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If I Were Told the Future - Lesson 12

The Sanctuary

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Welcome to this Bible lesson! Let’s pray together:

O Lord, our God,

Please continue to guide us, as we now probe a fourth element to add to our toolbox: the sanctuary.

Please show us how this subject can be useful to our understanding of Bible prophecy.

In Jesus Christ we pray.


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Psalm 73:16,17

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God.


During our lesson «How to Study Prophecy», we saw that prophetic symbolism often refers to the sanctuary, its furnishings, and the services that were taking place in it.

This lesson and the following two aim at helping us to familiarize ourselves with these three subjects that must find a place in our toolbox, in order to guarantee the best possible understanding of Bible prophecy.

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Genesis 3:21

To Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.


At the beginning of the history of mankind, as a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God made a symbolic gesture in sacrificing an animal, to replace their handsewn clothes of fig leaves with skin clothes.

In this way, God introduced them to the sacrificial system they had to practice, foreshadowing the Savior to come, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

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Exodus 25:8

And let [the children of Israel] make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.


As time passed, the meaning of this sacrificial system was lost.

Paganism transformed it into idolatry, even adding human sacrifices to it...

So God wanted to restore the original meaning of this system, through which men could demonstrate their faith in the Savior to come.

So He instructed Moses to build a sanctuary so that He might dwell among His people.

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Hebrews 9:1-5 : Description of the earthly sanctuary

Then truly the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the show bread; which is called the sanctuary.

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein were (...) the tables of the covenant.

And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat.

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Plan of the Earthly Sanctuary

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Numbers 1:51

And when the tabernacle sets forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up.


The first sanctuary, or tabernacle, was portable. Later, a permanent Temple in Jerusalem replaced it.

The sanctuary was made up of three parts:

1. The courtyard;

2. The first part of the tabernacle, called the Holy Place;

3. The second part of the tabernacle, called the Most Holy Place (the Holiest of All).

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First, let’s see the courtyard:

It was an enclosure approximately 164 feet (50 meters) long and 82 feet (25 meters) wide, surrounded by a fence 10 feet (3 meters) high.

Within the courtyard were placed:

- the altar of burnt offering, where sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people;

- the laver of bronze, where priests washed their feet and hands before entering the tabernacle to officiate.

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Then, the Holy Place:

It was the first part of the tabernacle, whose entry was made up of a linen veil. A second veil separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

Within the Holy Place were placed:

- the table of showbread, on which were placed the twelve showbread which were replaced each Sabbath;

- the seven-branch candlestick, which supplied with oil seven lamps burning day and night, thus continually lighting up the tabernacle;

- the altar of incense, where incense was burned every morning and evening. Once a year, a ceremony was performed to purify it.

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And finally, the Most Holy Place (also called the Holiest of All):

It was the second part of the tabernacle where only the High Priest, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was allowed to enter, to perform the annual service.

Within the Most Holy Place were placed:

- the ark of the covenant, a chest of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold inside and out, containing the two tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments;

- the mercy seat, serving as a lid to the ark of the covenant, surmounted by two cherubs of solid gold, facing each other and each spreading one wing over the mercy seat, with the other pointing at the ground.

We will come back to each one of these items in the lesson «The Sanctuary’s Furnishings».

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Hebrews 9:6,7

The priests went always into the first tabernacle [the Holy Place], accomplishing the service of God.

But into the second [the Most Holy Place] the high priest went alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.


Two services took place in the sanctuary:

- the daily service, performed by the priests in the Holy Place;

- the annual service, performed by the high priest alone in the Most Holy Place, on the Day of Atonement (also called Day of cleansing of the sanctuary).

We will come back to these services in the lesson «The Sanctuary’s Services».

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Hebrews 9:8-10

The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was a figure for the time then present (...) until the time of reformation.


The Bible teaches us that the earthly sanctuary’s services were given until the time of reformation: what would replace them thereafter?

Let us note first that the above verses describe the earthly sanctuary as «the first tabernacle». We must then conclude that a second one exists.

Where is that second sanctuary, according to the Word of God?

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Exodus 25:9

According to all that I show you, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it.


Acts 7:44

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as [God] had appointed, speaking to Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.


To instruct Moses in how to build the sanctuary, God showed him a pattern already existing.

What was that pattern?

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Hebrews 8:4,5

For if [Jesus] were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle.

For He said, «See that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.»


The earthly sanctuary was thus the copy and shadow of a sanctuary located in heaven: the heavenly sanctuary.

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Revelation 15:5

I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.


Hebrews 8:1,2

We have such a High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.


In our next two lessons, we will see the correlation between the furnishings and services of the two sanctuaries, earthly and heavenly.

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Ephesians 2:21,22

In [Jesus Christ] all the building fitly framed together grows to a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.


Just before ending, here is a last interesting point: besides the heavenly sanctuary, there are also many little temples where the Holy Spirit dwells!

In fact, these temples are the body of each Christian.

We are called to watch over the holiness of our bodies, just as the priests had to watch over the holiness of the earthly sanctuary.

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Let’s watch over the holiness of our bodies, the temples of the Spirit:

«Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.» (1 Corinthians 3:16,17)

«What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.» (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)

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Let’s thank God for His presence among us:

Our Father,

Now we see that the subject of the sanctuary is not only useful in understanding Bible prophecy, but also in helping us to grasp the meaning of the plan of salvation You offer us through the sacrifice of Your only begotten Son.

We humbly ask You to allow us to go on with this study of the sanctuary, and to help us to watch over the holiness of our body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit here on earth.

In the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.


The test of Lesson 12 is waiting for you!

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