Easter: Red Light, Green Light
Posted by Brad Quiring on April 3, 2017
Here’s a question: If God didn’t allow people to come near to him in the Old Testament times, why, all of the sudden, is the door open to approach God (Hebrews 4:16)? In other words, the switch from red light to green light seemed pretty easy.
The issues start to pop up with this. For instance, if this is the same God, Old or New Testament, did he just “change his mind” even though the Bible says God doesn’t do that? Or, did God realize he had made some kind of mistake by not letting people in, so he had Jesus killed to cover up his mess? This would make God less than God, because God is never wrong according to the Bible.
In Exodus chapter 19 we read about God presenting the Law to Israel. He appeared in a dark cloud over Mount Sinai in the desert. There was thunder, lightning and earthquakes. The people were terrified and God put strict limits around the mountain. Anyone who even touched the mountain died.
Later, according to God’s instructions, Israel built a tabernacle. In the center of the tabernacle was the Most Holy Place which contained the Ark of the Covenant. This represented the presence of God. A thick curtain hung between the inner room of the tabernacle and the Most Holy Place. Anyone who went into the Most Holy Place died unless they were the high priest entering only on the Day of Atonement after going through the entire purification ceremony. If anyone touched the Ark of the Covenant they died. If anyone offered unauthorized sacrifices at the temple, they died. Do not come! Red Light!
When Jesus came to earth things changed. Jesus was God, yet he came in a form where everyone could see him, hear him and touch him. His message was, “Come”. In fact, Jesus sternly rebuked his followers when they wouldn’t let someone come to him.
Then, when Jesus died, God tore the curtain between the inner room and the Most Holy Place in the temple. Now it was open to all. Green Light!
What happened here?
One of the things to remember is that God is always presented as Holy. This is the primary, root characteristic of God. Everything God thinks, says and does is based on his holiness. Everything that we do must reflect God’s holiness and glory. But we do not measure up in and of ourselves because we are sinners who sin.
Sin makes us fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
Sin causes us to be separated from God (Isaiah 59:2 - 4).
Therefore it is not God who has made it hard to approach him. We have put ourselves in a position where we cannot be with God nor satisfy Him. Attempting to come to Him on our own terms (approaching the mountain, trying to enter the Holy of Holies, offering sacrifices apart from the prescribed sacrifices, making images of God to worship, etc.) just results in the ending of our life.
At the right time Christ came and died for our sins (Romans 5:6). Why that time? there are many possible answers, but the only one we can really fall back on is that it was God’s perfect time.
That doesn’t mean we get to enter easily into God’s presence by ourselves. Hebrews 10 explains clearly that it is only by and through Jesus that we enter. We have no rights apart from Jesus. We have no access apart from Jesus.
That it is “easy” is not true. It was very hard for God. Our access is free but not cheap. The price was paid for us out of God’s grace because apart from God’s grace and Jesus’ person and work we have no access at all. Same God, Same Jesus, Same Holy, Same Glory, Same Requirements. It’s just through the Holy Jesus that we get access to God.
I really encourage you to read Romans and Hebrews in this Easter season. They are the deep stuff, beyond milk stuff, that we Christians need to read and wrestle with. But they will let you know with full assurance that you can enter the presence of God forever because of Jesus.