The Outer Court
We have stated that the Outer Court of the tabernacle is representative of those who come to Christ for the remission of sins. It is the furthest location from the Most Holy Place that is still part of the tabernacle. Many Christians have through ignorance or disobedience become content to remain in the Outer Court. The Outer Court is the part of the building that has access to the world outside. It rubs shoulders with the world.
Unfortunately, many in the Outer Court are looking the wrong way. Rather than looking farther into the tabernacle, into the Holy Place, and beyond to the Most Holy Place, they are facing the other direction. They are focused on the world. Because of their worldly focus, they are oblivious to the treasures that lie so close at hand.
Those who are called to salvation are all given an invitation to advance from the Outer Court, through the Holy Place, all the way to the Most Holy Place. Few make the complete trip, however. What hinders those who remain outside? As Paul told the Corinthian believers, “You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12).
Many, having received salvation, have clung tenaciously to their old affections. They have not allowed themselves to be transformed. The idols of the world are their idols. Some even believe that their relationship to God is of great benefit in pursuing the idols that they hold dear. In their deception they implore God to fulfill their lusts. James makes this clear:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James is speaking to the church here. Why does he call such worldly saints adulteresses? Is it not because they are betrothed to Christ, but are unfaithful in their affections? Paul said, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (II Corinthians 11:2). All Christians are betrothed to Christ. Their love and their passion is to be reserved for Christ alone. Many, however, are pursuing other loves.
All who receive salvation stand at the Outer Court of the tabernacle with an invitation to come further in. At the moment of confession and repentance they are facing the Most Holy Place with their back to the world. The call to come in is a call to intimacy. It will require an emptying, a laying down of all things of the world as the Holy Spirit of God brings conviction. To progress further into the temple requires refining. It requires embracing the cross. It requires one to keep his back steadily fixed toward the world and his eyes fixed on Christ.
But Yahshua said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The very furnishings of the tabernacle foretell of the necessity of embracing the cross. The furnishings are arranged in the shape of a cross. At the base of the cross is the brazen altar with the bronze laver just above it. These are in the Outer Court. Entering the Holy Place, on either side, forming the horizontal member are the golden candlestick and the table of showbread. Continuing on up the vertical member, entering the Most Holy Place, we find the altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant.
To progress further inward, one must embrace the cross. To turn and face the world is to turn one’s back on the cross. A decision must be made. Which way will the saint go? There is no possibility of compromise. One must discern the difference between the holy and the profane. Idols must be abandoned. Fears must be confronted. Lusts must be denied.
Unfortunately, many don’t recognize the idols to which they cling. Anything that is exalted in your life can be an idol. Success can be an idol. Material possessions of all types can be an idol. Leisure can be an idol. Comfort can be an idol. Security can be an idol. Health can be an idol. The respect and praise of men can be an idol.
When we stand at the Outer Court, the world and its idols are not silent. They shout at us. Family and friends tell us we would be fools to not pursue them. Our flesh also cries out with the memory of its lusts. As the flesh views the cross terror assails it. How foolish it seems to go this way. The world cannot embrace the cross and most of the church will not. Why should we?
Now those who belong to Christ Yahshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Who are those who belong to Christ, referred to in the above verse? The Bride belongs to Yahshua. Those who belong to Yahshua must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. To fail to do so indicates that our heart belongs to another, that we have idols in our life.
Satan has deceived many believers into thinking that their lot in eternity will be the same as all other Christians. They believe there is nothing required of them other than believing in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and confessing Him. They pursue the life of their dreams and lusts and anticipate a blissful eternity. What unexpected grief will be theirs when they realize that the choicest things of God are denied them, things that will make the most prized possessions on Earth seem as dung in comparison. Those who pursue the things this world has to offer are truly blind.
Paul spoke of pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14). Those who would progress to the Most Holy Place must “press on” toward it. Resistance will be present. The heavenly goal must be kept at the center of attention. All diligence must be supplied to attain to the goal. Those who are at ease in Zion will not attain to the Most Holy Place.
The pattern and testimony of scripture is that the vast multitude remains at the Outer Court. It is a much smaller number that will enter the Holy Place and a mere remnant in comparison who will make it to the Most Holy Place. Knowing this should make the concerned Christian take heed. There is no room for resting on one”s laurels. Paul describes the intensity that should be a part of the Believer’s life, comparing it to an athlete running a race, a soldier going to war, and a hard-working farmer anticipating the fruit of his labors.
II Timothy 2:3-7
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Yahshua. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Paul is speaking to Timothy of the necessity of embracing the hardship of a soldier, the rigorous discipline of an athlete, and the patient work ethic of a farmer, always keeping the goal in mind.
The soldier desires to please the one who enlisted him. This is the key to his advancement. The athlete strives for a prize, and Timothy is reminded that there are rules that must be observed to avoid disqualification. The farmer anticipates being the first to receive a share of the crops that he has labored to bring forth. Each one focuses on his individual reward and applies whatever discipline, rigor, and patience is necessary, participating according to the guidelines set forth.
Paul is not speaking to Timothy of pursuing the salvation that is given freely to us by God (the remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit). Paul is speaking of something beyond this. He is speaking of that full salvation which is the reward of the overcomers in Christ.
Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and once for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are [eagerly, constantly, and patiently] waiting for and expecting Him.
[The Amplified Bible]
What is this “full salvation” that Christ will appear a second time for? There is a full salvation which must be worked out with fear and trembling. Christian man is comprised of three parts, all of which need to experience the salvation of Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the desire of Christ that all who are called to life in Him might experience a full salvation of spirit and soul and body. As we have seen, this initial gift of salvation whereby men and women obtain the forgiveness of sin and they are born again of the Spirit of Christ, is a free gift. It is received entirely on the basis of faith. This completes the first part of mankind’s salvation, that of the spirit of man. That which is born of the Spirit is born of incorruptible seed. It is holy and seeks only to do the will of the Father. There remains the soul and the body of man which also must enter this fulness of salvation.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling…
If there were only one salvation and we are told that it is a “free gift, not of works, lest any man should boast,” then why would Paul then say to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” This puzzle can only be unraveled when one discerns that there is more than one salvation being referred to in scriptures. This is also typified in the tabernacle. We have previously mentioned that the Outer Court corresponds to the initial gift of salvation, which includes the remission of sins. We can now affirm that the Holy Place corresponds to soul salvation.
The vast majority of Israel, eleven tribes, were disqualified from entering the Holy Place because they failed to sanctify God in their hearts (their inner man, the soul). Even though they were delivered from death on the night of the first Passover, which is a potent symbol of forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Christ, they did not separate themselves to a holy life before God. The Israelites clung to their soulish desires. They still loved idols, and therefore they fashioned one in the wilderness and they acted in a sensual and fleshly manner as they reveled before it. This is a clear type of Christians who gladly receive the forgiveness of sin, but they fall short of living holy lives, crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. Due to this failure they are disqualified from entering further into the presence of Christ. Access to the Holy Place is restricted to them.
I Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
The imperishable wreath Paul refers to represents the eternal prize toward which he is striving. He exercises discipline over his body so that he might not be disqualified. Again, this disqualification is not speaking of the remission of sins, or the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It is speaking of the fuller salvation of the soul. As Paul spoke to the Corinthians at an earlier place in the same letter, ““If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but his soul shall be saved, yet so as through fire” (I Corinthians 3:15). Much loss in the area of the salvation of the soul will be the portion of many Christians.
Satan has purposely blinded the eyes of the church to the issue of personal reward. If a saint believes that his lot in eternity will be the same, no matter how he lives his life before God, he will have an increased temptation to walk carelessly and with little regard to the ramifications of his behavior. He will have less motivation to walk in a circumspect and disciplined manner in pursuit of the high calling of God upon his life.
The effects of removing personal reward can be seen in many of the countries of the world under communism. When personal property is taken away and the profit motive removed, productivity drops precipitously. When all receive the same reward, no matter how diligently they labor, performance drops and mediocrity becomes the order of the day.
In the same way, the church has become mediocre. It is hard to tell the saint from the unsaved. Both groups are subject to the same maladies. The same idols are pursued. Values are nearly identical. There is little to differentiate the believer from the unbeliever.
Some may question, “Isn’t it selfish for a saint to focus upon reward?” The answer is, “Not if the reward is something that the Father has told us to pursue.” In the book of Hebrews we are told of the great heroes of the faith. They were pursuing a goal. They were looking for a city not built with hands (Hebrews 11:10,16). They were looking to eternal reward. Yahshua also encouraged His disciples to lay up treasures for themselves in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
The average saint today is aware of nothing beyond the forgiveness of sins. Most have never heard a sermon on eternal reward. Most are under the false delusion that the same reward awaits all believers. However, Yahshua said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). Failing to understand this has led to so many saints unwillingness to embrace the cross. It has persuaded multitudes to be content with the Outer Court.