Leviticus 16:2

The LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

In the Old Testament, there were several layers to the tabernacle of God. Inside the tabernacle was the outer court, holy place, and the holy of holies, also known as the holiest place. The holy place was where the altar stood, and only priest could enter the holy place. Behind the veil was the holiest place. This is where the Ark of the Covenant stood. Only the High Priest could enter the area where the Ark rested once a year. Before he could enter, he had to go through many cleansing rituals and be covered with the proper garments.

As with many things in the Old Testament, there were a lot of foreshadowing symbols in every part of the Tabernacle – which would later be replaced with the Temple built by Solomon. Everything the priest had to wear had symbolism that pointed directly to Christ and His work. The New Testament refers to the law, rituals, and sacrifice as the shadow of the things Christ would bring, but not the substance.

The Ark of the Covenant was treated as if it were the presence of God because God set it up as a symbol of Christ and His work. The Bible calls the law the ministry of death and the ministry of condemnation. It did not make anyone righteous. It condemned any who were not perfect in their own righteousness – which is every person. That is why the Bible says the weakness of the law was man in his flesh. Without a man already being perfect, the law could not be fully upheld.

Let’s take a moment to look at what the Ark represented. The Law was put inside a corruptible wooden box to symbolize the weakness of corruptible man. Then that box was overlayed (or covered) with the symbol of perfect righteousness – gold. The Bible says it is covered with ‘beaten gold’, which is a picture of the perfect Christ being beaten and bruised for our sins. Then the law was covered by the mercy seat. The message is clear. When the Ark of the Covenant of the Law was fulfilled and replaced by Christ, the Law would be hidden under the mercy seat of Christ, and we would be covered with the purity of His righteousness.

Until that time, mankind could not approach God. Sinful man could not come into God’s presence, not because God can’t be touched by sin, but because sin cannot stand before God. Without the sinful man being hidden and covered, sin would be destroyed, and any who were under sin would fall. So no one could come into God’s presence without facing the wages of sin, which is death.

Then something dramatic changed everything. Look at Mark 15:37-38

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He used the Greek word, ‘tetelesai’ which literally means, ‘paid in full’. It was what Roman accountants would stamp on a bill to state the debt has been paid. Jesus was that perfect man who could stand before the law and fulfill it. He took the sin of the world, paid it in full, and then covered us with His righteousness. It is the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 61:10, which says that He will cover us with the robe of His righteousness.

At that moment, we became the holy place of God, for sin was no longer the barrier between God and man. The holiest place that was once hidden behind the veil, was exposed to all. God tore that veil from the top, to the bottom, indicating that He had removed the separation. The mercy seat was now a reality, and the place where even the lowliest sinner is welcomed, because mercy is freely given, sin is covered, and the law now is hidden beneath the mercy seat of Christ. He is now the focus – not the tables of the law.

This is why Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can come confidently before the throne of grace to find more grace and help in our time of need. The word ‘mercy’ in Hebrew (the language the Old Testament is written in) is the same word as ‘grace’ in Greek (which the New Testament is written in). The mercy seat is the throne of grace, and now you and I have every barrier removed between us and God.

Believe in His mercy and then you won’t fear coming into His presence. God has put great effort in showing His love to you through grace. Now it’s time to know and believe in the love of God! He has covered you inside and out with the gold of His perfect righteousness. Your weaknesses are no longer the focus – the strength of the cross is. The righteousness of Christ has covered all sin and condemnation, so you are pure in God’s eyes.

In the Old Testament, the command was, “Do not come near me lest you die.” Now that sin has been covered, God’s command is, “Come confidently to My throne.” This is where you receive life and the never-ending grace. God has opened the door for man to return to the fellowship with Him that was designed from the beginning. Sin entered the world through man’s sin. Now sin is covered by the righteousness that entered the world through Christ. The law that once pointed to your sins is covered by the mercy seat. In Him, the curse of sin has been reversed. You are now the righteousness of God in Christ.

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