This page is also available in: Português
Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
If God the Father dwells in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, and Christ ministered in the holy place, would not that suggest that He and the Father were separated from each other immediately after Christ’s ascension?
God’s presence within His sanctuary does not imprison Him within that particular space. God chose to dwell with His creatures in the heavenly sanctuary, but He is free to displace His presence to other localities, not only within the sanctuary itself but also within the rest of His creation. His presence in the universe is not restricted.
1. God’s presence in the Israelite sanctuary was not limited to the Most Holy Place: It is true that within the Israelite sanctuary the glory of God’s presence revealed itself in the Most Holy Place (Ex. 25:22). However, that did not mean that He was unable to exit that place or even the sanctuary itself. He said to the Israelites, “I will put my dwelling place among you. . . . I will walk among you” (Lev. 26:11, 12).* Although God dwelled among the Israelites in His tabernacle, His presence was not restricted to it. He is described as going for a walk, departing from the sanctuary in order to visit the camp. More impressively clear is Deuteronomy 23:14: “For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy.” The text suggests that God went out of the sanctuary in order to fight for His people and to defeat His enemies. During the Day of Atonement God located Himself in a special way within the Most Holy Place in order to perform the very work of cleansing (Lev. 16).
2. God’s presence in the heavenly sanctuary is not limited to the Most Holy Place: The fact that there is a heavenly counterpart to the Most Holy Place does not mean that God is restricted to it. The psalmist says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. . . . He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet” (Ps. 18:6-8). God heard the prayer of His servant in His heavenly temple, left the temple, and descended from heaven in order to deliver the psalmist. God is depicted here as a dynamic person who moves within His creation, even though He had placed Himself at a particular fraction of space within it, i.e., His heavenly temple. In one of his visions Daniel saw God moving from one space in His temple to another: “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat” (Dan. 7:9). At that time God located Himself in a special way within the Most Holy Place in order to perform a work of judgment.
3. Jesus and the Father in the heavenly temple: The fact that God is not circumscribed to the most holy place clarifies an important element of the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. In His work of mediation before the Father, Christ was not separated from Him. In that respect the parallel between the earthly high priest and Christ as the heavenly high priest breaks down. We should not give the impression that after His ascension and during His work of mediation in the heavenly sanctuary Christ did not have access to His Father because they were in different compartments of the sanctuary. Christ’s work of mediation for us takes place in God’s presence (Heb. 6:20; 7:25; 9:24). When the time came for Christ to begin His work of judgment during the antitypical Day of Atonement, they both went into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform that particular work of cleansing and judgment (Dan. 7:9-11; cf. Heb. 9:23).
The idea that God freely moves within the heavenly sanctuary is also suggested by Ellen G. White: “I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down. Then Jesus rose up from the throne, and the most of those who were bowed down arose with Him” (Early Writings, p. 55).
*Texts in this column are quoted from the New International Version.