No Heavenly Sanctuary?

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Adventists have always taught that God commanded Moses to make a sanctuary according to the real one that is found in heaven. Note the following verse:

Hebrews 8:5(5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

According to this verse, Moses made the sanctuary according to the pattern of the one above in heaven. However, some view this verse quite differently. In trying to prove that there is no real sanctuary in heaven, the argument is brought forth that Moses simply made it according to how the Lord showed it, not according to what he saw in heaven. In other words, when Moses was on the mount, he was viewing a panoramic view, or picture, of what the Lord wanted, not necessarily what was really there.

The bases for this argument is where the word “showed” is used in the above verse. A couple of verses in Exodus are brought forth to further build this idea, the following being one of them:

Exodus 25:9(9) According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

Therefore, because God “showed” him a vision doesn’t really mean what he showed him really exists… right?

This has been an argument used against the Adventist position for many years now. If this is true, this then does away with many Adventist doctrines, including the 1844 Investigative Judgment doctrine and Jesus’ meditorial work in the heavens. So we decided to take a closer look at those verses which we have taken as speaking about a heavenly sanctuary, and have learned that there were…

Two Tabernacles made.

Let’s take another look at Hebrews 8… this time beginning in verse 1:

Hebrews 8:1-2(1) Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;(2) A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

Notice how towards the end, it specifically says that the Lord “pitched” the tabernacle… “and not man.” Well we know that man did pitch a sanctuary didn’t they? Of course, we read of that in the book of Exodus. Moses and the people “pitched” a sanctuary upon the earth along with all its instruments and furniture’s. So was the author of Hebrews lying in verse 2? Of course not, because the truth is that as there is one that the “Lord” made, there is also one that “man” made upon the earth. Now the fact that man made it on the “earth” proves that the one the Lord made is in heaven.

No Heavenly Sanctuary means no High Priest
Let us continue in verse 2. The first part says… “A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle…” Who is this person who “ministers” in the sanctuary? Who is that High Priest? It is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:28). If Jesus is ministering in the sanctuary, and the earthly temple does not exist today since it was destroyed in 70 AD, it follows then that he is ministering in a sanctuary that is in heaven. If there is no sanctuary in heaven by which Moses built his… where then is Jesus ministering in? Furthermore, verse 4 says that if Jesus was on earth he should “not be a priest.” Yet since the bible is clear that Jesus “is” our High Priest, he must therefore be in heaven performing the work of a High Priest, and the High priest always performed his duty in a “sanctuary!”

Next we will notice that there is….

An Earthly Sanctuary and a Heavenly Sanctuary.

We again reach verse 5. Notice the very first thing said in the verse… “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things…” Heavenly “things?” But if it was just a view or picture God showed Moses, what heavenly things is he therefore speaking about here? Compare this with a “worldly” thing spoken of in chapter 9 verse 1. What thing was that?

Hebrews 9:1
(1) Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
It was the sanctuary.

If there was no “heavenly” sanctuary, why would the author of Hebrews speak of a “worldly” sanctuary? Now we will read of….

A Greater Sanctuary and a Lesser Sanctuary.

Verse 11 says:

Hebrews 9:11(11) But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building

If there was only one sanctuary made, the earthly one, why does he now speak about one as being “greater” and more “perfect?” These words, greater and perfect, make it necessary for there to be a lesser and less perfect sanctuary. Thus we have two sanctuaries… a greater one and a lesser one. Of course the greater one would be the one in heaven, where all things are great. And….

Christ entered this Sanctuary made “without hands.”

Hebrews 9:24 reads:

(24) For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

This verse says Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands. The words “made with hands” is translated from the greek word “cheiropoiētos” which means, “manufactured of human construction.” This means Christ did not enter the earthly sanctuary which was made by humans, but that rather he entered into the Heavenly Sanctuary which was made by God in the heavens. Notice that the earthly sanctuary was a “figure” of the true. The greek word for “figure” means “representative.” The earthly sanctuary therefore, was a representative of the “true,” the heavenly Sanctuary. Of course Moses understood this, for…

Moses’ song mentions both the Earthly
and the Heavenly Sanctuary.

Take a look at the song Moses sang and notice how during the beginning he mentions the sanctuary on earth (verse 2), but towards the end he mentions the one in heaven(verse 17):

Exodus 15:1-19
(1) Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
(2) The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
(3) The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
(4) Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
(5) The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
(6) Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
(7) And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.
(8) And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
(9) The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
(10) Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
(11) Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
(12) Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
(13) Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
(14) The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
(15) Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
(16) Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.
(17) Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
(18) The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
(19) For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

David knew of the “Heavenly” Sanctuary.

How would you now therefore view Hebrews 8:5? As a simple picture that God showed Moses? Or as a view of the “true tabernacle” which is in heaven? Some of our critics are still skeptical… so we’ve digged up some interesting verses. Follow us to the book of psalms:

Psalm 18:6-9
(6) In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.(7) Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.(8) There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.(9) He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

David is poetically describing how God came down to help him in his distress. Because there is the temple on the earth and the temple in heaven, we want to make sure of which temple David is speaking of in verse 6. Verse 9 reveals the answer, saying God came “down” from that temple. We know heaven is above… so if the temple being spoken of here is the one upon the earth, wouldn’t verse 9 have rather said that he came “up” or even perhaps “out” of his temple? And how did David even know that there was a temple in heaven? Because the one built upon the earth by Moses was a “pattern” of the “true tabernacle” above.

Notice again David’s recognition of a sanctuary in heaven:

Psalm 102:19
(19) For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth

We know this is the sanctuary above because it says he looked “down” from this sanctuary. It is the sanctuary that is in “heaven” from which the Lord beheld “the earth.” Yet, since the critics refuse to acknowledge these verses, we therefore present to them the following….

Unanswered Questions.

If there is no Heavenly Sanctuary:

How is Jesus a High Priest? A High Priest is a High Priest because he ministers on behalf of the people in a Sanctuary.

Where does Jesus our High Priest minister? In the type, the High Priest was to minister in the sanctuary. Since Jesus is the High Priest, it is therefore biblically necessary for him to minister in a sanctuary as well. Hebrews 8:2 does say he ministers in a Sanctuary. Do you think it was the sanctuary on earth he ministered in? No, right before, in verse 1, we read that he is in the “heavens.”

Where did Christ administer his blood? The type demands that when the sins of the people were confessed, the blood of the animal upon which their sins were confessed was killed and the blood was taken into the sanctuary to be sprinkled upon the vail seven times (Lev. 4:6). On the Day of Atonement, it was taken into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled on the mercy seat (Lev. 16:14). Hebrews 9:7 says the High Priest entered into the sanctuary “not without blood.”


The argument that there is no heavenly Sanctuary simply does not hold water, and it flies in the face of the whole bible which is clear on this point. We pray you found this study helpful.

“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” -Psalm 11:4


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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