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The Typical Tabernacle
(Hebrews 9:1-5 )
The principal design of the apostle in this epistle was to prove and make manifest that the "old covenant" which Jehovah made with Israel at Sinai, with all the ordinances of worship and the privileges connected therewith, had been Divinely annulled. This involved a complete change in the church-state of the Hebrews, but so far from this being a thing to deplore, it was to their unspeakable advantage. A "new covenant" had been inaugurated, and the blessings connected with it so far excelled those which had belonged to the old dispensation, that nothing but blind prejudice and perverse unbelief could refuse the true light which now shone, and prefer in its stead the dark shadows of a previous night. God never asks anybody to give up any thing without proffering something far better in return; and they who despise His offer are the losers. But prejudice is strong, and never harder to overcome than in connection with religious customs. Therefore does the Spirit labor so patiently in His argument throughout these chapters.
The chief obstacle in the way of the Hebrews’ faith was their failure to perceive that every thing connected with the ceremonial law the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices was typical in its significance and value. Because it was typical, it was only preparatory and transient, for once the Antitype materialized its purpose was served. The shadows were no longer needed when the Substance was manifested. The scaffolding is dispensed with, taken away, as soon as the finished building appears. The toys of the nursery become obsolete when manhood is reached. Everything is beautiful in its proper season. Heavy garments are needed when the cold of winter is upon us, but they would be troublesome in summer’s sunshine. Once we recognize that God Himself has acted on this principle in His dispensational dealings with His people, much becomes plain which otherwise would be quite obscure.
The apostle had closed the 8th chapter by pointing out, "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." In those words the Spirit had intimated the unescapable inference which must be drawn from the oracle given through Jeremiah. He had predicted a "new covenant," which received its fulfillment in the establishing of Christianity. The ushering in of the new order of Divine worship necessarily denoted that the previous economy was "old," and if so, its end must be nigh. The force of Hebrews 8:13 is as follows: "In that He says a ‘new’": God would not have done so unless He had made the first "old." The "He hath made the first old" has an active significance and denotes an authoritative act of God upon the old economy, whereby the calling of the other "new" was the sign and evidence. God did not call the Christian dispensation "another covenant," or a "second covenant," but a "new" one, thereby declaring that the Judaic covenant was obsolete.
The connecting link between the closing verses of chapter 8 and the opening verses of Hebrews chapter 9 may perhaps be set forth thus: although the old covenant or Mosaic economy was "ready to vanish away," nevertheless, it yields, even for Christians, important and valuable teachings. It is full of most blessed typical import, the record of which has been preserved both for the glory of its Author and the edification and joy of His saints. Wonderful indeed were the pictorial fore-shadowings which the Lord gave in the days of Israel’s kindergarten. The importance of them was more than hinted at by God when, though He took but six days to make heaven and earth, He spent no less than forty days when instructing Moses concerning the making of the tabernacle. That clearly denoted that the work of redemptive grace, which was prefigured in Jehovah’s earthly dwelling place, was far more glorious than the work of creation. Thereby are we taught to look away from the things which are seen, and fix our minds and affections upon that sphere where the Son of God reigns in light and love.
"The general design of this chapter is the same as the two preceding, to show that Christ as High Priest is superior to the Jewish high priest. This the apostle had already shown to be true in regard to His rank, and to the dispensation of which He was the Mediator. He proceeds now to show that this was also true in reference to the efficacy of the sacrifice which He made: and in order to do this, he gives an account of the ancient Jewish sacrifices, and compares them with that made by the Redeemer. The essential point is, that the former dispensation was mere shadow, type, or figure, and that the latter was real and efficacious." (A. Barnes).
"Then verily the first had also ordinances of the Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary" (verse 1). Having in the former chapter given further proof of the excellency of Christ’s sacerdotal office, by describing the superior covenant that was ratified thereby, the apostle now prepares the way to set forth the execution of that office, following the same method of procedure in so doing. Just as he had drawn a comparison between Aaron and Christ, so he now sets the ministrations of the one over against the Other, and this in order to prove that that of Christ’s was most certainly to be preferred. He first approaches the execution of the Levitical priests’ office by mentioning several rites and types which appertained thereto.
"Then verily the first had also ordinances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary." The apostle here begins the comparison which he draws between the old covenant and the new with respect to the services and sacrifices whereby the one and the other was established and confirmed. In so doing he is still dealing with what was to all pious Israelites a most tender consideration. It was in the services and sacrifices which belonged to the priestly office in the tabernacle that they had been taught to place all their confidence for reconciliation with God. If the apostle’s previous contention respecting the abolition of the legal priesthood was granted, then it necessarily followed that the sanctuary in which they served and all the offerings which Moses had so solemnly appointed, became useless too. It calls for our closest attention and deepest admiration to observe how the Spirit led the apostle to approach an issue so startling and momentous.
First, he is so far from denying that the ritual of Judaism was of human invention, that he declares, "verily (of truth) the first covenant had also ordinances of Divine service." Thus he follows the same method employed in the preceding chapters. In drawing his comparisons between Israel’s prophets and Christ, the angels and Christ, Moses and Christ, Joshua and Christ, Aaron and Christ, he had said nothing whatever in disparagement of the inferior. So far from reviling the first member in each comparison, he had dwelt upon that which was in its favor: the more they could be legitimately magnified, the greater the glory accruing to Christ when it was proved how far He excelled them. So here: the apostle granted the principal point which an objector would make why should the first covenant be annulled if God Himself had made it? Before giving answer to this (seemingly) most difficult question, he allows and affirms that the service of Judaism was of Divine institution. Thus, in the earliest ages of human history God had graciously appointed means for His people to use.
The expression "ordinances of divine service" calls for a word or two by way of explanation. The word which is here rendered "ordinances’’ (margin "ceremonies") signifies rites, statutes, institutions. They were the appointments of God, which He alone had the right to prescribe, and which His people were under solemn bonds of observing, and that without any alteration or deviation. These "ordinances" were of "divine service" which is a single word in the original. In its verbal form it is found in Hebrews 8:5 , "to serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." In the New Testament it is always found in connection with religious or divine service: in Acts 24:14 , Philippians 3:3 it is translated "worship." It signifies to serve in godly fear or trembling, thus implying an holy awe and reverence for the One served cf. Hebrews 12:28 . Thus, the complete clause means that under the Mosaic economy God gave His people authoritative enactments to direct their worship of Him. This law of worship was a hedge which Jehovah placed around Israel to keep them from the abominations of the heathen. It was concerning this very thing that God had so many controversies with His people under the old covenant.
Care needs to be duly paid to the tense which the apostle here used: he said not "verily the first covenant has also ordinances, of divine service," but "had". He is obviously referring to the past. The Mosaic economy had those ordinances from the time God covenanted with Israel at Sinai. But that covenant was no longer in force; it had been Divinely annulled. The "verily the first covenant had also ordinances of Divine worship," clearly intimates that the new covenant too has Divine "ordinances." We press this because there are some who now affirm that even Christian baptism and the Lord’s supper are "Jewish" ceremonies, which belong not to this present dispensation. But this error is sufficiently refuted by this word "also" found in the very epistle which was written to prove that Judaism has given place to Christianity!
"And a worldly sanctuary." The reference is (as the next verse plainly shows) to the Tabernacle, which Moses made in all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount. Many have been sorely puzzled as to why the Holy Spirit should designate the holy sanctuary of Jehovah a "worldly" one. Yet this adjective should not present any difficulty. It is not used invidiously, still less as denoting anything which is evil. "Worldly" is not here opposed to "spiritual,’’ but as that which belongs to the earth rather than to the heavens. Thus the force of "worldly" here emphasizes the fact that the Mosaic economy was but a transient one, and not eternal. The tabernacle was made here in this world, out of perishing materials found in the world, and was but a portable tent, which might at pleasure be taken down and set up again; while the efficacy of its services extended only unto worldly things, and procured not that which was vital and eternal. Note how in Hebrews 9:24 the "holy places made with hands" are set in antithesis from "heaven itself."
