“When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing” ( Hebrews 9:6-8 )
To understand everything that Jesus completed for us as our High Priest we have examples from the earthly Levitical priesthood to guide us in our understanding. Hebrews 9 uses examples from this system to show us how Jesus performed the very same acts on our behalf in the presence of God the Father in the heavenly tabernacle. We can glean so much wonderful truth from these passages of Scripture.
The writer is showing how entrance to the Holy of Holies was not accessible under the Old Covenant. The priests were able to enter into the outer portion of the tabernacle to carry out their daily duties. However, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and he could only enter once a year. In fact, the High Priest wore bells around his ephod so that the sound of bells could be heard when entering before the presence of the Lord.
“The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die” ( Exodus 28:34-35 ). Bells were worn to give off sounds so everyone in the outer portions would know the High Priest’s status when ministering. The Cherubim of Glory circled around the atonement cover protecting the entrance to the Most Holy Place ( Exodus 25:22, Hebrews 9:5 ). So many guidelines were to be met before the Priest could even enter, so the confidence level was extremely low when entering.
The High Priest also had to enter with blood from animal sacrifices which he offered for both himself, and Israel. It was offered for all sins, even the ones committed in ignorance and thoughtlessness. It was a covering for a time period but these sacrifices were to continually be made. There was no permanence to this covering.
This system was an illustration looking forward to the time of Christ. As long as this system was in place the new system was not enacted. In the same way, when Christ came, He fulfilled everything that the Levitical priesthood foreshadowed. In other words, when Jesus came and took the role as High Priest, there was no longer a need for the previous institution. Because the way into the Most Holy Place was thrown wide open by Jesus ( Hebrews 10:19-20 ).
The amazing truth in all of this is that Jesus has made it possible to enter into the presence of God the Father. This was never the case while the first tabernacle was standing. However Jesus’ blood has completely cleansed us so that we are able to enter in to the throne room through the veil which is His body and boldly come before the Father ( Hebrews 10:21-22 ). As believers, we are included in a wonderful heritage. Peter tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” ( I Peter 2:9 ). What was limited to a few because of a family line, has now been thrown wide open and offered to everyone who puts trust in Jesus.