In order to understand how the earthly and the heavenly sanctuaries became defiled, we must go back to the significant events that led up to the Day of Atonement.
After Moses returned from the mountain where he had been shown the pattern of the holy places in heaven, he called together all the skilled artisans of Israel to build the wilderness tabernacle according to the divine blueprint. It consisted of two apartments separated by a heavy veil, approximating fifteen by forty-five feet in size. The sanctuary was surrounded by a courtyard in which the altar of burnt offering and layer were located.
In the first apartment, or holy place, was the table of shewbread, the golden candlesticks, and the altar of incense. Behind the veil was a second apartment called the most holy place, which contained only one article of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant. On either end of the ark was a covering cherub carved out of gold, sheltering the mercy seat in the middle, which represented the very presence of God.
As the lightweight, portable tabernacle was carried through the wilderness and erected at their places of sojourn, the children of Israel would bring prescribed offerings to obtain forgiveness for their sins. Daily the transgressors would come into the courtyard, place a flawless lamb on the altar, confess their sins over it, and slay the animal with their own hand. Then, depending on the class of sinner, the priest would either sprinkle the blood in the holy place, or eat a small piece of the flesh. In either case, the priest became the sin-bearer for the people, and eventually the sin was transferred through the priest into the sanctuary where a record of the sin was made through the sprinkled blood.
The symbolism, of course, is obvious. The lamb represented Jesus. Sin meant death, and the confessed sins of the people were transferred to the innocent lamb. Then, through the blood, their sins were transferred into the tabernacle.
Because the record of sin accumulated in the sanctuary, God commanded Israel to observe a special, solemn service once a year called the Day of Atonement. At that time, the sanctuary was to be cleansed of its defilement. It was the time when final atonement was made for the sins that had been confessed day after day during the year.In truth, it was looked upon as the Day of Judgment, and even modern Jews consider Yom Kippur as the most important day of the year. If confession had not been made by the end of that day, a person was cut off from Israel and left without hope.
No wonder, then, that the people prayed and fasted as that Day of Judgment approached every seventh month of the year. While they waited with sincere heart-searching, the high priest cast lots on two goats in the outer court. After taking a censer of fire and incense through the veil into the most holy place, he returned to take the blood of a bullock for his own sins and sprinkled it seven times before the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14). Then he killed the goat upon which the lot fell (the Lord's goat) and sprinkled its blood in the most holy place before the mercy seat. This made atonement for the sanctuary that had been defiled, as well as for the people who had confessed their sins.
After sprinkling the blood on all the places where the day-to-day sin-laden blood had been applied, the high priest emerged from the sanctuary and put his hands on the head of the second goat, the scapegoat. Then that goat was led off into the wilderness to perish alone (Leviticus 16:20-22).
What was accomplished by this dramatic ritual service? The record states, "On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord." Leviticus 16:30. It is important to understand that there was a sanctifying, cleansing work done for the people as well as a blotting out of the record of their transgressions.
The symbolisms are all quite self-evident except the scapegoat. What does it represent? Please keep in mind that this ceremony depicted the final disposition of all sin that had been committed during the year. Those who confessed by bringing a lamb were now clean.
Those who had not come by the end of the day had to bear their own sins and were cut off from Israel. The scapegoat could not represent Jesus, because there is no shedding of blood on its part. Who else would have to bear any responsibility for the sins of all the people? Only one. Satan, the great originator of all sin, would finally have rolled back upon him his share of guilt in every sin he had instigated.
This is what is represented by the scapegoat. He had no part whatsoever in the atonement. The Scriptures plainly say that the high priest had made an end of reconciling the people.Atonement had been completed and all the confessed guilt of the people had been blotted out. This punishment of Satan for all the sins in which he had shared a primary responsibility was not a substitutionary or atoning punishment at all, except in the sense of a murderer atoning for his sins by being executed for them.
As the man led away the scapegoat to perish miserably in the wilderness, the final eradication of all sin from the universe was vividly depicted. With the death of the wicked, both root and branches, the terminal traces of sin's awful consequences will be completely obliterated.
Thus, the Day of Atonement prefigured the disposition of sin from the universe. The ultimate lines of responsibility for all sin will be unerringly traced to the guilty parties, and someone must pay the penalty for each sin. The death of the lamb satisfies the penalty for all who have faith in the Saviour, but all others will have to bear the penalty in their own bodies. Each sinner who had not made Christ his sin-bearer will bear his own sins. Christ vicariously carried the sins of millions and died as a substitute for them, even though He never committed one sin. Satan will bear the sins of millions also, but he will die for those sins because he was personally guilty of causing them to be committed. So the two goats symbolized the only two ways for sin to be finally disposed of—atonement through the death of the substitute sin-bearer, or punishment through the death of the sinner.
Now we are better prepared to understand what Jesus is doing right now in the heavenly sanctuary. The book of Hebrews clearly teaches that Christ is ministering His blood for us in the most holy place. Paul declared that He did not need to go in every year, but only "once in the end of the world." Obviously, then, the same mediatorial work had to be done in the sanctuary above as transpired in the earthly tabernacle on the Day of Atonement. This establishes beyond question that the heavenly sanctuary is being cleansed by the one-time entrance of Jesus into the most holy place. This agrees perfectly with Paul's assertion that "it was ... necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified ... but ... with better sacrifices than these." Hebrews 9:23.
We now have to answer the question as to why the heavenly sanctuary would need cleansing. In the earthly type, it was needed because of the record of sin through the sprinkled blood. That record of sin had to be removed.
Is there also a record of sin in the heavenly sanctuary? If so, how and where is that record maintained? According to the Bible, it is done by means of books. John wrote,"And the books were opened: 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." Revelation 20:12.
No one can deny that there is a record of sin in heaven. It is all written down in the books, and the work of judgment takes place out of those books of sin-records. Daniel describes the judgment scene in these words, "The judgment was set, and the books were opened." Daniel 7:10.
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