Random Blog Clay Feet: September 27, 2008
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Secrets in the Two Altars

A reading that I looked at this morning referenced the verse in Revelation 16:7 about the altar in heaven speaking out. What followed really grabbed my attention and a flood of thoughts began to come to me. Here are a few things I had to quickly write down.

The two altars in the sanctuary seem to be linked very closely with each other.

They both have fire on them.

They both have incense burned on them in one way or another.

They both give off smoke that appears to affect God's thinking.

They both seem to be focal points but in different areas of the sanctuary.

The fire that is used on the incense altar comes from the sacrifice altar.

Is it possible that these two altars represent the final destiny of two groups of people?

If we refuse to be separated from sin in our heart do we end up being consumed on the altar of sacrifice? That is where all the animals were burned up that represented the sins of the people – after they had already been killed.

In contrast, there is no animal or flesh offered on the altar of incense. The coals from this altar are brought from the sacrifice altar to ignite the fire that is used to burn the incense. But the main purpose of this altar is to fill the inner sanctuary with an atmosphere of sweetness that is attractive. The incense clearly represents the prayers of believers who are called saints in the Bible.

Those who make up the body of Christ in the end will be all those who allow God to completely cleanse them of all their bondage to sin in their minds and hearts. Their lives are marked by the presence of much prayer, constant interaction with God, praise, gratitude and encouragement. This is the atmosphere that produces in the life the reflection of the attractiveness of God's character.

But the fire that ignites all the elements that smell so nice after being burned comes from an understanding of the true nature of sin and its effects on the life. Fire represents passion, but that passion must be the holy fire, the holy passion that can only come from God. It is a fatal mistake to ever substitute human-generated fire into the sanctuary service. And that is clearly a stark warning that human passion must be completely eliminated from our thinking as a means of achieving at-one-ment with God.

It is not that we must be free of all passion. Far from it – we were designed for passion. Passion is the fuel which causes us to grow and thrive and be more fully alive. But the tainted fuel of human passion that has been contaminated by selfishness and sin is so inferior and dangerous that to allow it to remain in our system to motivate our spiritual life will cause fatal meltdown when we encounter close proximity to the presence of the Almighty.

The altar also are the focal point for the issue of justice. A closer look at references to the altars reveal that justice was a key issue involved in the services that revolved around the altars. There was even provision for mercy – another aspect of justice – whenever a person was being pursued for an accidental death by an avenger if the person being pursued ran to the altar and grabbed the horns of the altar. They were to receive instant protection by this act of claiming justice and they were to be given a fair hearing before anything else was decided.

In Revelation there are several references to the altar which have interesting insights related to justice. The “souls beneath the altar” cry out for justice for all the suffering and maltreatment they received on the earth. Later in Revelation 16 the altar itself cries out declaring that God Himself is just. This makes sense because all the demands for justice that have ever been made on earth are ultimately directed at God. The implication is that God is responsible for restoring everything to being right, fair and in balance again. At the same time there is always the implicit implication that God is not being fair or just because injustice still seems to be rampant. Sin is still wreaking havoc against the hearts and bodies of millions suffering injustice at the hands of others and people are supposing that God is not doing anything about it.

Revelation is the place where we find the story of how all of this will be resolved and justice will ultimately be maintained for all – but in God's ways, not the way we would choose to do it. Man's preferred methods of establishing justice is to impose revenge and serve out arbitrary pain and suffering in greater proportions than what was originally committed. But this only tends to further the weight of injustice in this world instead of making things right. The cycle of revenge through men's methods only accelerate the vicious cycle of sin and death. Throwing people in prison and treating them like animals for many years for some act they committed that crossed human-made rules is not justice; it is the amplification of injustice.

God makes it very clear that His ways are not our ways and that we must leave all vengeance up to Him and not take our own revenge. Our revenge only serves to cloud the issues and add to the problem, not resolve it. God views justice and fairness from a far better perspective that we can and He knows that when we finally get all the facts and can see all the motives laid out plainly that we will all agree without any coercion that He was really just and fair all along. But the real core issue involved is the reputation of God. This has been the issue from the very inception of sin in the mind of Lucifer and is the core problem to be finally resolved on the great day of God's judgment when everyone decides the verdict in God's trial.

The sanctuary plan is the parable-like model that reveals the way salvation works and God's method to fix the whole sin problem and recover the universe from this terrible cancer that has caused so much infection and doubts about God. Every detail of the sanctuary and its services are filled with rich significance that cannot be exhausted for it is the wisdom of God folded into a very compact container. So if we want to begin to grasp the way God plans to resolve the great controversy between Christ and Satan and save all who are willing to cooperate with His means of restoration, then we need to spend some time examining the illustration He has given in the sanctuary as the outline of our path back to wholeness and reality.

I want to spend a lot more time contemplating this link between the two altars for I believe it holds some important keys to unlocking more mysteries of the kingdom. I know that the Holy Spirit is ready to teach and mentor everyone who is willing to listen with a correctly aligned heart open to new ways of thinking. I sense that there is a lot here that I have never seen before and I look forward to unpacking this much more.