Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lessons from the Sanctuary

Lessons from the Sanctuary

To truly understand the earthly sanctuary we need to first understand the reason for its existence.  Meaning: why did God decide to “let them make me a sanctuary?”  The verse gives the answer, “…
that I may dwell among them: (Exodus 25:8).  It has always been God’s desire to dwell among His created beings.  To say that the Sanctuary is a teaching tool, and ignoring the fact that God wanted to dwell among Israel, is to miss the point that God is love.  To say that the sanctuary was the way in which the people could reach out to God is missing the point that it was God who asked Moses to build it; in other words, it was actually God’s way of reaching out to Israel. 
Even before this sanctuary was built, Christ lived among the angels as an angel.  God had met with Adam and Eve in the garden.  Enoch walked with God.  And, God met with Abraham face to face.

Let’s take a closer look on Enoch: Enoch learned without the sanctuary about God.  Among the antediluvians was one young man who “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24). God took Him by the hand and Enoch went for a walk with God. “By faith” Enoch bore a “testimony” to his generation “that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). Enoch did not resist God and permitted Him to purify his life of sin and thus God was able to reveal the deeper meaning of the sanctuary truth and cleanse him of all known and unknown sin so that “he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him.” Here was one person before the Flood who comprehended the “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of “the love of Christ, ... filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:18, 19).

Abraham learned the Gospel from God himself, without the sanctuary.  God’s everlasting covenant given to Abraham pointed him to the heavenly sanctuary for salvation and he believed the promise. Specifically Abraham believed in the gospel of Christ as God proclaimed it to him. [Galatians 3: 8] The Sacrifice for sinners was so vividly proclaimed by God to Abraham that when asked to “sacrifice” his son Isaac on the altar, he was motivated by Divine love to give his only true son. [Heb. 11:17, 18] The source of agape is the heavenly sanctuary (Early Writings, p. 55). When God evangelized Abraham with the gospel it was thorough and complete (Galatians 3: 14; Romans 5: 5). He revealed to Abraham what was in heaven, the sanctuary, so that he could share with God as much as a human could, the sacrificial love of God.

This demonstrates that there was no necessity for an earthly sanctuary for a large part of earth’s history. For some 2,200 years, from creation until Mt. Sinai, there was no earthly sanctuary, but there was a real Temple residence for God in heaven.  It was not until Israel made their old covenant promise, “all that the Lord hath spoken, will we do” (Ex. 19:8) that out of necessity God initiated the construction of an earthly tabernacle. Motivated by their own self-sufficiency to obey the commandments, ancient Israel made their vain pledge to keep their part of the bargain and that was the old covenant.  God never asked them to promise him anything. He simply proclaimed the good news promise to them as he had done with their father Abraham. The only appropriate response would have been for them to believe God’s promise just as Abraham did.  Then God’s Divine love would have been written in their souls.

But their self-confident pledge was the great sin of unbelief. Paul writes: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions” (Gal. 3:19). The root cause of “transgressions” is unbelief. Evidently there was a great sin committed by Israel at Mt. Sinai which necessitated the emphasizing of the law of God in the format of the Ten Commandments written by God’s own finger on tables of stone. Since the people would not simply believe God’s promise so that He might write His laws in their hearts and minds, He was obliged to write them on rocks which were placed in a box, the Ark of the Covenant, which was put in the tabernacle.
God wanted to abide in their lives, but through unbelief they sent Him to dwell in a “motel room.”

Now what God would have taught them Himself, as He taught Enoch, Abraham and Moses, He taught through the sanctuary and its services.  Did they learn?  Some did.  And, we should point out that according to Ellen White it was through the sanctuary service that Christ learned about Himself as the paschal lamb.  And, so now we are to learn about the plan of redemption through learning about the sanctuary and its services.  It was through understanding the earthly sanctuary that we learn about what is happening in the heavenly one.

