In the tabernacle instructions, God said to Moses, “I want you to build a tent where I’m gonna make my presence known.” This later became the temple. The tabernacle was kind of built like this: you would go in, and there was a two-room space. The first room was called the holy place, and the second room was called the holy of holies.

In the holy place, there was the candelabra, a light that was supposed to remain lit all the time. There was a table of showbread with 12 loaves of bread, constantly illuminated by the light, and an altar of incense releasing a fragrant offering to heaven. The priests were allowed to work in this space and were commanded to do so.

In the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place, the Ark of the Covenant resided. It was like a golden throne, containing the law of God and the manna from heaven. Atop the box was a golden seat with two angels bowing down toward the middle. This seat was called the mercy seat, the atonement cover, and it was where God would meet with Moses face to face.

God gave Moses specific instructions about the holy place and the Holy of Holies. He instructed the creation of a veil or curtain made of blue, purple, and scarlet material with fine twisted linen, adorned with cherubim. This veil served as a partition between the holy place and the Holy of Holies.

When they built the temple, it was built to scale but larger than the tabernacle. The curtain in the temple was massive, measuring 60 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and four inches thick. The historian Josephus noted its immense strength, saying that even two horses pulling on each side couldn’t tear it. This curtain symbolized the separation between humanity and God. It emphasized that God is separate, and the Holy of Holies represented a throne of judgment.

The high priest was the only one permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, and he could do so only once a year. Before entering, he had to sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice on the curtain. The blood needed to cover the curtain before he ventured inside. When inside, he had to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, for the blood had to cover everything in this holy space. The high priest also wore bells because, in this sacred place, no one else was allowed. If he offended God and the bells stopped ringing, a rope attached to him outside the curtain allowed them to pull his body out.

Then came Jesus. In Matthew 27, as Jesus hung on the cross, it is written that He cried out with a loud voice and yielded His spirit. At that moment, the temple veil, that massive 60-foot curtain, was miraculously torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and rocks split.

With the death of Jesus, access to God was opened. His blood, shed on the cross, covered the curtain, the mercy seat, transforming this place of judgment into a throne of grace. Hebrews 10 reminds us, “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.”

Jesus stands out as different from anyone else, but He also stands in. If you’re willing to hear His voice and open to His call, He will let you in.


The content of this article is drawn from a segment of the sermon titled “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD,” delivered by Dale McCamish on October 15, 2023, at the Wilmington Church of Christ.

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