As a teen, I knew I wanted to attend college, so I tried to earn good grades. Later, like many high school seniors, I worked through test exercises to ready myself for entrance exams. I chewed through pencils (and my nails) trying to perfect admissions essays. In the end, this preparation—along with God’s blessing—allowed me to gain access to the school I was hoping to attend.

In the Old Testament, direct access to God was limited, and it normally required effort and preparation. God allowed just one person to enter His presence annually on the Day of Atonement. To prepare for this, Israel’s high priest would bathe, put on special garments, and slaughter a ram and a goat (Leviticus 16:3-5). Then, with animal blood in hand—as well as smoldering incense—the priest would step into a curtained-off area known as the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle.

The curtain (the veil) was a symbol of the sin that divided Israel from the perfect holiness of God. Because sin is an ongoing problem, the priest had to perform this ritual year after year to obtain forgiveness for the nation.

This practice continued until Jesus’ death and resurrection. At the moment when Jesus died, the curtain that guarded the Holy of Holies was supernaturally torn from top to bottom (Luke 23:44-46). “By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 10:20). In God’s eyes, the sacrifice of His Son’s life was the final sacrifice necessary to pay for sin (Hebrews 10:12).

We don’t have to approach God with a sense of guilt or dread. If we desire to fellowship with Him, we can go right into “heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 21:37–22:29