We cannot but admire the wisdom given to the apostle in handling a matter so delicate and difficult. While his object was to show the immeasurable superiority of that which has been brought in by Christ over that which Judaism had enjoyed, at the same time he would own that which was of God in it. Thus, on the one hand, he acknowledges the service of the Levitical priests as "divine," yet, to pave the way for his further proof that Christ is a Minister of the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1 , Hebrews 8:2 ), he points out that the tabernacle of Judaism was but a "worldly" one. "The antithesis to worldly is heavenly, uncreated, eternal. Thus in the epistle to the Galatians, the apostle, speaking of the legal parenthetical dispensation, says we were then in bondage under the ‘elements of the world’ (Hebrews 4:3 ); and in the epistle to the Colossians he contrasts with the ‘rudiments of the world’ (Heb. 2:20) the heavenly position of the believer who has died with Christ, and ‘is no longer living in the world,’ but seeking the things above" (Adolph Saphir).
"For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, And the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary" (verse 2). "The subject spoken of is the tabernacle: that which is in general affirmed of it is that it was ‘made.’ There is a distribution of it into two parts in this and the following verse. These parts are described and distinguished by, first, their names; second, their situation with respect unto one another; third, their contents or sacred utensils. The one is described in this verse, by its situation: it was the ‘first,’ that which was first entered into; then by its utensils, which were three; then by its name; it was called the sanctuary" (John Owen).
"For there was a tabernacle made." A full description of it is to be found in the book of Exodus. The "tent" proper was thirty cubits, or forty-five feet in length, ten cubits, or fifteen feet in breadth, and the same in height. In shape it formed an oblong square. It was divided by a veil into two parts of unequal size. This continued to form God’s house of worship until the days of Solomon, when it was replaced by the more permanent and magnificent temple. It is pertinent to ask at this point, Why should the Holy Spirit here refer to the "tabernacle" rather than to the temple, which was still standing at the time the apostle was writing? The word "tabernacle" is found ten times in this epistle, but the "temple" is not mentioned once. This is the more remarkable because Paul, more than any of the apostles, emphasized the resurrection of Christ, and the temple particularly foreshadowed Him in His resurrection and eternal glory; whereas the tabernacle principally prefigured Christ in His humiliation and lowliness. Yet the difficulty is easily solved: the temple was not erected till after Israel were thoroughly settled in their inheritance, and the Holy Spirit is here addressing a people who were yet in the wilderness!
The Holy Spirit now makes a bare allusion to the holy vessels which occupied the two compartments of the tabernacle. But what rule has been given us to guide in and fix with certainty the interpretation of the mystical signification of these things? Certainly God has not left His people to the worthless devisings of their own imaginations. No, in this very epistle, He has graciously informed us that the tabernacle, and all contained in it, were typical of Christ, yet not as He may be considered absolutely, but as the Church is in mystical union with Him, for throughout Hebrews He is viewed in the discharge of His mediatory office. Thus the tabernacle, its holy vessels and services, supplied a representation of the person, work, offices and glories of Christ as the Head of His people. That it did so is clear from Hebrews 8:2 see our comments thereon. The "true tabernacle" there mentioned (our Lord’s humanity) is not opposed to what is false and erroneous (the shrines of the heathen), but to the tabernacle of Moses, which was but figurative and transitory. In the Lord Jesus we have the substance of what Israel had only the shadow.
"For there was a tabernacle made: the first (compartment) wherein was the candlestick." It is to be noted that no mention is here made of the outer court. In this omission, as in so many others, the anointed eye may clearly discern the absolute control of the Spirit over the sacred writers, moving and guiding them in every detail. In our articles upon Exodus (1926, etc.) we have attempted a much fuller exposition than can here be given. Suffice it now to say that everything connected with the outer court was fulfilled by Christ in the days of His flesh. The very fact that it was the "outer" court, accessible to all the people and unroofed, at once denotes to us Christ here in the world, openly manifested before men. Its brazen altar spoke of the cross, where God publicly dealt with the sins of His people. Its fine linen hangings spoke of Christ meeting the claims of God’s righteousness and holiness. Its sixty pillars tell of the strength and power of Christ, "mighty to save." Its laver foreshadowed Christ cleansing His Church with the washing of water by the Word (John 13:0 ).
Now as the outer court viewed Christ on earth, so the holy places pointed to Him in heaven. The holy place was a chamber which was entered by none save the priestly family, where those favored servants of Jehovah ministered before Him. It was therefore the place of communion. In perfect keeping with this, each of the three vessels that stood therein spoke of fellowship. The lampstand foreshadowed Christ as the power for fellowship, as supplying the light necessary to it. The table with its twelve loaves, prefigured Christ as the substance of our fellowship, the One on whom we feast. The incense altar typified Christ as the maintainer of fellowship, by His intercession securing our continued acceptance before the Father. The reason why the "incense altar" is not mentioned here in Hebrews 9:0 will be taken up when we come to verse 4.
"For there was a tabernacle made: the first (compartment) wherein was the candlestick," or better, "lampstand." There was no window in the tabernacle, for the light of nature cannot reveal spiritual things. It was therefore illuminated from this holy vessel, which was placed on the south side, near the veil which concealed the holy of holies. A full description of it is given in Exodus 25:31-36 . It was made of beaten gold, all of one piece, with all its lamps and ornamentations, so that it was without either joints or screws. Pure olive oil was provided for it.
The very fact that the lampstand stood in the holy place, at once shows that it is not Christ as "the Light of the world" which is typified. It is strange that many of the commentators have erred here. The words of Christ on this point are clear enough: "as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5 and cf. Hebrews 12:35, 36): only then was He manifested here as such. But men loved darkness rather than light. They rejected the Light, and so far as they were concerned, extinguished it. Since Christ was put to death by wicked hands, the world has never again gazed on the Light. He is now hidden from their eyes. But He who was slain by the world, rose again, and then ascended on high; it is there in the Holy Place in God’s presence, that the Light now dwells. And while there O marvelous privilege the saints have access to Him.
Black shadows rest upon the world which has cast out the Light of Life: "the way of the wicked is as darkness" (Proverbs 4:19 ). It is now night-time, for the "Dayspring from on high" is absent. The lampstand tells of the gracious provision which God has made for His own beloved people during the interval of darkness, ere the Sun of righteousness shall rise once more, and usher in for this earth that morning without clouds. Its seven branches and lamps constantly fed by oil, represented the fullness of light that is in Christ Jesus, and which by Him is communicated to His whole Church. The "oil" was poured into its lamps and then shed forth light from them. Such was and is the economical relation of the Spirit unto the Mediator. First, Christ was "anointed" with the Spirit "above His fellows" (Psalms 45:7 and cf. John 3:34 ), and then He sent forth the Spirit (Acts 2:33 ). Objectively the Spirit conveys light to us through the Word; subjectively, by inward and supernatural illumination.
