For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001

 James Melough


Another article of tabernacle furniture in which we see the Lord Jesus Christ portrayed is the golden altar, or as it is sometimes called, the altar of incense.

Unlike the brazen altar which stood out in the tabernacle court, exposed to the elements, and which portrays Christ here on earth to die for sin, the golden altar, standing in front of the vail in the holy place, represents Him returned to heaven in resurrection.  Composed as it was of acacia wood completely sheathed in gold, it reminds us that the Christ Who now represents us in heaven is still what He was on earth, perfect Man, yet also perfect God, for wood is the biblical symbol of humanity; and gold, of Deity or Divine glory.

As to its dimensions, it was one cubit square, by two cubits high, and therefore the tallest of any of the tabernacle furniture, except perhaps the golden candlestick.  Since one is the number of God, and since length represents duration of life, as breadth represents character of life, the length and breadth being each one cubit, would remind us that the One represented by this altar, and Who is Himself the believerís Representative in heaven, is the eternal God.  Height represents the life Godward (as depth represents it manward), so that the height of two cubits (number of witness or testimony) would assure us that He is there in heaven as the living Witness to the truth that through His death at Calvary full atonement has been made for the believerís sin.

Its being ornamented with a crown of gold declares that that same Christ Who on earth was crowned with thorns, is now crowned with glory and honor.

This altar was used exclusively for the burning of incense; the only blood coming upon it being that of the sin offering for the priest, and for the whole congregation, Le 4:7,18, and that of the sacrifice offered on the day of atonement, Le 16:18.  In both cases the blood was placed on the horns of the incense altar.  Inasmuch as incense is the biblical symbol of worship, the truth being taught here is that Christ is in heaven today as our great High Priest, the One through Whom our worship is presented to the Father; but the blood on the horns of the altar declares the truth that His office, and our worship, rest on the same foundation: His sacrifice at Calvary.  Apart from that sacrifice He could not have been a Priest; and apart from that sacrifice there would have been no redeemed men to offer worship.

Since the fragrance of incense was inseparably linked with that golden altar, the lesson being taught symbolically is that, inseparably connected with the resurrected Christ seated at the Fatherís right hand in heaven, is the fragrance of that sacrifice presented two thousand years ago at Calvary, when He ďthrough the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,Ē Heb 9:14.

The number of the horns isnít specified, though presumably there were four; but, as frequently, the silence of Scripture here is as instructive as its explicit statements.  A horn is the symbol of power, but four is the number of earth and testing.  The mention of the horns is to remind us of the almighty power of that Christ Who represents us before the Father; but the omission of the number four is to remind us that He is forever beyond the testing to which He submitted Himself for our sakes while He was on earth.

The number of the rings is also omitted, though presumably there were also four of them, and it would appear that the omission is deliberate, and for the same reason as has been noted in connection with the horns.  The ring is the biblical symbol of that which is eternal (a ring has no beginning or ending), so that in mentioning the rings, but not their number, God would emphasize that the resurrected Christ is for ever beyond any time limitation: He is the Lord of eternity.  It was in order to effect our redemption that He came to earth and submitted Himself to the limitations of time.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough