We have killed the Sanctuary Message. We all have contributed to its demise. From the local elder who drones on and on about the color of the tassel the priest was wearing to the pastor who oftentimes just ignores the whole message. From the Bible Teacher who made it merely a mathematical calculation to the lay person who goes to sleep every time it comes up. We have Killed the Sanctuary Message!
We all had a Hand in this
Part of it is the culture that doesn’t want to work for anything. We would rather sing “Jesus loves me this I know…” for the rest of our lives than to put forth any effort to provide depth to our religious experience. Part of it is due to the whole tabernacle service being so alien to us. We do not know anything about sacrificing animals and priests representing the people. The sanctuary illustration doesn’t make sense to us. Part of it is due to the issues over the years that external and internal theologians, preachers, and Bible teachers have had with parts of the message. Part of it is due to the fact that few seem to be able to give the “cliff note” version of the message which might provide the context to understand the message.
I have been reading the evangelistic messages of some of the great evangelists of our past. One thing that is interesting is that oftentimes the Sanctuary was given to open up the way for the Sabbath. We preached the Sanctuary in heaven where the very Law of God was placed in the throne of God. S. N. Haskell used to use the Sanctuary as his organizing principle for his teaching all of our doctrines. He spoke of everything through this model.
Understanding from the Sanctuary
The simple fact is that we don’t know as much as we think we know without referring to the Sanctuary. We cannot understand the “lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) without referring to the tabernacle services. It is problematic to attempt to speak of the “priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6) without looking at the sanctuary. And even what we think we know takes on added significance like why and how we can come “come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) Without the sanctuary as a model we would miss some of that imagery.
But we have missed it. The Sanctuary message has not been “seeker-sensitive.” It is deemed not “relevant” and even called “valueless. Yes we have killed the Sanctuary message, but what is perhaps more interesting than that is that few seem to notice or care.
Can We Survive Without It?
Certainly there are quarters of Adventism where the sanctuary message is all you hear. And the leadership of the church still produces Sanctuary materials from time to time. The Seven Volumes of the Daniel and Revelation Committee definitely seek to affirm the value of the message. The upcoming Sabbath School Lesson makes reference to this subject. In addition, Clifford Goldstein has made a career out of reminding us of the importance of the sanctuary. There are others who teach this as well, but the majority of American Adventists, those who proport to believe the teaching or not, have set it aside for more “pressing” concerns. And there are some parts of Adventism that would tend to celebrate its demise. One can only hope that Ellen White was incorrect when she said that this is one of the pillars of our movement. In addition, when she said that this is one of the principal subjects we should be preaching, we have to hope she was wrong. Because if Sister White is right, we may have seen a part of our foundation leave…And if that is true, what will we do when all that can be shaken will be shaken?