God's Provision to Come into His Presence

Jesus – God’s High Priest Provision

(He offered Himself as Sacrifice) – Hebrews 9

 

You and I, humanity was created by God to fellowship with Him. God and man walked together in the Garden of Eden (e.g. Gen. 3:8). In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:9-11). But our original parents sinned (Gen. 3). Sin separates us from the presence of God (e.g. Genesis 3:23-24; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13).  Part of the consequence of sin's separation from God is the inclination to be self-deceived. The Bible says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:6). "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Sin separates us from God. And that is the problem of all humanity because "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Without Him our existence is empty and futile. We need a relationship with God to experience meaning, fulfillment and true eternal satisfaction.

Sin separates us from God because when we live in sin we are at war with God. Whether we realize it or not - "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8). The "carnal mind," and  being "in the flesh" is to live in sin. It is to live in  blindness not recognizing the ill effects of sin in life. It is to live a self-centered sinful nature mindset.

In the Old Testament God began to provide a system or plan to deal with humanities' sin. Before He could bring His redemptive plan of reconciliation to perfection or fulfillment the first step was showing sinful humanity their crystal clear sinfulness. Those who live in sin rationalize away their responsibility and guilt for sin. Therefore God gave His holy, righteous and good Law to expose the utter and undeniable sinfulness of humanity. Paul wrote the Romans, "I would not have known sin except through the law" (Romans 7:7). When humanity tried to solve their sin problem with self-righteousness they found only frustration, futility and failure because in human strength no one can keep the holy, righteous and good Law of God. Salvation and forgiveness of sin is not accomplished on the basis of human good works (Eph. 2:8-9).  Paul was inspired by God to write, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. . . . For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells;" (Romans 7:14, 18). When we encounter God's Law we discover the "sin that dwells in me" (Romans 7:20).

God's Old Covenant Law was meant to carry out the first step of God's plan; to expose humanities' utter and undeniable sinfulness. The Law serves as a kind of mentor or tutor to lead us to Jesus (Galatians 3:24). But after it exposes sin in people, the Law is powerless to save people. That is what we have seen in Hebrews: "For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God" (e.g. Hebrews 7:18-19). The Law is weak and unprofitable because it relied on human strength (i.e. "weakness") to keep it.

The Old Covenant was only preparatory to the New Covenant. And once the New Covenant comes in Christ, the Old Covenant has served its purpose and is to be left behind. That is what we saw in the summation of Paul's argument in Hebrews 8: "For if the first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. . . . In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:7, 13). Christ fulfills all the Old Covenant fallen sinful humanity are incapable of fulfilling. The Old Covenant, it's laws and feasts and sacrifices, all point to Jesus because all of God's redemptive reconciling plan is fulfilled and culminates in Him. (That is what Paul will state in Hebrews 10:7).

That is why Hebrews focuses so completely on Jesus. He is the highest revelation of God (Hebrews 1). Jesus is equal with God and as God, the Great Savior (Hebrews 2). Jesus is the One greater than Moses and Who offers us rest from our life of work-dependency-righteousness  (Hebrews 3-4). Jesus is our Highest High Priest Who has been perfected and is able to perfect His people (Hebrews 5-6). Jesus is High Priest of a better priesthood and of a better covenant; a covenant that is internal, in the heart and mind rather than external on stone cold tablets (Hebrews 7-8). Now in Hebrews 9 we will see the greatest argument and basis for this better, more powerful and effective as well as blessed covenant. In Hebrews 8 we saw the richness of this New Covenant in Christ. In Hebrews 9 we will see the cost of this New Covenant; Christ Himself.

Hebrews 9 (NKJV)

9 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;

God gave Moses instructions to build a place of meeting where He would make His presence known to the people. This place was first the portable Tabernacle and later the permanent Temple. This place presented a pattern of the way God would work His redemptive reconciling plan. Therefore God told Moses to make sure He followed His instructions closely (e.g. Hebrews 8:4-6).

God's plans involved having Moses cordon off a space situated in the center of the encampment and later the nation of Israel. This courtyard was to be 75 feet by 150 feet. In the courtyard Moses was given instructions to build a portable Tabernacle. It's interesting that God's place of meeting was made like a larger kind of tents His people used. God is always condescending and relating to people in a way they can relate to.

The Tabernacle was to measure 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet high. The Tabernacle was to be divided into two sections: The Holy Place - 30 feet long and 15 feet wide; and the Most Holy Place - 15 feet square. It was in the Holy Place that the lampstand and table with showbread were placed.

The lampstand was symbolic of God's people being the light of the world. They were to be reflectors of God to a dark pagan world (cf. Exodus 19). Old Testament Israel failed to fulfill this calling. The New Testament disciple of Jesus fulfills this calling (e.g. Matthew 5:13-16).

The table with showbread was symbolic and a reminder of God's provision (e.g. Deuteronomy 8). This is most perfectly fulfilled in Jesus, the "Bread of Life" (cf. John 6). Jesus is like bread to our spiritual soul. He is the perfect staple for our spiritual life.

and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place were separated by a veil. The veil of separation in the Tabernacle measured approximately (due to differences of opinion as to the size of a cubit) 15 feet high, 15-18 feet wide (Exodus 26:31-35). The weight of it isn't specified but tradition states two horses had difficulty pulling it into place so it was pretty heavy. Later when the Temple was built according to a similar pattern the veil was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and anywhere from 4 to 18 inches thick. The thickness of the veil speaks of the deep divide between God and humanity because of sin. This is the veil that was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus breathed His last on the cross (Matthew 27:51). Tearing something like that in two would be hard even in our day, but not for Jesus! Thank You Lord.

In the Most Holy Place or "the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All," section of the Tabernacle there was "the golden censor." The "golden censer" was part of an altar for incense burning and to spread the aroma throughout the Tabernacle. This incense was a symbol of prayer and placed close to the Most Holy Place because prayer brings us close to the presence of God.

Some have argued about the placement of the altar of incense. In Exodus 40:26 it states the altar of incense was in the Holy Place not the Most Holy Place. Whereas here in Hebrews 9:4 the "golden censor" seems to be said to be situated inside behind the veil in the Most Holy Place. Contradiction?  Not really. First, it is the censor not the altar of incense that is mentioned specifically here. A censor was used to carry coals from the altar into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16:12-13). Paul doesn't mention the altar specifically. Neither does he mention the laver or brazen altar. The censor was used by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Therefore this may have been the imagery Paul had in mind to emphasize. Context would agree with this. Lastly, the sense of the verse and mention of the golden censor is that it only belongs to the Most Holy Place and is not necessarily inside behind the veil of the Most Holy Place. The verb "had" (Greek echo) is in the present participle grammatical form and can mean having, belonging to, in close association with something. This may have been what was in mind here.

Then in the Most Holy Place there was "the ark of the covenant." This was a box (or "ark") that measured approximately 51 inches by 31 inches by 31 inches (cf. Exodus 37:1-9). The box was made of acacia wood and "overlaid on all sides with gold" (a metal symbolic of heaven and holiness).

In the ark were a number of items to help God's people remember His provision, His priesthood, and His purity. First there was the "golden pot that had the manna," which God had miraculously provided in Israel's wilderness wanderings (e.g. Numbers 11; which ceased once the people entered the Promised Land - Joshua 5:12).

Then there was "Aaron's rod that budded," which calls to remembrance God's priesthood and how he would choose and protect His leaders from attack (e.g. Numbers 16). And lastly, "the tablets of the covenant" upon which were written the Ten Commandments of God, His pure and holy word and Law (cf. Exodus 19-20; 32-34).

The lid of the ark were decorated with "the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat." There were two images of angels bowing down but facing toward one another with wings outstretched.

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.

The priests approached the Most Holy Place gradually in terms of their training. A young priest learning his trade would enter in to the Holy Place to observe how services were to be performed. Every morning he would take care of the wicks on the lampstand and refill the incense on the incense altar. Once a week he would replace the twelve loaves of the show bread. And all the time he served it was in close proximity to the Most Holy Place and the Presence of God. This close proximity was a constant reminder of the separation from God that sin caused, as well as the eyes of the Lord being upon him.

But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;

The Most Holy Place was special; it was allowed to be entered only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). The week that Jesus died was a holy week; the week of Yom Kippur; the Day of Atonement. What was happening during this holy time?

