“Worship the One who made the heaven and the earth.”—REV. 14:7.
SONG 93 Bless Our Meeting Together
1. What is an angel saying, and what does that mean for us?
IF AN angel were to speak to you, would you listen to what he had to say? Well, today, an angel is speaking “to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” What is he saying? “Fear God and give him glory . . . Worship the One who made the heaven and the earth.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) Jehovah is the only true God whom everyone should worship. How thankful we can be that he has given us the precious opportunity to worship him in his great spiritual temple!
2. What is Jehovah’s spiritual temple? (See also the box “What It Is Not.”)
2 What exactly is the spiritual temple, and where can we find the details that explain it? The spiritual temple is not a literal building. It is Jehovah’s arrangement for offering acceptable worship based on Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. The apostle Paul explained this arrangement in the letter that he wrote to the first-century Hebrew Christians living in Judea.b
3-4. What concerns did Paul have about the Hebrew Christians in Judea, and how did he help them?
3 Why did Paul write his letter to the Hebrew Christians in Judea? Likely, for two main reasons. First, to give them encouragement. Most of them had been raised in the Jewish religion. Their former religious leaders may have ridiculed them for becoming Christians. Why? Because Christians had no impressive temple to go to for worship, no physical altar on which to make sacrifices to God, and no priests to minister to them. This could have discouraged Christ’s disciples and caused their faith to weaken. (Heb. 2:1; 3:12, 14) Some of them might even have been tempted to go back to Judaism.
4 Second, Paul pointed out to those Hebrew Christians that they were not making the effort to understand new or deep spiritual teachings, the “solid food” found in God’s Word. (Heb. 5:11-14) Evidently, some of them were still holding on to the Mosaic Law. Paul explained, though, that the sacrifices the Law required could not fully remove sin. For that reason, the Law had been “set aside.” So Paul went on to teach some deeper truths. He reminded his fellow Christians of “a better hope” based on Jesus’ sacrifice that could truly help them draw “near to God.”—Heb. 7:18, 19.
5. What do we need to understand from the Bible book of Hebrews, and why?
5 Paul explained to his Hebrew brothers why their Christian worship was far superior to the worship they offered in the past. The features of the Jewish religion were only “a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Col. 2:17) The shadow that an object casts is only a general shape of the real thing that casts the shadow. So, too, the ancient Jewish pattern of worship was just a shadow of the reality that was to come. We need to understand the arrangement Jehovah has put in place for us to have our sins forgiven so that we can offer acceptable worship. Let us compare the “shadow” (the ancient Jewish pattern) with “the reality” (the Christian way of worship), as explained in Hebrews. By doing so, we can better understand the spiritual temple and how it involves us.
6. How was the tabernacle used?
6 The ancient pattern. Paul based his discussion on the tabernacle that was set up by Moses in 1512 B.C.E. (See the chart “The Ancient Pattern—The Christian Reality.”) The tabernacle was a tentlike structure that the Israelites initially carried with them as they moved from place to place. They used it for nearly 500 years until a permanent temple was built in Jerusalem. (Ex. 25:8, 9; Num. 9:22) This “tent of meeting” was the central place for the Israelites to approach God and offer their sacrifices and their worship. (Ex. 29:43-46) However, the tabernacle also represented something much greater that was to come for Christians.
7. When did the spiritual temple become a reality?
7 The Christian reality. The ancient tabernacle was “a shadow of the heavenly things,” and it pictured Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. Paul said that “this tent [or, tabernacle] is an illustration for the present time.” (Heb. 8:5; 9:9) So by the time he wrote to the Hebrews, the spiritual temple had already become a reality for Christians. It came into existence in 29 C.E. That year, Jesus got baptized, was anointed with holy spirit, and began serving as Jehovah’s “great high priest” in the spiritual temple.c—Heb. 4:14; Acts 10:37, 38.
THE HIGH PRIEST
8-9. According to Hebrews 7:23-27, what sharp contrast is there between Israel’s high priests and the great High Priest, Jesus Christ?
8 The ancient pattern. The high priest was authorized to represent the people before God. Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, was appointed by Jehovah when the tabernacle was inaugurated. However, as Paul explained, “many had to become priests in succession because death prevented them from continuing as such.”d (Read Hebrews 7:23-27.) And as imperfect men, those high priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins. Herein lies a sharp contrast between Israel’s high priests and the great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
9 The Christian reality. As our High Priest, Jesus Christ is “a minister . . . of the true tent, which Jehovah set up, and not man.” (Heb. 8:1, 2) Paul explained that “because [Jesus] continues alive forever, his priesthood has no successors.” Paul added that Jesus is “undefiled, separated from the sinners” and that unlike the high priests of Israel, “he does not need to offer up sacrifices daily” for his own sins. Now consider the differences between the altars and the sacrifices in the ancient pattern and those in the Christian reality.
THE ALTARS AND THE SACRIFICES
10. What did the sacrifices on the copper altar point to?
10 The ancient pattern. Outside the entrance of the tabernacle was a copper altar on which animal sacrifices were offered to Jehovah. (Ex. 27:1, 2; 40:29) However, those sacrifices could not provide complete forgiveness of sins for the people. (Heb. 10:1-4) The continual sacrifices of animals at the tabernacle pointed to the one sacrifice that would fully redeem humankind.
