The Priest, His Confessional, and the Church
By Elder Lawrence Nelson
I trust that this message will lift our thoughts higher and higher to the throne of God where we may be able, by faith, to visualize God the Father and Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit – all working together to make our salvation possible. We will see revealed in this message the divine love of God as we have never seen it before. This is what the Three Angels’ Messages are all about.
In the book of Revelation 14:7 we read, “The hour of his judgment is come.” We want to know what kind of a God we must face and with what law will this judgment deal with. In searching for the answers we will also discover the wonderful news that there is absolutely no question about our Lord’s ability to save us. God has loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die for you and for me, and Jesus has demonstrated this love for us on Calvary. Furthermore, they love us so much that they want us to live with them in heaven for eternity. What an amazing revelation.
This is why Jesus spoke those wonderful words in John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” What a blessed hope! Praise God.
There is however a big question to be answered: Why hasn’t Christ come? Let us think about this for a few moments. What is He waiting for? Certainly the signs that tell of His coming can be seen taking place all around us. This world in which we live is becoming so rotten that many pray daily, “Come, Lord Jesus,” so why hasn’t He come? You will be amazed when I tell you that God has a problem and it is a tremendously big problem. How can He save the sinner without saving the sin? Think it through. Let me put it in these words: How can He destroy sin without taking the life of the sinner? One thing is certain, God can never take a sinner to heaven with infectious sin for it would spread throughout the universe and heaven would become like this sin-cursed earth. It’s a big problem, believe me. But praise the Lord, God is able and He has a solution. This will be our study in this tape.
Before we proceed, let us pray. Loving Father, as we try to comprehend how God can destroy sin within us and then take us to heaven where we will never sin again, we plead to open our spiritual eyes so we can understand how Thou art able to do this and guarantee that sin will never arise again. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
In the Word of God we read that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary.” Psalm 77:13. In this study we will discover that God’s way in which He can separate sin from the sinner is found in the Bible sanctuary system.
In the Old Testament there is an earthly sanctuary mentioned in many places, and when we turn to the New Testament we find that Paul also talks about a sanctuary. But the sanctuary mentioned in the New Testament is of that in heaven. In Hebrews 7:25 it tells us that our precious Lord is now our High Priest. Look at your visual aid #11, which pictures Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary where He is able to save us from our sins. Let’s read it, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
In Hebrews 8:2 Paul explains that Christ is now “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” In Hebrews 8:5 Paul refers us back to the sanctuary of the Old Testament which existed on this earth. (Look at your sanctuary picture #1). Paul states, “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 shewed to thee in the mount.” From this verse we learn that the sanctuary on earth was made after the pattern of the heavenly sanctuary. Please keep this in mind for this is very important.
Now let us take a look at the earthly sanctuary. We are going to examine every part to discover how it is used to separate sin from the sinner. Focus your attention now on visual aid #5. First of all you will notice that it is a sanctuary surrounded by a courtyard. As you enter within you will find the altar of sacrifice and at the entrance of the sanctuary there is a wash basin called a laver to be used for cleansing. Next we enter the sanctuary and find there are two rooms – one called the Holy and the other the Most Holy. Within the Holy Place are the altar of incense, the candlesticks and the table of shewbread. The Most Holy room is separated from the Holy by a veil. In the Most Holy is the ark of God.
Now let us see how God uses these to separate sin from the sinner. First of all the sinner is to bring a sacrificial lamb for his sin. (You will notice visual aid #2). Remember, the lamb represents Jesus Christ. Before it is placed on the altar of sacrifice the sinner must confess his sins over the lamb and then with his own hand take a knife and slay the victim (you will see this demonstrated for you in visual aid #3) then he gives the dying lamb to the priest to sacrifice on the altar.
The priest is also required to take some of the blood of the lamb into the sanctuary. But before he enters he must make sure that he is physically clean so he uses the laver (as pictured in visual aid #4) which is just outside the entrance to the sanctuary. Here he washes his hands and feet before entering the Holy Place. As he passes into the sanctuary (as described in picture #6) he goes by the candlestick which is composed of solid gold and on top of each branch is a bowl in which he has placed olive oil to burn for light. You will notice that there are no windows in the sanctuary so the burning of the candlestick provides the light that is needed. This candlestick represents Jesus Christ for He said, “I am the light of the world.”
