This weekend Jewish people around the world celebrated Yom Kippur, the day of atonement a beautiful holiday focused on repentance, forgiveness and renewal of sacred covenants. I have written some thoughts about Yom Kippur in the past. It is a beautiful chance for a believer in Jesus Christ to reflect on his atoning sacrifice and the great and tender mercy of God.
This year in particular, I focused on another symbolic aspect of the holiday. I spent the weekend in New York for an interview with a law firm, and so on Saturday I decided to go to the Manhattan Temple. I got there a bit late, and so there were no more endowment sessions, but I was able to do some initiatories, As I was washed and anointed, I reflected on how incredible it is that in our day people from all over the world are able to not only visit the temple, but to actually enter and partake of the sacred ordinances. In Israel, only sons of Aaron of the tribe of Levi were able to participate in temple worship. Indeed, the holiest parts of the temple were open only on the Day of Atonement and only to the high priest himself.
Christ changed that through his redemptive sacrifice. Paul in the New Testament and in the Book of Hebrews in particular elaborates on several ways that Christ’s atonement changed the way we worship in the temple.
1) Who qualifies to enter into the temple
In the time of Christ, Gentiles were only allowed into the outer court of the temple. Women were allowed only into one of the outer courts, even the men of Israel were not allowed further than the temple courtyard. However, Christ’s sacrifice changed that especially for the ‘gentiles’
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
The fact that everyone upon joining the Church is adopted into Israel and able to enter the Holy Temple is in fact a fulfillment of one of the final prophecies of the great prophet Isaiah.
For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto theLord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:18-21)
I feel the spirit every time I read that last verse. The Lord promised that in the Latter Days all those who were faithful would be able to bring offerings into the house of the lord and to be consecrates as priests and Levites. Especially since the lifting of the priesthood ban, this prophecy has seen dynamic and dramatic fulfillment before our eyes.
2) Where are we able to enter in the temple?
One of the most amazing things about the temple is that every single endowment session involves entering through the veil and into the celestial kingdom. Each time we go to the temple, we are able to do what the high priest of Israel was only able to do annually.
The Scriptures make the connection of the veil to Christ highly explicit:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:19-20)
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
Unlike the high priest that entered yearly alone, Christ entered once and for all as a forerunner. As such, he prepared the way for each of us to beyond the veil both literally and spiritually
This knowledge helps me really appreciate how special it is to be able to go to the temple, pass through the veil and sit in the Celestial room. It helps me to appreciate how Christ Centered the temple truly is. Without the savior, none of what we do in the temple is possible.
Likewise, the atonement helps me come to the temple and show faith knowing that Christ has died for me and provides for me a way back to the Father.
As Paul Implored:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4)
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22).