The Sanctuary in Heaven

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1. Introduction

Scripture tells us a great deal about the Sanctuary on Earth, which, through Moses, God instructed to be built soon after Israel’s exodus from Egypt - it then continued to the Cross.  See study: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’.

The earthly Sanctuary had to confirm to the ‘pattern’ of the Heavenly Sanctuary - the pattern given to Moses when He was on Mount Sinai.  

Thus, because we are given such detailed information about the earthly Sanctuary, we also know precise details about the Sanctuary in Heaven.

In this study we examine both the form and function of the Sanctuary in Heaven.

2. The Heavenly Sanctuary is represented in the earthly Sanctuary

The purpose of the earthly Sanctuary was to teach the plan of salvation, as it is acted out in Heaven.  Thus the earthly Sanctuary had to be made in strict accordance with God’s instruction:

He 8:5  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 shewed to thee in the mount. 

A shadow is not an exact copy, it is a representation of the original.  Things on sinful Earth cannot be an exact copy of the pure sinless things of Heaven, but they can be close enough to be an accurate representation.  

In study: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’ we see that for centuries in the earthly Sanctuary, every morning and evening the earthly priests performed animal sacrifices (the ‘continual’) to remit sin.  The remitted sin was transferred to the (earthly) Sanctuary.  Also, individuals were required to bring a sacrifice as a personal sin offering.  In addition, there were a number of ceremonial feast days that required sacrifices.

Once a year, to cleanse the Sanctuary of the sin accumulated from the Daily sacrifices, the High Priest performed an Atoning sacrifice for the whole nation of Israel (see study: ‘The Day of Atonement’). 

The earthly ministry was deemed sufficient for the time, but could not actually take away sin (He 10:4) - it pointed forward to the true Ministry that can take away sin. In the earthly Sanctuary the death of every sacrifice pointed forward to Christ’s one Sacrificial death upon the Cross.  The sprinkling of the blood of every earthly sacrifice pointed forward to Christ’s Ministry after the Cross, in which He offers His own Blood for every repentant sinner (Re 1:5).

The Ministry that can take away sin, Christ’s own Ministry, must take place in a Sanctuary in which eternal matters can be determined: the original Sanctuary in Heaven.

3. The Sanctuary In Heaven

The Sanctuary in Heaven is God’s dwelling place, from where He surveys His creation.

Ps 102:19  For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; 

The Heavenly Sanctuary is where the true plan of salvation is acted out, with our true High Priest, Christ, ministering on our behalf (see study: ‘The Priesthood of Christ’).

As indicated by the earthly Sanctuary, the Sanctuary in Heaven has two compartments: the Holy and the Most Holy, in which Christ’s saving ministry is performed.

However, the mainstream position on the sequence of the ministry in Heaven does not conform strictly to the sequence in the earthly Sanctuary - it is commonly believed that after His ascension Chist entered immediately into the Most Holy in the Sanctuary in Heaven, and is based on the following Scripture:

He 9:24  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.

The mainstream understanding is based on the fact that God’s very presence on Earth resided solely in the Most Holy - and thus, they say, it is the same in Heaven.

The apostle Paul discusses both the earthly and the Heavenly Sanctuaries in the book of Hebrews.  We must begin by seeing how the apostle Paul denotes the Sanctuary and its compartments.

3.1 The Holy and the Most Holy in Scripture

The basic Greek word which is translated ‘Sanctuary’ is Strong’s G39, ‘hagion’: ‘holy place’, which is used in the plural form ‘Hagia’.

In He 9:24 above, the Greek ‘hagia’ is in the neuter plural form, i.e. a collective noun, which refers to a single entity that is composed of several parts. Thus Paul’s reference to the Sanctuary refers to both its parts (the Holy and the Most Holy).

Thus we cannot understand He 9:24 to mean that Christ entered the Most Holy in Heaven. Rather, Paul is teaching that, after His ascension, Christ embarked on His Ministry in Heaven, which He conducted first in the Holy, then at the appropriate time, in the Most Holy.

He 9:2  For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary [hagia (holy place)]. 

Note. ‘hagia’ here is not in the neuter plural form, and thus refers to one Sanctuary compartment only.  By his description of the Sanctuary furniture, Paul is clearly referring to the Holy.

When Paul refers specifically to the Most Holy, he uses a ‘hagion’ derivative twice in succession.  This is clearly indicated in the following Scripture:

He 9:3  And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all [hagia hagiOn (Holy of Holies)]; 

Nowhere is the double use of ‘hagion’ (‘hagia hagiOn’, Holy of Holies) used to indicate that Christ entered the Most Holy in Heaven immediately after His ascension. 

Paul draws a clear distinction between the Holy and the Most Holy, thus making clear the sequence of Christ’s ministry in Heaven, which we need to establish clearly in Scripture.

3.2 Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary

As we have seen, it is commonly understood that when Christ entered the Heavenly Sanctuary after His ascension He entered the Most Holy, where, it is believed, the presence of the Father resided. 