"And the table and shewbread" (verse 2). Though intimately connected, yet these two objects may be distinguished in their typical significance. The natural relation of the one to the other, helps us to perceive their spiritual meaning: the bread was placed upon and thus was supported by the table. The "table" speaks of communion. A beautiful picture of this is found in 2 Samuel 9:0 . There David asks, "Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?" (verse 1). A lovely illustration was this of the wondrous grace of God, showing kindness to those who belong to the house of His enemy, and that for the sake of His Beloved. There was one, even Mephibosheth, lame on his feet; him David "sent and fetched" unto himself. And then, to show he is fully reconciled to this grandson of his foe, David said, "but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread always at my table" (verse 10) evidencing that he had been brought into the place of most intimate fellowship. 1 Corinthians 10:20 , 1 Corinthians 10:21 also shows the spiritual significance of the "table."
The "shewbread," or twelve loaves on the table, also spoke of Christ. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32 ). The word "shewbread" is literally "bread of faces," faces being put by a figure for presence pointing to the Divine presence in which the bread stood; "shewbread before Me always" (Exodus 25:30 ). The twelve loaves, like the twelve precious stones in the high priest’s breastplate, pictured the twelve tribes of Israel being represented before God. Thus, in type, it was the Lord Jesus identifying Himself with His covenant people.
"And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all" (verse 3). The first veil was the "hanging" over the entrance into the tabernacle, shutting off from view what was inside from those who were in the outer court. It is described in Exodus 26:36 , Exodus 26:37 . The second veil, described in Exodus 26:31-33 and explained in Hebrews 10:20 , was a heavy curtain which concealed the contents of the holy of holies from those in the holy place. The Levitical family ministered in the holy place, but none save the holiest of all, and he only one day in the year. Three things have been mentioned as occupying a place in the first tabernacle; seven objects are now mentioned in connection with the holiest of all.
"Which had the golden censer" (verse 4). First, we would note the minute accuracy of the wording here. In verse 2 it was said "Wherein was the candlestick," etc., for the objects there mentioned belonged properly to the first compartment. But here it is, "which had the golden censer." Why? Because this utensil did not form part of the furniture of the holy of holies. To what then is the reference? Plainly to what is recorded in Leviticus 16:12 , Leviticus 16:13 , "And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the (brazen) altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not."
For three hundred and fifty-nine days in the year Aaron ministered at the golden or incense altar, which stood in the holy place; but on the remaining day, the annual "Day of Atonement," he did not. Instead, he used the "golden censer" of incense, passing with it within the veil. It is this which explains why there is no mention of the "golden altar" in verse 2, for the Holy Spirit is here treating (see the later verses) of the Judaic ritual on the Day of Atonement, and the fulfillment of the type by the Lord Jesus. That which was represented by the "golden censer" was the acceptability of Christ’s person to God and the efficacy of His intercession. The beautiful type of Leviticus 16:12 , Leviticus 16:13 denotes that, in consequence of the satisfaction which Christ made unto God, completed at the cross, His mediatory intercession is a sweet savor unto the Father, and effective unto the salvation of His Church. The fact that the smoke of this perfume covered the ark and the mercy-seat, wherein was the law, and over which the symbol of the Divine presence abode, denoted that Christ has magnified the law, met its every requirement, and is the end of the law for righteousness unto everybody that believeth.
"And the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant" (verse 4). The ark, with the mercy-seat which formed its lid or cover, was the most glorious and mysterious vessel of the tabernacle. It was the first thing made (Exodus 25:10 , Exodus 25:11 ), yea, the whole sanctuary was built for no other end but to be, as it were, a house and habitation for the ark (Exodus 26:33 ). The ark was the outstanding symbol that God Himself was present among His people and that His covenant-blessing was resting upon them. It was the coffer in which the tables of the law were preserved. Its pre-eminence above all the other vessels was shown in the days of Solomon, for the ark alone was transferred from the tabernacle to the temple.
The ark was an outstanding figure of the incarnate Son of God. The wood of which it was made, typified His sinless humanity. "Shittim" wood never rotted, and the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament renders it "incorruptible wood." The wood was overlaid, within and without, with gold, prefiguring Christ’s Divine glory. The two materials of which the ark was made symbolized the union of the two natures in the God-man "God manifest in flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16 ). The ark formed God’s throne in Israel: "Thou that dwellest between the cherubim" (Psalms 80:1 ). Christ is the only One who perfectly enthroned God, honoring His government in all things. Each of the seven names given to the ark in the Old Testament sets forth some excellency in the person of Christ. Everything connected with its most remarkable history, as in Numbers 10:33 , Numbers 14:44 , Joshua 3:5-17 , Joshua 6:4-20 , etc., received its antitypical fulfillment in the God-man.
"Wherein was the golden pot that had manna." Some have imagined a contradiction between this statement and what is said in 1 Kings 8:9 , "There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone." But there is no conflict between the two passages, for they are not treating of the same point in time. Hebrews 9:4 is speaking of what was in the ark during the days when it was lodged in the tabernacle, whereas 1 Kings 8:9 tells of what comprised its contents after it came to rest in the temple. It is important to note this distinction, for it supplies the key to the spiritual interpretation of our verse: Hebrews 9:4 makes known God’s provisions in Christ for His people while they are journeying through the wilderness. Thus the "manna" was Israel’s food from Egypt to Canaan: type of Christ as the heavenly sustenance for our souls. The preservation of the manna in the golden pot, speaks of Christ in glory at God’s right hand.
"And Aaron’s rod that budded." The reference is to what is recorded in Numbers 17:0 . In the preceding chapter we read of a revolt against Moses and Aaron, occasioned by jealousy at the authority which God had delegated to His two servants. The revolt of Korah and his company was visited by summary judgment from on high, and was followed by a manifest vindication of Aaron. The form that vindication took is most instructive. The Lord bade Moses take the twelve tribal rods, writing the name of Aaron on Levi’s, laying them up before the ark, and affirming that the one which should be made to blossom would indicate which had been chosen of God to the priestly tribe. Next morning it was found that Aaron’s rod had "brought forth buds, and blossomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." Afterwards God ordered Moses to place Aaron’s rod before the ark "to be kept for a token against the rebels." The lifeless rod being made to blossom was a figure of God’s vindication of His rejected Son by raising Him from the dead. Thus it speaks of the resurrection-power of our great High Priest.
"And the tables of the covenant." The reference is to Deuteronomy 10:1-5 . The preservation of the two tables of stone (on which were inscribed the ten commandments) in the ark, foreshadowed Christ magnifying the law and making it honorable (Isaiah 42:21 ). The fulfillment of this type is stated in Psalms 40:7 , Psalms 40:8 , where we hear the Mediator saying, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me: I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Yea, Thy law is within My heart." The Representative of God’s people was "made under the law" (Galatians 4:4 ), and perfectly did He "fulfill" it (Matthew 5:17 ). Therefore is it written, "by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19 ). Thus may each believer exclaim, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength" (Isaiah 45:24 ).
"And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat: of which we cannot now speak particularly" (verse 5). At either end of the mercy-seat was the form of a cherub with outstretched wings, meeting in the center, thus overshadowing and as it were protecting God’s throne. That there is some profound significance connected with their figures is clear from the prominent place which they occupy in connection with the description of the mercy-seat given in Exodus 25:17-22 : mention is there made of the cherubim, in either the singular or plural number, no less than seven times. The mention of them in Genesis 3:24 suggests that they are associated with the administration of God’s judicial authority. In Revelation 4:6-8 (cf. Ezekiel 1:5-10 ) they are related to God’s throne. Here in Hebrews 9:0 they are called the "cherubim of glory" because the Skekinah abode between them.