As you look to the right in the Holy Place (visual aid #7), you will notice a table of shewbread overlaid with pure gold. On this table are two separate piles of six loaves representing the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. The shewbread also represents Christ for Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” John 6:35. Just before the veil which separates the Holy from the Most Holy compartments there is another piece of furniture called the altar of incense. This is pictured for you in visual aid #8. Here is where the priest takes the blood that he has brought into the sanctuary, from the lamb that was slain by the sinner, and with his finger puts some of the blood on the horns of the altar and sprinkles the rest before the veil. This is the place where the incense of your prayers come up before God for forgiveness, for pardon, for restoration and for victory over sin.
As we open the veil and pass through into the Most Holy we come to that beautiful symbol which represents the throne of God. It is called the Ark of the Covenant. This is pictured for you in #9. It is overlaid with pure gold. Two angels with their wings hover over the mercy seat. You will notice that these angels are looking down on the mercy seat in wonder and amazement for it is difficult for them to comprehend how the mercy of God is so great that He would give His Son to die for our sins. The angels of heaven are never able to sing the song that you and I can sing, such as “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” for only we who have sinned can experience salvation.
As we gaze upon this symbol of God’s throne you will notice that the mercy seat is above the Ten Commandments revealing the wonderful truth that God has provided His mercy for all who have broken His law, repented and asked forgiveness. Within the ark are two tables of stone which, we read in Exodus 31:18, are the Ten Commandments written with the finger of God. You will find this illustrated in visual aid #10.
Everything in this earthly sanctuary was made by Moses and his people under God’s direction according to the pattern showed to Moses on the mountain. But note this: There is one exception, for God said to Moses when it came to the law, “I will do this. I will write it with My own finger.” Let me read it to you in Exodus 31:18, “And he gave unto Moses…two tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” This is very important. You remember when Moses was coming down from the mount carrying those two tables of stone he saw the children of Israel worshiping an idol of a calf which represented the sun-god of the pagan religion. Moses became so angry that his people would turn from serving God and worship an idol that he threw the table of the law down on the ground breaking them to pieces, showing the people that they had broken God’s law.
God wanted the people to realize that His law was eternal so He said to Moses, “I will write them again. You make two tables of stone, but leave the writing to Me. I will do it.” Let me read the exact words in Deuteronomy 10:1, 2, “At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, … and I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables.” It is interesting to note that there are sixty-six books in the Bible, all written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But when it came to the law of God He said, “I will write them, for they reveal my character.”
You will remember that the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the heavenly sanctuary, so this law of ten commandments is a bona fide copy of the law which is in the heavenly sanctuary. It is interesting to note that in the final end of time, when the plagues fall, God is going to open up the heavenly sanctuary for all on this earth to see that the Ten Commandments are in the sanctuary above. It is found in Revelation 11:19. “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
Now you may question why God gave us such a law. Because it tells us what is right and what is wrong. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” James clearly describes this law in James 2:10, 11, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”
These Ten Commandments, if kept by the grace of God, become a law of liberty giving us the privilege to live with Christ forever in heaven. But, if we disregard and disobey this law it becomes a law of death. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. Paul further tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
Now, since we all have sinned, this brings us to the “sin problem.” God cannot take sin to heaven, so how can He separate sin from the sinner so those who have sinned can be restored to live with Him? – Praise God, the sanctuary gives us the answer! Please consider how this sanctuary system is used by God to make a sinner eligible for heaven. Let us take a person, as portrayed in your visual aid # 2, who is just like you and me, who has committed a sin, and his conscience troubles him for he feels the guilt of sin. This is described in Leviticus 4:28, “If his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge,” what is he to do? – “then he shall bring a lamb for his sacrifice to the sanctuary.”
Let’s follow this man. He comes with his lamb and enters the courtyard where he finds the altar of sacrifice. What does he do? – He takes the little lamb, that represented Christ, and places his hands over the lamb’s head confessing his sin (illustration #3). In the next verse, Leviticus 4:29, we read, “He shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.”
There are those in the world today who teach that the priest took the life of the lamb, as we find in the Catholic mass of our day. But the Word of God plainly tells us that it was the sinner that must slay the lamb. Please forgive me if I make this personal. When you have sinned do you really envision Jesus dying for your sin on Calvary? Do you realize that it is you that took the life of the Lamb of God? This was what God was trying to teach His people in the sanctuary system. He wanted all to know the enormous cost to God to be able to forgive your sins. You may be tempted to commit the same sin again, but when you know the pain and the anguish that your sin caused Christ to suffer and to die, you will pray to God for power never to commit that sin again. Remember, it was the sinner’s hand that must slay the victim.