The actual structure is full of meaning.  Nothing was left to chance.  Everything from the hooks to the curtains, from the cups to the Ark of the Covenant, the materials used and the colors are reference to Christ and the plan of redemption.  There too many details to discuss here.  Suffice it to say, one more time: they are all a reference to Christ and the plan of redemption. 

In Psalm 27:4, David boldly identifies his single-minded goal in life, his one great request: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (NIV). The “house of the Lord” is another term for the sanctuary. David’s single-minded quest was focused upon the sanctuary! In Psalm 27, he summarizes the threefold experience he wished to have in the sanctuary. Verse 4 gives two facets of this experience: “to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire [after truth] in his temple” (NKJV). (The Hebrew word translated as “inquire,” baqar, refers to careful examination of evidence in order to determine the truth of a matter.) Toward the end of the psalm (in the verse exactly paralleling verse 4), David pinpoints the third aspect of the sanctuary experience that he longs to have: “to see the goodness of the Lord” (vs. 13).

God institutes a series of services in which the people would come to the Sanctuary to seek and inquire of God.  Ellen White says,

“The typical service was the connecting link between God and Israel. The sacrificial offerings were designed to prefigure the sacrifice of Christ, and thus to preserve in the hearts of the people an unwavering faith in the Redeemer to come. Hence, in order that the Lord might accept their sacrifices, and continue His presence with them, and, on the other hand, that the people might have a correct knowledge of the plan of salvation, and a right understanding of their duty, it was of the utmost importance that holiness of heart and purity of life, reverence for God, and strict obedience to His requirements, should be maintained by all connected with the sanctuary.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1010.

In Patriarchs and Prophets Ellen White reiterates the same concept in different words,

“The most important part of the daily ministration was the service performed in behalf of individuals. The repentant sinner brought his offering to the door of the tabernacle, and, placing his hand upon the victim’s head, confessed his sins, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the innocent sacrifice. By his own hand the animal was then slain, and the blood was carried by the priest into the holy place and sprinkled before the veil, behind which was the ark containing the law that the sinner had transgressed. By this ceremony the sin was, through the blood, transferred in figure to the sanctuary.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 354.

If the Sin was transferred to the Sanctuary, then the sinner no longer has it.  The sinner is freed from the Sin.  The sinner leaves the sanctuary with assurance of God’s love, grace and forgiveness.  He leaves the sanctuary with a heartfelt appreciation for what God has done for Him.  He leaves the sanctuary with God in his heart.  

Friday, October 18, 2013


There will be no audio version until further notice.  Sorry for the inconveience.


A seminary professor tells the experience of when she reluctantly accompanied her husband through the conflict-torn region of the Holy Land to the top of Mount Gerazim at Passover time. Here, the few surviving Samaritans on earth still sacrifice Passover lambs. As the lambs were led to the slaughter, she averted her eyes. But at the last minute, she looked. How utterly awful their deaths were. As she beheld the innocent creatures struggling against the knife, her soul revolted against the callousness of the priest, who was offering the sacrifice. But even more, she found revolting the whole idea of the sacrificial system. Why did innocent animals have to die to point forward to the death of Jesus? On the way back that night, in the light of the full Passover moon, she poured out her bitterness against God for the awfulness of the animal sacrifices until suddenly light from heaven penetrated her darkened mind. She finally began to understand the point: sin is so awful that it cost the life of the innocent Lamb of God. This Sacrifice was the only way that God could get people with their hardened human hearts to see how terrible sin was, how costly our salvation is. 

The sacrifices also teach us by which means God has removed what has estranged us from Him: our distrust of Him due to Sin.  It reveals to what extent God is willing to go, to bring us back into an intimate relationship with Him.  Christ was that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world to take away the Sin of the world (John 1: 29; Revelation 13: 8).  The cross was the instrument to slay the Lamb. 

