by Lawrence M. Nelson
Chapter One – Christ The Way
Let us begin with some wonderful good news! GOD LOVES YOU! He loves us so much, that He wants us to come and live with Him. Many times when we see friends we really like, we say, “Why don’t you come and stay with us for a couple of days? We have a spare bedroom. Come and stay a week, or more.” But, that’s not what is meant if you say, “Come and live with me.” That’s a permanent request! God will never be satisfied until we dwell in heaven with Him forever. That is why He said these words in John 14:1-3,
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also.”
God loves us so much, He is waiting for the day when we can live with Him for eternity!
This brings us to our very first big question: Why are we not in heaven today? Why has Jesus not returned as He promised? Could it be a problem of distance? I think not, for Christ has often come to this earth. You will recall that He spent seven days here during the creation week, and He often came and visited with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Actually, He used to take walks with Enoch! And, He visited old Abraham and ate with him in his tent. He talked with Moses on Mount Sinai. And for years He abode in the cloud above the sanctuary in the desert. We read of Jesus coming to this earth as a babe in Bethlehem, and He lived with man for thirty-three years. So, it is very clear from the scriptures that Christ has been here many times. Distance is no barrier with Christ!
Let’s look at it another way. Could it be a problem of time? Maybe it’s not yet time for Christ to return. However, nearly every sign Christ predicted for the end-time events has already taken place, or is presently taking shape before our very eyes. Skeptics, atheists, and politicians all agree that something great is about to happen! What then is the problem? Why hasn’t Christ come?
I believe I can state the reason in these few simple words: God has a big problem! How can He save the sinner without saving the sin? How can He destroy sin without destroying the sinner? Putting it very bluntly, how can God get rid of sin without getting rid of you and me? How can He take us to heaven without taking the infectious sin with us. That would spread death throughout the universe. Let me tell you; God has a big, big problem!
Now some theologians claim that they have the answer to God’s problem. Like indulgent parents, who believe that their children will outgrow their evil ways when they become adults, they teach that they need only be shown enough love. But, experience reveals that they are dead wrong! In the same manner, there are some indulgent theologians who are teaching that if we just preach enough love, the people will believe God and receive salvation. After all, God is so full of mercy, grace and forgiveness, that He does not demand total obedience.
They assert that Christ gave all men unconditional salvation at the cross, and all man has to do is to “believe”. The sinner need not be concerned if he continues to sin. After all, he was born to sin and it is impossible in this life to stop sinning. Some even teach that when Jesus comes the second time He will give every sinner a new heart (mind) instantly, so that they will never sin again. Thus the sin problem will be solved! – Don’t you believe it! This is a teaching that is a concoction of the devil himself.
The servant of the Lord has written:
“This goody-goody religion that makes light of sin and that is forever dwelling upon the love of God to the sinner, encourages the sinner to believe that God will save him while he continues in sin and he knows it to be sin. This is the way that many are doing who profess to believe present truth. The truth is kept apart from their life, and this is the reason it has no more power to convict and convert the soul.” 3 Selected Messages, p. 155.
Think it through, if Christ were to perform such a miracle as the instant transformation of mind and character, from sin to righteousness, when He comes, then the atheists would be right in blaming God for all the evils that are in this earth. Could not God have made His followers, even from the days of Adam, instantly sinless whenever they claimed to believe in Him? Don’t be misled by these false new theology teachings. God does have a way to solve the sin problem. A way to save His people from their sins, not in their sins. God’s way is clearly taught to us in the sanctuary services, as the blood of the Lamb is administered therein.
You will remember that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6. And if we follow Him into the sanctuary where He is ministering today, we will understand His way. This is indeed good news, for Jesus Christ can solve the sin problem, making eternal life possible for every sinner who will accept Christ’s sacrifice and follow His way of separating our sins from us. Praise God! He tells us, “Thy way, Oh God, is in the sanctuary.” Psalms 77:13.
Now let’s take a look at the scriptures, for they reveal that there is, today, a sanctuary in heaven and that in Old Testament times there was a sanctuary on this earth. First, let us read from Hebrews 8:1, 2. You will notice that this verse is referring to the sanctuary in heaven. “We have such an high priest, who is 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.” Turning to the ninth chapter of Hebrews, we read about the earthly sanctuary in verse 12, “the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made.”