Now at this point the priest takes some of the blood from the slain lamb, which has been placed upon the altar of sacrifice to be consumed, and with this blood he enters the sanctuary. But first he washes and cleanses himself and then enters the sanctuary, passing by the candlestick and shewbread he comes to the altar of incense which you will see in picture #8. He takes the lamb’s blood on his finger and places it on the horns of the altar and sprinkles the rest of the blood before the veil.
Why is he doing this? – There is something here that is very important about this blood that we must not overlook. In Leviticus 17:11 I read, “The life of the flesh is in the blood,” so when the sins are confessed upon the head of the lamb, and the life is taken, the sin remains in the blood. This is why the blood containing the sin is carried into the sanctuary by the priest and deposited within the sanctuary. In this way God is teaching us how He can separate sin from the sinner.
Permit me to illustrate further. In every city there is a laundry. On Monday morning people bring to the laundry their dirty clothes. Why? – Because they want them to get washed. This is what the sanctuary is all about. Your sins go into the sanctuary where they are washed, cleansed, and purified. God is doing for you what the laundry does. Let me read it to you in Ephesians 5:25 – 27, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
This explains how Christ can cleanse and purify you “that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” The sanctuary makes this so simple. An individual covered with the filth of sin can come to the Lamb of God who can wash us in His own blood and become spotless. The sanctuary is a complete laundry. God wants us to be cleansed so we can go to heaven with Him, for He cannot take you to heaven with your sins.
Think this through clearly. Only Christ can do the washing of our sin-soiled garments and make them white as snow. How can this happen to us? – You remember we are the sinners, but when we accept Christ as the Lamb of God as our Substitute, and confess our sin, and place them upon Him, then our sins have been transferred to Christ, the Lamb of God. Then by faith we follow Jesus, the resurrected Lamb of God, where He is now officiating as Priest in the heavenly sanctuary (picture #11). He takes our sins and presents them before God saying, “Father, I died for these sins. I’ve washed and cleansed this individual. He is now without fault and I want him to live with us.” This is what is taking place in the heavenly sanctuary today for all who seek His forgiveness.
God has a way in which He can separate sin from the sinners. There is also another way in which the record of sins are taken within the sanctuary. We do not have time to discuss this in detail, but briefly, we are told in the scriptures that the priest often ate some of the victim being sacrificed, so within his body he carried the confessed sins with him as he entered the sanctuary. Thus in this way, by the blood carried by the priest into the sanctuary, or by the priest eating of the flesh containing the blood, the sins were brought before God’s throne to be separated from the sinner.
Let us remember that there is a record kept within the sanctuary of all forgiven sins which must be blotted out completely. In Leviticus 16 we read about the Day of Atonement in which the sanctuary was to be cleansed of all confessed sins once a year. Let me read how this was to take place. I am reading Leviticus 16:7 (this is pictured for you in visual aid #12), “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.”
Now let us see what took place. I’m reading verse fifteen. “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil.” The high priest was to enter the Most Holy of the sanctuary where the ark is located. And what does he do with this blood? – (verse fourteen) He “sprinkle[s] it with his finger upon the mercy seat.” Now consider what the high priest is doing. He takes of the blood of the Lord’s goat and sprinkles it on the mercy seat of God’s throne to remove all the records of the past confessed sins, thus cleansing the sanctuary.
I continue to read Leviticus 16:16, “He shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins.” Finally the high priest (as pictured in #11) now takes all the sins from the mercy seat and carries them outside of the sanctuary and places these sins on the live scapegoat (as you will notice in your visual aid #12). I read verse ten of Leviticus 16, “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” ( #13)
In verse twenty-one I read, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness.” This explains what Christ is actually going to do with our forgiven sins. He is going to place them all on the head of Lucifer, the devil, who has tempted us to commit these sins. The Lord is not going to carry these sins throughout eternity. He is going to put them back on the devil. Satan is going to die for them and be punished with eternal death.
Now consider this: When our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, comes from the heavenly sanctuary, in the clouds of heaven to take us home, the scripture says He will no longer carry our sins. We read in Hebrews 9:28, “Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin.” Did you notice those two words “without sin”? Why? – Our sins have been blotted out and have all been placed on the devil. The work of the sanctuary has been completed. We have been separated from our sins, cleansed, made holy, ready to go home and to live with Jesus.
Let us briefly consider a prophecy known as the “2300 days.” Please see the 2300-day chart which explains exactly when Jesus Christ our High Priest was to enter into the Most Holy of the sanctuary. I am reading from Daniel 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” You will remember that in all of these studies of prophecy that a day stands for a year, so this 2300 days actually means 2300 years.
