As the Altar of Incense fore-shadowed Christ, so too the incense offered on the Altar also fore-shadows Him. This is how:
Old Testament Shadow
New Testament Reality in Jesus
The Church’s Application
It was made of a delicate blend of four different spices. Each spice had to be of equal quantity, exactly balanced.
Jesus Christ is the One in whom is perfectly balanced grace and truth, holiness and love, righteousness and mercy.
Christ lives His holy life through the Church, as His Body. “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
Each spice had to be crushed to a fine powder before it was added to the incense.
Christ was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities”. He was smitten, stricken, crushed. His perfect, sinless life poured out.
This points to “death to self”, the humbling of the believer.
Salt was added to the incense – salt is a seasoning and a preserver
Salt points to the holiness of Christ and the flavor of His life.
The Church is the salt of the earth –a preserving agent.
The incense was burned on the altar in front of the Ark of the Testimony.
Christ went through the fire of affliction in His sufferings and ultimately His death on the cross.
Our faith is tried by the fire of affliction and suffering.
The incense sent up a sweet perfume which entered the veil into the Holy of Holies, surrounding the Ark of the Testimony.
Christ’s sinless life of obedience was as a sweet perfume unto God. Christ has entered the veil and has made the way open for us too through His shed blood.
We are now able to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”
Aaron was to burn the incense in the morning and the evening when he also attended the lamps.
“As Christ ministers to the Church interceding for His own, He trims the wicks of the lamps and supplies the oil of the Spirit.”(1)
We are to pray in the Holy Spirit. “Prayer is the key for the day, the lock for the night” Corrie Ten Boom
No strange incense was to be offered on the altar, nor was anyone to make for themselves the incense. It was to be holy to God.
Points to Jesus being the only Way to the Father, there is no other Name under heaven whereby man can be saved.
It’s only through faith in Christ that we are saved. We are to have no other gods before Him. We are to pray in Jesus’ Name.
The incense was to be “perpetual…before the Lord”.
Points to Jesus as our High-Priest “who ever lives to make intercession for us.”
We are commanded to “pray without ceasing”. Our life is to be a perpetual prayer unto the Lord.
The Golden Censer
“Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die” Leviticus 16:12-13
Old Testament Shadow
New Testament Reality in Jesus and the Church
On the Day of Atonement the High Priest brought a golden censer full of fire and a handful of incense into the Most Holy Place. He put the incense on the fire in front of the Ark so that the cloud of incense covered the mercy seat. He then sprinkled the blood of the sin offering upon the mercy seat.
The mercy seat is a picture of Christ Himself. The sprinkled blood points to Christ’s shed blood. The censer of incense is significant of Christ taking the prayers of His people within the veil to God’s presence, on the basis of His shed blood. Read also Revelation 8:1-5
Incense is simply an Old Testament shadow or type of prayer and intercession. God is no longer interested in the shadows or types, but rather in the eternal realities to which these shadows point.
He is extremely interested in the prayer and intercession of His Church. For the life of a believer to be truly saturated in prayer is well-pleasing to God.
“Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Ephesians 6:18
“The New is in the Old concealed, the OId is in the New revealed.”
The Tabernacle of Moses was built as an earthly copy of the true, heavenly Tabernacle. As the earthly, temporal priests ministered at the earthly Golden Altar, (or the Altar of Incense),on behalf of the Israelites, so too our eternal Great High Priest ministers at the true Golden Altar in Heaven, on our behalf.
“God has sworn and will not relent: You are a priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek” Psalm 110:4
The ministry of the priesthood in the Tabernacle of Moses points to Jesus Christ’s ministry now as our Great High Priest. Understanding the principles concealed in the Tabernacle of Moses unlocks so many wonderful eternal treasures about the One we love, Jesus Christ. It also relates to us as believers in our ministry of prayer and intercession.
The Altar of Incense itself is a type of Christ:
Old Testament Shadow
New Testament Reality in Jesus
The Church’s Application
It was made of acacia (or shittim) wood. Acacia wood was a very durable, non-decaying wood.
