The sanctuary message is so deep and so broad that it would take a lifetime to study it. As you walk through the sanctuary you behold Jesus Christ. The sanctuary in heaven is the very sensor of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every living soul upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give the hope that is in them. The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truths connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great Advent Movement, revealing present duty as it brought to light the position of His people.
We all need to keep the subject of the sanctuary in mind. Why? God forbid that the clatter of words coming from human lips should lessen the belief of our people in the truth that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and that the pattern of this sanctuary was once built on this earth. God desires His people to become familiar with this pattern, keeping ever before their minds the heavenly sanctuary where God is all in all.
We live in a time where so many things bombard us, even in our churches. The sanctuary is not preached much. Before I came into the church, I was a Catholic studying to be a Mormon. I did not have much understanding of the Adventist faith, only studying for four days before being baptized. The sanctuary doctrine was particularly hard to understand. The Bible said there was a sanctuary and I was told about the 2300 days and how everything ended in 1844 but not too many people knew anything more than that. They could tell me that there was a building up in heaven and that was all. I knew I had to study more if I wanted to know the truth.
Eventually I met some people who confused me a little and one of my pastors in his message said that the sanctuary did not exist and not to believe that anymore. I thought he was a good pastor and kind of believed him. Another lay person said I needed to believe it and to read the Book, because the truth is there and that is just what I did. I do not know everything, but I do know there is a High Priest ministering in heaven and Jesus is interceding for me and for you right now and there is a sanctuary in heaven.
“In the future, deception of every kind is to arise, and we want solid ground for our feet. We want solid pillars for the building. Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established. The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. Where shall we find safety unless it be in the truths that the Lord has been giving for the last fifty years?” The Review and Herald, May 25, 1905.
In 1905 the Ballinger controversy was going on and one of his teachings some still hold today. He believed in universal justification which means that everybody was saved at the cross. Ellen White tried to counsel him and told him to be careful, as he was taking a pin away from the sanctuary. If everyone is justified, there is no need for a high priest.
“Satan is striving continually to bring in fanciful suppositions in regard to the sanctuary, degrading the wonderful representations of God and the ministry of Christ for our salvation into something that suits the carnal mind. He removes its presiding power from the hearts of believers, and supplies its place with fantastic theories invented to make void the truths of the atonement, and destroy our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the third angel’s message was first given. Thus he would rob us of our faith in the very message that has made us a separate people, and has given character and power to our work.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, 53, 54.
It is not merely being a vegetarian or keeping the Sabbath that made Seventh-day Adventists a special people, because there are vegetarians and Sabbatarians not of our faith. It is the understanding of Jesus’ work of salvation in the sanctuary, and there are no Sunday keepers who I know of who believe in this truth.
“The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was his death upon the cross.” The Great Controversy, (1888), 489.
Salvation does not end at the cross but continues on into heaven. The cross is the power, but it does not finish there. Jesus is trying to lead us back to the Father. We cannot, in our own righteousness, stand in His presence until Jesus washes us and we are a new people in the way we look, talk and think. If our mind is not in unity with His mind, we would want to shrink away from the presence of the One who knows all and reads our mind. The graciousness of Jesus is to bring us back to the Father because He only knows what is acceptable in His sight.
“The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was his death upon the cross. By his death he began that work which, after his resurrection, he ascended to complete in Heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered’ [Hebrews 6:20].” Ibid.
There is both an intellectual and also a practical faith. Just because I know that there is a heavenly sanctuary is not enough to save me. By faith I have to enter into that experience.
“There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to Heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father’s throne, and through his mediation the sincere desire of all who come to him in faith may be presented before God.” Ibid.
In the next passage, Satan is talking—these are his words: “Through those that have a form of godliness but know not the power, we can gain many who would otherwise do us harm. Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God will be our most effective helpers. [Remember, this is Satan talking, and he wants us.] Those of this class who are apt and intelligent will serve as decoys [something that is false—Satan has decoys] to draw others into our snares. Many will not fear their influence, because they profess the same faith [within the church]. We will thus lead them to conclude that the requirements of Christ are less strict than they once believed, and that by conformity to the world they would exert a greater influence with worldlings. Thus they will separate from Christ; then they will have no strength to resist our power, and erelong they will be ready to ridicule their former zeal and devotion.
