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  • Writer's pictureSusan

What's the Deal with the Sanctuary?

Updated: Mar 30

If you are a Christian, at some point, you've heard of the sanctuary. Even if you aren't a Christian, you may be familiar with articles that came from the sanctuary like the Ark of the Covenant, sought out by Indiana Jones. The interesting thing about the sanctuary, is that God uses it like a blueprint, or template of how a relationship with Him is supposed to work. That is why the Bible says, "Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary".

"Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God?" Psalm 77:13

So how does a relationship with God work? Below is an illustration of the seven phases that lead to being at one with Christ. Christians use a fancy word, "atonement", which literally breaks down to mean At-One-Ment. When you're really in sinc with someone, you may say, "we're on the same page" or "we're of the same mind". You are still a separate person, but you get each other and you feel really connected. This is how God wants us to be and He shows us this pattern over and over again, so we can understand what it takes to be in-sinc with God.

Something you may notice on the illustration below, is that the cross can be superimposed onto the blueprint. Each piece of furniture in the sanctuary corresponds to Jesus' wounds as He was laid out on the cross.

  1. The Alter at the bottom, where His feet were pierced.

  2. The laver, to wash the blood of the sacrifice was placed where Jesus was pierced in His right side causing His blood and water to flow out.

  3. The seven branch candlestick where his right hand would be pierced.

  4. The alter of incense, where his heart would be broken.

  5. The table of Shewbread, where his left hand would be pierced.

  6. The Ark where his head bore the crown of thorns.

  7. His death or separation from God. When Jesus died, He cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why didst Thou forsake me?" Matthew 27:46 (Youngs Literal Translation). Do you see the root word SABA? He didn't see Himself entering into the rest that we are promised! He felt the final separation, that is due to us. But we are assured of the promise, the SABA OATH!

Each of the articles, within the sanctuary, were steeped in meaning and performed in an elaborate play before the people. The sanctuary message points to our relationship to our creator God and was to demonstrate the awful condition of sin and what it would take to heal our relationship with God so that we could be redeemed.

Step 1 - Recognize your need for God and come to the foot of the cross. See the awful result of sin in the sacrifice of an innocent lamb.

Step 2 - Freely make the choice to follow God and take a public stand through baptism.

Step 3 - Build a relationship with God by listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing God to dwell within your heart. The Seven branch candlestick (Menorah) illuminates the way.

Step 4 - Build a relationship with God by communicating with Him through prayer. The smoke from the incense constantly rises to God. Walking with God is this constant communication believing that He is present with you at all times.

Step 5 - Build a relationship with God by allowing God to communicate to you through His word, the Bible. Feasting on the shewbread.

Step 6 - Be transformed by God into His likeness. The work of redemption is not something we accomplish on our own. As we draw closer to the heart of God, the more we become changed. The ark, with the three items contained inside, represents the heart of God. When we become at one with Him, we will have:

  1. The law of God written on our hearts and minds,

  2. The Holy Spirit bearing good fruits in our lives (Aaron's budding rod), and

  3. God's word, the Bible, (Manna - or bread of life) nourishing and permeating our entire being.

Step 7 - Dwell with God forever. The Sabbath is His promise that we will eventually rest with Him in eternity. It is a weekly memorial of who He is, what He has done and what He will do in our lives to be at one with us.

God uses various overlays throughout the Bible to illustrate His desire for an intimate, personal, loving relationship with each person in His creation. He really wants us to understand this idea and uses several ways to communicate it besides the cross. I challenge you to take a deeper look to find the relationship with this template in other stories, for example, the Israelite nation, Eve's path to the fall, Jesus life story, and the seven churches in Revelation.

Phases of Christian Growth

To go a little deeper in our understanding of the Way as demonstrated in the sanctuary, Christians often use three fancy terms to denote three phases of growth in Christianity; Justification, Sanctification and Redemption. These are represented by three distinct areas in the sanctuary: the outer court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The following chart shows the various phases and what our journey towards one-ness with God looks like.

Stages of Growth

The Way

Form of Godliness


Recognize Selfishness within ourselves

Born into Christianity

Free Choice to Follow God

Infant sprinkling - not a choice


Holy Spirit dwelling within as a witness

Continue to act selfish, judgemental, rude

Open communication with God - Talking to God

Pray occasionally, but no real communication with God on an on-going basis

Allow God to Communicate with us - Listening to what God has to say

Occasionally read a Bible verse or devotional. No real attempt to read and understand who God is


Reflect God's character of love through the power of the Holy Spirit

No significant change in character takes place

The Sabba Oath

Trust God to fulfill His oath to dwell with us in peace and harmony

​Fear God's judgement

Justification - Outer Court

Upon arriving at the sanctuary, there is a single door, this represents Jesus. We pass through this door to enter the outer court. Here we find the alter of sacrifice and the laver. This is where we recognize that we are selfish and need change in our lives. Then we make the choice to follow God and ask Him to forgive us. We leave the person we were behind and make a stand to walk in God's way. This is the process of justification.

