Summary: What is the significance of the Veil (curtain) separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and Mercy Seat found inside the Holy of Holies?
Last time, in our examination of the Tabernacle as described in Hebrews 9, we began to the Holy of Holies or the Holiest of All. This area was hidden away from inquisitive eyes by the outer fence, the thick, four layered coverings of the tabernacle itself and then the curtain that divided the holy of holies from the holy place so that even the priests could not see what was inside this most secret place. Today we are going to have a first look at this curtain or veil, but we’ll probably look at it again later as this chapter and the next have lots to say about its significance.
Hebrews 8 & 9 make much of this veil and its symbolism and we shall, DV, return to it again. It is summed up in v 8 By these things the Holy Spirit means us to understand that the way to the holy place was not yet open, that is, so long as the first tent and all that it stands for still exist. [JB Phillips]
The Holy Spirit designed the Tabernacle and the rules and rituals associated with it to teach us about our relationship with God. The veil showed that the way to the holy place was not yet open. The word “veil,” in Hebrew means a screen, divider or separator that hides. It separated the priests from a holy God. Whoever entered into the Holy of Holies was entering the presence of God and only the High-Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement after meticulous preparations. Anyone else, or the high-priest on any other day, would die.
But it was never God’s desire to distance Himself from mankind. He created us to enjoy fellowship with Him, but this was interrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin. After this the cherubim (God’s security service?) barred their way back to Eden. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen 3:24
It is surely significant, therefore, that the veil, separating off the Holy of Holies, was embroidered with pictures of cherubim. You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. Ex 26:31 Further the atonement cover was also overshadowed by Cherubim. 5 above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Was this to indicate that those coming to God could only approach on His terms? Doing otherwise was certainly a recipe for disaster!
It is still the same today. We can only come into God’s presence on God’s terms. Many try to scale the fence and tunnel under the coverings, but they cannot succeed. Some even convince themselves that the barriers don’t exist and try to walk straight into the HoH! Why not try try this approach out with a wall first – it is just mind over matter. Convince yourself that you can walk through the wall and then just walk forwards with your eyes firmly shut. You will find that if you don’t mind bumps and bruises it won’t matter. On the other hand you could just try using the door. Most people find this rather more effective!
That is why Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
The OT sacrifices partially covered the sins of the people and priests and permitted limited access by the high-priest – once a year on the Day of Atonement, as we shall see another time, but these sacrifices could never permanently deal with their sin.
9 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.
Chapter 10 takes up the same theme, but makes it even plainer. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Jesus is the fulfilment of those symbols.
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. 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, 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?
How different this is to the OT sacrifices. They were poor imitations of what God would do in Christ when, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law Gal 4:4.