The dedication of the earthly sanctuary was made after, and as a result of, the old covenant. The old covenant was given by the people in their promise to God: "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8), and by so promising told God they could handle this just fine without Him. As a result, God gave them the Ten Promises in Exodus 20 to give them a chance to receive them as promises or, in their old-covenant mindset, make them into a list of commands that had to be carried out--which, of course, is exactly what they did. It was the same sin of Adam and Eve when they tried to make their own (fig leaf) garments to replace the robes of light that God had given them when they were created.
When Israel confirmed (Yes, they really did!) their promise in Exodus 24 (verse 3), God then instituted an elaborate system (beginning with chapter 25) that was designed to constantly remind them that they could not keep their promise, but instead, needed to constantly apply the blood of God's sacrifice that would be made in the future and look to Him for the keeping of His promise to them. Each time they broke their promise to God, they would participate in this graphic and gruesome procedure. It was impossible for them to keep their promise to Him (Joshua 24:19). But God does keep all of His.
All this was done in the Holy Place, that first room of the sanctuary that was dedicated to the daily ministration of sins for individuals. In this room was found the candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. Each of these pieces of furniture represented the various aspects of Jesus Christ and His work with His people in their daily lives.
Some of the symbolism is as follows: The candlestick (menorah) with its light, fire, and oil represents, respectively: Christ as the light of God's all-powerful inherently creative and redemptive Word going to the entire world through His people because the purifying cleansing fire is cleansing the hearts of God's willing people through the powerful fuel of the oil of the Holy Spirit of God.
The table of shewbread represents Christ as the bread of life feeding God's people both temporally and spiritually during their daily sojourn, and also represents the throne of God during the daily walk of God's people during the work of first apartment ministry, with the two stacks of bread, one for the Father and one for the Son. (They later move to enter a new level of ministry in the Most Holy place; Early Writings, pp. 54-56.)
The altar of incense with its smoke from the special incense represents respectively the constant prayers (smoke entering the Most Holy place) of God's people seeking the application of the merits (incense) of Christ to their hearts.
The second room in the sanctuary (the Most Holy place) was used for the annual cleansing of the sanctuary--a corporate work on the Day of Atonement. This included the cleansing of the hearts of God's people as part and parcel of the corporate whole. The work in this room represents the cleansing of God's church (including the hearts of His people) in the last days in preparation for the special final events of earth's history.
The study of the Day of Atonement vastly exceeds the scope of this paper, so I will write no more about that. However, I will close with some quotes from A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers:
"'Who may abide the day of his coming? Who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's FIRE.' Good. Then when I meet him now, in the consuming fire that he is, I meet him in a fire that is refining, that purifies. 'And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.' That is separation from sin; that is purification from sin. And that sets us where we offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness: we become the servants of righteousness unto holiness, that we may meet the Lord. So, then, bless the Lord that he is a consuming fire,—that he is as a refiner's fire.
"… In that day his eyes will rest upon each one of us, and he will look clear through us. When his eyes are as a flame of fire, and those eyes in that great day rest upon every one of us, and look clear through us, what will that look do for every one who is wrapped up, body and soul, in sin?--It will consume the sin, and the sinner with it; because he would not be separated from the sin. And today, just now, those eyes are the same that they will be in that day."
"All the Scripture is founded upon this thought,--that it is not against the person, but against the thing to which the person has fastened himself, that the wrath of God comes. Then as the Lord executes vengeance primarily only against sin, as his wrath is only against ungodliness and unrighteousness, and he has done everything he could to get the people to separate from sin, then in that burning day when he comes, and reveals himself to the world, and the world sees him as he is, it will still be only sin against which he will execute vengeance."
"Only as the man clings to his ungodliness, only as he holds down the truth in unrighteousness, shall it be that the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against him: and even then not against him primarily, but against the sin to which he clings, and will not leave. And as he has thus made his choice, clinging fast to his choice, he must take the consequences of his choice, when his choice shall have reached its ultimate" (Our God is a Consuming Fire, pp.16, 17, 8, 3).
"The finishing of the mystery of God is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, first, the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness--Christ fully formed--within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; and, secondly, on the other hand, the work of the gospel being finished means only the destruction of all who then shall not have received the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10): for it is not the way of the Lord to continue men in life when the only possible use they will make of life is to heap up more misery for themselves" (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, p. 119; Glad Tidings ed.).
Our bodies are also the sanctuary of God (1 Cor. 6:19). Let's rededicate ourselves today to the work of the refining fire of God.