One of the most fascinating and also misunderstood things about the plan of salvation is the fact that Christ became a Mediator, not only to justify us from every transgression of the law, but also to liberate us from the bondage of sin. In other words, when Matthew spoke of Christ’s coming and His appearance to save His people from their sins, he was not only speaking about forgiveness, but about transformation as well. Forgiveness is related to justification, but this is only the beginning of the Christian walk. Christ’s main purpose for each and every one of us is to become sanctified and perfect, even as His Father in heaven is perfect. This is what we understand as the process of sanctification. To be sanctified literally means to be holy. But the Bible makes a very interesting statement about holiness that I would like us to acknowledge before we go any further. Let’s turn to Revelation 15,
there we read:
“Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy:” Revelation 15:4
God alone is holy, but there is also one Being in the universe who is like God and that is Michael or Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son. And since Christ is the express image of His Father’s person, we know that Christ Himself is holy, just as His Father is holy. And this is where holiness ends, or at least where the source of all holiness is found. What I mean by this is that if any being in the universe wants to be holy, that being can only achieve this through a connection with God, the Source of all holiness. If anyone is not in living connection with God, he cannot be holy. The Bible is very clear – God alone is holy. Thus, when the word of God speaks of sanctification or the transformation unto holiness, it is in reference to the work that God accomplishes in man, through Christ. See, this is the beauty of true Christianity. This is the God we serve. The main focus of other religions is upon what man can do for himself, and how man can find goodness and holiness within himself. Even the Jews, who were given a perfect understanding of God and the plan of salvation, adopted a similar way of thinking. But we should always remember what we just read in the book of Revelation, as it is crucial for our Christian walk.
In this presentation, I would like us to look at the subject of sanctification from within the sanctuary just as we did with the subject of sin. As we already established, the entire plan of salvation is revealed in the sanctuary. The psalmist clearly declared:

“Thy way, O LORD, is in the sanctuary” Psalm 77:13

Thus, what better place to understand sanctification then from within the sanctuary. But before we get there, let us consider anothher important question. What is it that we take with us to heaven? There seems to be unnecessary confusion with respect to this question, but thankfully the Bible gives a clear answer through teaching of the investigative judgement, which God ordained in order to show the entire universe why people receive eternal life. In order to understand this, we will now turn to the book of Matthew so that we can see it perfectly illustrated through a parable given by Christ himself.

“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them [a]spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, [b]take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:1-14

This parable is full of deep lessons, but we are going to focus solely on the garment that God was to inspect every guest for. Everyone who was to go to heaven had to have that garment upon him or her and without that garment, no one was to be allowed to participate in the marriage feast. The groomsman here represents Christ, and the bride the heavenly Jerusalem. The guests are a symbol of all those who will inherit God’s everlasting kingdom. Yet we see that, in order for anyone to be allowed to partake of the feast, a particular dress code was required. The garment was the only thing the father required for participation in the feast, and thus we can conclude that this garment represents that which we must have in order to go heaven. So what is this garment a symbol of? In many instances throughout the Bible, the white garment has been used to describe righteousness. This is correct because we know that it is the righteous who will inherit the kingdom of God. We also established in our previous presentation on sin, that part of the work of Christ was to become the Lamb of God, which was slain for the sins that every one of us has committed. However, as I mentioned earlier, the work of Christ is not limited to justification only. His grace is sufficient to lead those who surrender to him into the works of righteousness. And when you become righteous and do righteousness over and over again you begin to form something. What is it that is being formed in us as a result of the habitual repetition of righteousness? Here are a few passages from inspiration that give us the answer:

“Never forget that thoughts work out actions. Repeated actions form habits, and habits form character. Then in giving attention to the little things, there is no fear but that the larger things will become stained and corrupted. The Bible is to be the rule of life.” {Lt85-1896.9}

