November 2020
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Lesson 4: “Rejoicing Before the Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship”

Sabbath School Today


Lesson 4: “Rejoicing Before the Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship”

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The reason for our existence as Seventh-day Adventists is the sanctuary truth. “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith” (Evangelism, p. 221). Our unique contribution to the Christian church in understanding righteousness by faith is our worship centered in the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. What makes us fall in love with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth is the 1888 contribution of uniting it with the message of Christ’s cross-reconciling heart-appeal in justification by faith.

The sanctuary truth has for all practical purposes fallen on hard times in the Adventist church. It is now viewed as a mathematic puzzle to be solved. Daniel 8:14 has become a cold, dry, meaningless historical antique. And yet Ellen White writes that what makes “our faith” unique and different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches is the sanctuary (ibid.). If our worship centering in the heavenly sanctuary becomes an ineffective doctrine, then we surrender our only contribution to the Christian world and we might as well become Seventh Day Baptists.

The 1888 message lifts the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message out of confusion and perplexity and clothes it in the bright garments of Christ’s righteousness, that is, the gospel seen as very good news. The heavenly sanctuary can never be “cleansed” until first of all the hearts of God’s people are cleansed. That’s simple! And it’s far more than a legalistic accounting trick whereby God looks the other way while we continue sinning. The missing factor is supplied by a new and clearer grasp of justification by faith, which Ellen White saw makes the 1888 message become “the third angel’s message in verity” (Last Day Events, pp. 199, 200).

How does the 1888 message lead us to fall in love with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth? First, the “cleansing” or justification of the heavenly sanctuary involves our High Priest convicting us of previously unknown sin (Dan. 8:14). It is our “knowest not” condition that makes us so “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

Second, when it is declared: “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” it is not a mere legal justification contrary to reality (Rev. 14:12). What was a pardon for sin now becomes a “blotting out of sin” in the hearts of a remnant who have fallen in love with Jesus. There is a reconciliation with Him of hearts that have previously not been in sympathy with His diagnoses of their condition. It is character perfection.

Third, we let our High Priest cleanse us in our Day of Atonement. Ancient Israel never did the work of reconciliation on their annual Day. The High Priest made the atonement (Lev. 16:33). The 1888 idea is that we stop resisting what Jesus wants to accomplish in us. “The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus … in repentance for his sins” (Steps to Christ, p. 27).

Fourth, what is the difference between Jesus’ first apartment ministry and His second apartment ministry subsequent to 1844? For eighteen hundred years Christ prepared Christians to die and be “accounted worthy” to come up in the first resurrection at His coming. Now He is preparing a people to be translated at His coming without seeing death. They can be “alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15, 17).

Fifth, what is Christ doing in the sanctuary since His ascension? Our minds can be relieved of the idea that He’s been on an extended vacation. He’s the General in the Pentagon war room of heaven involved in winning the great controversy with Satan. The battle of eliminating sin and self-love from the heart is far more than using conventional weapons. It is intense psychological warfare.

Sixth, fear of the investigative judgment is cast out, for agape gives “boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17). A concern for Jesus’ victory in the Day of Atonement causes us to “own” the Judgment and walk right past all the holy angels in the confidence of standing with Him.

Seventh, this “oneness” is something that has never happened in all past history–“the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” Something special is ready for those who are invited to “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:6-9). As a corporate body, the church of the great Day of Atonement becomes the Bride of Christ.

Eighth, the 1888 message of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth turns out to be the message of the True Witness to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans. “The message given us by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).

Ninth, of necessity Jesus is ministering the gift of repentance to His dilatory Bride. They overcome even as He overcame (Rev. 3:21). As He corporately repented for the whole human race, so His Bride enters into corporate repentance in sympathy with Him.

Tenth, the Lamb is in need of a wife who “hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Although He gives her the garment of righteousness she must choose to repent of her past rejection of His overtures and learn from her history. She finally grows up in His agape and is a worthy mate to stand by His side (Eph. 3:17-19).

Eleventh, she finally learns that all her prayers for the Lord to give us repentance and the latter rain are an insult to Him. He has already given us the gift of repentance (Rom. 2:4). And He has already poured out the “beginning” of the latter rain in 1888 with the message of “Christ our righteousness.” “The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth” (Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892).

The Sanctuary message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” to us, must yet lighten the earth with glory (Last Day Events, p. 200). Mankind has a clear choice to worship Him (Rev. 14:7).

Paul E. Penno