Back in the summer of 2000 Kirsty and I spent a week in Paris. We enjoyed the warm sunny weather and spent much of the time lazing around the beautiful parks and gardens, reading books, drinking coffee, taking strolls here or there. We did also squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing. One day we decided we would visit the Musée de l'Orangerie which is an art gallery with works by Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and Rousseau. The gallery was on the other side of Paris from where we were staying. We moved through the city on the bus, on the underground and by foot and we impressed ourselves by the amount of French we were able to use and comprehend in asking for, and receiving, directions. It took quite a bit of time to reach our destination and even when we were within a matter of metres from the venue we still found that we had to ask directions – it wasn’t obvious where the museum was as there were no road signs to be seen anywhere.
How relieved we were when we finally approached the front door. How frustrated and annoyed we were when we read the sign on the front door, “Closed for refurbishments” – Aaargh! As the reality of missing out on this art gallery experience sunk in, the frustration turned to disappointment.
The word “CLOSED” can be one of the most heart-sinking words in the English language. Plans are made; hopes are raised; future events and experiences are assumed – only to find out that the all-important venue is closed. Or the deadline is closed. Or the opportunity is closed.
Since the account of the first ever moral offence in Genesis 3 God declared throughout the Old Testament that Heaven is closed to all sinners; that everyone is a sinner and that no one has the ability or know-how or credentials or even the charm to enter into His Presence. The Law of Moses, although given to reveal God’s nature and standards to those chosen to be His people, ultimately served as a reminder of how far removed a fallen humanity is from God. The ceremonial laws on cleanliness, the gory animal sacrifices, the curtain which separated people from the holy of holies in the temple – all these things and more spoke of how diametrically opposite sinful man is to a Holy God. It was as if God were saying – you can come up close to the door and speak to me through the letter box – but you can’t come in. The door is closed!
Of course, it wasn’t closed completely. There were many Old Testament saints who lived an exemplary life, according to the Law, who are undoubtedly in Heaven. Sadly though, many people don’t live that exemplary life – by God’s standards – with the glory of God as the main focus of our everyday lives. Thus the lifelong hopes and dreams and assumptions that many have of entering into heaven are going to turn to immediate and everlasting disappointment when they discover the sign on the door, “CLOSED”.
BUT THERE IS HOPE. These days there is another sign on the door. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection there is also a sign that says, “OPEN” - with the additional words in brackets, - to all who submit to Christ as Saviour and Lord in faith and repentance. Jesus has opened up for us “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10v.20) that enables us to enter into God’s Holy Presence and to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4v.16).
Easter is a wonderful time when we celebrate the new sign on the door – initiated by the grace of God, accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection, received, personally, by faith in the Risen Lord Jesus. To His Name be the glory and the praise!