Salvation in the Sanctuary
The hour of the evening sacrifice arrives. The priest stands in the court of the Temple in Jerusalem ready to offer a lamb as sacrifice. As he raises the knife to kill the victim, the earth shakes. Terrified, the priestdrops the knife and the lamb escapes.
Over the noise of the earthquake he hears a loud ripping noise as an unseen hand rips the veil of the Temple from top to bottom.
While this is happening, across town a cross is enshrouded by black clouds. Jesus, the Passover Lamb who is dying on the cross, cries out, “It is is finished!” then He dies for the sins of the world.
Type has met antitype.
The Hebrew temple services have down through the centuries pointed to this moment, the sacrifice of God’s Perfect Lamb.
The Saviour has completed His atoning sacrifice, and because symbol has met reality, the rituals foreshadowing this sacrifice have been permanently suspended. So now we understand the rent veil, the dropped knife, the escaped lamb.
The sacrifices of the earthly sanctuary were repetitive. Like a story, this ritual parable of redemption was told and retold year after year. By contrast, the Antitype—the actual atoning death of our Lord—took place at Calvary once for all time (Heb. 9:26-28; 10:10-14).
Forty days after Christ died here on earth, He moves to heaven to begin His heavenly ministry.
Throughout, Scripture speaks of the existence of a heavenly sanctuary or temple (e.g., Ps. 11:4; 102:19; Micah 1:2, 3).
In vision, John the Revelator saw the heavenly sanctuary. He described it as “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven” (Rev. 15:5) and “the temple of God. . . in heaven” (Rev. 11:19).
There he saw the items that the furnishings of the holy place of the earthly sanctuary were modeled after, such as seven lampstands (Rev. 1:12) and an altar of incense (Rev. 8:3).
And he saw there also the ark of the covenant which was like the one in the earthly Holy of Holies (Rev. 11:19).
The heavenly altar of incense is located before God’s throne (Rev. 8:3; 9:13), which is in the heavenly temple of God (Rev. 4:2; 7:15; 16:17).
So the heavenly throne room scene (Dan. 7:9, 10) is in the heavenly temple or sanctuary. This is why the final judgments issue from God’s temple (Rev. 15:5-8).
It is clear, therefore, that the Scriptures present the heavenly sanctuary as a real place (Heb. 8:2), not a metaphor or abstraction. The heavenly sanctuary is the primary dwelling place of God.
The Final Judgment.
The events on the Day of Atonement illustrate the three phases of God’s final judgment. They are (1) the “premillennial judgment” (or “the investigative judgment”) which is also called the “pre-Advent judgment”; (2) the “millennial judgment”; and (3) the “executive judgment” which takes place at the end of the millennium.
1. The Investigative Judgment – The Ministry in the Most Holy Place.
The cleansing of the sanctuary focused on the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary and which only the high priest could perform, was limited to one day of the religious year.
The cleansing of the sanctuary required two goats—the Lord’s goat and the scapegoat (Azazel in Hebrew). Sacrificing the Lord’s goat, the high priest made atonement inside the Most Holy Place.
Taking the blood of the Lord’s goat, which represented the blood of Christ, into the Most Holy Place, the high priest applied it directly, in the very presence of God, to the mercy seat—the cover of the ark containing the Ten Commandments—to satisfy the claims of God’s holy law. His action symbolized the immeasurable price Christ had to pay for our sins, revealing how eager God is to reconcile His people to Himself (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19).
Then he applied this blood to the altar of incense and to the altar of burnt offering which on every day of the year had been sprinkled with the blood representing confessed sins. The high priest thereby made an atonement for the sanctuary, as well as the people, and brought about cleansing of both (Lev. 16:16-20, 30-33).
Next, representing Christ as mediator, the high priest took upon himself the sins that had polluted the sanctuary and transferred them to the live goat, Azazel, which was then led away from the camp of God’s people.
This action removed the sins of the people that had been symbolically transferred from the repentant believers to the sanctuary through the blood or flesh of the sacrifices of the daily ministry of forgiveness.
In this way the sanctuary was cleansed and prepared for another year’s work of ministry (Lev. 16:16-20, 30-33). And so all things were set right between God and His people.
