Sanctuary Overview: The Jews Sacrificial System
Nearly two thousand years ago, a voice of mysterious import was heard in heaven, from the throne of God, “Lo, I come.” … Christ was about to visit our world, and to become incarnate. He says, “A body hast Thou prepared Me.” Had He appeared with the glory that was His with the Father before the world was, we could not have endured the light of His presence. That we might behold it and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity,—the invisible glory in the visible human form.
This great purpose had been shadowed forth in types and symbols. The burning bush, in which Christ appeared to Moses, revealed God. The symbol chosen for the representation of the Deity was a lowly shrub, that seemingly had no attractions. This enshrined the Infinite. The all-merciful God shrouded His glory in a most humble type, that Moses could look upon it and live. So in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God communicated with Israel, revealing to men His will, and imparting to them His grace. God’s glory was subdued, and His majesty veiled, that the weak vision of finite men might behold it. … His glory was veiled, His greatness and majesty were hidden, that He might draw near to sorrowful, tempted men.—The Desire of Ages, p. 23.
Every morning and evening a lamb of a year old was burned upon the altar, with its appropriate meat offering, thus symbolizing the daily consecration of the nation to Jehovah, and their constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ. … The priests were to examine all animals brought as a sacrifice, and were to reject every one in which a defect was discovered. Only an offering “without blemish” could be a symbol of His perfect purity who was to offer Himself as “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:19.
The apostle Paul points to these sacrifices as an illustration of what the followers of Christ are to become. He says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1.—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 352.
Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. To many it has been a mystery why so many sacrificial offerings were required in the old dispensation, why so many bleeding victims were led to the altar. But the great truth that was to be kept before men, and imprinted upon mind and heart, was this, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” In every bleeding sacrifice was typified “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Christ Himself was the originator of the Jewish system of worship, in which, by types and symbols, were shadowed forth spiritual and heavenly things. Many forgot the true significance of these offerings; and the great truth that through Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin, was lost to them.—Ellen G. White Comments, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 932, 933.
Hebrews 4:1 Rest
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. [Hebrews 4:9–11].
The rest here spoken of is the rest of grace, obtained by following the prescription, Labor diligently. Those who learn of Jesus His meekness and lowliness find rest in the experience of practicing His lessons. It is not in indolence, in selfish ease and pleasure-seeking, that rest is obtained. Those who are unwilling to give the Lord faithful, earnest, loving service will not find spiritual rest in this life or in the life to come. Only from earnest labor comes peace and joy in the Holy Spirit—happiness on earth and glory hereafter.—Ellen G. White Comments, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 928.
Rest is found when all self-justification, all reasoning from a selfish standpoint, is put away. Entire self-surrender, an acceptance of His ways, is the secret of perfect rest in His love. Do just what He has told you to do, and be assured that God will do all that He has said He would do. Have you come to Him, renouncing all your makeshifts, all your unbelief, all your self-righteousness? Come just as you are, weak, helpless, and ready to die.
What is the “rest” promised?—It is the consciousness that God is true, that He never disappoints the one who comes to Him. His pardon is full and free, and His acceptance means rest to the soul, rest in His love.—Our High Calling, p. 97.
We shall be saved eternally when we enter in through the gates into the city. Then we may rejoice that we are saved, eternally saved. But until then we need to heed the injunction of the apostle, and to “fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). Having a knowledge of Canaan, singing the songs of Canaan, rejoicing in the prospect of entering into Canaan, did not bring the children of Israel into the vineyards and olive groves of the Promised Land. They could make it theirs in truth only by occupation, by complying with the conditions, by exercising living faith in God, by appropriating His promises to themselves.
Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, and when we yield to His hand we shall steadily grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. We shall make progress until we reach the full stature of men and women in Christ. Faith works by love, and purifies the soul, expelling the love of sin that leads to rebellion against, and transgression of, the law of God.—That I May Know Him, p. 162.
The example of Israelites as ensample
The example of ancient Israel is given as a warning to the people of God, that they may avoid unbelief and escape His wrath. If the iniquities of the Hebrews had been omitted from the Sacred Record, and only their virtues recounted, their history would fail to teach us the lesson that it does. …
The principles of justice required a faithful narration of facts for the benefit of all who should ever read the Sacred Record. Here we discern the evidences of divine wisdom. We are required to obey the law of God, and are not only instructed as to the penalty of disobedience, but we have narrated for our benefit and warning the history of Adam and Eve in Paradise, and the sad results of their disobedience of God’s commands. … Their example is given us as a warning against disobedience, that we may be sure that the wages of sin is death, that God’s retributive justice never fails, and that He exacts from His creatures a strict regard for His commandments. …
There before us lie the lives of the believers, with all their faults and follies, which are intended as a lesson to all the generations following them. If they had been without foible they would have been more than human, and our sinful natures would despair of ever reaching such a point of excellence. But seeing where they struggled and fell, where they took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged, and led to press over the obstacles that degenerate nature places in our way.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 11, 12.
