Assume that you could design your home and your job in any way that you like. How would you design them? No doubt the design of your home, and the kind of work you do would reflect your priorities in life. If I asked you, "How important is it to know about the sanctuary in heaven," what would you say? Some argue that it is an obscure and technical issue that has little, if anything, to do with our salvation. But, consider for a moment that it is God's home and that it reflects what He does. It must reflect God's priorities! I'll tell you as a sneak preview, God's priority is you! Let's plunge into a new series of lessons about the heavenly sanctuary and what it means to us!
"The Heavenly Sanctuary"
October 5, 2013
Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Psalm 89:14; Revelation 4, 5; Psalm 11:4-7; Deuteronomy 25.1; Hebrews 8:1, 2
Royal watchers are done speculating what Prince William and Kate Middleton will name their first born child. They have moved on now to wanting to know all about the place this couple will raise this future heir to the British throne?
After baby George's birth, the three royals broke with British tradition and moved into the home of Kate's parents who, by comparison, are "commoners."The Telegraph, the popular UK newspaper, announced that before the royal family moves into Kensington Palace, the Palace is undergoing renovations "to remove asbestos, roof repairs, rewiring electrical outlets and replacing heating and hot water systems". This will cost British taxpayers approximately $1.52 million (US dollars).1
In another report The Huffington Post noted that it had been 50 years since the 57-room space, known as "Apartment A1" had any structural work done to it. The apartment would have needed to be completed for whoever moved in.2
Britain's tabloid, Daily Mail, reported that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are footing the bill for parts of the renovation, including fixtures, curtains and furnishings. The rest of the remodel such as electricity, heating and plaster is being paid for by money the government is giving the Queen.3
There is an even grander palace than the one in England where Royalty resides. Throughout the ages many have wondered where God lives and what God's home looks like. From now until the end of this year we will be exploring God's residence, the Heavenly Sanctuary, the center of God's presence and current activity in Heaven.
While other Christian denominations have elements of what constitutes this Sanctuary, only Seventh-day Adventists utilize it in entirety as a basis of faith. Among the list of the denominations fundamental beliefs is Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary, Fundamental Belief #23.
Author Ellen White recommends focusing on "the sanctuary in heaven [because it] is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men [and women]...It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin."4
There is a progression found in our salvation: from Christ's ministry and death, and resurrection on earth to the heavenly ministry in the first and second apartments in the Sanctuary, to the high priestly role and finally to the new earth tabernacle.5
Many things in Scripture are difficult to understand. The Heavenly Sanctuary can be one of those more challenging faith concepts. Our lessons this quarter are intended to help us move beyond Christ's death and resurrection to an understanding of what is transpiring in Heaven right now.
We begin our study this week by looking at the various sanctuary images. May the earthly model of the Sanctuary as well as the heavenly original, draw us into a deeper and closer relationship with God.
1. E Online
2. Huffington Post
3. Hollywood Life
4. The Great Controversey p. 488 (as cited in the Introduction of "The Sanctuary" Adult Bible Study Guide)
5. Adult Sabbath School Lesson Bible Study Guide, p. 11
The Heavenly Sanctuary
Commentary for the October 5, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’” 2 Samuel 7:5-7, NIV
When I go to visit my son and his wife, who live in Seattle, I must travel a few hundred miles. I live in the Spokane area, and depending on what stops I make along the way, the trip to Seattle can take around four hours. Within legal limits, I can go faster or slower and thereby change the time, but because of the distance I must travel I cannot eliminate the time factor. Since we live in the dimension we do, most of our activities are very much a function of Distance = Rate x Time (D=R*T). We fantasize not being limited by such constraints and being able to travel across both distance and time instantaneously. To my knowledge, no one has been able to transcend our dimensional boundaries to achieve instantaneous travel, much less manipulating time in the process.
We continue to dream, though. One very popular television series on British Broadcasting, “Dr Who,” has achieved a phenomenal run from 1963 to the present by keeping those dreams alive. A Time Lord, known as The Doctor, travels magically through space and time in a blue, British, police call box which is in reality a Tardis, a machine of infinite size inside while appearing rather small from without. Naturally, such a long-lived series has gone through several actors over the years requiring a somewhat unusual approach to explain the different characters. The Doctor is capable of regeneration, a god-like quality that allows a facile explanation of why his appearance keeps changing and also allows a series that has had a fifty-year run to have perpetually young actors.
While it may be fun to imagine time travel and contemplate its implications, the very fact that we do imagine it is proof of the limitations of our existence. Those limitations do not allow us to experience the stuff of dreams. They also can be barriers preventing depth of understanding beyond our experience. While this maybe should produce in us some humility in regards to the universe and what may exist beyond it, we sometimes find ourselves acting exactly the opposite. Failing to recognize our limitations, we may assert we understand more than we really do. We should perhaps realize that no one really understands beyond a certain point because that perspective is not attainable from where we are. But some boldly offer that understanding in the form of proclaimed certainties. Because these “certainties” are outside the realm of perception, they cannot be either proven or disproven. This can give a person a tremendous amount of control over anyone who accepts their perception of reality, because they have made themselves the definer of what is real and what is not.
