In a careful study of the sanctuary service, both typical and antitypical, it becomes apparent that God does not purpose finally to dispose of sin until the plan of salvation is brought to its climax at the end of probation. Why should God delay the blotting out of your sins and mine, as also the sins of the ancients, till He is ready to usher in the new kingdom of righteousness in the fullness of its glory ? Why should He not blot them all out immediately on confession and forgiveness, and remember them against us no more forever?
Since the penalty for sin was fully paid on the cross, why should the centuries between the cross and the coming of the Lord be occupied in the work of priestly ministration and atonement for sin? It is the purpose of this article to consider briefly the answer to these questions.
That there is a divine philosophy of delay in dealing with the outbreak of sin in heaven and in earth, the lapse of six millenniums amply testifies. The penalty of sin, for which abundant provision was made in the councils of heaven, was not historically paid on the cross until four thousand years after Eden. Since that penalty was paid at an infinite price, nearly two more millenniums have elapsed, and the end is not yet, even though it is drawing very, very near. Why the prolonged delay, both before and after the cross ?
Help in answering this profound question may be drawn from two principal sources: 1. God's larger plan for the continuing ages in time and in eternity. 2. The clue to His larger plan, that He has given us by illustration in the earthly sanctuary and its service. The answer can be given here in only the briefest outline.
When sin was conceived in the heart of Satan, and broke out into open rebellion in heaven, the justice of God's government was challenged by a rival to His Son. When the rebellion grew to the point where it was imperative for God to exercise His authority and cast out Satan and his rebel host from heaven, but not destroy them, the justice of His sovereign act was further challenged.
Since the jealousy of Lucifer and his subsequent rebellion arose over the creation of a new world, God's high purpose in casting him into the earth was to give him the opportunity. He sought to demonstrate the kind of government he would institute in place of that in heaven. What kind that has proved to be, let the tragic story of sin for six thousand years relate in all its gruesome record.
But there is another aspect, of equal or greater import, to the terrible crisis precipitated by sin in heavenly and earthly places. While Satan in his defection drew a third of the heavenly host with him, and all together were cast out into the earth, the loyal two thirds of the angels were and are being given an object lesson on the administering of two rival governments, with mankind as the pawn in the case, and the earth as the theater of action. Could there be anything valid in Lucifer's contention, or was the government of God unimpeachable? God was willing to let the lookers-on be the judges, and to prolong the time sufficiently for them to determine the verdict.
Yet another aspect must not be forgotten. Not only are the angelic hosts witnesses of the conflict between the forces of good and evil, but the inhabitants of unfallen worlds were and are looking on with eagerness to contemplate God's method of dealing with the problem of sin, and the outcome of the controversy between the rival governments. One of these governments is founded on love and the free moral agency of its subjects. The other is based on self-exaltation and deception. The subjects of the one are being made up of those who voluntarily choose their allegiance. The subjects of the other are being made up of those who have been snared by the false hope of self-aggrandizement and domination of the universe.
What the outcome will be is clearly foretold by the prophet in Isaiah 45 :22, 23, by the apostle in Philippians 2 :9-11, and by the seer in Revelation 15 :3. Every tongue among the lookers-on in all the universe will confess that God is just, and that His government is founded in justice and love. The King of all created beings is on trial, and He must and will delay the execution of His purpose "to make an end of sins," till sin has run its full course, and every creature is convinced that His rule is grounded in righteousness and love.
This is His larger purpose in the delay of finalizing on sin. Sin must reveal itself in all its hideous nature, and in open view of all concerned, before God can destroy it from His universe and still retain the love and unquestioned loyalty of the subjects of His eternal kingdom. This is primary in the divine philosophy of salvation.
God has also a secondary and more limited purpose in His delay of dealing finally with sin in relation to us who dwell in a fallen world. This purpose is revealed in the great object lesson of the sanctuary. In our case the delay is founded in faith. It was by faith that Adam obtained forgiveness of sin. It was by faith that Abraham and David and Daniel and Peter and Paul and all the saints to our day, obtained forgiveness of sin. But remembrance of sin, and the final disposal of sin, must wait till God's larger purpose in delay is accomplished, as just outlined.
There is no injustice in this delay, for the promise of God is as sure as His deed, and we who are groaning to be delivered from sin forever can keep closer to God and draw more freely on His grace by His holding in suspense His final act of blotting out our sins. It keeps us from falling into that fatal error of "once holy, always holy." It delivers us also from that still more dangerous and subtle error, closely akin to the other, that since Christ died "once for all," He at the same time atoned fully for our sins and finally disposed of our sins by the one and the same act; that therefore no records of sin are kept in heaven, and therefore no final judgment is to sit in which the books are to be opened and all are to be "judged every man according to their works."
The divine delay in making an ultimate end of sins is well illustrated in the typical sanctuary. The confessor in the daily service, while immediately forgiven through the priestly ministration, must await the Day of Atonement for the final disposal of his sins—which is art allegory, teaching by the yearly round of service how God deals with sin in the large, and once for all.
Sinners before the cross had to wait for Calvary before the penalty of their sins was actually paid. Both they and sinners after the cross must wait by faith beyond the cross till the great day of atonement, which began in 1844, when the work of atonement and judgment actually began, even in the case of Adam's sin. We who live during the judgment hour, while the work of atonement is in progress, must wait to be separated finally from our sins at the same time with sinners of old. Together we bow the knee and join with the great throng in that triumphant refrain, "Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints."
What shall we say, then, of the divine purpose in waiting to finalize on sin ? First and greatest of all, it is to vindicate to every creature, fallen and unfallen, the wisdom of God's government, and to answer the challenge to His justice in dealing with all His creatures, both before and after the origin of sin.
Second, it is to deepen our love and devotion to the Bearer of our sins, who bears them, not alone when John the Baptist announced Him as the one bearing the sins of the world, but as our great Sin Bearer from the foundation of the world to the end of the world.
Third, it is to give open opportunity to review every sinner's case in the presence of an impartial tribunal, before anyone's sins are finally disposed of and the father of sin is destroyed.
Fourth, it is to give to all intelligences of the universe a triumphant demonstration of the power of faith, through which sin is forgiven on confession and reconciliation, but not blotted out "until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." Acts 3:21.
Then will come to pass the saying of the new covenant, "their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more"—no more, because both the fact and the memory of them will have been blotted out forevermore.