“He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” By unfaithfulness in even the smallest duties, man robs his Maker of the service which is His due. This unfaithfulness reacts upon himself. He fails of gaining the grace, the power, the force of character, which may be received through an unreserved surrender to God. Living apart from Christ he is subject to Satan’s temptations, and he makes mistakes in his work for the Master. Because he is not guided by right principles in little things, he fails to obey God in the great matters which he regards as his special work. The defects cherished in dealing with life’s minor details pass into more important affairs. He acts on the principles to which he has accustomed himself. Thus actions repeated form habits, habits form character, and by the character our destiny for time and for eternity is decided. {COL 356.2}

See, friends, it is our character that determines our destiny. This lines up perfectly with what we just read from the book of Matthew. Ellen White’s comments on that same parable present the same idea:

“In the parable of Matthew 22 the same figure of the marriage is introduced, and the investigative Judgment is clearly represented as taking place before the marriage. Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, [Matthew 22:11.]—to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. [Revelation 7:14.] He who is found wanting is cast out, but all who upon examination are seen to have the wedding garment on, are accepted of God, and accounted worthy of a share in his kingdom and a seat upon his throne. This work of examination of character, of determining who are prepared for the kingdom of God, is that of the investigative Judgment, the closing work in the sanctuary above.” {GC88 428.1}

Righteous characters can only be developed by the habitual repetition of righteous actions. This is exactly why righteousness is right doing, because if it weren’t right doing, no one would ever have been able to form a righteous character. Habits are formed by repeated actions. And it is our thoughts that work out our actions. Thus, everything originates in the mind, but don’t forget that thinking is an action too. In fact, your mind is in constant action for as long as you live. This is why Paul, in the book of Romans, describes two kinds of people, those who mind the things of the flesh and those who mind the things of the Spirit. It is also for the same reason he said:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5

The word mind here in the original Greek is the word “phroneō” which is the exact same word as in Romans 8. It is a verb and not a noun. It is thus because those who have the mind of Christ mind the things of the Spirit. This is why Paul used the exact same word in both of these verses, because our minds are in constant action – our thoughts, feelings, desires and motives are all generated by an active mind. We are to surrender our will to Christ if we want to live the life of Christ and grow unto holiness.

It is crucial for every believer to understand how important the formation of character is. Because it is what we take with us to heaven.

“When the voice of God awakes the dead, he will come from the grave with the same appetites and passions, the same likes and dislikes, that he cherished when living. God works no miracle to re-create a man who would not be re-created when he was granted every opportunity and provided with every facility. During his lifetime he took no delight in God, nor found pleasure in His service. His character is not in harmony with God, and he could not be happy in the heavenly family.” {COL 270.1}

Character isn’t something that you receive at birth, nor is it something that God will simply recreate in you at the resurrection; it is the result of your daily thoughts which lead to actions and create habits. We form our character on a moment-by-moment basis. If we remain submitted to Christ, and if we continue to walk in righteousness, we will form a righteous character. However, the opposite holds true as well. A life of sin, a life in which we reject Christ and follow the inclinations of the natural heart will lead us to cherish the things of this world. Every day we are given a choice. Satan is ever there using every opportunity to tempt us to sin and separate us from Christ. It is because of this that Paul said that he dies daily. I might be justified and forgiven for my sins today, but in order for me to develop the character of Christ, I must continue to submit to Him, day by day and moment by moment. A character is built and not received.

“Can I say anything that will make an impression upon the young? Never before was there so much at stake; never were there such weighty results depending upon a generation as upon those now coming upon the stage of action. Not for one moment should they think that they can fill any position of trust without possessing a good character. Just as well might they expect to gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. A good character must be built up brick by brick, every day growing in proportion to the effort put forth. Those characteristics which they will take to heaven with them must be obtained by the diligent exercise of their own faculties, by improving every advantage Providence gives them, and by connecting with the Source of all wisdom. Aim for no low standard. Let not your minds be cast in an inferior mold. The characters of Joseph and Daniel are good models for you to follow, but Christ is the perfect pattern.” {5T 129.1}

Christ is everything for the believer. He is the source of all wisdom and he is also the Pattern we are to follow, for He remained spotless.

