cleansing the Saints:
The Tabernacle pt 5
Just like an individual, the church community is a sanctuary. Ephesians 2 says that we, together, are growing into a sanctuary for the Lord. Then, too, 1 Peter 2 calls us living stones built on Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, into a spiritual house (sanctuary). Even though we can’t save each other, we are expected to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We should be a message of grace to each other. We should stir each other up to love, and we should together bring our sacrifices of praise to God as we join in adoration (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
As a community temple, we can be the light of Christ to the world (Matthew 5:14), the presence of Christ in the world (2 Corinthians 5:20), the mediator with Christ for the world (ibid), the representatives of His love, His morality, His priesthood, and His transformation. These are the effects of the community of Christ acting as a sanctuary. Jesus tells us that we, with the knowledge of the love of God, are to be salt to flavor the world.
In other places, Paul calls us the “body of Christ.” He says that we each have been given different spiritual gifts, and when using those gifts together, in community, we become the body of Christ, with Him as the head. If Christ is a sanctuary Himself, then our community becoming the body of Christ, as we work together with our gifts, is the fulfillment of us becoming a spiritual sanctuary. We have all been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, who abundantly gives us gifts as needed. First, He works in our hearts, and then He works through us to impact the world. We are far more effective as a community of co-laborers than we are alone.
Somehow the history of the church has demonstrated the opposite of what it was supposed to. The priesthood of all believers became polluted. First by the nation of Israel, and more recently by the expanded Christian world.
In Exodus 19, the call was given to a single nation to be the priesthood of God to the world. They were to bring people into their community in order to teach them to know God and to await the coming Messiah. They were to bring the lost to the sanctuary of God where they would learn salvation. Unfortunately, this nation, having been given so much, even exclusive knowledge of God, spiraled into apostasy. The knowledge given them, which they were to share with others, they hoarded for themselves; then, twisting that knowledge, they became legalists; and, finally, their priesthood, which should have guided the nation, degenerated into a fount of spiritual pollution instead. The time of their probation as God’s exclusive mouthpiece closed, and the “priesthood” was expanded to the nations.
After Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, all the earth was given opportunity to join the priesthood and declare that Jesus is Messiah and to herald His Second Coming. The church expanded to include, not just the faithful Jews, but Gentiles who accepted Jesus. All could now come into the sanctuary of God through faith, and without coming through Israel, either.
The church grew and thrived as the message of inclusion was given to the nations of the world, even despite great Roman persecution. In fact, the blood of the martyrs was the seed that drew more souls into the faith as these people witnessed the power of God in the martyrs.
It wasn’t long before the church slipped into darkness as a community and began their own pollution of the priesthood. In the place of Christ, the church set up Mary to mediate for humanity. They established dead saints who would plead for humans before an angry, vindictive God. They brought in priests who would hear the prayers of other people and then pray for them and prescribe to them prayers that might reach God. They claimed the position of mediator, which is the prerogative of Christ alone.
Throughout human history, the sins of humanity have been piling up on the heavenly sanctuary. What does that mean? Well, it goes back to the problem of evil. It means that God has allowed evil to exist for a time, and as a result, people have accused Him. All of this needs to be resolved, and until God resolves this problem, His name, His reputation, and His sanctuary are bearing the weight of sin.
Even though, by dying on their behalf, Christ cleansed all the sins of every human on earth, the process of salvation continues. The cleansing of the sanctuary and the process of salvation won't be completed until all of the ministrations in the heavenly sanctuary are completed. Christ had provided for the salvation of every person on earth, but God does not forcefully apply that forgiveness to any who don't want it. God has been bearing long with the earth, because He desires reconciliation (2 Peter 3:9).
Finally, the day came that the Sanctuary itself would be cleansed, justified, and vindicated.
What does that mean?
Christ works in the lives of His People, cleansing and transforming them. This work—that of applying forgiveness, cleansing, sanctifying, giving comfort, and molding people into His image—will continue until He returns. This is the work of the Tabernacle in individuals' lives. As a corporate people, we are following the steps through the Tabernacle as well. Christ began that process upon the Bronze Altar and Laver in AD 31. Christ then ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God waiting for the judgment. This period of waiting is known as the daily service ritual that went on all year as God waited for the Day of Atonement.
One day a year, a different service was added to the regular daily services. It was called the Day of Atonement, when all the sins in the Tabernacle would be removed. This was the cleansing of the Tabernacle, a special service that involved the Most Holy Place, where God would judge and execute justice. This is a work that Christ began before He returns and brings us our ultimate redemption.
Christ opens the books for the universe to see (Daniel 7:9-11). He shows the Book of Life, which contains the names of all whom He intends to save. Satan accuses those people of being unworthy and points out their flaws and their sins. He is the accuser of humanity (Revelation 12:10). When Christ points to the person’s record, it reads “Forgiven.” They have accepted Christ as their Savior, and so His righteousness stands in the place of their unrighteousness.
But there are some who have even gone so far as to claim God's name but live contrary to Him. They call themselves Christians, and then blaspheme His name. These are to be separated out.
When all the names of the righteous have been reviewed, and all the universe sees the decision of those who through all time have put their faith in Jesus, then Jesus returns to get them. They will have passed through the judgment unknowingly. They will have passed from death to life (John 5:24). The sins have already been paid for by Jesus, the goat of the Lord, and now God is demonstrated as faithful in their removal!
After this Jesus returns and He redeems His faithful and begins to execute justice upon evil. This is the cleansing of sins from the corporate sanctuary of the saints.