The Time of Preparation
Old Testament religion was inadequate, but that is only because its entire purpose was to prepare God’s people for the good things to come. The fullness of time (that is, Christ’s coming) was not when Abraham was born in 2000 B.C., nor the time of Moses in 1400 B.C., nor David in 1000 B.C., nor when the first temple was destroyed in 586 B.C, nor during the empire of the Persians or Greeks. The fullness of time came during the reign of Caesar Augustus and not long before Herod’s death (Matthew 2:1-6; Luke 2:1). Before this time, the people of God were prepared through the law and the prophets while the rest of the world was prepared through general revelation (Acts 17:26-28; Romans 1:18-20), the wiser Greeks and Romans groping in darkness but inching their way closer to knowledge (though not saving) of the true God.
But speaking of God’s covenant people (the Jews), the Preacher now goes into detail about the temple worship—showing both how it served as a type but also how it is now rendered irrelevant by the “time of reformation.” He reminds us of the details of the temple worship—how there were two places, the first being the “Holy Place” which the priests entered everyday to perform their duties, the second being the “Most Holy Place” which only the high priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement with blood for the sins of the people. The Preacher is providing only a few details of what the actual service would have required on a daily and annual basis.
Now the Preacher makes a somewhat cryptic statement when he says, “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).” It stands to reason that if the first section (the Holy Place) represents the “present age,” then the second section (the Most Holy Place) represents the “time of reformation,” which time the Preacher discusses at length in the subsequent passage. The “present age” is the time before Christ and the temple worship; the “time of reformation” is that time inaugurated through our Lord’s ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. We now enter the Most Holy Place not through the temple with the blood of goats and calves; now, the Most Holy Place is the throne room of heaven and we enter through the precious blood of Christ. The blood of goats could never “perfect the conscience of the worshiper.” But the blood of Christ can, for his is the perfect sacrifice not of a dumb animal but of the Son of God whose love and compassion for us are plainly displayed on his cross.