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The Outer Court
Will you stand with me while we pray? I’m going to ask that you truly unite your hearts with me in prayer, that it’s not just one person praying but every one of us making contact with God individually and collectively as a group, that God may really have his way and we may get the best out of the time we’re going to spend together.
“Father, we thank thee again this afternoon for the unspeakable blessings and privileges that are ours in Christ. We thank thee for each one of the sessions that we have already enjoyed. We thank thee for the truth of thy word going forth and we just humbly acknowledge our dependence upon thee again this afternoon. We know, Lord, that without thee we can do nothing. We depend upon thy Holy Spirit, the guide, the teacher, the comforter whom you have sent to us. We submit to you, we choose to be in subjection to the Father of spirits. We open up our hearts and mind to you in the name of Jesus and through the blood of Jesus that we may receive the truth and be kept from all error. We pray that we shall so receive your word that it shall do us good and accomplish your purposes in each one of our lives. For your glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
God bless you, you may be seated. We’re going to continue in our series of studies on the theme “The Way into the Holiest.” We’ll take our outline and we’ll just quickly notice certain of the points that we dealt with yesterday, only a few of them, and then we will go immediately on. We have a great deal of ground to cover.
We’ll note, first of all, Hebrews 6:1–2, the introductory scripture at the beginning of the outline which lays this basic truth for us that there’s a foundation of doctrine which must be laid and six foundation doctrines are listed. But having laid the foundation, we are not to go on relaying the foundation every time. This has been the weakness of a good many Evangelical and fundamentalist groups, that they’ve gone on Sunday after Sunday, year after year just laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God. If you do not ever go beyond the foundation, you can never get to a completed building. So the Bible says you must have the foundation, it must be thoroughly laid and when it has been laid, then let us go on unto perfection, completeness, fulfillment, maturity.
What we are seeking to do is to follow that exhortation and to go on unto maturity. I believe the same epistle that gives us the exhortation shows us the way. The way into perfection, to maturity, to completeness, to fulfillment is the way into the holiest which is unfolded in the epistle to the Hebrews as in no other passage of the New Testament that I know of.
Then we saw that it is scriptural to take the tabernacle as the pattern for this way. Indeed, the very phrase “the way into the holiest” is taken from the type or pattern of the tabernacle. Let us look just at two or three scriptures that we touched on yesterday before we move on. Hebrews 8:5, we’ll read verses 4–5.
“For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests who offer gifts according to the law; who serve under the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle. For see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.”
We have in verse 5 three words that indicate what the tabernacle is. It’s an example, a shadow, and a pattern. Given in language that applies to material things but unfolding spiritual and heavenly truth.
And then in Hebrews 9:23–24, the same thought is brought out again.
“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these, [that’s the blood of bulls and of goats and so on] but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands [the earthly tabernacle], which are the figures [types, patterns] of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
So the tabernacle unfolds for us a pattern of the way into the holiest, into the very presence of Almighty God. It’s a pattern, an example or a shadow.
In particular, there are two truths related to each other relating to the way into the holiest. Hebrews 9:7–8. Just let me point out again the tabernacle is a triune structure consisting of three areas related to one another. The outer court, the holy place, and the most holy or the holiest of all. The writer of Hebrews is now speaking about the way into the holiest, the center compartment. It says in Hebrews 9:7–8.
“But into the second [that’s the holiest of all] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people; the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing.”
So under the Mosaic covenant the way into the holiest was not opened up.
Now turn to Hebrews 10:19 and you have the contrast.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way.”
What they did not have under the Mosaic covenant we do have today under the new covenant in Jesus Christ. We have boldness to enter into the holiest. So essentially, the theme of our study is “How Do We Enter into the Holiest?”
I pointed out that the structure of the tabernacle in its triune nature, amongst other things, typifies the triune nature of man: spirit, soul, body. And we are going to see how the truths of the entrance into the entrance into the holiest relate to the three areas of human personality.
