Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teaching Kids The Sanctuary

This years camp meeting falls in the centennial year of my conference, so there's going to be lots of heritage stuff going on, so for the Juniors (they put me in charge again) we're planning to do an Adventist pioneers theme. We'll tell them stories about James White and Joseph Bates, play old-time games, and generally try to instill in them a sense of where they come from and where they're going as Adventist Christians. I think it's super important for them to hear the stories of intense Bible study, devotion to God's will, and miracles that form our denominational identity.

This is where it gets tricky, because you can't really talk about Adventist heritage without talking about the Great Disappointment. And you can't really talk about the Great Disappointment without getting into the 2300-day prophecy. And if you introduce the 2300-day prophecy then you've got to tackle the rest of the sanctuary message.

So this is the challenge I've set for myself and the two other getting-less-wet-behind-the-ears pastors I'm working with: to teach a bunch of 10-12 year-olds the symbolism of the tabernacle, the time prophecies of Daniel, and the investigative judgment. The other guys think I'm slightly nuts; I think I'm slightly nuts. But I have this strong conviction that if you can't teach a doctrine to kids you probably shouldn't be teaching it at all.

So I guess I'm putting Fundamental Belief 24 to the test as much as myself, but I believe that it can be done. My plan is to focus on the atoning (covering) aspects of judgment using the vision in Zechariah 3 as the central text. Then I hope to show what this doctrine says about God's love for them and how they can love Him back.

What do you think; am I on the right track? How have you handled this topic with kids? What have you found to work?


  1. WOW!! You're ambitious. I think that you will teach it great, my only concern would be the lack of time that camp meeting allows. It isn't like you are teaching the junior sabbath school class at church. Good luck with it!!

  2. Since you asked...

    I "taught" the juinor class at Newbold for a year and learned the following, which I think applies to any truth you want to teach. In no particular order:

    1. Who you are is as important as what you say.
    2. Respect them and they'll respect what you have to say...understanding may come later.
    3. Be consistent with your boundries and theirs.
    4. They are very self-involved and need to see how the truth concerns the now.
    5. 10-12's think in concrete terms rather than abstract. Facts equal truth.
    6. If you have the leaders attention the others will take their cue from them.
    7. Their home lives are so varied, both for good and bad, that it takes a miracle of grace to teach any truth.
    8. Short, repeated lessons go further than long, infrequent ones.
    9. Link the unfamiliar with things in their daily life.
    10. Some learn by "touching", some by quitely listening, others are "auditory" learners, needing to talk it out to get new meaning. i.e. Disruption for dialogue is good for some, not for others.
    11. They are more interested in each other than in you or what you have to say. Get them to teach each other.
    12. They love role play. Keep it simple.
    13. What you want to teach is seldom what they want to know.
    14. Girls and boys are very different, especially in levels of maturity and relationship awareness. Boys show off. Girls flirt.
    15. They must feel safe and be safe. Why should they trust you?
    15. I'll stop with this...if they think they are teaching you instead of you teaching them, they will learn more. Let them teach and they see what they don't know, giving them a desire for something more.

    All in all, what you are attempting is humanly impossible. I suggest much prayer, weeping and pleading with God for their souls. Love in Christ finds a way.

  3. Thanks for that advice.


    Thanks for the vote of confidence.


    10-12's think in concrete terms rather than abstract. Facts equal truth.

    This is what I'm worried about. The sanctuary doctrine relies on symbolism. How am I going to get that across? I think I'm going to need alot of props. Thanks for summing it all up with that last paragraph

  4. Unfortunately for many Christians the Sanctuary of ancient Israel is usually used as an excuse to believe something that was much later in development. Most Adventists see the Sanctuary in terms of symbols. Which is most likely what many would want to teach their children. The candlestick is this, the laver is this the curtain is this. Yet these meanings are not usually provided in the bible. So the first question is do you want to teach what the Bible says or what you or others may think the Bible is meaning to symbolize.

    This becomes a key question because it may be that through our tradition we are teaching our children somethings that we ourselves have outgrown. Such as the theory integral to SDA understanding of the Sanctuary that sins are transferred from the altar or animal or person to the Holy or most Holy place. Yet sin is not something that is transferable and was only used symbolically in the transfer of the sins of the community to the scapegoat. When the person about to sacrifice their animal placed his hands on its head the Adventist tradition is confession of sins and transfer of sins. Yet more in line with Jewish thought is the idea of ownership and responsibility.

    You will not be able to teach the meaning of sacrifices and the sanctuary the way the people thought of it. We can present some theories and one should definately include the theories which are found in Jewish writings. But the whole system is set up for a very different type of situation, for a people in a much more primative society. something ages 10-13 are likely not going to understand, in most cases adults don't even understand.

    If the subject matter is up to you then I would say teach from the New Testament perspective of the book of Hebrews. which is basically how does the work of Christ compare to the old Jewish system. In other words how does the reality of Jesus and His ability to cleanse your conscience relate to ceremonies which did not have that ability.

