The Way In

The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits.  The hanging on one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.  And on the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three  sockets.

“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.  It shall have four pillars and four sockets.  All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:13-17.

“The hangings of one side of the gate were fifteen cubits long, with their three pillars and their three sockets, and the same for the other side of the court gate; and this side and that were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets.

The screen for the gate of the court was woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine woven linen.  The length was twenty cubits, and the height along its width was five cubits, corresponding to the hangings of the court.  And there were four pillars with their sockets of bronze; their hooks were of silver, and the overlay of their capitals and their bands was silver, Exodus 38:14-15, 18-19.

Our last post was about the fact that there was only one entrance into the tabernacle courtyard, which foreshadowed the teaching of our Lord that He is the entrance into heaven and the presence of God.  This is in stark contrast to the current idea that there are many roads into heaven; that we all serve the same god in our own way.  There was only one entrance into the tabernacle; there is only one entrance into the presence of God.  And we serve God His way or not at all.

Our Israelite has approached the tabernacle grounds, but the linen fence is in his way.  He has to go around to the east side, to the gate, to the entrance.

Though we’re not given a detailed description of the gate, I believe it was beautiful.  It was thirty feet long, of fine white linen embroidered with blue and purple and scarlet thread.  I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought about it before, and we’re not given a lot of information, but I don’t believe the embroidery was mere outline figures.  I believe the gate was a rich tapestry, as befitting its role as the way into the presence of God.

We are given some instructions about the curtains which make up the tabernacle itself.  In Exodus 26:1, God instructed Moses,

“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.”

Exodus 26:21, “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine white linen.  It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.”

Perhaps the same motif was used on the entrance screen.  Cherubim are associated with the presence of God, who in several places in Scripture is said to dwell between the cherubim, 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 37:16.  These extensive references show how ingrained the idea was of the presence of God with these creatures.

The first reference to cherubim is found in Genesis 3:24, where God placed cherubim at the east end of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Here they are associated with God’s judgment against Adam and Eve.  Some have thought that the cherubim were there to keep the way open, but it seems to me that they were there to make sure the way to the tree of life was closed, v, 22, and, therefore, no longer accessible.  This prevented the guilty couple from eating of the tree and confirming themselves in their fallen and lost state forever.  It was perhaps as much an act of mercy as it was an act of judgment.

As a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus, what does the gate tell us?

There were four elements which made up the gate:  the white linen itself and the three colors of thread used to decorate it.

The linen was the foundation for the whole thing.  We’ve already seen that white linen is a symbol of righteousness, Revelation 19:8.  The linen speaks to the fact that Christ is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26.  He is without blemish, a strict requirement, mentioned numerous times in Leviticus, for the animal sacrifices which prefigured His sacrifice.

The color always mentioned first is blue.  Blue is the color of the sky, and speaks to our Lord’s heavenly and divine origin. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1.  According to 1 Corinthians 15:47, He is the Lord from heaven. Before His birth, the angel announced to His mother, Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God,”  Luke 1:36.  “Son” by nature and character, not just by relationship.

The next color, for we take it out of order, is scarlet, or red.  Red speaks of the earth.  The soil in Israel is red, or so I’ve read.  I’ve not had the privilege of visiting there.  This represents the true humanity of our Lord.  That which was born of the virgin Mary was human, truly human, fully human – apart from sin.  Sin has nothing to do with being human, though now, because of Adam and Eve, it is a sad part of us.

Our Lord as God was in the beginning with God from eternity, but at a point in time, determined by the Father, the fulness of time, Galatians 4:4, He became flesh, John 1:14.  Notice the distinction:  He was God; He became flesh.  Nowhere does Scripture ever say that He became God, as some cults will try to tell you.

The last color is purple.  Purple is a result of combining blue and red, and speaks to the dual nature of our Lord.  He is truly God, but He is also and just as much truly Man.  He is the God-Man! Theologians, skeptics and cultists may discuss and dispute and argue about this, but the Scripture is clear.  He is God.  He is man.

Purple is also the color of royalty.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  There is much discussion about what this means.  One day, there will be no doubt.

One final thought.  Red is also the color of blood.  This speaks to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Without His death, His birth has no meaning, no reason.  He came to die.  At the beginning of His ministry, He was called the Lamb of God, John 1:29, 36.  Easter is just a few days away.  We celebrate His resurrection.  But His resurrection says that He died first.

