As part of my preparation for a study on the Epistle to the Hebrews, I found some interesting and helpful pictures online of models of the Tabernacle. God had instructed the Israelites to build the Tabernacle during their sojourn in the desert (Exodus 25 and following). The writer of Hebrews makes many points of comparison and contrast with the Old Testament Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle was the place where God had promised to dwell in the midst of His people. It was organized into three main sections: the outer Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place (aka the “Holy of Holies”). The Most Holy Place was curtained off, as it contained the Ark of the Covenant where God’s presence dwelt. Only the high priest could enter into the Most Holy Place once a year with the blood of the sacrifice. This was the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The later temples in Jerusalem mimicked the general pattern of the Tabernacle to preserve this structure.
The point of the Epistle of the Hebrews is that Jesus is the true High Priest who entered not into an earthly temple or tabernacle, but rather into the very presence of God (the Father) to atone for our sins. That is to say that the tabernacle and the sacrificial system associated with it were shadows of the true thing; they pointed to Christ’s coming and what he would do through his death and resurrection.
Since Christ has entered into the Father’s presence on our behalf, as both the High Priest and the sacrificial victim, he has removed the curtain which once separated us from God’s presence. Thus, Christ has justified us in God’s sight and covered our sins with his righteousness. We can now approach God through Christ and are no longer alienated from Him.
The preceding is a short summary of one of the major lines of argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews; i.e. that Jesus is the true High Priest who has fulfilled what the Old Testament hinted at and foreshadowed.
The pictures below depict the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, with some associated commentary.
Diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle
(Image by Epictatus at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12111465)
Model of the Tabernacle; the Holy of Holies is at the far left
(Image by User:Doinggood897 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Another model of the Tabernacle; the Holy of Holies is at the top (behind the curtain)
(Image by Daniel Ventura – , CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3093592)
Model of the Ark of the Covenant
(Image by MessianicArt.com (Author) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Basilica Germigny-Des-Prés (France) – A mosaic depicting the Ark of the Covenant. Notice that there are two heavenly cherubim above the Ark, helping to show that the Ark was a symbol of heavenly realities. That is, the Ark was where God’s presence dwelt in the midst of His people, and the two cherubim on the Ark shield themselves from His glory. This reflects a heavenly reality which the prophet Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6.
(Image by By Manfred Heyde – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3058890 )