Sanctuary Language in Hebrews

Sabbath school commentary to read alongside the Adult Bible Study Guide for February 19–25, 2022. Editor’s note: this commentary on Hebrews 9 was originally published by Spectrum in 2003.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

i don’t agree that this is what Hebrews 9 is saying…rather than investing typological significance in some kind of “relationship” between the daily and yearly ministries of the earthly sanctuary, i think it’s obvious that Hebrews 9 is saying that the heavenly sanctuary as a whole, including the ministry of christ, was not yet evident while the earthly sanctuary as a whole was still standing and functioning…

but at least this article isn’t suggesting that the daily ministry of the earthly sanctuary represented Christ’s earthly ministry, and that the yearly ministry represented his heavenly ministry…first of all, the time element in Christ’s 3.5yr earthly ministry, compared to his 2,000yr, and counting, heavenly ministry can hardly be a reflection of the time proportion divied up between the daily and yearly ministries of the earthly sanctuary…that is, 3.5/2,000 vs. 359/1 is much more than simply backwards…

i think interpreting Heb 9:8-10 hinges on v.8’s “this signifying”, KJV, or “showing by this”, NIV, and whether what is “signifying” or “showing” is vv.6-7, and it’s contrast between the daily and yearly ministries of the earthly sanctuary, as this article asserts, or whether it’s vv.1-7, which is a summary of the OC or earthly sanctuary as a whole, including, but not particularly highlighting, the daily and the yearly ministries of that sanctuary…certainly vv.9-12, building on the implication of “also”, in v.1, is contrasting elements associated with the entire OC sanctuary and both its daily and yearly ministries with the heavenly NC ministry of christ, which implies that the correct interpretation of vv.8-10 is in terms of vv.1-7 as a whole…this rules out any typological significance whatsoever in the contrast between the daily and yearly ministries of the earthly sanctuary…

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Yes! This became clear to me back in 1978 and was reaffirmed with subsequent study.

And, no! @vandieman

The BIG problem here is that as far as the SDA take on Heb. 9ff. is that Adventist viewpoint reads Heb. 9 with Dan. 8 as a given (secured in cement).

Years back, as I was struggling to affirm the SDA core beliefs, I did it without the aid of any red books or supporting published material - only the Bible, as we like to say. As I found it didn’t make any sense just linguistically, I wondered where in the world the SDA understanding was coming from. As I went looking for that, the “SDA Commentary” sent me to Heb. 9; and to affirm Heb. 9 the commentary sent me back to Dan. 8 - each trying to support each other without any biblical background.

There is no arguing the points here; we each know what the point of argument is. Why is this an important issue - the SDA teaching on this relies on extra-biblical material; and as long as that supersedes the Bible, the argument resembles a comparison of “apples and oranges”.

Like I have said before, SDA teaching on this substitutes the sacrificial lamb with Christ, but it leaves God in the sanctuary, still accessed only through the “outer tabernacle, which is a symbol forth present (Old Covenant). Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, (works), regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation (the cross). But when Christ appeared as a high priest (according to Melchizedek) of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands. that is, not of this creation.” Heb. 09:9-11.


I totally agree. We need to be sure there’s a historical connection or specific allusion in a NT book to its OT counterpart/s. Otherwise, we’re simply resorting to proof-texting.

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perhaps you should read Hebrews again, with the benefit of yrs of added wisdom…i think you’ll see that Heb 8-10, as a stand alone unit, clearly contrasts the earthly OC sanctuary and its services with the heavenly NC sanctuary and its services…specifically, Heb 8:5’s “who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things” is laying the predicate for the affirmation in Heb 9:8’s “the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing”, and especially Heb 9:11-12’s “but Christ…by a…more perfect tabernacle…entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us”…

to say that this “first tabernacle”, referenced in Heb 9:8, refers to the daily ministry of the OC sanctuary would require that the way of the heavenly NC sanctuary was manifested during each and every yearly ministry of the OC sanctuary, which is clearly ludicrous…there is simply no justification for lifting
Heb 9:6-7 out of its OC sanctuary context and investing its with a typology that effectively does away with the contrast between the OC sanctuary and the NC sanctuary, which is the point Heb 9:8, and in fact Heb 8-10, is making…

as for any connection between Daniel and Hebrews 8-10, the connection is clearly that Daniel 8:14’s “sanctuary” allusion finds a counterpart in Hebrews 8-10’s sanctuary focus, namely the concept of sanctuary…as i understand the Adventist position, Daniel isn’t being used to interpret anything in Hebrews…rather, Hebrews is being used to interpret Daniel 8, and in particular, Daniel 8:14…that is, Hebrews 8-10, without the help of Daniel, is stating 3 things:

