This post is a serialization of an unpublished book I wrote several years ago entitled Characteristics of the Kingdom of God. It is a companion to Uniting the Kingdom of God, which is available on Amazon.com. To read this from the beginning, start with the Introduction.
Continued from Part 1
For this we turn to Exodus 26-27. Whenever we talk about the construction of the tabernacle, it is not hard to see that every element holds great symbolic significance. For the best treatment of the symbolism and significance of the Tabernacle and everything associated with it, I recommend Pattern for Living, by Rev. Alex W. Ness, Th.D. For now, of course, the scope of our study is somewhat narrow. We will return to these passages to explore other aspects it as our own study continues.
The first thing we want to point out here is how Moses got the plans for the tabernacle in the first place. Let’s look at Exodus 25.
And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain. (Exodus 25:40)
Now, there has been a lot of discussion about exactly what Moses saw when he was up there on that mountain. Some would argue that he saw the tabernacle itself, the “true” tabernacle that probably still is in heaven. Others would claim that God showed him some blueprints (of sorts) on how the structure would look and then followed it up with the commentary that Exodus 26-27 filled in regarding materials to use, dimensions, placement, etc.
For me, I have a different theory on the matter. Since the materials used in the construction of the tabernacle are highly symbolic of various aspects of God and of the kingdom and the tabernacle itself is symbolic of the created universe, it has occurred to me that what Moses saw was heaven itself. Rather than seeing a linen wall supported by 60 pillars in bronze sockets and with hooks and bands made of silver and held down by rope and bronze pegs hammered halfway into the ground, Moses saw the purity of God in Jesus, the Son of Man; bringing redemption to the world through the crucifixion. Instead of seeing the tent of meeting, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold and covered with fine linen embroidered with blue, scarlet and purple thread, and subsequently covered with goats hair, ram skins dyed red and badger skins above that, he saw Jesus the Son of God, clothed in purity, totally separated from the world unto God, being the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and being such that only those who have eyes to see will be able to comprehend what He is all about. He didn’t see a lampstand, a table for shew bread and the altar of incense; he saw the Light of the World, the Bread of Life and the worship of God as being key elements of a righteous man’s life. He didn’t see the inner chamber where the Ark of the Covenant was placed; he saw the very presence of God. And having seen all this, the Lord directed him in how it could be represented (modeled if you will) in such a way that others would be able to get a glimpse of a shadow of the majesty of the whole kingdom.
Now, if (yeah, “If”) Moses did actually see heaven, and the tabernacle is intended to be a model or representation of it, this would go far in explaining a few questions that have been floating around for the past … say … 2000 years; such as “exactly how many ‘heavens’ are there?” St. Paul talks about a man who, in the Spirit, went to the third heaven. From this, we know that there should have been at least three, but are there more? If (there’s that word again) the tabernacle represents heaven, we would know that there are exactly three heavens, or three partitions within the one heaven.
Some would argue that heavens one and two represent the sky and what we now know as outer space. This may be so, but I would think that since the ancients really didn’t have any concept of a limit to the “sky” (the atmosphere that surrounds the planet with life sustaining air) how could they conceive of anything beyond the atmosphere that was short of heaven (of course I’ve not done a whole lot of study on this particular issue so I may be somewhat off base with this. If so, my apologies)? But then again, God is the ultimate author of the Bible, so … who knows?
Still I believe that the tabernacle that Moses had built was indeed a model of the structure and organization of the kingdom of God. Furthermore, were we to study its layout and makeup in detail, we would discover tremendous truths about the kingdom, both as it exists in the spiritual realm and as it exists within the physical universe. As it is, let us take a brief look at its overall layout.
The Tabernacle divided the universe into four primary areas. The outermost area was the world. This was where sin and corruption reigned free. The people of the world are without God and, consequently without hope. Rebelliousness and strife are the order of the day. It is only by the mercy of God that swift and sure judgment is not daily meted out upon the people of the world.
