What did it mean to the ancient Jews? Surely not that they had lost salvation for a time, then got it back in the evening? Was it representative of their sinfulness?
Clean and unclean were definite topics for the Jews worship of God. Unclean does not always
refer to sinfulness though (burying the dead, having children). For example, burying the dead is an essential religious duty, important enough to risk your life to do (Tobit 1:17-19). So then why was it deemed unclean? Because death and God, the source of life, are essentially incompatible. Pagan religions insisted that death is a natural part of life and in some cases, they even glorified human death as a part of pagan ritual. However, the Bible asserts that death is an enemy that will ultimately be overcome (1 Cor. 15:26). All contact with death, therefore, separates us to some degree from the presence of God (the wages of sin is death); which was expressed by the exclusion of those who were unclean from the Temple.
What about us today? What lesson should we draw from it?
A good application of this is to think about the Lord’s Table. Are you clean or unclean? Why are you clean or unclean? How do Christ and the Holy Spirit enter into this? Will you be clean in a different way when you partake of the Table in heavenly Temple with Christ?