"Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God?" Psalm 77:13. How many times have we read this in the Psalms and not realize its significance as it relates to our salvation. How few even bother to study the typical services of the sanctuary as if nothing is really there. Yet, there are many gems of truth that we could glean if we but pause for a moment and discover the beauty that is there. There definitely is a parallel between the services in the earthly sanctuary and the heavenly sanctuary--all centers on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Solution to the sin problem (broken law). By understanding what they did back then, we would understand better what's going on in heaven right now, what Jesus our High Priest is doing, and what we need to be doing while the work is going on in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary.
In Exodus 25:8 God said: "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." God gave Moses the blueprint for the building of this sanctuary which would be a replica of the sanctuary in heaven. Moses was instructed to make sure that the blueprint was copied exactly as shown. God had reasons for everything in the sanctuary--the furniture, the utensils, etc. All had spiritual significance in His dealing with sin and salvation.
In the wilderness, the sanctuary was situated in the center of the encampment of the Israelites. There are three main parts--the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The first thing you see in the courtyard of the sanctuary is the Altar of Burnt Offering where the animals were sacrificed, and the some of the blood were sprinkled before the veil transferring the sins from the repentant souls to the animals and then to the sanctuary. The Bible says "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Heb 9:22)."
Then, there is the Laver where cleansing took place. The priests washed their hands and feet before entering the sanctuary and ministering before the Lord. Then, of course, there is the Door to enter the sanctuary. Jesus said: "I am the Door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6).
The first apartment of the sanctuary is called the Holy Place. In this apartment there are three items--the Table of Shewbread, the golden Candlestick with its seven golden lamps, and the golden Altar of Incense. The Table of Shewbread represented and pointed to Jesus as the Living Bread that came from Heaven (1 Cor 11:23,24; John 6:51). The Candlestick, again, represented Jesus, the Light of the World (John 9:5); the oil for the lamps represented the Holy Spirit of God. The Altar of Incense represented the prayers of God's people continually ascending to God (Ps 141:2; Rev 5:8).
The second apartment is called the Most Holy Place. In this apartment, there is only the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark is made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the Moral Law of Ten Commandments. The Lid of the Ark is called the Mercy Seat. Above the Mercy Seat and looking down at the Mercy Seat are two beautifully carved cherubims. Between these two cherubims is the very Presence of God.
So what is the significance of all this? Why should we even bother studying the sanctuary services? Here's why. In the sanctuary services you find the prophecy of the Gospel compacted and laid out kindergarten style so all could see and understand what is happening in regards to their salvation from sin (breaking God's eternal law), and what God will ultimately do with sin, sinners, and Satan, the orginator of sin. God's way of salvation is found in the sanctuary services. "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary (Ps 77:13).
We can trace the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in the same exact pattern as laid out in the sanctuary. The very first step in their deliverance was the Passover. This required an animal sacrificed and the blood applied on the door so that the angel of death will pass over the household and spare the firstborn. This was analogous to the Altar of Burnt Offering in the courtyard. The crossing of the Red Sea was the Laver, the giving of the manna in the desert was analogous to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life from Heaven. The golden Candlestick represented Jesus as the Light of the World, etc. See 1 Cor 10:1-4.
We can also trace our own personal journey from the bondage of sin in the same pattern as that of the sanctuary. Prompted by the Holy Spirit we realized our need of Christ, our need to surrender all on the Altar of Sacrifice in the courtyard. At the Altar of Sacrifice we confessed our sins and claimed His promise in 1 John 1:9 that "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Here we committed our lives totally to God and we made Him Lord of our lives.
Then, to publicly confess our inward experience with the Lord, we desire to be baptized. The Bible says that "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved." This step in our salvation journey is comparable to the Laver in the courtyard where the priests washed before entering the sanctuary. Then, of course, there's the Door to the sanctuary, and we know that Jesus is the Door; He is the Way to the Father.
Then by faith we enter the Holy place. Here are the Table of Shewbread and the goldlen Candlestick which are representations of Jesus the Bread of Life and the Light of the World. The oil for the lamps, of course, represents the Holy Spirit. The golden Altar of Incense represents our prayers to God. Figuratively speaking, it's in the Holy Place where we pray, read our Bibles, ask for the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, and help us reflect God's character in our lives and to further reflect God's light to the world.
