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The Sanctuary

Part 1: “And let them make me a Sanctuary”

Shanley Lutchman


The subject of the sanctuary is a very enlightening study. Once the plan of salvation,
as revealed in the sanctuary, is understood and applied in the life of a mortal a great deal
of Biblical truth is understood to a large extent; the Bible becomes alive; the path of the
mortal “shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” Proverbs 4:18 (NASB).

The Bible is a living book; the more we study it, the more we learn and the more we
grow. We will never reach a point, in our sinful condition, where we understand everything
written therein and everything about God. We are ever-learning. In the presentation of the
study of the sanctuary I hope to enlighten you with some truths from the word of God and
I hope that it will strengthen your walk with Him and give you a new reason to keep on
serving Him.

1 Introduction

Paul writes in Romans 3:2 that unto the Jews were “committed the oracles of God.” The
Jews, or Israel, were God’s special people in the earth and to them God committed special
truths. Due to the faithfulness that Abraham showed to God, God revealed to the Jews His
wonderful plan to save mankind and in their lineage was born the Son of God.
The truth of God’s plan of salvation is revealed in the first five books of the Bible, also known
as the books of Moses. In these books are many details of lambs being killed, sprinkling
of blood, sacrifices being offered and incense being burned. In truth, these actions were a
minature replication of what is really taking place in heaven. Paul, in speaking about the
sanctuary, says that these were an “example and shadow of heavenly things” Hebrews 8:5.
To gain a deeper understanding of the plan of salvation and to understand how it can give
us a better relationship with God we look into the earthly sanctuary, or tabernacle, to find
the truths that God revealed to His special people, Israel. To God’s special people were
given the greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals. We will examine that truth.
The Bible also tells of a judgment that is to take place. Paul says “for we shall all stand
before the judgment seat of Christ.” Romans 14:10. Peter says “For the time is come that
judgment must begin at the house of God” 1 Peter 4:17. The time, place and procedure of
the judgement will be greatly understood once the sanctuary is studied.

2 The Old Covenant

Let’s examine the earthly sanctuary. The truth of the sanctuary was revealed somewhat to
Adam and Eve and to their children, for we find in Genesis 4:1-7 that Cain and Abel had
each offered a sacrifice to God. As we will find, Abel’s offering was accepted because it was
according to the Divine sanctuary plan, and Cain’s was contrary.

(a) The layout of the sanctuary (b) Artist impression
of the sanctuary

Figure 1: The Sanctuary

2.1 The Building

Although the people of God mentioned in Genesis had some knowledge of sanctuary, it’s
functioning is given in more detail in the book of Exodus. God is talking to Moses and
He explains to Him how to make the sanctuary. This description starts in Exodus 25 and
continues for several chapters. When you get a chance, take some time to read these chapters.
I think it’s amazing how God shows such great attention to small details.

To key verses in Exodus 25 are verses 8 and 9. Verse 8 gives God’s reason for the sanctuary
— for God to dwell with His people. We can examine this a little later but it should be
noted that since man’s fall in the garden of Eden it has been God’s desire to get man back
into the intimate relationship that was once enjoyed in the garden.

Verse 9 shows us that Moses was not to build the sanctuary in an arbitrary manner; he was
to build it according to the sanctuary that God showed him, the sanctuary in heaven. For
this reason, Paul writes in Hebrews 8:2 that there is a true sanctuary in heaven which was
constructed by God. In Hebrews 8:5 Paul quotes Exodus 25:9.

So Moses was given directions as to how to build the sanctuary. Figure 1 depicts the details
of the sanctuary building as described in Exodus 25 and onwards. As shown in Figure 1b,
the Israelites were camped around the tabernacle. In images that follow you will see some
more depictions of the other items of furniture of the sanctuary.

2.2 The Sin Offering

The most important part of the sanctuary is the services that took place there. To get
a description of the services we look to the book of Leviticus. “Leviticus” is called that
because it was God’s special instruction to the members of the Jewish tribe of Levi. God
especially ordained the tribe of Levi to perform the various duties of the sanctuary.

There were various offerings that the Isrealites could bring to God. These offerings are
described throughout Leviticus along with the duties that the priests of the sanctuary would
perform. The sin offering, however, is of special interest to us because we are sinners and
we often confess sins to God in prayer. The sin offering is described in Leviticus 4.

When you have the opportunity take time to read Leviticus 4 and 5. In these two chapters
is described the procedure that a repentant sinner would have to follow in order for his sin
to be removed. Chapter 4 deals with sins of ignorance that become known i.e. through the
study of the word of God a person discovers that they have been unknowingly sinning against
God and now repent of that sin. Chapter 5 concerns persons who, knowing something was
wrong, went and did it anyway and are now repentant of that sin.

(a) Priest confessing his sin (b) Priest in Holy Place

Figure 2: Ministration of the sanctuary

So for the sin offering a common person would bring to the sanctuary the appropriate
animal, lay his hand on the animal’s head and confess his sin, thereby transfering his sin to
the animal. The animal would then be killed and burned and a part of its flesh would be
eaten by the ministering priest.
By the eating of the flesh of the animal the priest would be transfering the repentant sinner’s
sin to himself. Leviticus 10:17 gives understanding that the phrase “make atonement” in
Leviticus 4 refers to the transfering of the sinner’s sin from the animal to the priest. This
phrase is used in Leviticus 4:31 for the priest making atonement for a sinner amongst the
common people. To make atonement, the priest would eat of the sacrifice.
Many individuals would come to the tabernacle daily, throughout the day, to offer up a
sacrifice for the sins which they had committed. In each case the person’s sin would be
transfered to the offering by the laying on of hands and then to the priest by the priest
eating of the flesh. So at the end of the day the priest would be bearing the sins of a large
number of individuals.
Coupled to this, being a man, the priest would also be the bearer of his own sin which
he himself had committed. For this reason, the priest would also have to confess his own
sin. He did this by laying his hands on an animal, slaying it and then collecting its blood.
Leviticus 4:3–4. The sins of the priest and the sins of the individuals whose sins the priest
bore would now be in the blood which the priest had collected from the animal.
I hope I haven’t lost you. Let me repeat. Individuals confessed their sins, transfering them
to the animal. The priest ate of the animal transfering the sin to himself. The priest
confessed his sin and the sins of the individuals whose sins he bore by placing his hands
upon a separate animal. The animal was killed and the blood collected. In this blood would
be the sins of all the people whose sin offerings the priest ate of as well as the priest’s own
The priest would then take the blood to the Holy Place of the sanctuary and sprinkle some
of it “before the vail of the sanctuary.” Leviticus 4:6. Figure 2b shows a priest in the Holy
Place at the altar of incense. The curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place
can be seen, but it is cut away on one side so that one can see the furniture of the Most
Holy Place. The priest would sprinkle the blood before this dividing curtain.
Once the priest had sprinkled the blood before the curtain the sins that were in the blood
were now transfered to the sanctuary. So every person who had brought a sin offering,
as well as the priest, no longer bore their sin. The sin was transfered to the sanctuary.
Everyone who had sinned and had not transfered their sin to the sanctuary by means of the
services to be performed bore their sin.
So the sanctuary was instituted by God for man so that man would not have to bear his own
sin; so that his sins may be taken from him and transfered to the sanctuary. In Isaiah 59:2

Figure 3: Priest ministering in the Most Holy Place

we read that it is sin that separates man from God. Jesus came to this earth to save us from
our sins so that our relationship with God could be restored. To restore the relationship
man must be separated from his sin.

2.3 The Cleansing of the Sanctuary

The sin offering, and the services involved therein, was performed daily and several times
each day. But there was a special service that took place only once every year. It was
known as the “Day of Atonement.” We read about it in Leviticus 16. Take time to read the

The only time that the high priest entered the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary was on the
day of atonement. One of the reasons it was called the Most Holy Place was that the very
presence of God was there in that place. In Figure 3 the priest is in the Most Holy Place.
The chest before him is the ark of the covenant. Inside the chest are the tablets of the Ten
Commandments. Above the chest, the great light shielded by the two crafted angels, is the
presence of God Himself!

After a year of sins being transfered to the Holy Place daily, the sanctuary would contain
a lot of sin. The sanctuary became a very dirty place. The dirtiness was somewhat due to
the large amount of blood that was sprinkled there daily, but in a deeper sense it was due
to the many sins that were transfered to the sanctuary each day.

At this point, I must mention the significance of blood. Leviticus 17:11 says that “the life
of the flesh is in the blood.” It is a law that the universe is based upon. Jumping from a
tall building results in death. So does sin. But God would save us from that death by the
death of another. Since the life a creature is in its blood, the shedding of that blood is the
giving of its life.

So the sanctuary was dirty; filthy of sin. All the sins of everyone who had come to confess
were in the Holy Place of the sanctuary. Those sins now needed to be removed from the
sanctuary and away from God’s people. For this reason, the day of atonement was also
called “the cleansing of the sanctuary” because the sanctuary was to be cleansed on this
day from all the sins of God’s people.

On this day, the day of atonement, application of the blood of yet another young animal
completely removed all sin from the sanctuary. Up until this point the sins were still present
in the sanctuary and in the remembrance of God and the people. There was still a “record”,
so to speak, of the sin in the sanctuary. But once the sanctuary was cleansed the sins no
longer existed. Those who had transfered their sins to the sanctuary by confessing them
and repenting from them would have this privilege of being completely free from the sins
that they had comitted.

3 Afflicting the Soul

The question may come to mind, “Why did God only clear the record of sin on the day of
atonement and not every time the person sinned?” The answer may be found in the phrase
“afflicting the soul” found in Leviticus 16 and in a story that Jesus told in Matthew 18:23-35
when He likened the kingdom of heaven and the way that God deals with sin, to an earthly
king, his kingdom and the way he deals with debt. Take some time to read the story. The
phrase “afflicting the soul” may be better understood by reading Isaiah 58. Read the chapter
when you have an opportunity.

Forgiveness of sin and its transferal to the sanctuary was assured to everyone who brought
their sacrifices to the sanctuary. However, the final removal of the record of sin was based
upon the behaviour of the people. Each person was judged, so to speak, as to whether or not
they had truly repented of their sins or not. If they had confessed their sins, yet continued
in them, on the day of atonement the sins which they had confessed would be rolled back
onto them.

However, if they were truly repentant and had, by the help of God, ceased from doing that
which was contrary to His moral law, their sins would be blotted out completely and they
would be free from them. Such a person, living in accordance to God’s moral law, would be
a blessing to himself, to God, to humanity and to the entire universe. This is the message
of Isaiah 58. This is what the sanctuary is all about. It is not just a removal of passed sins;
it is deeply concerned with changing the heart of man so that he no longer sins.

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of you doings from before mine eyes; cease
to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Isaiah 1:16–17

4 The New Covenant

You might have heard people talk about a “new covenant” or you might have heard the
phrase “the law has been done away with.” The promise of God for a new covenant is
recorded in Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by
the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: which my covenant they brake. . .
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days,
saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will
be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Jeremiah 31:31-33

Paul quotes this passage in Hebrews 8:10. It re-iterates the message of Isaiah 58. God
wanted in humanity a change of heart, not just a removal of the record of sin. However,
as Paul points out, this was not possible under the Jewish sanctuary services. Why? Well,
Paul covers this in Hebrews 10:1–27. Take time to read this passage.

Paul opens the chapter by mentioning that the law of Moses — the Jewish sanctuary services
— were a shadow of things to come. The entire sanctuary service was, as mentioned before,
a replica of the true sanctuary in heaven, and it was a prophecy, if you will, of what Christ
would come to do. God used the sanctuary services to show the Jewish nation how He would
deal with the problem of sin; what Jesus would do, on behalf of them, to remove sin from
their lives.

