A local church has gone back in time with its latest addition – more than 3,000 years back in time.
“It’s something that’s just not typical, says Pastor Brian Powell. “You’re not going to see this just out and about anywhere!”
That’s for sure. What he’s referring to is the large tent-like structure now on the grounds of Raleigh First Church of the Nazarene, a structure that hearkens back to the days of the ancient Israelites. According to the Old Testament, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after escaping Egyptian slavery. And as they did so they took with them the Tabernacle, the portable dwelling place of the “presence of God.” Now you can see a full-size replica of that sacred structure at First Church of the Nazarene.
“This is a major part of Exodus, the second book of the Bible,” says Powell, the church’s senior pastor. “God gave (the Israelites) the Law and described what they need to do to construct this Tabernacle. It’s basically made up of three compartments: you’ve got an outer courtyard which is 75 by 150 feet, and then the Tabernacle itself sits within the back side of the courtyard. The Tabernacle itself has two compartments in it -- the back compartment is the Holy of Holies.”
The Holy of Holies was where the famed Ark of the Covenant was kept. But you don’t need to be an Indiana Jones to see that sacred golden chest. You can find a replica of it, too, on display at the church.
It’s all part of a traveling exhibit called The Tabernacle Experience, which will be open to the public through this weekend. The structure’s dimensions, as well as the replicas of the religious articles inside it, are designed to recreate what’s detailed in the Bible. Pastor Powell says you’ll find the exhibit enjoyable even if you’re not that familiar with the Tabernacle or its importance in Bible history.
“You will not be lost at all,” he told me. “There is actually an audio guide. You wear a headset and there are different stations where you will sit as you tour the Tabernacle. It takes about 50 minutes with a thorough explanation and descriptions. Then, of course, how it ties to Jesus Christ and how he fulfilled all these things.”
Powell emphasizes that last point. He and many other Christians see the Tabernacle -- and the meticulous details describing it in the Old Testament -- as symbolically pointing the way to what they believe is the ultimate “presence of God” among the people – Jesus Christ.
“What I hope people will see is how God, 1,180 years before Christ was ever born, was pointing the world to Christ, even through things as elaborate as all of these articles included in the Tabernacle. God is interested in the details.”
The Tabernacle Experience will be on display at First Church of the Nazarene through Sunday night, and there is an admission fee.