"Unto 2300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." What does this verse really mean? Can unconvessed sins defile? The Sanctuary's Cleansing
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"Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."

What does this verse really mean?

by Bob Pickle

  1. The Question
  2. View Being Defended
  3. Little Horn vs. Professed Believerís Sins
  4. Various Ways to Defile the Sanctuary
  5. The Sanctuary vs. the Name
  6. God's Character on Trial
  7. Conclusion

The Question

"Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14). What does this verse really mean? In what sense is the sanctuary cleansed?

View Being Defended

For reasons that go beyond the scope of this paper, some have felt that the sanctuary being cleansed here is the temple that the books of Hebrews and Revelation picture as being in heaven, and that its cleansing corresponds to the cleansing of the Old Testament sanctuary on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Heb. 8:2, 5; Rev. 11:19; 14:17; Lev. 16).

In the Old Testament sanctuary services, the sins of the sinner were transferred to the sanctuary through the blood of a sacrifice. Likewise, through the blood of Jesus, it is felt that the sins of believers are transferred to the sanctuary in heaven where they are recorded in the books of record.

Once a year on Yom Kippur, all the sins were removed from the sanctuary. Likewise, the sins of believers, it is felt, remain in the books of record until the time of judgment that Daniel foretold (Dan. 7:9, 10), and at that point they are blotted out (Acts 3:19) and removed, and the sanctuary is thus cleansed.

Peter explicitly said that judgment begins with "the house of God," the church (1 Pet. 4:17). The judgment that took place each year on Yom Kippur concerned only Israel, only the professed people of God, only those who had transferred their sins to the sanctuary. Likewise, the cleansing and pre-advent judgment that Daniel foretold would concern only the sins of the professed people of God, only those who had through faith in Christ transferred sins to the heavenly sanctuary.

Little Horn vs. Professed Believerís Sins

Some critics of the above view have pointed out that, according to the context of Daniel 8:14, the cleansing of the sanctuary is a cleansing from the defilement brought in by the little horn, not from the sins of Godís professed people. Since it is the little horn that defiles, why even connect this passage with the Yom Kippur ceremonies of Leviticus 16 at all?

Two points may be noted. First, the view described above is dependent on the idea that the little horn of Daniel 8 is Rome in both its pagan and papal phases. Since Rome in its papal phase could be classified as the "professed people of God," the pre-advent judgment would definitely involve the papal system as well. Its past atrocities, it is believed, have defiled Godís sanctuary more than any other religious entity. Second, the only passage in all of Scripture that describes the ceremonies of the cleansing of the sanctuary is prefaced by a reference to two reprobate priests, the sons of Aaron (Lev. 16:1). Therefore, both in Daniel 8 and in Leviticus 16, the subject of the sanctuaryís cleansing is preceded by a referral to reprobate priests.

Various Ways to Defile the Sanctuary

We must now consider the following question: Does Scripture teach that unconfessed sins defile the sanctuary?

Those who touched the dead and who did not cleanse themselves defiled the sanctuary (Num. 19:13, 20). This law clearly shows that Christians who refuse to confess some cherished sin, who refuse to be cleansed from it by the blood of Christ, defile the sanctuary by that very sin.

Other things are said to defile. Sacrificing children polluted the sanctuary (Lev. 20:3; Ezek. 23:38, 39). Godís apostate people and their wicked deeds did also (2 Chron. 36:14). Conquering armies and the bodies of the slain desecrated the holy places (Ps. 79:1; Ezek. 7:22; 9:7). Those who are unconverted pollute Godís temple when they go to worship there (Ezek. 44:7). The priests who violate Godís law and ignore His Sabbath are at the same time defiling God and His sanctuary (Ezek. 22:26; cf. Zeph. 3:4).

The Sanctuary vs. the Name

Several of the texts above give an insight to the real meaning behind this subject. Not only was Godís tabernacle polluted by the sacrificing of children, but His name was also (Lev. 20:3). He Himself was profaned by the law-breaking priests (Ezek. 22:26).

The sanctuary and Godís name are intimately connected. The sanctuary is where His name dwells (2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kings 3:2; 5:3, 5; 8:16-20, 29, 44, 48; 9:3, 7; 2 Kings 21:4, 7; 23:27; 1 Chron. 22:8, 10, 19; 28:3; 29:16; 2 Chron. 2:1, 4; 6:5, 7-10, 20, 34, 38; 7:16, 20; 20:8, 9; 33:4, 7; Ps. 74:7). The ark, which contained the law and which was in the sanctuary, had Godís name (2 Sam. 6:2; 1 Chron. 13:6). The power that blasphemed His tabernacle blasphemed His name also (Rev. 13:6). The place of His throne and His name were alike defiled by the fornications and murders of the Israelites (Ezek. 43:7, 8).

God's Character on Trial

A name in Bible times meant much. The Hebrew word for "name" sometimes meant "reputation" (2 Sam. 7:23; 8:13; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 76:1; Is. 55:13; Jer. 32:20). It is translated "renown", "fame", "famous", or "infamous" (Gen. 6:4; Num. 16:2; Ruth 4:11; 1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chron. 5:24; 12:30; 14:17; 22:5; Ezek. 16:14, 15; 22:5; 23:10; 34:29; 39:13; Dan. 9:15; Zeph. 3:19). Simply put, Godís name represents His character (cf. Ex. 34:5, 6), and the defiling of the sanctuary means the polluting of His character. Whether it is God Himself, the place of His throne, His name, His law, or His sanctuary that is profaned, it is His character that is called in question.

In pardoning sinners in this life, in sending sins by faith through Jesus to the sanctuary, Godís name is polluted. God risks His character, for forgiving sins raises all kinds of questions. Can God rightly save a man like David who backslid after his conversion? Balaam had felt the influence of the Holy Spirit in His life. Can God justly condemn the man? Satan, the accuser of the brethren, claims that God cannot be "just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). Jesus cannot resurrect this one and translate that one when He comes without also saving the devil, for it would not be fair, Satan claims. Appropriately, then, the pre-advent judgmentís main purpose in cleansing the sanctuary is the clearing of Godís name or character. The judgment proves that Godís decisions are both merciful and just.


It can readily be seen how the above activities, though unconfessed, defile Godís character. If a Christian refuses to be cleansed by Jesus, he is giving his testimony that God is incorrect when He says that there is only one way to be saved, or when He says that a particular thought or action is sin. Imagine the questions raised as His professed people sacrificed their own children to heathen deities, showing that other gods were more appealing and desirable than Jehovah. Surely Satan taunted God the most during the Middle ages, for at that time those who claimed to love Him most were those who tortured and slaughtered their fellow men, and changed His law. The questions raised by Satan during the papal reign, and all through the ages, will be answered as the sanctuary and Godís character are cleansed during the investigative judgment.

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