Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Verse 13) What does he mean by this saying? How do you shut the kingdom of heaven? To understand this we need to look at a few other scriptures.
The analogy of a door is used in many places throughout the bible. Jesus said of himself, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9) It is through Jesus that we gain entry into the kingdom of heaven. After Jesus had died we see that he took his place seated at the right hand of the Father. (Colossians 3:1) Jesus has direct access to the Father in the kingdom of heaven for he acts as a high priest on our behalf. (Hebrews 8:1-3) Prior to Jesus only the high priests and they only once each year had access to the Father when they entered the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people.
The role of the priests was to administer the law and the Old Covenant. They were to teach the people the law and to ensure the proper running of the nation of Israel in mater of worship. However they did not do this as they were supposed to do. They used their role as priests for the purpose of gaining power, position and authority over the people. They became rather than a source of knowledge, help and learning for the people, an overbearing bureaucracy that were pompous, proud and arrogant. They bound the people up in regulations and ordinances, many of which were not in the Law of Moses and sometimes contrary to the law, thus gaining Jesus’ condemnation of their actions as hypocrisy. They set themselves up as being the only access to God and one of the greatest punishments they served up to people who did not follow their ways was to cast them out of the synagogues.
We saw an interesting occurrence when Jesus was put to death. “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51) This indicates that the access to the Father is now open to all mankind, not just the priesthood. This access is attainable through Jesus Christ. It is through him that we now have access to the Father and there is no other intermediary between man and God but Jesus Christ.
However the priests of the Old Covenant temple did not realise that the age of the Old Covenant had ended and the New Covenant had begun with the death of Jesus. They were not prepared to give up their power and control. So they sewed up the torn curtain and continued on their way. It is an excellent allegory of how they shut the kingdom of heaven against men. They did not enter because they rejected the messiah. They also could not enter under the Old Covenant for they did not follow the law but were hypocrites. Thus any person who chose to follow in their ways was twice a child of hell as they were. By this method they closed the kingdom of heaven against men for the closed the door of knowledge.
We are fortunate today that we can enter the kingdom of heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Through him we can come to that open door to God’s Kingdom. When we allow man to stand between ourself and Jesus Christ, then we allow them to close the door just as the priests and Pharisees closed the door to the kingdom in Jesus’ day. No man stands between you and God. No man can intervene between you and God. Every person has individual and unique access to God through Jesus Christ and this was achieved when Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification.