The Lord directed the Israelites to build a sanctuary, or tabernacle, which was a type of the heavenly ministration. Exodus 25:8; Psalm 77:13. It was composed of a court with an altar of burnt offerings and a laver for the priests to wash themselves before entering the sanctuary. The tabernacle itself contained two apartments, the holy place and the most holy place. The service of the priests connected with the sanctuary was a representation of the work of Christ, our great High Priest, in the true tabernacle “which the Lord pitched and not man.” Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:19-28.
At His ascension to heaven, Christ began His intercessory ministry in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, where, for over 1800 years, He offered the merits of His blood as an atonement for all confessed sins. John 1:29; Romans 5:8-11; 8:34. In 1844, according to the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, Christ entered upon the second and final phase of His ministry in the most holy place to cleanse it from the sins of the repentant sinners.
This work is also called the investigative judgment. Revelation 11:18, 19; 20:12; 22:12. Although the lives of all who have their names written in the book of life, both from among the dead and the living, are to be examined, only the ones who have confessed and forsaken their sins will have their names retained in the book of life and their sins blotted out from the books of record. Daniel 7:9-14; 1 Peter 4:17, 18.
When Christ, through the merits of His own blood, removes the record of the sins of His faithful children from the sanctuary at the close of human probation (Revelation 22:11, 12), He will place those sins upon Satan, the scapegoat, who, in the execution of the judgment, must bear the final responsibility for all the sins that he has caused the saints to commit. Leviticus 16:8-10, 21, 22.
“As a people, we should be earnest students of prophecy; we should not rest until we become intelligent in regard to the subject of the sanctuary, which is brought out in the visions of Daniel and John. This subject sheds great light on our present position and work, and gives us unmistakable proof that God has led us in our past experience. It explains our disappointment in 1844, showing us that the sanctuary to be cleansed was not the earth, as we had supposed, but that Christ then entered into the most holy apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, and is there performing the closing work of His priestly office, in fulfillment of the words of the angel to the prophet Daniel, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.’”—Evangelism, pp. 222-223.
“The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time, or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. Every individual has a soul to save or to lose. Each has a case pending at the bar of God.”—The Great Controversy, p. 488.
“The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.”—Evangelism, p. 221.
“We are now living in the great day of atonement. In the typical service, while the high priest was making the atonement for Israel, all were required to afflict their souls by repentance of sin and humiliation before the Lord, lest they be cut off from among the people. In like manner, all who would have their names retained in the book of life should now, in the few remaining days of their probation, afflict their souls before God by sorrow for sin and true repentance. There must be deep, faithful searching of heart. The light, frivolous spirit indulged by so many professed Christians must be put away. There is earnest warfare before all who would subdue the evil tendencies that strive for the mastery. The work of preparation is an individual work. We are not saved in groups. The purity and devotion of one will not offset the want of these qualities in another. Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” — The Great Controversy, pp. 489-490.
“Solemn are the scenes connected with the closing work of the atonement. Momentous are the interests involved therein. The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon—none know how soon—it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour’s admonition: ‘Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.’ Mark 13:33. ‘If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.’ Revelation 3:3.
“When the work of the investigative judgment closes, the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death. Probation is ended a short time before the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven. Christ in the Revelation, looking forward to that time, declares: ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’ Revelation 22:11, 12.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 490-491.