The following interview-style conversation between the husband-wife team Sylvia and Werner Renz connects one of the key Reformation-era discoveries, “righteousness by faith alone,” […]
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The following interview-style conversation between the husband-wife team Sylvia and Werner Renz connects one of the key Reformation-era discoveries, “righteousness by faith alone,” to the sanctuary, God’s object lesson in righteousness and salvation.
Sylvia: In Hebrews we read that Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). Why is this necessary? I thought He had already done everything on the cross.
Werner: The death of Jesus on the cross provided the legal basis for our salvation. At that time God reconciled Himself to us, although we were still His enemies (Rom. 5:10). But this is not yet the happy ending.
I agree, we are constantly reminded of this when we watch the news. What exactly did Jesus accomplish or achieve when He died on the cross?
When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” the answer came immediately from above, as the curtain in the Temple tore from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51). The veil pointed to Christ, and by His death we once again had free access to God the Father (Heb. 10:20). Jesus’ cry “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) made it clear that sin cuts us off from the source of life. God the Son was torn by our sin from God the Father. He tasted the second death for us. By this, He fulfilled His mission (Gal. 4:4).
What was His mission?
Through His life Jesus showed what God is really like. When He took our death, the punishment for sin, upon Himself, He paid the price and redeemed us. He Himself was sinless, so death could not hold Him. Jesus rose and defeated death. He has brought us eternal righteousness (Dan. 9:24). God now sees us as His beloved children. At the same time, Jesus as our high priest enables us to live a righteous life as He did.
How is this supposed to work?
The Holy Spirit, as the representative of Jesus, creates an “online connection” between us and Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary. Through this He lets the perfect life of Jesus become a reality in our life, as long as we are willing to receive this gift. Thus, both through Jesus’ death and through His life, we are made acceptable to God.
So Jesus paid the entrance ticket to heaven for every human being. But many prefer not to go there. To live with a loving God does not appear attractive to them. They do not know God; they do not trust Him. They would rather follow their own ideas.
Lucifer, the most beautiful angel, turned against God because of selfishness and distrust of His Creator. This resulted in the fatal plague of “sin.” It is curable only because God has, because of His love, sacrificed His Son for us. His offer of reconciliation is available to all people.
But not everyone accepts it. Love and trust cannot be enforced. Is this the reason Jesus is constantly interceding on our behalf and searching for us?
Yes, He wants to help us (cf. Heb. 2:18). The heavenly sanctuary is the sanitarium in which the plague of sin is treated.
People knew since the Fall that God had provided a pathway to salvation for them (Gen. 3:15). They were reminded of this every time they confessed their guilt and an innocent animal died in their stead. But why did Jesus have to die on the cross and not through stoning, the usual way of execution?
Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a scene from the Old Testament: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14; cf.
He also predicted: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (John 12:32, 33), hanging on a cross connecting heaven and earth. Here the heavenly vertical crosses history’s horizontal. This “plus” sign is a symbol of our salvation. This is the basis of our justification by faith, and thus also the foundation for our doctrine of sanctification.
The most famous snake tracker in Australia was once asked: “When is a snake the most dangerous?”
“When you don’t see it,” he replied. Christ has made visible and defeated the “snake on the pole.” The head of this serpent has been crushed in a tremendous spiritual battle. Satan is still alive, but has no spiritual power over us when we believe that Christ defeated the serpent on the cross. Christ’s death has confined, secured, and exposed the serpent on the cross. This defuses all evil in us. Evil has no power over us as long as we live and believe this: the serpent is hanging on the pole, so lift up your head and live! Jesus also defeats the evil in us and all the fear that emanates from it. This is lived justification by faith!
Fantastic! But why did God not put an end to all of this shortly after the ascension of Jesus?
God wants to save as many as possible. He wants to fill heaven with the redeemed, “as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore,” as He promised Abraham (Gen. 22:17).
But He does not take all of them to heaven! Only those who let Him “heal” them and who trust Him. God knows everyone and looks into every mind and heart. What’s the purpose for opening books in heaven?
All intelligent beings are able to see the files. One’s inner motives become clear only by one’s behavior. An objective scale is applied to all, that is, the Ten Commandments. God wants me to love Him above all else, and my neighbor as myself. Only those who want to live like that and long for healing are ready for heaven.
I get this. But then a public court hearing in the presence of the angels shows who will be saved by Jesus and who will not be saved. This must already be clarified before He returns. How does God deal with our questions when we miss people we loved? There are many decent people who may not be there.
For these explanations, God takes a great deal of time. After the 1,000 years, the millennium, everyone will understand and appreciate why God had to judge the way He did. All thinking creatures will join in the final song: “Just and true are Your ways” (Rev. 15:3). Only when everything is completely clear, will final events take place. Satan and his followers will demonstrate one last time that they are not ready for peace and trust. They want to overthrow God and kill His children. But that will not happen. Satan and his followers must bear the consequences of their own decision. They will die from the plague of sin in the final fire.
Afterward God dries all tears and comforts us. He creates a new heaven and a new earth. This is the ultimate joyful ending!
Sylvia and Werner Renz live in retirement near the European Media Center in Alsbach-Hähnlein, Germany. Sylvia served in the Hope Bible Study Institute, and Werner served as editor/speaker.
The heavenly sanctuary is the sanitarium in which the plague of sin is treated.