However, it is unfortunate that “With most of the people in the days of Christ, the observance of this feast had degenerated into formalism. {DA 77.2}  Too often through human history God gives teaching tools to teach a greater reality and people mistakenly think the teaching tool is the reality.  Thus, the sacrifices, which were only to teach the way back into close relationship with God, became misunderstood as the means to a close relationship with God. And people have taken the teaching tool and extrapolated false ideas about God and the heavenly sanctuary.  Christ is the means, the way, the truth and the life.  It is through Christ that we enter into close relationship with God.

But what was its significance to the Son of God? Ellen White tells us Gives us a glimpse,

For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple. He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry. He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. New impulses were awakening within Him. Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour.    Rapt in the contemplation of these scenes, He did not remain beside His parents. He sought to be alone. When the paschal services were ended, He still lingered in the temple courts; and when the worshipers departed from Jerusalem, He was left behind.  {DA 78.2}”

Abraham had a similar experience in Mount Moriah.  We know the story.  God asked Abraham to go to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved child of promise.  There was something different about God’s approach to Abraham.  The patriarch’s life with God had always been accompanied by divine promises: the promise of land, of descendants, and of blessings; the promise of a son; and the promise that God would take care of Ishmael.  Abraham sacrificed, but it was always as a response and in the light of some promise. However, in the situation described in Genesis 22, Abraham did not get any divine promise; instead, he was told to sacrifice the living promise, his son.  Abraham was posed with a dilemma.  He had to choose between God and Isaac.  Following through on God’s command, Abraham showed that God was more important to him than anything else.  That animal, which God provided, prefigures the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on whom “the Lord has laid . . . the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6, 7; Acts 8:32, NKJV).
What was God’s purpose in this incredible challenge to Abraham’s faith?  Ellen White tells us what God wanted to accomplish. 

“It was to impress Abraham’s mind with the reality of the gospel, as well as to test his faith, that God commanded him to slay his son. The agony which he endured during the dark days of that fearful trial was permitted that he might understand from his own experience something of the greatness of the sacrifice made by the infinite God for man’s redemption. No other test could have caused Abraham such torture of soul as did the offering of his son. God gave His Son to a death of agony and shame.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 154.

Concerning the sacrifice, Abraham understood that no one but God Himself can bring the true sacrifice and the means of salvation. It is the Lord who will, who must, provide. Abraham eternalizes this principle by naming the place “YHWH Jireh,” which means “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” 

As mentioned before, the narrative of Genesis 22 describes the divine test of Abraham in which God asks him to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. This test may be the very apex of Old Testament gospel prefigurations, revealing in advance how both the Father and Son were to be involved in the anguish of the atoning sacrifice. Jesus remarked that “ ‘Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad’ ” (John 8:56, NKJV).

When did Abraham see Jesus’ day? The apostle Paul quotes from Genesis 22 (vs. 18) and specifically points out that Scripture “announced the gospel in advance to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8, NIV). In the Hebrew of Genesis 22:17, 18, as in Genesis 3:15, the word for “seed” (zera‘) first is used in a collective sense to refer to numerous descendants and then narrows to a singular meaning (marked by singular pronouns, although some modern translations do not show this) to focus on the one Messianic Seed in whom “ ‘all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’ ” (Gen. 22:18, NKJV). The experience of Isaac on Mount Moriah is thus explicitly linked to the sacrifice of the coming Messiah. Paul also points to the sacrificial spirit of the Father, who “did not spare [withhold] His own Son” (Rom. 8:32, NKJV), using the same language as God had twice used of Abraham on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:12, 16). 

Abraham understood in Mount Moriah the meaning of the cross.  The sacrifice of Jesus for the eradication of sin, salvation of humanity, securing of the universe, is not The good news, it is the expression, outworking, effective action of the Good News of who God is! In other words, the good news is about God and His character which is fully expressed in the actions of Christ sacrificing Himself for our salvation. But the good news about God was true before He sacrificed Himself, it was just obscured by Satan’s lies. Thus the good news is always about God!  The Good news is God is love - agape (1 John 4: 16).  And, the cross is the most complete and utter demonstration of agape that have ever been revealed to mankind.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

“The Heavenly Sanctuary”

Sorry: no audio this week.  Below is the script:

“The Heavenly Sanctuary”

A pastor tells a personal experience regarding the sanctuary in heaven. He says, “Upon entering pastoral duties in a church, I was confronted with a paper written by a scholar who denounced the teaching of the sanctuary in heaven. Three persons each gave me a copy of this paper. I knew that in time I would have to deal publically with this scholarly paper. When doing a sermon series dealing with the book of Daniel that time finally came.

