01: The Heavenly Sanctuary – Thought Starters
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[Thought questions for The Heavenly Sanctuary October 2, 2013]

Image © James Work from GoodSalt.com

Image © James Work from GoodSalt.com

Part I

Portrait of Love. Two German brothers in the 15th century planned to rise above the poverty that threatened to destroy their dream. With 18 children, parental help was highly unlikely. The plan sent Albert to work in the mines to support Albrecht, who would attend a fine art school. When Albrecht completed his studies, he would return the favor by supporting Albert’s education; however, when the time came to send Albert to Art school, he could not go. His hands had been smashed and abused so greatly by the work in the mines, that he knew he could never be an artist. Filled with emotion and gratitude Albrecht Durer painted a picture of his brother’s hands. Known as the “Praying Hands” it is a portrait of love, sacrifice, and gratitude. How does the cross give us a picture of love and sacrifice? How does the sanctuary broaden our understanding of the cross as a model or teaching tool? How does God use the sanctuary as a living picture to show love and sacrifice?

Dwelling. Most job applications request your address, the place where you can be found when needed. 1 Kings 8:49 tells us where God dwells, He hears our prayers, including our supplications or requests, and maintains our rights as His people. “Dwelling” can take on a broader meaning than mere “living.” Dwelling may include lingering over or thinking very hard about something. Does thinking of God as ‘dwelling’ where He may hear our audible or inaudible prayers, dwelling on them to our benefit broaden or diminish our concept of His abilities? How excited the first persons to have a telephone in their homes and businesses must have been! We have marched along quickly from that moment. Presently, we can be contacted anywhere in the world, at any time, with the swipe or touch of the finger. No longer is communication limited to our “dwelling.” It travels with us in our pockets, hands, ears, purses, etc. We are accessible on a boat, in a home, in an airplane, a church social, or wherever we are. However, we do have limits. Do the limits of earthly technology apply to God? How do the advances in technology in the past, present, and predictable future help us to come to terms with a God who lives, dwells, and yet is accessible everywhere? 

The Throne. Appearing before an earthly king always comes with risks. She knew this and yet she had to go. How different it was to appeal to this king, than to the King she’d prayed to for the last few days. She trusted that King, but this one? He’d taken the wrong counsel before., so she wasn’t so sure. Her attitude was, ‘If I perish, I perish!’. The Eastern Group encountered a superior King after having an audience in the throne room of King Herod. Their directions were changed., so they did not return to King Herod, but went home a different way. How does the character of God who is robed in majesty, holiness and righteousness compare with earthly kings’ characters? Ahasuerus, Herod, Manasseh, Ahab, and others? Ps. 146:3 tells us which king is trustworthy. In terms of authority and fairness which king would it be?

Part II

God’s church in heaven. Do you call the place where you worship every week a “sanctuary”? How do you think the ancient Jewish people felt when they approached the literal tabernacle for Sabbath services? Does it sometimes seem that God went to great lengths to reveal Himself and His plan for dealing with sin to his desert family? Does God need a throne? Or should the question be, Why do we need for our God to have a throne? What does the throne symbolize? The descriptions in Revelation 4 and 5 describing the heavenly sanctuary point back to the Old Testament sanctuary. Since that time period has ended, what importance does the sanctuary have for us today?

God’s heavenly judgment. What is the difference between the throne room and the court room in heaven? You’ve been caught speeding and decide to go to court, hoping for a lighter sentence. After describing in almost tearful tones why you were in such a hurry and how careful you were, the officer who pulled you over adds his testimony to yours. Then the judge issues his ruling. “Case dismissed,” he barks, and the judgment is over. Does that experience bear any resemblance to the final judgment? What are the major differences? If you know Jesus has forgiven you, how fearful should you be at the judgment? Do you ever worry about that final judgment? Should you?

Salvation is here.  Does God ever leave the heavenly sanctuary? Does God inhabit a single bit of space marked clearly by boundaries? Can He minister to our needs in the heavenly sanctuary even as He continues His ministry to those who still stumble in darkness? As you “walk” through the passages of Revelation 1:12-20, 8:2-6, 11:10 and 15:5-8, can you put on your “imagination glasses” and “see” the symbols on display there for you to review? Who invented the imagery? Can you obtain a blessing from each symbol there described? How much symbolism will there be in heaven? Or do you know?

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01: The Heavenly Sanctuary – Thought Starters — 9 Comments

  1. Is the santuary all of heaven or will there be a special part in heaven called the santuary set aside for worship?

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    • Norda, the answer to your question is yes or maybe option 3, 4, or 5 . . .

      The point is that we really don't know. I can tell you what I believe which is different from what others believe but it is really all guess work no matter what we come up with.