The mercy-seat, or better, "propitiatory," was the throne upon which the high priest placed the expiatory blood. It was not the place where propitiation was made that was at the brazen altar but where its abiding value was borne witness to before God. Romans 3:25 gives us the antitype: by the Gospel God now "sets forth" (Galatians 3:1 ) Christ as the One by whom He has been placated, as the One by whom His holy wrath against the sins of His people has been pacified, as the One by whom the righteous demands of His law were satisfied, as the One by whom every attribute of Deity was glorified. Christ Himself is God’s resting-place in whom He now meets poor sinners in all the fullness of His grace because of the propitiation made by Him on the cross.
The last clause of the verse is translated more literally in Bagster’s Interlinear thus: "concerning which it is not now (the time) to speak in detail" the "concerning which" is not to be restricted to that which is found here in verse 5, but takes in all that has been mentioned in verses 2-5. It would have led the apostle too far away from his subject of the high priest’s service, to give an interpretation of the spiritual meaning of the tabernacle and everything in it. Nevertheless, he plainly intimates that every part of it had a specific significance as typical of the Lord Jesus and His ministry.
The Contrasted Priests
(Hebrews 9:6-10 )
At the commencement of our last article we stated that, the principal design of the apostle in this epistle was to prove and make manifest that the "old covenant" which Jehovah made with Israel at Sinai, with all the ordinances of worship and privileges connected therewith had been Divinely annulled. This involved a complete change in the church-state of the Hebrews, but so far from this being a thing to be deplored, it was to their unspeakable advantage. In prosecuting this design, the Holy Spirit through Paul does, as it were, remove the veil from off the face of Moses. In 2 Corinthians 3:13 we read, "And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished." These words direct attention to a profound spiritual truth which God (in keeping with His dispensational ways) caused to be mystically adumbrated or shadowed forth by a material and visible object.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7 the apostle had spoken of the brightness of Moses’ face as a symbol of his ministry: the revelation which he received was a divine and glorious one. But because the truth communicated through Moses was in an obscure form (by types and emblems) he veiled himself. Paul, as a minister of the "new covenant" used "great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12 ), i.e., employing no "dark parables" or enigmatic prophecies, still less mysterious ceremonies. Moses wore a veil "that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished" (Hebrews 3:7 ), i.e., to prevent their seeing the termination or fading away of the celestial brightness of his countenance. The mystical meaning of this was, God would not allow Israel to know at that time that the dispensation of the Levitical or legal ministry would ultimately cease. The publication of that fact was reserved for a much later date.
"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old covenant; which veil is done away in Christ" (2 Corinthians 3:14 ). Yes, that "veil" which lay so heavily over the Mosaic types is now "done away in Christ," for He is that Antitype, the key which unlocks them, the sun which illuminates them. This, it is the great purpose of the Hebrews’ epistle to demonstrate. Here is doctrinally removed the "veil" from off the Mosaic institutions. Here the Spirit makes known the nature and purpose of the "old covenant." Here He declares the significance and temporal efficacy of all institutions and ordinances of Israel’s worship. Here He announces that the Levitical rites and ceremonies made a representation of heavenly things, but insists that those heavenly things could not themselves be introduced and established without the removal of what had adumbrated them. Here He shows that the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ.
Three things there were which constituted the glory of the old covenant, and which the Jews so rested in they refused the Gospel out of an adherence unto them: the priestly office; the tabernacle with all its furniture, wherein that office was exercised; the duties and worship of the priests in that tabernacle by sacrifices, especially those wherein there was a solemn expiation of the sins of the whole congregation. In reference to them, the apostle proves: first, that none of them could make perfect the state of the Church, nor really effect assured peace and confidence between God and the worshippers. Second, that they were but typical, ordained to represent that which was far more sublime and excellent than themselves. Third, that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His person and mediation, was really and substantially, all that they did but prefigure, and that He was and did what they could only direct unto an expectation of.
In Hebrews 7:0 the apostle has fully evidenced this in connection with the priestly office. In the 8th chapter he has done the same in general unto the tabernacle, confirming this by that great collateral argument taken from the nature and excellency of that covenant whereby the incarnate Son was the Surety and Mediator. Here in the 9th chapter, he takes up the services and sacrifices which belonged unto the priestly office in the tabernacle. It was in them that the Jews placed their greatest confidence for reconciliation with God, and concerning which they boasted of the excellency of their Church-state and worship. Because this was the chief point of difference between the Gospel-proclamation and those who repudiated it, and because it was that whereon the whole doctrine of the justification of sinners before God did depend, the apostle enters into minute detail, declaring the nature, use and efficacy of the sacrifices of the law, and manifesting the nature, glory and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, whereby those others had been put an end to (condensed from John Owen).
"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God" (verse 6). Having made a brief reference to the structure of the tabernacle in its two compartments, and the furniture belonging to each of them respectively, the apostle now turns to consider the uses for which they were designed unto in the service of God. First, he says "these things were thus ordained," or as the Revised Version more correctly renders it, "thus prepared," for the Greek word (translated "made" in verse 2), signifies to dispose and arrange. When the things mentioned in verses 2-5 had been made and duly ordered, they stood not for a magnificent show, but were designed for constant use in the service of God. Hereby we are taught that, for any service to be acceptable to God, it must be in strict accord with the pattern He has given us in His Word: carefully ponder (1 Chronicles 15:12 , 1 Chronicles 15:13 ). Everything was duly prepared for Divine service before that service was performed. So in public service or Divine worship today there must be fit persons who, under the Spirit, are to lead it ‘‘able ministers of the new testament" (2 Corinthians 3:6 ); fit arrangements and order (1 Corinthians 14:40 ), not mere human tradition (Matthew 15:9 ); a fit message unto edification (1 Corinthians 14:26 ).
"The priests went always into the first tabernacle." They only were allowed in the holy place that were the sons of Aaron; but even these were suffered to penetrate no farther, being barred from entrance into the holy of holies. This was in contrast from the high priest who entered the inner sanctuary, yet only on one day in the year. The word "always" is translated "continually" in Hebrews 13:15 . It signifies constantly, at all times as occasion did require. Christians have been made "kings and priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6 ), and they are bidden to "give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20 ); to "rejoice evermore" and "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:16 , 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ).
"Accomplishing the service of God." The translators have rightly added the last two words, for the "service" here is a Divine one. "Accomplishing the service of God" means that they officiated in the ministry of the sacred ceremonies. The daily services of the priests were two: the dressing of the lamps of the candlestick: supplying them with the holy oil, trimming their wicks, etc.; this was done every evening and morning. Second, the service of the golden altar, whereon they burned incense every day, with fire taken from off the brazen altar, and this immediately after the offering of the evening and morning sacrifices. Whilst this service was being performed, the people without gave themselves unto prayer (Luke 1:10 ). Their weekly service was to change the shewbread on the table, which was done every Sabbath, in the morning. All of this was typical of the continual application of the benefits of the sacrifice and mediation of Christ unto His people here in the world.
The practical application to Christians now of what has just been before us, should be obvious. There ought to be family worship, both in the morning and in the evening. The replenishing of the oil in the lamps for continuous light, should find its counterpart in the daily looking to God for needed light from His Word, to direct our steps in the ordering of home and business life to His acceptance and praise. God has declared, "Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30 ). If God be not honored in the home by the family "altar," then we cannot count upon Him blessing our homes! The burning of the incense should receive its antitype in morning and evening praise and prayer unto God: owning Him as the Giver of every good and every perfect gift, thanking Him for spiritual and temporal mercies, casting all our care upon Him, pleading His promises, and trusting Him for a continuance of His favors. The Greek word here for "accomplishing" is a compound, which signifies to "completely finish" rendered "perfecting" in 2 Corinthians 7:1 denoting their service was not done by halves. May we too serve God wholeheartedly.