During the week of preparation for the upcoming Sabbath sermon, the Lord impressed my mind with a simple question to ask the congregation. During that sermon I mentioned to the congregation the following: “If someone tells you there is no sanctuary in heaven, do not argue with him/her. Ask the person the following question: ‘Oh, have you been to heaven to see that there is no sanctuary there?’” Next I said: “If he says ‘No,’ then you can consider the statement as hearsay.” I continued: “The next thing for you to do is to search the Bible about what it says concerning the subject. If it says there is no sanctuary in heaven, then accept it. However, if the Bible says there is a sanctuary in heaven, it will be best to accept that.”
You can imagine the brisk activity that simple question caused within the congregation. A few became hostile, while others breathed a sigh of relief when they heard some answers regarding the sanctuary message. Not one who denied the existence of a real sanctuary in heaven could muster an argument against it. At least one who disbelieved in a literal heavenly temple had an about face and decided to looked into the subject from a biblical viewpoint rather than to accept a non-provable negative interpretive assertions.”  The pastor did not trivialize the Sanctuary doctrine, neither did Ellen G. White.

In The following statements Ellen White tells is how important is the doctrine of the sanctuary,
“The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith,” “our faith” being the unique teachings of Seventh-day Adventists that make us different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches. [1] 
“[It’s] the central pillar that sustains the structure of our position.” [2]
 “the sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men,” [3]

 Notice what she  has to say about the denial of the heavenly sanctuary by some among us:

The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. [4]
Satan is striving continually to bring in fanciful suppositions in regard to the sanctuary, degrading the wonderful representations of God and the ministry of Christ for our salvation into something that suits the carnal mind. He removes its presiding power from the hearts of believers, and supplies its place with fantastic theories invented to make void the truths of the atonement, and destroy our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the third angel's message was first given. Thus he would rob us of our faith in the very message that has made us a separate people, and has given character and power to our work.[5]

If there is no sanctuary in Heaven then the earthly sanctuary on earth is a shadow of Moses imagination.  Also, our understanding of Daniel 8:14 (2,300 day prophecy) is based on a fantasy. 

This, then, brings us to the lesson for the week at hand. We will consider two aspects of the heavenly sanctuary ministry. These are: its literalness and a few of its functions. While it is true that the functions of the sanctuary are the most important part of the sanctuary message, its architecture and architectural furnishings are referred to in several Bible passages. This too is important.  Hebrews  8-10 deals with the literalness along with functions of the heavenly temple.  Likewise in the book of Revelation which has abundant evidence of a heavenly sanctuary (see 1:12-13; chapters 4 and 5; 8:2-6; 11:19; 15:5). The book of Psalms also mentions the sanctuary or temple and constituent parts over 100 times. And of course the prophet Daniel wrote concerning the sanctuary in heaven as a place of judgment (Dan 7:-13; 8:14).

The most important elements of the heavenly sanctuary are its functions. One such function is that it is God’s dwelling place. However, this brings to mind questions concerning the relationship of God to a dwelling place.  Does He need this in light of the fact He is omnipresent (Jer 2: 23-24; Psa 139; Acts 17:24-28)? Since God is ever present in all places at all times, why does He dwell in a temple? In addition to these questions, there is another, how long has there been a temple?

The heavenly sanctuary has been in existence at least since the creation of this world. Jeremiah referred to God’s throne and sanctuary existing from a point of time connected to the beginning: “A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary” (Jer 17:12). Jeremiah’s words reflect the farthest point in time for earth which was “in the beginning” when God created earth (Gen 1:1).

