The ministry of Christ in heaven
A second notes page for Revelation 3
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   This page expands on Revelation 3:7, 8 where we saw Christ moving from the first room in the sanctuary in heaven into the second the most holy place. re0308.
    "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name."
   To see the context in chapter 3 for the brief essays that follow, go.


The process of salvation is described in symbols by the sanctuary system where Christ is seen as both the slain lamb and the priest dealing with sin and bringing salvation. This process includes a special time of cleansing and judgment near the end of the sanctuary year. Some have developed special interpretations of the sanctuary picture in order to avoid this end-time judgment concept where Christ ministers for us in the most holy place in the sanctuary in heaven. The arguments deserve a careful explanation of what God would have us understand.

Note 3: Christ's ministry after the ascension

Why a special end-time judgment?
    Doesn't God already know our spiritual status, and if so, why have a special time of judgment? Of course He knows. The judgment is not to inform God about the behavior of His children. We will learn more of its purpose later.

So where did Christ go after the ascension?
    I'll tell you in simple terms, then we will look at the arguments. The tabernacle (later the temple) represents Christ's work in heaven ex2540. In Old Testament times people sacrificed animals as they placed their faith in the Messiah, the Lamb of God jn0129, that would come and die for their sins. The tabernacle is the large white area above. The process of salvation begins with Christ who was slain on the earth which is represented by the courtyard the brown area. The place of sacrifice is the altar of burnt offering shown as a white square where Christ was slain on earth at Calvary. Then seen as a priest He went into heaven ac0108-11, jn1403, represented by the tabernacle. The ordinary priests ministered in the Holy Place all year representing Christ's work. They took the blood of animals representing Christ's death on the cross and sprinkled it before the veil. Then on the day of atonement the high priest entered the Most Holy Place (white area at the left), representing His final work of judgment and of preparing His end-time people for His coming in glory.

xx    Some people argue that Christ did not go into the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary after returning to heaven but went directly into the most holy place (the left third of the large white area in the diagram). They say that because God does not sin, there is no need for cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The conclusion of that argument is that there is no end-time, preadvent judgment. Other Bible passages, however, picture a judgment involving investigation as a final test of the righteous. See mt22, re1007.
    Let's examine the argument that Christ went directly to the most holy place after the ascension. We begin with a verse used to prove this.
   "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Heb. 9:24 he0924)
   Then to find out where He went, we would naturally ask, Where is the "presence of God"?
   "And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat." le1602.
   Conclusion: Christ went into the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary after His ascension, not into the holy place. Or did He? We have to be careful about drawing quick conclusions from simple proof texts. Those, who argue that Christ went directly into the most holy place because God was present there, assume from these verses that God's presence was nowhere else.

So in what sense could Christ have gone into the presence of God after the cross and still have entered only into the holy place?
   The holy place ministry involved sprinkling the blood in the holy place before the inner veil secluding the most holy place. This and even the court in front of the tabernacle entrance where animals were killed were "before the Lord" as we see in Leviticus 4.
   "And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance. . . . the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD. And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the vail [secluding the most holy place with the ark]. And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door [outside court] of the tabernacle of the congregation." le0413ff. Compare le0404.
   The altar inside the tent was the "altar of incense" or the "golden altar." Standing there, the priest was only a few feet farther away from the ark than the high priest would be, later, on the day of atonement. The blood was sprinkled before the veil because it was being committed to the ark in the most holy place le0407.
   On the day of atonement, the high priest would stand before the ark and "make an atonement for the holy place [where the altar of incense was], because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation" (Lev. 16:16). Thus the forgiveness of Christ for the sins throughout the year was confirmed. The "uncleanness" was removed from the sanctuary. This is the connection with Daniel 8:14 stating the the sanctuary would be cleansed or vindicated after 2300 symbolic days, re0610 & re0611a. This helps us see the larger picture.

   Did Christ go into the presence of the Lord after the cross? Yes, as we saw in Leviticus 4, He was "before the Lord" as the sacrifice, and closer "before the Lord" as the priest standing before the veil which secluded the ark. Finally during the time represented by the day of atonement, He stands even closer as the high priest in front of the ark. We also see this in the "open door" of Revelation, chapter 4 re0401.