We will not go into any of the other things that we dealt with yesterday because time does not permit but we’ll move on and begin from the top of the page. Bear in mind that in this diagram as you see it, north is on the right hand side, it’s not at the top as you’re used to seeing it in most maps. The reason is that the entrance into the tabernacle was at the east and it’s more graphic of what I want to show you that the progress is from the bottom upwards. But bear in mind it’s from the east and inwards that we’re going. And some months back it was as though the Holy Spirit said to me there is a way into the holiest. It’s not a matter of groping, it’s not a matter of speculating, it’s not a matter of doing what you please or think. There is an absolutely prescribed way of access into the holiest. The Holy Spirit, I believe, showed it to me in terms of the various divisions of the tabernacle and the various items of furniture on the way. So we’re going to study the way in by studying the various items of furniture and we’ll take them in the alphabetical order that they’re indicated: (A) the altar of brass, (B) the laver of brass, (C) the golden table of shewbread, (D) the golden lampstand, (E) the golden altar of incense, And then (F) which represents both the ark and the mercy seat. This is, I believe, the scriptural and the logical order of access into the holiest.
I want to make this so practical that no one will go away from here not knowing how to enter into the holiest. Whether you are willing is another matter but I want to provide you with the knowledge.
Now we’ve taken the first main area, the outer court. I pointed out to you yesterday that the most obvious way of differentiating between the outer court, the holy place and the holy of holies is the type of light available. In the outer court it is natural light: sun, moon and stars. In the holy place it is the light of the seven brass candlesticks which I called revealed truth. In the holy of holies there’s no source of light except the actual personal presence of God in his glory which is called the shekinahglory. If the shekinahglory is not there, then that area is in darkness. It’s the only light provided for that area.
Now we’ll deal, first of all, with the area of the outer court which is related to the body. Or, the things which you can know through your physical senses, by your eyes and by your ears. The body, the outer court, where sense knowledge is the means of receiving truth, relates to the life of Christ in the days of his flesh. In his earthly ministry when he walked the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem as a human being who could be seen, touched and heard by natural senses. Once we pass out of here we pass out of that type of knowledge into an area where we are dependent upon revelation truth.
The last public appearance of Jesus to the world was on the cross. From then onwards he appeared only to believers and disciples by revelation, not by natural knowledge. So the outer court is natural knowledge, the historical Jesus, the knowledge that comes through reading the four gospels which are the four pillars holding up the curtain at the entrance. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Or, the four faces of the cherubim. Matthew the king, the lion. Mark the servant, the ox. Luke the man in his humanity. John the eagle, the Son of God.
So the first piece we come to now is the great altar of brass. You could not go any further, you must come face to face with the altar of brass. Somebody has pointed out that because all its sides were covered with polished brass, the moment you walked inside and looked into it, you saw yourself which is what you need to see. You see yourself, the problem and the altar, the solution.
The description of the altar of brass is given in Exodus 27:1–8. The brazen altar had four sides, it was four square, five cubits each way which is seven and a half feet. It was a very, very large structure. It absolutely dominated the entrance into the court. The brazen altar is a type of the cross and of what Jesus did on the cross. You see, you have no entry into all that God has for you if you bypass the cross. There is no other way in. The first thing that encounters you is the cross and you see yourself mirrored in it.
I suggest to you for practical purposes that we consider the four sides of the altar as four specific related but distinct provisions of God made through the death of Jesus on the cross. The first one, forgiveness of past sins. That’s essential. While your sins are unforgiven you cannot progress any further. This is stated in one place, Romans 3:25. We’ll look at one or two scriptures for each of these, but not too many. Speaking about Jesus Christ and his redemptive work Paul says:
“Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his [that’s God’s] righteousness, for the remission of sins that are passed through the forbearance of God.”
So the first side of the altar is the forgiveness of your past sins. You cannot go any further.
Unfortunately, many Christians just don’t get beyond that. Every Sunday they go to church, confess their sins and in most cases if you were like me as an Anglican, you just kind of wistfully hoped that maybe something happened and go out again prepared to come back next Sunday and confess exactly the same kind of sins again. That is only the first side of the brazen altar. And if you don’t deal with the other sides of the altar you’ll just go on in a wearisome, repetitive confession of sins every time you go to church. As a matter of fact, to say the truth in the Anglican prayer book, it’s built in, you can’t help it, you have to do it every Sunday around about 11:15. It’s there. And in a certain sense I would have to say it really hinders any further progress because if you never get beyond that, that’s just where you are.
