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An Amazing Fact: With a total area of 402 acres, Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the world’s largest worship complex. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple, it became a center of Buddhist worship by the end of the twelfth century. However, today, it’s little more than a tourist attraction.
Thousands of years earlier, another temple was built—but using blueprints that were provided directly by the hand of God. These plans were given to Moses to build a portable tabernacle, a place in which God would dwell with the Hebrew people as they roamed the wilderness before entering into the Promised Land. Later, the Lord guided the construction of a more permanent temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed and rebuilt more than once.
While today the temple in Jerusalem is no more, it still presents a vital message to people living in these last days. Amazingly, only a few Christians are aware that the ancient sanctuary’s structure, services, priests, and even furniture reveal God’s detailed plans to save the human race and forever remove the blight of sin that has been destroying our world. Let’s take a closer look …
Here are five Bible-based facts about the sanctuary!
- The Earthly Sanctuary Was a Replica
Did you know that the ancient Hebrew sanctuary was actually a scaled-down replica of God’s temple in heaven? (See Hebrews 8:2.) Just as The White House has a “Situation Room” from where the president directs military forces during an international crisis, this heavenly temple serves as a command center from which God oversees the universe. (See Revelation 7:15.) But more than that, it is from this sanctuary that God is also carrying out His plan to redeem humanity from the curse of sin and death.
- It Served as an Illustration
An angel named Lucifer first brought sin and its destructive evil into the universe. After he was cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:7–9), he came to Earth and led Adam and Eve into his rebellion against God, bringing all of humanity under the power of death. But the Creator, in His great love, had already set in motion the means to redeem the human race (Genesis 3:15) through the perfect life and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Lord commanded the Hebrew people to build the earthly sanctuary so that they—and us today—would have an illustrated guide to how He would end the crisis of sin forever. “It was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these” (Hebrews 9:23). Yes—every element of the sanctuary reveals how sin is defeated!
- Its Sacrificial System Pointed to Jesus Christ
Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without [the] shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin. This is why the temple’s daily sacrificial system required that a head of household kill an innocent lamb to remit—or atone for—a person’s sins. The unblemished lamb symbolized Jesus’ perfect life, prophetically indicating that a perfect Messiah would someday be sacrificed for the remission of sin in humanity. The killing of the lamb foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross to accomplish our salvation.
- Its Day of Atonement Reveals the Judgment
The sanctuary system’s day of atonement was a solemn day of judgment. (See Leviticus 23:27.) Every sin was to be confessed and forsaken by God’s people, and those who refused to participate were cut off from God’s camp (v. 29). On that day, two goats were selected. One was the “Lord’s goat” and the other was the “scapegoat,” which represented Satan (Leviticus 16:7, 8). The Lord’s goat was slain and offered for the sins of the people (v. 9), but the scapegoat was led out into the wilderness, where it would die outside the safety of the wilderness camp. This ritual foreshadowed the saved and the lost in the final judgment—much like the wheat and the tares that Jesus presented in His parable found in Matthew 13:36–43.
- It Points to Jesus Christ in Heaven Today
Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Why has Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in heaven? The passage found in Leviticus 16:30 about the day of atonement makes it clear: “On that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30).
Each year on the day of atonement, the high priest, a representative of the people, entered the Most Holy Place and performed a ritual symbolically cleansing the earthly temple’s accumulated stain of sin (See Leviticus 16; 23:26–32.) Hebrews 4:14 says, “We have a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus.” Right now, today, Christ is serving as your High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary! Faith in His sacrifice and power to remove sin from your heart is meant to make you ready for heaven and an eternal life filled with peace and joy!
A conflict between good and evil—between Christ and Satan—is underway today. Evidence of this battle is visible everywhere in our world, including within our own hearts. The message of the sanctuary is that there is a way for you to be cleansed of sin by your own personal Advocate, Jesus, who substituted His life for yours on the cross as an atonement for your sin. You see, God’s heavenly temple is not a tourist attraction; it is the active center of salvation for the human race! From there the Lord is actively working to save you from death.