In the typical services, the Day of Atonement came at the end of the year. The High Priest went in to the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood of the Lord's goat before and upon the Mercy Seat to atone for the broken law within the Ark. This was a most solemn time for the people. It was a day of judgment. If sins were confessed prior to that day, the people were saved. If not, they were cut off from among God's people (Lev 23:27-30). It was a day of heartfelt confession, repentance and earnest prayer. The High Priest cleansed the earthly sanctuary by placing the accumulated sins of Israel upon the scapegoat which was led out of the camp by a fit man.
Comparably speaking, we are living in the antitypical Day of Atonement. Hebrews 9 describes Jesus' ministry in the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary. As the High Priest in the typical services went in to the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood of the Lord's goat before and upon the Mercy Seat to atone for the broken law within the Ark. Jesus pleads His own blood before His Father for us. He's making atonement for the broken law within the Ark. Yes, Jesus is dealing with our violations of His eternal moral law! John the Revelator saw the Ark of the Covenant containing the moral law of ten commandments in Heaven (Rev 15:5). As our High Priest, Jesus is presenting the fragrant righteousness of His own character in place of our character before His Father. What a precious work Jesus is doing for us!
While this work is going on, we must search deep into our hearts and confess our sins and make things right with one another and with God. When we confess our sins, they are transferred to the heavenly sanctuary for blotting out. Just before Jesus returns to this earth, He will cleanse the heavenly sanctuary. He will blot the records of sin in the books. The sins of God's people will then be placed upon the scapegoat, Satan, who will be cast into the lake of fire.
Maybe you're asking: "What about the sins of infidels? What happen to them?" The sins of the wicked are not in heaven for blotting. When is the last time you hear a wicked person confess his sins to God? Unconfessed sins are not in the heavenly sanctuary for blotting out. They are upon the heads of the transgessors, and when Jesus comes again, they will be consumed by the brightness of His coming (2 Thes 2:8). Sin, sinners and God cannot co-exist.
Dear folk, can you not see the absurdity of the teaching that the moral law of ten commandments is done away with at the Cross? The whole system of types and shadows and the actual death of the Creator of the universe would not be necessary had it not been for SIN, the transgression of God's eternal moral law. Sin is serious business. It put Jesus on the Cross.
Although God loves sinners, He hates the sin they commit, and He desires them to repent and put it away from their lives. Did you know that every time we break God's law, we crucify the Son of God afresh? See Hebrews 6:6. This is also why the Apostle Paul wrote under inspiration: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid...(Romans 6:1,2)" In the death of the Jesus Christ, Heaven gave its most costly treasure!
The Cross and Its Shadow by Stephen N. Haskell is an excellent book on the Sanctuary. Here's the author's preface: "Eternity can never fathom the depth of love revealed in the cross of Calvary. It was there that the infinite love of Christ and the unbounded selfishness of Satan stood face to face. The entire system of Judaism, with its types and symbols, was a shadow of the cross, extending from Calvary back to the gate of Eden, and contained a compacted prophecy of the Gospel.
"At the present day the person who comes to the study of the New Testament through the interpreting lights of the types and symbols of the Levitical services, finds a depth and richness in the study that are found in no other way. It is impossible to have exalted views of Christ's atoning work if the New Testament is studied without a previous knowledge of the deep, bloodstained foundations in the Old Testament gospels of Moses and the prophets.
"In every sacrifice, Christ's death was shown. In every cloud of incense His righteousness ascended. By every jubilee trumpet His name was sounded. In the awful mystery of the holy of holies His glory dwelt.
"In the light shining from the sanctuary, the books of Moses, with their detail of offerings and sacrifices, their rites and ceremonies, usually considered so meaningless and void of interest, become radiant with consistency and beauty...
"Every type used in the entire sacrificial system was designed by God to bear resemblance to some spiritual truth. The value of these types consisted in the fact that they were chosen by God Himself to shadow forth the different phases of the complete plan of redemption, made possible by the death of Christ. The likeness between type and antitype is never accidental, but is simply a fulfillment of the great plan of God."
Here's more information on the cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary.