Where Is the Most Holy Place?
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Where is the most holy place? Is it a building on earth or in heaven? Or is it somewhere else?

Image © Phil McKay from GoodSalt.com

Image © Phil McKay from GoodSalt.com

While I was a child living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a tornado hit the surrounding area where I lived. Among the destruction was a Methodist church. That night on the news, I remember the Methodist pastor, saying in an interview, “The building has been destroyed but the church is just fine.” The pastor realized the church is not the building. The church is the people. As we study the sanctuary this quarter, that is a very important point to keep in mind. For example the climax of Christ’s ministry as our High Priest is not when the heavenly sanctuary building is cleansed, but when our hearts are cleansed!

In John 14 there is a wonderful promise that contains more than what appears on the surface.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3 NLT

The rooms Jesus is talking about are called “dwelling places” or “living rooms.”

In Exodus 25:8 God says,

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” 

The whole purpose of a sanctuary is so that God can live right with us. Now if Jesus were speaking of literal rooms in John 14, the question would be what is taking Him so long? He created the world in six days. Surely it does not take Him two thousand years to build literal living rooms. However, if He is preparing a place where He can live right with us, then He is not only preparing a place made of rocks and mortar. Yes, there are literal mansions prepared for us in heaven, but that is not what is taking Jesus two thousand years. What is taking so long is that He is working with hearts of stone, preparing those stony hearts to become a temple, a sanctuary where He can live right inside of us. So that we can always live and be right where Jesus is!

Seventh-day Adventists understand there is a literal sanctuary in heaven. Hebrews 8:1-2. We tell people that the earthly sanctuary was just symbolic of the heavenly sanctuary. True, but here is the catch. While both the earthly and heavenly sanctuaries are literal sanctuaries, they are both symbolic. The earthly sanctuary points to the work Jesus is doing in the heavenly sanctuary, while the heavenly sanctuary points to the work that Jesus is doing, not in a building, but in our hearts! Remember the wise Methodist preacher making a distinction between the building and the church? The church is not a building, it is a people. Likewise we must make the distinction between the building and the sanctuary. We are the sanctuary Jesus is ministering in and wants to cleanse for His eternal living area.

From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His temple……

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have taken possession of the heart. Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 161  

All that Jesus is accomplishing in the heavenly sanctuary He wants to accomplish in our hearts.

In the courtyard is where the altar was for the sacrifice. This is where the act of justification took place. This is also to take place in our hearts.

Justification takes place when I live a perfect life in Jesus. Jesus counts His perfect life as my perfect life, thus saving me from the penalty of sin which is death. Justification is my title to heaven. See Romans 5:10 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

Now while the altar in the courtyard is symbolic of the cross, many people say everything was accomplished and completed at the cross. Whoa! While the provision of a sacrifice was completed at the cross, the sanctuary does not end with the courtyard, where the sacrifice was provided. There are more exciting things to come.

When the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with the sword, out flowed blood and water. The blood was for our justification which took place inside the courtyard. The water was for our cleansing and sanctification.

The laver or wash basin in the earthly sanctuary was between the altar of sacrifice and the entrance to the holy place. So sanctification comes after the cleansing of justification. Jesus wants our hearts to be sanctified.

Revelation 10:7 NLT refers to the cleansing of the sanctuary and tells us God’s mysterious plan will be revealed. Iniquity is a mystery in how it developed inside a perfect angelic heart like Lucifer’s. This quarter we will be studying how the sanctuary reveals God’s mysterious plan of removing sin from human hearts.

Sanctification takes place as Jesus lives His victorious life in us. Thus we are being saved from sin by the power of God as He Himself writes His law of love in our hearts. By living in us, God is transforming us and preparing us for heaven. See Ephesians 3:19 and Colossians 1:27.

Just to make sure we understand – justification is me in Jesus. Sanctification is Jesus in me. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4 NLT Remaining in Christ is our justification. Christ remaining in us is our sanctification. Justification is our title to heaven and the salvation from the penalty of sin. Sanctification is our fitness for heaven and the salvation from the power of sin.