If that offered reality does not measure up to experience over time, they can simply ignore the data and state that all is a matter of faith, not facts. Even if the reality is internally inconsistent, they may claim that these things are beyond our understanding, since they are outside the realm of measurable perception. This, too, can be rolled up and packaged as a matter of faith. In any event, someone advocating for the alternative perception can readily manipulate followers from an unassailable position.
If looked at from the perspective of our dimension interacting with a two dimensional world, we can see how this can happen. Suppose we find an individual we can communicate with in that world, we’ll call him Fos (Greek for light). Fos doesn’t have the ability to enter our dimension, but we have the ability to enter his to some degree. For instance, when we stand in his world, he can see how wide our feet our and how long, but not how tall as depth does not exist in his dimension. He knows we are there, but he cannot see our true form. We ask him to tell his friends about us and where we come from, and he happily does so, describing our width and length but not much else, because that’s all the information he has. Unfortunately, his description is not very compelling evidence of our extra-dimensionality. A frustrated Fos might wonder how to more fully explain us to his fellows. He may even ask us to help.
We make every effort to communicate with Fos and give him the tools to explain. However, when we draw pictures of ourselves, pictures of where we dwell, and some of the objects in our dimension, he can only see width and length, not depth, and we cannot provide him with the compelling evidence he needs. In the end, Fos can only tell others that something that he doesn’t understand exists even if he cannot describe it adequately. He may be forced to simply appeal to faith. Undoubtedly this would be far from convincing for most. If others do choose to believe him, as we have already discovered this puts him in a powerful position as gatekeeper for the newly discovered dimension. Depending on the level of Fos’ altruism, this can be good or bad. But laying aside the morality of where Fos goes from here, perhaps we can now understand some of the difficulty of interdimensional communications.
Now let’s go the other direction and postulate that a being from a higher dimensional existence is trying to communicate with us. Let’s make that being God, who by definition exists in every time and place.[i] How would such a being communicate an image of where He lives? Like our experience with Fos, perhaps His attempts would all end up looking like something native to our dimension, leaving out important aspects impossible to portray from our perspective. They may even be colored with cultural anomalies. To nomadic peoples, His dwelling may take on the appearance of something transportable and temporary. To those living in cities, His dwelling may be more like their own fixed dwellings. This does not mean that these approximations can in any way give us understanding of very much of God’s reality.
Sadly, in spite of these limitations, history has shown us that there are those who feel that life or death is determined based on these inadequate perceptions about God. Some might feel that today we have grown beyond such things, but if we ask the average person which is a holier building, a church or a garage, we see that the perceptions linger. Neither building may be very representative of what actually exists beyond the perspective of our existence.
Biblically, we see a progression of understanding about where one meets God. In the beginning it was simply going for a walk in the garden[ii] or perhaps down some path that leads to where God lives.[iii] Next we find people were coming to mountains and hills to communicate with God,[iv] perhaps because the Ark landed on mountains per the flood account.[v] As time went on, people had a very hard time making a transition to later understandings. Moses introduced the wilderness tabernacle, and David and Solomon moved the people to worship in a fixed temple, but throughout the changes, people continued to worship at the “high places.” Over and over the Bible states, “The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.”[vi] The picture portrayed is one of conflict regarding the older and the newer forms of worship. Perhaps this mirrors our own modern struggles over worship styles.
By the time of Jesus, a newer form of worship based on the community synagogue was gaining ascendance. It was this newer format that was able to survive the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD,[vii] and spread across the world to Jewish communities everywhere and is still with us, today. This model may have also informed the style of Christian worship as Paul first sought converts in the Jewish synagogues and then established separate congregations, perhaps with a similar organization and style to that of the synagogue, when they rejected him.[viii]
It seems we often have trouble breaking with the past, whether it is worshipping in the high places or promoting the idea of the Aaronic priesthood and the sanctuary as the model for worship. We even ignore the inconsistencies we create at times when we promote sanctuary based worship while actually following the synagogaic model. Perhaps we could avoid these “die on our sword” conflicts if we recognize the limitations of our perspective and therefore our understanding of God and our relationship to Him. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”[ix] Maybe this is where God seeks to meet us, today, in our hearts.
[i] Jeremiah 23:23-24
[ii] Genesis 3:8-9
[iii] Genesis 5:24
[iv] Genesis 22:2
[v] Genesis 8:4
[vi] 2 Kings 12:3 et al.
[vii] “Second Temple,” www.wikipedia.org
[viii] Acts 18:4-8
[ix] 1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV
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