Wood points to Christ’s human nature.Non-decaying wood points to His incorruptible, sinless humanity.
It was overlaid with gold
Points to Christ’s Divinity/Godhood
It had four horns on each corner of the altar. Horns are the strength and power of an animal.
Points to all power given to Christ in heaven and earth.
Points to the gospel of Christ going to the 4 corners of the earth under the authority of Christ’s Church
On the Day of Atonement blood from the Sin Offering was applied to the horns of the altar and sprinkled seven times.
It is Christ’s blood that was shed on Calvary (or the Brazen altar) which forms the foundation of His ministry of Intercession.
The blood of Jesus allows us to stand before a Holy God and gives power to the incense of prayer.
It had a crown (or moulding) of gold around it.
Points to Christ being the King-Priest
The Church joins Christ in His King-Priestly ministry as a kingdom of priests.
It was 2 cubits high, making it the tallest piece of furniture within the actual Tabernacle
Points to the highest ministry of Christ now on behalf of the Church – prayer and intercession
The highest ministry of the Church is also intercessory prayer
It was in the Holy Place, in front of the veil, before the Ark of the Testimony. It was the nearest piece of furniture to the Shekinah Glory of God.
Points to Christ’s earthly life of prayer and His ascension to the presence of God in His High-Priestly ministry.
Points to the place of prayer being the closest place to the presence of God.
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2
The New Covenant promises are there to be a foundation for our hope in the Lord. This is the reason I would like to share below the comfort I have found in Jesus, Him being the High Priest of the New Covenant. When “darkness hides His lovely face”, when we go through hard times, when we feel lost or lonely, then it is that this hope must be “the anchor of our soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 8:19, 20
The difference we have in the New Covenant with Jesus as our High Priest:
Moses was the mediator of the Old covenant
Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New covenant
No oath was made to human priests by God.“for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath…” Hebrews 7:21
Jesus was made a priest by an oath:“God has sworn and will not relentYou are a priest forever, according to the
Order of Melchizedek” Psalm 110:4
The law appoints as priests men who have weakness.
Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant because of the oath. The oath appoints Jesus as Priest, who has been perfected forever.
The priests were human. As such they were sinners themselves, bound to the earthly realm.
Jesus is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and is not earth-bound, but rather He is higher than the heavens.
The priests needed to daily offer up sacrifices for both their own sins as well as the sins of the people.
Jesus is sinless so does not need to offer up a sacrifice for Himself. At the cross He offered up a once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
The priests offered animals as sacrifices for sin
Jesus offered up Himself as the sacrifice for sin.
The priests each eventually died, and so there were many different priests at different times.
Jesus never dies so His priesthood is unchangeable. (What a comfort!)
The priests could only intercede for the people whilst they were alive, therefore their priesthood was LIMITED.
Therefore, because our Priest never changes, because He always lives and is always interceding for us, He will save to the UTTERMOST those who come to God through Him. His Priesthood is UNLIMITED and NEVER-ENDING.
“His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay”
(lyrics from “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”)
(This table is by no means exhaustive. There are so many more eternal truths about Jesus as our High priest. I have compiled this table from a study of Hebrews 6 & 7)
This post is the interpretation of the analogy which I wrote about recently, (The Beauty and Significance of Jewish Marriage Customs). If we look at these Jewish customs in the light of Jesus Christ and His Bride then we will begin to see, not only the beauty of the analogy, but also the bearing this has on us as Christ’s Bride, the Church.
All the Way from His Father’s House
As we saw the young man coming to the young woman’s home, all the way from his Father’s house, so Jesus Christ did this for His Bride. He came from Heaven to earth to redeem His Bride. It was a long way for Him to come. He left the glory and worship of Heaven to enter this dark, sin-stained world. Although He is God, He humbled Himself and took on human flesh:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:6-8
The Bride-Price (Mohar)
In ancient Jewish customs, the Bride-price was a very high price to pay, and for some young men it was simply too high, they couldn’t afford a bride. The higher the price that was paid, the less incentive for a young man to divorce his betrothed. This gave the young woman comfort that her betrothed would in fact return for her.
Jesus Himself paid a very high price for His bride, the ultimate price – He paid with His own blood. His life was poured out for her. No higher price has ever been paid than what He paid. We can take comfort in this, knowing that the price that Jesus paid was so high, His own life, that we know that He will return for us.
In the analogy, the young man and the father discussed in private and agreed upon the price that the young man would need to pay in order to purchase his bride. This too was the case in the plan of redemption, which was formed and agreed upon (or covenanted) from all of eternity within the eternal counsel of the Godhead. (Read: Revelation 13:8; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 2:7, 8)
Paid in Full
The Bride-price is hence agreed upon. And so the young man pays the price in Full to the father in order for the marriage covenant to be established….
…and so we see Jesus. There He is, nailed to the cross, beaten, whipped, bloodied. The Son of God with men’s spit on his face, with self-righteous heads shaking at His humiliation. He cries out with a loud voice “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
“It is finished” is literally translated “tetelestai”.
“The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating that a bill had been paid in full. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this:
“Receipts are often introduced by the phrase tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…” (p. 630). The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking readership; it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins.” (source:Bible.org)
Everything He had come to do, everything that had been pre-determined in the eternal counsel of God, had now been accomplished. He had said to His Father “Thy will be done” and now it had been done. His was a cry of victory.
There at the cross, the sinless Son paid in full the debt owed, our debt, for the sin of mankind to the Father. Oh what a beautiful Saviour!
“And he has blotted out by his authority the bill of our debts which was adverse to us and he took it from the midst and nailed it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14, Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
The Handing Over of the Bride-Price
The Bride-price was agreed upon and paid, now it needed to be handed over to the Father.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest killed the goat of the sin offering for all of the children of Israel on the altar. He then brought the blood of the sacrifice inside the veil of the Holy Place and presented it to God by sprinkling it on and in front of the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:15) The High Priest could not come into contact with anything impure or unholy before he had brought the blood into the Holy Place.
As everything that happened under the Old Covenant was a picture (or type) of our Lord Jesus, so too did Jesus, our great High Priest, have to hand over His blood (the Bride-price) to the Father.
“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12
In John 20:17 Jesus meets Mary Magdalene outside of His tomb. He was risen from the dead but, as yet, had not presented His blood to the Father, and so He said to her :
“…Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father…”
Note: that it was the groom-to-be that paid the price in full. The Bride was not required to add anything, nor could she, to what the groom had paid.
The Glass of Wine
A glass of wine is poured.
Now the bride is invited into the groom’s presence. It is the Holy Spirit whom calls in the lost, but we are used as His mouthpiece.
Just as the bride in the analogy was offered a glass of wine to drink to show her acceptance of the covenant with the groom, so too Jesus, the Bride-Groom, offered His disciples a cup of wine.
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. Mark 14:23
This was Christ’s “marriage proposal” to His Bride. And just as that young woman could either accept or reject the marriage proposal, so too can each of us. Every time the gospel is proclaimed through this world it is Christ once again issuing His proposal to the lost sinner.
So by Jesus offering His disciples the Cup, He was instituting the New Covenant, just as the marriage covenant was explained to the young woman. The disciples drank from the cup He offered and thereby accepted His proposal and consented to the covenant He was making with them. As they drank from the cup He offered, the disciples willingly entered into the covenant which was to be established at Jesus’ death. Another important point here is that upon entering into covenant with Him, they also entered into covenant with each other, as the Bride.
When Jesus said “this is my blood of the covenant..” He was explaining to them that it is His blood that is the Bride-price. It is the blood that will institute the new covenant He is making with them. The disciples, being Jews and familiar with the marriage customs of the day, would have understood the implication.
“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25
Here Jesus is referring to the consummation of the betrothal – the marriage and Wedding Feast of the Bride and the Lamb in Revelation 19:7.