The next aspect of God’s provision is the taking away of sin. There’s a most important distinction between sins in the plural: sinful acts that have been committed and sin which is a spiritual power: an evil, corrupt, destructive, enslaving, spiritual power which causes you to sin, to commit sinful acts. Sin is the source of sins. When sins have been dealt with that’s only the branches on the tree. That doesn’t deal with the trunk. The trunk is sin that carries all the branches of sins. Sin is referred to in two passages of the New Testament amongst many others, 2Corinthians 5:21. One of the most precious verses that I know of in the New Testament. I’m going to read it in the Prince version which is just changing the order of the words to make the meaning a little more clear, that’s all.
“For God made him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
There’s the exchange. He was made sin with our sinfulness that in return we might be made righteous with his righteousness. That’s not sins, that’s sin that’s dealt with there.
Hebrews 9:26 contains the same truth speaking about Jesus.
“For then must he often have suffered, since the foundation of the world...”
Speaking of Christ and emphasizing that he only suffered once because when he did it once he did everything that ever needed to be done.
“...but now, once in the end of the world [or in the consummation of the ages] has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
There is where he dealt with sin. That’s the second side of the altar.
Now we go on to the third side of the altar which is our old rebellious, corrupt nature. The rebel, the goat that’s inside each one of us. You remember we spoke about the goats’ hair that was covered on both sides. On one side by the inner righteousness and on the other side by the atonement represented by the rams’ skins dyed red. The goat nature, the sin nature, the old Adam was also dealt with on the cross. And that’s in Romans 6:6.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him...”
The Greek says was crucified with him. It’s a simple past tense. It’s a historical fact. It’s true whether you know it or not. But if you don’t know it, you won’t benefit from it.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him [that’s Jesus], that the body of sin might be put out of operation...”
Destroyed is a misleading word. Rendered inoperative, no longer capable of asserting itself.
“...that henceforth we should not be the slaves of sin.”
The only escape from the slavery of sin is through the death of the old, sinful nature. The old man is such a hopeless case that God has no remedy for him. He does not send him to church, he does not teach him the Ten Commandments, he does not make him religious. He executes him. That’s the only solution for the old Adam.
The mercy of God is that the execution took place in the person of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus died, our old man died in him. Now if you know it and reckon it, it works. But if you don’t know it you can’t reckon it. If you know it but don’t reckon it, it still won’t work. It’s knowing and reckoning that makes it work.
We come to the fourth side which is now the place where we are able to offer ourselves to God, the burnt offering. The burnt offering was something that was offered to God totally to be consumed in the flames of the altar in total dedication. If you study in Leviticus the order of the offerings, all of which are typical of Jesus, you’ll find the first offering spoken of is the burnt offering because the initiative is not with man or the sinner, it’s with God. Only because Jesus was made a burnt offering on the altar of God’s will on the cross could any of the rest take place. If Jesus had not been willing to say “Nevertheless, not as I will but thy will. I offer myself without restriction,” then all the rest couldn’t have taken place.
You find in the unfolding of the tabernacle we’re going the opposite way to scripture. I’m doing that deliberately. Scripture begins with the ark and moves outwards. You see, the initiative in salvation and redemption is from God, not from man. We are taking the completed work and moving back again. Bear in mind that if God hadn’t been willing, nothing would have ever have happened. If Jesus hadn’t been the initial burnt offering on the cross, there would have been no salvation for you and me. But with us the order is reversed. We have to have our sins forgiven, sin has to be put away with, the old nature has to die or be crucified, and then we are able to offer ourselves an acceptable burnt offering unto God. This is spoken about in Romans 12:1–2.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren...”
The “therefore” relates to the entire unfolding of gospel truth which is preceded in the previous 11 chapters. It’s based on all those 11 chapters. Now, what does God require of us after all that has been dealt with?
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Until you’ve been on these three sides of the altar you cannot present yourself holy, acceptable unto God. These three things must be dealt with first before you can offer God an acceptable sacrifice.
