What is the heavenly sanctuary?

The last post we were looking at the 2300 year prophecy in Daniel, and we went through the first 70 weeks.  If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest going back so you can start on the same page.

This post we’re looking at Daniel 8:14 specifically, where the prophecy states that after the 2300 years has ended, the sanctuary would be cleansed.  What does that mean?In order to understand this prophecy, we need to make sure we understand the sanctuary as it was understood in Jewish culture at the time of Daniel.  So, let’s take a look at this Sanctuary.

The purpose of the sanctuary, also called a tabernacle (Exodus 26:1) was built for God to dwell among His people (Exodus 25:8).  Because the Jewish people were nomadic at the time, during their 40 year exile, God designed for them a portable temple, as it were.  It was made of cloth, and was able to be completed disassembled for transport and reassembled whenever they stopped.  You can read all about it in Exodus 25-40 for more detail.

The tabernacle consisted of three sections:

  1. The courtyard
  2. The holy place
  3. The most holy place

The courtyard surrounded the inner tent.  When you walked into this inner tent, you were in the holy place, and continuing on was the most holy place, separated by a veil, or curtain, so no one would accidentally see inside.

These sections contained some specific, items.

  • In the courtyard were the altar for burnt offerings and the lavar, filled with water
  • The holy place had a table with shewbread on it, and it also contained a seven-branched candle stick and the altar of incense
  • The most holy place contained the ark of the covenant which held the tablets that the ten commandments were written on, and covering it was the mercy seat showing justice and mercy blended together.  Overlooking it were two cherubim between which sat the Shekinah glory, the presence of God on earth.

All these pieces had their place and their purpose.

When an Israelite sinned, he was to bring a lamb to this sanctuary, the tabernacle.  The sinner confessed his sins over the lamb, transferring his sin to the lamb.  Then the lamb was taken and sacrificed on the altar of burnt offerings.  The priest would take the blood of the lamb, bring it to the holy place and sprinkle the blood on the veil between the holy place and the most holy place, transferring the sin of the Israelite from the lamb, to the veil.  Every day, Israelites would come to confess their sins over the lamb they brought, would watch it get sacrificed, and see the priest walk into the holy place with the blood.  This was their reality.

And it wasn’t their idea, they didn’t make it up.  Moses had this tabernacle built, but according to a pattern Moses saw on Mount Sinai when he was with God (Exodus 25:9, 40).  Moses saw a sanctuary in heaven, and built a copy on Earth to teach the people about how it all works.  Thus there were two sanctuaries: one on Earth, built by the Israelites, and one in Heaven, built by God (Hebrews 8:1-5).  Everything the Israelites did was merely a copy, or a shadow of what Moses was would happen in Heaven, with Jesus being both the lamb (John 1:29) and high priest (Hebrews 4:14).  He alone stands between us and the most holy place, where God dwells (1 Timothy 2:5).

Everything in this sanctuary represents something Moses saw in heaven.

The three sections of the courtyard represent the three phases of Christ’s ministry:

The courtyard with it’s burnt offering where the Israelite would come, confess their sins over the lamb, transferring his sin to the lamb (1 Peter 2:24).  The lamb would be led to the altar to be sacrificed (Isaiah 53:7, Acts 8:32), cleansing the Israelite of their sin (Hebrews 9:26).

The priest would take the blood to the holy place sprinkle some on the horns of altar of incense and then on the veil to act as an intercessor between the Israelite and God (Hebrews 9:24).  The incense would change the smell of the blood into a scent pleasing to God (Revelation 8:3-4).

These are well known in Christianity, though perhaps the details linking the tabernacle and Christ’s ministry are not well taught.

But, there is one more event in the tabernacle that we haven’t discussed.  While the courtyard and the holy place were entered daily, and the acts described above were done daily, the most holy place was only entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

Once a year, the tabernacle would be cleansed, to completely clean all the sinners that had brought their sins to the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:29-30).  Two goats were brought to the tabernacle, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering (Leviticus 16:5), one for God, and one to represent Satan.  The goat for the LORD was sacrificed to God as sin offering (Leviticus 16:9), and it’s blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, the covering of the ark of the covenant, inside the most holy place.  This was the one time of the year the high priest, and only he, could enter the most holy place.  This sprinkling of the blood was to transfer any last minute sins of the Israelites that they haven’t yet confessed (Leviticus 16:16), just to make sure they hadn’t missed any sins.

Then the second goat was taken, and the high priest would confess over it all the sins of Israel, transferring all of it, for the whole year, onto this second goat.  This goat was then led into the wilderness, to completely separate it from God’s people (Leviticus 16:20-21).

This is the third phase of Christ’s ministry: Judgement.

Now, according to Daniel’s vision, this is to happen at the end of the 2300 days (Daniel 8:14).  Doing the math from earlier this means that in 1844, judgement had started.  Now, Christianity has taught that judgment is a singular event, all wrapped up in the end of the world, Christ’s second coming, going to heaven or hell, and re-creation and all that.  But, we know from the Bible that judgement has to occur prior to Christ’s arrival.  We know this for 2 reasons:

  1. When Christ returns, He’s going to separate the “sheep” from the “goats”, that is those who follow Him from those who do not.  This can’t be done until after His judgement (Matthew 25:31-34).  After all, how can Christ Judge after He brings His follows to Heaven?
  2. If an Israelite remembered a sin during the Day of Atonement, he could still run to the sanctuary and have his sin cleansed (Leviticus 16:4,23-25), this means that grace must still be available during Christ’s final phase, during His Judgement.  So, Christ must return after His judgement.

So, our prophecy is complete now:

   /----------------------------------------------------------------2300 years--------------------------------------------------------\
   /---------------70 weeks for the Jews -----------------------\                                                                     |
   /---7 weeks---+--------62 weeks-------+-------1 week---------+--------------1810 years to the sanctuary being cleansed-------------\
   |             |                       |    Jesus Crucified   |                      (Pre-advent Judgement)                        |
457 BC         408 BC                 27 AD                   34 AD                                                                1844 AD
Decree         Jerusalem              Baptism                 Stoning of                                                           Jesus starts
to rebuild     Rebuilt                of Jesus                Stephen                                                              cleansing the 
Jerusalem                                                                                                                          heavenly sanctuary


Christ is now in His final phase of ministry, cleansing the heavenly sanctuary of all the sins, while still providing intercession for us if we need it in these last days (1 John 2:1).

Next post we’re going to look more at this pre-advent judgement phase.

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