The Sanctuary
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

1 – God’s ‘Show and Tell’

Hebrews 8:4-6:

If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle:  “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

The New Testament writers and the apostles were all Jews, except, of course, for Luke.  When they passed away from the scene, the leadership of the church came into the hands of the Gentiles, mainly Greeks, who were called Church Fathers.  They saw very little value in the sanctuary doctrine.  To them it belonged to the Jews or to the Old Covenant.  Gradually, with a few exceptions, the sanctuary doctrine became obsolete until the nineteenth century, when a newly formed church by the name of Seventh-day Adventists resurrected it and restored its significance to the Christian church.

Now even though we claim that this doctrine is the unique contribution of Adventism to Christian theology, we have to be honest.  Our sanctuary doctrine has made very little positive impact on Christendom.  In fact, much of what we hear and read from non-Adventist scholars about Adventist doctrine on the sanctuary is negative.  We need to ask, Why, is it our fault or theirs?  If it is our fault, what are the reasons?

A question that all Christians should ask is, “What is the relevance of the sanctuary message to the Christian church?”  The sanctuary truth is not outmoded or redundant to the Christian church, because the teaching of the New Testament is often couched in sanctuary language.  The teachings constitute a type of almost the whole range of the New Testament.  God Himself placed much value and importance in the sanctuary message as a type that revealed the truth of His redemptive activity in Christ.

According to Hebrews 9:8, the sanctuary doctrine was designed by the Holy Spirit to lead us into a clearer understanding of the plan of salvation:

The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.

Could it be that we have made the same mistake as the Jews?  We have put emphasis on buildings and furniture and rituals — the Jews on the earthly, we on the heavenly.  Therefore, we have made no impact.

God gave the sanctuary service to give an outline of the plan of salvation from beginning to end.  In other words, the sanctuary is God’s Model Master Plan of salvation.  It is His “show and tell.”  When I was an architect, one of the hardest things that I faced was to get my clients to visualize in three dimensions what they saw on a flat piece of paper.  At Andrews University, they had just finished the science complex and the president of the university with a Ph.D. faced the architect.  He pointed to the two rooms that were sitting up there on top of that building and he said, “I didn’t realize that those two rooms were there.”  He didn’t like it because it gave the building an ugly look.  The architect replied, “It is in the plan.”  Very often when an architect does a big project, he will make a model.  For example, when we began building the new college in Kenya, the architect, who was from Canada, brought to us a model of the finished project, so we could see in three dimensions what the buildings and the campus would look like when it was finished.

The sanctuary is God’s visual aid of the plan of salvation and I believe that we will need that visual aid until the plan of salvation is finished, which is not until we go to heaven.  Visual aids are extremely important to get concepts.  In Psalm 63:2 we read:

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

God’s way of salvation is revealed in the sanctuary.  The last part of Psalms 29:9 reads:

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Or we could say that in His sanctuary everyone or everything, the furniture, the rituals, and the priests speak of His glory.  The glory of God is His self-emptying love on behalf of the whole world.

In Hebrews 4:2a, the writer makes this statement concerning the Jews of the exodus:

For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did....

“They” here refers to the Jews of the exodus.  The context brings it out clearly.

What Paul is saying here is that the gospel was preached to the Jews of the exodus and it was preached through the sanctuary service.  It is “God’s Master Model Plan.”  A master plan is one that gives you a view of a project in its long-range development in its different stages.  The sanctuary is telling us the different stages of development in the plan of our redemption and our salvation.

The plan of salvation can be divided into three different phases.  The first phase is the phase of the promise.  The moment Adam sinned, God came with a promise and, from Adam right up to Christ, we have the promise phase.  During this phase, the sanctuary service was there as a practice.  God gave the sanctuary service to keep in mind a promise.  And, of course, when Christ came onto the scene, the practice was no longer meaningful.  The truth remained always meaningful, but Christ brought to an end the promise when He brought the fulfillment.  The first phase was the promise stage when it was actually practiced:  the ritual — the daily and the yearly.

The book of Hebrews brings this out:  that when Christ came, He did away with the first and established the second.  The second is the fulfillment is the central issue of the sanctuary doctrine.  It should be emphasized that whatever was promised is fulfilled in the holy history of Christ.  Whatever Christ is doing now as a priest is based on the finished work of His earthly mission.  Therefore, even though the second phase was the shortest — thirty-three years, from the birth to the ascension of Christ — it is the most important phase of the plan of salvation.  Hebrews 8:4-6:

If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle:  “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Hebrews 6:18-20:

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

In addition, the Day of Atonement is important because, on that day, the Lord’s goat was slain, which points to the cross.  Also, the basis of the cleansing of the sanctuary is on Jesus Christ and Him crucified and strong emphasis is put on that area.  Then, also important, we see that the third phase is the reality phase between the ascension to the New Earth.  This is the final stage when God or Christ as our High Priest is making real in our experience what God has already fulfilled in His Son Jesus Christ.  What Christ has fulfilled in His thirty-three years of His earthly mission has to be made real and effective in our experience.

