Chapter 10:19-25 (ESV) - Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Question to consider: Why was the curtain to the Most Holy Place in the temple torn upon the death of Christ?
At the beginning of chapter 9, I wrote about the Most Holy Place of the temple and how the only one who was allowed behind the curtain was the high priest who offered a sacrifice on Yom Kippur for the sins of the people done in ignorance. I also mentioned that the high priest feared for his life in performing this duty as he was a sinful being coming into the presence of a holy God. Contrast this with the author’s comments in today’s passage that we can enter the presence of God with confidence!
Jesus provided the perfect sacrifice with His own blood which transformed us from sinful beings into the righteous children of God. There was no longer any need for a barrier to separate us from His holy presence. Thus, the temple curtain was miraculously torn in two at the time of Jesus’ death. We think of a curtain as being a thin window dressing or a cloth barrier used on airplanes to separate first class seating from coach. This curtain was about 80 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 3 ½ inches thick so it must have been quite a site for it to suddenly tear.
The act of destroying the curtain in the earthly temple was also a physical demonstration that the earthly temple had been made desolate. I’d be curious of the effect this had on the annual sacrifice in the chamber after that. Did they try to repair the curtain or build a new one? Was there a noticeable absence of God’s presence when the ritual was performed?
In light of our new relationship with God, the author encourages the believers to draw near to Him and to each other, washed in the perfect blood of Christ and the pure waters of our baptism. Regardless of your view of the method and time of baptism, it is important to note that the author sees baptism as an integral part of our relationship with God. So in obedience to the author’s exhortation to stir up one another to love and good works, I encourage you to be baptized if you profess faith in Christ and have not taken this step. Feel free to contact me to discuss this if you have questions.
The second exhortation is to not neglect meeting with one another. This refers to gathering together for the purpose of hearing God’s word, participating in communion, and using the gifts God has given you to serve the church. At the time in which Hebrews was written, the author saw particular importance in meeting and encouraging one another because he saw the judgment that was soon to come upon Jerusalem. We also live in a time in which we can see the day of our Lord’s return quickly approaching so the words of this passage are relevant to us as well.
Dear heavenly father, we thank you for rending the temple curtain so that we may approach you through the heavenly temple as your righteous children! Help us to stir up one another to love and good works and instill in us an excitement to gather together in worship to receive your good gifts and experience the sweetness of your forgiveness. Amen.