Fragrance of Christ


or Smells Like Holy Spirit

A friend recently gave me a unique gift. With some difficulty and great expense, he sourced the ingredients for the anointing oil of the Aaronic priesthood and I was the grateful recipient of a small, blue vial.

The scent of the oil is intoxicating. You breathe it in and in some strange way you can “taste” it as it goes down. It is extremely complex and yet a single fragrance. The recipe is in Exodus 30:

Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Also take for yourself quality spices — five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of [calamus], five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.’ “

James Jordan observes that there are a number of “holy mixtures” prescribed for the Tabernacle, including the High Priest’s robe of a combination of linen and wool. The Law of Moses consists of boundaries, divisions. In God’s house, however, everything is integrated. It is a house of resurrection; of bread and wine, flesh and blood, heaven and earth (and of course, eventually even Jew and Gentile) recombined in a way beyond the skill of mortal men. Just as the Tabernacle would eventually be torn apart and “resurrected” as the Tabernacle of David, even the Law of Moses itself would be torn apart, taken to the grave, and resurrected as the Law of Christ.

“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Incense is the most complex symbol in Scripture. It begins in Genesis 1, as clouds of birds and fish created on Day 5. They symbolise an army consisting of many but combined as one. Five is a military number. Israel marches five abreast. David chooses five smooth stones. The oil of anointing had five ingredients. All the Bible’s Covenants have five parts. The fragrant clouds from the Incense Altar are the “bridal” hosts of God.

The symbol is used constantly. Israel’s obedience is fragrant to God, but He also tips the symbol on its head when she betrays Him. In the prophets, the literary structure often puts the “smoke” of her destruction at this point. Ezekiel’s reference to Judah as a stick that is burnt at both ends and good for nothing also appears at step five. Her burning of incense became a cloud to hide her disobedience. It became a stench in God’s nostrils.

The Tabernacle not only follows the form of the Creation week, but also of the human body. Even more interesting is that the human head is a mini-Tabernacle itself. Your brain is the Ark, hidden behind a veil, with your eyes as the cherubim, two witnesses. I figure that since the priests’ right ears were daubed with blood, this refers to the Table of Showbread, and the left ear is the Law/Lampstand. The nose is in the centre, the place of the Altar of Incense. And vegetarians, please note that your mouth as the Bronze Altar is where the animals are consumed! [1]

According to Jordan, just as gold is “solid light” (Day 1 is the Ark), so holy oil is “liquid light.” It is the Word from heaven that begins something new. Peter Leithart writes:

No human being gets anointed in Genesis; only pillars (Gen 28:18; 35:14). The pillars represent the “house” of Yahweh, the cornerstones of the future temple.

It’s not until Exodus 29 that we read of a human being anointed with oil. Aaron is the first Christ. He is also Bethel, the gate of God, the living house of Yahweh. [2]

Imagine being Saul or David, anointed with this wonderful oil that had been restricted to use by the Aaronic priesthood since its inception.

The Tabernacle was a place filled with sensory experiences, from the fragrance of the anointing oil (Day 1) to the delightful aroma of roasting meat (Day 3) to the air of the Holy Place perfumed by the Altar of Incense (Day 5). This is the transition from blood to Spirit, from the old creation to the new. Like Esther, the church puts Herself on the Altar and ascends to stand on the Emperor’s pavement of gemstones and mother-of-pearl. She has spent a year under a regime of oils and perfumes, and presents herself boldly before him as a fragrant myrtle, robed in His own righteousness.

This sample oil of anointing is a unique possession, and a fantastic teaching aid as well. Memories are very often connected to smells. Smells are things we never forget. But does this have any relation to our worship today? We are to anoint our sick with oil, but is the Lord concerned about the recipe?

In his lectures on Zechariah, Jordan observes that the new oil flowing from the two olive trees is not the same word as the holy oil of the Tabernacle. It is ordinary household oil. What this signifies is an expansion of holiness. It corresponds to even the pots and pans becoming as holy as Temple vessels. This progression continued, and by the work of Christ, everything is sacred. The Holy Space has grown larger than any of the Old Covenant territories, and will keep growing until it encompasses the world.

Back to Zechariah. This ordinary household oil expands the Lampstand into a blaze, squared from seven to forty-nine lights. This is a picture of the Restoration era. The two witnesses that flanked the now missing Ark no longer keep Adam from the gate with flaming sword. The symbols here are all agrarian. The angels have actually beaten their swords into plowshares. Israel would no longer be a nation of warriors but a nation of priests. She had been transfigured from an earthly body to a spiritual (but just as physical) body. Like Jesus, she could now walk through doors.

This is the nature of resurrection. It is a harvest. The seed has fallen into the ground and there will be a bumper crop. This harvest of what was planted at the beginning of the Restoration era is the white field Jesus referred to. Israel’s national death was not only a judgment for idolatry, but also a scattering of seed. It resulted in the Gentile God-fearers who very often shamed the limited faith of Jews in the New Testament.

Jesus’ death made Him into a door: Passover. Jesus’ resurrection enabled Him to pass through doors: Atonement. The apostles’ biggest challenges in the book of Acts concerned this new requirement to pass through doors, passing through the Land of the Canaanites and taking it as an inheritance for Christ.

Revelation 9:17 “…and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.”

The Old Covenant concerned the fragrance of covered sin: perfect blood that founded a new house. The New Covenant concerned the fragrance of a new body (Eve), the filling of that house. It completes the story of the entire Bible as a full extension in human history of the perfect Creation Week.

In Revelation, both the resurrected bride and the unfaithful wife are pictured as smoke, ie, elders who rule in worship. Both are sacrificed in the first century and final fulfilment of Yom Kippur.

Revelation 15:8    The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

As with Saul and David, the end of the old administration meant the vindication of the new.

Revelation 19:3    Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

For the Christians who had suffered at the hands of apostates for a full generation, the death of state-compromised Herodian worship was a sweet-smelling savour.

The truth is bigger than symbols. But modern evangelicals are so cerebral that they don’t teach the symbols. To understand the truths, we still need the symbols. Their withholding of these potent Scriptural elements, things that appeal to our “five senses,” is possibly the main reason the average modern Western Christian — and even those with theological degrees — still has baby teeth when it comes to much of the Bible.

[1] This seems to make the palate the dome-like “crystal sea.” Perhaps then, seeing as we now know that the Revelation shows a change in administration from angelic elders for human ones, can we speculate that the created heaven has lost its baby teeth? The first century becomes the teething period of a more adult creation. Tooth and ivory concern judgment. This is the symbol behind the great white (ivory) throne of Solomon.
It is also interesting that if the right ear is the Table, it is Adam’s face facing “upwards” towards God, as an earthly mediator communicating with heaven. But with the Tabernacle as a complete body, Jesus has the seven stars of the Lampstand in His right hand. He is facing “downwards” as our heavenly Mediator. The minister, during worship, faces the front as part of the congregation, but faces the congregation as he brings the Word from heaven. The blood goes up and the Spirit comes down. Both are Christ.
[2] Peter Leithart, Living House,

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