Monday, October 03, 2005

At The Right Hand Of God Or In The Holy Place...?

I have recently been asked by two people--one a church member of my church the other not--to explain the passage in Hebrews 8:1 that says,

"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens...." (Emphasis mine)

The question is how this passage can be compatible with the teaching that Jesus did not enter the Holy of Holies until the 2300 day prophecy ended in 1844.

If you aren't familiar with Adventist theology, I suggest you go to this page and do the studies called "A Heavenly Model" and "Cleansing the Temple" or watch the videos, otherwise you'll probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Many objections have been raised to the Sanctuary doctrine, and I don't intend to deal with them all here. You can find a basic litany of objections here and an orthodox Adventist response here and here.)

I believe that to properly understand the book of Hebrews one must realize that the sanctuary is a metaphor to help us to understand the ministry of Christ.

"For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;" (Heb.9:24 Emphasis mine)

Heaven is a holy place, a true sanctuary, a place where God lives; and the earthly sanctuary and its services were given as illustrations (more specifically "types") to help us understand Jesus ministry on earth and in Heaven.

However the sanctuary is not the only metaphor that the Bible uses to describe Jesus' ministry in human terms. In fact there are many, but the one that concerns us here is the 'prince/king' metaphor. This illustration describes Jesus as the "Prince of Peace" (Is. 9:6), who establishes the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by His death (John 18:36). Revelation 4-5 describes the throne room of Heaven and Jesus' receiving the kingdom from the Father after His resurrection using symbolism drawn from the enthronment of Old Testament kings. Revelation 3:22 says that at that time He sat on His Father's throne.

Now with this in mind let's look at Hebrews 8:1-2 again:

"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." (Emphasis mine)

What we see here is a mixing of the metaphors--the priest taking the seat of the prince. The author of Hebrews is saying that Jesus is able to fulfill both roles at the same time.

We could picture Heaven as having a 'throne room' and a 'sanctuary'. In the throne room Jesus is in the immediate presence of the Father, at His right hand; but in the sanctuary He stayed behind the second veil until the time for cleansing came at the end of the 2300 days. While one must always remember that 'prince' and 'priest' metaphors become one in Jesus, we must be careful not to put the characteristics of one on the other and thus detract from the overall picture of Christ to which they both contribute.*

Both illustrations help us to see the multi-faceted ministry Christ is doing for us in Heaven while we await His return. Jesus is not on holidays while we slave away down here. He is ministering by preparing Heaven for us (Dan. 8:14, John 14:2) and preparing us for Heaven (Dan. 8:14, Heb. 4:16).

*There is a sense in which the Holy of Holies represents the throne room. In Hebrews 4:16 we read of the "throne of grace" which probably refers to the "mercy seat" (Ex. 25:2) in the Holy of Holies--a part of the 'priest' metaphor. This indicates again that both metaphors find their unity in Christ.

1 comment:

  1. There is no anomaly.Jesus went to, and is, at the right hand of the Father who is where He has always been - in the most holy place just as the earthly sanctuary always indicated.