All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

In Relation to a Holy God

To the ancients, the degree of holiness of anything is determined by its distance or nearness to God. If an object belongs to God, it is sanctified or holy because it is separated from common usage and dedicated to Him. Likewise, people are classified by their closeness or distance from Him. If they have no relationship with God, they are “far from” Him. If they are “close” to Him, they are holy.

Seven Levels

God’s complete number is seven, as demonstrated in the seven-day Creation. Therefore, the Hebrew camp is divided into seven levels (representing the cosmos), starting from the point most distant from God, and finishing nearest to Him.

The outermost level represents the outside world, where the mixed multitude is camped. They are generally thought to be largely composed of the Egyptians who joined the Hebrews in the exodus, and who often influenced them to sin. The second level is the twelve tribes, camped around the tabernacle. The third level is the Levites, who camp between the tribes and the tabernacle and are responsible for maintaining it. The fourth level is composed of the Levites who minister within the tabernacle and camp directly in front of it. The fifth level is the tabernacle court, where the sacrificial animals are burned on the altar. The sixth level is the first compartment of the tabernacle, called the Holy Place, where the sacrificial blood is taken. The seventh level is the compartment called the Most Holy Place, where God rules from, cosmically. His cosmic rulership is derived from the fact that the Ark of the Covenant is His footstool. “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” Isaiah 66:1.

Limited Access

The closer one gets to God, the more limited the access—and the holier the ground. Only Levitical priests and repentant sinners bringing their sin or guilt offerings can enter the tabernacle court; only the priests can take the sacrificial animal’s blood into the Holy Place; and only the High Priest may enter the restricted Most Holy Place once a year, after he’s made atonement for himself.

Mount Sinai

Let’s look back in time for a moment. Mount Sinai is God’s sanctuary before the earthly tabernacle is built. The distance or nearness to God is again regulated by one’s role in relationship to Him. The Hebrews are called to the base of the mountain to purify themselves, since the Lord will descend on its top on the third day (Exodus 19:1–23). Moses builds an altar and offers whole burnt offerings here (Exodus 24:4–5), making this area correspond to the later tabernacle court. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders ascend the mountain to an area equivalent to the Holy Place, but God wants Moses to ascend farther by himself, to be nearer to Him in what corresponds to the Most Holy Place (Exodus 24:1–2).

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden is the first earthly sanctuary, and the equivalent of the Most Holy Place, where God dwells with Adam and Eve before sin. However, after sin enters the world, they can only worship God outside the east gate—in the equivalent of the courtyard, or outer world.

Twofold Emphasis

God communicates a twofold message through the sanctuary. First, He shows that the closer we are to Him in fulfilling our designated role, the holier the ground where we stand—and the holier our role.

Second, our holiness is determined by the closeness of our relationship to Him, and the distance we are from God determines whether we are considered holy at all.

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