 

      In Jesus’ day, here’s what would transpire: The week before Yom Kippur, the high priest   would never leave the temple ground, for every day of that week, he would rehearse what    he would do on the Day of Atonement. When that day finally came, arrayed in his high     priestly robes, he would sacrifice a bull on the brass altar in the courtyard as a dedicatory       offering. That done, he would take off his high priestly garments and put on his linen          garments—long underwear, really, covered by a tunic and sash. Then he would sacrifice           another bull as a sin offering for himself. At this point, two goats would be chosen by lot           and a red scarlet cord would be tied around one, signifying it was the sacrificial goat. The other goat—the scapegoat—would be carried into the wilderness. Why two goats? Because our sins are not only forgiven—they are forgotten, carried away as far as the east           is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

 

      The priest would then take the coals from the outside altar with two handfuls of incense            into the Holy Place. And as he put them on the altar of incense, a cloud would fill the room. Returning to the brass altar, he would carry the blood that had drained from the          bull back into the Holy Place, and this time he would go through the veil into the Holy of      Holies, where he would sprinkle the blood seven times on the ground and seven times on            the mercy seat. After that, he would sacrifice the sacrificial goat and take its blood back     into the Holy of Holies, where he would sprinkle it again seven times on the ground and       seven times on the mercy seat. Finally, after sacrificing the bull and going into the Holy    of Holies, and after sacrificing the goat and going into the Holy of Holies, he would come           back out and place his hand upon the living goat, saying, “Bear and be gone.” In other words, “Bear the sin and take it away.”[1]

 

the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

That the High Priest alone could enter the Most Holy Place and that only once a year was an indication that "the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing." Approaching God's Presence was limited, restricted, rare during this time. God's plan for the perfect restoration of fellowship was not yet complete.

It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

The Old Covenant system and its Day of Atonement and sacrifice along with laws concerning "foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed" were all "symbolic" (Greek parabole) or a similitude, symbolic, something from common life conveying a moral or higher truth, a parable, a proverb, proverbial. All these things were not an end in and of themselves, their purpose was to point God's people to something further, something better, more complete and effective to atone and forgive sin and restore fellowship with God.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

In Hebrews 8 we saw the richness and spiritual wealth of the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant of Christ God through the Holy Spirit indwells us and restores fellowship with us. We can know and walk with God in life through faith in Jesus. God offers this possibility of living in His presence freely by His grace. Sometimes we don't appreciate what we are given until we know how much it cost. God's provision to come into and live eternally in His presence is offered freely to us, BUT IT IS NOT CHEAP. God's provision for coming into His presence and living there eternal COST JESUS HIS LIFE. It isn't with animal sacrifices and animal blood that we enter God's presence; those things were only meant to point us to "the greater and more perfect tabernacles not made with hands, that is, not of this creation." No, it was "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place. " And Jesus did that "once for all" because His solitary sacrifice was completely and totally sufficient for the atonement for all sin for eternity. We can't add to Jesus' sacrifice with our works. And His sacrifice does not need to be repeated at all. When Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished!" He meant exactly what He said, "It is finished!" (John 10:30).

 

Through the blood of Jesus "eternal redemption" was "obtained" (Greek ehurisco) or found, discovered, obtained. "Redemption" (Greek lytrosis) means ransom, redemption, deliverance from a penalty caused by sin and refers to the price of our salvation. Justice requires the offense of sin be penalized. This is the way of reality and existence. This is the inherent awareness God created in all humanity when He imprinted His image on us (e.g. Gen. 1:26). But how is such a penalty calculated? How is it measured, defined, and then paid? God as Sovereign of the universe is the One who determines such penalty as well as how such a penalty will be paid.

 

God Who is just determines sins penalty is death. "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4; cf. also Deuteronomy 24:16; Isaiah 3:10-11; Romans 2:6-9). "The wages of sin is death. . . " (Rom. 6:23a). BUT. . . "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23b). And for that we say "Hallelujah!" Jesus is the just solution to our justification before Holy God (e.g. Romans 5).

13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,

Here Paul points out that the spilling of the blood of animals in the old sacrificial system sanctified and purified flesh. How so? When the sinner by faith in God trusts and obeys in God's revelation - as far as has been revealed - that person is sanctified before God. God never holds a person accountable for something He hasn't revealed to them. David is a good example of this and his psalm of repentance (Psalm 51).

