Thursday: The Day of Atonement

The book of Hebrews teaches that the earthly Hebrew sanctuary service was a model of the heavenly sanctuary, the one that Christ entered and inaugurated as our High Priest. The earthly service, with its two apartments and its sacrificial and cleansing rituals, was “the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle” (Heb. 8:5, NKJV).

High Priest

And just as the earthly sanctuary ritual included a ministry in the two compartments, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, so also does Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. In the earthly sanctuary, the concept of judgment was represented on the Day of Atonement, which resulted in the cleansing of the sanctuary, as depicted in Leviticus 16. This was the one time a year when the High Priest entered into the second compartment, the Most Holy Place (Lev. 16:12-14) to do a work of cleansing and atonement in behalf of the people.

Read Hebrews 9:20-23. What needs to be purified and cleansed, and why is this a clear reference to the Day of Atonement ministry of Christ?

Scholars have been surprised by the statement that the heavenly sanctuary itself needed to be cleansed or “purified”. However, once this is understood as a Day of Atonement reference, the problem vanishes. Hebrews 9:23 shows that the work Christ does in the heavenly sanctuary is the true expression of what the earthly high priest did in the yearly Day of Atonement service in the Israelite sanctuary. The ministry of the earthly priest in cleansing the earthly sanctuary foreshadowed the work that Christ would one day do in the heavenly. The text does not say that this heavenly cleansing takes place immediately after Christ’s ascension. From the study of the book of Daniel, we can see that this phase of ministry began in the year 1844. So as Christians facing the last days, we need to understand the solemnity of the time that we are in but rest in the assurance of what Christ has done for us in the past and is doing for us now in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary.

The first angel’s message declares: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7, NKJV). The reality of the judgment points to the nearness of the end. How should this reality impact how we live?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons