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"How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?" Dan. 8:13.
The answer was,
"Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Verse 14.
In symbolic prophecy a day stands for a year. Eze. 4:6. This is a long period, therefore, of 2300 years. It reaches to the latter days; for the angel said of it, "At the time of the end shall be the vision." Dan. 8: 17.
The question was, "How long?" or literally, "Until when?" and the answer was, "Until two thousand and three hundred days." Then what was to come to deal with the great apostasy?"Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The cleansing of the sanctuary, therefore, must have something to do with meeting the great apostasy, lifting up God's truth that has been trampled underfoot, and cutting short the reign of evil. The cleansing of the sanctuary, with all that is involved in it, must be God's answer to this lawless power.
Error may prosper for a time; but the just balances of the sanctuary will at last pronounce righteous judgment, and the prosperity of evil will be cut short. "I was envious... when I saw the prosperity of the wicked," said the psalmist, "until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." Ps. 73:3, 17.
What, then, is involved in the cleansing of the sanctuary, the time of which is marked by the long prophetic period? It is for us to understand; for it is a work pertaining to the latter days.
THE Bible teaching concerning the sanctuary of the Levitical service shows clearly that the cleansing of the sanctuary is God's answer to error and apostasy.
The priestly service of the earthly sanctuary, or temple, in the days of Israel, was typical of the work of Christ, our High Priest, in the heavenly temple. The earthly priests served after "the example and shadow of heavenly things." Heb. 8:5. And of Christ's ministry in the heavenly temple we are told:
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a 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.
In the earthly service, the cleansing of the sanctuary was the closing work of the high priest, marking the end of the
yearly round of mediatory ministry. The cleansing of the sanctuary in the time of the end must, therefore, according to the sure teaching of the type, be the closing ministry of our great High Priest in the heavenly temple, before He lays aside His priestly work to come in glory.
The Service of the Earthly Tabernacle
There were two distinct phases in the priestly ministry of the tabernacle in Israel. The sanctuary was built with two apartments, the holy place and the most holy.
In the holy place were the candlestick with its seven lights, the table with its ever-renewed "bread of the presence," and the altar of incense, on which sweet incense, symbol of Christ's continual intercession, was burned morning and night.
Within the inner veil was the most holy place, where was the ark containing the tables of the law, written with the finger of God. The cover of the ark was the golden mercyseat, above which, at either end, stood two cherubim of gold, their wings meeting on high, their faces looking ever toward the mercy-seat. It was a type of the throne of God the angels about the throne, the law the foundation of His government, the mercy-seat typifying the interposition of mercy and pardon for the sinner; and above it the visible glory of the Lord, the Shekinah.
"There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony." Ex. 25: 22. Of the service in the first apartment it is stated:
"When these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God." Heb. 9:6.
"Day by day the sacrificial victims were slain at the altar before the outer veil, and the blood was 'brought into the sanctuary' by the priest." This was an acknowledgment of transgression of God's law, meriting death, and a confession of faith in the Lamb of God who was to suffer death in
the sinner's stead, and whose atoning blood would plead for him before the righteous law.
Thus day by day, either by the sprinkling of the blood "before the Lord" or by eating a portion of the flesh of the burnt offering in the holy place, the ministry of the priests transferred the sin in type to the sanctuary, and the sinner was pardoned.
For a full year, lacking one day, the ministry was in the first apartment, or holy place only. But on that last day of the yearly round of service "the tenth day of the seventh month"- the high priest entered the second apartment, or most holy place.
"Into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people." Heb. 9:7.
In this service the high priest sprinkled the blood upon the mercy-seat and in the holy place, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel." The sanctuary was to be reconciled or cleansed from all the sins registered there in type through the blood of the offerings brought day by day during the year.
As the high priest came out, bearing the sins, he transferred them all to the head of the scapegoat, which was sent away into the wilderness; and thus "all their iniquities" were borne away from the camp into the wilderness, and the sanctuary was cleansed. See Leviticus 16.
This was a solemn time of judgment in Israel. Every man's life came in review that day. Was every sin confessed? Whosoever was not found right with God, when that service was performed, was cut off from having a part with God's people.
"It is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." Lev. 23:28, 29.