He died in order that folks like us might live.  The perfect Man died for imperfect sinners.  Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

He became what He was not, in order that we might be made what we are not.

There is one final thought.  Twice in His instructions, God referred to the linen in the gate as made by a weaver.  Since we’ve been looking at these things for spiritual instruction, what does this mean?

Our Lord was God incarnate, God-in-the-flesh.  As such, as we’ve seen above, He was holy, harmless, undefiled….  He lived a perfect, sinless life for about 33 years.  He kept every precept of the Law and never once failed in word, thought or deed.  By doing this, as someone has put it, He obtained a righteousness that He didn’t need; He was already righteous.  It was a “made” righteousness, as it were, and became available for others.  The Lord never needed it; we certainly do.  Those who come to Him by faith and receive Him as Savior become the righteousness of God in Him. People look to the “merits” of the saints in order to get them into Heaven.  My friend, all such hope is false; there’s only ever been One who had any “merit” to begin with, let alone have any “left over” for others.

That is why, in the words of Isaiah 45:22, Christ says, “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is other.”  (emphasis added)

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Revelation 1:5, “To Him Who Loved Us…”

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.

For the most part, the Revelation is a book about judgment, of the outpouring of God’s wrath on this sinful and rebellious world.  This world scoffs at the idea of God’s justice and wrath.  There is coming a time, however, when even it will be forced to admit that it exists.  There is coming a time when men will cry out to the mountains to fall on them and hide them “from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:16, 17.

“The wrath of the Lamb”!

Who ever heard of a lamb being wrathful?  That most inoffensive and defenseless of creatures!  Rising up in anger!

John describes something unheard of, something unexpected.  This most certainly is true in our time.  We have a “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and truly, as He walked the dusty roads of Israel, our Lord was gentle.  Hebrews 7:26 describes Him as “harmless”.  In much of our teaching and preaching, we have Him standing on the sidelines of His own creation, anxious to bless us, but He can’t do anything unless and until we let Him.  We have reduced Him to little more than a supplicant at the throne of the human will.  He has little relevance to our culture.  Even many of our churches seem concerned only with programs and personalities.  And, by and large, we seem to be getting away with it – if you don’t count the mess our world and society is in.  Yet even in our Lord’s life, to those who rejected His teaching and authority, there were flashes of anger, cf. Matthew 23.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, behold, now is the day of salvation.  We live in a time of salvation, not of wrath and judgment, certainly not as Revelation describes it.  This is one reason why, from chapter 4 onward, I don’t believe it describes things that have already happened or are happening now.

Granted, even during that time there will be salvation, Revelation 7:9-17, just as there is some judgment in our day as God lets us reap what we’ve sown, individually and as a culture.

Verse 5 shows us how salvation is even possible.  It’s not because of something we’ve done or figured out.  It’s not because of our religion or good works, but because of the grace and mercy of that One who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.

(There is so much I’d like to say about this, but limited space makes it impractical.  I have done a whole series of posts under the title, “The Kindness of God.”  If you do look it up, the last post will be listed first.  At least, that’s how it comes up for me.  Just scroll down to the first post.  They build on each other, from first to last.)

washed us  from our sins in His own blood.

I talked to a lady who didn’t like all the references to “blood” in the Old Testament.  And, indeed, our faith is sometimes describes as “a bloody religion.”  Folks just don’t understand what it’s all about.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness, Hebrews 9:22.  It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul, Leviticus 17:11.

God didn’t ask for animal sacrifices just for the sake of bloodshed.  He was teaching Israel something, using the sacrifices as an object lesson.  He was teaching Israel the truth of something about sin, that those who committed sin were subject to death.  If it’s said that the animal wasn’t guilty, there’s a second lesson: substitution.  The animal was a “substitute” for the guilty Israelite.  It died.  He didn’t.

When the Israelite brought a sacrifice, he was required to put his hand on the head of the animal, cf. Leviticus 1:4.  In this way he identified with the animal.  It was a confession that he, the Israelite, deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.

All these countless sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice: the death of the Lord Jesus.  He committed no sin.  He did not deserve to die.   We commit nothing but sin, even in the providing of daily necessities, cf. Proverbs 21:4.  We do deserve to die, Romans 6:23.

The OT animal had no say, no choice, in the matter.  The Lord Jesus had every say, every choice, in the matter.  When it had become obvious, even to the slow-witted disciples, that the Lord Jesus was about to be arrested, He told them that He could ask the Father for more than twelve legions of angels to come and protect Him, Matthew 26:53.  Considering what just one angel could do, 2 Kings 19:35….

