The High Priest entered the Most Holy Place every day, not only once a year.
Peter, the apostle, warns us about the possibility of confusing what Paul says in his epistles. He informs us that Paul speaks of things which are hard to understand.
"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even
as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto
him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in
them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood,
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the
other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
( II Pet 3: 15-16 )
We have a good example of this in Heb 9: 1-7. From this passage of Saint
Paul, several good theologians and seminary teachers have drawn the wrong
idea that nobody entered in the Most Holy, except the High Priest, who
entered only once a year. This error is taught by good and honest
theologians and seminary teachers, to those who will be pastors, who think that
their teachers cannot be wrong. This is the way in which errors spread
within Christianity; and this is why there are hundreds of denominations.
This is also a good example to teach us the mistake of reading only some passages or some books or sections of the Bible, and not the whole thing, from cover to cover, during our lifetime. It is a big mistake in itself not having time to read the Bible, but using that time in reading books "that expound the Bible". It is a mistake because the error of the author of the book passes to the reader who does not have the whole Bible in his mind. In the case of the High Priest and the Most Holy Place the problem has its origin in reading only the New Testament and not the Old Testament. Let us see what Paul said.
"1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine
service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle
made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and
the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the
second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant
overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that
had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the
covenant; 5 and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the
mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now
when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always
into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
7 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." ( Heb 9: 1-7 )
As we can read in verse 3, the section that was after the second veil was
called the Holiest of All, or the Holy of Holies. According to
verse 4 in this Holy of Holies there existed two things: the Altar
to Burn Incense Upon, and the Ark of the Covenant.
Therefore, anyone who wanted to burn incense in the altar of incense, had to
enter the Holy of Holies.
It is true that the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place to make an atonement for the people, putting blood upon the horns of the altar of incense, once a year. In this occasion he also sent a scapegoat to the wilderness. But he entered to burn sweet incense in that altar twice a day, everyday.
Paul is not saying that the Most Holy Place could only be entered once a year. What he is saying is that the High Priest entered, only once a year, for atoning the people with blood upon the horns of the altar of incense. Let us see how they entered in the Most Holy every day.
"1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon, of shittim
wood shalt thou make it. 2 A cubit shall be the length thereof,
and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be, and two
cubits shall be the height thereof; the horns thereof shall be of the
3 And thou shalt overlay it with
pure gold, the top thereof,
and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou
shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 4 And two golden
rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners
thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall
places for the staves to bear it withal. 5 And
thou shalt make
the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And thou
it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before
the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.
7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning, when
he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 8 And when
Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a
perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor
meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in
a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the
year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations,
it is most holy unto the LORD." ( Ex 30: 1-10 )
From this passage it is perfectly understandable that in the very same altar
in whose horns they put blood on once a year, they also burned
incense every morning and every evening. Let us analyze this
As we read verse 1 we see that it is talking about the altar to burn incense. We must keep this in mind so that we may not get confused later. Verse 2 says that this altar had horns, and also gives its measurements. Verse 3 speaks about making a crown of gold all around it, etc. Verses 4 and 5 explain why this altar had rings and staves, etc.
Verse 6 says where to place the altar to burn incense: before the vail, before the mercy seat that was over the testimony: it means by the ark. Verses 7 and 8 describe what was going to be its most frequent use:
"7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning,
when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn
incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout
your generations." ( Ex 30: 7-8 )
When studying this passage we learn that the High Priest used to enter daily
where the altar was in order to burn incense upon it. He burned incense upon
it everyday in the morning and in the evening.
In verse 9 it is declared which things were forbidden to be done upon the altar. Then in verse 10, it tells that, as an exception to these prohibitions of verse 9, Aaron was going to enter to put blood upon its horns, once a year. Let us read verse ten again.
"10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once
in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in
the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations,
it is most holy unto the LORD."
Ex 30: 10 )
As we see, in this passage it describes how to build the altar for burning
incense, what was going to be the usage of it, and when the High Priest must
put blood unto its horns. In this very same passage it says that incense
was going to be burnt in it twice a day and blood was going to be put in its
horns once a year. Therefore, it is clear that they entered into the Most
Holy every day.
Not only does this passage tell us about entering daily into the Most Holy, there are a couple more passages that tell us something similar:
"If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the
people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned,……
And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the
altar of sweet incense before
( Lev 4: 3-7 abbreviated )
"And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance……
And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which
is before the LORD…" ( Lev 4: 13-18 abbreviated )
As we can see there are at least three passages that tell us that they entered
the Most Holy much more frequently than once a year. Nevertheless, it is
true that with the blood of the atonement for the whole nation, as Paul
specified, once a year could the High Priest enter the Most
Holy. This ceremony symbolized Christ's sacrifice. That is why it
had to be done only once a year, symbolizing that Jesus was going to be
sacrificed only once.
If now we go to the New Testament we see that Zachary ( Luke 1: 8-9 ), who was not the High Priest, was the one who burned the incense that day. This means that not only the High Priest, but any priest could enter the Most Holy Place if he was elected to do so by the casting of lots. What only the High Priest could perform was to bring blood to be put in the altar of incense as an atonement for the whole people of Israel.
Not very long ago I heard a Sunday School teacher that was teaching an error. He learned this error from a pastor, who in turn learned it from a seminary teacher, who learned it from another teacher, who read it in a book, whose author learned it from a teacher, who….etc. Sadly, none of them learned it from the Bible, which should be the only source of religious knowledge for them.
What this teacher taught to his brethren was that the Bible says that only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy, and even so, he had to enter with a rope tied to his leg in case that if he were to die, they could remove his body, because no one else could go into the Most Holy. This is false. The Bible says nothing like that.
Besides, by reading the Bible we see that during the exodus, the tabernacle with the Most Holy included, had to be disassembled each time that people moved. Therefore, young men had to come to disassemble it and carry it on their shoulders. It is not logical to think that Aaron, who at that time was over 83 years old, was going to do the whole job alone.
This next argument is not a biblical one, but it makes sense. Another reason for not believing that the Most Holy could be entered only once a year, is that a place where nobody enters for a year, will become full of mildew and other fungus like plants; and besides, all kinds of bugs, snakes, rats, etc., will come to live in there. Especially when the tabernacle was in the wilderness.
As you see, it is good to read the whole Bible from cover to cover continuously. We must never expend our time reading "books that talk about the Bible" if we have not red yet the Bible that day. It is good to read these books, but only if you have time to first read the Bible, because this way it will be more difficult to get confused by the error of a brother. Most probably our brother's purpose was not to make us err, but he makes us err anyway. Therefore, it is our responsibility to avoid any error, no matter if it was done purposely or not.