The key to the question as to why God dwells in a sanctuary is found in His instruction to Moses: “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Ex 25:8). God wants to be with us. His name is called “Immanuel” literally meaning “God with us” (Isa 7:14). Our heavenly Father longs to be with His created beings. He wants to interact with us. Jesus revealed God’s longing when He was born into the human race to dwell with us as “Immanuel” (Matt 1:23).

Today God dwells also with angels—“between the cherubim” (Psa 80:1; 99:1; Isa 37:16). He longs to be close to His creatures. And the angels love to dwell in the house of the Lord. God also longs for the day when you and I and all the redeemed will be taken to heaven to dwell in His house for ever. Jesus went to heaven to prepare “rooms” for us in the “Father’s house” (John 14:1-3, NIV), which is the heavenly temple.
Does God need a place to dwell in? Of course not. But the fact that He does reveals attributes of His character that are blessings to us by His personal presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit. In the teacher’s comments for this week’s lesson there is a thought provoking statement:

It is vital to grasp that the original purpose of the heavenly sanctuary was to reveal part of the essential nature of God’s character—“Immanuel”—God with us. That God condescends to live in a heavenly sanctuary among the created heavenly beings reveals that He is not aloof, distant, cold and forbidding. He longs to be close to His creatures, and to dwell with us. [6]

Not only is the temple in heaven God’s dwelling place. In the book of Revelation the sanctuary is the place of worship for angels and for those who have been redeemed from earth, (either through translation and resurrection from the grave) (Rev 4:1-11; 5:8-14).

Was there a sanctuary in heaven before sin entered the universe? Yes. Lucifer as the covering cherub was there as a participant in the worship services (Eze 28:17). This was his place of worship until he “desecrated your (his) sanctuaries” (holy places) (v 18, NIV). Then he started a war in heaven, in which he thought he could unseat God from the worship center.

Lucifer attempted to “sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north” (Isa 14:13). The NIV calls this “mount of the congregation” “the mount of assembly.” Lucifer wanted to break into God’s house of worship which is also His residence.

Lucifer, too late learned that God’s temple in heaven is not only His dwelling place and creation’s worship place, but that it is also the courtroom where he is judged, condemned and sentenced to eternal death. It is this function of the heavenly sanctuary—the investigative judgment—that we Seventh-day Adventists mostly dwell upon. This we must do, but we must not forget the other above mentioned and very important functions of God’s heavenly sanctuary.

In closing, there is another vitally important function of the heavenly temple that must be considered. In Revelation, the Lamb metaphor is the “key” to the sanctuary and to the book. Most of the twenty-eight references to Christ the Lamb occur in worship passages and center on salvation more than judgment. The Lamb fulfills the promise of God to establish righteousness, depicting redemption through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. In Rev 5:6 a slain lamb is seen in the midst of the throne which is located in the heart of the temple. This is a revelation of Christ crucified as the central attraction in the heavenly sanctuary. It reveals the self-sacrificing love and mercy of Christ and of the Father and His government. But that is not all.
In Revelation the Lamb of God has two aspects: a sacrificial Lamb and a military Lamb (Rev 5:6; 12:11;13:8; 17:14). They are interconnected, standing as the heart of the book depicting the two sides of God’s activity—His mercy and his justice. So we observe the two primary motifs: the sacrificial lamb metaphor united with the metaphorical Lamb Leader, Ruler and Judge. The two are combined here, just as God’s mercy and His justice meet in the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. It is the sacrifice of the Lamb that exalts the temple in heaven along with its other functions we have considered in this lesson—of God’s dwelling place and of creation’s house of worship along with God’s judgment.

[1] Evangelism, p. 221.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 245 (1897).
[3] Evangelism, p. 222.
[4] Review and Herald, May 25, 1905.
[5] Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 17. (1905); Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 53-54.

[6] Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Oct | Nov | Dec, 2013, p. 16.