Gospel Issues in Adventism
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#9 – The Sanctuary Message

(John 2:18-22)

One of the major doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the sanctuary message.  This is how the main thrust of this fundamental doctrine is described:

There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man.  In it, Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross.  He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension.  In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2,300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry.  It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement.  ...The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and, therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection.  It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom.  This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus.

Not only has this unique doctrine of our church made no positive impact on the Christian church at large, but it has come under fire, first from non-Adventist scholars and, more recently, from some of our own scholars.  Does this mean we have been following cunningly devised fables?

My honest belief is that our pioneers who first formulated this doctrine from their study of the Bible, and which was later endorsed by Ellen G. White, were lead by God, in spite of their limitations.

Therefore, what we are going to do in the next four studies, as part of this series on the gospel issues in Adventism, is to carefully and honestly examine this doctrine on the sanctuary.  In this study, we will consider the sanctuary message itself and then, in the next three studies, examine [the events of] 1844 and the investigative judgment.

After the death of the apostles, the leadership of the church fell into the hands of the Gentile believers (Church Fathers).  They saw very little value in the sanctuary doctrine; to them it belonged to the Jewish dispensation. Consequently, the sanctuary truth became obsolete until the mid-19th Century when the Seventh-day Adventist Church brought it to the forefront.  It is our major theological contribution to Christendom.

Yet, as I already mentioned, its impact on has been both negative and controversial.  Why is this so?  Could it be that we have repeated the same mistake as the Jewish nation did?  [Read Acts 7:44-51.]

God’s purpose through the Sanctuary was not to point to buildings and furniture, even though there is a literal sanctuary in heaven, but to reveal His plan of salvation in Christ.  The Sanctuary is God’s master model plan of redemption.  Through it, He has revealed the whole plan of salvation from beginning to end — His earthly mission as well as His heavenly ministry.  It is His visual aid to clearly show mankind the various stages of our redemption, in and through His Son Jesus Christ.  It is His “show and tell.”

In the incarnation, God united the divinity of Christ to our corporate humanity that needed redeeming.  This qualified Him to be our Substitute and Representative.  Then, by His perfect life and sacrificial death, He fully redeemed mankind.  In the resurrection, Christ raised our humanity cleansed and glorified, which He took to heaven to represent us in His priestly ministry.

He will continue this High Priestly ministry in the heavenly Sanctuary until the Great Controversy is brought to an end, when sin will be eradicated and everlasting righteousness will be ushered in.  This, in a nutshell, is the whole purpose of the sanctuary message.  It is to give us humans a clear picture of the whole plan of salvation so that our faith in God and our future hope becomes fully established.

  1. The Sanctuary was God’s Master Model Plan of Salvation

    • Compare Exodus 25:8 with John 1:14.
    • Hebews 9:1-5, 10 describes the earthly sanctuary and its ceremonies.  This was the old or first covenant:  salvation in type.
    • Hebrews 10:5-10 describes the anti-type of the sanctuary message.  This is the new covenant:  salvation in reality.

    Unfortunately, the Jewish nation failed to see the real significance of the sanctuary model and, therefore, placed their emphasis on buildings and rituals rather then what these things pointed to.  This is the whole point Stephen made and which led to his martyrdom.  Christ tried to correct them [read John 2:19-22.] We must not repeat their mistake.

  2. Everything in the Sanctuary Pointed to Christ

    • Christ is the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world [John 1:29].
    • Christ is the light of the world that lightens every man [John 1:9-12; 8:12].
    • Christ is the living bread who came down from heaven to give us eternal life [John 6:32-51].
    • Christ is the mercy seat (propitiation), through whose redemption we have salvation full and complete [Romans 3:24-25].
    • Christ is our intercessor against the accusations of Satan [Hebrews 7:25].
    • Christ is the veil that bore our sins in His flesh [Hebrews 10:19-20].

  3. The Sanctuary Revealed the Fall and Restoration of Man

    • In Adam, humanity sinned, was defiled, and condemned to death.
    • In Christ, the same humanity was reconciled to God, cleansed from all defilement, and justified to life [read Romans 5:18].
    • Through faith in Christ, sinners experience salvation.

    This is the good news of the gospel and the truth of righteousness by faith.  All this was revealed in the Sanctuary model given to Moses:

    1. The Sanctuary was where God met sinners [read Exodus 25:22; 29:42-43].
      Today He meets us in Christ [read 2 Corinthians 5:19].
    2. The Sanctuary was where God revealed Himself to sinners [read Exodus 29:46].
      Today He reveals Himself to us in Christ [read John 14:7-9].
    3. The Sanctuary was where God dwelt with sinners [read Exodus 25:8; 29:45-46].
      Today He dwells with us in Christ [read Matthew 1:23; John 14:23].
    4. The Sanctuary was where God spoke to sinners [read Exodus 29:42; Leviticus 1:1].
      Today He speaks to us in Christ [read Hebrews 1:2; John 8:43, 47].
    5. The Sanctuary was where God accepted sinners [read Leviticus 1:4].
      Today He accepts us in Christ [read Ephesians 1:6].
    6. The Sanctuary was where God forgave sinners [read Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35].
      Today He forgives us in Christ [read Ephesians 1:7].

Too often our emphasis on the sanctuary message is our own subjective experience, whereas its main purpose is to point to the truth as it is in Christ.

Because of the sanctuary message, we have a total picture of the plan of redemption, from beginning to end.  Hence, we can be absolutely sure of the future.  This, in turn, gives us everlasting hope.

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