The work of Christ in the sanctuary now begins to come into focus. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is the blotting out of sin through the atoning merits of the blood which Jesus ministers in behalf of those who believe. You might ask, "How could this be? Wasn't the atonement finished on the cross when Jesus died?" There is no question that Jesus completed the sacrifice which provided for a final atonement for every soul who would apply for cleansing and pardon. However, just as the slaying of the lamb in the courtyard did not cleanse the record of sin until it was sprinkled in the sanctuary, so the death of Jesus can effect no cleansing until it is applied to each individual life that seeks it through the High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
Ever since Jesus entered the most holy place through the veil, He has been engaged in the work of judgment, cleansing the record of sin by appealing His blood to the Father. The writer of Hebrews definitely ties the work of Jesus in the holy of holies to the judgment. He wrote,"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: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:24-27.
Here the apostle Paul connects the judgment with the work of Jesus in the most holy place. That cleansing was always considered the Day of Judgment, because it dealt with the "putting away" of sin and the final disposition of it— either through the sin-bearer priest or the cutting off of the unrepentant.
Then in the next verse Paul describes the end of the judgment and the coming of Christ to deliver those who would be accounted worthy of salvation. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Hebrews 9:28.
Some mighty truths are revealed in this verse. Christ had completed His work as sin-bearer and priest. He is now described as appearing "without sin." This is not talking about His having a sinless nature—that has never been in question. But He is no longer bearing the sins of His people before the Father. He no longer administers His atonement for them in the heavenly sanctuary. He has finished with interceding. The work of the investigative judgment out of the books of heaven is ended. Now He returns without sin—no longer bearing people's sins—to execute the judgment that has been determined out of the books.
John speaks of that moment in these words:
"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy 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; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Revelation 22:11,12.
When Christ lays aside His priestly garment and puts on His kingly robe, the probation of every person has been eternally settled and fixed. Every name has been accepted or rejected because of the books. A great decree goes forth from the throne declaring that all must remain as they are, and announcing the immediate return of Jesus to execute the judgments determined. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15.
Please note that the final determining factor will be the book of life. After the judgment takes place involving the book of life, some names will be found in it; others will not, because they have been blotted out in the judgment. "And another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:12,15.
Daniel speaks of the same event in these words: "And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:1,2.
Again, the sequence is exactly the same. A determination has been made out of the books, and execution of the judgment follows immediately. Only those names in the book of life that survived the searching scrutiny of the investigative judgment will be accounted worthy of eternal life.
In this brief treatment of the subject, there will be no opportunity to establish the beginning point of the cleansing work in the heavenly sanctuary. Suffice it to say here that there is one particular prophecy of Daniel that actually pinpoints the year of Christ's entry into the most holy place to begin the final atonement work for us. Since it has already begun, and we are at this very moment living in the solemn time of that judgment, it seems more appropriate to spend the rest of our time thinking of how the priestly work of Christ can benefit us right now. It is interesting to note in passing that according to the earthly shadow, the time for our High Priest to be in the most holy place would be short compared to His ministry in the first apartment.
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