Christ and the Mercy Seat

Cyril Cann, Glastonbury, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

The outstanding truth represented by the tabernacle in the wilderness is aptly described by John the Baptist concerning Jesus, 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world', John 1. 29, and in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, 'Christ and him crucified', 1 Cor. 2. 2. The glad message was to the Jew first and also the Greek and to bless them in spite of their sins. His presence was manifested by the shekinah glory in the Holy of Holies. Moreover, every detail of the tabernacle spoke in some way of Christ. As a divine type it had only one true interpretation which is not to be lost sight of amongst the confusing speculations of men. Its lessons to the Old Testament saints can be rightly applied spiritually to New Testament believers, the church.

The ark of the covenant and the mercy seat were regarded as one. It was the first thing commanded to be made of all that comprised the tabernacle. All the ritual connected with the tabernacle was focused on the mercy seat, indicating its vital importance. Without it all else became valueless.

The ark itself was made of acacia wood to divinely given measurements. This wood was noted for its hardness and endurance. It was encased in pure gold. The two tablets of stone on which were written the commandments by the finger of God were placed inside. The mercy seat which exactly fitted the ark was also made of pure gold, fashioned to a special design with a cherub at each end formed out of the same piece.

It is universally acknowledged that the ark is a type of Christ incarnate. The incarnation is one of the greatest of all divine miracles, incomprehensible by the human mind but recognized and acknowledged by faith as a great fact. Typically it speaks of the 'putting away of sin by the sacrifice of himself', Heb. 9. 26. As the unique One who was both God and man, Jesus, was different from all others but He became a kinsman able to redeem. As such He knew God's righteous requirements of man, and the weakness of man before God. As a kinsman Redeemer He was willing and able to redeem, and was in no way Himself involved in the sin which had broken the original, good relationship between God and man. The presence of sin and death, the result of sin, in the realm of the God of life, called for judgement. Though rarely defined in the word of God, sin is abundantly demonstrated in the sacred writings of everyday life. It was the sacrificial blood, sprinkled on the mercy seat that stayed the divine judgement against sin. Its importance and solemnity is clearly demonstrated in the men of Beth-Shemish who captured the ark from Israel and out of curiosity removed the mercy seat and looked inside on the covenant of righteousness. It resulted in the righteousness of the law judging them and thousands of them died, 1 Sam. 6. 9-20.

The New Testament reveals Jesus Christ as the antitype of the ark of the covenant. The ten commandments remain the precepts of God; the moral duties of man to God His maker. Though the law is righteous and good, it is powerless to help and enable because of man's weakness through sin. The law presupposes the ability in man to fulfil its requirements. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled 'in', not 'by', us, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, Rom. 8. 4. By His life and death, Jesus fulfilled the demands and purpose of the law, legally and penally, thus ending its dispensation. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ', |ohn 1. 17. Now 'Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth in him', Rom. 10. 4. 'And ye (believers) are complete in him', Col. 2. 10. In Christ the sinner has all he needs for the restoration of a right relationship with God; and God is never more righteous and holy than when He pardons a sinner for Jesus' sake.

These Biblical facts, these divine revelations, have an important bearing on our day and age. After 2,000 years of the proclamation of the grace of God through the gospel of His Son, Christ is still 'despised and rejected of men', Isa. 53. 3 and the will of God is repudiated.

The various secular philosophies of today are anti-Christian. The seeds sown in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are now producing a harvest vastly different from what was expected. Atheism, both intellectually and as practised, is widespread. The recent teaching of the theory of evolution is still held by many. The ecclesiastic authorities have failed to present the true Christian gospel to the world. Agnosticism and sceptism are widespread. Russian and Chinese communism, the children of the atheistic, materialistic ideologies of Karl Marx and others, which have dominated the last 70 years or so are becoming increasingly discredited. Modern humanism, which is not necessarily atheistic but believes in the supremacy of man as master of all things without God. In Psalm 14. 1 God describes all such things as foolishness.

In recent years lawlessness, violence and moral corruption have greatly increased and, continuing until today, have reached an alarming level. Government authorities find themselves unable to deal effectively with them or to suppress them. According to New Testament predictive prophecy, these conditions will worsen until the end. As the long suffering patience of God 'waited in the days of Noah while the ark was prepared', 1 Pet. 3. 20, before the flood was sent, so He is now waiting for the completion of the church by the Holy spirit. Then Christ, the true mercy seat bearing the wounds of Calvary, will leave the Father's throne of sovereign, universal authority and descend to the air to receive His church unto Himself, 1 Thess. 4. 15-17, in fulfilment of His promise of John 14. 3. Then the righteous judgement of God will quickly come upon an ungodly world to test the dwellers of the earth both Jews and Gentiles, Rev. 3. 10.

One of the signs to Israel and the world of the nearness of the end of the age, is the budding of the fig tree, Matt. 24. 32; the re-gathering of the Jews to the promised land after two thousand years of exile from it. 'And all the trees', Luke 21. 29; the other smaller nations all clamouring for national independence and self-government. This is a distinct feature of our day. If the signs of the times are so obvious to the world, how much nearer must be the rapture of the church? 'Behold I come quickly (suddenly)', Rev. 3. 11.

AUTHOR PROFILE: CYRIL CANN has been in fellowship for many years with believers at Bovetoiwn Gospel Hall, Glastonbury and is a retired teacher.