Why Three Places?
In the Mosaic tabernacle, the offering of the blood was central and vital. Every sacrifice, wherever offered and however ministered, pointed to the one offering of Calvary. Why then were there three places of ministration? For what reason was the blood sprinkled on the brazen altar in the court, on the golden altar in the holy place, and finally on the mercy seat beyond the veil?
To help us understand, let's look at an illustration of the plan of salvation. Suppose a wealthy philanthropist conceives a plan to help people who have broken the law. One project he sets up is a large fund to pay for traffic violations. Anyone convicted in the courts can appeal to the agent of the fund, who will pay the fine. Notice that he does not set aside the law, but while recognizing its authority, he provides a way to meet its penalty.
Let's watch the plan in operation. The state police stop a man driving 90 miles an hour and brings him into court. The judge lectures the offender and imposes a stiff fine. The speeder turns his ticket over to the agent of the philanthropic fund, the agent pays it off, and the man goes free. As the "good news" gets out, more and more speeders gratefully avail themselves of the millionaire's provision. This is about all that multitudes see at Calvary—Somebody has paid off, thus they don't have to pay. They are "free from the law."
Back to our illustration. We visit the court again, and a state trooper brings in a traffic violator charged with driving 100 miles an hour. The judge asks, "Aren't you the man who was in here last week for doing 90?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"I shall double your fine," the judge says. Again the agent for the fund pays it off, and more "good news" spreads.
If the millionaire keeps paying for all the speeders who appeal to him, he is making a mockery of the law. If the judge continues to accept that program, he is making the law of no effect. The purpose of a penalty is to enforce the law so that people will stop breaking it. If Christ's death were to pay for my sins so that I could keep sinning, then He would be an accomplice to my sin. If God as Judge would accept that, He would be annulling His own law. But neither Jesus nor His Father are in any such business. That is why the blood is sprinkled in three places.
The slaying of the sacrifice took place in the court. Here the penalty was paid in full for everyone—all who lived before the cross and all who have lived after it. Christ died for all men. Why? So everyone can have the opportunity to repent, receive forgiveness, and be saved. Sin is so heinous that men can't even have the opportunity for salvation unless Jesus pays in full for their transgressions.
But Justice cannot accept that offering unless Christ promises to do more than give them a second chance. And here we come to another part of the plan of salvation represented by the blood sprinkled in the holy place. Justice says that the blood cannot be applied to anyone's debt unless and until he surrenders his sin. You notice that in the illustration, the judge did not say to the generous millionaire, "Unless the accused is willing to quit his speeding, I will not accept your payment. Instead, I will put him in jail." That is what he ought to say; that is what justice demands.
And that is what God requires, and He does so for the peace and order of the universe. Every time a speeder races down the highway, he endangers the lives of hundreds of people. His example teaches disrespect of law, leading others to break it. The law must be upheld. Thus, Justice has something to say before the atoning blood can be applied to the sinner's record in the books of heaven. Justice asks, "Has this sinner repented? Is he sorry for the sins that he has acknowledged, sorry enough to give them up?" If so, Justice concurs with Mercy, and the blood is sprinkled in the holy place to cover the sins.
"Praise the Lord," the penitent exclaims, "I am free! The Sinless One has taken my place and suffered my death. He has removed my transgressions to the temple above, and there He intercedes for me."
But why is it necessary to sprinkle the blood in the most holy place? Justice demands that the final forgiveness of sin must wait until the man who has begun to quit sin is completely finished with it. Someone may say, "I don't like to be on probation. I want everything settled forever right now!" Everything is settled as long as you stay under Jesus. But what will happen to sins that have been transferred to the sanctuary through the blood of forgiveness in cases where people don't continue with Christ until their transgressions are blotted out? [When they turn away from Christ, they choose to pay the penalty for their own sins rather than letting Christ pay for them, and all their sins return to them.]
Many believe that since Jesus died on the cross for everybody, everyone is saved and merely needs to hear the good news: "You have been saved, and once saved, always saved. You have eternal life, and cannot lose it."
However, the sprinkled blood on the mercy seat tells us that no man's sins are finally pardoned and blotted out until they are out of his life.
Sin is not so much an act as an attitude of rebellion. Our rebellion must be cured before Christ can blot out the record of our transgressions in heaven's books. [Our rebellious natures must be submitted to Christ so He can change them into His likeness. As we daily choose to submit to His will or refuse, we are either cured of our rebelliousness or confirmed in it.]
What happens when I fail again and again? That is why the blood has not been sprinkled yet in the most holy place. With all my faults and failures I can come again and again and ask God to forgive me, and He will sprinkle His blood to cover me.
Someday He will sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, and the sanctuary will close. [But only after the last soul on earth has made their choice.] Jesus will wait till the last one has come with his burden of sin. Don't think He will get impatient and say, "I have waited long enough." The fact that He has tarried so long shows that He would wait forever if it would do any good.
The reason that He finally makes the atonement on the mercy seat, blots out the sins of His people, and puts the sins that haven't been overcome back on those who continue with them is that the righteous have reached the point where they will remain righteous forever. But those who are filthy have reached the point where they will continue to be filthy still (see Revelation 22:11, 12). Because the saints have parted with their sins forever and the sinners have no desire for cleansing, probation closes.