On every side of the tabernacle are the boards, except in the front, the east side. In front are the pillars, with a veil or curtain (Exo. 26:31-32). If there were boards on all four sides, the tabernacle would be entirely closed. That would be too exclusive! There would be no entry or exit. Most members of the church are boards, but some must be the pillars. Chapter 2 of Galatians tells us that Peter, James and John were the pillars or the stronger ones in the church at Jerusalem. Because the pillars are stronger than the boards, the entrance to the tabernacle is through them. If people would enter, the pillars afford the way. There must be stronger brothers as pillars in the church life; there must be those who afford an entrance. If some would come in, the entrance opens; but if there is the need of protection, the entrance closes. A wall is a fixed structure; no one can pass through it. It is suitable for protection, but it is not available for an entrance. A door, however, may be opened to afford entrance, or it may be closed to protect those within. It may be opened to allow people to enter, or it may be closed to keep people out.
Praise the Lord for the entrances in the church. There are twelve gates in the New Jerusalem. There must not only be the boards as walls, separating and protecting, but also the pillars which afford the entrance. Many brothers are sufficiently strong to be boards, but we need stronger brothers, more experienced brothers, brothers who are not so square, but a little rounded, to stand as strong columns for the entrance.
In some so-called churches there are neither boards nor pillars. There is no separating power, no protection, and no entrance. In other places, there are too many boards; all four sides are walled up. They are protected to the point of exclusion. There must be the pillars to balance the church.
At the bottom or base of the tabernacle there are one hundred silver sockets (Exo. 26:19, 21, 25, 32), totaling one hundred talents or about ten thousand pounds in weight (Exo. 38:27). These silver sockets afford an extremely solid structure. Silver, as we have seen, signifies redemption. God’s dwelling place among His people must be based upon the Lord’s redemption. It could only be solid in this way.
During the time of Exodus there was no floor in the tabernacle. The building of God was not as yet established in a permanent location, but was involved in journeys and wanderings.
The covering over the tabernacle consisted of four layers (Exo. 26:1-14), which signifies the four-fold Christ, the Christ of four aspects. The first layer, of fine linen, typifies Christ as the sinless One. He had no sin and knew no sin. The second layer was a layer of goats’ hair. In typology, the goats signify sinners, while the sheep signify justified persons (Matt. 25:31-46). Therefore the layer of goats’ hair reveals Christ as the One who knew no sin, but who was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). This layer consisted of six pieces, one more in number than five, and something too much. The third layer consisted of ram skins dyed red, thus revealing the sinless One who was made sin and died for our sins by shedding His blood (1 Cor. 15:3). He is our redemption. The fourth layer of badgers’ skins typifies the Redeemer as our protection. Badger skin is exceedingly strong and is thus able to protect from the heat of the sun, the assault of the rain, the blowing of the wind, and all kinds of attack. All these layers together signify the protection of Christ, who as the sinless One was made sin for us to be our Redeemer. This is the four-fold Christ, our covering.
THE TYPE OF THE CHURCH WITH CHRIST
In conclusion, all we have seen in the building of the tabernacle is a portrait, a figure of the building of the church with Christ as its content. The church is a composition of many people who experience Christ to such an extent that they are mingled with God. Thus they become the wooden boards overlaid with gold and set in silver sockets. Thus they are also covered by the four-fold Christ as their protection. This is the church! In such a church Christ is the content. Within the tabernacle is the showbread table, displaying Christ as the bread of life; there is the lampstand, revealing Christ as the very light of life; and there is the altar of incense, portraying Christ as our fragrance and acceptance before God. Finally, there is the ark of testimony, setting forth Christ as the very embodiment of God. Such a Christ is the content of the church, and such a church is the expression of such a Christ.
I believe this impressive picture is quite clear. If we would practice the proper church life, we must realize and experience Christ as the content of the church and the church as the expression of such a Christ. Throughout all the centuries God has been seeking and is still seeking for such an expression. He desires such a building on this earth, even in your locality. The Triune God portrayed in these chapters is the reality of the local church. May the Lord in His mercy bring us all into such an experience.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)