“Until the great decisive blow shall be struck, our efforts against commandment keepers must be untiring. We must be present at all their gatherings. In their large meetings especially our cause will suffer much, and we must exercise great vigilance, and employ all our seductive arts to prevent souls from hearing the truth and becoming impressed by it.
“I will have upon the ground, as my agents, men holding false doctrines mingled with just enough truth to deceive souls. I will also have unbelieving ones present who will express doubts in regard to the Lord’s messages of warning to His church. Should the people read and believe these admonitions, we could have little hope of overcoming them. But if we can divert their attention from these warnings, they will remain ignorant of our power and cunning, and we shall secure them in our ranks at last. God will not permit His words to be slighted with impunity. If we can keep souls deceived for a time, God’s mercy will be withdrawn, and He will give them up to our full control.
“We must cause distraction and division. We must destroy their anxiety for their own souls, and lead them to criticize, to judge, and to accuse and condemn one another, and to cherish selfishness and enmity. For these sins, God banished us from His presence; and all who follow our example will meet a similar fate.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 474, 475.
Satan knows he is a defeated foe so he attempts to bring everybody else down with him by putting his decoys into the church, and many people are giving up their faith.
At one time while visiting with a minister he told me that The Great Controversy is 19th century theology, that it was not good for today but only good for their time and that the two beast powers were no longer the papacy and the United States because the United States does not act like a beast and the papacy is too quiet. Satan has fooled him.
“From the creation and fall of man to the present time, there has been a continual unfolding of the plan of God for the redemption, through Christ, of the fallen race. The tabernacle and temple of God on earth were patterned after the original in heaven. Around the sanctuary and its solemn services mystically gathered the grand truths which were to be developed through succeeding generations.” The Faith I Live By, 194.
“The great plan of redemption, as revealed in the closing work of these last days, should receive close examination.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 575.
We need to work in harmony with what God is teaching us through the sanctuary. “By study, contemplation, and prayer God’s people will be elevated above common, earthly thoughts and feelings, and will be brought into harmony with Christ and His great work of cleansing the sanctuary above from the sins of the people. Their faith will go with Him into the sanctuary, and the worshipers on earth will be carefully reviewing their lives and comparing their characters with the great standard of righteousness. They will see their own defects; they will also see that they must have the aid of the Spirit of God if they would become qualified for the great and solemn work for this time which is laid upon God’s ambassadors.” Ibid.
Exodus 25:8, 9 says, “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” God wants to dwell with us. Moses had to make everything after the pattern he saw in the mountain.
In Acts 7:44 it says, “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.” “The holy places made with hands were to be ‘figures of the true,’ ‘patterns of things in the heavens’ (Hebrews 9:24, 23)—a miniature representation of the heavenly temple where Christ, our great High Priest, after offering His life as a sacrifice, was to minister in the sinner’s behalf. God presented before Moses in the mount a view of the heavenly sanctuary, and commanded him to make all things according to the pattern shown him. All these directions were carefully recorded by Moses, who communicated them to the leaders of the people.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 343.
The earthly sanctuary was a symbol or a shadow of the heavenly. When you look at a shadow of yourself, you see an outline because you cannot see everything else. The message that God is portraying is that the sanctuary is so deep that even Moses did not have complete understanding.
“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Hebrews 9:23, 24.
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” Hebrews 9:11.
When everything was made for the earthly sanctuary, the priest went into the Most Holy Place, then to the Holy Place and then to the courtyard to dedicate it to the service of God. Then the priest went into the Holy Place for his daily work. Because of a misunderstanding through the translations of the Book of Hebrews some people think He went into the Most Holy Place. Many times when the Bible says Holy Place, it really means Holy places—plural. When Jesus’ ministry on earth was completed here on earth, He went to heaven, right into His Father’s presence. When His Father said that His sacrifice was accepted, He came back to His disciples and told them. When He went into heaven He took some first fruits and He went to a coronation, a dedication, of the sanctuary. He opened it; it says He anointed it and then He started his Holy Place ministration.
