Much of what Leviticus deals with, has to do with things that take place in the tabernacle (which would later become the temple in Jerusalem once Israel made it into the promised land).
So in the third and final part of the introduction, i will discuss the temple, so that we have good framework for understanding what is going on in Leviticus .
What is a temple?
First let’s establish what a temple is:
A temple is a place where heaven and earth meet, or put another way, it could be said that a temple is a place where heaven is visibly manifested on earth.
Many people think of heaven as ‘the place we go when we die,’ however, In Biblical terms, heaven is the invisible place where God and angels dwell and it coexists with earth. You could think of earth as the body of heaven.
The two were always meant to be fully unified, and this was the case in the first temple, the Garden of Eden, but ever since sin entered the world and man was kicked out of the Garden of Eden, the two have become separated.
3 Things That Confuse People’s Understanding of The Temple
1)Only a Shadow
The author of Hebrews calls the tabernacle given to Moses a shadow and copy of what was is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5) Unfortunately many English translations add ‘only’ in, which is not in the original translation, and this causes many readers to believe the authors of the New Testament viewed the temple negatively. This is not the case, as the book of Acts shows that the early church in Jerusalem continued in temple worship all the way until it’s destruction in AD 70. It’s true, that it’s not the real thing, but unless you get teleported to heaven fairly regularly, having a shadow is pretty useful.
Next, it’s important that you don’t think of the temple as a church building, as it wasn’t a place that the Israelite’s met once a week for worship, but was instead a 24/7 dramatization of what was going on in heaven.
There was 2 daily services that took place at the temple and it served as the center of religious life for the nation of Israel. Furthermore the very presence of God was inside the temple in the same way as he had been in the Garden of Eden.
3)Temple Universal and Individual
Another place that people often get confused when speaking of the temple, is that God has always wanted a temple on 2 levels, both a universal level, and an individual level.
The New Testament tends to emphasize the later while the Old Testament emphasizes the former. This was because the New Testament authors were all practicing Jews who assumed the Old Testament, however, and didn’t feel a need to rewrite it. They were emphasizing what had taken place on Pentecost when the individual temple was filled with the presence of God.
1)The Universe as Temple
I stated earlier that the Garden of Eden was the first temple. Man was supposed to take this temple and expand it to cover the entire earth, but when Adam and Eve sinned they were kicked out of the garden of Eden and since then heaven and earth have been separated.
Even pagan’s always understood this, that man was disconnected from God (well to them it would be the gods), and pagan temples were ways to connect to the gods.
In Jewish thought, there are 3 heavens:
2)the invisible heaven (where angels live)
3)the 3rd heaven (where the throne room of God is).
These 3 places corresponds to the 3 places in the temple: the outer courtyard (earth), the holy place (heaven), and the holy of hollies (3rd heaven).
It also corresponds to Jerusalem (Holy of Hollies), Israel (Holy Place), and the Gentile Nations (Outer Courtyard).
2)Man as Temple
Man is a unique being in that we have both an earthly part and an heavenly part.
Animals have an earthly body, but not a spiritual body, angels have a heavenly body but not a physical body, but man is somewhat of an animal/angel hybrid.
We are composed of body, soul, and spirit, which again correspond to the 3 parts of the temple (the body being our earthly part, the spirit our heavenly and the soul being the place that bridges the 2 together.)
This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians, that we are a temple for the Holy Spirit, and why Jesus is the true temple (he is the true model of humanity).
We have to realize that the temple analogy is a both/and however.
Both the universe and humans are temples.
God wants Christ to be in us and us to be in Christ, therefore the inward and outward (universal level) are both necessary to fully understand the temple symbolism.
The Temple Layout
Now that we’ve got the background of what a temple is I am going to walk from start to finish and explain some of the basic symbolism within the temple:
The outer court was the place where any worshiper could go. It represents earth, it also represents the body (or flesh) of man.
1)Alter of Burnt Offer
The alter of burnt offering was the place where the offerings were burned They were symbolically seen as a type of mystical portal between heaven and earth. For example, while the burnt offering was being burned, it’s smoke was scene as ascending to heaven.
The next area in the outer courts was the bronze laver. This is where the priests would wash there hands and feet before entering into the temple. This is where the foundation for baptism comes from.
Note: The order here is important. For example, the first 2 things talked about in Leviticus are sacrifice and cleansing ritual, which happen to be the first 2 things you pass in the outer courts as you walk towards the temple.
The Holy Place was the first layer of the tabernacle. Only the priests could enter the Holy Place. This represents heaven, it also represents the soul of a man (ie his angelic/heavenly part).
Many people have a distorted view of the Levitical Priests because they read back in a Catholic Priest or Protestant Pastor into the text when they read about priest. But we must not think of priests in terms of Protestant Pastors or Catholic/Orthodox priests, however, those were later inventions that are much more akin to pagan priests than Levitical priests (ie a clergy type that is elevated above the rest of the people).
The Leviticus Priest, rather than clergy, had been set apart for a special purpose to minister in the temple service. You could think of them as actors in a heavenly drama. They symbolize both angels serving in the heavenly temple as well as God’s people who are to serve as priests on earth.
There were 3 main parts within the Holy Place:
1) Table For Shew Bread
The table for shew bread held 12 loaves of bread (one for every tribe of Israel). This represented fellowship with God as meals are one of the primary means of fellowship. It also represents the covenental relationship of God with his people as a covenant was celebrated by sharing a meal.
2)Golden Lamp stand/Menorah Exodus 25:31-40
The Menorah was a lamp stand with 7 cups that had to have olive oil burning at all times. The olive oil was supplied by the common people but the priest were responsible for making changining the wicks and making sure the oil did not run out.
This represents the presence of God. In Zecheriah 4:10 they are called the “7 eyes of the Lord”, and in Revelations chapter 1:20 it is said to represent Jesus’ presence in the 7 churches. When God removes his presence (as mediated through arch angels) from the churches he says he removes his lampstand.
Revelation 4:5 also refers to it calling these the 7 spirits of God.
3)Alter of Incense
Two sections in Revelation give us insight into the symbolism of the incense:
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,” (Revelation 8:3)
Here we see that the incense represents prayers of God’s people. Offering up the incense was the most coveted job of a Levitical priest as it was the closest they ever got to the Holy of Hollies. This is what Zechariah was doing when an angel appeared to him and told him his wife would give birth to John the Baptizer.
Holy of Hollies
The Holy of Hollies was the place where God’s very presence dwelt in the same way it had dwelt in the Garden of Eden. This was the throne room of God on earth, and the place where heaven and earth were perfectly one.
This represents the third heaven, or eternity, it also represents a man’s spirit (his eternal part).
Only the high priest could enter here and only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The high priest, represented Jesus, or the angel of the Lord.
In the Holy of Hollies had inside of it:
The ark of the covenant, and on the ark of the covenant was the Mercy Seat, which represented the very throne of God.
Inside of the ark of the covenant, was the following 3 items:
1)the stones that God had written the 10 commandments
This represents the Father who is the very character of God.
2)the budding staff of Aaron
This represents the Spirit who is the life of God.
3)The Manna that had been given in the wilderness
This representing Jesus, the bread of Life, the very substance of God.