 

When a Jewish person came to the Tabernacle or Temple to worship they brought a lamb for sacrifice. They had to bring an animal to sacrifice, whose blood would be shed for their sins. But here's the thing, when they came to worship the priest would not inspect them, the priest would inspect their animal of sacrifice. The animal would be inspected and either accepted or rejected. If rejected they would by one provided by the priests. Either way the person coming was not the one under inspection, the sacrificial animal was. That should be tremendously encouraging to us. Satan whispers in our ear, you're not good enough, you're a hypocrite, you're a sinner, you don't deserve to worship, you don't measure up. He says all those things and truthfully, the father of lies speaks truth! But all is not lost and we shouldn't hang our heads or depress our hearts. That's because when we come to worship the focus isn't on us as worshipers but on the worthiness of Jesus. And Jesus is spotless. It is because of the sacrifice of Jesus our "Lamb of God" (John 1:29) that we want to and can come to worship the Living God. Praise the Lord for that!

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

If people cleansed their conscience of guilt under the old system of sacrifices as they trusted in God's revelation, "how much more shall the blood of Christ" which is the real deal, the true and actual powerfully and totally effective atoning blood cleans our conscience? That is a rhetorical question implying much, much more!

 

Did you ever ask yourself how did He do it? How could He do it? How could Jesus go to the cross and die for my sins? That answer is Jesus was empowered to redeem us "through the eternal Spirit." It was through the eternal Spirit that Jesus "offered Himself" leaving His throne on high, incarnating as a weak human man, lived "without spot" holy, pure, and in complete righteousness without sin, and live a life totally dedicated to and submitted "to God." And Jesus is our model, our Forbearer. Whatever we ever do for and with God can only be accomplished "through the eternal Spirit."

 

Through the precious blood of Jesus our conscience can be cleansed. "Cleansed" (Greek katharidzo) means to be thoroughly washed out, cleansed, cleaned, made clean, purged, purified.  "Conscience" (Greek syneidesis) refers to the area of perception and moral consciousness, soul. Your conscience is where the effects of sin are most acutely and painfully felt. Sin leaves deep scars on our conscience. Conscience is often the collateral damage sin leaves in its wake. A person can sin so much that they wear out their conscience. Conscience can be dulled and deactivated by rationalization, external means like drugs and alcohol or even therapy. But when by the eternal Holy Spirit the sinner becomes aware of this, intense regret and emotional pain crops up. The Holy Spirit brings conviction for all that is not holy. And that can hurt. But like a surgeon who is willing to cause pain to the one they are performing healing surgery on, the Holy Spirit has our best interests at heart. God is working out His solution.

 

We can have all our "dead works" and all the memories and guilt and all the junk and garbage of our lives flushed out by applying the precious blood of Jesus. God a memory or a regret in life? Feel guilty about something? Repent, ask God's forgiveness, and by faith apply the blood of Jesus. And then move on hand in hand with Jesus.

 

It is through the "eternal Spirit" that we can be cleaned up and suited to "serve the living God." The Holy Spirit empowers us for service (e.g. Acts 1:8; 2:1ff.) It is the Holy Spirit who makes us what we need to be, to do what God calls us to do, for His glory, until Jesus returns. We are not alone. The eternal Spirit is with us and in us and upon us (John 14:15-18; Acts 1:8).

 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

In Hebrews 10 we will see that the blood of animals have no real value in atoning for sin. Such things are of value only in that they point us to Jesus. There is only power in the blood of Jesus. God who foreknew the atoning death of Christ - "whom God set forth as a propitiation [atoning sacrifice that appeases and meets God's just requirements for atoning for sin] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in HIs forbearance [foreknowledge] God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25-26).

 

I like how Jon Courson illustrates what is going on here:

 

      Suppose, late to an appointment, I speed through Medford, Oregon, at 85 mph.       Glancing in the rearview mirror, I see red lights flashing and realize I’ve been caught       breaking the law.

 

“Sorry, Officer,” I apologize to the policeman who pulls me over. “I didn’t know I     was going that fast.”