The Old Testament is the gospel in figures and symbols. The New Testament is the substance. One is as essential as the other. The Old Testament presents lessons from the lips of Christ, and these lessons have not lost their force in any particular.—Selected Messages, book 2, p. 104.
God commanded Moses for Israel, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8), and He abode in the sanctuary, in the midst of His people. Through all their weary wandering in the desert, the symbol of His presence was with them. So Christ set up His tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment. He pitched His tent by the side of the tents of men, that He might dwell among us, and make us familiar with His divine character and life. “The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” John 1:14, R. V., margin.—The Desire of Ages, p. 23.
Harden not your hearts
God requires prompt and unquestioning obedience of His law; but men are asleep or paralyzed by the deceptions of Satan, who suggests excuses and subterfuges, and conquers their scruples, saying as he said to Eve in the garden: “Ye shall not surely die.” Disobedience not only hardens the heart and conscience of the guilty one, but it tends to corrupt the faith of others. That which looked very wrong to them at first, gradually loses this appearance by being constantly before them, till finally they question whether it is really sin and unconsciously fall into the same error. …
Many are the hindrances that lie in the path of those who would walk in obedience to the commandments of God. There are strong and subtle influences that bind them to the ways of the world, but the power of the Lord can break these chains. He will remove every obstacle from before the feet of His faithful ones or give them strength and courage to conquer every difficulty, if they earnestly beseech His help. All hindrances will vanish before an earnest desire and persistent effort to do the will of God at any cost to self, even if life itself is sacrificed. Light from heaven will illuminate the darkness of those, who, in trial and perplexity, go forward, looking unto Jesus as the Author and Finisher of their faith.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 146, 147.
The coldness of ice, the hardness of iron, the impenetrable, unimpressible nature of rock—all these find a counterpart in the character of many a professed Christian. It was thus that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. God spoke to the Egyptian king by the mouth of Moses, giving him the most striking evidences of divine power; but the monarch stubbornly refused the light which would have brought him to repentance. God did not send a supernatural power to harden the heart of the rebellious king, but as Pharaoh resisted the truth, the Holy Spirit was withdrawn, and he was left to the darkness and unbelief which he had chosen. By persistent rejection of the Spirit’s influence, men cut themselves off from God. He has in reserve no more potent agency to enlighten their minds. No revelation of His will can reach them in their unbelief.—Our High Calling, p. 160.
Christ says: “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). As Christ’s ambassador, I would entreat of all who read these lines to take heed while it is called today. “If ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15; 4:7). Without waiting a moment, inquire, What am I to Christ? and what is Christ to me? What is my work? What is the character of the fruit I bear?—This Day With God, p. 51.
Who are candidates of heaven
No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God. His love is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere. It lifts out of Satan’s circle the poor souls who have been deluded by his deceptions. It places them within reach of the throne of God, the throne encircled by the rainbow of promise.
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free. All are brought nigh by His precious blood. (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:13).
Whatever the difference in religious belief, a call from suffering humanity must be heard and answered. Where bitterness of feeling exists because of difference in religion, much good may be done by personal service. Loving ministry will break down prejudice, and win souls to God.—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 386.
It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Job 14:4; Romans 8:7. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness.—Steps to Christ, p. 18.
Many make a serious mistake in their religious life by keeping the attention fixed upon their feelings and thus judging of their advancement or decline. Feelings are not a safe criterion. We are not to look within for evidence of our acceptance with God. We shall find there nothing but that which will discourage us. Our only hope is in “looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.” There is everything in Him to inspire with hope, with faith, and with courage. He is our righteousness, our consolation and rejoicing.
Those who look within for comfort will become weary and disappointed. A sense of our weakness and unworthiness should lead us with humility of heart to plead the atoning sacrifice of Christ. As we rely upon His merits we shall find rest and peace and joy. He saves to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 199, 200.
Rituals and Symbols Lessons
The Old Testament is filled with types, shadows, and rituals that, although often neglected by twenty-first-century Christians, have deep spiritual significance. The lessons taught in these types are rich with meaning. Understood correctly, they enhance our spiritual lives immensely.
The entire history of Israel is an example of our Christian walk with God. As the Israelites were miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage, passed through the Red Sea, ate manna in the wilderness, and drank from the rock on their journey, we, too, are on a spiritual journey. Christ providentially delivers us from sin’s slavery, leads us through the waters of baptism, nourishes us by the manna of His Word, and quenches our raging thirst in the desert of this world through His own life.