The beginning date of this prophecy was to be the year when a decree would be written to rebuild Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar as we read in Daniel 9:25. Darius was given this work by God and he made such a decree in the year 457 BC and there is no question about it. This date has been verified by the archeologists who have dug up the clay tablets giving the date of this decree. Now, when you take this date (457 BC) and add 2300 years it brings us to the year 1844 AD which was the date when the sanctuary was to be cleansed. This was the date when Jesus went into the Most Holy compartment of the sanctuary to perform its cleansing. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus, at this very moment, is standing before God’s throne taking care of our confessed sins. Since His resurrection Jesus had been officiating in the first compartment of the sanctuary, but in 1844 He went into the second compartment where He is making the final work of atonement pleading with His own blood.
Can you picture in your own mind Jesus standing before God in front of the mercy seat saying, “Father, I died for this person. Look at My nail prints. I shed my blood to cover this man’s sin. Father, I died to save this person. I want you to accept My sinless life for his sinful life.” Praise God! What a Savior! What a plan He has to remove our sins and to save us!
I think the poet describes this so beautifully:
Father, I bring this worthless child to Thee,
To claim Thy pardon yet once again.
Receive him at My hands for he is Mine.
He is a worthless child; he owes his guilt,
But look not on him – he cannot bear Thy glance,
Look Thou on me; his vileness I will hide.
He pleads not for himself, Lord; he dare not plead.
His cause is Mine; I am his Advocate.
By that unchanging oath of Mine,
by each pure drop of blood I lost for him,
By all the sorrows graven on My soul,
By every wound I bear,
I claim “He is mine.”
Sin hath destroyed him, but sin has died in Me.
Death has pursued him, but I have conquered death.
Sin hath bound him, but Satan is my slave.
My Father, hear not him, but hear thou Me.
Isn’t it wonderful that we have a Savior who loves us so much that He is standing before our God today and pleading in our behalf! How can any of us go to sleep at night with one unconfessed sin when we have such a Savior for He alone can blot out our sins and forgive us. But there is a day coming very soon when the great Day of Atonement of the sanctuary system will come to an end in the heavenly court. Jesus is going to throw His censor down and repeat those words found in Revelation 22:11, 12, “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.” Immediately after this Jesus is going to come in the clouds of glory, without sin, unto salvation.
Friend, are you ready for this? The sanctuary will have been cleansed. All forgiven sin has been separated from His people. All infectious sin has been removed and He will place all of these sins on the head of Satan. This brings me to a most solemn and serious challenge that I have ever made. Are you aware that the final day of atonement, which has been taking place since 1844, is about to end? We know that Jesus is coming soon, but are we aware that the sanctuary system is soon to end – before He comes, and no longer will there be any provision made if you should sin? When Jesus comes probation’s time has ended.
Beloved. What we need in this hour is the power of divinity in our lives so that He can help us to overcome every sin. What did Jude 1:24 say? – “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” When Jesus returns there is no longer a sanctuary system to separate sin from the sinner. It is today, by the grace of God, that we are to gain victory. How wonderful that Christ has given us an example to show us how He overcame every temptation and by following Him we too can be overcomers.
The Bible says in Romans 8:3, He was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” and in Philippians 2:7 it tells us He was “made in the likeness of men.” So Jesus was tempted as no other man was ever tempted, yet He never sinned. How did the Lord do this? – He did not obtain victory of Himself, but He had faith in His Father that He would give Him the victory over every devils’ temptation. Likewise we read in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible.”
Do you have faith enough to believe that when you need help the Holy Spirit will give you power to conquer the devil’s temptations? I have personally learned that if I will each morning pray to God and say, “I want You to send the Holy Spirit to me today to alert me whenever the devil comes with temptation. Don’t let me be caught unawares. Let the Holy Spirit arouse me when I am about to fall into temptation. Warn me so that I can immediately ask for Thy divine power,” instantly God gives me divine power and the devil flees. I know what I’m talking about for I have experienced this.
Beloved, Jesus overcame when the power of His Father was given to Him. What God did for Christ as a man, He can do for you. So let us claim the promise as it says in Jude 1:24, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless.” What a Savior! Not only can He forgive you, and wash you, and separate you from sin, but He can give you victory over every sin. Remember, what we make of ourselves in probationary time we will remain throughout all eternity. Death destroys the body, but makes no change in the character. When Jesus comes we must be ready to live a sinless life with Him.
Let us pray. Father, grant us divine power for we pray as Jesus did in faith, believing with Thine help that we may overcome every temptation and be ready to live with Jesus when He comes and never sin again. Thank you, God, for Your divine plan in which you can separate sin from us that we may live with Thee for eternity. Amen.
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