11 The Christian reality. Jesus knew that Jehovah had sent him to the earth to offer his human life as a ransom sacrifice for mankind. (Matt. 20:28) Hence, at his baptism, Jesus presented himself to do what Jehovah wanted. (John 6:38; Gal. 1:4) Jesus offered himself on a figurative altar that represented God’s “will” for his Son to sacrifice his perfect human life. Jesus’ life was offered “once for all time” to atone for, or cover permanently, the sins of everyone who exercises faith in Christ. (Read Hebrews 10:5-7, 10.) Next, examine the significance of the interior features of the tabernacle.
THE HOLY AND THE MOST HOLY
12. Who could enter each room of the tabernacle?
12 The ancient pattern. The tabernacle and the temples that were built later in Jerusalem had the same basic layout. Inside were two compartments—“the Holy Place” and “the Most Holy”—that were separated by an embroidered curtain. (Heb. 9:2-5; Ex. 26:31-33) Inside the Holy was a golden lampstand, an altar for burning incense, and a table of showbread. Only “the anointed priests” were allowed inside the Holy to perform their sacred duties. (Num. 3:3, 7, 10) The Most Holy contained the golden ark of the covenant that represented Jehovah’s presence. (Ex. 25:21, 22) Only the high priest was allowed to pass beyond the curtain into the Most Holy on the annual Day of Atonement. (Lev. 16:2, 17) Year after year, he entered with the blood of animals to make atonement for his own sins and for those of the entire nation. Eventually, Jehovah, by means of his holy spirit, made clear the real significance of these features of the tabernacle.—Heb. 9:6-8.e
13. What do the Holy and the Most Holy of the tabernacle represent in the Christian reality?
13 The Christian reality. A limited number of Christ’s disciples have been anointed with holy spirit, and they enjoy a special relationship with Jehovah. These 144,000 are to serve as priests in the heavens with Jesus. (Rev. 1:6; 14:1) The Holy of the tabernacle represents their spirit-begotten condition while on earth as sons of God. (Rom. 8:15-17) The Most Holy of the tabernacle represents heaven, where Jehovah dwells. “The curtain” that separated the Holy from the Most Holy represents Jesus’ fleshly body that was a barrier to his entering heaven as the great High Priest of the spiritual temple. By giving up his human body as a sacrifice for mankind, Jesus opened up the way to heavenly life for all anointed Christians. They must also give up their fleshly body to receive their heavenly reward. (Heb. 10:19, 20; 1 Cor. 15:50) After Jesus was resurrected, he entered the Most Holy of the spiritual temple, where all the anointed eventually join him.
14 Here we can clearly see the superiority of Jehovah’s arrangement for pure worship based on the ransom sacrifice and the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The high priest in Israel entered a man-made Most Holy with the blood of animal sacrifices, but Jesus entered “into heaven itself,” the holiest place of all, to appear before Jehovah. There he presented the value of his perfect human life in our behalf “to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself.” (Read Hebrews 9:12, 24-26.) Jesus’ sacrifice is the ultimate sacrifice that wipes sin out forever. As we will next learn, whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, we all can worship Jehovah in his spiritual temple.
15. Who served in the courtyard of the tabernacle?
15 The ancient pattern. The tabernacle had one courtyard—a fenced, open area where the priests performed their duties. The large copper altar of burnt offering was located in the courtyard, along with a copper basin of water that the priests used to cleanse themselves before performing their sacred service. (Ex. 30:17-20; 40:6-8) The temples that were built later, however, also had an outer courtyard where those who were not priests could stand and worship God.
16. Who serve in each of the courtyards of the spiritual temple?
16 The Christian reality. Before moving on to serve as priests with Jesus in heaven, the remnant of his anointed brothers faithfully serve in the earthly inner courtyard of the spiritual temple. The presence of the large basin of water is an important reminder for them, as it is for all Christians, to remain morally and spiritually clean. Where, then, do the “great crowd,” who loyally support Christ’s anointed brothers, offer their worship? The apostle John saw them “standing before the throne,” in what corresponds on earth to the outer courtyard, where “they are rendering [God] sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:9, 13-15) How we cherish having a place in Jehovah’s arrangement for pure worship!
OUR PRIVILEGE TO WORSHIP JEHOVAH
17. What sacrifices are we privileged to offer to Jehovah?
17 Today all Christians have the privilege of offering sacrifices to Jehovah by using their time, energy, and resources to further the interests of God’s Kingdom. As the apostle told the Hebrew Christians, we can “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) We can show that we cherish our privilege to worship Jehovah by offering him our very best sacrifices.
18. According to Hebrews 10:22-25, what should we never neglect and what should we never forget?
18 Read Hebrews 10:22-25. Toward the conclusion of his letter to the Hebrews, Paul outlines various aspects of our worship that we should never neglect. These include approaching Jehovah in prayer, making public declaration of our hope, meeting together as a congregation, and encouraging one another “all the more so as [we] see [Jehovah’s] day drawing near.” Toward the end of the Revelation account, Jehovah’s angel states the following twice for emphasis: “Worship God!” (Rev. 19:10; 22:9) May we never forget this deep spiritual truth regarding Jehovah’s great spiritual temple and the cherished privilege we have to worship our great God!
SONG 88 Make Me Know Your Ways
a One of the deeper teachings in God’s Word is about Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. What is that temple? This article explores the details found in the Bible book of Hebrews regarding this temple. May this study enhance your appreciation for the privilege you have to worship Jehovah.
c Hebrews is the only book in the Christian Greek Scriptures that refers to Jesus as High Priest.
d According to one reference work, there may have been up to 84 high priests in Israel by the time the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.
g See the box “How the Spirit Revealed the Meaning of the Spiritual Temple” in the July 15, 2010, issue of The Watchtower, p. 22.