We will now look at a few texts in the New Testament.  The first one is in Romans 3, showing the transition from the promise to the fulfillment.  Romans 3:21:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

Paul has just told us, in dealing with the sin problem, that by the works of the law nobody can be saved.  All the law can do is give a knowledge of sin.  “But now ... the righteousness of God has been made known” — that is what the sanctuary will reveal to us:  not our righteousness but the righteousness of God.  It was planned by Him, promised by Him, and fulfilled by Him.  And it is made real in our experience by Him alone.  But now the righteousness of God without the law, without our contribution, is shown by the law and the prophets.

Notice the past tense of “has been made known.”  Before that it was promised by the law and the prophets, but now it is no longer promised because it is a reality.  It is fulfilled and made known.  The righteousness of God which was promised in the sanctuary service is now history.  The Germans have a beautiful word for that:  “Heilsgeschichte.”  It simply means “salvation history.”  That is what Christ came for.  He came to fulfill the promise that God had been making through the Jews to His people and to the world for all those years.

Even though Christ fulfilled our redemption and the redemption for the whole human race, that redemption has to be made real, applied, made effective, and it has to be carried out in the history of this world.  And so, in the very first sermon that was preached by the New Testament church at Pentecost, we read these words in Acts 2:32-36:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.  For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord:  “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:  God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

This is a good statement here to prove that man does not go to heaven after his death.  Here is David not yet ascended into the heavens (verses 34-36):

For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord:  “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Christ is now reigning in heaven exalted on the right hand of God until all the enemies of the gospel and all the enemies of God’s children will be placed under His footstool.  Christ has to reign because now He has the authority.  Before the cross, God did not have the legal right to save us.  Paul brings this out in Romans 3:24-25:

...And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished....

Before the cross, God forgave sin out of His forbearance (that is, out of His kindness) but, since the cross, God has the legal right to forgive us and to save us even though we are still sinners.  That is the good news of the sanctuary.

We have a Redeemer who has ascended and is at the right hand of God to save us.  In Hebrews 10:12-13 we read:

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins...

Keep that “for all time” in mind.  He did not die only for your past sins.  He died for every sin that you have committed and you will commit until your dying day — one sacrifice for all sins forever.  Continuing the verse:

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.

The New Testament does identify Christ with the sanctuary.  The sanctuary service, with its buildings and its furniture, was not given by God primarily to point to a building in heaven.  The purpose of the sanctuary was to point to Jesus Christ and redemption through Him.  We must realize that Jesus Christ is the reality of the sanctuary.  It is Jesus Christ crucified, ascended, and sitting on the right hand of God making intercession for us.

The Jews, however, perverted the gospel truth.  Instead of letting the sanctuary doctrine point to Jesus Christ, they put emphasis on their building.  In the days of Jesus Christ, they were very proud of their temple, which was a replacement of the exodus sanctuary.  It was much more elaborately built, with beautiful stones, but it was basically the same style as the earthly sanctuary of the exodus.

The Jews of today are still crying at the wailing wall, pleading for God to restore the temple.  Jesus said in John 2:19:

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

He talking about Himself, but they thought it was the building because that is where they went wrong.  Verse 20:

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

It took us that long to build this beautiful temple and you can raise it up in three days?  Verse 21:

But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

The disciples did not see the truth because they were victims to Judaism.  They did not see the truth until after the resurrection.  Verse 22a:

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.

They remembered this text and they saw the true meaning of the sanctuary.  The rest of verse 22:

Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

The word “Scripture” here refers to the Old Testament because the New Testament did not exist at that time.  Now they realized that the sanctuary service and the building and the furniture was given by God as a visual aid as His “show and tell” of the plan of salvation which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

In Exodus 25:8, which is the first statement we have about the sanctuary, God speaks to Moses.  He says:

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

Compare John 1:14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In the Greek there are three words for the word “dwell.”  In this text, it is the same word as “tabernacled.”  He “sanctuaried” or “tabernacled” among us.  And we beheld the shekinah, or the glory of God, in Jesus Christ.  Psalms 29 says that, in the sanctuary (temple), everything revealed His glory:

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.  The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.  He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.  The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.  The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.  And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”  The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

That glory was revealed in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the reality of the sanctuary.  The type met anti-type when Christ came.  We read in John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Christ is the way; therefore, He is the fulfillment of the sanctuary.  To point to the cross of Christ, we have a slain lamb in the sanctuary.  John the Baptist says in John 1:29:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

In the sanctuary there was the consecrated bread and, in John 6:51, Jesus said:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

In John 6:53 Jesus said:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no [eternal] life in you.”

Jesus’ humanity was the sanctuary and, in that humanity, He performed the perfect will of God that we, in Him, may stand righteous before God.  Therefore, our only hope is in Jesus Christ, the bread of life.