Now, since we have found that the New Testament declares that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and that there was a sanctuary on this earth, let’s turn to the Old Testament and read about the sanctuary that was here on this earth. In Exodus 25:8, God said, “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
The sanctuary on earth teaches us, through symbols, how God solves the sin problem from His sanctuary above. We are enabled to understand how He can separate sin from the sinner as it is done in the sanctuary services. In fact, there were three parts to the earthly sanctuary: the outer court, the holy place, and the most holy place. In each of these locations a separate service was performed: one in the outer court, one in the holy place, and one within the most holy place. We shall study these three separate services so we can learn how to co-operate with Christ as He solves our sin problem. When Christ has finally separated sin from us, we will eventually be able to join our Savior in heaven and live with Him where there will be no more sin!
I know that all of us are longing to be with our Savior in heaven. But what will make this possible? The final act of the disposition of sin from the sinner did not take place at the cross, as so many teach and believe. Rather, the final act of making an atonement for sin takes place within the most holy place of the sanctuary in heaven. This is why we read in The Great Controversy, pg. 489,
“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 , for by His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.”
Nothing could be stated more clearly. There is a work, now going on in the heavenly sanctuary, that is essential for the final atonement of our sins. The sacrifice on the cross did not separate sin from the individual sinner, but made a “provision”, whereby Christ paid the penalty for the sins of those who would avail themselves of the provision.
Thus, the final, or eternal, disposition of sin that takes place in the second apartment of the sanctuary can never be accomplished until the work in the first apartment is completed. Likewise, the work in the first apartment cannot take place until the sacrifice has been made in the outer court on the altar. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to remember that these three separate steps are necessary to eternally separate sin from the sinner.
When God instructed Moses to build this earthly sanctuary, He commanded, “Make it after the pattern.” However, there was one exception. When it came to writing the law of Jehovah, God said, “Moses, I’ll do this.” Notice His words, Exodus 31:18, “And he gave unto Moses, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”
Everything found within the earthly sanctuary was made by men except the Ten Commandments.
These were written in stone by the immortal finger of God Almighty. The importance of this act was emphasized when Moses broke the tables of stone to show his displeasure of Israel’s idolatry. God did not say, “Moses, make another copy and put it in the ark.” Oh no! God said, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark.”
Deuteronomy 10:1, 2. It was God who wrote the law the second time with His divine finger. Thus, the Ten Commandments are lifted up above the rest of the entire Bible, for God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments.
The sixty-six books which compose God’s Word were written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the Ten Commandments were written by God Himself! Why? Because God wanted no human element to deface His divine law. The Ten Commandments are a copy of the law in heaven which expresses God’s holy character. So when we read them, we are dealing with the great original, the law of God that is safely secured within the heavenly sanctuary above.
You will recall that some sixty years after Christ was crucified, had risen, and had returned to heaven, God opened the heavenly sanctuary to John in vision. And what did he see? He writes, “And the temple was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.” Revelation 11:19. After the cross, all eyes are to focus on the heavenly sanctuary in which can be seen the law of God. And why was this? Because God wants those of us who are living in these last days, to know that there is a right and a wrong way to live. We are told, “. . .for by the law is the knowledge of’ sin.” Romans 3:20. In Phillip’s translation it reads like this, “It is the straight edge of the law that shows how crooked we are. The law is actually the transcript of the character of God. In the book, The Story of Redemption, pg. 19, we read that God, speaking of His Ten Commandments, has exalted them to be equal to Himself. And then in The Desire of Ages, pg. 308, speaking of this law of God, it tells us:
“. . . the precepts of’ the Decalogue are as immutable as the throne of God.”
They are a transcript of His character. And so, when you consider and study the law of God, you are studying the very character of God Himself.
Now, in the most holy apartment of the sanctuary, we are brought face to face with God’s law. For there it is, in the ark, representing His character, the divine rule of life. In Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14, we have been commanded, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” The apostle James makes it very clear in James 2:10-12, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
For He that said, “Do not commit adultery”, said also, “Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” Yes, there is a penalty for breaking God’s law, and that penalty is death! For God states, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. As you read the scriptures you will find that this truth is emphasized in many other verses, such as: “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23; and “All have sinned.” Romans 3:23. So we all stand as sinners before God’s law!
Now this brings us back to the sin problem, doesn’t it? Since we have all sinned, how is it possible for God to separate our sins from us so we can be taken to heaven and live with Jesus, instead of dying for our sins as the law demands?
For this answer let’s go back to the sanctuary and discover the first step in this process of separating sin from the sinner. This act was performed in the court of the sanctuary. God describes what actually takes place there. “If anyone of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; or if his sin which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: Then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hast sinned.” Leviticus 4:27. Then what did the sinner do?. “And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar, and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven.” But how could this be accomplished? As you read verses five and six of the same chapter, it says, “The priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it the tabernacle of the congregation.” So the priest brings this blood inside the sanctuary. “And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary.”
