The trinity of the tabernacle in the wilderness

What is the trinity, the three-in-one, triune God? This is an important question, which has caused lots of division between Christians. Some describe the trinity like an egg with a shell, egg white, and yolk or an orange with a skin, juicy meat, and seeds. Although these metaphors help illustrate the concept of three-in-one, they fall far short of describing God. Therefore, let’s consider the Biblical pattern of the tabernacle in the wilderness, which God showed to Moses (Exodus 25-31)

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness — a dwelling place for God

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Exodus 25:1-9)

This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. (KJV) Exodus 29:42-44

And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God. (KJV) Exodus 29:45-46

Model of the tabernacle in Timna Valley Park, Israel, CC BY-SA 3.0
Model of the tabernacle in Timna Valley Park, Israel, CC BY-SA 3.0

Instructions for building the tabernacle

God gave very specific instructions to Moses about the tabernacle and its contents. (Exodus 25-31) He described the materials, the dimensions, and the layout of every item. Nothing was left to chance. Then the LORD called Bezaleel and filled him with the spirit of God to do the work according to God’s plans. (Exodus 34-40) Here is an artist representation of the plan of the tabernacle.

Top view, parallel projection of tabernacle, CC BY-SA 3.0
Top view, parallel projection of tabernacle, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Trinity of the tabernacle in the wilderness

This is a very clear trinity, three-in-one, triune tabernacle in the wilderness. It has 3 very distinct sections with very specific contents and very different rules for very individual purposes. Inside the outer courtyard is the tent of meeting with a holy place, a veil, and a most holy place.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. (Hebrews 9:1-5)

Everybody who has ever studied this subject understands that there are 3 different parts of the tent of meeting with different rules for different purposes. One tent with three parts. A trinity, the three-in-one, triune tent of meeting in the tabernacle in the wilderness. Yet, no one has ever called this a three-headed monster . No one has ever said these are three different aspects of the same place. And, no one has ever said any of these sections was created by any of the other sections.

The outer courtyard

The outer courtyard is visible to the nations. It has one door facing towards the rising sun, which is open to all the people. Just inside this door is a huge bronze altar of burnt offerings. All the sacrifices for sin are made on this altar. Further in is the laver where the priests wash their hands and feet to be ceremonially pure in their service.

The tabernacle in the wilderness was built according to a pattern

Inside this outer courtyard is the Tent of Meeting, which is composed of two rooms with a very important partition between them. These were built for very specific reasons according to very specific plans from God.

For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. (KJV) Hebrews 8:3-5

For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (KJV) Hebrews 9:19-22

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (KJV) Hebrews 9:23-26

The holy place

Sealed off from the outer courtyard by a door, is the holy place. Only priests are allowed to go in this room. Inside this room is a table of shewbread, a golden lampstand, and an altar of incense. These items symbolize God’s provision for us, God’s instruction and direction to us, and God’s intercession for us. I believe this room symbolizes the work of the Holy Spirit.

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. (KJV) Hebrews 9:6-10

The inner curtain veil

Between the holy place and the holiest place was a veil of separation for the protection of the priests. I believe this veil symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ who is the “lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8).

And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. (KJV) Leviticus 16:2-3

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (KJV) Exodus 33:20-23

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (KJV) John 1:15-18

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. (KJV) John 14:6-11

The holiest place

Sealed off from the holy place by a veil, is the holiest place, the holy of holies. Only the high priest is allowed to go in this room, once a year, after being purified by blood, and carrying atoning blood to splash on the mercy seat above the arc of the covenant. I believe the holiest place symbolizes God the father.

And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. (KJV) Leviticus 16:14-17

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (KJV) Romans 9:1-5

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. (KJV) 1 Timothy 6:13-16

The tabernacle in the wilderness has a corresponding reality in heaven

There are other parts of the tabernacle in the wilderness that speak of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I’m sure you could spend your life studying the tabernacle and still not understand all the meaning. I am just barely scratching the surface here. I know of several men who have built scale models of the tabernacle and spent considerable time studying it. The one thing they all realized is the tabernacle in the wilderness was patterned on the reality in heaven. This was part of the Mosaic Ten Commandment Law system that was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (Gal 3). This reality has been revealed by Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament scriptures.

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (KJV) Hebrews 9:11-15

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (KJV) Hebrews 10:1-4

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (KJV) Hebrews 10:5-10

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, (KJV) Hebrews 10:15

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (KJV) Hebrews 10:16-18

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (KJV) Hebrews 10:19-25

Won’t you step into the outer courtyard and accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ that will pay the debt of your sins and wash away the stains? Then you can enter the holy place with the light of the world and the bread of life with the prayers of the saints. You can step through the torn veil of the sacrificed lamb of God into the holiest place to be home with the very presence of God.


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