Moving from the holy place into the most holy
   Those wishing to establish Christ's direct entrance into the most holy claim that the Bible never shows the transition. Actually, it does. Look at the explanation for da0713f.
    Ezekiel also saw the movement into the most holy place for investigation. The wheels of angels were involved in the Lord's coming. And we also see Him leave at the end of the investigative judgment. See comments at ez0104 and read to the end of the chapter. Image from Tom Dunbebin

Why did He go to the close presence of the Ancient of Days?
   In the next verse in Daniel, we read: "And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion. . . ." (Dan. 7:14). The true people of Israel were identified in the process of judgment on the day of atonement when the high priest entered the most holy place le2327ff. Thus, in the Daniel 7 scene, Christ is brought closer to the Father where He is given the people of the kingdom. In the pre-advent or "investigative" judgment, the citizens of the universe and the angels of heaven see that our Lord has done good work in cleansing us from sin. They help to proclaim Him, not Satan, as our rightful king, the one we have chosen to obey.
   We saw the opening of books of judgment at the end of the preceding scene da0710.

Note 4: Ministry of Christ in the holy place

   After sharing the preceding module, someone asked, "Who said he [Christ] was ever ministering in the Holy Place?" I assumed my readers understood this. It's a fair question. Let's back up to see what is happening in the sanctuary system.
   First, as my challenger pointed out, readers of the book of Hebrews understood the sanctuary system well. The author of the book wants to redirect their thoughts to the sanctuary in heaven. All through the book he argues that the new way is better. In chapter 10, for example, he describes Christ as a better sacrifice who ". . . taketh away the first, that he may establish the second." (Heb. 10:9).
   The discouraged Hebrew Christians were losing faith in this Messiah who hadn't returned to get them as soon as they had expected he1035ff. The old system must have offered a certain ceremonial security. Was it still a valid way to worship God? No. To follow it would testify falsely that the Messiah it described hadn't yet come. Did it still represent the ministry of Christ in His sacrifice and after that, by His ministry in Heaven? Yes.
   "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Heb. 8:1, 2).
   Continuing, we come to the relationship between the old and the new. Priests on earth ". . . serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." (verse 5). In other words, the Hebrew Christians were directed to look to the real sanctuary in heaven, of which the earthly tabernacle was a model.

Was the sanctuary and its system which God had Moses set up just a scale model showing exactly what would happen when the "true tabernacle" began to function?
   No, but we need to explain. The verses before this, help clarify: "For such an high priest [Christ] . . . needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself." (Heb. 7:26, 27). The sacrifice Jesus would make once at Calvary is seen over and over in various ways in the sanctuary system. This helped the people understand.
   If not simply a scale model, why did the writer here emphasize the importance of Moses' following the pattern? The system the plan of salvation does not change. The system of symbols given in the wilderness help the people of God understand reality. God must have shown Moses the temple in heaven, then explained exactly how it was to be represented on earth. Because the ministry of Christ began to function when Jesus died, it was all future during the time of the Old Testament. It would not have been changed at the time it started to function.
   In other words, the process of the sanctuary began with an animal slain on the altar in the court of the sanctuary as the sin was laid on the Messiah to come by the sinner's pressing down on the animal and cutting its throat. The system showed other aspects of salvation as well, but this was a starting point. The reality it built faith in, all blossoms out from the sacrifice of Christ.

Were people saved by the blood of the animals in the Old Testament?
   The beginning of Hebrews 10 says, No. If not, why did God ask His Old Testament people to follow the system? Because they looked forward to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world jn0129. He was also the Saviour of the Old Testament. His blood had not yet been shed so, by faith exercised through the visible symbols, people then accepted salvation through the merits of the one who would die for them. Today we accept salvation by faith looking back to that time. Our high priest is in heaven and, as we pray, He confesses us before the Father and we are forgiven mt1032.
   We are asking whether or not our high priest in heaven would have a holy place ministry as well as a most holy place ministry. In my earlier message, I explained that He went to the holy place of the sanctuary in heaven after the cross. I implied that He later goes into the most holy place to accomplish that part of our salvation. I explained that the verse saying that He went into the presence of God after the ascension does not establish that He went directly into the most holy place. This is because, although God's special presence was in the most holy place, it was also in the holy place. The priest's ministry there in front of the vail was also "before the Lord." In fact the writer of Hebrews in he0901ff was shown the censer (associated with the altar of incense) as well as the ark in the most holy place. This is perhaps because, although the altar was actually on the other side of the curtain and part of the holy place ministry, its function was closely tied to the day of atonement ministry in the most holy.
   Let's look at reasons why the holy place ministry is an essential piece of the plan of salvation and where Christ went after the cross.