 

Nonetheless, he writes me a five thousand dollar ticket. As he hands it to me, it drops         in the gutter, but he picks it up, shakes it off, and says, “I’ll see you in court.”

 

When my trial date arrives, the judge looks at my ticket and says, “This is a citation     for something, but I can’t make out what it’s for because it’s covered with mud. Therefore, I guess you’re free to go.”

So I go my way—not because my offense was taken away, but because it was covered.

      In a similar way, the blood of bulls and goats would cover sin—not remove it, but cover   it.

      Now suppose the ticket hadn’t fallen in the mud. The judge would read the ticket and            say, “Okay, Pastor Courson, you were going eighty-five through Medford. That will           be five thousand dollars.”

 

Then I would be in a heap of trouble because I certainly don’t have five thousand   dollars. But imagine just then my brother Jimmy walks in, whips out his hefty wallet,          and pays my fine without even denting his billfold. Then I would be free because the           price of my offense was not just covered by mud, but truly paid.[2]

Jesus has truly paid the penalty for all our sins.

16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.

Jesus is not only the Executor of the New Covenant, He is also the Testator. The New Covenant is His will for us. And like with any other will, it didn't come into effect until Jesus died.

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Even in the Old Covenant blood was indispensible. That is because through the shedding of blood the seriousness of sin is conveyed. Life is our most precious possession. If you have everything in the world but don't have life, you have nothing. When blood is spilled life is lost. Sin wrecks life. Sin  causes pain and suffering. Sin destroys relationships, creates victims, harms the helpless. Sin stabs and scars life. Sin causes the living to live like living dead. Therefore, blood, symbol of the cost of life, the seriousness of sin, is sprinkled on atoning sacrifices.

23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

If earthly things were purified with animal blood, heavenly things to which the earthly things point, must be purified with something greater than animal blood. Heaven and its things needed to be purified with the precious blood of Jesus.

 

Why would heaven need purifying? Because Satan has and his sinful ways have stepped there. In Job we see Satan coming before God to accuse and work his ways (Job 1:5). It's as though Satan has left his body odor in God's house. And also, we are there too. Those who accept Jesus as Savior are "made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). Now we're glad to enter His house and sit with Him, but we too have some sinful body odors. So the sweet perfume of Jesus blood was applied to cleanse it away.

24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

When an angelic butler comes over to us and politely encourages us to leave because we're smelling up the furniture, well, Jesus steps in and sets the situation straight. He just leans over and says, "He's with me." And that settles it. Then when we're alone, He takes us and sprinkles some of His sweet smelling blood on us and we smell like a rose. Thank You Jesus.

25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

The sacrifice of Jesus is so powerful and effective that He only had to die once. These verses say ever so clearly that Jesus one time death accomplished all that is discussed in this incredibly blessed book of Hebrews. "Not that He should offer Himself often. . . once at the end of the ages. . . so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of the many." It couldn't be clearer.

The sacrifice of Jesus is not a continual sacrifice (cf. Jesus words to the church in Thyatira which means continual sacrifice - Revelation 2:18-29). Jesus is not best depicted by a crucifix that portrays Him as perpetually suffering. Jesus said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). There is no scriptural basis for a continual sacrifice. Such a teaching is anti-scriptural and anti-atoning sacrifice. Jesus' one time death on the cross was completely and totally sufficient to atone for the sins of all humanity for all time.

28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

If we are following the picture painted by the Old Covenant of Jesus in the New, we have one more question to follow up on. It is a very important question. How did the Old Testament saints know if the offering on the Day of Atonement was accepted by God and their sins forgiven? How do we today, under the New Covenant of Christ, know that all this is acceptable to God?

Serving as high priest on the Day of Atonement was no trivial thing. Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, because they didn't follow God's holy instructions for serving in His presence were struck down with fire from heaven. (This is where we get the colloquialism of getting fired from a job. Leviticus 10).

The high priest serving on the day of atonement would wear bells on the edge of his garments and a rope around his ankle for two reasons. The bells were to help those outside the Most Holy Place hear that he was still moving within the presence of the Lord. If the bells went silent, it meant he had made a fatal irreverent sin in the presence of the Lord. The rope on his ankle was to pull him out from behind the veil because no one else could otherwise venture in to get him.