In Hebrews 10:19-20, the writer links the flesh of Christ with the curtain:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body....

In the earthly sanctuary there was a veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.  When the priest functioned daily, he could not see God because of this veil.  All he could see was the glory that shone above the veil.  The priest was a sinner in the earthly sanctuary so here was always that veil between a holy God and a sinful priest.  When he went into the Most Holy Place once a year, he had to offer a special sacrifice for himself and his family.  And the Talmud, which is a Jewish commentary, tells us that when the high priest went into the Most Holy Place once a year, they tied a rope around his waist so that if he did not come out (nobody ever dared go in) they would pull him out.  There was always a barrier.  At the cross that veil was rent from top to bottom which signified that the barrier between sinful man and a holy God was removed, and we now have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  This is the meaning of the priesthood of all believers.  There is no need to go through another human priest.  Through Jesus Christ we all have direct access to God because He has opened the way for us.

We read in 1 John 2:2:

He [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Look at the words “atoning sacrifice.”  Some translations use the word “propitiation” or “expiation.”  The word in the original is the same word used in the Septuagint for the “mercy seat.”  The law condemns us but Christ is the covering; He is the mercy seat, therefore, He is the atoning sacrifice.  So when we have fallen down, John tells us that we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  Remember, we don’t fall down because we want to but because we are still weak and we have not learned how to walk one hundred percent in the Spirit.  The good news is that He is not only the mercy seat for our sins but for the sins of the whole world.  The only problem is that the whole world doesn’t know it.  They do not know it and cannot know it if there is no one to preach it.

God has called every believer to tell the world the good news that we have a mercy seat.  Most people in the Third World think that Americans are the happiest people in the world.  In fact, when I left Africa, the Africans said, “You are awfully lucky, you are going to the land of milk and money.”  But five years in this country has opened my eyes.  Material wealth doesn’t bring happiness.  I have never seen any country in the world, and I have been in most countries, except Australia and South America, where such little self-esteem is seen among the people.  In 1986, 500,000 — a half a million — teenagers attempted suicide in this country because they have no security.  They have no security at home because families are breaking up and they have no one to turn to.  The government is collecting our social security but it doesn’t look very prosperous for the future.  Our self-esteem should never be placed on the government, social security, welfare, our accomplishments, or our degrees but in Jesus Christ.  There we stand secure.  When we are secure in Christ, we will be able to stand anything.

When Idi Amin was playing havoc in Uganda, I was very disappointed in our people.  At that time, I was not an American citizen.  I was president of the college, but it was sad to see that our American missionaries could not take the pressure.  So they went to the U.S. Embassy and said “Please give us security.”  The ambassador kind of stretched his message and tried lying a little bit and said, “Don’t worry.  If there is any problem for the Americans, we have plenty of helicopters in Ethiopia to come and pick you up.”  And they felt secure because the government promised them security.  They were supposed to be missionaries — ambassadors of Jesus Christ!  What the ambassador did not tell, I discovered, because I was deported to Ethiopia, was that the helicopters were in Asmara, the other end of Ethiopia.  In no way could they ever make it to Uganda without refueling and there was no place to refuel.  But he gave them security by a little lie.  Our security is in Jesus Christ.  I remember telling my fellow missionaries, “You have the government to help you out.  What about the nationals?  What security are you going to give them if you don’t have any in Jesus Christ?”  We need to be established in Jesus Christ as our security.  One of these days the crisis will come to this country.  Our social security, our welfare, our banks will collapse and the credit card will have no value.  There will be no place to run for even the Third World is worse than here.

The sanctuary was the ark of the covenant.  As long as they were outside there was no hope, but the moment the Jew entered into the enclosure, the courtyard, he was secure in Christ.  The moment you enter into Christ by faith you become secure.  Let us get this clear picture of the plan of redemption from the beginning to end, with the help of the New Testament, which is the only correct interpretation of the sanctuary.  And I do not mean I do not include Ellen G. White.  She was given to us to lead us to the Word of God.  She said, “Don’t you ever use me from the pulpit.”  The Bible is the book she wanted us to preach from.  I use her in my private studies like you should do but, when you witness the truth, let it be from the Word of God.  The Bible is the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian.  It is my prayer that as we expound on this we will understand this truth.

My dealing with the sanctuary will come into two areas.  We must begin with the objective fact of the gospel in Jesus Christ.  Once we are clear on that, we will go to the subjective application.  You do not build a house first, you build the foundation.  Another foundation can no man lay than that which is already laid — that is Jesus Christ.  That is what Paul tells us in Corinthians and that is what the sanctuary tells us.  It begins with Jesus Christ and then only to those who accept Jesus Christ.  We can receive the blessings of it in detail.  May God help us as we begin this study of the sanctuary, God’s Master Model Plan of Salvation.

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