"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and
into his courts with praise."—Psalm 100:4 .
WE CANNOT DO JUSTICE to this lesson here; nor is it necessary. We refer our readers to the booklet, "Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices," * which a majority of them already possess, and which we believe has been very helpful to the Lord's people,—deepening the work of grace in their heart by its explanations of the riches of divine grace already bestowed upon us and those yet future, illustrated in Israel's typical tabernacle and its typical arrangements, sacrifices, etc.
Incidentally we guard our readers against certain misapplications which, from contemporary reviews of the lesson, we may infer to be quite common. The tabernacle and its court, etc., were not, as many suppose, a church edifice, or place of worship for Israel. An ordinarily able minister and writer wholly misrepresents the tabernacle and its services as follows: "Suppose yourself approaching the Tabernacle at some desert camping place....It is a brilliant sight; the white hangings of the court contrast with the dark coverings of the tabernacle within. The gorgeous entrance curtain is looped up, for the Court is full of worshipers bringing sacrifices. White-robed priests are burning offerings at the large bronze altar in the center, while another is using the sacred laver near the Tabernacle entrance preparatory to entering. The many-colored curtain is here looped back on its golden pillars. From within we catch a gleam of the golden table and exquisitely wrought lampstand, while a fragrance of rare incense floats out upon us. Deep in the recesses of the Holy Place we can see the resplendent curtain, and we tremble as it seems almost luminous with the shining of the Shekinah behind it. All is so reverently silent that we hear the chime of bells on the high-priest's garment as he moves forward, and, turning, we read above his beautiful robes and glittering breast the crown and meaning of it all, "Holiness to the Lord."
Quite to the contrary of this description, the Israelites in general were not permitted within even the outermost of the Tabernacle enclosures, the Court. Nor could they see over the high linen curtain which enclosed it, nor directly see through its doorway, which was behind a "gate" of heavy curtains. Only the tribe of Levi, consecrated to the Lord's service, was permitted inside this enclosure in the Court, and of these only the one priestly family, consisting at first of the five persons, Aaron and his four sons, were permitted to enter the Tabernacle proper, whose curtains, so far from being looped up about the gold-covered pillars, so as to permit the Levites to see the candlestick, tables, etc., were kept down, with the very object of hindering them from seeing anything within. And that they might not seek to look in when the officiating priests lifted the curtain and passed under it, a divine law was promulgated forbidding them to look, and prescribing a penalty of death for disobedience.—Num. 4:19,20.
All of this has a deep significance in connection with the proper understanding of the meaning of these types. As the Court represented the condition of justification through faith in the sacrifice for sins in the atonement accomplished by the high-priest, so its brazen altar represented primarily the perfection of the man Christ Jesus, upon which his offering was accepted of God, as our sin-atonement, sanctifying in turn any offering of others that might be presented upon it. Likewise the laver taught in type a cleansing of the flesh, and a putting away, so far as possible, of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit on the part of those in the justified condition as preparatory to their entering the Tabernacle itself. As only the priests were permitted to enter the Tabernacle, or [R3054 : page 236] even to see its glories and beauties, the teaching is that as the Court represents one condition, the "Holy" represents another, and the "Most Holy" still another condition. As the priests, before being consecrated to the priestly office, must be Levites, so those who would be of the Royal Priesthood must previously have been justified believers, otherwise they would not be acceptable as members of the Royal Priesthood. Their entrance as priests into the Holy symbolizes their change of nature—from justified human nature to that of "new creatures," begotten of the spirit. The Holy represents the state or condition of these new creatures in this present life, while still in the flesh, and only reckonedly new creatures, while the Most Holy represents their future state or condition, in which they will be perfected as new creatures by participation in the first resurrection—beyond the "Vail."
Our Forerunner, the "High Priest of our profession," or order, passed through the Court condition as the perfect man, presenting himself in consecration when thirty years of age; and then passed from the Court condition into the Holy, the sanctified or new creature condition, when begotten of the holy spirit. The three and a half years of our Lord's ministry are represented in the Holy of the Tabernacle; and as the First Vail represented his consecration to death, so the Second Vail represented his actual death, beyond which he arose in the perfect spiritual condition—the Most Holy. In all this he was the Forerunner of those who will constitute the Royal Priesthood, his house, the members of his "Body." We by nature are sinners, and hence must enter the Court condition of justification through faith in our Lord's sacrifice; we must be cleansed from the defilements of the flesh, so far as possible, through the word spoken unto us, represented in the washing at the Laver; and then we must make our consecration full and complete, represented by the Vail at the door, if we would enter thus into the Holy, enjoy the privileges typically represented in the light of the Golden Candlestick and the Shewbread and the Incense Altar, which signify the light, the truth, and the spiritual privileges, praises, prayers and communion which we have with the Lord as members of the body of Christ, this side the Second Vail. And for all who shall finish their course faithfully and joyfully, there remains beyond the Second Vail of actual death a glorious share in our Lord's resurrection to perfect spiritual conditions, to be partakers of the divine nature and to behold his glory in the first resurrection.
