Jamestown Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Chapter 9: The Most Holy Place
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Chapter 9: The Most Holy Place
Dan L. Kelly, Elder Emeritus

The Most Holy Place was the area of the Sanctuary that represented the Throne Room of God while he was leading his people in the wilderness. This transferred over to the Temple when Solomon, King David’s son built it in Jerusalem. It retained its sanctity for, when the Temple was dedicated, the presence of God came and filled the place with glory and, for the second time, fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifices that Solomon had offered.  This was, indeed, a Most Holy Place!

But, what was its function?  What was the purpose of this Holiest of all places?

We have alluded to it in several ways in preceding chapters but in this one we want to zero in on the function even closer.  As we do this we will begin to recognize an issue that may tend to go against our grain.  We may tend to disagree with the tenets of the evidence and will want to dismiss it out of hand.  It may be somewhat like hearing for the first time that the salvation we have is given to us without cost or requirement. It is free. At first glance we say to ourselves, “That just can’t be true!”  But, as we have walked the Christian walk we have learned that Salvation is free – without price!  That’s what we will see here as well.  Something remarkable happens in the Most Holy Place that is almost too good to be true.  But it is true.  And remarkably so.

As we learned in the last chapter, in the Daily services some of the people would confess their specific sins on the head of a substitute.  In the same ministration service following, the priest would minister the blood of those lambs and the blood of the Daily sacrifice which was for the whole congregation.  While he was performing this ministration, the congregation, including, but not limited to, those penitent sinners who had confessed specific sins, would silently surround the sanctuary and pray, confessing their weaknesses and sinfulness.  As the priest ministered the blood and put the incense on the altar in the Holy Place, the cloud that would rise, which represented the prayers of the people, mixed with the incense, thus making their prayers acceptable, symbolically, to God as they wafted over the veil and into the Most Holy Place into the very presence of the Holy God occupying the Shekinah over the Mercy Seat. Under this Mercy Seat was the Holy Law, the foundation of God’s government, that had been violated. (Deuteronomy 10:2,5)

It was in this way that Israel’s sins were confessed and forgiven.  It was through faith in the sacrifice of the true substitute, Jesus, not in the blood of “bulls and goats.”  For the apostle Paul writes in Hebrews 10:4 “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”  They, just like we, look to Jesus for that salvation.  They, looking forward to the time when the “once for all” sacrifice would be made and we, looking backward to the very same event, the Cross of Calvary.

But, now we come to a small problem in the Sanctuary.  We have The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, the latter representing God’s Throne, a place which we assume to be holy and undefiled, now defiled!  “How is that?” you may ask.  Well, we  have been saying that the sin laden blood of the substitute representing the sacrificed life of the sinner, carrying the guilt of his sin, has been ministered by the Priest and has been symbolically carried over the veil into the Most Holy Place which we have assumed to be pristine.  But the reality is that the prayers of the guilty sinner ascend to God through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ who stands where?  In the presence of God for us.  So, you see, in the Daily service of old Israel, in the Desert Sanctuary, the Sandbox Illustration, the Sanctuary becomes symbolically polluted with the confessed sins of the penitent sinners throughout the year.  There was a provision, however for the Sanctuary to be “cleansed” or set right – Justified – once a year in Israel’s system.  It was called The Day of Atonement.  Now called Yom Kippur.

The Day of Atonement began on the tenth day of the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, the month of Tishrei.  You may already know that in Jewish reckoning the day always begins at sundown and continues to the following sundown.  During this period all Israel was to fast, wear no leather, abstain from bathing or anointing and abstain from marital relations.  This was to be a time of introspection – a time of judgment – a time to “afflict one’s soul.”  The purpose was to, once a year, “clear the books” so to speak of the sins that had been deposited in the sanctuary of the period.  If the Sanctuary is to be cleared, or cleansed, the congregation wanted to be sure that they did not retain one cherished sin that had not been confessed!  That would be devastating for them!  It would cut them off from the rest of the people.

So, they would obediently “afflict their souls,” that is to say, examine themselves “whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…” 2 Corinthians 13:5 In this way they could be assured of being clean themselves when the Sanctuary was finally cleansed at the end of the Day of Atonement.  

On this day, the High Priest would select two kids of goats and cast lots over them.  Thus he would select one to be the Lord’s goat and the remaining one would be Azazel’s goat or the Scapegoat. Once selected, the Priest would prepare himself ritually after which the Lord’s goat would be killed. It is important to note that this is not an offering as the other offerings were where sin is confessed on the goat before it is sacrificed.  While called a sin offering, there is no sin transferred to this goat. (see Leviticus 16:15,16)  The priest has already prepared himself by sacrificing a bullock as a ‘sin’ offering for himself and his family.  This goat has no sin.  The blood he sheds is “clean blood.” (my terminology)  

The priest then takes some of this clean blood and travels in through the Holy Place and on this day only, enters into the Most Holy Place still beclouded with incense.  With his finger, he dips into the blood of the Lord’s goat and flicks some of the blood in front of Ark of the Covenant and then in a final act in the Most Holy Place, he flicks a small amount of the “clean blood” on the Mercy Seat” itself under which is the Law of God, which is the foundation of His government.  How appropriate!  The Law, the Constitution of the Government of God couched beneath the very piece of furnishing which represents His throne!

With the “clean blood” thus distributed strategically in and about the Most Holy Place, the built-up sin from the deposits of the preceding year have been symbolically replaced and subsequently “picked up” on the clothing of the High Priest.  He is now prepared to leave the Most Holy Place and begin the process of exiting the sanctuary performing similar ritual cleansings as he passes through the Holy Place and into the Courtyard.  On arrival in the courtyard he approaches the other goat, the Scapegoat or Azazel’s goat, which is still alive, and places his hands on the head of this goat transferring, in figure, all the sins of the entire year that he has collected on his tour of ministry into and through the Most Holy Place and out through the Holy Place, symbolically cleansing the Sanctuary as he has traveled through its confines.

Please notice:  All through the year, sin has been traveling into the sanctuary.  Now, on the Day of Atonement, sin travels OUT of the Sanctuary and is placed on the head of Azazel’s goat.  Scripture tells us that this goat is then taken, “by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.”  (Leviticus 16:21,22)

Oh, yes.  Atonement as it is anglicized means, at-one-ment.  You see, sin has separated us from our God.  At-one-ment, Atonement, brings us back together again.

Wow!  That’s an encouraging piece of information!  A lot of information, but encouraging!  Wouldn’t you say??  And, again, aren’t you glad God has given us this thing called the Sanctuary to give us, in illustrated fashion, the whole plan of Salvation?  Even in it’s finest detail.  Detail that we may never have noticed before.

We do serve a Gracious and loving God who is not trying to keep us out of His Kingdom, but is trying to get us into it!
But, What does all this have to do with Jesus, His sacrifice and His Ministry for us today?  

What does the “polluting” of the old Sanctuary have to do with Jesus and His ministry for us?

Let’s look a little closer.
Dan L. Kelly
Elder Emeritus