The earthly sanctuary required the blood of an animal for the sin offering. John the Baptist
called Christ “The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. Jesus
was sacrificed on the cross. Paul mentions in Hebrews 10 that it is the blood of Jesus that
washes away our sin. The earthly sanctuary had a priest to offer up the sacrifices. Paul’s
message throughout Hebrews is that Jesus is our High Priest ministering as the earthly
priests did with His own blood. The earthly sanctuary had a physical structure. Paul says
that there is a heavenly structure of which the earthly was a model (Hebrews 8:2). How real
is this structure and Christ’s ministry in it? As real as His sacrificial death on the cross.

Because the earthly sanctuary was just a “shadow” of the real sanctuary in heaven, of itself
(as Paul points out in verse 4 of Hebrews 10) it could not remove sin from the lives of people.
It was a symbol of the work that only God can do, and this is where the Jews missed it.
God gave the Jews a replica of the sanctuary services that they might better understand
His work in them. Rather they looked to the earthly sanctuary as the way of salvation, and
not Christ’s ministry in the sanctuary in heaven. The earthly was a means to the end that
they might physically see what God was doing. Yet, it became to them an end in itself.

So God says in Isaiah 1:11, “I’m sick of all your offerings,” and then in verses 16 and onwards
He says, “I want to change you, to make you like me!” God desires to make us perfect in
character. This is the message of the sanctuary — restoring man to his former glory. Before
Christ, humans looked to the earthly sanctuary services, yet they didn’t quite get what it
was that God desired of them. Now, in the new covenant, God still desires to make us
perfect in character, but instead of an earthly sanctuary to look to, we have Christ and His
life to look to.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an
example, that ye should follow his steps.”
1 Peter 2:22

5 The Judgment

Everything that God asks of us is for our benefit, for the benefit of those around us and for
the benefit of the universe. The reason there is evil in the world is because of sin. Take away
sin and there would be no evil; no rape, violence, robbery, bomming, aeroplane high-jacking
and so on. What did Jesus come to do? His name says it all: “Thou shalt call his name
JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” So God wants to get rid of sin because
is it the cause of great disharmony in the universe.

Sin is a dangerous thing:

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then
when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth
James 1:14–15

Every sin that we have in our lives has the potential to turn us into a manslaughterer like
Hitler or Stalin. Once we are accustomed to sinning against God moral law in one particular
area, however small it may be, it prepares us to break His law in another area. Step by step
we become desensitized to the evil of sin until we take on the very character of Satan himself.
It happens slowly, almost too slow to notice, but when it is done it “bringeth for death.”
The only remedy for sin in the universe is to remove every speck of it, however small, from
the entire universe. This is the work of Jesus. This is the purpose of the sanctuary.

When we confess our sins to God in prayer they are transfered to Christ, the Lamb of God,
and then to the sanctuary, by His blood. They remain there until the day of atonement, or
the day of judgment when God will ask: “Has this person, by my grace, truly repented of
this sin that they have confessed?”

If, by the grace of God, we confess and fully repent from the sins we confess our sins will
be completely done away with, blotted out, remembered no more. We become magnificent
citizens of the heavenly kingdom, incapable of causing harm. If we refuse to repent, our sins
will be rolled back onto us and God will have to destroy us in order to remove sin from the
universe — just like in the parable of Jesus in Matthew 18.

Confession and repentance is a daily occurance. God shows us each day how we may better
serve Him, how we may become more like Him. We confess our wrong and live in the new
light we’ve been given. This process will continue until we are what God fully requires us
to be in this life if we allow Him to perform the work in us.

Godliness is the greatest attribute that any person can have. “Godliness with contentment
is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6. We have been guaranteed the grace of God to turn away
from any sin in our lives. Everything that God requires of us He gives us the strength to

“I can all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Phillipans 4:13

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us
that. . . we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
Titus 2:11–12

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of god, even to
them that believe on his name”
John 1:12

At some point in time, Christ will end His work in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary
and enter the Most Holy Place. It will be the day of atonement and the judgment will take
place. The name of each person who has ever confessed their sins will come up and it will be
eternally decided as whether the person in numbered with the righteous or the unrighteous.

— End of Part 1 —