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