"But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and the errors of the people" (verse 7). That to which the apostle here refers is the great anniversary- sacrifice of expiation, whose institution and solemnities are described at length in Leviticus 16:0 . On the tenth day of the seventh month (which corresponds to our September) Israel’s high priest, unattended and unassisted by his subordinates, entered within the holy of holies, there to present propitiating sacrifices before Jehovah. Divested of his garments of "glory and beauty" (Exodus 28:2 , etc.) and clad only in "the holy linen" (Leviticus 16:4 ), he first entered the sacred precincts bearing a censer full of burning coals and his hands full of incense, which was to be placed upon the coals, so that a cloud of incense should cover the mercy-seat (Leviticus 16:12 , Leviticus 16:13 ); which spoke of the fragrant excellency of Christ’s person unto God, when He offered Himself an atoning sacrifice. Second, he took of the blood of the bullock, which had been killed for a sin-offering for himself and his house (Leviticus 16:11 ), and sprinkled its blood upon and before the mercy-seat (Heb. 16:14). Third, he went out and killed the goat which was a sin-offering for the people, and did with its blood as he had with that of the bullocks (Heb. 16:15).
When the high priest’s work within the veil had been completed, he came forth and laid both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confessed over him "all of the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat," which was then sent away "unto a land not inhabited" (Leviticus 16:21 , Leviticus 16:22 ); all of which was typical of the Atonement made by the Lord Jesus, and of the plenary remission of sins through His blood. In the shedding of the victims’ blood and offering it by fire on the altar, there was a representation made of the vicarious imputation of guilt to the sacrifice, and the expiation of it through death. In the carrying of the blood into the presence of Jehovah and the sprinkling of it upon His throne, witness was borne to His acceptance of the atonement which had been made. In the placing of the sins of Israel upon the live goat and its carrying of them away into a land uninhabited, there was a foreshadowing of the blessed truth that, as far as the east is from the west so far hath God removed the transgressions of His people from before Him.
"Into the second veil went the high priest alone: There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement" (Leviticus 16:17 ). This denoted that Christ alone was qualified to appear before God on behalf of His people: none other was fit to mediate for them. "Once every year," to foreshadow the fact that Christ entered heaven for His people once for all: Hebrews 9:12 . "Which he offered for himself," for he too was a sinner, and therefore incompetent to make real, efficacious and acceptable atonement for others; thereby intimating that he must yet give place to Another. "And for the errors of the people," which is to be interpreted in the light of the Old Testament expression "sins of ignorance" (Leviticus 4:2 ; Leviticus 5:15 ; Numbers 15:22-29 ), which are contrasted from deliberate or presumptuous sins (see Numbers 15:30 , Numbers 15:31 ). Under the dispensation of law God graciously made provision for the infirmities of His people, granting them sacrifices for sins committed unwillingly and unwittingly. But for determined and open rebellion against His laws, no atoning sacrifice was available: see Hebrews 10:26 .
The distinction pointed out above is the key to Psalms 51:16 , "For Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it." There is no room for doubt that David knew full well the terrible character of the sins which he committed against Uriah and his wife. Later, when he was convicted of this, he realized that the law made no provision for forgiveness. What, then, did he do? Psalms 51:1-3 tells us: he laid hold on God Himself and said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (verse 17). It was faith, penitently, appropriating the mercy of God in Christ.
"The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" (verse 8). The apostle now makes known the use which he intended to make of the description which had been given of the tabernacle and its furniture in verses 2-5: from the structure and order of its services he would prove the pre-eminency of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ above those which had belonged to the tabernacle. He points out that the Holy Spirit had provided instruction for Israel in the very disposal of their ancient institutions. Inasmuch as none but the high priest was permitted to pass within the veil, it was plainly intimated that under the Mosaic dispensation the people were barred from the very presence of God. Such a state of affairs could not be the ultimate and ideal, and therefore must be set aside before that which was perfect could be introduced.
"The Holy Spirit this signifying:" the reference is to the arrangements which obtained in the tabernacle, as specified in the preceding verses. Here we learn that the third person of the blessed Trinity was immediately concerned in the original instructions given to Israel. This intimates in a most striking way the perfect union, unison and cooperation of the persons of the Godhead in all that They do. 2 Peter 1:21 declares that, "holy men of old spake, moved by the Holy Spirit," prominent among whom was Moses. In Exodus 35:1 we read, "Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the Lord hath commanded" the Holy Spirit moving Him to give an accurate record of all that he had heard from the Lord.
"The Holy Spirit this signifying," or making evident, that "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." How did He thus "signify" this fact? By the very framework of the tabernacle: that is, by allowing the people to go no farther than the outer court, and the priests themselves only into the first compartment. "For things in His wisdom were thus disposed, that there should be the first tabernacle whereinto the priests did enter every day, accomplishing the Divine services that God required. Howbeit in that tabernacle there were not the pledges of the gracious presence of God. It was not the especial residence of His glory. But the peculiar habitation of God was separated from it by a veil, and no person living might so much as look into it on pain of death. But yet, lest the church should apprehend, that indeed there was no approach, here, nor hereafter, for any person into the gracious presence of God; He ordained that once a year the high priest, and he alone, should enter into that holy place with blood. Hereby he plainly signified, that an entrance there was to be, and that with boldness, thereinto. For unto what end else did He allow and appoint, that once a year there should be an entrance into it by the high priest, in the name of and for the service of the church? But this entrance being only once a year, by the high priest only, and that with the blood of the covenant, which was always to be observed whilst that tabernacle continued, he did manifest that the access represented was not to be obtained during that season; for all believers in their own persons were utterly excluded from it" (John Owen).
"The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." The apostle is not now speaking of the second compartment in the tabernacle (as in verse 3), but of that which was typified by it. "Now, in that most holy place, were all the signs and pledges of the gracious presence of God; the testimonies of our reconciliation by the blood of the atonement, and of our peace with Him thereby. Wherefore, to enter into these holies is nothing but to have an access with liberty, freedom and boldness, into the gracious presence of God on the account of reconciliation and peace made with Him. This the apostle doth so plainly and positively declare in Hebrews 10:19-22 that I somewhat wonder so many learned expositors could utterly miss of his meaning in this place. The holies then is the gracious presence of God, whereunto believers draw nigh, in the confidence of the atonement made for them, and acceptance thereon: see Romans 5:1-3 , Ephesians 2:14-18 , Hebrews 4:14 , Hebrews 4:15 ’ (John Owen).
But let us observe more closely this expression "the way into the holiest of all." This way is no other but the sacrifice of Christ, the true High Priest of the Church: as He Himself declared, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6 ). Thus the ultimate reference here in "the holiest of all" is to Heaven itself, yet having a present and spiritual application unto access to and communion with God. The "way" into this is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Marvelously was this adumbrated here on earth at the moment of His death, for then the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51 ), thereby opening a way into the holy of holies.
But this access to God, or way into the holiest of all, "was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." It is to be very carefully noted that the apostle did not say that there was then no way "provided" or "made use of," but only that it was not, during Old Testament times, "made manifest." There was an entrance into the presence of God, both unto grace and glory, for His elect, from the days of Abel and onwards, but that "way" was not openly and publicly displayed. By virtue of the everlasting covenant (the agreement between the Father and the Son), and in view of Christ’s satisfaction in the fullness of time, salvation was applied to saints then, and they were saved by faith as we are now, for the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. But the open manifestation of these things waited for the actual exhibition of Christ in the flesh, the full declaration of His person and mediation by the Gospel, and the introduction and establishment of all the privileges of Gospel worship.
