Quarter 4, 2013, Introduction:
The Picture of Salvation
by: Martin Pröbstle
Unquestionably, the greatest revelation of the love and character of God was at the cross, where the Lord offered Himself in the person of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of a world that never had to sin to begin with. To help us to understand better what this great sacrifice meant, God devised the earthly sanctuary, a pictorial representation of the plan of salvation. This earthly sanctuary, however, only modeled the heavenly one, which is the true center of God’s presence and of His activity in the universe.
When God established the sanctuary on earth, He used it as a teaching tool. The Israelite sanctuary and its services displayed important truths about redemption, about the character of God, and about the final disposition of sin.
The sanctuary formed the template to help us to understand Jesus as our Sacrifice and High Priest. When John the Baptist told his disciples that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36, NKJV), they understood what John meant because they understood something of the sanctuary. The book of Hebrews presupposed a knowledge about the ancient Israelite priesthood so that the original recipients of the letter could grasp what Jesus was doing for them in heaven. Sanctuary terminology was also used to teach truths about Christian living. In short, knowledge of the sanctuary system became a foundation for the new message of salvation in Christ.
However, throughout much of the Christian era, the sanctuary message was largely forgotten. Not until the middle of the nineteenth century, when Seventh-day Adventists began to appreciate God’s paradigm of salvation anew including the message of the pre-Advent judgment, was a fresh emphasis placed on the sanctuary.
“The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great advent movement and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 423.
As the key for a complete system of truth, the sanctuary and Christ’s priestly ministry became the basis for the Seventh-day Adventist faith—and still remains so. In fact, the sanctuary message is the Adventists’ unique doctrine. At the same time, no other doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with the possible exception of the Sabbath) has faced so many challenges. Fortunately, throughout the years, these challenges have not only been withstood, they have increased our understanding of this crucial teaching and have made us, as a people, stronger in our understanding of salvation.
Ellen G. White recommended focusing our highest attention on the sanctuary because “the sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects.”— The Great Controversy, p. 488. Thus, we can “exercise the faith which is essential at this time” and “occupy the position which God designs [us] to fill.”— The Great Controversy, p. 488.
The sanctuary discloses the heart of God. Studying the sanctuary will bring us close to the presence of the Supreme and to the personality of our Savior, and draw us into a deeper personal relationship with Him.
Hence, our study for this quarter: God’s sanctuary, both His earthly model and the heavenly original.
Martin Pröbstle lives with his wife, Marianne, and their two sons, Max and Jonathan, in Austria. He is a professor of Hebrew Bible at Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, Austria.
The Heavenly Sanctuary
Memory Text: “ ‘Then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause’ ” (1 Kings 8:49, NKJV).
Where does God live?”
The innocent question of a six-year-old could be quite perplexing. This question could easily lead to more difficult ones, such as, “If God lives in one place, how is it possible that He is everywhere?” Or, “Does God need a dwelling place?” Or, “If He doesn’t need one, why does He have one?” Or, “If He does need one, why does He need it?”
Good questions, and, given the little we know (and the lot we don’t), they are not so easy to answer. Nevertheless, we can answer with what we do know. As Seventh-day Adventists, we know from the Bible that God dwells in heaven, that He is actively working in our behalf “up there,” and that the center of His work is in the heavenly sanctuary.
Scripture is clear: the heavenly sanctuary is a real place, and from it we can learn truths about the character and work of our God. Thus the focus of this week’s lesson is the heavenly sanctuary and what God is doing there for us, because what He is doing in the sanctuary is, indeed, for us.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 5.