  1. there is a heavenly NC sanctuary, Heb 8:2, 5; cf Heb 9:1; Heb 9:8; Heb 9:11; Heb 9:23-24; Heb 10:19-20…

  2. the OC sanctuary services are a reflection of the heavenly NC sanctuary services, Heb 8:5; cf Heb 9:1; Heb 9:9; Heb 10:1…

  3. the OC sanctuary and its services have given way to the heavenly NC sanctuary and its services, Heb 8:13; Heb 9:9-12; Heb 9:24; Heb 10:9; Heb 10:19-20…

what Daniel, and specifically Daniel 8:14, adds is a time element for when christ moved from the HP to the MHP of the heavenly NC sanctuary discussed in Hebrews…but even if we don’t accept this time element, the outlines of the heavenly NC sanctuary given in Hebrews still stand…Daniel and Hebrews don’t necessarily stand together, nor do they fall together…but given that there is the common subject of sanctuary, it’s hardly proof texting to use one to amplify the other…

it’s a bit of a mystery to me why adventism seems to be the only denomination that reads Hebrews in terms of what it’s actually saying…doubtless this is due to the important contributions of the visions of egw, but even without those visions, it is obvious that, according to Hebrews, the heavenly NC sanctuary exists, is reflected in the OC sanctuary, and is now the locus of the NC ministry of christ, which means it is as central to NC christianity as the OC sanctuary was to the OC experience…

of course the other reason why other denominations don’t or won’t see what Hebrews is saying is because it forces a recognition of the decalogue, and in particular the 7th-day sabbath…non-adventist denominations generally have a vested interest in retaining their 1st-day sabbath, and obscuring or even doing away with anything that questions it…

All I can say is, I don’t agree. I don’t want to argue with you.

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i don’t think it’s a question of arguing so much as it’s contrasting competing interpretations…i’m confident that all objective readers of Hebrews will agree with the interpretation i’ve outlined, or at least agree that it’s the most plausible interpretation, when the entire context is considered…

So what… I don’t adjust my understanding on how many people agree with me.

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neither do i, but it is the case that plausible interpretations will find agreement among objective, reasonable persons…

You’re using words that are opinions and not facts. Plausible for one, can be improbable for another. You really shouldn’t use the word objective. You know you get your interpretations from EW. It’s impossible for an Adventist to be objective while believing EW can’t be wrong about anything. Ellen becomes irrefutable. That can not be conducive to objectivity.


Am I missing something or didn’t a heavenly being come down and rent the veil between the Holy Compartment and the Most Holy Compartment when Jesus died on the cross? Didn’t that forever, change the entire covenant? This also happened when Jesus became our high priest. It happened after his resurrection and ascention. And Hebrews makes it perfectly clear that we have a right to come boldly into the very presence of God. It says it at least twice. This was written about 1800 years before the great dissapointment.

Could it be that our early church founders had to find some way of explaining 1844 and this was the best they could come up with?

Where did this process of Jesus “pleading our case” come from? For that matter, is there any place in the bible that talks about the investigative judgment or when it started? God the father isn’t our accuser, that is Lucifer. So who is Jesus pleading our case before? And Lucifer is not in heaven to question Jesus actions on whether we are worthy of salvation or not…so what I have heard all my 76 years of Adventism, simply doesn’t fit. To me, the veil has been removed for 2000 years. And I can come boldly before the father…that sounds like a new and better covenant to me.


read my comments again…they’re all about actual texts, and actual facts…

it is true that i hold egw in very high esteem…but the fact is, i started reading the bible before i started reading egw., and the reason i hold egw in such esteem is her unswerving fidelity to the meaning in the bible that i can see and have seen with my own eyes…in this issue being discussed in Hebrews, egw is not needed, nor have i relied on or even used her writings…but of course, in all matters having to do with spirituality, anyone can and will benefit from reading those writings extensively, as i have…

but setting egw and your grievances about adventism aside, what is it in Hebrews that you can point to that proves that the earthly OC sanctuary and its services is not being contrasted with the heavenly NC sanctuary and jesus’ ministry in our behalf…

this is the pet accusation fabricated by burned out adventists, but it’s manifestly not the case…i’ll get back to you on this when i have more time (this topic isn’t closing for another two weeks)…

What I’m objecting to is the SDA teaching of a heavenly sanctuary with an outer court and an inner court - holy of holies, with Christ administrating in the outer courts (in heaven) and then, entering the holy of holies in 1844 to begin judgment.

