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The subject of sin is of crucial importance as it is the foundation upon which the Gospel is built. In the Book of Matthew, we are told that the Plan of Redemption was put into place so that man can be saved from sin. The Angel of the Lord told Jospeh:

“do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Christ came to this earth so that all who accept Him can be saved from their sins. In this message, we will look at sin from a different perspective, deriving our understanding of this subject from within the sanctuary message. The Bible prophesies that in the last days, there will come a particular movement of believers who will have a thorough understanding of end-time prophecy and events. Those of us who are familiar with the Advent movement know that the misunderstanding causing the Great Disappointment was with respect to the cleansing of the sanctuary, in other words, the mediatorial work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. This was foretold by Daniel many years ago in the eighth chapter of that book. In verse 14 we read:

“And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14

It was the understanding of the sanctuary message that God used to bring His people together after the Great Disappointment of 1844. As we know, it was not the earth that was to be cleansed at that time, but rather the sanctuary that was in heaven where Christ himself was a High Priest.

“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at 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 erected, and not man.” Hebrews 8:1-2

We learned earlier, from Matthew, that Christ was going to come and save His people from their sins, and in the book of Psalms, we are told exactly how this was to be accomplished:

“Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;” Psalms 77:13

God’s way, or the plan of salvation, is revealed in the sanctuary service. The Bible gives a very particular illustration of this service and every aspect of it is related to our salvation. This tells us that we can fully comprehend the Plan of Redemption, and also receive a revelation of what sin actually is, when we examine and understand the symbolism of the sanctuary. The entire service was focussed upon sin and the remission of sin. The sanctuary was to be cleansed from all sin. On the cross, Christ suffered and died to become the lamb slain for the sins of the whole world. At this time, all the ceremonies associated with the service were transferred from the earthly to the heavenly sanctuary. It is in this true tabernacle above, that Christ pleads His blood before the Father in behalf of sinful men. It is because the sanctuary message reveals the entire plan of salvation that we are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that understanding it is the foundation of our faith.

“The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.” Letter 208, 1906.

The Bible speaks of three sanctuaries: the heavenly temple, which is the dwelling-place of the Most High; the temple of the human body, where God’s Spirit rules and reigns; and the earthly temple, which was established by Moses to be a shadow or a copy of the heavenly. The plan of salvation required all of these three temples to be cleansed from sin, and this work was given entirely in the hands of Christ, for He is the only mediator between God and man. Bearing these thoughts in mind, let us now do a quick overview of the sanctuary and examine its service so we can see from the Bible how sin is brought in and ultimately how it is cleansed. As we already established, the earthly temple was a copy of the heavenly; thus, we can simply refer to the directions that the Lord gave to Moses and use them as a blueprint.

There were three apartments where the priest officiated the services: the courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. Within these three apartments, there were particular objects, each of which were associated with a specific function of the work of the High Priest. In the courtyard, we find the altar of burnt offerings where animals were sacrificed, and the laver, located between the altar and the entrance to the sanctuary, where priests washed their hands and feet before offering a sacrifice or entering the Sanctuary. As we go into the Holy Place, we find the table of shewbread with the two stacks of bread, the seven-branch candlestick and the altar of incense where the priest was to burn sweet incense every morning. From there we move to the Most Holy place, which, just as the name indicates, was the most sacred of the three apartments. It was to be entered only once per year, on the 10th day of the 7th month, also known as the Day of Atonement and no one but the high priest was allowed to enter therein. Within this apartment, we find the Ark of the Covenant, which was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Placed on top were two angels made of solid gold and between these two angels was the mercy seat where the presence of God dwelt. Inside the covenant, we find the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod and the tables of stone with the Ten Commandments written upon them. It is this very law that is used as the standard for morality and ethics. God’s law encompasses every sin and virtue. It is for this reason that the mercy seat was placed right above the ark signifying that as long as God’s people confess their sins, mercy would extend to them through the blood that the priest sprinkles on it. We learn of this in Hebrews chapter 9:

“according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22

But let’s go back to the courtyard now so we can understand how sin is brought into the sanctuary.

Turn with me to Exodus chapter 30:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.” Exodus 30:17-21

The water we see here represents cleansing from sin. In Titus chapter 3 we read:

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7

This regeneration is symbolical of the work of Christ in the heart. It was Christ himself, who while being upon this earth, told Nicodemus the following words:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

In these words of Christ we are told that we need to be born of both water and the Spirit. But why is that? What does water have to do with me accepting Christ and His Spirit into my heart? Peter gives us the answer to this important question.

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

See, baptism requires repentance. Without repentance for sin there is no remission of sin. We need to acknowledge our sins and repent of them. All sins require repentance. Not a single known or unconfessed sin will be forgiven. This is a very important principle to keep in mind as we contemplate upon the definition of sin, which we will now see reestablished at the altar of burnt offering.

As we read earlier “without shedding of blood there is no remission”. It was at the altar in the courtyard where animals were sacrificed. This typified the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross on Calvary. The sinner was supposed to bring a sacrificial animal to the door of the courtyard and then lay his hands on the animal’s head and confess his sins. At this point, all the sins of the sinner were transferred to the animal. This is the process of justification. The Bible says:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

The animal was, of course, a representation of Christ. Isaiah very clearly depicts this:

“All we like sheep have gone astray [all of us, individually have chosen to sin]; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” Isaiah 53:6-7

Sin brings forth death. Without sin, there is no guilt and no condemnation, and thus, no death. It is sin alone that brings forth death. The moment the sinner transferred his sins to the animal, he was considered innocent, and the animal guilty. and since the animal was now guilty, it had to pay the wages for sin which was death. This was a lesson which was to remind the sinner of the horrible effects of sin and the coming Messiah, the Lamb of God. It is important for us to understand the lesson here in connection with sin. We see that sin brings guilt, condemnation, and death. If there is no sin, there is no condemnation. They go hand in hand. And again, the service done in the court symbolizes the process of justification. At the very instant when the sinner laid his hands upon the lamb, he was pronounced innocent. All of his iniquity was right there and then transferred onto the animal. In like manner, the moment we repent, ask for forgiveness and claim the blood of Christ, we are deemed innocent in the sight of God. All of our iniquity is covered by the blood of Jesus. As long as the service in the heavenly sanctuary continues, sinners will be able to transfer their sins onto the Lamb of God. But there is a lesson here that we should not miss. Sin cannot be anything abstract or intangible, like a state of being or human nature for example, because sin needs to be transferred to the animal. Could the sinner transfer his state of being to the animal he was about slaughter? Of course not. So what did he transfer? Let’s go back to the Bible and see if we can find the answer to this question.

There were several offerings involved with the service but we are going to focus on the sin offering because it most helps us to understand the topic of sin. Let’s turn to Leviticus 4:

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally
against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.’” Leviticus 4:1-3

The world IF here immediately tells us that sin cannot be anything that we are born with for the word “if” allows for the possibility of not sinning. Otherwise, it would read “WHEN” and not “IF”. But the Lord says IF a person sins, showing that it may be that a person does not commit such a sin and indicating clearly that sin is the result of our personal choice. The Bible further clarifies this in the book of Ezekiel:

“Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Ezekiel 18:19-21

See, life and death corresponds to whether we keep His statutes, His commandments. No one is born under the reign of death, for the reign of death comes as the result of our individual sin. We see from the Bible itself here that sin ins’t something you can pass onto your children. It isn’t a disease as some might say, but rather the consent of the will to go against God’s precepts. Sin is a mystery. No one can explain why Lucifer became Satan and why iniquity was found within the heart of a perfect righteous being, but we know that it was his personal decision to allow this. Lucifer had free will and chose to exercise it against the law of God. We have this same free will. But let’s get back to the court yard and see what happens once the animal is slain.

“The anointed priest shall bring some of the bull’s blood to the tabernacle of meeting. Then the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil.” Leviticus 4:16-17

The blood of the animals was, of course, symbolic of Christ’s own blood that He shed for us. Being the High Priest Himself, Christ was able, through His death, to bring the sins of the penitent sinner into the sanctuary.

“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:12

All of these verses simply reiterate the idea mentioned earlier. Sin cannot be anything intangible, it cannot be a state of being, it cannot be our nature, for this cannot be transferred from the sinner to the sacrifice and into the sanctuary. The only logical and Biblical conclusion we can come to is that it is our record of past iniquity that is being transferred. You can’t transfer a state of being, but you can transfer a record. However, in order to be certain that this is indeed what the Bible teaches, we are going to now find the confirmation from Scripture itself. It is sin that brings forth death. No one who has sinned will receive eternal life. No sinner, who has been aware of his sins and has not sought repentance, can be justified. And how is it that we determine whether a person is a sinner or not? By the record of the things he has done throughout his life. In Ecclesiastes we read:

“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14

Where are all those secret things found and how are they going to be brought forth in the judgement? They are written in books. There is a record of all our words, all of our actions, all of our thoughts, desires and motives. God didn’t say that He will bring our nature into judgement, but the things we have or have not done.
We know that the Bible speaks of several books in correlation with the judgement. God has His record and Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is going to bring every accusation possible on that basis; namely, every sin that we have ever committed will come before the court. Thus, when we take all of this into account, we can come to no other conclusion than that it is the record of our words, thoughts, and deeds that is being brought into the sanctuary, that we are being justified and forgiven for.

The investigative judgement is a Biblical teaching that has been denied by some Seventh-day Adventists, and if we dig deeper, we will see that such individuals came to this denial by misunderstanding sin first. Unfortunately, many professed Bible students have been led to adopt the Catholic understanding of sin, more precisely the teaching that sin is a state of being, something inherent in your nature. A prime example of this are Morris Venden and Desmond Ford. Ford was one of the leading proponents of the new understanding of sin which was brought into Adventism in the 1950s. To him and Venden, sin was more than just transgression of the law. Sin was inherent to men. For that reason they taught that Christ had a different spiritual nature from the one that we receive at birth:

“He [Jesus] had a sinless spiritual nature, the same as Adam had before his fall, concerning propensity or tendency to sin. Therefore it was natural for Jesus to be good. I was born with a sinful spiritual nature and it’s natural for me to be bad.” Morris Venden, Salvation by Faith and Your Will, p. 86
“The denomination’s major university, Andrews University, has for nearly half a century clearly taught that our Lord’s spiritual nature was like that of Adam—without spot or blemish. Still, the denomination’s publishing houses have hesitated to proclaim that truth in any publication of scholarly responses that many have longed to make.” Desmond Ford, Good News Unlimited, July 1994.

The culmination of Ford’s apostasy was in the 1980s when he was dismissed from ministry for rejecting the investigative judgement.

See, there is no other option but to arrive at theses conclusions if you define sin to be something inherent in you, something more than the transgression of God’s holy law.

In order to solidify everything we have been discussing, let’s go back to the sanctuary again and explore a few more valuable lessons. We looked at what was performed in the courtyard and how sin was brought into the Holy Place, and we’ll now move from the Holy to the Most Holy place where the High Priest was to enter only once a year to make an atonement for the people of Israel.

Turn with me now to the 16th chapter of the book of Leviticus:

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.” Leviticus 16:29-34

We can conclude from this passage that the sanctuary was to be cleansed from all the sins of the congregation of Israel that were brought in throughout the entire year in order for God’s people to be at one with Him. Here again, the Bible teaches that sin separates us from God just as we are told in the book of Isaiah:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you” Isaiah 59:2

When Adam and Eve sinned, Christ was required to step in and become the Mediator for mankind. Through Him we, just like Adam and Eve, are able to receive forgiveness for all of our iniquities. As we read earlier:

“if a person sins… let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.” Leviticus 4:1,3

All of our past transgressions are currently in the Most Holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. We learned that there are books with records that reveal even the most secret things of our hearts. Nevertheless, we have nothing to fear, for the blood of the Lamb is able to cover them all and make us white as snow. The Bible teaches us that at the end of the Day of Atonement, the sanctuary was to be cleansed from all sin. This was done once a year in the earthly sanctuary, which typified the work to be completed in the heavenly sanctuary. The antytipcal day of atonement began in 1844 and it will end at the time when Michael shall stand up, just prior to the seven last plagues. This tells us something very important. It tells us that God’s people will have to live without a mediator during that final period of earth’s history. In other words, the sanctuary of the human body will have to be cleansed from sin as well. This makes perfect sense because all the sins that were upon us, everything we have ever done, will be now placed upon the head of the scapegoat and carried into the wilderness. This again helps us to understand that our human nature could not be sin in and of itself. Sin cannot be a state of being, because it wouldn’t be able to be placed upon Satan. The Bible also makes it explicitly clear, that we are not to receive a new nature until the second coming of Christ, until the time when:

“this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:53

It is our current fallen mortal nature, our current body temple that remains with us and is without sin during this last period on earth. God’s people will go through the same experience that Jacob went through when he feared for his life, and they will be under the same accusations from Satan as was Jacob. These accusations will be focused on the sins we’ve committed. Read this beautiful passage from the Great Controversy with me:
“As Satan influenced Esau to march against Jacob, so he will stir up the wicked to destroy God’s people in the time of trouble. And as he accused Jacob, he will urge his accusations against the people of God. He numbers the world as his subjects; but the little company who keep the commandments of God are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. He sees that holy angels are guarding them, and he infers that their sins have been pardoned; but he does not know that their cases have been decided in the sanctuary above. He has an accurate knowledge of the sins which he has tempted them to commit, and he presents these before God in the most exaggerated light, representing this people to be just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favor of God. He declares that the Lord cannot in justice forgive their sins and yet destroy him and his angels. He claims them as his prey and demands that they be given into his hands to destroy.
As Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins, the Lord permits him to try them to the uttermost… Satan endeavors to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations and turn from their allegiance to God…They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their many sins, and pleading the Saviour’s promise: “Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.” Isaiah 27:5. Their faith does not fail because their prayers are not immediately answered. Though suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and distress, they do not cease their intercessions. They lay hold of the strength of God as Jacob laid hold of the Angel; and the language of their souls is: “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.” {GC 618-619}

See friends inside the ark which was covered by the glory of God, in the mids of the Most Holy Place, we find the law of God. The ten commandments are the transcript of His character. This law “condemns every sin, and requires every virtue.” {ST March 3, 1890, par. 3}

The entire sanctuary service shows us that the only definition of sin according to God’s word is as found in 1 John 3:4:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”

Sin is the result of choice and not a disease that mankind is born with. It is something you commit, something you do. Looking at the sanctuary message we are able to see that sin is something that always requires repentance and forgiveness, and blotting out. We learned that before we are able to receive the Spirit of God, we need to acknowledge and confess our sins. If we were born sinners, in a state of sin, God would never be able to give us His Spirit unless we confess this state of sin. This is what the Bible teaches and Peter said it very clearly.

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

In like manner, this state of sin would have to be transferred into the heavenly sanctuary, but as we have seen, sin being a state of being, would be in contradiction to the Bible because a state of being can not be transferred. The way of the Lord is indeed in the sanctuary. The plan of salvation is clearly depicted and no one need err. While the rest of the world is falling captive to the false teachings of Babylon, it is time for God’s people to stand for what is true and help others to come out of confision and accept the plain teachings of Scripture. Satan knows that he has but a short time and is trying everything possible to divert our minds and to confuse even the most elect. Understanding the definition of sin is essential to our salvation in these last days and God wants to settle His people into the truth so that they can go through every storm and tempest. God will have a little company who keep His commandments. That is certain. The only question is whether I will be among them or not. May God help us to surrender to Him and allow His word to speak for itself and to help others come out of confusion and be settled into the truth.