The Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle where He could dwell among His people. He gave detailed instructions for building each item that would furnish the Tabernacle. The first tabernacle furnishing that God commanded to be built was the Ark, with a seat of mercy covering it. A veil was then used to separate the Tabernacle into two distinct areas: the Holy of Holies and the holy place. So, what is the Holy of Holies?
The Holy of Holies is the most holy area of the Tabernacle. It is found in the innermost sanctum of the Tabernacle and contains the Ark of the Covenant. Only the high priests could enter the Holy of Holies to give an offering on specific days. A veil separated the most holy place and the rest of the holy place in the Tabernacle (where regular priests could enter).
Why Is It Called The Holy of Holies?
It’s called the Holy of Holies because it signifies a space considered the holiest among the holy places. The biblical history of the Holy of Holies started after the Exodus. Through Moses, God commanded the Israelites to build a portable Tabernacle, which was a sanctuary where God could dwell amongst His people (Exodus 24-25). Inside the Tabernacle was a veil with three huge figures of cherubim. This veil signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Any Israelite could enter the outer court as long as he brought his sacrifice. Of all the Israelites, only priests were permitted to enter the Holy Place and only the high priests were allowed to enter the Holy of Holies on important and sacred holidays known as Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur was the one day of the year when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and offered animal sacrifices to purify the people of Israel for a year to come as an act of renewing God’s covenant with man.
Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark (also called the Ark of the Covenant or Ark of the Testimony), which was the central feature of the Tabernacle. The Ark’s purpose was to hold the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and atop the Ark was the dwelling place of God.
God’s presence would appear as a cloud in the Holy of Holies. As a result, even the high priests were not allowed to enter as they pleased (Leviticus 16:2). In fact, the veil was put to create a distinction between the most holy place and the Holy place (Exodus 26:31-33). On the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought the blood of a slain animal and sprinkled it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this special day, God granted forgiveness to the priest and His people.
Where Was The Holy of Holies Located?
David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but he did not build a permanent structure for it. Instead, the Ark was initially kept in a tent in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1-19). David’s son, Solomon, later built the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and placed the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of Holies within the Temple (1 Kings 8:1-11).
The Temple Mount al, also known as Mount Moriah, refers to the elevated platform in the Old City of Jerusalem that is home to several significant religious structures. It is the same location where Solomon’s Temple, the First Temple in Jerusalem, was built (2 Chronicles 3:1).
Solomon’s Temple was later destroyed by the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar II (2 Kings 25:8- 10; 2 Chronicles 36:17- 19). After conquering Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus the Great issued a decree allowing the Jewish captives to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple (Ezra 1:1-3, 3:8). The Second Temple was constructed on the same site (Temple Mount) as the first Temple after the Israelite’s return from the Babylonian exile.
Significance Of The Holy of Holies
In the Old Testament, the Holy of Holies was a sacred place where God could appear so that the people of Israel could see they were not separated from God. Jesus came to fulfill and end this old covenant, and rather than offer animal sacrifices as was the norm in the Old Testament, He offered Himself (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus became our High Priest, offering the final sacrifice (Hebrews 3:1).
His death led to the start of a new relationship with God and provided access to God and eternal life for all who would believe in Jesus Christ as the savior and Son of God (John 3:16). Unlike in the Old Testament, where the Spirit would come and God would confine Himself to the Holy of Holies separated from his people when Christ died and ascended into heaven, every Christian became a temple of the Holy Spirit, a living dwelling place of God (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
That’s why the moment Christ “gave up his spirit,” the veil that divided the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:50-51). By tearing the veil, God showed that people no longer needed a barrier to keep them from accessing Him (Hebrews 10:19). In addition, the tearing of the veil when Jesus died symbolized that His sacrifice, the shedding of His own blood, was a sufficient atonement for sins. It also indicated that now the way into the Holy of Holies was open for all people, both Jew and Gentile.
The Holy of Holies was the most holy place in the Tabernacle. It represented God’s presence in the nation of Israel, and the veil protected man from God’s holiness. Thanks to Jesus, we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices or ask high priests to enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the mercy seat with blood. As believers who have been sanctified and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ, we have become the inner sanctum of God, the Holy Spirit.