The Day of Atonement, then, illustrates the judgment process that deals with the eradication of sin. The atonement performed on this day “foreshadowed the final application of the merits of Christ to banish the presence of sin for all eternity and to accomplish the full reconciliation of the universe into one harmonious government under God.
Azazel, the scapegoat. “The translation ‘scapegoat” (or escape goat) of the Hebrew azazel or “goat sent away.” (Lev. 16:8)
A careful examination of Leviticus 16 reveals that Azazel represents Satan, not Christ, as some people think.
The arguments supporting this interpretation are:
(1) The scapegoat was not slain as a sacrifice and thus could not be used as a means of bringing forgiveness. For ‘without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22)
(2) The sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev. 16:20)
(3) The passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of, and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’).
The different phases of the judgment. The scapegoat ritual on the Day of Atonement pointed beyond Calvary to the final end of the sin problem—the banishment of sin and Satan.
The full accountability for sin will be rolled back upon Satan, its originator and instigator. Satan, and his followers, and all the effects of sin, will be banished from the universe by destruction. Atonement by judgment will, therefore, bring about a fully reconciled and harmonious universe (Eph. 1:10).
This is the objective that the second and final phase of Christ’s priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary will accomplish. This judgment will see God’s final vindication before the universe.
The Day of Atonement portrayed the three phases of the final judgment:
The removal of sins from the sanctuary relates to the first, or pre-Advent, investigative phase of the judgment. It focuses on the names recorded in the Book of Life just as the Day of Atonement focused on the removal of the confessed sins of the penitent from the sanctuary.
False believers will be sifted out; the faith of true believers and their union with Christ will be reaffirmed before the loyal universe, and the records of their sins will be blotted out.
The banishment of the scapegoat to the wilderness symbolizes Satan’s millennial imprisonment on this desolated earth, which begins at the Second Advent and coincides with the second phase of the final judgment, which takes place in heaven (Rev. 20:4; 1 Cor. 6:1-3). This millennial judgment involves a review of the judgment on the wicked and will benefit the redeemed by giving them insight into God’s dealings with sin and those sinners who were not saved. It will answer all the questions the redeemed may have about God’s mercy and justice.
The clean camp symbolizes the results of the third phase of the judgment, when fire destroys the wicked and cleanses the earth (Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 25:31-46 2 Peter 3:7-13.
As during the inauguration of the earthly sanctuary it was anointed with holy oil to consecrate it for its services, so in its inauguration the heavenly sanctuary was to be anointed to consecrate it for Christ’s intercessory ministry.
With His ascension soon after His death (Dan. 9:27)25 Christ began His ministry as our high priest and intercessor.
And as during the typical Day of Atonement the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary removed the sins accumulated there, so the heavenly sanctuary is cleansed by the final removal of the record of sins in the heavenly books.
But before the records are finally cleared, they will be examined to determine who through repentance and faith in Christ is entitled to enter His eternal kingdom. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, therefore, involves a work of investigation or judgment that fully reflects the nature of the Day of Atonement as a day of judgment.
30 This judgment, which ratifies the decision as to who will be saved and who will be lost, must take place before the Second Advent, for at that time Christ returns with His reward “‘to give to every one according to his work'” (Rev. 22:12). Then, also, Satan’s accusations will be answered (cf. Rev. 12:10).
All who have truly repented and by faith claimed the blood of Christ’s atoning sacrifice have received pardon. When their names come up in this judgment and they are found clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, their sins are blotted out and they are accounted worthy of eternal life (Luke 20:35). “‘He who overcomes, ‘” Jesus said, “‘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'” (Rev. 3:5).
The prophet Daniel reveals the nature of this investigative judgment. While the apostate Roman Catholic power symbolized by the little horn carries on its blasphemous and persecuting work against God and His people on earth (Dan. 7:8, 20, 21, 25), thrones are set in place and God presides over the final judgment.
