by Lawrence M. Nelson
Chapter Five – Christ The Atonement
Let us mention again that one of the most fundamental factors of the Christian life is conversion. Every professed Christian needs to experience the peace of mind that conversion brings. This is indeed the longing of the heart. Repentance and conversion is urged by Peter as a prerequisite to the blotting out of sins. The blotting out of sins is another very important factor in the plan of salvation.
The basis of this study is found in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out”–when? “When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” We realize that man can never be fully satisfied and have unquestioned peace of mind until he knows that every known sin has been confessed, forsaken, and forgiven. Then he can look forward to that day when the record of his sins will be permanently blotted out by the finger of God. When is that time? “When the times of refreshing shall come.”
This time has been defined by inspiration as the time of the judgment, the latter rain, and the sealing. The refreshing is poured out from the sanctuary above. This is why we must carefully study what takes place within the sanctuary, concerning the sins which have been brought in by virtue of Christ’s blood and His work of substitution. Hebrews 9:6, 7 tells us, “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always in to the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.”
Who ministered in the first apartment? The priest. How often? Every day. Who went into the most holy place? Only the High Priest. How often? Only once a year. And what did he take with him? He took blood–the atoning blood. You see, the path into the sanctuary is a blood-stained path, and inside there is more blood–on the horns of the brazen altar, on the golden altar, and there is blood on the Mercy Seat. The blood always represents the sacrifice of Christ. This is beautifully brought out in The Great Controversy, page 416,
“His (Christ’s) intercession is that of a pierced side, the marred feet plead for fallen man, whose redemption was purchased at such infinite cost. The earthly sanctuary had to be purified, or cleansed by the blood of animals. But what about the heavenly sanctuary? The book of Hebrews states that the heavenly things must be purified with a “better sacrifice”. This refers, of course, to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the shedding of His blood. Again in The Great Controversy, pages 417, 418
“The cleansing, both in the typical and in real service, must be accomplished with blood: In the former, with the blood of animals; in the later, with the blood of Christ. Paul states, as the reason why this cleansing must be performed with blood, is that without shedding of blood is no remission.
What is remission? Ellen White continues,
“Remission, or putting away of sin, is the work to be accomplished.”
We read in Hebrews 9:23, 24, “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 place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us.
Those last, beautiful words–to appear in the presence of God for us–are wonderful. This Scripture is telling us that Jesus was not just loaned to us for a few years some two thousand years ago. Jesus was given to us as a gift–even forever! When He returned to heaven, He did so as our elder brother, to personally represent us to His Father. As Christ entered heaven, He carried the sins of the world by the virtue of His blood into the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary.
For 1,810 years the Lord represented His people there in the first apartment, as the typical priest in the sanctuary of old went into the sanctuary every day. But now note a change. Once a year the high priest went into the second apartment. Just so, Christ entered into the second apartment once in the year 1844. Now I hope you are following carefully. I’m asking a question–how often did the high priest go into the second apartment? Only once a year. Will Jesus Christ do this every year? No, absolutely not! Why not? Because He does this only once, in the times of the end. And He will continue to minister in this apartment until His work is completed. Notice the words in Hebrews 9:26, “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” You know that expression, “the end of the world”, refers to the very last days before Christ comes a second time. And so the question–what is His purpose in entering the most holy apartment at the time of the end? The Scriptures says, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” Now that’s a very strong term, to put away. This term is used in the Bible to describe a man who divorces his wife. Such a man is said “to put away” his wife. So you see, Jesus is in the business of divorcing sin from His people in this end-time; in fact, there is no other solution for this troubled world. No peace conferences will ever permanently succeed, and no new world order of the United Nations will be able to get rid of the sin problem. This problem will ever remain until it is finally solved in the sanctuary by the eradication of the sin that is now taking place in the end time.
Since 1844, what has been happening in the second apartment within the heavenly sanctuary? Our great High Priest has been performing the work of the investigative judgment, making an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.
In the Great Controversy, page 422, we read:
“At the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to His coming.
“This is the service which began when the 2300 days ended. At that time, as foretold by Daniel the prophet, our High Priest entered the most holy, to perform the last division of His solemn work-to cleanse the sanctuary.” (ibid.) page 421).
Also in Testimonies, Vol. 5, page 520, are these challenging words,
“The sacred work of Christ for the people of God that is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary should be our constant study.”
From these references we can see there was a big difference between what went on in the two apartments. In the first apartment the sins of the penitent were transferred into the sanctuary by the substitute. But in the second apartment, the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, in order to erase or blot out the sin. This is what took place during the annual Day of Atonement. Turn to Leviticus 16:5. There we will discover what the ancient priest did in the most holy place on this Day of Atonement. ‘And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering” Now notice, two goats were brought to the priest, and lots were cast to see which one would represent the Lord’s goat, and which one would represent the scapegoat. “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.” Leviticus 16:8, 9.