Just as the young Jewish couple are now considered husband and wife, although betrothed, rather than that of fully married, so too are we, as Christ’s Bride, wholly set apart, or consecrated, for our husband and exclusively committed to Him. As we willingly enter into covenant with Him, it is now only divorce that can dissolve the union. (ie. Spiritual adultery on our part).
When we partake of communion we are showing forth the Lord’s death until He comes. This is not just an empty religious ceremony but a loving way of the Bride remembering her Groom and confirming her faithfulness to Him. It is her way of saying “I have not forgotten You, nor the covenant we made with each other. I am remaining faithful to You, my Groom, while I wait for You to return for me. I remember the Bride-price you paid for me, Your blood was the price you paid to gain me, and so how can I not be faithful to a Groom who would pour out His life for me?”
Being part of His Church, the mystical Body of Christ, we also enter a covenant relationship with others within the Body. His Body is made up of individual believers, but once we enter into covenant with Him, we are also entering into union with other believers. Christ never intended individualism within His Body, it is a mystical community of unity and oneness with each other. This is why it says in 1 John :
“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another….We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, so too are we expected to do this for each other.
After Jesus instituted the New Covenant with the disciples, and offered them the cup of His “marriage proposal”, which they accepted, He then prepared them for His soon departure. Just as the young man prepared to depart from the young lady’s home after their betrothal, so Jesus too must go away for a time.
Just as the young man comforts his bride-to-be with these words at his departure, so Jesus Himself comforts His Bride-to-be with the same words:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
But Jesus went further than the young man in His comforting promise – He not only promised that He will return, but also that in His absence He will provide a Comforter for her:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:16-26
Jesus made His departure 40 days after His death and resurrection. In Acts 1:9-11 it says:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Once again we, as Jesus’ Bride-to-be, are comforted with the knowledge that He will return the same way in which He departed.
And true to His Word, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was given 10 days later at Pentecost.
The Waiting Bride – To – Be (That’s Us!)
As the betrothed of Jesus Christ, what is our role as we await His return?
Watch as did the young woman. Watching is to stay-awake, to be sober, to be vigilant against the enemy, to use our mind to interpret end-times Bible prophecy and to pray. Jesus and the apostles connected prayer with watchfulness.
Wait for Him. This is not a passive state, but rather we need to actively await Him. We need to live in a state of expectancy, for we do not know when His return will be, although we can tell His warnings in scripture that it will not be long now. And as we wait we should be preparing ourselves as a Bride.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)” Revelation 19:7, 8
Be faithful to our Bridegroom, just as that young bride was faithful to her betrothed. We have entered Covenant with Him and this not to be taken lightly by us. A covenant relationship is just as binding as a marriage. We should not look upon another while we wait for Him, our eyes should be steadfastly fixed upon Jesus, as we “set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). It is possible for us to commit spiritual adultery whilst He is away. How do we do this? The Bible says quite clearly:
“You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 AMP)
Be Not Deceived by false prophets, false Christs or false doctrines. Jesus Himself warned us to :
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many…. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time” Matthew 24:4-25
The best way to recognize the counterfeit, is to know the real thing. So get to know your Betrothed, Jesus Christ. Spend time with Him and study the Word of God.
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Consecrate Ourselves to Him. To be consecrated is to be declared or set apart as sacred and holy. This is something we willingly do for Him. It is surrendering our own will and our very lives to Him. We have been bought with a (bride) –price, at the huge expense of Christ’s own blood, therefore our body is no longer our own to do with as we choose. It is now His property:
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
Be Sanctifiedby Him. We consecrate ourselves to Him, but we are sanctified by Him. This is what He does in us, by His Holy Spirit. Sanctification is a process of being purified and made holy.
We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us as He sanctifies and cleanses us “with the washing of water by the word, (so) that He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:26, 27
This will include trials, tribulations and suffering on our part, but we must yield to the Holy Spirit and to the loving discipline of the Lord to His children.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11
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