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Hebrews 10:19-25 (NASB):

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let’s approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Verse 19 is probably using symbolic language. How should we interpret the expression "enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus"? I've seen it being cited by some as the biblical basis for having supernatural experiences in the presence of God, but I've never seen an explanation justifying that interpretation (or any other interpretation for that matter).

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  • You should interpret this in light of the other uses of "holy" and.or "holy place(s)" in the letter to the Hebrews, especially where it is the exact conjugation of ἁγίων (Genitive Neuter Plural): in Hebrews 8:2, 9:3, and 9:8. The isolated claim that 10:19 is "probably using symbolic language" makes me wonder what you think hermeneutics is... Mar 29 at 15:14
  • You are misparsing the text. The "by" phrase is attached to "confidence" (this is why we have confidence). Mar 29 at 22:24
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There are undoubtedly symbols in this passage. Fortunately, we are told what several of the symbols represent.

Symbols

The veil

through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Hebrews 10:20)

Jesus is the antecedent for “his” in this verse. The veil is a symbol for Christ; specifically, that it was His body that was sacrificed on our behalf.

Blood of sacrificial animals

The blood of animals sacrificed in the temple was a symbol for the blood of Christ to be shed as an atoning sacrifice for redemption (see passage in section “the holy place”).

The holy place

This refers to the presence of God.

For 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)

This was understood by ancient Israel—the second veil led into the holiest location of all, the “Holy of Holies”, which was understood to be (or to represent) the presence of God.

From Hebrews 9:

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; (verse 3)

...

But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: (verse 7)

...

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; (verse 11)

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (verse 12)

Why “enter boldly”?

Entering the presence of God should be terrifying if one is unprepared. Without a mediator (and without having accepted the mediator’s terms) the prospects don’t look good:

From Hebrews 10:

29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I understand the message of the passage in the OP to be, then, that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it is possible to be prepared to enter the presence of God with confidence.

When?

The passage in Hebrews doesn’t explicitly reference when.

From Revelation 20:12 we learn that we will stand before God to be judged after the resurrection (see references to the resurrection in vs. 4-5):

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Will people enter the presence of God at other times? The passage in Hebrews does not preclude this, but it does not appear to directly answer that question either.

Conclusion

Under Levitical ritual, only the high priest could enter the holy place, and the blood of animals was required for entrance.

Hebrews teaches that we can become prepared to enter the holy place—the presence of God—and need not do so in terror—because of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, which offers not only forgiveness and redemption, but sanctification as well.

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Under the Mosaic Law, in the tabernacle (and later the temple) there was a section named the Holy of Holies. It was the section furthest from the entrance. The ark of the Covenant resided here, in the tabernacle and in the first temple (the one build by Solomon).

Entry into the place was forbidden to everybody but a single priest entering to make an offering on one specific day of the year. He had to bring an offering on that day with him.

What the Hebrew writer is saying here is that as Christians we have the blood of Christ on us (on account of having been baptized into Him), and therefore have the best possible offering with us, and are able to enter into the holiest of all places; not a physical holy place (in the tabernacle or temple), but in the spiritual holiest place (fellowship with God), and not just once a year, but at all times. It makes the point that the law of Christ is superior to the law of Moses.

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  • "not a physical holy place (in the tabernacle or temple), but in the spiritual holiest place (fellowship with God)" - would you mind expanding a bit on what you mean by "fellowship with God"? Otherwise, this is a good answer. Mar 29 at 16:14
  • I'm afraid I'll have to beg out of giving an answer, because the question is worth an entire book in its own right, and I haven't given it much study. It stands for a closer relationship with God, and a taking away of the enmity caused by our sin, but there are certainly details that we won't understand this side of eternity.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 31 at 1:24
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In addition to EvilSnack's good answer. I'll add some context here.

The author addressed the OT times of routines and regulations in Hebrews 10:11

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

After Jesus' perfect sacrifice, things were different.

12 But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

It was done. It was finished.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body

What does “enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” mean in Hebrews 10:19?

It means that now we have open access to God's Most Holy Place at any time. Our sins are atoned for by the blood of Christ at any time, not just once a year as formerly.

22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

No more persistent guilty conscience if one has faith.

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  • Thanks Tony for the answer. You said "It means that now we have open access to God's Most Holy Place at any time" - would you mind explaining the concept of God's Most Holy Place as you understand it? Otherwise, good answer as well. Mar 29 at 16:16
  • God's Most Holy Place symbolizes the place/throne of atonment. Only allowed access once a year.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 29 at 16:23
  • Yeah, but that was in the OT. But the meaning changes in the NT, right? Mar 29 at 16:32
  • The Most Holy Place existed before and even after Jesus' cross.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 29 at 16:42
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The Israelites used sacrificial blood as an apotropaic or spiritual detergent.

Michael Alan Stein, The Religion of the Israelites in Egypt (pdf) Jewish Bible Quarterly, XXXIX:3

This framing makes a lot of the Biblical discussion of blood and its power(s) clear: water cleanses the body from dirt, while blood cleanses holy things from spiritual contamination. This is why the temple was constantly sprinkled/splashed in blood, and blood applied to the horns of the altar, and why blood was used to ward off the destroyer at Passover.

This function is made clear in Leviticus 16 (NIV):

He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

That is, the blood does not perform its function by being let out of the animal, or as some symbolic restitution for humans; instead, it performs its function of being a barrier to unclean spiritual things by being applied to and for the thing that needs to be protected from such evil: the Most Holy Place, for certain, but also the tent of meeting on Yom Kippur.

It is therefore highly probable that when the author of Hebrews says:

having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water

...that the sprinkling of hearts is a sprinkling of (Jesus') blood.

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