“…he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the Lord. Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain.” Leviticus 16:12, NLT
The Tabernacle had barriers that stood between a sinful people and a holy God. Inside the courtyard, a brazen altar stood where the majority of sacrifices occurred on a daily basis. Just past the altar for burnt offerings was the bronze washbasin where the priests would scrub up in preparation for making offerings. Entering the Holy Place was something only priests could do. Inside on the right, the table for the Bread of the Presence, with its twelve loaves, represented Israel’s twelve tribes. The menorah on the left offered lighting to the space, and the incense altar stood in the back before the small room called the Most Holy Place, where only the high priest would enter once a year.
Leviticus 16 describes the events that occurred annually on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would offer a bull on the altar for burnt offerings for the sins of the priests. Then he would take a fire pan of coals from the altar and enter the Holy Place with incense and the blood of a goat. As the high priest entered behind the veil into the Most Holy Place—something only he could do once per year—he would sprinkle the blood of the bull and one of the goats on and in front of the atonement cover—the top of the Ark of the Covenant. These rituals made the impossible possible. By one man cleansing the sanctuary, the holy God continued to dwell among an unholy people.
The New Testament reveals what these rituals ultimately represented. There is one Mediator between God and humanity who offers the blood of a substitute who died on behalf of everyone. When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil that separated God from humanity was removed by Jesus’ death. Because of His sacrifice, anyone may enter God’s presence by faith in Jesus (Heb. 10:19-23).