God instructed Israel to construct a sanctuary in the wilderness that He might “ ‘dwell among them’ ” (Exod. 25:8). This sanctuary was to be built according to the “pattern” of the heavenly reality (Exod. 25:40). Everything about its construction and services reveals eternal truths about the living Christ. Jesus is represented in every offering. The entire priesthood, every article of furniture, and every service point forward to Christ. The sacrificial system of the shedding of blood foreshadows the shed blood of Christ.
The goal of Israel’s deliverance and journey out of Egypt was arrival in Canaan. The Promised Land would provide them Heaven’s rest. The Sabbath rest foreshadowed this larger rest in Christ and was a precursor of the rest God intended for them in the Promised Land (Heb. 4:1–11).
The apostle Paul often referred to the experience of the Israelites in their journey to the Promised Land as an example for Christian believers. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, he states, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (NKJV). The examples of the Old Testament provide valuable insights for Christian living.
In our imagination, let’s visit the sanctuary. We watch a man with a lamb approach the altar and place his hand upon the lamb. Leviticus 4:33 makes the meaning clear: “Then he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering” (NKJV). The laying of his hand upon the lamb implies confession—and genuine confession is specific. Leviticus 5:5, in its description of the trespass offering, points this out: “He shall confess that he has sinned in that thing” (NKJV).
In symbol his sin has been transferred from himself to the lamb. And so, the lamb must die. Why must the lamb die? What has the lamb done wrong? Nothing, absolutely nothing. But here is a central message of the sanctuary. When we confess our sins, they are, in fact, transferred to Jesus, the Lamb of God. Who slays the sacrifice? The repentant sinner who has transferred his sin to the substitute. “And he shall . . . slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering” (Lev. 4:33). Notice the steps involved.
The book The Great Controversy describes the scene this way: “Day by day the repentant sinner brought his offering to the door of the tabernacle and, placing his hand upon the victim’s head, confessed his sins, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the innocent sacrifice. The animal was then slain.”—Page 418.
The priest then took the blood from the slain animal and sprinkled it before the veil in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary. In some special instances, the priest ate the flesh and then entered the sanctuary. The sin was then transferred in the body of the priest who had eaten the flesh. The common person, of course, was unable to enter the sanctuary. When that individual’s sins were transferred to the sanctuary, they were hidden from human view. No one could see them. They were covered by the blood of Christ.
Therefore, David exclaims in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” The word “blessed” means “happy, contented, fulfilled, at peace, or at rest.” When we come to Jesus and confess specific sins, our hearts are at peace. Our sins are transferred in fact to the heavenly sanctuary. So, the psalmist can joyfully exclaim, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12, NKJV). We no longer bear the burden, the guilt, the shame, the condemnation of sin. It has been transferred to our dying Lamb. Our Living Priest bears it through the blood to heaven’s sanctuary.
Lessons From the Lamb
In the typical service when the contrite sinner transferred his sin to the innocent lamb, it became a sin bearer. So, concerning Christ the Scriptures state, that He is the One “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). As the repentant sinner brought a substitute that died in that person’s place, so every penitent person can come to Calvary and, looking at the crucified Son of God, say, He “loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Christ’s grace is unmerited, undeserved, unearned. Jesus died the agonizing, painful death that lost sinners will die. He experienced the fullness of the Father’s wrath, or judgment, against sin. He was rejected so that we could be accepted. He died the death that was ours so that we could live the life that was His. He wore the crown of thorns so that we could wear a crown of glory. He was nailed upright in torturous pain upon a cross so that we could reign on a throne with the redeemed of all ages, wearing the robes of royalty forever. In our shame and guilt, Jesus did not reject us; He reached out in love to accept us. The dying lamb represents the bruised, battered, bloodied body of our Savior. It speaks of a love so marvelous, so amazing, so divine, that it would rather take the condemnation, guilt, and penalty of sin upon itself than to lose even one of its children eternally.
Ellen G. White explains the significance of the Cross in The Desire of Ages, page 753: “Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law.” This is the story of grace. This is the story of a Savior’s love beyond measure.
Sabbath Rest in Christ
True Sabbath rest is the rest of grace in the loving arms of the One who created us, the One who redeemed us, and the One who is coming again for us. Do you remember that unique phrase in Genesis 2:3: “in it [the Sabbath] He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (NKJV)? The Sabbath is God’s rest. He rested on the seventh day as a divine acknowledgment that His work was completed.
