Fundamental Belief No. 24 opens with the following words:
“There is a sanctuary in heaven – the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man” (see Heb. 8:2). One of the matter-of-fact assumptions of the Bible is the existence of a heavenly sanctuary (Ps. 11:4).
Read Hebrews 8:1-5. What is the main point taught in these verses?
The earthly sanctuary is portrayed as a type, or pattern, of the heavenly; this means that, at a minimum, the former has some functional correspondence with the latter. The earthly sanctuary, then, teaches us a lot about the heavenly; this, despite that whatever the earthly sanctuary meant to the people of Israel, its true significance was found in the heavenly and what was to happen there. Through the efficacy of sacrifices and priestly ministry, the earthly model taught us about the realities of the heavenly sanctuary. The ministrations of the earthly sanctuary were God’s means of teaching the principles of salvation to His people, a foreshadowing of the ‘real thing’ – which is Christ’s ministry (Heb. 9:9-15), both through His death and then intercession in the heavenly sanctuary.
Ministry in the earthly sanctuary taught that while the shedding of blood was necessary (Heb. 9:22) to atone for sin, there was still the need for a priestly mediator between sinners and a Holy God as a result of that shed blood. The ministry of the priest in the Most Holy Place cleansed the sanctuary of sin and required affliction and repentance on the part of the people. Thus, judgment also was highlighted as an integral part of the total ministry of salvation.
What is fascinating, too, is what Hebrews 8:1 and 2 say, which is that the goal of all the previous seven chapters in the book is to point the reader to the reality of the heavenly sanctuary and the position of Christ as our High Priest in that heavenly sanctuary. It’s hard to understand how anyone could not see the great significance Hebrews gives to Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as part of the entire plan of salvation. Nothing in the verses indicates that the sanctuary in heaven, much less Christ’s ministry there, should be seen as metaphorical or symbolic. In fact, verse 5 makes it clear that the earthly sanctuary – a real structure with real priests and real sacrifices – was only a ‘shadow’ of the reality of what Christ is doing for us in the heavenly sanctuary.