However, we have as our guide the ministry in the Earthly Sanctuary, which contradicts the mainstream understanding.  We must therefore consult Scripture to ascertain the precise form of Christ’s ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary. 

He 9:12  Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place [ta hagia (the Holies)], having obtained eternal redemption for us. 

‘hagia’ here is in the neuter pleural form, which as we have seen (section 3.1), refers to the whole Sanctuary.  Thus Heb 9:12 confirms that Christ upon His ascension to Heaven conformed to the sequence of the earthly Sanctuary, entering first into the Holy (outer compartment) in the Heavenly Sanctuary.

There He conducted His ‘continual’ ministry until the time specified for the true final Atonement in the Most Holy in Heaven.

Christ’s true ‘Daily’ Ministry - before or after the Cross?

Many teach that Christ’s ‘Daily’ Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary occurred before the Cross, giving support to the belief that the final Atonement began immediately after the Cross in 31 AD.  These points are addressed fully in study; ‘The Sanctuary: answering objections’, Objections 2,3.

3.3 The Father in the Heavenly Sanctuary

When Christ entered Heaven after His ascension He sat down at the Father's right hand:

He 10:12  But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 

He 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

God’s Right Hand is His hand of power (Ex 15:6) and His hand of salvation (Ps 17:7).  Thus Christ sits at God’s right hand as Saviour.  When, in the final reckoning Christ separates the sheep (the redeemed, see Jn 10:27) from the goats (the lost), He sets the sheep at His right hand (Mt 25:33).

We see two things: firstly, after His ascension to Heaven Christ entered the Holy, and secondly, He sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Father.  

Thus the Father's throne must have been in the Holy in Heaven, not in the Most Holy.

We must remember that the earthly Sanctuary was a shadow (a representation) of the Heavenly, not an exact copy.  In the earthly Sanctuary the Father had to veil His presence at all times (any sinner who saw His Glory would perish).  Thus the Father confined Himself to the Most Holy (on Earth).

No such restriction exists in the Heavenly Sanctuary.  The Father is therefore free to reside in the Holy (in Heaven), to be with Christ in the conduct of His (Christ’s) Ministry.

3.4 The Most Holy in Heaven

As we have seen, the ministry on Earth corresponds to the ministry in Heaven.  The daily ministration on Earth occurred in the Holy, while on the annual Day of Atonement the final atonement was conducted (in figure) in the Most Holy, in the very presence of God.

Thus when Christ performs the actual final atonement in the Heavenly Sanctuary, it must be conducted in the Most Holy (in Heaven), and it must be in the very presence of the Father.  

The thrones of Christ and the Father (in Heaven) must therefore be moved from the Holy into the Most Holy.

The relocation of thrones in Heaven is addressed in study: ‘Moving from the Holy to the Most Holy’.  The ministry in Heaven is addressed in study: ‘The Priesthood of Christ’.  The time of the entry into the Most Holy is addressed in study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’.

4. Free access to the Heavenly Sanctuary

In the time of the ministry in the earthly Sanctuary, the way to God had not yet been opened.  None, save the High Priest on the Day of Atonement alone, could exist in God's presence.

Now however, in Christ, all His faithful may enter freely into the Most Holy in Heaven - into the very presence of the Father:

He 10:19,20  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [tOn hagiOn (of the Holies)] by the blood of Jesus,  

20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 

Note. The ‘hagion’ form in this Scripture is in the Greek Genetive case (see Greek cases), indicating ownership.  Wherever Christ is present, those who are His by faith are granted the right to be present with Him - see Re 22:14.

5. Father and Son in ministry together

Ever since Christ after His ascension sat down at the right hand of the Father they have remained together:  first in the Holy (in Heaven), and now in the Most Holy (in Heaven).

Lk 22:69  Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. 

The Father and The Son are inseparable in the salvation of mankind:

He 8:1,2  Now of the things which we have spoken this 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; 

2 A minister of the sanctuary [tOn hagiOn (of the Holies)], and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 

Wherever Christ conducts His ministry, it is at the right hand of the Father’s throne.  Thus all of God is wholly involved in the salvation of mankind.  

When Satan accuses the penitent sinner, Christ, in the very presence of the Father, pleads His own blood in the sinner's defence - Christ cannot fail, our salvation is assured:

Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 

6 Summary

The Sanctuary in Heaven is the plan of salvation made plain for all the heavenly hosts to see.  The Lord has also opened it up, in figure in the form of the earthly Sanctuary, for all mankind to see - nothing is hidden. 

Thus the sequence of events in the earthly Sanctuary inform us of the events in the Heavenly Sanctuary. We know therefore that Christ, after His ascension, entered the Holy in  Heaven to continue His ‘daily’ ministry. 

Then, at the appropriate time, Christ entered the Most Holy in Heaven to begin His final Ministry: to eradicate the sin of the redeemed.

Throughout His ministry in Heaven Christ has been at the right hand of the Father. Thus both the Father and the Son are together involved closely in saving fallen mankind. 

We may therefore have absolute confidence that everything possible has been done to save us - it is up to us, by accepting or refusing Grace, whether or not we are saved.

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