This week, Pastor Ted Wilson concludes the discussion of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, specifically on what Jesus is doing in heaven right now, as part of the twenty-fourth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventists.
The earthly sanctuary and its services pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God. But when He came to earth and took the consequences of sin for us by dying on the cross, He became the fulfillment of the ceremonial offerings. Hence, there has been no need for animal sacrifices.
After His resurrection and ascension, Christ began His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as our High Priest, Advocate, and Intercessor. “It is Christ Who died and furthermore is also risen, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
But if Christ’s sacrifice was enough, what is left to do in the heavenly sanctuary?
It is important to remember that in the earthly tabernacle, after the lamb was slain, its blood was sprinkled inside the sanctuary, symbolically transferring the sin into the sanctuary. The sinner was forgiven but his sin remained in the tabernacle. And just like the earthly service had a yearly atonement, the heavenly sanctuary must also be cleansed.
In heaven, a record is kept to document every person’s life. This record is what will be studied during judgment. “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
God showed Daniel a vision of the heavenly sanctuary where he saw an overview of future world happenings and learned about the 2300-day prophecy. “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed” (Daniel 8:14). This prophecy would begin when “the command to restore and build Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes in 457 BC (Daniel 9:25). It would end in 1844 AD.
In the 1800s, a group of believers who read these prophecies believed that the earth was the sanctuary and its cleansing would be at the second coming of Christ. Just as the earthly sanctuary was cleansed on the Day of Atonement, they believed that Jesus would return on the Day of Atonement on October 22, 1844.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen as they expected. Hence, that day was called The Great Disappointment. However, through further Bible study and prayer, they discovered that instead of returning to earth, Jesus would begin His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary on that day.
With this, there must be a time of investigation: Whose sins does Jesus need to cover? Who has made the decision to accept His gift of forgiveness? Who has committed their lives to Him?
Seeing the judgment scene in his vision, Daniel wrote, “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated…His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire…a thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9, 10).
Prophet Zechariah also described it this way: Joshua, a high priest, is “standing before the angel of the Lord.” Satan is “at His right hand to oppose Him” (Zechariah 3:1). Then, a voice rings out, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan!” (verse 2). The priest realizes he is “clothed with filthy garments” (verse 3).
The Lord looks at Joshua, commanding those who are standing before Him, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” To Joshua, He says, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes” (verse 4).
Like Joshua, we come to judgment in dirty clothes. “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But “if we confess our sins,” Jesus “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
When we surrender ourselves to Him, He will guide our case through the judgment. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).
Soon, the words will be spoken: “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11).
Then, the case of every person will be decided upon. As much as God wants to save all people, He respects their choices.
As soon as Jesus finishes His work of intercession and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, He will return to earth, joined by all who have chosen to accept His gift of salvation.
Right now, Jesus lingers in the heavenly sanctuary, ready to forgive our sins as soon as we confess them all to Him. Have you accepted His gift of forgiveness and cleansing?