The holy place ministry is part of the "true tabernacle" in heaven
   We have just discussed how what happens does not change although the use of symbols and ceremonies used to explain it do. What physically happens in heaven? We don't know and likely would misunderstand if told. We do know just what Christ does for us and how we may simply lift our hearts to the throne of grace in prayer. We can use the terms of the sanctuary as the Scriptures do. The reality of the heavenly sanctuary is emphasized in the book of Revelation (for example, re0803).

The holy place ministry handles the process of forgiveness
   We certainly need the ministry of forgiveness. For unintentional sin of the whole congregation, blood from the sacrificed sin offering was sprinkled in the holy place before the vail and put on the horns of the altar of incense which was also in front of the vail. (Lev. 4:13-21).
   Why was incense burned continually on the altar of incense (also called the golden altar)? We find out in Revelation 8:3, 4. "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand."
   We reach the throne of grace for forgiveness and strength by prayer. What right do we have to ask God for any favor, especially for forgiveness and salvation? None, except by the grace of Christ who died that we might live. The incense of His perfect life is added to our prayers to make our requests acceptable to the Father jn1413, ro0826. This is mediation. The same connection with prayer is seen in the symbols at the opening of the fifth seal where the souls under the altar cry out re0609ff. They are under it because they are on earth while the altar is in the sanctuary in heaven.
   The most holy place was entered by the high priest only on the day of atonement. This is a ministry of cleansing, in contrast to the ministry of forgiveness at the altar of incense in the holy place le1629f.
   In Christ, we receive both the ministry of forgiveness and the ministry of cleansing. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1jo0109. The two elements are seen in many places in the Bible, for example, 2pe0313f, co0206. The holy place ministry operates during the time of forgiveness and the most holy place ministry during the time of cleansing. They are distinct ministries, both essential for our salvation. Forgiveness does continue to be available, however, during the time of the day of atonement.

The holy place ministry offers continual light and strength.
   We just discussed elements of this ministry connected with the golden altar which stood in front of the vail. The candlestick represents Christ as the light of the world. The oil that makes the light represents the Holy Spirit. Christ as the bread of life is seen in the table of showbread with the ten loves, periodically replaced with fresh ones. The bread also represents the word of God. The lamps, the bread, and the coals on the altar of incense were all kept active day and night. We cannot say these are now part of the most holy place ministry because they were clearly in the first room of the tabernacle. Even if the inner vail were removed, these articles of furniture would be in the holy place part of the larger room. We have no scriptural justification for assuming that one of these areas disappears.

The holy place ministry comes earlier in time than the most holy place ministry.
   The day-of-atonement ceremonial sabbath came, in the sanctuary calendar, just before the feast-of-tabernacles celebration which represents our time of rejoicing in heaven. Every day during the year, before the day of atonement, sins were forgiven through the holy place ministry. So the yearly sanctuary cycle represents the sin-to-salvation cycle, showing that the most holy place ministry comes at the end of the holy place ministry.

