Veils have a double function. The term Hebrews uses for “veil” (katepetasma) could refer to the screen of the court (Exod. 38:18), the screen at the entrance of the outer apartment of the sanctuary (Exod. 36:37), or the inner veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exod. 26:31¬–35). These three veils were both entrances and boundaries that only some people could cross.

The veil was a protection for the priests as they ministered before a holy God. After the sin of the golden calf, God said to Moses that He would not accompany them in the way to the Promised Land lest He consume them because they were a “stiff-necked people” (Exod. 33:3). Thus, Moses moved the tent of meeting and pitched it far off, outside the camp (Exod. 33:7). After Moses interceded, however, God agreed to go with them in their midst (Exod. 33:12–20), but He established several measures to protect the people as He dwelled among them.

For instance, Israel camped in a strict order that created a hollow square in the middle of the camp where the tabernacle was pitched. In addition, the Levites camped around the tabernacle in order to protect the sanctuary and its furniture from encroachment by strangers (Num. 1:51; 3:10). They were, in fact, a kind of human veil that protected the people of Israel: “But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony” (Num. 1:53, ESV).

Jesus, as our Priest, has also been our Veil. Through His incarnation, God pitched His tent in our midst and made it possible for us to contemplate His glory (John 1:14–18). He made it possible for a holy God to live in the midst of an imperfect people.

Hebrews 10:19–22 argues that Jesus has entered into the heavenly sanctuary and invites us to follow His lead. This idea agrees with the conception introduced before that Jesus is the “captain” and “forerunner” of believers (Heb. 2:10; 6:19, 20; 12:2). The “new and living way” is the new covenant that Jesus inaugurated with His sacrifice and ascension. The expression “new and living” contrasts with the description of the old covenant as “obsolete and growing old” (Heb. 8:13). It is the new covenant, which has provided forgiveness of sin and has put the law in our hearts, that makes it possible for us to approach God with confidence, not because of ourselves or anything we have done, but only because of what Jesus has done for us by fulfilling all the covenant obligations.

Hebrews noted that the inauguration of the old covenant involved the inauguration of the sanctuary and the consecration of the priests (Heb. 9:18–21; compare with Exodus 40; Leviticus 8, 9). The purpose of the covenant was to create an intimate relationship between God and His people (Exod. 19:4–6). When Israel accepted this relationship, God immediately commanded that a sanctuary be built so that He could live among them. The inauguration of the sanctuary and God’s presence in the midst of His people was the moment when the covenant between God and Israel was completed.

The same is true of the new covenant. The new covenant also implies the inauguration of Jesus’ priestly ministry in our behalf (Heb. 5:1–10; 7:1–8:13).

Jesus’ ascension before God has inaugurated a new era for the people of God. Zechariah 3 mentions that Satan was in the presence of God to accuse God’s people, who were represented by the high priest Joshua. This accuser is the same that raised questions about Job’s loyalty to God (Job 1¬, 2). With the sacrifice of Jesus, however, Satan has been cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7–12; compare with John 12:31 and 16:11). Now it is Jesus who intercedes for us and, through His sacrifice and faithfulness, claims salvation for us!