Sanctification - The Holy Place

Inside the sanctuary building, there are two compartments. The first is called the Holy Place. In it, you find articles of furniture that represent the three important aspects of a relationship with God.

Seven-Branch Candlestick

The seven branch candlestick represents the Holy Spirit. Seven represents completeness. In a healthy, love relationship, we submit ourselves completely to the other person. So it should be with God. We don't hold any aspect of ourselves back from Him. We allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, shining out as a witness to others of what God does in our lives. It is not enough to just go through the motions, God's love is transformational!

Table of Shewbread

The table of shewbread represents the Word of God. The Bible is a living testimony of who God is and how He deals with His created beings. The number twelve (number of shewbread) represents God's power and authority and the foundation of His government.

When you desire a relationship with someone, you want to get to know them. You want to find out everything you can about them. Imagine, if you started a relationship with someone, but every time that person spoke, you tuned them out. How long do you think you'd last in that relationship? My guess is, not very long! God longs to show us who He is, because it is really good news! Many Christians do not take the time to get to know Him, and that is why they feel that He is a wrathful, vengeful God rather than a loving God we can trust. His government is founded on love and freedom. He is all powerful and has ultimate authority, but over and over again, He shows us that He does not use His power against us. God's word reveals God's love to us and nourishes our hearts and minds through the light of the Holy Spirit. Take the time to get to know the real God. Satan has spread lies for far too long.

Alter of Incense

The Alter of Incense is at the center of the compartment and represents our prayers ascending to God continuously. When you love someone, you desire to be in their presence, sharing your thoughts and feelings continuously. You share life together and you become deeply intimate. This is the kind of relationship God desires to have with each one of us. This is walking with God. This is your heart, connecting with God's heart at the center of your being.

Realization - The Curtain Between the Holy and the Most Holy Place

The curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place hid the compartment that reveals the heart of God. All of the lies that Satan told Eve, all of the misunderstandings and confusion about God are represented by the curtain that obscures the truth about God's character. At the precise moment Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was torn from top to bottom revealing the Most Holy Place. The heights and depths of Gods self-sacrificing love were revealed on the cross as Jesus willingly demonstrated the lengths He would go, to save humanity. Complete and utter selfless love... This is God. That He would NOT take Himself off of the cross to save Himself. He chose to stay there to show that He would never do anything by force, but would woo us with love. Love can only be awakened by freedom to choose and cannot exist without it. All of the lies of Satan were laid bare in that selfless act.

This act of selfless love was not a blood sacrifice to appease an angry God. Nor was it a payment in a court of law for individual sins. It was the selfless act of a father and our creator to save mankind and restore in us the ability to come into a right relationship with Him. What the first Adam had destroyed in us, Jesus was able to restore.

Redemption - The Most Holy Place - The Heart of God

The Most Holy Place contains the Ark of the Covenant and reveals the Heart of God. The ark contains three items which together, represent the character of God. Inside the ark are:

1. Aaron's budding rod - the Holy Spirit dwelling within, bearing the fruits of the Spirit.

2. The pot of manna - God's Word, revealing God's character and methods of love and freedom.

3. The tables of the law of other-centered love - the foundation of God's government.

As we grow in our relationship with God, our characters grow to more closely resemble His. The commandments are a diagnostic tool to show us where we need healing. However, they don't heal us. Jesus is the remedy! He heals our hearts and transforms us into His likeness. This is the work of redemption so we will be able to dwell with Him for eternity in peace and harmony. We are not saved in our sin, but from our sin as we allow God to heal us. His grace does not overlook our sins, or shield our sinfulness from the Father, but eradicates the disease from our systems. What we cannot do, God is faithful to supply for our needs. His grace is sufficient!

Which Way Will You Choose?

There really are only two choices. Jesus' way leads to eternal life and the other way leads us away from God. Understanding that God is love, perhaps gives it more of a simplistic view. If you choose to love and be loved, you have made the choice to accept the gift to abide with God in peace and harmony. If you choose to not love and be loved, you have made the choice that will lead away from God who is the giver of life. There is no life apart from God. Every moment of your life is sustained by the life-giver. When we reject Him, we are literally rejecting life. He does not need to then punish us. God will simply, honor our freedom to choose.

For more understanding of the Sanctuary, check out the videos below, by Pastor Ivor Myers.

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