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The Sanctuary – A teaching Institution
Lesson 96

The sanctuary that God had the ancient Israelites build portrayed the plan of salvation in its furnishings and services.

God used symbolic ritualism to teach essential truths to the illiterate Israelites, lately liberated from Egyptian bondage. Nehemiah, when recounting God’s mercies to Israel at Sinai, said, “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct the people.” Nehemiah 9:20.

God loved Israel. He longed for a closer, more intimate relationship with them. So he charged Moses, saying, “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) –not only in their midst, but also within each one of them—because all who experienced by faith what the sanctuary services portrayed were to be indwelt by God (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Concerning the sanctuary and its furnishings God admonished Moses, “Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” Exodus 25:40. God desired the children of Israel to understand that the sanctuary they were to build was but a miniature likeness of a much greater sanctuary. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews later pointed out, the ceremonies of the earthly tabernacle were to “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” (Hebrews 8:1-5.)

Even in the building of the sanctuary the Holy Spirit held general superintendency. “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel” … and I have filled him with the spirit of God … And in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.” Exodus 31:1-6.

The sanctuary and later its expanded counterpart, the Temple, portrayed the gospel in figures, types, and symbols. David wrote, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary.” Psalm 77:13.” They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.” Psalm 68:24.

The Holy Spirit has interpreted to Israel and the Christian church the meaning of the sanctuary ceremonies. The expression “the Holy Ghost this signifying,” used in Hebrews 9:1-8 to show that the old covenant sanctuary is a type of a new covenant sanctuary in heaven, makes this point clear. Most of the worship in the sanctuary consisted of prayers performed and sermons enacted. The Holy Spirit worked through the priests to teach and interpret the spiritual significance of the various ceremonies-to show how they served as aids to faith and helped to explain such basic truths as the love of God, the holiness of God’s law, the awfulness of sin, Christ’s atonement, justification, sanctification, the judgment, and the blended justice and mercy of God.

The sanctuary services held three mysteries or truths that could be known only by revelation: (1) the mystery of the altar, (2) the mystery of the holy place, and (3) the mystery of the most holy place.

The Altar: Every animal sacrifice offered upon the brazen altar prefigured Christ’s death and the forgiveness which it made possible. Man estranged by sin could be reconciled to God only at this altar. First, the Holy Spirit aroused the sinner to see something of the sacredness of God’s holy law and the awfulness of his transgression. As a moral culprit, the sinner realized that he could never find peace within except as God came into his heart and imparted His peace to him. Then the Spirit prompted the penitent sinner to take the sacrifice required to the altar, place his hands upon its head, and confess his sins over it – in effect transferring his guilt to the animal. With the innocent substitute now bearing the guilt, the sinner slew the animal. Thus, the Holy Spirit taught the sinner that forgivingness of sin could be obtained only through confession of guilt and acceptance of the death of a substitute. (Hebrews 9:22.)

However, no animal could possibly bear sin. Paul emphatically declared, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4. The animal served only as a symbol or representative of a far better Substitute, even the Lamb of God. (John 1:29.) By looking forward in faith to the death of Christ, the worshiper realized forgiveness of sin. At the altar the penitent obtained justification by faith, he was free, not to keep on sinning, but free from guilt. He had the inner assurance of the Holy Spirit that God would provide a complete atonement for his sin. Thus, the brazen altar pointed clearly to Christ’s substitutionary death.

God made forgiveness conditional upon future obedience. “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live: if he trust to his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for the iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” Ezekiel 33:13. The heart of God calls after the erring, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.” “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” Jeremiah 3:14,22. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; … turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11. At the altar, God offers forgiveness for every repentant sinner. However, God will not be imposed upon. He offers mercy only to those who confess and forsake their sins. (Proverbs 28:13.)

Here at the altar the Holy Spirit revealed the mystery of the amazing love that reconciles repentant sinners. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” to be man’s substitute, to carry his guilt to the cross, and to die there in his place, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,” but be entirely reconciled to God and receive eternal life. (John 3:16.)

The Holy Place: The two apartments of the sanctuary explain how God handles confessed sin and opens the way to His throne.

Morning and evening throughout the year the priests offered sacrifices at the brazen altar. This was called the daily (also called “continual” or perpetual”) sacrifice. Individual worshipers could not go beyond the altar. However, the priest as their go-between, or advocate, ministered the spilled blood in their behalf by taking it into the holy place and sprinkling it there. Though the worshipers could not go into the holy place in person, they were to enter by faith and to expect help to come from there. The psalmist prayed, “Send thee help from the sanctuary.” Psalm 20:2. What the Old Testament worshiper had in symbol the New Testament believer has in reality. Every type or prophetic representation has an antitype or prophetic fulfillment.