Our Lord was no helpless, unwilling victim.  He could easily have escaped, as He had done at other times, Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; 10:39.  Though He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, Isaiah 53:7, no power on earth could have put Him on that cross if He had not been willing to go, cf. John 19:10, 11.  No power on earth could have kept Him away from it, either.

This doesn’t mean that He enjoyed it or looked forward to it.  It is not without reason that Scripture says that He endured the Cross, Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added.

He was willing to go through all because He loved us, and because there was no other way for us to be saved.

But salvation is more than just an escape from hell.  It’s more than just the fulfillment of earthly desires for health and wealth and all the things the prosperity false prophets talk about.  Indeed, salvation may lead to our losing those things, Matthew 16:24; Philippians 3:7, 8; Hebrews 10:34.  Even in this country, we’re beginning to see that, with all the furor over gender and marriage issues.

No, no.  Salvation isn’t about deliverance from hell;  It’s about deliverance from that which would send us there:  our sins.

When the angel came to Joseph to explain to him what was going on with his fiancee, he said that the Son she would bear would “save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.

That is the issue.

Sin.

Sin is not defined by current social trends, but by the Word of God.  Current social trends emphasize and legalize sin.  It’s a sad commentary that so many religious organizations go right along with these things.  We expect this from the world.  Those who profess to be God’s people should know better.  It’s a shame – and a sin – that we allow the world to define the narrative, and not the Word.

To be saved from sin doesn’t simply mean to be forgiven for them.  The angel said that the coming Savior would save His people from their sins, not in them.

To be saved from sin means to turn from it, to reject it.  This is called repentance, which is the other side of the coin of salvation.  But this isn’t simply asceticism.  It’s not enough that we “don’t drink or chew or have friends who do.”

There are those who teach that repentance is a “Jewish doctrine.”  At the risk of being misunderstood myself, these folks misunderstand the Bible’s teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

What does the Scripture say?

When the Gospel first went to Gentiles and they were saved, this led to a confrontation with those who believed that the Gospel was only for Jewish folks, Acts 10.  In Acts 11, these folks finally realized and admitted that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life,” v. 18, emphasis added.

As Paul’s recorded ministry was beginning to wind down, he called for one last meeting with the leaders of the church at Ephesus, Acts 20:17-38.  He was about 30 miles away, at Miletus.  We could make this trip in a half-hour or less.  It probably took them a couple of days.  And it probably took a couple of days for Paul’s message to get to them.  We tend to forget that folks in this time traveled on foot or animals.  They didn’t have fast cars and freeways – or phones.

When the elders finally got to Paul, he reminded them of his own ministry among them.  For three years, he had been among them, and “did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears,” Acts 20:31.  He said that his method and message was that he “taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” vs. 20, 21.

This last verse gives gives us the two sides of that coin of salvation I mentioned earlier:

repentance toward God….  

It’s His Law, His Word, we’ve ignored or rebelled against.  We can’t keep doing that and be saved.  That is not legalism.  We’re not saved by keeping His Word, but we can’t be saved if we continue to disobey it.

faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

It isn’t our obedience that saves us; it’s the obedience of the Lord Jesus.  He is the only one Who could ever truthfully say that He pleased the Father in everything, John 8:29.  If He had fallen short in even one tiny little thing, He couldn’t be the Savior.  And we couldn’t be saved.

But it isn’t only His life that saves us.  His life provided the righteousness we need if we’re ever to stand before God uncondemned.  We have sinned; we have fallen short.  We stand under the judgment of God:  “the soul who sins shall die,” Ezekiel 18:4.  So, not only did He live in our place; He died in our place, as well.

That great debt we owe to God’s justice – that debt we could never even begin to pay?

He paid every last penny.

There is no debt left.

Does this mean that we can live as we please – without regard to God’s word?

Not at all.

The Mosaic Law was entirely external, with no provision to help the Israelite obey it.  Cf. Deuteronomy 29:4.  But believers don’t fall under the Old Testament Law.  We’re saved under the terms of the New Covenant.  True, it’s revealed in the Old Testament, but it goes far beyond the Old Testament Law.  The New Covenant provides help for the believer.  It’s an internal covenant, with the Word of God being put into our minds and hearts, and the Holy Spirit given to us to enable us to live by that word.

It’s not without reason that the Psalmist wrote, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:3.