As I mentioned earlier, everything we have discussed thus far is of vital importance for every believer. Sanctification is indeed the work of a lifetime. Once saved does not mean always saved. We are to be built up in Christ:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Colossian 2:6-7

See, both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White present to us one and the same thing. And now that we have been able to learn so much about character formation, let us transition back into the sanctuary and see if we can find more practical lessons related to our sanctification.

We already looked at what was performed in the courtyard and learned what sin is and how justification takes place. And now we will move into the holy place and explore the different ornaments and priestly services and see what lessons we can gather from it all.

In the Holy Place, we find the table of shewbread with the two stacks of bread located on the north side of the temple, the seven-branch candlestick, which was on the south side, and the altar of incense just in front of the veil that separated the Holy from the Most Holy place. Let’s go to the book of Exodus and see the detailed description of the seven-branch candlestick:

“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side…
You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. 38 And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold.” Exodus 25:31-32,37-38

We know that the earthly temple was constructed as a type of the heavenly and John was actually permitted to behold what takes place in the heavenly sanctuary. We learn of this in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation.

“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” Rev. 1:12-16

John here is in the midst of the Holy Place witnessing the work of our High Priest Jesus Christ and Christ Himself gives him an explanation of what he has seen and the meaning behind His work.

“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. Rev. 1:19-20
The lampstand, with its seven branches, is a representation of the church of Christ. The number seven denotes completion and involves all the work that God’s church was to perform through the ages.
We also know that each of the candlesticks was to give out light, but what was it that powered that light?

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord continually.” Leviticus 24:1-4

See, friends, if we are to be part of God’s church and be the light of the world, representing Christ in all that we do, we need the continual work of Jesus in the heart, because the high priest alone could perform the sacred work of lighting the lamps. The pure oil is of course a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ that was to go out into all the earth:

“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Revelation 5:6

It is this very Spirit that we need. The High Priest trimmed and lighted the lamps every morning and evening and, in like manner, Christ gives us His Spirit in the morning to direct us during the day and again in the evening. We need Jesus every moment of every day. It is our only surety against sin. The trimming and lighting of the lamps is a great lesson for us and indicates that a life with the Spirit of God will inevitable give out light. The Bible says:

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

According to the verses we have read so far, we can conclude that God’s church is comprised of light-givers only. The sole purpose of the candlesticks was to give out light, which would have been impossible if they were void of oil. The High Priest was trimming and lighting the lamps on a daily basis, which tells us that God has always had those who represented Him amidst the moral darkness of this world. It also teaches us that we are part of God’s church only when we give out light, only when we are being filled with the Spirit of Christ. Having our names written in the books of various Christian denominations does not in itself qualify us to be recognized as members of the body of Christ. We are Christ’s as long as we are hid in Him, trimmed and refilled afresh daily.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:9-10

With all this in mind, we recognize that the seven lamp candlestick was not the only ornament found within the Holy Place. We learned much about the process of sanctification by this one ornament, but our transformation or character growth is also dependent upon a few more things that we learn of from within the Holy Place. This brings us to the table of showbread which we see on the north side within the same apartment. In relation to this we read in the book of Leviticus:

“And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.” Leviticus 24:5-9

Just as it was with the previous ornament, there is a deep spiritual lesson behind the table of showbread as well. Bread has been used symbolically at many places throughout Scripture and it has rightfully been understood to be a representation of the Word of God. Jesus said:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh.”

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

The words of Christ are the true bread, of which we are to eat. The words of Christ are the words of God for he clearly declared:

“The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.”

God is the source and Christ is the channel through which we receive the bread of heaven. It is for this reason that the table of showbread had to equal stacks of bread, representing both the Father and the Son.

In Leviticus, we see that everything related to the services associated with the table of showbread was done upon the Sabbath. The bread was prepared on the Sabbath, and while it was still hot, it was placed upon the table. The following Sabbath, it was removed and eaten by the priests. God sanctified the Sabbath and declared it to be a holy day. It is the day on which we put everything aside and dedicate to communion with God. This is not to say that we are to ignore His word through the week, for the bread was on the table consistently. However, God has pronounced a special blessing upon the Sabbath day and has set it aside for holy use. God designed that His people should benefit from a refreshing spiritual experience every Sabbath, which was to make us better equipped to meet the temptations of the upcoming new week. A person who fails to gain a deeper experience of God and His Word on the Sabbath fails to keep the Sabbath as God intended. However, the only way for us to achieve this experience is if we nourish our spiritual life the other days of the week.

“As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from God’s word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the medium of another’s mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we know ‘what saith the Lord.’” {DA 390.4}

As we can see, the Word of God is essential for our faith. We talk so much about righteousness by faith but have we forgotten how we acquire faith?

“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

How can we have the righteousness of Christ if we don’t have faith? How can we shine with good works if we don’t have faith? It will never happen. The Word of God is essential for our spiritual growth. Christ will not be able to trim our lamps, to trim our hearts, if we don’t look for Him and listen to His words. We should learn from history and from the fanatical movements over the years that rejected the Bible on the claims of having the Spirit dwelling in them, but from sanctuary service we see how important the word of God is. In fact, it is because of what God has revealed in the Bible that we are now able to understand so much about sanctification in this particular message.

So far we looked at two of the ornaments located in the Holy Place, but we are left with one more that requires our attention. Turn with me to Exodus chapter 30:

“You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around.
“Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.” Exodus 30:1-3, 7-8

We notice here that the priest was to burn incense twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. It is interesting to see how this service happens at the same time that the trimming of the seven-branch candlestick occurs. The altar and the fragrant incense were again used as a shadow or type, an example of the work our great High Priest is performing for us. So what is this incense a symbol of? We are given the answer again in the book of Revelation:

“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:2-4

John here sees the smoke of the incense mingled with the prayers of the saints ascending up before God. Our prayers, made acceptable to God by the righteousness of Christ our Saviour, are presented by the angels before the Father. Jesus told His disciples:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-24

By becoming the substitute for mankind, Christ was able to mediate in front of His Father and we are given the assurance that whatever we ask in His name shall be given unto us. The altar of incense was placed just before the curtain that separated the Holy from the Most Holy place, signifying the importance of prayer and how close it brings us to God. He is a loving Father, who wants nothing but that which is best for us. If it weren’t so, He would have never given us His Son.

When we meditate upon the work done in the sanctuary, we realize how significant prayer, the word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit are. It is to be a daily experience and without any of these three components, no one will be able to grow and perfect their Christian character. Notice how all of this is beautifully presented in this paragraph from an article in the Review and Herald:

“We should daily obtain a deep and living experience in the work of perfecting Christian character. We should daily receive the holy oil that we may impart to others. All may be light-bearers to the world if they will. We are to sink self out of sight in Jesus. We are to receive the word of the Lord in counsel and instruction, and gladly communicate it. There is now need of much prayer. Christ commands, ‘Pray without ceasing;’ that is, keep the mind uplifted to God, the source of all power and efficiency.
We may have long followed the narrow path, but it is not safe to take this as proof that we shall follow it to the end. If we have walked with God in fellowship of the Spirit, it is because we have sought him daily by faith.” {EGW, RH March 2, 1897}

Friends, understanding the process of sanctification is essential in these last days. We are to battle against self every day, at every moment. We are to take hold of Christ by faith and surrender our will to His, just as He surrendered His will to the Father when he walked upon this earth. Christ prayed without ceasing, He was submerged into the Word of God daily and surrender to the Spirit of His Father. It is because He understood perfectly the lessons we just learned from the sanctuary that He was able to live His life with a sanctified human will, not responding to any of Satan’s temptations. We need to realize that character is not something that we are born with, nor is it something we receive overnight. A mind surrendered to the Spirit of Christ and dedicated to heavenly thoughts will create righteous actions and these repeated will form habits and habits will form our character for eternity. May the Lord give us strength to choose Him and die to self daily, so we can continue to grow in Christ and never lose sight of Him. After all, sanctification is indeed the work of a lifetime.