Then God says “I want your body.” Few Christians realize this. God wants our entire body. In the old covenant, the bodies of the animals that were slain were placed entirely upon the altar. God says, “I want your body on the altar in exactly the same way with one difference.” What’s that? Not dead but alive. Otherwise there’s no difference.
And then the next verse of Romans tells us when you present your body, then your mind is changed and you can begin to find out the will of God. Let’s read the next verse of Romans. We’re going to come back to it again.
“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Until you place your body on the altar, you cannot find God’s will. When you place your body, then your mind is renewed and the will of God begins to open up for you. You cannot make further progress till you’ve been around the four sides of the altar. Let’s say them once again. Past sins forgiven, sin put away, the old man executed and then the burnt sacrifice of total surrender to God: placing your total body on the altar for God to use as he pleases. From then on your body doesn’t belong to you any longer. That’s 1 Corinthians 6:19–20. You are not your own, you’re bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your spirit and in your body, which are God’s. All right. That’s the first major provision of God, the brazen altar.
Now we’ll go on to the brazen laver. We’ll read about that briefly in Exodus 30:17–21:
“The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: You shall also make a laver [that means something to wash in] of brass, and its foot also of brass, for washing. And thou shall put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar. And thou shall put water therein...”
There’s the tabernacle, there’s the altar, there’s the laver in between them.
“...for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet there at. When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water but they die not. When they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord, so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not. And it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.”
Notice that the attendance at the laver was not optional, it was absolutely required of every person who passed either way from the altar to the tabernacle or the tabernacle to the altar. No one could pass the laver without washing in it. And if they did, the penalty was death. This brings out the tremendous importance of the laver.
Now, what is the laver? The laver represents the place of God’s word. Notice in Exodus 38:8 what it was made of, a very interesting statement.
“He [that’s Bezaleel] made the laver of brass...”
Where did he get the brass from?
“...and the foot of it of brass, from the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
The brass was taken from the brazen mirrors of the Israelite women who attended and worshipped at the tabernacle. You say how can you have a mirror of brass? Bear in mind that glass was not invented in those days and the best mirror you could have was of highly polished smooth brass.
So for the laver to be made—this is a very penetrating thought—the ladies of Israel had to sacrifice their mirrors. I suppose most ladies would agree that’s something of a sacrifice. But out of those mirrors of brass was taken the brass that made the laver.
Now we have therefore various aspects of the laver. It came from mirrors, it was made of brass and it was filled with water. Each one of those things speaks about one aspect of the word of God. We’ll look at them in turn.
First of all, it speaks about God’s word as a mirror. James 1:23 and following.
“For if any be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a glass [that’s a mirror]; for he beholdeth himself and goeth his way and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.”
The word of God is a mirror. It’s not a mirror that shows you your external, physical appearance. It shows you your inward spiritual condition. If you want to know what you’re really like in the sight of God, look in the mirror. I did that about 31 years ago, I started as an unbeliever, a philosopher to study the Bible systematically. I didn’t believe in its inspiration and I certainly didn’t understand it. But it was a mirror. And the more I read it the more uncomfortable I became. I really thought up to that time I had the answer to everything. I just had to turn my mind in a certain direction and I would come up with the answer. The longer I read the Bible the more I began to see my imperfection, my flaws and my inadequacies. It really upset me that I didn’t have the answer. But I was starting to look in the mirror.
Now when you look in a mirror you can do two things. If it shows you that your face needs washing and your hair needs combing and your clothes are sloppy and dirty, you can say it wasn’t that bad, walk away and do nothing about it. In which case, the mirror does you no good whatever. Or, you can act on what you see, make the necessary change and adjustments in which case James says you’ll be blessed as a result of what you do. Remember it’s not the hearers of the word that are blessed, it’s the doers, the people that act upon it. You can hear everything preached at this convention, get all thrilled and excited, shout and clap your hands but if you don’t act on it you’ll get no permanent blessing whatever. In fact, you’ll increase your responsibility. That’s all.