Now we enter the final compartment, which is the most holy place. This room is filled with the glory of God. Jesus represented the sanctuary where the Father dwelt in Him. Jesus’ humanity was the veil that kept us from being destroyed by His glory. Jesus wants us to share in His glory instead of being destroyed by it.

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:30 NLT

Glorification is when Jesus saves us from the presence of sin. Those who love God and life will live in paradise, never again seeing the results or consequences of sin. See Revelation 21:1-4.

Jesus does not want to justify a courtyard; He wants to justify our hearts. Jesus does not want to cleanse the holy place of a building. He wants to cleanse our hearts. He does not want to live in the last compartment of the sanctuary building. He wants our hearts to be the most holy place so He can live right with us for all eternity!

Once Christ’s ministry as our High Priest has been completed, the sanctuary on earth and tabernacle in heaven will no longer be the most holy place. The most holy place will be right inside the hearts of the redeemed!

The mystery of iniquity is how Lucifer’s heart, which was so perfect, became so polluted with sin. The mystery of God is how He makes  our sinful hearts holy.

By the gospel presented in the sanctuary, not only do our sin-polluted hearts become purified and become a holy place – they become the most holy place where God dwells.

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Where Is the Most Holy Place? — 20 Comments

  1. I noted the progress from justification to sanctification and finally glorification. Do we have a reverse move? i.e once someone has reached a sanctification level; do they possibly get back to justification? is justification a permanent status or there is a possibility of turning back to justification?

    Like(6)
    • I don't think that justification/sanctification/glorification is about levels. We simply accept the grace of God through Jesus. That evokes a response of love in us. Clearly we make mistakes along the way, but God has provided us with the mechanism of repentance and forgiveness to help us wen that happens. We can, if we want to, choose to reject God's justification at any time; and that leaves us in an unjustified state.

      "For by grace are you saved through faith. It is a gift from God." How should we respond?

      Like(9)
    • Fridah, we are justified when we are "in Christ." And we need that justification continuously because we can never equal the perfect character of Christ on our own. That's something a bit difficult to represent in a model like the sanctuary.

      And sanctification is not a "level" to be reached, but happens as we remain "in Jesus" who works out His character in us. So justification and sanctification can never be separated. They are both the work of Christ: Justification is what He does FOR us and sanctification is what He does IN us. Both require us to choose Him as Lord daily.

      William has explained it very well, and it is probably worthwhile to read his post more than once in order to absorb its full meaning.

      Like(9)
  2. t would seem to me that every time we sin were back to justification, to sacrifice for us, but the question is when will we stop sinning and become really sanctified really in love with being like our best friend.

    Like(2)
    • " I dwell in the high and holy place with him that also is of a contrite and a humble spirit." Recently my ex wife and husband attempted to save the lives of their neighbors two women that the flood in colorado had them all trapped in. Thinking his wife lost and after being rescued from a tree in the river he'd been hanging in for hours brought to her got down on his knees thanking Jesus. Jesus hung on a tree for us not seeing past it to know it would bring him through or us back to him. Shouldn't we all be just as broken hearted for Jesus hanging there for us desiring to be reunited to us in a loving sin free world. What a gratitude it must inspire in each of us "Thank you Jesus."

      Like(5)
  3. The message is clear...if our hearts are sanctified then we can all go to heaven and wherever we will go GOD is with us. Second coming of Christ is delayed because his LOVE find him so difficult to transform our stone hearts. If only God doesn't love us long time ago he came and all we PERISHED. The chance is NOW in us...to remain with stony hearts or to surrender our sinful hearts to God and let him transform it into precious one.

    Like(1)
  4. My understanding from Scripture is that justification is what God did for me in Christ. This involved His perfect life, His perfect sacrifice and His resurrection. You write that, "Justification takes place when I live a perfect life in Jesus." Isn't that misleading. It is giving the impression that it is the righteousness in me that justifies me. The righteousness that is in me is my sanctification not my justification, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:8-10, NKJV.

