I have sometimes wondered what the Old Testament high priest was thinking as the Day of Atonement dawned. He had to be excited seeing what a special day it was. It was the only day of the year that he could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple. And he was the only person who could enter it! One man on only one day a year to enter. The Holy of Holies had to be one of the most highly restricted areas in the history of the world.
There was only one object in the Holy of Holies – the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark symbolized the presence of God. On the cover of the Ark were two cherubim. When the temple was first dedicated, the cloud that symbolized God’s presence went and resided between those cherubim. That is why, in the Old Testament, God is sometimes described as the One dwelling between the cherubim. Thus the Ark symbolized God’s throne.
By so severely restricting access to the Holy of Holies God was teaching a valuable lesson – that sin had separated man from God. This was emphasized by the fact that anybody, including the high priest, who entered the Holy of Holies on any other day would die. Even on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest could enter, he had to do so by sprinkling the blood of a sacrifice before him. The blood “gained” him access.
Imagine being that high priest that morning. Surely excited, but probably more than a little apprehensive. Especially when, according to tradition, a rope was tied around one of his legs to drag him out in the event he would die. I can picture him going very carefully and somewhat tentatively through the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.
The writer to the Hebrews had that background in mind when he penned the following amazing passage. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,” (10:19-20). Now we have access to God! Now we can approach God confidently and boldly. All because of Jesus. His blood gained access for us. That is the significance of the veil of the temple tearing in two at the moment of his death. The Holy of Holies of God’s presence is no longer highly restricted. Through his death Jesus tore down that wall separating us from God.
Over the years, numerous Mormons have been puzzled and even taken aback by how confident I am that I am going to live with Heavenly Father forever. Some have questioned me about it – some have flat out told me I was dead wrong. Not that many identified with me. I would say that most felt that my confidence bordered on being naïve.
In contrast, many Christians identify with that confidence and exhibit that same confidence in Christ. They, like me, are painfully aware of how much they sin. But they also see where sin abounds. God’s grace in Christ Jesus abounds all the more. The completeness of Jesus’ sacrifice makes them bold.
The contrast between the two is striking evidence of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. In fact, believers’ confidence that they can enter God’s presence distinguishes their belief from all others. Today, and every day, may we glorify God through such boldness and confidence.