The natural man, even tho justified, represented by the Levite, cannot see into, cannot discern, cannot appreciate, cannot enjoy, the privileges of the consecrated. He can hear through the priests some description of the glorious things beyond, but he cannot fully comprehend them or see their beauty—except by becoming a priest—by consecration, by self-sacrifice to the Lord.
"Christian ministers continue the Tabernacle service of Aaron and his sons, pointing men to Christ, leading men in prayer, and inciting them to offer their bodies a living sacrifice. They are to be revered as standing in this noble succession."
We fear there are many ministers in the nominal church who have neither part nor lot in the Royal Priesthood. Many of them confess that they are not even Levites, not even in the Court condition, when they acknowledge that they disbelieve the Scriptural teaching of man's fall into sin and the atonement for his sin effected by the great High Priest—when they claim, on the contrary, that there was no fall and no need of a redemption, but that man has reached his present plane of intelligence by a process of evolution. These evolutionists, of whom there are many in the nominal church ministry, are not in the Court condition of justification, nor have they any right or standing there. They are not even of the Levite class, the household of faith; consequently, they could not be of the priestly class.
Altho many others of the ministers of the nominal church, as well as of the laity, have reached the position of justification through faith in the Lord's redemptive work, and altho some of them have washed at the brazen laver, purifying their lives through the Word of truth, yet comparatively few have gone on to take the step of full consecration necessary to their becoming members of the Royal Priesthood—necessary to their having the right to enter into the Holy, to discern the glorious truths represented therein, "the deep things of God," which can be seen only in the light coming from the Golden Candlestick, symbolizing the enlightenment of the holy spirit. But if the word "ministers" be used in the Scriptural sense, as signifying servants—persons devoted to the service of God, consecrated to do his will even unto death, then the term "minister" will be applicable, not only to those of this class who do public preaching, but to those of this class also who with different talents are serving the Lord and laying down their lives for the brethren in other ways public and private.
Human systems, misnamed churches of Christ, have raised false standards on the subjects of the priesthood, and have separated God's people contrary to his arrangement, into "clergy" and "laity." Very shortly now the Lord will show how different is the divine standard of measurement; for surely then will be demonstrated what our Lord and the apostles explicitly declared, that "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" and accepted into his priesthood; but chiefly "the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the Kingdom."—I Cor. 1:26; Jas. 2:5.
Amongst the Lord's priests will be found some very lightly esteemed amongst men, some who have been mechanics or farmers or laborers or housekeepers, but whose hearts were fully devoted to the Lord, and whose ministry consisted in doing with their might whatsoever their hands found to do, as unto the Lord—doing good unto all men as they had opportunity, especially to the household of faith—laying down their lives for the brethren. When the lists shall be proclaimed doubtless the names of many highly esteemed amongst men, the names of many [R3054 : page 237] great and noble and wise and learned, honored of men and expected to be honored of the Lord, may be found wanting; because, in their love for the approval of men they sought not exclusively the honor which cometh from God only—because either of their failure in not exercising the proper faith in the ransom, or because of their failure to exercise the proper consecration,—devotion of their lives to the Lord's service.
It is to this priestly class that the Golden Text is applicable. Their thankfulness to the Lord for his mercies and blessings leads them to count not their lives dear unto themselves, but to lay down their lives willingly in his service. Their hearts are filled with praise, because, having made consecration of themselves, and having entered thus the courts of the Lord to be seated with Christ in heavenly conditions, the heavenly light and food supplied them enables them to rejoice exceedingly even in tribulation, even in matters which otherwise, according to the flesh, without the strength and enlightenment of the truth, would discourage them and cause them fear. Because they have entered into this fellowship with the Lord in his sufferings, with his spirit of appreciation, therefore they may be joyful even in the house of their pilgrimage—and when the pilgrimage of the present life is ended, and as new creatures they shall pass beyond the vail, there shall be fulness of joy for them as they enter into the joys of their Lord in the full and complete sense—made like him, seeing him as he is, and sharing his glory.