After the crucifixion, the Jerusalem Temple became desolate. (Matthew 23:38.) After His ascension, Jesus began His High Priestly ministry in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. He ministered in this apartment until the antitypical Day of Atonement, the time of the judgment. As Mediator, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to impart the divine nature to those who will become new creatures. Not merely does the divine nature influence the human, but it unites with it.  (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:11.)

This new birth produces an infant, not an adult. Just as an infant grows, the Christian is to “grow up into him in all things.” (Ephesians 4:15.) “That we no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh, … but to the will of God,” and that means to “live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:2,6.) “For if ye live after the flesh, ye hall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Romans 8:13. God expects the experience of His sons and daughters to be continuous and progressive: “Till we all come … unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13. The holy place and the activities associated with it portray the new creature in Christ Jesus as he develops a fitness for heaven and advances in sanctification.

Many begin their Christian warfare very bravely but fail to reckon with their natural tendencies to evil, and in a moment of weakness, they stumble. However, even though they have done wrong, they should not be discouraged. The beloved apostle wrote, “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1.  The apostle Paul observes, “We have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens.” “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14,16.

Whom God forgives He places on probation to develop a Christ like character. He may make mistakes, yet in answer to his prayer, Jesus his Mediator, will intercede for him, obtain forgivingness for him, and send the Holy Spirit to help him overcome. The plan of salvation would be incomplete without the services of the divine Mediator.

In the first apartment where the daily ministration takes place, God treats each case sympathetically. All may have the experience of Paul in dying to self-daily and in receiving the daily benefits of Christ’s mediation. (1 Corinthians 15:31; Galatians 2:20.) All who would grow in the Holy Spirit must obtain help each day. The services in the holy place do not teach that once forgiven will never sin again or that once saved means always saved. (1 John 1:8,9.)

The holy place reveals a peculiar type of love-an affectionate love born of pity-long-suffering, wooing, yearning courtship love that refuses to be offended by the mistakes of the one loved but willingly provides for every struggler toward the kingdom a Mediator who is able “to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25.)

The Most Holy Place: At the end of each year the high priest went alone into the holy of holies to make a special atonement for Israel and to cleanse the sanctuary of the sins that had been transferred there by prayer. (Leviticus 16:29-34.) The ceremonies on the Day of Atonement typified and pointed forward to the day-of-judgment services that would be held in heaven’s most holy place. (Daniel 7:9,10.)

Paul standing before Felix pointed forward to “judgment to come” (Acts 24:25), and to the Athenians he declared, “He [God] hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained. Acts 17:31. “That man, “of course, is Jesus. In the judgment, everything depends upon what Jesus means to each Christian personally. Daniel said that he saw, following the judgment, ‘the Son of man … given … a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” (Daniel 7:13,14.)  Prophecy fulfilled and fulfilling tells us that we live near the close of the antitypical Day of Atonement, the time that just precedes Christ’s coming as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, the message “The hour of his judgment is come” (Revelation 14:6,7) has a special application now.

Every case is now being reviewed in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. The life history of every soul who has professed Christ as some time in his life will be investigated. The mind of every heavenly intelligence must be satisfied with the fitness of each person for heaven. God will apportion rewards not only on the basis of what has been done during the brief span of the life lived in this world but also upon the influence or fruitage of that life as it has affected others for the good or evil to the very close of time. (Revelation 14:13.)

Now is the time to heed Peter’s admonition, “Repent ye, … and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing [the latter rain] shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19. Those who fail to have their sins blotted out will have their names blotted out of the book of life. (Revelation 3:5.) When every case is settled, Christ will pronounce the irrevocable verdict, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: … and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still.” Revelation 22:11.

As the early rain fell upon the disciples as a result of Christ’s mediation in the holy place, so we may expect the later rain to fall upon God’s commandment keeping remnant through His mediation in the holy place.

God required the children of Israel to afflict their souls on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus 16:29.) Every sin was to be searched out and confessed, for only the record of confessed sins, those transferred to the sanctuary, could be cleansed, or removed, from the holy place. Sin that had not been transferred to the sanctuary stayed with their perpetrator. God will have a clean universe. “For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.” Leviticus 23:29. The self-examination called for anciently will be repeated under the searching influence of “the spirit of judgment” and “the spirit of burning.” (Isaiah 4:4.)  Where we spend eternity depends upon our dealing truly with our souls-there will be no future probation. Sin must be overcome while Jesus still mediates. Urgency calls for an immediate heart response.

In the most holy place, God reveals His marvelous love, a love that unites justice and mercy, the law and the gospel. This love is “abundant in goodness and truth, … forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” but it “will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exodus 34: 6,7.) No one will be lost who wanted to be saved-no one saved who chose to be lost. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” James 2:13.  The words of the wise man apply here: “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all that hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:36.

Only the Hoy Spirit can help us to appreciate the inner secrets of the sanctuary. By the Holy Spirit we grasp the central truth that “justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” that there, in the most holy place, where God sits on His throne, all the problems of man’s salvation are solved and resolved. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 89:14; 85:10.)

 

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