I'll be there were not a few high priests as well as their families who breathed a sigh of relief when they stepped out from behind the veil and then outside before the people to proclaim to them the sacrifice had been accepted by God and their sins and the sins of the nation were forgiven.

But don't miss the incredible painting God has painted for us in Christ and on Resurrection Day. On the day Jesus was crucified He was presenting His sacrifice; He was presenting Himself as sacrifice. All were watching. All eternity was watching. He presented Himself as sacrifice on the cross. Then Jesus the sacrifice Lamb was taken down from the cross and put in a very holy place, a most Holy place of all, the tomb. A stone was rolled across the mouth of the tomb like a veil that separated sinful humanity from God's Most Holy Presence.

Three days later Mary Magdalene ventured to the tomb and found the stone rolled away. If you go to the Garden Tomb today you will be told that no stone was found by the tomb. One was found far away. Perhaps when Jesus rose from the dead He blew that stone away just like He tore that Temple veil in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).

Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb. Maybe she was so distraught she just had to be by Jesus, even His body. But she found the tomb open and emptied of the body of Jesus. He was not there! She ran and told Peter and John. They ran to the tomb and saw Jesus wasn't there and when they did it said, "he saw and believed" (John 20:8). What was it they saw and what had they believed?

Peter and John left but Mary stayed. And it always pays to not rush away. It pays to stay. God reveals Himself in special ways to those who stay in His presence. John's gospel states:

            John 20:11–18 (NKJV)

          11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down             and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head    and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her,     “Woman, why are you weeping?”

      She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know             where they have laid Him.”

 

          14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and      did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?        Whom are you seeking?”

 

      She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him             away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

          16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

 

      She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

          17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father;           but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your    Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

 

          18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that     He had spoken these things to her.

 

Now don't miss what is happening here like Mary almost did. Picture this in your mind's eye. You come to the tomb and find it empty. You run and tell the other disciples. Two of the main men come and look in. They see something. The light goes on for them. They believe. But what did they see and what made them believe? You step closer, you look in. In the carved out of the rock place where Jesus had been laid you see two angels, "one at the head and the other at the feet." Maybe they are facing one another with heads bowed in reverence and in a holy position of their winged arms outstretched toward each other. You are beginning to remember some of imagery as being familiar to you. But where did you see it or know of it being before? The angels look up and ask you, "Woman, why are you weeping?" You babble a bit about "them" taking "my Lord." Then you bump into a man. You at first think Him to be the gardener. But then you hear Him say your name and you know, IT'S JESUS! And you hug Him and cling so hard to Him that He has to tell you to loosen your grip. But you don't want to ever let go of your Jesus.

How did the people know the sacrifice of the high priest had been accepted and their sins forgiven on the Day of Atonement. The priest took the blood of the sacrifice behind the veil and into the Most Holy Place. And then, if the sacrifice was acceptable to God, the high priest came out from behind the veil and presented himself alive and said the words, "Forgiven!" THAT'S WHAT JESUS DID! He presented Himself on the cross as our sacrifice. He was put in the tomb behind the veil of the stone. Then the stone was removed like the veil was torn and out came Jesus, His presence alive a resounding and undeniable declaration that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted and our sins forgiven. And when the light of that imagery went on for the disciples they believed. And when Mary Magdalene, who had lived such a hard life before Jesus entered her life, when the light of that imagery went on for her she just couldn't let go of Jesus. HE IS RISEN! MEANS WE ARE FORGIVEN!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God's imprimatur, God's stamp of approval and acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. He doesn't have to repeat His sacrifice because He got it right the first time and God the Father accepted it the first time. Because Christ is risen our sins are forgiven! Praise the LORD for His almighty redemptive plan in Christ! BECAUSE HE IS RISEN! WE ARE FORGIVEN!

To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

And if you don't believe that, well, Jesus will one day soon come again in Person to make it clear to the entire world. He will come to rescue His bride the church. He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords to establish His kingdom and fumigate this sinfully smelling world. You can't get better than that. Why would anyone ever consider leaving such a great salvation? I wouldn't. I'm just clinging to Jesus and rejoicing in my risen Lord. Join me at the feet of Jesus.

 



[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1484). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1486). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.