Hebrews 9:1-8—That first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.
When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.
Only certain priests were allowed in the Holy Place, and only the High Priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Ark was a chest that contained the information of God’s covenant, or agreement, with the Israelite people. The Most Holy Place was kept concealed from all other people.
On only one day every year, the High priest could enter this room. To get in, he had to make a sacrifice and sprinkle its blood over the place of atonement, also called the mercy seat.
But eventually, this all became a ritual, and people missed its purpose. At one point, the Ark of the Covenant was taken out of its first temple and was never placed in the second temple—but the High Priest would still go through the same rituals and formalities.
It sounds crazy, but for many of us today, church has become the same kind of ritual. We come, sing a few songs, listen to a message, go home, and come back a week later to do it all again. Just like the people of Israel missed the purpose of the Ark and its contents, we often miss the purpose of why we come together as the Church.
When Jesus died, the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the rest of the Temple was torn right down the middle. Through His sacrifice on the cross and His blood being spilled, Jesus exposed their empty rituals. Jesus’ earthly mission was finished: access denied became access granted.
Through this access to God, His gives us the power to do incredible things with our lives. The Holy Spirit lives in everyone who is a believer in Jesus. The Church is supposed to be a people who are called out by God to do amazing things in His name; when we understand the access God is offering to us as His Church, we will begin to see God’s glory rising out of everything we do. The Church isn’t just a building we go to once a week, but a people who are committed to carrying out the mission God has given to us.
If you want to learn about how the objects inside the Ark are relevant to our lives today, I encourage you to listen to my teaching on All Access Passes.