RPM, Volume 13, Number 7, February 13 to February 19, 2011

The Holy of Holies

A Type of Heaven

By Charles Simeon

"Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands,
which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself,
now to appear in the presence of God for us." Hebrews 9:24

It appears, at first sight, unworthy of God to appoint with such precision every minute circumstance relating to the tabernacle and its services. Provided he were worshipped and served, it should seem a matter of no importance whether the place, wherein he was worshipped, were of such or such an exact form, or whether the ceremonies observed in his worship were exactly of such or such a kind. But God intended to prefigure every thing relating to the Messiah and his kingdom: and therefore it was necessary not only that a model of every thing should be given to Moses (Heb 8:5), but that these patterns of heavenly things, made by Moses according to that model, should undergo a purification by the blood of carnal sacrifices, that so the heavenly things themselves, which were to be purified by the great Sacrifice, might be the more evidently prefigured (v 23). These types having been given, Christ accomplished them on earth in part, and is now perfecting the accomplishment of them in heaven; whither he is gone, as the high-priests went into the holy of holies, to appear before God on behalf of his people.

It is our intention to shew,

I. In what respect heaven was typified by the holy of holies—

The whole edifice of the tabernacle or temple was a figure of Christ's human nature, in which the Godhead dwelt; and of the Church also, in which God resides (John 2:19,21; 1 Cor 3:16,17). But the most holy place, which is also called "the tabernacle" (v 3), eminently represented heaven:

1. It was the immediate residence of the Deity—The Shechinah, the bright cloud, which was the symbol of the Deity, dwelt between the cherubims upon the mercy-seat; and there God manifested himself more than in any other place on earth (Exo 25:22). Thus also, but in an infinitely brighter manner, does he display his glory in heaven. He is indeed on earth and even in hell; neither can the heaven of heavens contain him; for he pervades all space. But, though he is on our right hand, we cannot see him; nor, if we look for him on the left hand, can he be found by us (Job 23:8,9). But in heaven he is seen face to face; and all the heavenly hosts behold him shining forth in all the brightness of his glory.

2. It was inaccessible, except with the blood of sacrifices—No person whatever was to enter into the sanctuary, except the high-priest, nor could he, except on the great day of annual expiation; nor even then, except with the blood of beasts, that had been off e red in sacrifice to God (v 7, "not without blood"). Thus is there no admittance into heaven but through the blood of our great Sacrifice. Not even our great High-priest himself, when he had become the Surety and Substitute of sinners, could enter there without his own precious blood (v 12); and heaven itself needed, as it were, to be purified from the defilement it contracted through the admission of sinners into it, even as the sanctuary, with all the vessels of it, were purified from the pollutions they had contracted through the ministration of sinful man (vv 21,23 with Lev 16:16).

3. It was the repository of all the principal memorials of God's power and grace—The Apostle enumerates the various things which were deposited in the holy of holies [vv 4,5. The Apostle does not say, that the censer, or altar of incense was in the holy of holies (for it was on the outside of the vail), but that the holy of holies had it: that being of very distinguished use, when the high-priest entered within the vail.]; all of them, either memorials of God's providential care, or exhibitions of his covenant love. And are they not all in heaven, concentrated and combined in the person of Christ? Christ is the true ark, in which the law is kept, and fulfilled: and, while he makes intercession for his people, he is also the food of their souls, and the performer of all those miracles of grace that are wrought on their behalf. We cannot behold him, but we must immediately be persuaded that God is able and willing to accomplish for us all that our necessities may require.

But while we see that the true tabernacle, even heaven itself, was prefigured by the holy places made with hands, let us consider,

II. The end for which our Lord ascended thither—

Our Lord could not go into the earthly tabernacle, because he was not of that tribe to which the priesthood belonged: but into the heavenly sanctuary he went,

1. As our Forerunner—God has ordained, that all his people should one day dwell with him around his throne. All true penitents now are priests unto God, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, male or female (Rev 1:6): and Jesus is gone, as he himself tells us, to prepare a place for them (John 14:2,3). He is expressly said to be gone within the vail as our Forerunner (Heb 6:20). Let us then contemplate him in this view; and look forward to the time when we shall follow him within the vail, and "be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

2. As our Head and Representative—It was not as an individual merely that Christ ascended into heaven, but as the Head and Representative of his redeemed people. All that he did and suffered was in their place and stead. Hence they are said to be "circumcised in him," and to be "buried with him in baptism," and "crucified with him." In the same capacity also he went within the vail, to appear in the presence of God for us. Hence we are said to be "risen with him," yea, to be already "sitting with him in heavenly places" (Eph 2:6). And on this our hope greatly depends: for, because "our life is hid with Christ in God, we may be assured that, when he shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory" (Col 3:3,4).

3. As our Advocate and High-priest—It is in this view that the Apostle principally speaks of him in the text. The end for which the high-priest entered into the typical sanctuary, was, to present the blood of the sacrifice, and to cover the mercy-seat with the clouds of incense. It was precisely thus that Jesus went into the heaven of heavens for us. He is gone to present his own blood before the throne of God, and to plead the merit of that blood on behalf of sinful men. And it is on this very account that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, namely, because he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25).


1. How excellent is the Gospel salvation! The Mosaic economy was excellent in comparison of the state of heathens, because it provided a way of acceptance with God, a way, too, that was of divine appointment. But the Gospel points out to us a far greater Priest, officiating in a nobler tabernacle, presenting an infinitely richer sacrifice, and offering a more powerful intercession on our behalf. Let us then value this Gospel, and search into its contents, and seek its blessing with our whole hearts.

2. What encouragement have all to embrace and to hold fast this Gospel! Were any thing wanting to complete the work of salvation for us, we might well hesitate, before we embraced the overtures of the Gospel. But a view of Christ as our High-priest dissipates our fears, and encourages both the weakest and the vilest to come to God through him. "If any man sin," says the Apostle, "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is also the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2). Again it is said, "Seeing we have a great High-priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession" (Heb 4:14): and again, "Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and having an High-priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith" (Heb 9:19,21,22). Let us then make this improvement of the subject; so shall we, each in his appointed order, appear before God for ourselves, and dwell in his immediate presence for ever and ever.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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