You will notice that the Lord’s goat was killed for a sin offering, and verse fifteen tells us what was done with the blood of that offering. It says, “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil”, you will see he is carrying it into the most holy place. And what is the priest to do with it? “And sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat”. So, the blood of the Lord’s goat was taken into the sanctuary, into the most holy, and sprinkled upon the mercy seat in the second apartment. This now provided full and final atonement. But that’s not all that happened. Verses twenty and twenty-one, ‘And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness.
I like the way Ellen White writes about this in the book, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 356,
“On the Day of Atonement, the high priest, having taken an offering for the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, above the tables of the law. Thus the claims of the law, which demanded the life of the sinner, were satisfied. Then, in his character of mediator, the priest took the sins upon himself and, leaving the sanctuary, he bore with him the burden of Israel’s guilt. At the door of the tabernacle, he laid his hands upon the head of the scapegoat . . . And as the goat bearing these sins was sent away, they were with him, regarded as forever separated from the people. Such was the service performed “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” Hebrews 8:5.
The scapegoat represents Satan, so, in the final act taking place on the Day of Atonement, the scapegoat, or Satan, is led into the desert–led there to die.
After the 1,000 years, in the fires of the second death, Satan will receive punishment. He will suffer not only for his own sins, but also for the sins of all the redeemed saints that were placed upon his head in the closing act of the final atonement. We are told that he will suffer longer than any other created being.
May I picture this for you? We are watching a man, leading a scapegoat away from the sanctuary. Why is he leading him away? Because the scapegoat has upon it the confessed and forsaken sins of God’s people. Who placed them on the scapegoat? The high priest. Where did the priest get these sins? It is interesting to note that he carried a portion of the sins in his own body; because, according to the instructions, sometimes he was to eat part of the burnt sacrificial offering. The other sins he carried from the holy place of the sanctuary. Do you remember how the sins came to be in there? Yes, they were put there by means of the blood that was carried into the sanctuary by the priest. These were the sins that the sinner had confessed over the head of the substitute. Thus, transferring his sins to the substitute, and the lamb or animal was slain by the sinner. So now we can see that there are two steps that must be taken in separating sin from the sinner. First, the sin must be transferred from the sinner into the first apartment of the sanctuary, and in the second step there is a work to be done in getting those sins out of the sanctuary.
Here is a very simple illustration of the separation process. Every city has a laundry and on Monday, you will usually find people bringing their dirty clothes to the laundry. For what purpose? To get their clothes cleaned. This is what a laundry is for, isn’t that right? The clothes go in soiled, and they come out clean. Paul uses this same figure of speech in Ephesians 5, beginning with verse twenty-five. He says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Why? That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should he holy and without blemish.”
The sanctuary furnishes us a complete laundry service for the church, enabling the people of God to be cleansed so they can welcome the return of the Lord without fear. The church members are to be waiting for His return–fully washed and clean. But God can only wash and cleanse us from the sins that we have turned over to Him. It must be our first business to be sure that our sin-soiled garments get into the hands of our great High Priest to be cleansed in the sanctuary, so that they are not left in our mind’s dirty laundry hamper.
How do we give our sin-soiled garments to Christ to be cleansed? Verily, it is by repenting, giving up our sins, and by asking our merciful High Priest to take them all away. We must go in faith to Calvary and behold Jesus, shedding His blood for us. Then, by faith, we must follow our resurrected Savior as He transfers our sins through the efficacy of His blood to the heavenly sanctuary. Yet, there is more! On the final Day of Atonement, Christ will, as He “sprinkles” His blood on the mercy seat, blot out every trace of even the record of our sins! In this last act He will carry them from the sanctuary, and place them upon the scapegoat–Satan.
Here comes a big question. Why is it that when we confess our sins, they are not blotted out immediately? Let me picture it in this way: Pretend I am holding a chalkboard, and on this chalkboard I write the word SIN. Can you see it in your mind? This word represents the sin of a man who has come to the Lord Jesus to be forgiven. What does Jesus Christ do? The Lord wants the man never to see the sin again, so He takes the sin into the sanctuary and sprinkles His blood over it. If you could look into the record of heaven now, you would find that this sin is indeed covered with the precious blood of Jesus. The man is forgiven, and is pardoned. To illustrate this, suppose I take a handkerchief and hold it over the word SIN. Now you can’t see the word. Why? Because it is covered with the handkerchief, SIN is still there. So, there is something further that must be done; the word SIN must be erased or blotted out. Now imagine that I take the same handkerchief and erase SIN from the blackboard. You can’t see it anymore. In Psalm 32:1 notice two words which have a distinct connection, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Friend, when our sins are forgiven, they are covered. But, remember Acts 3:19, 20, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out”, When? “when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.” This tells us that before Jesus comes again, He is going to “blot out” the sins that have been covered–provided, of course, that you and I have met the conditions.
