt) in my life. We need His continual cleansing daily.


After confession over the sacrifice and washing at the Laver, the priest is ready to enter the Holy Place. They enter through a veil to a room that is made from boards overlaid with polished gold and fastened together to look like a wall of mirrors. Four coverings are draped over the entire Sanctuary to form roof-like coverings. The inner veil was most beautiful as the light reflected the shimmering angels embroidered in the curtains. Only after confession and cleansing, the person is prepared for a deeper experience through the merits of Christ. Walking through the veil means accepting Jesus as our personal Saviour, making Him Lord of our life. He desires His true followers to be knit together in unity, shining like pure gold, having the faith of Jesus and reflecting His beauty. Only after the first three steps (gate, altar, laver) can we be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit.
The seven branched candlestick was made from one whole piece of pure gold, beaten into shape. These branches were ornamented with exquisitely wrought flowers resembling lilies. On the top of each branch was a lamp containing oil. These lamps were to burn continuously and never go out. The light was originally lit by God Himself. The high priest dressed these lamps each morning and evening keeping oil in them. They gave the only light in the Sanctuary day and night. The purification of God’s people cannot be accomplished without suffering. We are all empty vessels, waiting to be filled. We must keep our vessels clean and pure. The amount of Holy Spirit we receive is determined by how empty we are of self and sin. Those who know the indwelling of the Spirit reveal its fruit – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The Holy Spirit will teach us and give us of His gifts. Our light is to shine continually by day and by night.
This was a small table made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It held 12 loaves of bread which were replaced every Sabbath. Only the priests could eat this bread and was only to be eaten in the Holy Place, because it was holy. The bread was made from crushed wheat, oil, salt and water, and baked in an oven. It did not contain yeast which is a symbol of sin. God is willing to fellowship and commune with everyone. He invites us to eat with Him. This represents spending time reading and studying His Holy Bible. He wants us to taste and see that the words He speak bring life, strength and nourishment. The Word (wheat) represents His life that was crushed and the fiery trials that He went through for us.
This was placed in front of the inner curtain that separated the Holy from the Most Holy Place. This altar was made of acacia wood and was overlaid with pure gold. Incense was burnt here every morning and evening, the same time as the daily burnt offering was made. This gave off a most beautiful aroma. The continually burning incenses represents the prayers that God wants His children to pray to Him, wafting up to heaven smelling like sweet incense. Just as Jesus is continually interceding for His loved children before His Father’s throne in heaven He wants His children to intercede for others who need His grace.


Beyond the next curtain was an inner room called the Most Holy Place. No ordinary person could enter here. It was God’s dwelling place in the midst of His people. Here He met with the high priest. In this room was the Ark of the Covenant. This was a chest made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold within and without. The lid of the Ark was made of pure solid gold. Inside this chest was a golden pot of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded and the two tables of stone on which the ten commandments were written. Two cherubim (angels), symbols of God’s divine presence and power were at either end, facing each other with outstretched wings that covered the pure gold lid. Between these angels shone an unapproachable light (the Shekinah Glory) representing God’s presence and glory. After Israel rejected God’s plan for them, the Shekinah never again appeared in the Temple. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil was torn asunder and God’s presence is now accessible to those who approach God in His appointed way – through the courtyard, Most Holy and now into His presence in the Most Holy. The Ark was a symbol of God’s presence and power and went with the Israelites wherever they went. But it was also a symbol of God’s judgment and wrath whenever they wandered away from His commands. God had provided food for them in the desert and He wanted to remind them of how He provided, guided and led them through very hard times and how He gave them special instruction on how they should worship Him as their God and how they should relate to each other. These Ten Commandments are still binding to us today and wants to write this law on our hearts, and give us His power and presence as we serve Him.

For an overview of the JOURNEY OF FAITH, see the chart below. Click chart to open in pdf format.