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Friday, May 8, 2009


Let’s depart from rich theological terms for this month and consider instead a rather unusual (and often misused) term instead. This word occurs over 150 times in the Bible, and all but 3 of them are in the Old Testament.

Our word for this month is sanctuary. Although modern usage of the term can refer to part of a “church building”, biblical usage is much more restricted. It began in the book of Exodus, and referred to the Tabernacle that was to be made:
“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. (Ex. 25:8)

This would be God’s dwelling place on earth, a holy and sacred place, a unique place on the planet.

As the years went on, the Temple would be built, with extremely strict specifications. This new sanctuary would replace the Tabernacle, and would be God’s house on earth. It, too, was a one-of-a-kind place.

Those Old Testament sanctuaries are referenced over and over again in the Old Testament. Of the three uses of the term in the New Testament, two of them refer directly to the Old Testament sanctuary, and the last one (Heb. 8:2) refers to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ is.

Just as a meeting house (a church’s building) is not a “church”, so the big room in the meeting house is not a “sanctuary”. God doesn’t dwell there. There is no altar there. A criminal cannot enter it and “claim sanctuary” or request asylum to evade the police. It is not, in and of itself, a holy place.

The Old Testament sanctuary was a special and God-ordained place. However, it no longer exists and is not a part of the New Testament church. Why is that? I would suggest it is because of one terrible and glorious event of nearly 2000 years ago:
And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:37-38)

Access to the inner sanctuary, the holy of holies, is now made directly by every Christian to Christ Himself. There is no more special class of priests, no more animal sacrifice, no more going to a certain place to meet God. Now all Christians are priests, the perfect and final sacrifice has been made, and the Holy Spirit dwells within each redeemed person, not in a building made with human hands.


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