What's the most important thing to understand about heaven? It isn't that the streets of heaven are made of transparent pure gold with a wall that has twelve gates of pearl (Rev 21:21). The primary focus isn't what it's like or what happens there, but who is there.
Of course, the primary focus is God. Heaven isn't some destination high above our atmosphere but a different dimension than our physical world. It's the very presence of God.
The way into the presence of God is closed if we rely on religion and good deeds. That stairway just isn't long enough or strong enough.
But the way into the very presence of God is open to those who personally trust in the Lord and His grace, His favor and goodness, by faith.
The first promise [covenant] had rules for the priests’ service. It also had a holy place on earth. A tent was set up. The first part of this tent was called the holy place. The lamp stand, the table, and the bread of the presence were in this part of the tent.
Behind the second curtain was the part of the tent called the most holy place. It contained the gold incense burner and the ark of the Lord’s promise. The ark was completely covered with gold. In the ark were the gold jar filled with manna, Aaron’s staff that had blossomed, and the tablets on which the promise was written. Above the ark were the angels of glory ⌊with their wings⌋ overshadowing the throne of mercy. (Discussing these things in detail isn’t possible now.) [vss 1-5]
That is how these two parts of the tent were set up. The priests always went into the first part of the tent to perform their duties. But only the chief priest went into the second part of the tent. Once a year he entered and brought blood that he offered for himself and for the things that the people did wrong unintentionally.
The Holy Spirit used this to show that the way into the most holy place was not open while the tent was still in use. [vss 6-8]
The first part of the tent is an example for the present time. The gifts and sacrifices that were brought there could not give the worshiper a clear conscience. These gifts and sacrifices were meant to be food, drink, and items used in various purification ceremonies. These ceremonies were required for the body until God would establish a new way of doing things. [vss 9-10]
(Hebrews 9:1-10 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]
The Holy Spirit used this to show that the way into the most holy place was not open
Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions
What are we told about the tent used during the first promise (Old Covenant)?
How is it described and who can go into which parts? How and when are they able to enter these two places?
What do you think it means "the way into the most holy place" wasn't open?
Why was access to the "most holy place" restricted? When would it be open?
Religion is restrictive by nature. It's designed to be that way. Generally, we are either attracted to this restrictive nature or repelled by it. These restrictions are like a spiritual framework or infrastructure of belief.
On one hand, religion gives us prescribed boundaries intended to provide freedom and protection within those boundaries. Yet, many people want the freedom without the restrictions as a somewhat manageable form of anarchy.
Basically, we all place much greater weight on external issues rather internal ones because we live in a physical, tangible world. It may also seem like external things are easier to manage or control than what's internal.
The first promise—the Old Covenant Law—was not perfect nor eternal but temporary. It focused on the physical and external, it was not inherently spiritual and internal or eternal.
The comparison between the old and new promises (covenants) illustrates the difference between a religion based on obedience and a relationship based on God's grace,
The New Covenant, a promise extended through God's grace, brings internal transformation and isn't focused on external issues and actions. As internal transformation takes place, external concerns and actions conform to the internal change in a person.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions
What attracts or repels you about religion or religious practices?
Do you understand how religious practices can be a hindrance to walking by faith?
When have you experienced having a clear conscience? What led up to it?
How have you experienced an external change in your life based on internal transformation?
Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews