October 22, 2014. One hundred seventy years have passed since the great disappointment happened, when more than 50,000 believers in the Advent message were expecting the second coming of Christ to purify the “sanctuary” (which they believed was the planet earth).
Many had abandoned their employment, their harvest, their business, believing that October 22nd would be their last day on earth. In preparation for that event, there was reconciliation, payment of debts, and gathering of the family and friends foreseeing Christ’s arrival to take them to the heavenly home.
Bitter disappointment! Frustrated hopes. Shame, scoffing, humiliation, and so on.
The day after the great disappointment, Hiram Edson and few other believers were still trying to understand what had really happened. The prophetic computing had been entirely accurate. Where, then, was Jesus?
While crossing a cornfield, Edson had a vision of the heavenly sanctuary. Yes, Jesus had indeed come—but not to the earth as they were expecting—but rather to the most holy place of the sanctuary.
The most important point in all that transpired is that Christ was the focus of the believers. They expected to see Christ coming in the clouds of heaven. Now they found Him by faith in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, interceding for His children.
In the same place they also found the ark of the covenant which contains the Ten Commandments. There they saw the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.
This was the glorious beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist faith—with Christ. The understanding of the sanctuary message opened a chain of truths that characterizes God’s church today. Inside the ark, besides the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath), they also saw the “pot of manna” (a symbol of the Health Reform message) and the rod of Aaron (a symbol of the ministry of God’s church). Other truths were soon understood as well, including Sabbathkeeping from sunset to sunset, systematic benevolence (tithes and freewill offerings), the mortality of the soul, and so on.
Sadly, very soon afterwards, Christ was forgotten and the message of Christ Our Righteousness became a very urgent need. This powerful message was presented in a remarkable way during the 1888 General Conference delegation session held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Today, 170 years after that great disappointment of October 22, 1844, we are still in this dark world, needing to focus again our attention to the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, where our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ, is still presenting before the mercy seat His perfect righteousness and His blood shed on the cross of Calvary in behalf of His believing children.
In the earthly sanctuary, during the Day of Atonement, the attention of Israel was concentrated on their high priest. Today, much more than in ancient times, our attention also must be focused on Christ, our High Priest, who has nearly finished His intercession in behalf of His people, who, through His grace, need to be prepared for His soon coming to this planet to take them to the heavenly home.
“The messengers of the cross must arm themselves with watchfulness and prayer, and move forward with faith and courage, working always in the name of Jesus. They must exalt Christ as man's mediator in the heavenly sanctuary, the One in whom all the sacrifices of the Old Testament dispensation centered, and through whose atoning sacrifice the transgressors of God's law may find peace and pardon.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 230.
In the book of Isaiah chapter 6, we find the experience of the prophet who had a vision of the heavenly sanctuary. As he saw Christ in His perfect righteousness in contrast with his sinful condition, he was inclined to despair. However, Christ revealed to him His mercy and touched his lips with the purifying coal from the altar. Then he was forgiven and purified for his work as God’s messenger.
“The vision given to Isaiah represents the condition of God's people in the last days. They are privileged to see by faith the work that is going forward in the heavenly sanctuary. 'And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament' (). As they look by faith into the holy of holies, and see the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, they perceive that they are a people of unclean lips—a people whose lips have often spoken vanity, and whose talents have not been sanctified and employed to the glory of God. Well may they despair as they contrast their own weakness and unworthiness with the purity and loveliness of the glorious character of Christ. But if they, like Isaiah, will receive the impression the Lord designs shall be made upon the heart, if they will humble their souls before God, there is hope for them. The bow of promise is above the throne, and the work done for Isaiah will be performed in them. God will respond to the petitions coming from the contrite heart.”—Conflict and Courage, p. 234.
Our main need today is to fix our eyes on Christ as He is still working in our behalf.
Says the apostle Paul: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” ().
May the Lord help us appreciate the ministry of Christ in the most holy place!