We believe that the center of divine service in Old Testament times was the sanctuary, first in the form of a portable tent, and later built as a temple. The earthly sanctuary consisted of the courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The sacrifices were offered in the courtyard. Hebrews 9:1-7. By means of the blood, sin was transferred to the sanctuary, and it thereby became defiled. The sacrifices brought because of sin pointed to Jesus, the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. The priests were chosen as mediators between God and man.
Once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, the sanctuary was cleansed. The high priest went into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled the blood from the sin offering on and before the ark of the covenant.
The requirements of the law were thus fulfilled. Romans 6:23. Then, as mediator, he took the sins upon himself and carried them out of the sanctuary. They were transferred to a living goat, which was then led away into the desert. Through these ceremonial acts, the people were reconciled; and the sanctuary, cleansed. Leviticus 16:15, 16, 20-22.
This sanctuary on earth had its original pattern in heaven, where Jesus is the High Priest today. Only through His mediatorial work can the believer obtain forgiveness, justification, and sanctification. 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:11, 12, 15; Revelation 11:19.
“The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin…
“The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered.’ Hebrews 6:20.” -The Great Controversy, pp. 488, 489.