The holy place is in the path to the most holy place
   The sanctuary was laid out like a time line showing the progress of the ministry of sin. Moving from east to west (right to left in the diagram), people entered the court (shown as brown in the diagram), laid their hands on the sacrifice animal committing their sins, by faith, to Christ. Then they took its life (as our sins did to our Lord). Jesus died on earth (the court of the sanctuary). The animal was then offered on the altar in the court. In certain cases, as we have seen, some of the blood of guilt was then taken into the most holy place of the sanctuary and sprinkled before the vail which secluded the most holy place. The ministry of the most holy place on the day of atonement takes into account the impurity of the children of Israel which this blood represented le1616ff. Thus a cleansing or purification is done.
   In cases where the blood was not sprinkled before the vail, the priests were to eat the meat of the animal which had received the symbol of guilt (Lev. 6:, see 24-30) le06. Thus the sins were borne by Christ as seen in the animal, then by Christ again as seen in the body of the priests as they ministered in the sanctuary 1pe0224.
   This shows why Christ needs to be vindicated in the pre-advent judgment before becoming king. He has accepted our guilt pleading his blood, shed on the cross. Can He really provide salvation? The answer depends on us. Can He actually remove sin from our lives, as well as forgiving it? We may be cleansed from the guilt of our sins which He accepted in His body. This is seen in the most holy place ministry.
   Here are a few verses from the instructions given for the most holy place ministry: "And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house [the other priests], and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony [the place of the stone tablets of the ten commandments], that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times." (Lev. 16:11-14).
   Thus in either case by sprinkled blood or in the bodies of the priests the sins of the people were processed through the sanctuary from the court, to the holy place, to the most holy place. I believe we see here, the right of Christ to forgive our sins being challenged. He is vindicated before the universe. His power to cleanse the behavior of His people demonstrates this (Lev. 16:29, 30.). He has a right to receive the kingdom because the people, by accepting His power in their lives, have chosen to be His loyal citizens (Zech. 3; Dan. 7:10, 14; Isa. 62:3). Praise His holy name!

Could the priesthood of believers fulfill the holy place ministry?
    We are priests only in a secondary sense. In the sanctuary system, the priest would take the blood of the sacrifice, representing Christ's blood, into the holy place or he would eat part of the sacrifice as Christ took our flesh and died in our place. These are never responsibilities we can assume for another person. Our role is similar in that we plead the blood of Christ for our friends, asking for His Holy Spirit to plead with their hearts. And we pray that they might receive the merits of His broken body. We can see our relationship to priesthood in Peters description of the stones in the temple 1pe0202ff.

   Our ministry as stones is seen in verse 9 1pe0209. We are to be witnesses to others pointing them to the light of Christ. I see this symbol set as parallel to Paul's description of the church as the body of Christ, He being the head. Here we are stones with Christ as the cornerstone. The priests in the sanctuary represented Christ Himself in His work of atonement. No human can play the divine role of mediator between God and man 1ti0205. Of course we may intercede in prayer in the name of Christ who mediates before the father.

Note 5: Christ's being made a priest and entering within the vail

   Some hold that the following verse shows that Christ began the most holy place ministry immediately after His ascension. We looked at this question higher on this page. Here is a different passage for us to think about.

   "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 6: 19, 20).

   To enter the most holy place, requires going behind the inner veil. The text doesn't say which veil Jesus went behind. The fact that Heb. 9:3 specifies the second veil would lead us to see this one as the first. Realizing that the tabernacle represents heaven while the court represents earth means that the veil that separates the two is the outer one. Christ went to heaven at His ascension. ac0111. Compare the following: "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:" (Heb. 9:24). Christ, as symbolized by Moses, was not ministering in the most holy place at the time the book of Hebrews was written.
   The only access to the most holy place is through the holy place. Also, we may picture the two areas of the sanctuary in heaven as not separated by an inner veil. On earth, only the high priest, entered the second room. In heaven, Christ fills the roles of both ordinary and high priests. He would thus have only the sanctuary door to enter which, symbolically separates heaven from earth. The first ministry is before the altar of incense which, without the separating veil, is before the ark and the presence of God. At the time of judgment, ministry is directly in front of the ark.
    Conclusion: We may see Christ as in the presence of His Father in heaven. He intercedes for us. He did the work of the holy place ministry before the beginning of the end-time judgment in heaven. Then he entered the most holy place. This was the significance of our original text. top.

   Jesus didn't look at all like a priest in the eyes of the people who knew Him. The verses in Hebrews which we are discussing help establish that He was actually a priest in heaven. He came from the tribe of Judah mt0101-16, a requirement for the Messiah ge4910, re0505, but priests had to be sons of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi. Paul (or the writer here) is about to make the case that Melchisedec had an unknown (symbolic of eternal) genealogy, so Jesus was initiated into his type of priesthood.

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