The next area of the Tabernacle is called “The Courtyard.” As seen in Exodus 27:9-19 this area of the Tabernacle was separated from the rest of the world by a wall of linen with a gate made of material woven from Blue, Scarlet, and Purple thread and fine woven linen. This gate was known as “The Way.” The area itself was open to the elements and contained the bronze alter and the bronze laver. Only those who were members of the nation of Israel could enter this area. Foreigners were forbidden, they were considered unclean.
The courtyard was where the people of Israel gathered and brought their offerings of various types. Each of these offerings had some specific significance in the life of the worshiper. The first seven chapters of the Book of Leviticus prescribe each offering, its meaning and how it is to be presented.
The next area was known as the Holy Place. According to Exodus 26:35 this was within the tent of meeting itself. Entrance into the holy place was through a curtained door made of blue, scarlet and purple, which was known as “The Truth.” Within the holy place were the golden lamp-stand, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense. Only the priests could enter this area to minister to the Lord.
The innermost area, and by far the smallest, was the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies. This area was separated from the Holy Place by a veil made of blue, scarlet and purple, which was known as “The Life.” Only two things were found within this space, the Ark of the Covenant and the very presence of God Himself (not that He was limited to that one space, but His presence was definitely felt there). The only one who could enter this chamber was the high priest once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to sprinkle sacrificial blood upon the ark.
In the tabernacle is found a four-tiered representation of the universe. Distinctions, separators, strict rules as to who could enter which area and when and, especially, who had to stay out. All the plans, materials and dimensions came from God to Moses when he was on the mountain. Now let us turn to the New Testament and some of the teachings of Jesus.
The Parable of the Soils
There are two primary passages that I want to use at this point as evidence that there are distinctions/separations within God’s plan as found in the scripture. The first is found in Matthew 17:24-27 with parallels in Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:20-26.
In these passages, Jesus is tested by some religious leaders who ask of the legality, under the laws of God, of paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus, as we all remember, asks to see a denarius, a coin of the realm. He then asks whose likeness is found on the coin. When the answer comes back that it is Caesar’s likeness, He proclaims, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Distinctions and separations: Very clearly Jesus is acknowledging that there are things within this world that, although created by God, will have nothing to do with him. This is not because they are unclean in and of themselves, but because of the sinful nature of the people who would pervert and use those items for their own gain rather than to the glory of God.
The other passage we want to look at is “The Parable of the Sower” or “The Parable of the Soils” depending upon how you look at it. Found in Matthew 13 with parallels in Mark 4 and Luke 8, this parable illustrates how different types of people may receive the word of God.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. and as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:3-9)
Jesus used this parable to illustrate that there are distinctions amidst the people who will hear and respond (or not) to the gospel. Insofar as the issue of distinctions within the Bible is concerned, I believe that we can agree that this is clear-cut.
Going a step farther, as we have done with the Tabernacle and the people of Israel, within the parable there are four distinct types of soils described. In the explanation that accompanies the parable, found in verses 18-23 the soils represent the human heart that is exposed to the Word of God.
“Some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them” The 1st soil type is the hard, packed down pathway. This represents those who do not receive the word of the Lord at all. They are of the world and condemned in their sins.
“Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away” The 2nd soil type is rocky and shallow. Even though it appears, on the surface, to be good soil, just out of sight there is a hardness to it that prevents the Word from growing too much. This represents those who have received the Word of God, yet who have not allowed the Lord to fully deliver them from the sinfulness that once bound them. This “undelivered” state inhibits the spiritual growth the Lord desires. It is important to point out, however, that the Word is received and does grow some with this type of soil.
“And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” The 3rd soil type is already crowded with weeds. Although the soil itself may be good and free from hardness, there are just too many other things going on for good growth to occur. This represents those who have received the Word of God with joy but are unwilling to let go of the things of the world. Their lives become so crowded in trying to “have it all” that they don’t allow the Word to grow to its full glory.
“But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” The 4th soil type is good soil. It has been broken up and the rocks and stones taken out. It has been weeded so that the word of God is allowed as much room and resources it needs to grow to its full maturity. This represents those who have allowed the Lord to do whatever is necessary to promote the maximum possible growth within their lives. These are the ones who are completely sold out to the Lord and who have no reservations about their commitment to Him.
