“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, (Heb 10:19-20)
No one was able to go into the Most Holy Place beyond the curtain. Only a high priest could enter the inner room once a year on a day called the Day of Atonement. On that day, he entered the Most Holy Place with incense smoke and the blood of a bull and a goat to make atonement for his own sins and all of the Israelites’ sins.
But it had to be repeated every year because animal sacrifices couldn’t perfectly cleanse the people of Israel from within their hearts. Animal sacrifices had flaws because they weren’t valuable enough to make atonement for people since they didn’t share the same nature and they were killed by force.
But Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect and its result is eternal since he offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for all our sins. While he was a human like us, he was sinless and willingly laid down his life. His sacrifice was once for all and it was perfect enough to cleanse all our sins, make us holy and righteous from within our hearts, and perfect us.
That’s the reason the author of Hebrews talks about how we should rely on Jesus and fix our eyes only on him for our salvation.
Remember No More
The author of Hebrews explains the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice by using the verb ‘remember.’ About animal sacrifices, he said, “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb 10:3-4).
Countless bulls and goats were sacrificed year after year because they were imperfect. By keeping the Day of Atonement every year, the Israelites were reminded of their sins and their result—death.
But, about Jesus’ sacrifice, the author said, quoting Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah chapter 31, ““Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Heb 10:17-18)
Jeremiah 31 is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament because it talks about the new covenant God would make with his people.
All the regulations and laws were enacted based on the first covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. But the Israelites were unfaithful to the covenant and often forgot about it. So, God promised through Jeremiah that he would make a new covenant with his people.
The essence of the new covenant is the reconciliation of the relationship between God and his people. For that to happen, we need to be cleansed not only of our outward sins, but from within the deepest parts of our hearts, which animal sacrifices could never achieve.
So, God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice once for all through the death of his body so that all our sins can be forgiven, and our hearts can be perfectly cleansed and made pure enough to have a relationship with God.
And as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, it became possible for God not to remember our sins. It doesn’t mean that God simply thinks we are not sinners or just forgets about our sins without any condition.
Since God is just and righteous, he never forgets about sins, but always remembers them and judges everyone according to them. So, God’s proclamation, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more,” was a very amazing and surprising thing because it was to say that he himself would pay for our sins.
And, as promised, God sent his one and only Son as our perfect atoning sacrifice to pay the ransom for our sins. Our sins are not remembered anymore because they were already paid in full on the cross.
It’s important to remember that all our sins were perfectly forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice and thus God will not remember our sins. There are many obstacles that keep us from going to God’s presence, but the biggest one might be a sense of guilt.
When we remember our past sins and failures, we might think that we don’t deserve to stand before him. Sin is the most significant factor that separates us from God.
So, we should continue to remember that Jesus already paid the price of all our sins and thus God will not remember our sins anymore. When we find it hard to have a relationship with God because of our sin, we need to proclaim this truth, humbly laying down our thoughts and feelings at the cross and relying on God’s amazing love and sacrifice for us.
Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, and remembers your sins no more.” (Is 43:25)
God says that he blots out our sins and remembers them no more. What’s interesting about this verse is that he doesn’t require the people to offer sacrifices as a condition for him to blot out their sins.
In the previous passage, God said,
“You have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices... But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.” (Is 43:22-24)
Even though the Israelites didn’t do anything, or offer sacrifices for their sins, but burdened and wearied God with their sins, God still said that he would blot out their sins and remember them no more.
It clearly shows that the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation don’t depend on what we do or what we offer God, but on what God does and what he sacrificed and gave us. We were forgiven not because we offered a lot of sacrifices to atone for our sins but because God sacrificed his Son to pay the price for our sins even though we don’t deserve it.
In Christ Jesus, all our sins are perfectly washed white, and God remembers them no more. And, we don’t have to remember the things that God doesn’t remember. The only thing we need to remember is Jesus’ amazing sacrifice and the eternal redemption obtained by it.
Tearing of the Curtain
Jesus’ sacrifice was the foundation of the new covenant. The biggest difference between the new covenant and the old covenant was that in the new covenant, God would put his words directly on his people’s hearts. It shows the new kind of relationship God would make with his people.
In the Old Testament, people could only have a relationship with God indirectly. Even though the tabernacle was the symbol of God’s presence, most people couldn’t enter it.
Only priests were allowed to enter and serve in the first room, which was called the Holy Place. And, the most sacred place, called the Most Holy Place, where the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat of God were, was blocked off by a curtain.
So, the tabernacle represents both God’s presence and our separation from him because of sin. However, this separation was abolished on the cross.
Hebrews 10:19-20 says,
“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” (Heb 10:19-20).
Under the first covenant, only high priests could enter the Most Holy Place, just one day a year, on the day of atonement. But under the new covenant, now all God’s people can enter the Most Holy Place and have a close direct relationship with God.
One of the amazing things that happened on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion was that the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn down.
Matthew 27:50-51 says,
“When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mt 27:50-51).
This symbolized the reconciliation of our relationship with God. We were separated from God because of our sins but Jesus completely removed the barrier by resolving the problem of sin through his sacrifice on the cross.
The author of Hebrews called the curtain Jesus’ body. Just as Jesus’ body was whipped, nailed, and speared, the curtain was completely torn from top to bottom. This shows the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world—to break the barrier of sin that separated us from God.
By doing so, Jesus opened a new and living way beyond the ripped curtain through which we can enter the Most Holy Place with him.
No one dared to go into the Most Holy Place in the past, but we have ‘confidence’ to enter it. Again, this confidence is solely dependent on Jesus’ work on the cross, not our own works.
Even though we don’t deserve to stand before God’s throne of grace, we can still have ‘confidence’ to do so, because we believe in Jesus and accept all the things he did for us especially on the cross as truth.
The blood of Jesus gives us access to our heavenly Father. That’s the reason Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6)
As our perfect and eternal high priest, Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and entered the Most Holy Place in the true tabernacle in heaven.
And, now, he invites all those who believe in him to join him. Even though we don’t deserve to enter the Most Holy Place, we can still have confidence to do so with Jesus Christ who cleanses all our sins, goes into the Most Holy Place before us, and is with us forever.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever” (Heb 6:19-20)
God really wants us to be with him. To draw us nearer to him, God decided to sacrifice his only Son to save us. Now, no matter who we are or what we’ve done, we should know that we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place behind the curtain and have access to our heavenly Father not because of our righteousness, but through Christ Jesus in us.