According to Hebrews 9, the “outer court” in the earthly sanctuary is symbolic of the OC that was tied to the sanctuary service in the OT. There is no need for an outer court in a literal heavenly sanctuary because it stood for the earthly services that have no meaning in the NC - Christ having entered just once and for all time, the inner court. The holy of holies in the OC was available to the high priest only once a year, while Christ entered only once.

This makes 1844 meaningless since, according to Heb. 9, Christ entered directly to the presence of God through the VEIL (his own flesh). This was referenced when the veil between the holy and the most holy was torn as Christ died on the cross and he uttered, “it is finished”. There no longer were sarfices needed to provide blood for the high priest to take into the most holy place. He entered on the basis of his own blood.

Again, the idea that on a particular day of an earthly calendar, Christ went from one room in the heavenly sanctuary into another to perform ritual, is superfluous and makes no sense.

In any case, nobody benefits spiritually by hanging on to one belief or another. If you want to think of a holy place and a most holy place physically sitting in “heaven” and Christ moving literally from one to the other at one point in 1844 - fine. I can’t see there being degrees of “holy” places in heaven. All this is symbolic, of course, for a people who could not deal with non-temporal issues.


From an architectural perspective, Hebrews only mentions three elements in the heavenly sanctuary: the open curtain, the sanctuary behind the curtain and God’s throne within the sanctuary.
Noticing this simplicity helped make Hebrews clearer to me. Hence, there is no “first compartment ministry” for Jesus prior to 1844. In Hebrews, Jesus is all about a more perfect day of atonement - the eternal ‘re-set button’ that reconciles us to God.
Elsewhere in the NT Jesus is the Passover lamb. That doesn’t matter - the NT contains multiple ways to understand the gospel.
Even in Hebrews, there are a variety of ways to understand Jesus’ death. Most interesting to me is that the experience “perfected Jesus” (2:10; 5:8; 5:9) as well as us. By responding to the human condition through the incarnation, God became more God.


All these arguments over sanctuary imagery in Hebrews and tied by Adventism to Daniel 8, also assumes that the latter is speaking about a heavenly sanctuary being cleansed. It is simply bad interpretation. Daniel 8 is not addressing such.

To use it as a proof text even if it was is bad hermeneutics. To use it when it isn’t even addressing the issue of a heavenly temple is even worse. Never mind that it grew out of erroneous date setting and faulty numerological calculations imported into the text.



I was thought that “spatial or functional partitioning” of the heavenly sanctuary is foundational to the understanding of the sanctuary ministry in the OC. My reading of Rolf’s article helps me to lay aside that concept. As the article points out, the author of Hebrews is not interested with that.

I agree with Sirje that “Christ surpasses even the angels (chs. 1-2), Moses (chs. 3-4), and the Levitical priesthood (chs. 5-7), the author argues that Jesus also offers a better covenant (ch. 8) and a better sanctuary ministry (chs. 9-10). This has practical implications for the life of Christians who follow Christ into the sanctuary, that is, into the very presence of God (chs. 11-13).” It is my outline of Hebrews

A simple and plain reading of Hebrews presents to me what the superior sacrifice of Jesus means to me as I soldier on in the Christian life. Thank you, Rolf for the article


I have a short attention span and a small brain.

What happened in 1844?

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Are you a new SDA, Mike?

Your points all make sense. Let’s face it, there never were or will be any animals slaughtered in heaven. Even worse, Jesus the High Priest killing Jesus the victim(s).

And a literal heavenly sanctuary just because a vision or dream showed one? Sanctuary from whom? Do we believe there is/was/will be a literal woman clothed with the moon delivering a baby in space?

The Epistle to the Hebrews offered believing Jews a bridge from the rituals that had saturated their lives on the one hand to whatever the next phase would be.

But we’re reading other people’s mail.


No! Joined the church when I was thirteen. B.S. and M.A. at Adventist colleges. Minor in religion. Taught in Adventist schools for 26 years. I am 75 years old.

My comment was a serious comment.