Secondly, God’s word is our judge. Turn to John 12. Now you say why judge? Because brass as a metal always typifies divine examination and judgment. So the metal typifies judgment. John 12:47–48. Jesus is speaking, he says:
“If any man hears my words and believes not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judgeth him—the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
See, this is a beautiful picture of which we do not have time to go into. God is reluctant to judge. You could almost smile at the way God puts judgment away. See, 1Peter 1:17 tells us that God the Father is the judge. John 5:22 tells us that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son. But John 12 says the Son says, “I’m not going to judge you. I’ve committed all judgment to the word.” So God is reluctant to execute judgment.
But judgment will be executed by the standard of the word. There is the absolute standard of divine judgment. And that gives us the blessed opportunity of judging ourself. 1Corinthians 11:31:
“For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.”
By whom? By God. God says if you’ll judge yourself by looking in the mirror, I won’t have to judge you. Paul is writing to the Corinthians saying you didn’t do that. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you. Many sleep, many have died untimely because you wouldn’t judge yourselves by what you saw in the mirror. Therefore, I have to judge you, God says. But if we’ll judge ourselves, God doesn’t have to judge us. So that’s the brass.
Then we come to the water which is the word of God as a cleansing agent. Turn to Ephesians 5:25–27. Taking the second half of verse 25:
“...Christ loved the church and gave himself for it [on the cross], that he might thereafter sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church...”
Here’s the cross where Christ gave himself. Here’s the washing of water by the word whereby he cleanses and sanctifies that which he has first redeemed by his blood. Bear this in mind. Christ redeemed the church by his blood that he might thereafter cleanse and sanctify it with the washing of the water of the word of God. Sanctification, holiness, the fulfillment of God’s will depends upon the blood of the cross and the water of the word. And remember, those that came to the brazen altar but did not wash in the laver were subject to death. That is true. You may be redeemed through your faith in Christ’s death on the cross, but if you do not wash in the water of the word you cannot be sanctified. Jesus is coming for a church that has been made holy and glorious by the washing of water by the word. That’s very clear. Any believer that does not study the word and submit to the word and obey the word and live by the word cannot expect to be ready for the coming of Christ. That’s absolutely sure.
This is summed up in 1John 5:6 which is rather a beautiful scripture. Speaking about Jesus:
“This is he that came by water and blood—even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] that bears witness because the Spirit is truth.”
Jesus came by water as the great teacher. Even before the cross he said in John 15:3 to his disciples “Ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.” But he didn’t come by water only as a lot of professing Christians would like to have us to believe. Jesus is not just the great teacher. He’s also the redeemer who had to shed his blood. Without shedding of blood there’s no remission of sins and no redemption. So he shed his blood that he might thereafter cleanse and sanctify with the washing of water by the word. He came by water and by blood.
It is the Spirit of God that bears witness to the blood and to the word. So when you come here, you’re in the area of the Spirit’s witness. Here you’re in the area of strong assurance you know without a doubt what God has done and is doing for you. But if you get away from this area you lose the Spirit’s witness. The Spirit bears witness to the altar of brass and the laver of brass. That gives you the assurance to move on in.
Let’s stand to our feet and just praise the Lord in closing prayer. “Thank you Jesus, praise your wonderful name. We praise you Jesus, we give you the glory, the honor and the praise. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Praise your name. Thank you, Jesus.” Let’s worship the Lord in the Spirit quietly and reverently but let everybody worship him. “Hallelujah. We praise you Jesus. We praise you Jesus. We praise your name, Lord. Glory and honor and power be unto him that sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Thank you, Lord. We bless your name Lord. We thank you, we praise you, we bless you. Hallelujah. Glory to your name. Praise your wonderful name Lord. Forever and ever and ever thou art to be praised. Amen.”
“Father, I thank you for your people here this afternoon. I thank you for such a large number of people that just want to know what your word has to say. Bless every word of truth that was imparted this afternoon. Let it not return to you void, Lord. Let it accomplish your pleasure. Let it work effectually in every one that believe it. We commend your word to you that the Holy Spirit shall us it to work out your perfect will in the lives of each of your children that we may indeed go on unto perfection. In Jesus’ name.” And all God’s people said Amen. God bless you.