Distinctions and separations: can you see it? Within this parable we find three types who have received the Word of God and one type who haven’t … just like what we found in Revelation 21-22 and in the passages concerning the Israelites in Exodus/Numbers as well as in the study of the Tabernacle in Exodus.
And Then Along Came Paul …
Not wanting to leave Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, out; the last passage we want to look at in this section comes from 2nd Timothy 2.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Here we find the idea of distinctions between groups of people is clearly communicated. As there are distinctions between the various types of vessels used within a house, so there are distinctions within the kingdom of God. Furthermore, here is introduced (at least in our study) the idea that there is the freedom and the responsibility for the individual to make a choice as to which kind of vessel we would become.
This reveals two important details: 1) The freedom to choose our destiny is within our hands, even within the Kingdom of God (my apologies to those who have long held the belief that God is directing our path and that we really have no choice at all. I believe that God is directing our path, but we have the freedom to choose whether or not we will follow him at every phase along the way).
2) Because we have the freedom to choose which kind of vessel we would become, the criteria that separate one type of vessel (person) from another is along very specific lines. These criteria may not be very different than what we use to distinguish one group from another (We’ll get more into this in the next chapter).
Summing Up …
I’m sure that all this information has given you a lot to think about. This chapter was meant primarily to provide additional evidence to the claim made earlier that there were several distinct types of people within the kingdom of God. We have seen that, in all the passages that we’ve looked at here, distinctions and separations are indeed a natural and planned part of God’s universe. We have also seen that, apart from the separation that comes with our being sinful and rebellious against the Lord, there are distinctions as a part of God’s plan and purpose within humanity itself.
When we examine the passages that this section has presented one at a time, or within another context or study, we may find it difficult to see the pattern emerging of distinction/separation as a part of God’s plan for the universe. When we examine all these side by side, and in light of the questions that were raised in the first chapter, the concept doesn’t seem that far-fetched. The following table lays it out in an easier format for us.
|A Summary of Distinctions|
|Reference||Group 1||Group 2||Group 3||Group 4|
|Revelation 21-22||Lake of Fire||Outside||Those Who Enter the City||The City/Bride|
|“Divided” Creation||Light from Darkness||Waters from Waters||Land from Waters||Day from Night|
|People Of God||Egyptians||Nation of Israel||Levites||Priests|
|Tabernacle||World||Courtyard||Holy Place||Holy Of Holies|
|Parable of the Soils||Beaten Down Path||Rocky Soil||Weed Choked Soil||Good Soil|
According to the principle of 2 or 3 witnesses, I feel confident that we have established that God has built into the framework of the universe, distinctions between the various parts that make up the whole and that there are definite distinctions within the kingdom of God itself. Do we need another “proof”? Not according to the Bible, but let’s throw one in anyway.
Go outside and look at the world around you. You see nature in all its glory, a thousand individual elements falling somewhere within the three general categories of animal, vegetable or mineral. Looking at it from a slightly different angle, we see solids, liquids and gases. Then there are the four seasons that many enjoy: winter, a time of dormancy; spring, a time for new growth; summer, a time for maturing; and autumn, the time for bearing the fruit. Each bit, each minute particle distinct, separate and identifiable from everything else, yet each working together with everything else to make up the whole picture. This is the world the Lord has created – ordered and interdependent, complex and yet working together to glorify the Creator of all.
And why does the Lord create such diversity? He does so because He’s not boring and dull and wanting everything to be the same as everything else. He does so because He loves the variety and the excitement of the changes that take place within His creation. Our God may be the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that everything else must be (somebody say “Amen”).
What do you think? Do you agree with me? Are you confused about the discussion? Leave your comments or questions below.
Until next time, Via con Dios!
This post is part of a companion piece to Uniting the Kingdom of God which is offered through Amazon.com.
 Pattern for Living by Rev. Alex W. Ness, Th.D, Agape Publications inc., Pefferlaw, Ontario.
 2nd Corinthians 12:2
 (Matthew 13:19) “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.
 (Matthew 13:20-21) “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
 (Matthew 13:22) “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
 (Matthew 13:23) “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”