THE CLEANSING OF THE SANCTUARY IN TYPE AND ANTITYPE
The Bible teaching concerning the sanctuary of the Levitical service shows clearly that the cleansing of the sanctuary is God's answer to error and apostasy.
The priestly service of the earthly sanctuary, or temple, in the days of Israel, was typical of the work of Christ, our High Priest, in the heavenly temple. The earthly priests served after "the example and shadow of heavenly things." Heb. 8:5. And of Christ's ministry in the heavenly temple we are told:
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a 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." Heb. 8:1, 2.
In the earthly service, the cleansing of the sanctuary was the closing work of the high priest, marking the end of the yearly round of mediatory ministry. The cleansing of the sanctuary in the time of the end must, therefore, according to the sure teaching of the type, be the closing ministry of our great High Priest in the heavenly temple, before He lays aside His priestly work to come in glory.
The Service of the Earthly Tabernacle
There were two distinct phases in the priestly ministry of the tabernacle in Israel. The sanctuary was built with two apartments, the holy place and the most holy.
In the holy place were the candlestick with its seven lights, the table with its ever-renewed "bread of the presence," and the altar of incense, on which sweet incense, symbol of Christ's continual intercession, was burned morning and night.
Within the inner veil was the most holy place, where was the ark containing the tables of the law, written with the finger of God. The cover of the ark was the golden mercy-seat, above which, at either end, stood two cherubim of gold, their wings meeting on high, their faces looking ever toward the mercy-seat. It was a type of the throne of God—the angels about the throne, the law the foundation of His government, the mercy-seat typifying the interposition of mercy and pardon for the sinner; and above it the visible glory of the Lord, the Shekinah.
"There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony." Ex. 25:22.
Of the service in the first apartment it is stated:
"When these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God." Heb. 9:6.
"Day by day the sacrificial victims were slain at the altar before the outer veil, and the blood was 'brought into the sanctuary' by the priest." This was an acknowledgment of transgression of God's law, meriting death, and a confession of faith in the Lamb of God who was to suffer death in the sinner's stead, and whose atoning blood would plead for him before the righteous law.
Thus day by day, either by the sprinkling of the blood "before the Lord" or by eating a portion of the flesh of the burnt offering in the holy place, the ministry of the priests transferred the sin in type to the sanctuary, and the sinner was pardoned.
For a full year, lacking one day, the ministry was in the first apartment, or holy place only. But on that last day of the yearly round of service—"the tenth day of the seventh month"—the high priest entered the second apartment, or most holy place.
"Into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people." Heb. 9:7.
In this service the high priest sprinkled the blood upon the mercy-seat and in the holy place, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel." The sanctuary was to be reconciled or cleansed from all the sins registered there in type through the blood of the offerings brought day by day during the year.
As the high priest came out, bearing the sins, he transferred them all to the head of the scapegoat, which was sent away into the wilderness; and thus "all their iniquities" were borne away from the camp into the wilderness, and the sanctuary was cleansed. See Leviticus 16.
This was a solemn time of judgment in Israel. Every man's life came in review that day. Was every sin confessed? Whosoever was not found right with God, when that service was performed, was cut off from having a part with God's people.
"It is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." Lev. 23:28, 29.
It was indeed an annual day of judgment in Israel. And all this was an "example and shadow of heavenly things." Heb. 8:5.
Christ's Closing Work in Heaven
Therefore the last phase of Christ's ministry as our high priest in the sanctuary of God above, must be a work of judgment, a review of the heavenly record, corresponding to the final ministry in the second apartment of the earthly tabernacle, when that sanctuary was cleansed.
Daniel the prophet was shown in vision this change in the ministry of our High Priest, namely, from the first to the second apartment of the heavenly temple. He describes the wondrous scene, as God's living throne, with its wheels flaming with glory, moved into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, for the closing work of Christ's ministry:
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down ["placed," R.V.], and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." Dan. 7:9, 10.
This scene, as the next verse shows, opens while still on earth the apostasy is exalting itself. But during this same time a solemn judgment work is going forward in heaven above, the finishing of which will give God's answer to the apostasy, and bring the second coming of Christ in glory to end the reign of sin. It is the cleansing of the sanctuary,—the time when in reality and not in type every case registered in the sanctuary comes in final review before God. When that work closes, according to the type, whosoever is not found right with God will be cut off from having any part with His redeemed people.
Then the priestly ministry of Christ will close, and the destiny of every soul will be fixed for all eternity. To that time must apply the words spoken by Jesus:
"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: ... and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly." Rev. 22:11, 12.
But now the Saviour, from His place of ministry on high, speaks to all the encouraging exhortation and assurance:
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." Rev. 3:5.
To let men on earth know when this judgment work, the cleansing of the sanctuary, began in heaven, the prophetic period of 2300 years was given. It is of most solemn importance that we know when that period begins and ends.