The Sanctuary – God’s Plan of Salvation Illustrated
“Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary” (Psalm 77:13). God’s way is best understood in the place where He is worshiped. Every part of the sanctuary represents a facet of Christ’s ministry on behalf of men. The earthly sanctuary, with its two apartments, and its services, is a “shadow,” of the ministry of Christ on behalf of sinners on earth (before His death) and in heaven (after His death).
The Earthly Sanctuary – a Model of the Heavenly One
God instructed Moses to build Him a sanctuary that He might dwell among people (Exodus 25:8). This sanctuary was made after a “pattern” that was shown to Moses “in the mount” (Exodus 25:9, 40; Acts 7:44). In heaven above, is found the original of which the earthly sanctuary is a “shadow” (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23).
John writes of “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven” (Revelation 15:5). In that “temple” he saw the “ark” of the covenant (Revelation 11:19). He also saw the altar of incense (Revelation 8:3). And Paul, speaks of Christ our “High Priest” in heaven (Hebrews 3:1; 9:24), who has offered, once for all, the sacrifice of Himself, shedding His blood in behalf of repentant sinners (Hebrews 9:24–26; 10:12).
Divisions of the Sanctuary
The earthly sanctuary was divided into two sections (Exodus 26:31–37), in each, there were certain furniture. The first unit had the table of shewbread, the seven-branched candlestick, and the altar of incense. There, certain services were carried out every day. The second unit, contained the ark of the covenant. And there, a service was done only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
From studying the earthly sanctuary, we can make specific conclusions concerning what goes on in the heavenly sanctuary. As the earthly service could not begin until the priest had made an offering of sacrifice, so Christ could not begin His heavenly service until He offered His body as a sacrifice on the cross.
As the earthly sanctuary service had two stages, represented by the two sections, likewise, the heavenly sanctuary had two stages. And as the earthly service was in terms of the first stage until the Day of Atonement, even so the heavenly service was in terms of the first stage until that time, near the close of earth’s history, when our great High Priest started the second stage of His priestly ministry. The prophecy of Daniel 8:14 and 9:25, shows that Christ began that second phase of His ministry in 1844 [see Can you explain Daniel 8 and 9 (2300 yr. prophecy)?]
Christ Ministering in the Heavenly Sanctuary
In New Testament era, the Hebrew Christians were greatly unsettled with the issue of how to relate themselves to the earthly sanctuary service that they and their fathers for 1500 years had regarded as central in their worship. Paul had to convince them of the superiority of the heavenly sanctuary and turn their eyes away from the earthly sanctuary to where Christ is actually serving after His death.
The apostle Paul wrote about the work of Christ as our High Priest (ex. Hebrews 9), in the heavenly sanctuary. He tried to show them by parallels and contrasts, that the earthly sanctuary no longer should be the center of their worship, because the earthly sanctuary was merely a “shadow” of the heavenly one (Colossians 2:14-17).
For example, Christ is deathless in comparison to the earthly priests (Hebrews 7:23, 24, 28), His offering was much greater than animal offerings (Hebrews 9:11–14, 23–26; 10:11–14), and the heavenly service is “more excellent ministry” than the earthly one (Hebrews 8:6). For these reasons, in the New Testament era, the believer is to come boldly and directly to Christ – the great High Priest in heaven to obtain grace and power over sin (Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–22).
In His service,
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