This judgment takes place in the throne room of the heavenly sanctuary and is attended by multitudes of heavenly witnesses. When the court is seated, the books are opened, signalling the beginning of an investigative procedure (Dan. 7:9, 10). It is not until after this judgment that the apostate Roman Catholic power is destroyed (Dan. 7:11)
The Time of the Judgment. Both Christ and the Father are involved in the investigative judgment. Before He returns to the earth on the “clouds of heaven,” Christ as the “‘Son of Man'” comes “‘with the clouds of heaven'” to the “‘Ancient of Days, ‘” God the Father, and stands before Him (Dan. 7:13). Ever since His ascension Christ has functioned as high priest, our intercessor before God (Heb. 7:25). But at this time He comes to receive the kingdom (Dan. 7:14).
The vision specifies when Christ was to begin this antitypical day of atonement ministry—the work of the investigative judgment (Dan. 7) and cleansing of the sanctuary—”Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Dan. 8:14, KJV).36
Because the vision refers to the time of the end, the sanctuary it speaks of cannot be the earthly sanctuary—for it was destroyed in A.D. 70. The prophecy must therefore refer to the new covenant sanctuary in heaven—the place where Christ ministers for our salvation.
Human beings belong to one of three classes of people:
(1) The wicked, who reject God’s authority.
(2) Genuine believers, who, trusting in the merits of Christ through faith, live in obedience to God’s law.
(3) Those who appear to be genuine believers, but are not.
The unfallen beings of other worlds can easily identify the first class of people.
But who is a genuine believer and who is not? Both groups are written in the book of life, which contains the names of all who have ever entered God’s service (Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 21:27).
The church itself contains genuine and false believers, the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:28-30).
God’s unfallen creatures are not omniscient; they cannot read the heart. So a judgment is needed—before the second coming of Christ—to sift the true from the false and to demonstrate to the interested universe God’s justice in saving the sincere believer.
The issue is with God and the universe, not between God and the true child. This calls for the opening of the books of record, the disclosing of those who have professed faith and whose names have been entered into the book of life.
Christ depicted this judgment in His parable of the wedding guests who responded to the generous gospel invitation.
Because not all who choose to be Christian are genuine disciples, the king comes to inspect the guests and see who has the wedding garment. This garment represents “the pure, spotless character which Christ’s true followers will possess.
To the church is given ‘that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white,’ ‘not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,’ (Rev. 19:8; Eph. 5:27). The fine linen, says the Scripture, ‘is the righteousness of saints’ (Rev. 19:8).
It is the righteousness of Christ, His own unblemished character, that through faith is imparted to all who receive Him as their personal Saviour.”
When the king inspects the guests, only those who have put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness so generously offered in the gospel invitation are accepted as genuine believers.
Those who profess to be followers of God but who are living in disobedience and are not covered by Christ’s righteousness will be blotted from the book of life (see Ex. 32:33).
The concept of an investigative judgment of all who profess faith in Christ does not contradict the Biblical teaching of salvation by faith through grace. Paul knew that one day he would face the judgment.
He therefore expressed the desire to “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).
All who are united with Christ are assured of salvation. In the pre-Advent phase of the last judgment genuine believers, those who have a saving relationship with Christ, are affirmed before the unfallen universe.
Christ, however, cannot assure salvation for those who only profess to be Christians on the basis of how many good deeds they have performed (see Matt. 7:21-23).
The heavenly records, therefore, are more than just a tool for sifting the genuine from the false. They also are the foundation for confirming the genuine believers before the angels.
God intends this good news of Christ’s closing ministry of salvation to go to all the world before Christ’s return.
Central to this message is the everlasting gospel, which is to be proclaimed with a sense of urgency because “‘the hour of His [God’s] judgment has come'” (Rev. 14:7). This call warns the world that God’s judgment is taking place now.
Today we are living in the great antitypical day of atonement. As the Israelites were called to afflict their souls on that day (Lev. 23:27), so God calls upon all His people to experience heartfelt repentance.
All who wish to retain their names in the book of life must make things right with God and their fellowmen during this time of God’s judgment (Rev. 14:7).
Christ’s work as high priest is nearing its completion. The years of human probation are slipping away. No one knows just when God’s voice will proclaim, “It is finished.” “‘Take heed, ‘” Christ said, “‘watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is'” (Mark 13:33).
Although we live in the awesome time of the antitypical day of atonement, we have no need to fear. Jesus Christ, in His twofold capacity of sacrifice and priest, ministers in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf.
Because “we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).