    Paul says, "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." Rom 4:5-8, NKJV

    What God did for us in the person of Christ to forgive us our sin is our justification. It is mine if I believe before I do any good work for it is mine by grace through faith. If any good work is required then it is not of grace for grace means it is a free gift to be received by the believer. When I accept Jesus as my Savior His perfect righteousness is credited to me in place of my life of sin.

    As I maintain this faith relationship in the Spirit with Christ then God works in me both to will and to do His good pleasure. As I behold the life of my Savior the Holy Spirit sanctifies me from one level of sanctification to another higher level or from one level of glory to a greater glory. 2 Cor. 3:17, 18. This work in me is my sanctification. It is the fruit not the root of my salvation. Justification, which I obtain from Christ by faith without works is the root and cause of my salvation.

    Ellen White says it more clearly than what I have tries to say above.

    "The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been,--just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,--perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness. If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled. The way would be open for sin, with all its train of woe and misery, to be immortalized.
    It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.
    More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20. So Jesus said to His disciples, "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." Matthew 10:20. Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works --works of righteousness, obedience.
    So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us." SC 62, 63.

    Perhaps you mean differently than it sounds but to me the way it appears can be misleading. I hope I am saying all this in a kind and loving way.

    Like(6)
    • James thank you for your observation and question. Let me explain. Romans 5:10 said we are saved by Christ's life. I don't have a perfect life but Christ does. His perfect life counts as my perfect life. Therefore in Christ I have lived a perfect life. That is justification. Christ's perfection is my perfection. Then we move on to Christ living a victorious life in me but that in no way earns my salvation, it is my fitness for heaven. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus promises the kingdom of God to those who are poor in spirit, and know they are sinners in need of a Savior. Then the process proceeds filling us with the righteousness of God and purity of heart. Yet eternal life was promised back at justification while we were still sinners, poor in spirit, knowing we needed a savior.

      Like(5)
      • Thank you William for a very concise, comprehensive explanation of the matter. And thank you James for the EGW quote.

        Like(0)
      • I've found helpful the definitions of the Greek words translated "justify" and "sanctify".

        The word translated "justify" can also be understood "make or declare righteous". We all need God to make us right or righteous, because on our own we are far from right. When He gives us a new heart, we are right in His sight and He can rightly say so. (Romans 3:26). If we sin, we need to be made right again, and in that sense we need to be justified again. But in another way we always need to be justified. Jesus never sinned but He was "justified" or "shown to be right" (1 Timothy 3:16). In that sense, if, when our case comes up in the judgement, the evidence is that we have been born again and abide in Him, then we stand justified and qualify for eternal life. (Compare Titus 3:7, John 3:3-16, 1 John 4:16-17, and 1 John 5:20)

        To "sanctify" likewise is easy to understand (from the Greek) as to "make holy". And again we have no power in ourselves. Only the Holy One can make anything else holy. He does so "by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13), and "by the word" (Ephesians 5:26).

        Can you have one without the other? I get the impression that they are two sides of one salvation.

        Like(0)
  5. "Whoa!" I'm with Christ. He said, "It is finished."

    Moments later the veil was rent from top to bottom in the old temple as the lamb escaped. Simultaneously, the True Veil on the cross was rent as He bowed His head and died. There on the cross the blood was spilled, in the Holy of Holies, on the mercy seat, the very heart of God. There, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. So now, we are justified by this precious blood, we are sanctified by this same blood, we will be raised by this same blood we will live for eternity, saved by the precious blood shed on Calvary and eternally grateful for His shed blood, His death, His saving grace, all given freely by the Father for the sake of Christ.

    Everything that the old covenant sanctuary stood for was fulfilled in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. This ratified for us, in His blood, the new covenant of grace. Every blessing of the new covenant flows from Calvary, from Christ crucified. Here is found the wisdom and power of God.