"While as the first tabernacle was yet standing." The reference here is not to the first compartment or holy place, into which the priests entered and where they served, but is used synecdochially (a part put for the whole) for the entire legal system, which included the temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel. The "first tabernacle" is here spoken of in contrast from the "true tabernacle" of Hebrews 8:2 , namely, the humanity of Christ, which was the antitype and succeeded in the room of the type cf. Revelation 13:6 ! The apostle is here treating of what had its standing before God whilst the "first covenant" and Aaronic priesthood remained valid. He cannot be here referring to the "first tabernacle" as a building, for that had become a thing of the past, long centuries before he wrote this epistle. Yet the temples that succeeded it had their standing on the basis of the old covenant. This had now been annulled, and with it the whole system of worship which had so long obtained in Judaism.
"Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience" (verse 9). Having briefly pointed out the emblematic significance of the two compartments of the tabernacle, the apostle now approaches his leading object in this paragraph, namely, to demonstrate that Christ had "obtained a more excellent ministry" than that which had belonged to the Levitical priesthood. This he does by giving a brief summary of the imperfections of the tabernacle and all its services, wherein the administration of the old covenant did consist. By calling attention to the defects of inadequacy of the Judaic system, the apostle adopted the most effective method of exposing the unreasonableness of the rejection of the more glorious Gospel by the majority of the Jews, and at the same time showed what folly and wickedness it would be for the believing Hebrews to return to that system.
The apostle’s design in verses 9, 10 is to show that, notwithstanding the outward excellency and glory of the tabernacle-system (through Divine appointment), yet, in the will and wisdom of God, that system was only designed to continue for a season, and that the time of its expiation had now arrived. That the Levitical priesthood and their services were never intended by God to occupy a perpetual place in the worship of His church, was evident from the fact that they were utterly unable to effect for His saints that which He had purposed and promised. Not only did the presence of the veil, which excluded all save Aaron from the presence-chamber of Jehovah, intimate that the ideal state had not yet come; not only did the annual repetition of the great atoning-sacrifice indicate that, as yet, the all-efficacious Sacrifice had not yet been offered; but all the gifts and sacrifices combined failed to "perfect as pertaining to the conscience." They were only "a figure for the time then present," an institution and provision of God "until the time of reformation."
"Which was a figure for the time then present." The "which was" includes the tabernacle in both its parts, with all its vessels and services. The Greek word for "figure" here is not the same as the one rendered "type" in Romans 5:14 and "examples" in 1 Corinthians 10:6 , 1 Corinthians 10:11 , but is the term commonly translated "parable," as in Matthew 13:3 , Matthew 13:10 etc. It is used here for one thing representing another. It signifies "figurative instruction." By means of obscure mystical signs and symbols God taught the ancient church. The great mystery of our redemption by Christ was principally made known by a parable, which was addressed to the eyes rather than to the ears. That was the method which God was pleased to employ, the means He used under the law, of making known things to come. "Which was a figure," is the Holy Spirit’s affirmation that the structure, fabric, furniture and rites of the tabernacle were all vested with a Divine and spiritual significance. That the truly regenerate among Israel were acquainted with this fact is illustrated by the prayer of David, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law" (Psalms 119:18 ).
"Which was a figure for the time then present." The verb here is of the preter-imperfect tense, signifying a time that was then present, but is now past. The reference is to what had preceded the establishment of the new covenant, before the full Gospel revelation had been made. The figurative instruction which God gave to the early Church was not designed to be of permanent duration. Nevertheless, a sovereign God saw fit to continue that obscure and figurative representation of spiritual mysteries for no less than fifteen hundred years. His ways are ever the opposite of man’s. "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing" (Proverbs 25:2 )! But how thankful we should be that "the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth" (1 John 2:8 ). Still, let it not be overlooked that the revelation God made through the tabernacle was sufficient for the faith and obedience of Israel had it been diligently attended unto.
"In which were offered both gifts and sacrifices." The Greek word for "sacrifices" is derived from a verb which means to kill, thus the reference here is to those oblations which were slaughtered. As distinguished from these, "gifts" were without life and sense, such as the meal-offering, oil, frankincense and salt which were mingled therewith (Leviticus 2:0 ), the first-fruits, tithes, and all free-will offerings, which were presented by the priests. These were "offered" unto God, and that in the tabernacle, for there alone was it meet to offer them. So also was the "tabernacle" (Hebrews 8:2 ) of Christ alone suited for its designed end. And what is the particular message this should have for the Christian heart? Surely to remind him of that word, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1 ).
"That could not make him perfect as pertaining to the conscience." These words are not to be understood as restricted to the officiating priest, rather do they look more directly to the person in whose stead he presented the offering to God. Here the apostle points out the imperfection of the whole tabernacle-order of things, and its impotency unto the great end that might be expected from it. To "perfect" a worshipper is to fit him, legally and experimentally, for communion with God, and for this there must be both justification and sanctification, and neither of these could the Levitical priests procure. They could neither remit guilt from before God, nor remove the stains of it from the soul. Where those are lacking, there can be no peace or assurance in the heart, and then the real spirit of worship is absent. As this (D.V.) comes before us again in Hebrews 10:2 , we will not here further enlarge.
Ere passing on to the next verse, it may be enquired, If then the Levitical sacrifices failed at this vital point, why were they ever appointed by God at all? To this question two answers may be returned. First, those sacrifices availed to remove the temporal governmental consequence of Israel’s sins; when rightly offered, they freed from political and external punishment, so that continuance in the land of Canaan was preserved; but they cancelled not the wages of sin, removed not the eternal punishment which was due unto every sin by the law. Second, they directed the faith of the regenerate forward to the perfect sacrifice of Christ (which the Levitical offerings typically represented), the virtue and value of which was available to faith’s appropriation from the beginning.
"Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation" (verse 10). To convince those to whom he was writing that the Levitical ceremonies were incapable of perfecting the conscience, the apostle here demonstrates the truth of this by pointing out their inadequate nature and character. The ordinances of Judaism corresponded closely with the old covenant, which was made with man in the flesh: its sanctuary and furniture were material things of sight and sense; its ministry was not spiritual, but had to do only with external rites; its ablutions effected nothing more than a ceremonial cleansing, and entirely failed to purify the heart, as faith does (Acts 15:9 ).
The "service" of the tabernacle-system "stood only in meats and drinks." This expression refers to the sacrifices and libations, which consisted of flesh and bread, oil and wine. "And divers washings": first, that of the priests themselves (Exodus 29:4 , etc.), for whose use the "laver" was chiefly intended (Exodus 30:18 , Exodus 31:9 , etc.); second, of the various parts of the burnt-offering sacrifice (Leviticus 1:9 , Leviticus 1:13 ); third, of the people themselves when they had contracted defilement (Leviticus 15:8 ,Leviticus 15:16 , etc.). "And carnal ordinances" which refers, most probably, to the whole system of laws pertaining to diet and manner of life. "Which stood only in," this is emphatic; the rites of Judaism were solely external and fleshly, there being nothing spiritual joined with them. Thus their insufficiency to procure spiritual and eternal blessings was evident: legal meats and drinks could not nourish the soul; ceremonial washings could not purify the heart.
"Imposed until the time of reformation." "The word for ‘imposed’ is properly ‘lying on them,’ that is, as a burden. There was a weight in all these legal rites and ceremonies, which is called a yoke, and too heavy for the people to bear (Acts 15:10 ). And if the imposition of them be principally intended, as we render the word ‘impose,’ it respects the bondage they were brought into by them. Men may have a weight lying on them, and yet not be brought into bondage thereby. But these things were so ‘imposed’ on them, as that they might feel their weight and groan under the burden of it. Of this bondage the apostle treats at large in the epistle to the Galatians. And it was impossible that those things should perfect a church-state, which in themselves were such a burden, and effective of such a bondage" (John Owen).
