Entering The Presence Of GodMy friend, West, left a question on another post. He was asking about comments I’ve made to the effect that it isn’t a worship leader’s responsibility to lead people into God’s presence. Only Jesus can do that. West wrote:
Heb. 9 through Heb. 10:1-22 call us to enter the Most Holy Place confidently. John Frame says “The Most Holy Place was opened to us at the death of Christ, when the veil of the temple was torn in two” (In Spirit and Truth, 27). If God is enthroned on and abides in the praises of his people, and if he is wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, then it seems that there is an actual, spiritual experience of “entering into” the holy of holies when we gather and praise him. That being said, it seems that we as leaders in corporate worship have a kind of priestly duty to bring God’s people into his presence, his Most Holy Place, like the Israelite musicians of old. I don’t know. Am I just way off on this?
I don’t think anyone is “way off” to ask a question like this. Part of the reason there’s so much confusion about worship and the presence of God is that we so often experience a new awareness of God’s presence when we sing his praises. We often feel like we have “entered God’s presence.” What’s going on?
First, in the Old Testament, the high priest entered the holy of holies once a year on behalf of Israel (Heb. 9:6-7). Jesus has now “entered once for all into the holy places.” We shouldn’t think of ourselves as “entering” them again because Jesus has entered them for us. Hebrews exhorts us to draw near to God with full assurance because we have entered the holy of holies through our union with Christ. In Christ, we are always in the heavenly places and are exhorted to “draw near.” Of course, we can do that at any time, although there is a particular significance when we gather as the church to express our faith in the Gospel.