“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;” (Hebrews 10:19–20, KJV 1900)
In nearly all my adult life, from being a military officer, to a manager in industry, and to the pastoral ministry, I have worked in some sort of leadership position. One of the problems of leadership is to get subordinates to be confident in the ability to do things outside of the norm. I would ask people to do something new and would get several negative replies. “That won’t work!” “I’m not able to do that!” “We’ve never done it that way before!” My job in these cases was to get the subordinates to have confidence to try something different. By the way, the problem also exists in congregations.
Here, the author of Hebrews is writing to Jewish people who have never had confidence to enter the holy places in the earthly Tabernacle. Under the law, they were forbidden from entering. There were two veils, one at the entrance to the holy places and another which separated the holy place from the holiest place. The holiest place was the location of the Arc of the Covenant, upon which was the mercy seat. The holiest place represented the manifest presence of God.
Under the law, only the high priest could enter the holiest place once per year on the Day of Atonement. To enter he first had to remove his high priestly colorful attire with the bells sewn into the hem, ceremonially bathe and then put on the white linen garments. He entered the holiest place three times, once to offer incense, once to offer the blood from the bull for his own sins and his house, and then to offer the blood of the goat for the sins of the people. He would then change back into the colorful high priestly garments. (See Lev 16)
The people who were to afflict themselves (Lev 16:29, 31), which likely referred to fasting, waited anxiously for the high priest to come out from the holy place. When he came out, they would rejoice with the understanding that atonement had been made.
However, in all this ritual, the people never had confidence to enter the holiest place. In fact, the high priest did not either, except on the Day of Atonement and then only if he followed the exact procedure commanded by the law and entered ceremonially cleansed.
Moreover here, the holiest place was only a foreshadow of the true holy place in the heavens. We can imagine that if the people had no confidence to enter the holiest place in the earthly Tabernacle, they would have even less to enter the holiest place in the heavens, where God dwells in the fullness of His glory.
However, the author communicated good news that they now can enter the true holiest place with boldness. He tells them the reason. They can enter by the blood of Jesus. It is a new and living way. It is interesting that the author uses the Greek word prosphatos that has been translated as “new,” as opposed to other words translated new in the New Testament. Strong’s defined prosphatos as freshly killed. It is by the sacrifice of Jesus that people can come boldly into the holiest place.
I will continue this thought tomorrow, but let us consider this thought. We can confidently and boldly enter the holiest place in heaven today. This confidence is not because of any merit of our own. Rather it is because of the work of Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Enter boldly.