(19) Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
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Justification, by grace through faith in Christ's blood, secures for us access into the very presence of God and more of God's grace. The emphasis here is upon the word "access." The Israelites' relationship with the Tabernacle and the Temple pictured this: They were denied access to the Holy of Holies. In fact, the law also forbade them entry into the Holy Place, the first room inside the Tabernacle and the Temple. Only the priests could go into the Holy Place, and they could enter it only in performing their duties. Whenever David organized them into courses, the ordinary priests could only enter it a few times during the year.
So what about ordinary Israelites? They never got in there—not at all. So, no sacrifice (no single sacrifice or multitude of sacrifices)—no quantity of good works of the law or of any kind—gained them entrance into where God lived, into His presence. God completely shut them off from any direct access to Him. Only the high priest—once a year, on the Day of Atonement—was allowed in, but only after he offered a sacrifice for sin, underwent ritual purification through washing, and donned special clothing.
God is illustrating for us that we are not righteous enough to be in His presence. (Nowhere does the Bible say that justification does away with the law. It is not a property of justification to do so.) Justification brings us into alignment with a standard. With God, justification is a gift; on our part, it is unearned. We cannot earn it because our works are flawed and thus unacceptable. We are unacceptable. Justification—by God's grace, through faith in Christ's blood—brings us into alignment with God's standard and therefore into the status of "righteous" in His eyes. Then we have access to God.
In principle, this does not differ from breaking a law of man (committing a crime) and going to jail. Once the penalty has been paid, and we are squared away with the law we have broken, we are released from prison. Once again, we have free access to the public. But the major difference between that scenario and what God does is that we cannot pay the penalty and still have His purpose continue in our lives because we would be dead.
— John W. Ritenbaugh
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