      For me the Heavenly Sanctuary is really just a teaching tool, an object lesson for those in Heaven just like the earthly sanctuary is for us. That means that I will not argue against a literal sanctuary but neither do I view it from the standpoint of a piece of architecture. I have arrived at that opinion from both the Bible and what Ellen White has to say about what the angels know. We can see this through Peter's understanding that, "To them (old testament prophets) it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things which angels desire to look into" (1 Pet. 1:12 NKJV, emphasis mine). Ellen White explains, "Satan is a deceiver. When he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully discern his character" (Christ's Object Lessons, p 72.2) and again concerning Christ's first advent, "But not alone for His earthborn children was this revelation given. Our little world is the lesson book of the universe. God's wonderful purpose of grace, the mystery of redeeming love, is the theme into which "angels desire to look," and it will be their study throughout endless ages" (Desire of Ages, p 19.2). It was the Gospel as seen through the life of Jesus that was of interest to angels because they did not yet really understand the character of God or that of His arch enemy, Satan nor did they completely understand a lot of other things.

      We often think that angels have all the answers and know everything about the plan of salvation but that is not true. As Ellen White understood the situation she wrote concerning what would happen after the cross, "The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken. Yet Satan was not then destroyed. The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great controversy" (Desire of Ages, p 761.2). So to me they needed an object lesson from the beginning just like we do and the one in Heaven provided that until the one on earth was built where the actual sacrifices could be studied to further understand how God was going to take care of the problem of sin.

      With this view in mind it really doesn't matter what size it is. It could be just a relatively small model or something that we can lose ourselves in or it could be like a computer generated virtual reality display which shouldn't be too hard for us in this age of computerization to imagine. I think what is important is that the sanctuary shows us the various phases of ministry and our relationship to them and the rest of God's intelligent creation.

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      • [Moderator note: Please use your full name in comments on this site.]

        Dear Brother I would recommend humbly that you go over the lesson that is called a Place set apart that is part of this weeks lesson it will bring clarity to you. Please read the bible texts on this day as well.

        “You will bring them in and plant them
        In the mountain of Your inheritance,
        In the place, O LORD, which You have made
        For Your own dwelling,
        The sanctuary, O Lord,
        Which Your hands have established” (NKJV).

        God made and His hands have established. Just like heavens and earth we live on.

        Exodus 25 tells us what Moses saw in order for him to do on earth.

        The Bible is Gods word that brings light in a time of darkness.

        May The Lord lead us all to a deeper understanding of His Word.

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        • Zannie, thank you for your effort to correct me as I am not at all perfect and have made serious errors in the past. I agree that “The Bible is Gods word that brings light in a time of darkness.”

          Perhaps I am overlooking something that you see, an inconsistency between what I say and what the Bible says. It is just that I can’t see any conflict. If you could be a bit more specific then it would give me an opportunity to see what you see. If I am wrong then I will acknowledge it, if I feel that I have said nothing wrong then I will explain why.

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    • The Sanctuary is essentially two rooms with several items in it that represent the plan of salvation in symbolic form. A throne in the context of what we are talking about is the place from which God rules. Can the sanctuary be where God's throne is? Yes. But we need to understand that the plan of salvation calls for the symbolism to be realised in our own hearts. God wants to be enthroned in our hearts and our hearts should be a sanctuary to him. The really important bit is that all the symbolism and metaphors are really trying to teach us something.

      What is the use of the ark of the covenant if we choose not to obey? What is the use of the altar of sacrifice if we ignore Christ's sacrifice for us? What is the use of a throne in heaven if we do not let God rule in our lives?

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  2. we know that there's an earthly sanctuary, and for us, we believe that its just a copy of what is in heaven. we know also that the purpose of the sanctuary in Moses time is to cleanse them from their sins, so my question is, if the purpose of the sanctuary is to cleanse them from their sins,what is the purpose of the sanctuary in heaven? does it mean that there's a sin in heaven?

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    • Mark, to answer your questions I would like to offer what Hebrews says:

      For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Heb 10:1-4 NKJV)

      The earthly sanctuary built by Moses was a type, a teaching tool, that symbolically represents reality. Jesus is the real means by which we become clean; doing things in the earthly sanctuary couldn’t do it. Doing those things was a expression of faith in Jesus who could.

      Concerning your second question, no, there is no sin in Heaven. If there was then Jesus would have no argument in the controversy with Satan. What I think we need to keep in mind is that the sanctuary is primarily symbolic of ministry and tells us how Jesus is taking care of the sin problem. If we start making inflexible equivalents between the earthy and Heavenly then we will eventually end up with a theological mess and a pile of questions that make the whole matter look ridiculous. For instance, is Jesus physically sacrificing Himself continually in Heaven as the Lamb of God or is He sprinkling His blood on an altar of burnt offering and before the veil every day? Do things die in Heaven? If not then where do the sacrifices come in?

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  3. Hi Mark,

    I believe that the earthly sanctuary was intended to teach the plan of salvation in sort of a sand box format.

    I'm glad you recognize that the purpose of the earthly sanctuary was to cleanse the people from sin. And that mirrors the purpose of the heavenly sanctuary - to cleanse people from sin, i.e. to cleanse us from sin. In His ministry Christ is seeking to cleanse His church so that it will be "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27)

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