  5. Are you by any chance related to Dick Hamstra?

  6. Dave, here are some thoughts I used in teaching the sanctuary to 11th and 12th graders earlier this year. The role-play bit clicked with them the best.
    God bless,

    What are the key ideas to take away from a study of the Sanctuary doctrine in the book of Hebrews?


    o Does NOT teach that I need protection from Father God! That idea is the end-result of a centuries-long campaign of the Deceiver, according to Daniel 8:10-14; II Thessalonians 2:3-4, 1-12;

    o DOES teach that Jesus' remedy for my personal sin problem is part of a larger plan to put a permanent end to all sin problems on earth.


    o Members of the Old Testament church were cast to play parts in a role-play. This role-play would have spiritual and educational significance.

    o Some members built the stage and the set, some acted parts such as priest and penitent, and others functioned as "roadies," who broke down and set up the role-play when Israel hit the wilderness road.

    o Moses directed the original performances and recorded events connected with them. The role-play went on for centuries, far outlasting the lives of the original players, extending down even to the Advent of Messiah, who had in fact produced the role play. Through the powerful imagery of the sanctuary ritual-drama, He had promised Moses that He would "dwell among" His people. The performances of the play repeated until He came personally to His temple to witness it Himself, and take over all the roles, going world-wide with the sanctuary message.


    o The sanctuary role-play teaches that Jesus, the Son of God, would enter human history as a member of the human race, and sacrifice His life.

    o It teaches that God wants to come as close as possible to His children on earth.

    o As part of that divine outreach, God has implemented a method of personal, individual connection with people. The method is controlled by the Holy Spirit, and includes prayer and Bible study.

    o God also has designed a way for His children to connect with Him in a group setting, allowing for a more personal, human touch of encouragement and fellowship. God the Spirit controls this connection, too, and it includes daily, weekly, and yearly group meetings of various sizes and purposes.

    o Worship is a common element in both methods, in the personal and in the group setting.


    o There is a prophetic nature to the role-play.

    o This prophecy aspect of it becomes clear when the annual festivals are seen in their order throughout the Hebrew year, from the new year to the Day of Atonement.

    o The Day of Atonement ends the year with a ceremony depicting what can be seen as a role-play ritual of the High Priest Jesus' final events for earth's history

  7. Ron:

    Deffinately, the focus of the sanctuary must be Christ, yet I think the Old Testament has some things to teach us about His ministry. "...these are they that testify of Me."


    Dick is my uncle. Jim is my father.


    I like the idea of role play. I think I will have the kids do some of it.

  8. Unfortunately many think as David implied that the scriptures by "testifing of me" is a reference to the Old Testament being about the coming Messiah Jesus Christ. Now it does not take much reading in the Old Testament to know that there is really very few Messianic prophecies. A whole lot of history that has nothing to do with the coming messiah but does have a lot to do with humans and how God deals with humanity.

    What we see in the verse David referenced is Jesus applying His authority as God and this is what the scriptures testify...about God.

    (John 5:36-47 "I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.
    37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
    38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.
    39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,
    40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
    41 "I do not accept praise from men,
    42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.
    43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.
    44 How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God ?
    45 "But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
    46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.
    47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

  9. Dave,

    I have taught the symbolism of the Sanctuary to many adults and a few children. I have also from a young age on through adulthood listened to many other people try to teach it.

    What I find lacking in almost all presentations of the symbolism of the sanctuary is the "big picture" - people tend to wander through the details (construction, furnishings, rituals etc) and I am left wondering if they even grasp the "big picture".

    I explain the "big picture" as follows:

    A) the sanctuary is a working model (setting for a series of acted parables) of holy things - the nature of God, how God relates to fallen man, the plan of salvation and the various roles of Christ - there is much opportunity for role playing here - after all role playing is why the sanctuary existed - God's people were and are very much Children

    B) the courtyard represents holy things on earth - specifically the mission of Christ on earth and the experience of the believer on earth - these are interwoven because Christ lived and died in our place

    1) Holiness on earth means being set apart for service to God - ie a Purpose rather than a Condition - the courtyard itself was holy however it was still dirt just like the dirt outside the fence - the difference is that the dirt inside the fence was set apart for a divine purpose - likewise the priests, the believers and the sacrifices were not inherently holy - they became holy when they were consecrated within the courtyard (see comments on Laver) - note that earthly holiness is Derived whereas as divine holiness is Innate

    2) Altar of Sacrifice - Christ was both the Priest (John 10:17-18) and the Sacrifice (John 1:29-30) - I find it very helpful to refer people to the Scripture passages that explain things - then they can see the connections for themselves - the believer brings a sin offering - the animal dies in his place - the believer accepts the sacrifice (John 3:16-17) and is accepted by God - fellowship offerings celebrate our status as children of God - Altar deals with believer's Status (Justification) which comes through Christ

    3) Laver or Basin - Laver deals with believer's Purpose (Sanctification) - everything that became holy was washed with water from the Laver - likewise our holiness comes through Christ - this is a good place to introduce the subject of Baptism (Mat 3:13-17) - as death of Christ was substitutionary so was his baptism - Christ was/is eternally divine - he became Son of God/Man at the incarnation - he became Messiah at his baptism - our baptism is acceptance of his life and consecration to his service - remission of sin precedes consecration for service - not the reverse

    C) the tent represents heavenly things (all of which are holy) - purpose is to teach us about heaven

    1) Christ as priest comes and goes between heaven and earth whereas believers remain on earth - ie outside the tent

    2) walls of heaven are lined with angels

    3) furniture in Holy Place represents various aspects of ministry of Christ - Bread of Life (John 6:48-51) - Light of the World (John 8:12) - Intercessor/Mediator (numerous NT verses)

    D) Most Holy Place represents Throne of God - purpose is to teach us about nature of Godhead

    1) cubical shape represents unity/equality of Trinity

    2) Cherubim (many OT references)

    3) Shekinah - glory of God is his character (Ex 34:6-7)

    4) Mercy Seat - God "sits" on a throne of mercy - another aspect of his character

    5) Ark - contains Decalogue (Ex 20:1-17) - God's character mapped into human code of conduct - ie how to be like God - contains pot of Manna - God is the sustainer of his people - contains Aaron's rod that budded - God's election of his people to be priests to him (Ex 19:4-6)

    I hope this lengthy discourse gives you some useful ideas - I believe that most of what I have written can be understood by children if properly presented