This week, Pastor Ted Wilson continues and concludes the discussion of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, focusing on what Jesus is doing in heaven right now, as part of the twenty-fourth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventists.
Is there a sanctuary in heaven? Yes. Hebrews 8:2 tells us that Jesus is the “Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man.”
There was also an earthly sanctuary—a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (verse 5). It was modeled after the heavenly sanctuary, which was shown to Moses. The elements of the earthly sanctuary service pointed to the amazing gift and work of Christ.
This earthly sanctuary was set in the middle of the Israelite camp, separated from the rest of the camp by a cloth border.
Entering through the gate, you would come into the courtyard.
The first thing you would see was the altar of burnt offering, where the morning and evening sacrifices were offered. These sacrifices pointed to Jesus, the perfect Lamb, as mentioned in John 1:29: “Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!”
The next element was the laver, a huge basin of water used for the priests’ cleansing and purification rites. Water was used as a symbol for life and purity, as Jesus offers cleansing, healing, and hope through baptism. As David says in Psalm 51:2, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
Then, we come to the special tent-like structure with two compartments—the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only the priests could enter these rooms.
Inside the Holy Place were three pieces of furniture.
The first piece—the table of shewbread—had two stacks of bread, each with six loaves. This bread symbolized Jesus, the Bread of life. Today, Christ gives us this bread of life through His Word, the Bible. Matthew 4:4 says, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
The second piece—the golden candlestick—consisted of seven lights filled with oil for burning. It symbolized Jesus, the “Light of the world” (John 8:12), as His ministry brings joy and hope to us, and His light shines through us.
The third piece—the altar of incense—was located near the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The incense represented the prayers of God’s people. As David says in Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense.”
Now, we come to the most sacred part of the tabernacle—the Most Holy Place.
It contained only one piece of furniture—the ark of the covenant, also called the ark of the testimony. On top of it were two golden angels looking down from either side of the ark with their wings spread over the box.
Inside the ark were two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, the law of God. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul…The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7, 8). With this, Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary gives us wisdom to see why we need a law that tells us what is right and wrong.
Also inside the ark was a pot of manna, the food God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. It is a reminder that God takes care of us no matter what.
Another item inside the ark was Aaron’s rod, which miraculously flowered when the tribes of Israel questioned whom God had chosen to serve as priests.
God promised that the ark of the covenant was where His presence would be. He told Moses in Exodus 25:22, “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the testimony.”
Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was. This happened once a year, particularly on the day of atonement, a solemn day for the cleansing of the sanctuary. Also included in this cleansing were the sins of the people, transferred through the blood of animals being sacrificed.
This cleansing of the sanctuary has prophetic significance. Daniel 8:13 says, “Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'”
Thank God for giving us a wonderful picture of His work of redemption symbolized in the earthly sanctuary and of the reconciliation now taking place through His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.
In our next episode, we will study an important event in prophecy directly linked with Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary today.