FURTHER STUDY: In relation to the subject of this lesson, study Hebrews 9:1-14. Read "What Is the Sanctuary?" in The Great Controversy, pp. 409-422.
Hebrews 9:12 says that "he entered in once into the holy place" (KJV). The RSV also translates the Greek by "Holy Place." The NIV translates the same Greek by "the Most Holy Place." The Greek reads ta hagia (accusative, plural, neuter of hagios, meaning "holy" or "what is holy"). In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), when some form of hagios is used in reference to the sanctuary, it usually refers to the sanctuary as a whole. Hebrews 9:12 is correctly translated: "He entered once into the holy places," or "He entered once into the sanctuary." It cannot be proved from Hebrews 9 that Christ entered only one apartment of the heavenly sanctuary at His ascension, nor can it be proved that His antitypical Day of Atonement ministry began at that time. Hebrews 9:1-7 describes the ministries in the two apartments of the earthly sanctuary. Verse 8 begins, "By this the Holy Spirit indicates" (RSV). The antecedent of "this" is all that has gone before. The purpose of the ministries in the two apartments of the earthly sanctuary was to point to the ministries of Christ in the two apartments of the heavenly sanctuary. The way into the heavenly sanctuary was not opened as long as the earthly sanctuary ("first tabernacle") still had significance (verse 8). This earthly sanctuary, "which is symbolic for the present age" (verse 9, RSV), lost its significance when "Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come" (verse 11, RSV). Christ entered "the greater and more perfect tent," the heavenly sanctuary, to be our mediator and purifier (Heb. 9:11-14).
SUMMARY: The heavenly sanctuary is the original, from which the earthly sanctuary was a miniature copy. The vast and glorious heavenly sanctuary is the dwelling place of the Trinity and is the great control center of the universe. It is the place where Christ, as High Priest, conducts His ministry of forgiveness.