In Hebrews 8:1–5 it says, “Now of the things which we have spoken that is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” Jesus could not be a priest here on earth because he was of the wrong tribe. He was from the tribe of Judah.
I believe that the sanctuary is a miniature crossing of the promise land. The children of Israel were supposed to go from Egypt, across the Red Sea to Sinai and then to the promised land. This is a symbol of the last days. God has brought us out of Egypt, out from all of our idols. He has baptized us, or brought us through the water, brings us to the law and now He wants to take us in. What is the problem? We do not believe there is a sanctuary. The Word says, “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.” Exodus 15:17.
God wants to bring us into the sanctuary because that is where God dwells—in the sanctuary. He wants to draw us right in and say, “Well Done;” but many do not believe.
“Many of the Israelites regarded the sacrificial service as having in itself virtue to set them free from sin. God desired to teach them that it had no more value than that serpent of brass. It was to lead their minds to the Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 174, 175. The understanding of the sanctuary service is to lead us to the Saviour. Teaching the sanctuary message without introducing Jesus is of no value at all.
In A.D. 70 when the temple was destroyed, all the Jews could do was run and say, “the temple, the temple.” The temple in itself was powerless to do anything for them because Jesus was not there. “Whether for the healing of their wounds or the pardon of their sins, they could do nothing for themselves but show their faith in the Gift of God. They were to look and live.” Ibid. Just like that serpent of brass that was erected in the wilderness, those who looked up in faith to Jesus, whom it represented, were healed.
I grew up in the Catholic church; my godmother was a nun and she would tell me to pray to the rosary beads and they would help me. I would pray, but it did not help. Then she gave me this little statue of a black saint from Africa and told me to put him in my car and wherever I would go he would help me. When I got into an accident, where was he? I knocked him off my dash in frustration because he was no help. Then my godmother gave me some water that came from Italy and told me to put it on me and I would become smart. All of those things were just symbols and idols and useless.
We need to examine ourselves to see if our lives are leading others to Jesus or just uplifting ourselves. In Psalm 29:9 it says, “In his temple doth every one speak of his glory.” His glory is His character. Everything reveals His glory.
“And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” Ezekiel 37:28. Most people in the world do not know anything about the sanctuary. I had an opportunity to work with a Baptist minister. One time he was reading the book, The Ministry of Healing, and he liked the book and he said that whatever spirit is in that book it is in the Bible. He asked about the author because he had never heard of Ellen White or Seventh-day Adventists. He was so interested that he went down to the book store and bought the whole three-volume set of the Spirit of Prophecy and started reading the books.
The first book he opened to read was The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7A, Revelation chapter 13, where it talks about apostate Protestantism, and he was a Sunday keeper. He then started crying, recognizing that he was part of apostate Protestantism. He said that if he went back to his church and started preaching from these books, they would fire him. I assured him that if he was fired, Jesus would take him in. I challenged him to accept the message, and he said he was going to take the books back to his church and read them before making a decision. I have not heard from him since.
The understanding of the workings of the sanctuary is a blessing to God’s people. We are the ones privileged to have that light and are teaching it to others. The sanctuary is basically the plan of redemption.
“The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.” The Great Controversy, 488.
“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Hebrews 4:2.
We know that God loves us because He tells us, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. God is drawing us. “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” II Corinthians 5:14. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.
In John 3:14, 15 it says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jesus draws His people. He is pursuing you and He knows what you have been through and has the power to save you. When He takes your mess from your hands, He takes it into the sanctuary where He can cleanse you and make you into a new creature.
I John 4:8–10 tells us: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation is another word for mercy seat and Jesus is our Mercy Seat.
God loves us so much that He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not die but have everlasting life (John 3:16), and it is by leading us through the sanctuary service that He restores our relationship with Him.
Brad Neeley is Administrative Assistant of M.E.E.T. Ministry. He is a master gardener, lecturer and Bible instructor with over ten years in Christian ministry. He is married to S. Lynn Neeley, they have one daughter, Christiana.