    Like(1)
    • Hi Ray Whoa you are right! :) I mention in my post that the provision was complete at the cross, exactly as you well stated in your comment. There is no argument here. There are people who believe in justification but not sanctification. That is why I mentioned that water and blood both flowed from Jesus at the cross to cover both our justification and sanctification. If there was no sanctification then the courtyard would be the only compartment of the sanctuary but it is not. The sanctuary also contains the Holy Place, demonstrating the sanctification which was provided at the cross as well. Sanctification is just as much a gift of grace as justification is.

      Like(3)
  6. my question is, where is the most holy place? And is it a literal building structure in heaven? Does it mean, that there's a unequal division in heaven? what about the statement that Jesus is on the right hand of God? I appreciate any answer. Godbless

    Like(0)
    • Hi Mark,

      You asked "my question is, where is the most holy place?"

      The most Holy Place is the compartment in the sanctuary behind the veil that separates the holy from the most holy place.

      "And is it a literal building structure in heaven?"

      I believe that it is based on Hebrews 8:1-2 among other places.

      "Does it mean, that there's a unequal division in heaven?"

      Not that I know of. Though I am not sure I understand the question. Please feel free to clarify.

      "what about the statement that Jesus is on the right hand of God? I appreciate any answer."

      Answer:

      The position of honor and authority. Christ’s exalted position in heaven is repeatedly the subject of comment by various NT writers (see Acts 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22; Rev. 3:21; etc.). (Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 5. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978; 2002, S. 660)

      I find it very inspiring and comforting that when Stephen was being stoned to death that he could look up and see Jesus "standing" at the right hand of God. I heard someone say, Stephen stood up for Jesus so Jesus stood up for Stephen." I really like that.

      Thank you for your questions, and if there is something I did not understand please let me know.

      Like(3)
  7. Interesting discussion from everyone.
    When I read Romans 5:18, I see the justification Jesus accomplished for everyone, while we were enemies and sinners.
    18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

    Everyone has a choice whether they will accept that justification-that acquittal. If accepted, it's called justification by faith.

    I appreciate this post. Thanks William!

    Like(1)
    • Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I feel so blessed to have access to the knowledge and insights you share. Happy Sabbath and God bless you all.

      Sieg Hoppe

      Like(2)
  8. Thank you William for presenting the Sanctuary message in the clearest way possible . On my part, this is the best presentation of the Sanctuary I have ever read. I sincerely thank you.
    I,d also like to know how would you reconcile the literal heaven, literal mansions that Christ is preparing for the people who are in him now by faith and at his coming in actuality! My question takes few texts into task!
    1. The kingdom of God is not something similar to earthly goverments (Luk 17. 20, 21).
    2. At resurrection we will be like Angels (Matt 22. 28, 30). Do angel dwell in magerial mansions?
    3. God is spirit, (John 4.24) and He does not dwell in Material structures ( Acts 17. 48).
    [personal contact details deleted - Moderator]

    Thanks for any honest answer.

    Like(0)
  9. I have been thinking about the meaning to the sanctuary that William brings out in this post.
    William states, "What is taking so long is that He is working with hearts of stone, preparing those stony hearts to become a temple, a sanctuary where He can live right inside of us. So that we can always live and be right where Jesus is!"
    And near the end of the post, "By the gospel presented in the sanctuary, not only do our sin-polluted hearts become purified and become a holy place – they become the most holy place where God dwells."

    This meaning is so important. The difficulty is most of us haven't lived in family systems where the heart is important. The heart being the emotional side of the brain. Then in the church, we carry emotional issues and problems with us. We try to get attention, admiration and appreciation instead of giving away the love that God gave us. God will heal anyone willing to grow up and then there will be room in the heart for God's love and healing grace for the sin that is in the heart.

    Like(1)
  10. Justification takes place at one moment. You pray to Jesus for forgiving your sins and you are justified at this moment. Sanctification is a process -the longer you dwell daily in Jesus the more you become like him.

    Like(2)
  11. I don't think I have understood the sanctuary and Jesus' ministry for us in heaven until today, thank you so much for another amazing devotional.

    Like(1)

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