The institutions of the Levitical service possessed a general character of externality and materialty: as verse 13 of our chapter says, they sanctified "to the purifying of the flesh," but they reached not the dire needs of the soul. Therefore they were not designed to continue forever, but for a determined and limited season, namely, "unto the time of reformation," which expression respected the appearing of the promised Messiah to inaugurate the new and better covenant: see Luke 1:68-74 . "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law; to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4 , Galatians 4:5 ).
(Hebrews 9:11-14 )
In Hebrews 8:6 the apostle had affirmed, "He is the Mediator of a better covenant." Such a declaration would raise a number of important issues which are here anticipated and settled. Who is the High Priest of the new covenant? What is the tabernacle wherein He administered His office? What are the particular services He performed, answering to those which God appointed unto Aaron and His successors? Wherein do the services of the new High Priest excel those of the Levitical? These were pressing questions, and it was necessary for them to be Divinely answered, not only for the silencing of objectors, but that the faith of believing Jews might be established. Thus, in Hebrews 9:11 , Hebrews 9:12 we have the actual ministry of Christ declared, in verses 13,14 the proofs that it was "more excellent."
The 9th chapter of Hebrews contains a particular exemplification of this general proposition: Christ is the substance of the Levitical shadows. The general proposition was stated in Hebrews 8:1 , Hebrews 8:2 : Christians have an High Priest who is a Minister of the true tabernacle. Here in chapter 9 confirmation is given of what was pointed out at the close of chapter 8, namely, that Christ’s bringing in of the new covenant did abrogate the old. In exemplifying this fact mention is made in Hebrews 9:1-10 of sundry shadows of the law, in verse 11 and onwards it is shown that the antitypical accomplishment of them was in and by Jesus Christ. The contents of verses 1-10 may be reduced to two heads: ordinances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary in which they were observed. In verses 11-28 the Spirit magnifies the excellency of Christ’s priesthood by showing that He brought in what the Aaronic rites were unable to secure (condensed from W. Gouge, 1650).
The contents of these verses which are now to be before us set forth the ministry of Christ as "the Mediator of the new covenant." They describe His initial work as the High Priest of His people. They set forth the inestimable value of His sacrifice, and what it procured. They magnify His precious blood and the character of that redemption which was purchased thereby. Each verse calls for a separate article, and every clause in them demands our closest and most reverent attention. May the Spirit of God deign to open unto us something of their blessed contents, and apply them in power to our hearts. We purposely cut down our introductory comments that more space may be reserved for the exposition.
"But Christ being come an high priest of goods things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (verses 11, 12). "These words naturally call attention to two things: The official character with which our Lord is invested, and the ministry which He has performed in that official character. His official character: He is ‘come an high priest of good things to come.’ His ministry in that official character: ‘He has obtained eternal redemption for His people,’" (John Brown).
"But Christ being come an High Priest." The opening word emphasizes a contrast: the legal high priest "could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience" (verse 9): "But Christ" could. The title here given the Savior deserves particular notice. He is referred to in a considerable variety of ways in this epistle, and many different designations are there accorded Him. Each one is used with fine discrimination, and the reader loses much by failing to distinguish the force of "Jesus," "Christ," "Jesus Christ," "our Lord," "The Son," etc. Here (and also in Hebrews 3:6 , Hebrews 3:14 ; Hebrews 5:5 ; Hebrews 6:1 ; Hebrews 9:14 , Hebrews 9:24 , Hebrews 9:28 ; Hebrews 11:26 ) it is "Christ," the Messiah (John 1:41 ), His official designation, a term that means "The Anointed," see Psalms 2:2 and cf. Acts 4:26 . Great emphasis is placed by the Holy Spirit upon this title: "the Christ" (John 20:31 ), "that Christ" (John 6:69 ), "very Christ" (Acts 9:22 ), "The Lord’s Christ" (Luke 2:26 ), "The Christ of God" (Luke 9:20 ).
"But Christ being come an High Priest." Under the name of the Messiah or Anointed One, He had been promised unto Israel for many centuries, and now the accomplishment had arrived. In a moment of doubt, His forerunner, in prison, sent unto Him asking, "Art Thou He that should come?" (Matthew 11:3 ). Upon the fulfillment of God’s promise that He would send the Messiah, give a perfect revelation of His will, and bring in "perfection," the faith of the Jewish church was built. And now God’s Word was verified, the true Light shone. The awaited One had come: "in the character in which He was promised, having done all that it was promised He should do" (John Brown). Therefore does the Holy Spirit here give the Redeemer His official, and distinctively Hebrew, title. "But Christ being come" no doubt looks back, especially to Psalms 40:7 .
"But Christ being come an High Priest." True, He came also as Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15 , Deuteronomy 18:18 ), and as King (Matthew 2:2 ), but here the Holy Spirit especially emphasizes the sacerdotal office of Christ, because it was in the exercise of that He offered Himself as a sacrifice unto God. The words which we are now considering begin a new division of this Epistle, though it is intimately related to what has gone before. In Hebrews 9:11-22 the Holy Spirit sets before us the antitype of Leviticus 16:0 , which records the work of Israel’s high priest on the annual day of atonement. There we behold Aaron officiating both outside the veil and within it. So the priestly functions of Christ fall into two great divisions, as they were performed on earth and as they are now continued in heaven. Before our great High Priest could enter the Holiest on high and there make intercession before God, He had first to make an atonement for the sins of those He represented, which was accomplished in His state of abjection here below, being consummated by His offering Himself a sacrifice unto God: 7:27, 8:3, 9:26.
A priest is one who officiates in the name of others, who approaches to God in order to make atonement for them by sacrifice. The design of his ministry is to render the Object of their worship propitious, to avert His wrath from men, to procure their restoration to His favor: see Leviticus 16:0 . Thus, the work of the priest is mediatory. Since the fact of sin is a cardinal one in the case of man, the function of a mediating priest for man must be mainly expiatory and reconciling: Hebrews 8:3 . It should serve as a most solemn warning unto all today that, while the Jews believed their Messiah would be both a prophet and king, they had no expectation of His also being priest, who should redeem sinners unto God. One who should go forth in the terror of His power, subjugating the nations and restoring the kingdom to Israel, appealed to their carnality; but for One to minister at the altar, employ His interest with God on behalf of transgressors, draw near to the Divine Majesty in their name, and mediate peace between them and an offended Creator, seems to have had no place in their thoughts. Hence it is that the priesthood of Christ is given such a prominent place in this epistle to the Hebrews.
"But Christ being come an High Priest." As to the time of His investiture with this office, it was clearly co-incident to the general office of Mediator. At the same moment that God appointed His Son "Mediator," He was constituted the Prophet, the Priest, and the Potentate of His Church. Prospectively, that took place in the eternal councils of the blessed Trinity, when in the "everlasting covenant" the Father appointed the Son and the Son agreed to be the Mediator between Him and His people. Historically, the Son became the Mediator at the moment of His incarnation: there is "one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5 ); as soon as He was born, He was hailed as "Christ, the Lord" (Luke 2:11 ). Formally, He was officially consecrated to this office at His baptism, when He was "anointed (Christed) with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38 ).
"But Christ being come an High Priest," and this according to the eternal oath of the Father, which "oath" was afterwards made known to the sons of men in time. This was before us when we considered Hebrews 7:20-25 . It was "by the word of the oath" that the Son is consecrated to His priestly office (Hebrews 7:28 ), the "oath" denoting God’s eternal purpose and unchanging decree. In Psalms 2:7 we read that God said, "I will declare the decree," and accordingly in Psalms 110:4 we are told, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" there it was openly published. That God’s "oath" preceded Christ’s entrance upon and discharge of His sacerdotal office is clear from Hebrews 7:20-25 , otherwise the force of the apostle’s reasoning there would be completely overthrown.
