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Employers issue pink slips to employees whose services they no longer need. I have been laid off several times in my life. Only once did I actually receive a pink slip, which contained a thirty-day notice of termination of my employment. Oddly enough, it was in 1970 from my first job after leaving the Navy. I worked for a major airline based in Miami, FL, which hired me as an aviation electrician during a strike. When the union settled its dispute with the airline, all the strikers came back to work. Their return created over-staffing. Since I was at the bottom of the seniority totem pole, the airline issued to me and several others our pink slips.
The longer one works in the employ of another, the harder it is to accept a pink slip. The man who works for a company ten years and extends himself financially due to 'reliable' income is far more traumatized by a pink slip than the man employed for ten weeks. Can you imagine the shock of a family member who's worked in a family-owned and operated business for ten years getting a pink slip? What if that family had been in business for fifteen-hundred years and the head of the family decided to shut down the business and issue pink slips to every family employee?
That's exactly what happened when Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. In all three Synoptic Gospels, we're told “the veil of the temple was rent” in two pieces from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Every priest in the temple at that hour must have marveled, and thought: “What am I supposed to do now?”
In Hebrews 9:6-8, the scripture provides a glimpse into the job description of the Levitical priesthood:
For fifteen-hundred years the descendants of Levi performed tabernacle service. They performed the service in various degrees of compliance through the centuries. At times, the priests performing the service were corrupt individuals who were immoral and took bribes. At other times, the priesthood was performed with the proper reverence. While Solomon was dedicating the Temple, wherein the priests were fully engaged, the “fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD'S house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). That glorious day in the history of Israel was like NO other day before it or after it...UNTIL Jesus died at Calvary!
The priests in Solomon's day were confronted with a glory that, while it kept the priests out of the Temple for a season, nevertheless left intact the veil separating the first tabernacle from the second. But the blood Jesus shed for sinners ripped that veil wide open from top to bottom, the Holy Ghost thus signifying the way into the holiest had been established. That was the day God handed out pink slips to the family of Levi.
After three days, Jesus arose from the dead, appeared to selected groups of disciples for forty days, ascended to the Father's right hand to become our High Priest after the order of Melchisedec and sent the Holy Ghost into the hearts of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. The empowered Church was an evangelistic dynamo, a growing entity! Within a matter of weeks, this is what was happening in Jerusalem according to Luke: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Those priests who might have wondered, “What am I supposed to do now?” found the answer to that question: BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ! Can you imagine the pure bliss of believing priests, who heretofore could NOT enter the second tabernacle, now enjoying through the blood of Jesus free and unlimited access to the holiest in the heavenly tabernacle, which God pitched, and not man?!
How many priests make up a “great company”? The Greek is ὄχλος (ochlos), “a multitude, crowd, throng.” The NT often uses the word to describe the massive crowds that followed Jesus around Judaea and Galilee. The word ὄχλος speaks of common men, not societal elites. While we will never know the exact number of which that great company of priests consisted, we do know these former priests found new significance in the blood of Christ—a precious blood they now shared in common with the whole world!
Those priests ministering in the temple precinct at the moment Jesus died witnessed first hand God opening the way into the holiest as he rent the veil asunder. Again, Hebrews provides this truth:
Several observations are in order. First, having is a present participle. The brethren are in continual possession of boldness to go every moment of every day where only the OT high priest could go once a year. Secondly, the word boldness is παρρησία (parrēsia), “freedom in speaking, openness, fearless confidence.” Jesus used the same word when he said he “spoke openly to the world” (John 18:20). We are exhorted to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). In at least five NT instances, παρρησία is translated confidence. Consider that truth in contrast to the trepidation the OT high priest experienced on that ONE day (Atonement) wherein he was required to enter the holiest. Under certain prescribed violative circumstances, God could strike the high priest dead. The blood of Jesus vanquished that fear once-for-all!
Thirdly, the way into the holiest is a new way and a living way. The word new is πρόσφατος (prosphatos), that which is “lately slaughtered, recently slain.” It's been two-thousand years since Jesus offered himself for sinners as the Lamb slain. But the efficaciousness of his blood is as fresh and recent with God as though it was shed this morning. Access into the holiest by the blood of Jesus will NEVER wear itself out! The word living is a present participle, depicting the KIND of way Jesus made for us. When Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), he no doubt had in mind the WAY into the holiest his blood would provide and the privilege of believers to experience HIS LIFE on an ongoing basis by means of the indwelling Spirit.
Human experience has taught us we should avoid pink slips at all costs. Pink slips are the pathway to joblessness...and sometimes hopelessness. In the spiritual realm, God is in the business of handing out pink slips of his own. It was not a good day for Ananias and Sapphira when God issued to them pink slips for lying to the Holy Ghost. But the day God issued pink slips to the Levitical priesthood by ripping the veil asunder and providing a new and living way into the holiest by the blood of Jesus was the best thing that could have happened...for them and for us!