Christ in His Sanctuary
Beyond the inner veil of the wilderness tabernacle built in the time of Moses, was the holy of holies, where centered the symbolic service of atonement and intercession. In this apartment was the ark, a chest of acacia wood, overlaid within and without with gold, and having a crown of gold about the top. It was made as a depository for the tables of stone, upon which God Himself had inscribed the ten commandments. Hence it was called the ark of God’s testament, or the ark of the covenant, since the ten commandments were the basis of the covenant made between God and Israel.
The cover of the sacred chest was called the mercy seat. This was wrought of one solid piece of gold and was surmounted by golden cherubim, one standing on each end. One wing of each angel was stretched forth on high, while the other was folded over the body in token of reverence and humility. The position of the cherubim, with their faces turned toward each other, and looking reverently downward toward the ark, represented the reverence with which the heavenly host regard the law of God and their interest in the plan of redemption. Above the mercy seat was the Shekinah, the manifestation of the divine presence; and from between the cherubim, God made known His will.1
Christ Himself was the Lord of the temple. When He should leave it, its glory would depart—that glory once visible in the holy of holies over the mercy seat, where the high priest entered only once a year, on the great day of atonement, with the blood of the slain victim (typical of the blood of the Son of God shed for the sins of the world), and sprinkled it upon the altar. This was the Shekinah, the visible pavilion of Jehovah.2
The sanctuary in heaven, in which Jesus ministers in our behalf, is the great original, of which the sanctuary built by Moses was a copy. God placed His Spirit upon the builders of the earthly sanctuary. The artistic skill displayed in its construction was a manifestation of divine wisdom. The walls had the appearance of massive gold, reflecting in every direction the light of the seven lamps of the golden candlestick. The table of shewbread and the altar of incense glittered like burnished gold. The gorgeous curtain which formed the ceiling, inwrought with figures of angels in blue and purple and scarlet, added to the beauty of the scene. And beyond the second veil was the holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of God’s glory, before which none but the high priest could enter and live.
The matchless splendor of the earthly tabernacle reflected to human vision the glories of that heavenly temple where Christ our forerunner ministers for us before the throne of God. The abiding place of the King of kings, where thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him (3); that temple, filled with the glory of the eternal throne, where seraphim, its shining guardians, veil their faces in adoration, could find, in the most magnificent structure ever reared by human hands, but a faint reflection of its vastness and glory.
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah was permitted in vision to look into the holy place, and into the holy of holies in the heavenly sanctuary. The curtains of the innermost sanctuary were drawn aside, and a throne high and lifted up, towering as it were to the very heavens, was revealed to his gaze. An indescribable glory emanated from a personage on the throne, and His train filled the temple, as His glory will finally fill the earth. Cherubim were on either side of the mercy seat, as guards round the great king, and they glowed with the glory that enshrouded them from the presence of God. As their songs of praise resounded in deep, earnest notes of adoration, the pillars of the gate trembled, as if shaken by an earthquake. These holy beings sang forth the praise and glory of God with lips unpolluted with sin. The contrast between the feeble praise which he had been accustomed to bestow upon the Creator and the fervid praises of the seraphim, astonished and humiliated the prophet. He had for the time being the sublime privilege of appreciating the spotless purity of Jehovah’s exalted character.
While he listened to the song of the angels, as they cried, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (), the glory, the infinite power, and the unsurpassed majesty of the Lord passed before his vision and was impressed upon his soul. In the light of this matchless radiance that made manifest all he could bear in the revelation of the divine character, his own inward defilement stood out before him with startling clearness. His very words seemed vile to him.
Thus when the servant of God is permitted to behold the glory of the God of heaven, as He is unveiled to humanity, and realizes to a slight degree the purity of the Holy One of Israel, he will make startling confessions of the pollution of his soul, rather than proud boasts of his holiness. In deep humiliation Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: . . . for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (4). This is not that voluntary humility and servile self-reproach that so many seem to consider it a virtue to display. This vague mockery of humility is prompted by hearts full of pride and self-esteem. There are many who demerit themselves in words, who would be disappointed if this course did not call forth expressions of praise and appreciation from others. But the conviction of the prophet was genuine. As humanity, with its weakness and deformity, was brought out in contrast with the perfection of divine holiness and light and glory, he felt altogether inefficient and unworthy. How could he go and speak to the people the holy requirements of Jehovah, who was high and lifted up, and whose train filled the temple? While Isaiah was trembling and conscience-smitten, because of his impurity in the presence of this unsurpassed glory, he says, “Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me ( ).”
The seraphim before the throne are so filled with reverential awe in beholding the glory of God that they do not for an instant look upon themselves with self-complacency, or in admiration of themselves or one another. Their praise and glory are for the Lord of Hosts, who is high and lifted up, and the glory of whose train fills the temple. As they see the future, when the whole earth shall be filled with His glory, the triumphant song of praise is echoed from one to another in melodious chant, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.” They are fully satisfied to glorify God; and in His presence, beneath His smile of approbation, they wish for nothing more. In bearing His image, in doing His service and worshiping Him, their highest ambition is fully reached.5
[In the days of Joshua, the Israelites] had not realized that their faith was only a nominal faith and had lost its power to prevail with God. The law of God, contained in the ark, was also a symbol of His presence; but they had cast contempt upon the commandments, had despised their requirements, and had grieved the Spirit of the Lord from among them. When the people obeyed the holy precepts, the Lord was with them to work for them by His infinite power; but when they looked upon the ark and did not associate it with God, nor honor His revealed will by obedience to His law, it was no more to them than a common box. They looked to the ark as the idolatrous nations looked to their gods, as if it possessed in itself the elements of power and salvation. They transgressed the law it contained, for their very worship of the ark led to formalism, hypocrisy, and idolatry. Their sin had separated them from God, and He could not give them victory until they had repented of and forsaken their iniquity.
