Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.
In the earthly sanctuary, cleansing of the most holy place was needed because of the record of sin through the sprinkled blood. That record of sin had to be removed by the high priest every year. Now is there also a record of sin in the heavenly sanctuary? Yes (Hebrews 8), if so, how and where is that record maintained?
According to the Bible, it is done by books “And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). All sins are written down in the books, and the work of judgment takes place out of those books “The judgment was set, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10).
Jesus is our high priest that is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man…Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrew 8:1,2,5).
You are asking: Wasn’t the atonement finished on the cross when Jesus died?
Jesus did, indeed, complete the sacrifice which provided for a final atonement for every soul. However, just as the slaying of the lamb in the courtyard did not cleanse the record of sin until it was sprinkled in the sanctuary, so the death of Jesus can effect no cleansing until it is applied to each person that comes to the High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
After His crucifixion, Jesus entered the most holy place and He has been engaged in the work of judgment, cleansing the record of sin. Paul in Hebrews ties the work of Jesus in the holy of hollies to the judgment “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:24-27).
When the work of the investigative judgment out of the books of heaven is ended, Christ will come again without sin. And every person’s case will be judged “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:11, 12). When Christ lays aside His priestly garment and puts on His kingly robe, the probation of every person has been eternally settled and fixed and the atonement is done “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
In His service,