The experience of Jacob illustrates for us the necessity of meeting the conditions of salvation. Patriarchs and Prophets, page 202,
“Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud, God could not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life.”
The next words are for us:
“So, in the time of trouble, lf the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep sense of’ their unworthiness, they will have no concealed wrongs to reveal. (Why?) Their sins will have been blotted out by the atoning blood of Christ, and they cannot bring them into remembrance.”
This makes me feel like shouting–Praise God!
We need to be aware of the enemy’s tactics,
“Satan leads many to believe that God will overlook their unfaithfulness in the minor affairs of life; but the Lord shows in His dealing with Jacob that He can in no wise sanction or tolerate evil. All who endeavor to excuse or conceal their sins, and permit them to remain on the books of heaven, unconfessed and unforgiven, will be overcome by Satan.” (Ibid)
Again we ask why are sins not blotted out immediately when confessed? Again, I must illustrate.
Some years ago, the Adventist message came to the hearts of a father and mother. Being impressed by the Holy Spirit that it was the truth, they accepted the message. But this father had been a heavy user of tobacco. He had chewed tobacco since he was a little boy; in fact, when he was only nine years old, he used to take it out of his daddy’s pocket; so the habit had a powerful hold upon him. However, when he accepted the gospel, he put away his tobacco. But, again and again, the pull of that old habit would come upon him. His wife used to tell how he would take the plug of tobacco out of his pocket and throw it into the cornfield–just as far as he could–and with renewed determination, start the day aright. Nevertheless, sometimes right after dinner, his wife would look out of the window and see him in the cornfield, walking up and down the rows. Now what do you think he was looking for? You guessed it; he was looking for that plug of tobacco. But thank God, the day finally came when he threw the tobacco away forever, and for the next sixty years the man had complete victory over that habit, Thank God, dear friend–there is power in the blood of the Lamb.
That reminds me of one of those old hymns we used to sing–I’m glad it has reappeared in our Church Hymnal–“Would you be free from your burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood; Would you o’er evil a victory win? There’s wonderful power in the blood.” You see, God didn’t hide that plug of tobacco, although He could have done it. No–the man had to make his own decision and gain the victory through the power of God.
We can see from the references we have read, that God does not blot out our sins forever–the moment we ask forgiveness; for He knows the struggles of man, and the power of sin. He respects your power of choice, which means that if sometime later on you might want the sin back, God will not interfere. This is explained in, Patriarchs amid Prophets, page 357,
“The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement; so in the type the blood of’ the sin offering removed the sin from the penitent, but it rested in the sanctuary until the Day of Atonement. In the great day of final award, the dead are to be “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their work. Revelation 20:12. Then by virtue of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the sins of all the truly penitent will be blotted from the books of heaven. Thus the sanctuary will be freed or cleansed from the records of sin.”
Don’t you just want to praise God for what is happening in heaven’s sanctuary today and for the time of final atonement?
Not long ago a mother came to a minister with tears in her eyes, asking him to pray for her son. Between her broken sobs, she told of how her boy had lived a life of sin, and eventually, was put in the penitentiary as a criminal. Let me ask you, whom do you think suffered the most, the boy in the prison cell, or the mother, alone in her home? In her heartbreak, she cried out to the minister, “Oh pastor, pray for my boy.” She couldn’t think about anything else, her boy was all that she was living for.
I must tell you that Jesus Christ is now in the heavenly sanctuary for the purpose of taking sin out of your life. Why? Because He bore our sins in His body on the cross, and continues to bear our sins until the completion of the final atonement when He places them upon Satan. It is thus that Christ will continue to experience pain until our sins are eradicated, forever separated from us for an eternity. When we really comprehend how the Lord suffers for our sins, surely, we will want to do something about it. Was there a way to heal that mother’s hurt as she wept for her son who was in the penitentiary? Of course, there is a way.. Suppose her son would sit down in his cell and write a letter to his mother and say, “I’ve seen the terrible things that I have done; I have not only broken the law, but I have broken your heart. I have asked God to forgive me, and now my dear mother, I am asking you to forgive me. By the grace of God, I am going to walk straight from now on.” What do you suppose would happen to that mother? Would the pain in the heart stop? You better believe it would. Her tears of sorrow would be changed to tears of boundless joy.
Listen friend, it is written that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Just now, as you behold your great High Priest standing at the mercy seat in the sanctuary above, holding up His wounded hands before the Father pleading for you; remember, there is pain deep in His heart because of your sins; but by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior, you may bring joy to your Lord. He will not only cover your sins, but in these last hours just before probation closes, He will blot them all out. It is only through Christ that the bands of sin can be broken. It is only through Christ’s work in the sanctuary above, with our cooperation, that sin can be separated from the sinner for an eternity.