Bible Studies - Sanctuary

4. Was The Earthly Sanctuary The Original?

This question to some may seem of no importance, but if the earthly sanctuary built at the time of Moses was not the original then what was? Where was the original? And why did God have the Israelites make of copy of it?

While giving Moses the instruction for the making of the sanctuary and all its furniture, God also told him:-

"According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it." Exodus 25:9.

"And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." Exodus 25:40.

"And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount." Exodus 26:30.

God obviously showed Moses what everything was to look like. "God Himself devised the plan and gave it to Moses, with particular directions as to its size and form and the materials to be used, and specified every article of furniture which was to be in it. He presented before Moses a miniature model of the heavenly sanctuary and commanded him to make all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount. Moses wrote all the directions in a book and read them to the most influential people." Story of Redemption by E. White, page 151.

This is confirmed in the New Testament book of Hebrews where we find this information :-

"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; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 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 showed to thee in the mount." Hebrews 8:1-5.

"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. … 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:" Hebrews 9:1, 24.

From these Scriptures we can clearly see that there was a true tabernacle pitched by God in heaven and the earthly one was an example or shadow of the heavenly. Not only this, but that the first covenant 'also' had ordinances of divine services and a worldly sanctuary. This implies that the heavenly sanctuary of the second or new covenant had ordinances of divine services because the first also had them.

So why did God have the children of Israel make a copy of the heavenly sanctuary and replicate its services?

Firstly because Christ has become our High Priest according to Paul :-

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16.

And secondly because all the worship in the earthly sanctuary was to teach the truth in regard to the heavenly sanctuary. Not until Christ had completed His ministry on earth, died for our sins, rose again the third day, and ascended to heaven, could the way into the heavenly tabernacle be made available to man. But when Christ entered heaven to present His own blood in man's behalf, God revealed through His prophets much light in regard to the sanctuary in heaven (Hebrews 5:5-10).

In writing to the Brethren Paul says :-

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Colossians 2:14-17.

"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;" Ephesians 2:15.

"Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;" Hebrews 9:9-11.

From these Scripture it becomes very clear that the earthly sanctuary was given to men as an example or type of what Christ – the Lamb of God and our High Priest – would do for us. So once Christ became our High Priest then the earthly sanctuary and all its services were no longer necessary as they were superseded by the great original heavenly sanctuary and its services of which the earthly was only a copy, figure or type.

© S. D. Goeldner

© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated August, 2020.

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