Again we find the three requirements that must be followed. This man has sinned, he has broken the law. He deserves to die for his sin. But God doesn’t want him to die, so the Holy Spirit convicts the man of his sin; he repents and seeks forgiveness of the Lord; he wants to live and not die. He believes in, and accepts Christ as his Savior. God in His great love has provided a way for the sinner to become guiltless before God, even as though he had never sinned.
But the sinner must faithfully follow the divine plan if he is to be granted such forgiveness and is to be separated from his sin. First, a lamb must be brought to the court of the sanctuary as a sacrifice. Next, he must place his hands on the head of the Iamb and confess his sin over its head. In doing this, he will transfer his sin to the Iamb, which becomes his substitute. He then takes this lamb, places it on the altar, and with his own hand takes a knife and cuts the throat of the innocent victim. Thus, taking the victim’s life for his sin, rather than dying for his own sin. Next, the blood is caught in a bowl, the priest takes the blood into the sanctuary’s holy place and it is sprinkled before the law.
Now you ask, why must the blood be taken into the sanctuary? Because the blood represents the life of the victim. In Leviticus 17:11 it plainly states, “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” And the life of the innocent victim must be presented before the Lord; before His law, to fulfill its requirement. Now, since the guilty man has transferred his sin to the Iamb, the substitute now bears the guilt and must die for the sin which was transferred to it.
Isn’t there any other way that God can separate sin from us? The answer is: Absolutely not! For God states: “Without the shedding of blood (there) is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22. Are you thinking this through very carefully? You see, the substitute must die. And who must slay the substitute? The sinner! Because, it is his sin that made the death necessary!
Let’s look at the reality of this plan of salvation. Whom does the lamb represent? John the Baptist explained this in unmistakable words as Jesus came to him to be baptized. John said, speaking of Jesus, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And this is why Jesus came to this world. He came to save us; to die for us! Now you understand that since sin causes death, either I must die, or a substitute must die by my own hand. This, then, is the basic lesson we learn in our study of God’s way to separate sin from us.
Please, let me enact once more this word-picture, as the sinner takes a knife, and slays the innocent victim. Watch with me as the Iamb experiences the death throbs and dies. The guiltless, dying for the sinner; dying because of another’s sin. And now quickly, look in faith to the Lamb of God, and behold Jesus Christ the Lamb, dying on Calvary for our sins. Remember, Peter wrote, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” I Peter 2:24. What happened to that Iamb on the altar? The Iamb died! What did our sins do to Christ on Calvary? They took His life–it was we who took Christ’s life!
Millions are acquainted with the historical fact of Calvary. They like to go to the “holy land” and visit the very spot where Jesus died. But, so very few of them ever realize that it was their sin that crucified the Lamb of God. They have never understood what Zechariah wrote in Chapter 12, verse 10, “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Have you gone in faith to Calvary and there, discovered Christ dying on the cross in your place, realizing that it was your sins that took His life? Tell me, honestly, have you felt guilty for the death of Christ? Have you envisioned the Lord Jesus as your substitute, dying in your place?
One of the saddest funerals that I have ever conducted will help us to understand the results of Christ’s death on the cross. In the casket lay the body of a very small boy, the only son of the grieving parents. This tiny tot had died by an accident which was caused by his father, for he did not know that his small son had followed him to the garage. When the father backed the car out of the garage, he killed the child instantly. Although this was an accident, I cannot describe the grief that I beheld in the father’s face. When your mind contemplates Calvary, you behold Christ the Lamb dying your death. You know His death was not an accident because His death was caused by our devilish sins. Christ dying on the cross as our substitute, bearing our sins, helps us to realize the meaning of Calvary. We cannot help but cry out, “Oh God, is this what I have done to your dear Son? Is this the price of my salvation?”
Tell me, if that father who by accident killed his little precious son, should someday have another son, do you think that he would be more careful in the future as he backs his car out of the garage? You can be sure he will never want to repeat that tragedy again.
So likewise, when we go to Calvary, and see Jesus dying in our place, crucified for our sins, our heart breaks. For we know it was our sin that put Him there, and we never want to repeat that sin again. Instead, we cry out, “Oh God, take this sin away from me, and let Calvary give me such a hatred of sin that I will never, never commit such a sin again.
Christ is the only way in which sin can be separated from the sinner. “God will provide Himself a lamb.” Genesis 22:8.