Hebrews 4:9, 10 likens God’s rest at the end of Creation week, when He ceased from His works, to our ceasing from our human works, entering Christ’s salvation rest. Hebrews puts it this way: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb. 4:9, 10, NKJV). According to Scripture, our Sabbath rest is an act of supreme worship in which we rest totally in Jesus for our salvation. Commenting on Hebrews 4:4, The SDA Bible Commentary makes this insightful statement: “As God’s original purpose for this world—His ‘rest’—remains unchanged, the seventh-day Sabbath, the day of ‘rest’ He established to be a memorial of creation and thus a reminder of His purpose in the creation of the world, likewise remains unchanged. The observance of the seventh-day Sabbath thus testifies not only to faith in God as the Creator of all things, but also to faith in His power to transform the life and qualify men and women for entering into that eternal ‘rest’ He originally intended for the inhabitants of the earth.”—Volume 7, p. 420.
There is a richness in the concept of divine rest. The book of Hebrews expands the concept quite dramatically. For the author of Hebrews, divine rest involves a faith relationship with Jesus that leads to resting in the One that created us, knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It also includes resting in His finished work on the cross. Resting in Christ is trusting His grace for our salvation; but the rest in Hebrews 4 includes much more. Christ’s goal for the Israelites was to get them into the Promised Land. His purpose was not for them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Their hearts would always be restless until they arrived safely in their homeland. When the covenant promise was fulfilled, they would find lasting peace and heavenly rest. Whatever challenges we face on this earth, the rest that Christ offers is not temporary. Sabbath rest foreshadows the eternal rest that Jesus desires for us in heaven’s Promised Land. Then, and only then, our hearts will be in permanent peace. Our rest in Christ today is preliminary to the glorious day in which we will be at rest with Him in eternity.
I present before you the great Exemplar. “Great is the mystery of godliness.” 1 Timothy 3:16. To explain the doctrine of regeneration is impossible. Finite minds cannot soar high enough to understand its depths and yet it is felt, although inexpressible and unexplainable in all its particulars. Jesus identified His interest with suffering humanity, and yet He is man’s judge. He was a child once and had a child’s experience, a child’s trials, a child’s temptation. As really did He meet and resist the temptations of Satan as any of the children of humanity. In this sense alone could He be a perfect example for man. He subjected Himself to humanity to become acquainted with all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He took upon Him the infirmities and bore the sorrows of the sons of Adam.
He was “made like unto His brethren.” Hebrews 2:17. He felt both joy and grief as they feel. His body was susceptible to weariness, as yours. His mind, like yours, could be harassed and perplexed. If you have hardships, so had He. If you have conflicts, so had He. If you need encouragement, so did He. Satan could tempt Him. His enemies could annoy Him. The ruling powers could torture His body; the soldiers could crucify Him; and they can do no more to us. Jesus was exposed to hardships, to conflict and temptation, as a man. He became the Captain of our Salvation through suffering. He could bear His burden better than we, for He bore it without complaint, without impatience, without unbelief, without repining; but this is no evidence He felt it less than any of the suffering sons of Adam.
Jesus was sinless and had no dread of the consequences of sin. With this exception His condition was as yours. You have not a difficulty that did not press with equal weight upon Him, not a sorrow that His heart has not experienced. His feelings could be hurt with neglect, with indifference of professed friends, as easily as yours. Is your path thorny? Christ’s was so in a tenfold sense. Are you distressed? So was He. How well fitted was Christ to be an example!
Jesus was thirty years old before He entered His public ministry. The period of His childhood and youth was one of comparative obscurity, but of the highest importance. He was in this obscurity laying the foundation of a sound constitution and vigorous mind. He “grew, and waxed strong in spirit.” Luke 1:80. It is not as a man bending under the pressure of age that Jesus is revealed to us traversing the hills of Judea. He was in the strength of His manhood. Jesus once stood in age just where you now stand. Your circumstances, your cogitations at this period of your life, Jesus has had. He cannot overlook you at this critical period. He sees your dangers. He is acquainted with your temptations. He invites you to follow His example.
The character of Christ was one of unexampled excellence, embracing everything pure, true, lovely, and of good report. We have no knowledge of His ever visiting a party of pleasure or a dance hall, and yet He was the perfection of grace and courtly bearing. Christ was no novice; He was distinguished for the high intellectual powers He possessed even in the morning of His life. His youth was not wasted in indolence, neither was it wasted in sensual pleasure, self-indulgence, or frittered away in things of no profit. Not one of his hours from childhood to manhood was misspent, none were misappropriated.
The inspired record says of Him: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52. As He grew in years, He grew in knowledge. He lived temperately; His precious hours were not wasted in dissipating pleasures. He had a truly healthy body and true powers of mind. His physical and mental powers could be expanded and developed as yours or any other youth’s. The Word of God was His study, as it should be yours.
Take Jesus as your standard. Imitate His life. Fall in love with His character. Walk as Christ walked. A new spring will be given to your intellectual faculties, a larger scope to your thoughts, when you bring your powers into vigorous contact with eternal things, which are intrinsically grand and great. 3LtMs, Lt 17, 1878.