Proof-Texts in Context, Part 12: The Heavenly Sanctuary

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Proof-Texts in Context, Part 12: The Heavenly Sanctuary

The twelfth installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #24—Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary. This is high in the pecking order of what distinguishes us as a people, well above even the Sabbath, second coming, etc. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it (Exodus 25:8–9).

God charged Moses to lead Israel in the construction of the tabernacle. They were to first give offerings of metals, fabrics, and other materials that would constitute the edifice and its various components.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Gospel in the Sanctuary

The three objects mentioned in this chapter are the ark of the covenant, the table of showbread, and the lampstand. On the surface, it is interesting that the instructions for the altar of incense, which accompanied the other three within the precincts proper, is “delayed” until chapter 30.

So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood” (Numbers 18:1).

The role of bearing guilt applied specifically to the priests, while the rest of the Levites fulfilled other ancillary responsibilities associated with the sanctuary and its services. Much of the rest of the chapter underlines the “income” allotted to this tribe. Aaron and his immediate family received food benefits from the multitudinous offerings. The Levites at large received tithe.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Sanctuary in the Psalms

“How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored” (Daniel 8:13–14).

As Adventists, we know that verse 14 essentially catapulted our movement. Daniel 8 is a prophetic continuum that parallels chapters 2 and 7. Some differences exist: 1) Babylon is not referenced here; 2) the ram and goat are clean animals, for food and, more fitting contextually, offerings; 3) Medo-Persia and Greece are explicitly named as the upcoming empires that the aforementioned creatures respectively represent; 4) the vision greatly troubled the prophet.

And let the Lord God be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth (Micah 1:2–3).

The prophetic ministry of Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, spanned three Judean kings: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. God, from His headquarters, proclaimed judgment upon northern and southern Israel for their idolatry and rebellion. This came to fruition through the invasions of Assyria and Babylon, respectively. The specific cities and towns that were worthy of blame included Jerusalem, Shaphir, Gath, Lachish, and Adullam.

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).

Paul began this epistle in a dichotomous manner. Chapter 1 emphasizes Christ’s divinity, while chapter 2 emphasizes His humanity. Besides merely adopting our faulty frames, He suffered and ultimately died, yet defeated the prince of death and was glorified and honored by the Father. Establishing this kinship with our race through the incarnation makes Jesus qualified to stand on our behalf in front of the celestial throne.

RELATED ARTICLE: Restoring the Sanctuary

We have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,  a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man (Hebrews 8:1–2).

This short chapter, a good portion of which quotes Jeremiah 31, portrays a bilateral contrast between the earthly sanctuary and the old covenant and the heavenly sanctuary and the new covenant. The latter are superior. Though the former played valuable roles in teaching gospel truths, they had their limits. For what it’s worth, verse 4 alludes to the fact that Jesus’ priesthood strayed from Aaron’s in that He was not of Levitical ancestry.

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne (Revelation 8:3).

As we know, Revelation is highly symbolic, and the churches, seals, and trumpets traipse similar, prophetic/historical ground. Chapter 8 begins with the breaking of the seventh seal, the details of which are much more succinct than those of the other six. Between this and the sounding of the first four trumpets, which include images like hail, fire, and astronomical abnormalities, we see an unmistakable depiction of priestly activity.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Heavenly Sanctuary

And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm (Revelation 11:19).

Yes, we have more symbolism. John received an old-fashioned ruler and the commission to measure God’s temple and altar. The Lord granted authority to two witnesses, who prophesied for 1,260 days.

In the end, the beast from the bottomless pit slew them, and the people rejoiced over their deaths for three and a half days. However, God resuscitated them and took them to heaven, and the people faced severe comeuppance. The angel sounded the seventh trumpet, and the Lord reclaimed the kingdom.

As one of the more distinct doctrines of Adventism, the heavenly sanctuary and investigative judgment have been the subject of heavy ridicule and skepticism. Of course, I would encourage everyone to invest ample time into examining this vital truth and be prepared to propound a credible defense. With that said, this conclusion will lean closer to applicability than to apologetics.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Reality of the Heavenly Sanctuary

Actually, “applicability” is a keyword here. Christ’s atonement on the cross was complete, but not completed. At Calvary, He satisfied the demands of the law and its breach. However, becoming our substitute and providing forgiveness for our trespasses was the beginning of the plan of salvation, not the end of it. Jesus, in His priestly role, applies His blood to our records so that we may be declared innocent and free from sin’s penalty. He also applies His life to us so that we may be transformed into His image and freed from sin’s power.

Finally, upon delineating, through the evidence of transformation or lack thereof, who is safe to welcome into paradise, the Lord will whisk His people away from this unraveling globe and forever free us from sin’s presence.

It is my prayerful hope that Proof-texts in Context has thus far edified each of you and enhanced your walks with our Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t hesitate to offer honest feedback, as this will assist Compass and me in evaluating the potential extension of this series. I also recommend that you maintain the momentum of this regimen within your personal chambers as you continue your deep dives into the Word of God.

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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.