Q: What is the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding how many apartments there are in the heavenly sanctuary? The Spirit of Prophecy seems to be quite clear that there are two distinct apartments in the heavenly sanctuary, but are we now talking about “phases” rather than “apartments”? — Nick, from Australia
A: Nick, Seventh-day Adventists have always affirmed the biblical teaching that there is a real sanctuary in heaven which served as the pattern for the two-apartment sanctuary/temple on Earth (Hebrews 8:1, 2).
At the end of the 2,300 prophetic “days” or years, Daniel sees “One like the Son of Man” (Jesus) coming with the clouds of heaven to “the Ancient of Days” (the Father) to begin the work of the investigative judgment. Therefore, we can be sure that the heavenly sanctuary is very large and far more glorious than any earthly temple “made with hands” can possibly be.
We can also be sure that at that time Jesus moved from one location in the heavenly sanctuary to another, just as the high priest on the Day of Atonement entered the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary to begin the work of cleansing the sanctuary. Christ went from the Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary to the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary. The heavenly sanctuary is real since it is the model upon which the earthly sanctuary was patterned.
Ellen White describes the earthly sanctuary as “a miniature representation of the heavenly temple where Christ, our great High Priest, after offering His life as a sacrifice, was to minister in the sinner’s behalf” (“Patriarchs and Prophets,” page 343).
I encourage you to read Chapter 30 of “Patriarchs and Prophets,” pages 343 to 358 titled “The Tabernacle and Its Services.” You will be thrilled with its careful explanations about the sanctuary.
Note this important statement by Ellen White about this great subject:
“The cleansing of the sanctuary therefore involves a work of investigation — a work of judgment. This work must be performed prior to the coming of Christ to redeem His people; for when He comes, His reward is with Him to give to every man according to his works. Revelation 22:12” (“The Great Controversy,” page 422).
Fundamental Belief No. 24 states in part: “At His ascension, He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and, began His intercessory ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the holy place of the earthly sanctuary. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary.”
You can find the full text of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs here.
You may also want to read the article by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, “Is the Heavenly Sanctuary Really Real?” The article deals with this topic in more detail.