It was not enough that the ark and the sanctuary were in the midst of Israel. It was not enough that the priests offered sacrifices, and that the people were called the children of God. The Lord does not regard the requests of those who cherish iniquity in their hearts, and it is written that “he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” ().
We may learn from these examples of God’s dealing with ancient Israel, that the controversy for truth will have little success when sin is upon those who advocate it. Men and women may be well versed in Bible knowledge, as well acquainted with the Scripture as were the Israelites with the ark, and yet if their hearts are not right before God, success will not attend their efforts. God will not be with them. They do not have a high sense of the obligations of the law of heaven, nor do they realize the sacred character of the truth they are teaching. The charge is, “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” ().
It is not enough to argue in defense of the truth. The most telling evidence of its worth is seen in a godly life; and without this the most conclusive statements will be lacking in weight and prevailing power; for our strength lies in being connected with God by His Holy Spirit, and transgression severs us from this sacred nearness with the Source of our might and wisdom. We are to bring to the attention of the world the truth for this time; and if we should see the work advance, we must be sure that there is no accursed thing among us. Says Paul, “Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? . . . Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” (, ).
The Israelites forgot that their strength was in God and not in the ark, and those who advocate the truth today will have to learn that their power is not in the clearness of their arguments; not in the reasonableness of their doctrines, though these be sustained by the word of God; not in their belief in the law and the truth of its claims, but in obedience to all of its requirements, through the faith of the Son of God.
Let us take heed to the warning of the past, remembering that God requireth truth in the secret hearts of His followers; for only that worship is acceptable that is rendered in spirit and in truth. He that hath clean hands and a pure heart will realize the aid of heavenly power and will see of the salvation of God; but let no one think that God will favor those who go contrary to His word; for He says, “Thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you” (6).
The glory of God is His character, and it is manifested to us in Christ. Therefore it is by beholding Christ, by contemplating His character, by learning His lessons, by obeying His words, that we become changed into His likeness. As we are enlightened by His Spirit, we see no virtue or merit in ourselves. We realize there is naught in us but deformity. But the glory of the Redeemer, manifested in His atoning sacrifice, in His justifying righteousness, in His fullness of grace, whereby we not only obtain pardon but receive sanctification, fills the whole soul with love and adoration, and in contemplating the goodness, mercy, and love of God, we become transformed in character. Jesus said, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (). On him who receives Christ, the glory of the Lord has risen, the Sun of Righteousness has shined, and, rising from his low and worldly state, the believer reflects the light of Christ’s glory. As he continually looks to Jesus and contemplates His beauty, he is more and more transformed into the child of light.
Jesus said of His followers: “Ye are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (7; ). God is glorified in His children as they represent Christ in character. Jesus says, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” ( ). Good works are the fruits borne upon the Christian tree. It is impossible to be a disciple of Christ and be as a fruitless branch. The good works of the believer are wrought through the human agent by Christ Himself. They are doers of the words of Christ and will not only impart blessings of the highest order to others, but as they render implicit obedience to Christ, they represent His character, and bring joy to the heart of Christ, and to all the holy ones of heaven.
Those who consecrate their all to God will not be left unmolested by the enemy of souls. Satan will come to them with his specious temptations, designing to allure them from their loyalty to God. He will present to them his bribe, as he did to Christ in the wilderness of temptation, saying, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (8). But what should be the answer of the Christian to all the temptations of the evil one? He should say, “I will not lend my influence in any way to the advancement of anything save the cause of Christ. I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. I am not to live to please myself; for I have been purchased, ransomed by the blood of Christ. It is not possible for me to give to Christ more than that which belongs to Him; for every moment of my life belongs to Him. I am His possession, a servant employed to do the will of my Master.” This is the only position that is safe for us to occupy; and if the individual members of the church felt in this way, what a power would the church exert to draw and win souls to Christ. It is this halfhearted work, the effort to serve God and the devil at the same time, that leaves the church so destitute of the Spirit of God. Were the members of the church consecrated to God, were they in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, were they organized for the purpose of imparting to others an influence of good, the church would be indeed the light of the world. Should the individual members seek to represent Christ to the world in character and life, thousands would be attracted to the Saviour, who now have reason to criticize the words and works of those who profess the name of Christ. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” ( , ).
Each one of us is to stand where we shall be under the transforming influence of the grace of Christ, and then in our association one with another, we shall be able to impart and to receive the light of the Sun of Righteousness; for each member will be in harmony with Christ and with every other member, striving to attain to perfection of life and character through faith in Him. Then shall we know how to sympathize with our brethren, to manifest forbearing love, and the very least will be united through vital connection with Christ to the working agencies that God has ordained for the dissemination of light and truth.9
In what way is our light shining? The influence of our work upon the world will be affected to a great degree by the attitude we maintain toward one another.10