"But Christ being come an High Priest," otherwise He could not have "offered" Himself a sacrifice to God. As we saw when pondering Hebrews 5:6 ,Hebrews 5:7 , Christ was exercising His sacerdotal functions in "the days of His flesh," i.e., the time of His humiliation. So too it was as "a merciful and faithful High Priest" that Christ "made propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17 ). The types foreshadowed the same thing, especially Leviticus 16:0 . Aaron was not constituted a priest by entering the holy of holies; he was such before, or otherwise he could not have passed within the veil. Every passage which speaks of Christ’s one oblation or His "offering" Himself once are conclusive as His being a priest on earth, for that word "once" cannot possibly be understood of what He is now doing in heaven; it must refer to His death as an historical fact, completed and finished here below: it is in designed contrast from His continuous intercession which is based upon it. The priestly sacrifice which He offered is emphatically described as co-incident with His death: Hebrews 9:26 . Any one of the common people could slay the sin-offering (Leviticus 4:27-29 ), but none save the priest could offer it to God (Leviticus 4:30 )! Thus, every verse which speaks of Christ "offering" Himself to God emphasizes the priestly character of His sacrifice.
"An high priest of good things to come." The reference here is to that more excellent dispensation which the Messiah was to inaugurate. Old Testament prophecy had announced many blessings and privileges which He would bring in, and accordingly the Jews had looked forward to better things than they had enjoyed under the old economy. The apostle here announces that this time had actually arrived, that the promised blessings had been procured by the High Priest of Christianity. As the result of Christ’s advent, life and death, righteousness had been established, peace had been made, and a new and living way opened, which gave access to the very presence of God. Different far were these blessings from what the carnal Jews of Christ’s day desired. Of course the "good things to come" are not to be restricted to those blessings which God’s people already enjoy, but include as well those which yet await them. The "good things" are summed up in "grace and glory," and are in contrast from "the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:7 ).
"By a greater and more perfect tabernacle." This repeats what was said in Hebrews 8:2 . The reference is to the human nature which the Son of God took unto Himself. "The Word became flesh and (Greek) tabernacled among us" (John 1:14 ). Christ officiated in a much more glorious habitation than any in which Aaron and his successors served. Most appropriately was the humanity of the Savior called a "tabernacle" for "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9 ). Additional confirmation that the "greater and more perfect tabernacle" here referred to Christ’s body, is supplied by Hebrews 10:20 , where the Holy Spirit again applies to Him the language of the Mosaic tabernacle and shows that in the Lord Jesus is found the antitype "through the veil, that is to say His flesh."
"By a greater and more perfect tabernacle." There is both a comparison and a contrast between the tent which Moses pitched and the human habitat in which the Son of God abides: for the comparison we refer the reader to our comments upon Hebrews 8:2 . The contrast is first pointed by the word "greater," the Antitype far surpassing the type both in dignity and worth. The humanity of Christ, in its conception, its framing, its gracious endowments by the Holy Spirit, and particularly because of its union to and subsistence in the divine person of the Son, was far more excellent and glorious than any earthly fabric could be. "The human nature of Christ doth thus more excel the old tabernacle, than the sun does the meanest star" (John Owen). Of old God declared, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" (Isaiah 13:12 ) a prophecy which obviously had its fulfillment in the Man Christ Jesus.
"And more perfect tabernacle": this points the second contrast between the type and the Antitype. As the word "greater" refers to the superior dignity and excellency of the humanity of Christ over the materials which comprised the tabernacle of Moses, so the "more perfect" respects its sacred use. The body of Christ was "more perfectly fitted and suited unto the end of a tabernacle, both for the inhabitation of the divine nature, and the means of exercising the sacerdotal office in making atonement for sin, than the other was. So it is expressed in Hebrews 10:5 , ‘Sacrifice and burnt-offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me.’ This was that which God accepted, wherewith He was well pleased, when He rejected the other to that end" (John Owen). Probably the Holy Spirit has used this expression "more perfect" here because it was also through Christ’s service in this "tabernacle" that His people had been "perfected forever."
"Not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building." Further reference is here made to the humanity of Christ by a double negation: "Not made with hands" is set in opposition to the Jewish tabernacle, which was made by the hands of men (Exodus 36:1-8 ). The humanity of Christ was the product of Him that hath no hands, even God Himself. Thus the expression here is the same as "which the Lord pitched, and not man" in Hebrews 8:2 . Then how much "greater" was the "more perfect Tabernacle"! The temple of Solomon was a most sumptuous and costly building, yet was it erected by human workmen, and therefore was it an act of infinite condescension for the great God to dwell therein: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1 Kings 8:27 ). Reference to the supernatural humanity of Christ was made in Daniel 2:45 : He was to be a "Stone," cut out of the same quarry with us, yet "without hands," i.e., without the help of nature, begotten by a man.
"That is to say, not of this building," words added to further define the preceding clause the term rendered "building" is translated "creature" in Hebrews 4:13 . The humanity of Christ belonged to a totally different order of things than ours: there is no parallel in the whole range of creation. "Although the substance of His human nature was of the same kind with ours, yet the production of it in the world, was such an act of Divine power, as excels all other Divine operations whatever. Wherefore, God speaking of it, saith ‘The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a Man’ (Jeremiah 31:22 ) or conceive Him without natural generation" (John Owen). How blessed to see that God is so far from being confined to natural means for the effecting of His holy counsels, that He can, when He pleases, dispense with all the ordinary methods and "laws" by which He works, and act contrary to them.
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (verse 12). Having shown that in Christ’s person we have the antitype of the tabernacle, the apostle now proceeds to set forth that which was foreshadowed by the entrance of Israel’s high priest into the holy of holies on the day of atonement: this he does both negatively and positively, that the difference between the shadow and the substance might more evidently appear. The design of this verse is to display the pre-eminence of Christ in the discharge of His priestly office above the legal high priest. This is seen, first, in the excellency of His sacrifice, which was His own blood; second, in the holy place whereinto He entered by virtue of it, which was Heaven itself; third in the effect of it, in that by it He procured "eternal redemption."
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves": it was by means of these that Aaron entered the holy of holies on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:14 ,Leviticus 16:15 ) the apostle here uses the plural number because of the annual repetition of the same sacrifice. In Leviticus 16:0 , the "calf" or young bullock (of one year old) is mentioned first; perhaps the order is here reversed because the "goat" was specifically for the people, and it is Christ redeeming His people which is the dominant thought. It was by virtue of the blood of these animals that Aaron entered so as to be accepted with God. The reference here is not directly to what the high priest brought with him into the holiest or the "incense" too had been mentioned but to the title which the sacrifices gave him to approach unto the Holy One of Israel.
"But by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place." Here we are brought directly unto the great mystery of the priestly work of Christ, especially as to the sacrifice which He offered unto (God to make an atonement for the sins of His people. The "holy place" called in Hebrews 9:8 "the Holiest of all" signifying Heaven itself, the dwelling-place of God. This is unequivocally established by Hebrews 9:24 "into heaven itself." There never was any place to which this title of "holy place" so suitably belonged: thus it is designated in Psalms 20:6 "His holy heaven." And when was it that Christ entered Heaven by virtue of the merits of His own blood? Almost all of the commentators take the reference here as being to His ascension. But this we deem to be a mistake, and one from which erroneous conclusions of a most serious nature have been drawn. The writer is fully satisfied that what is affirmed in this verse took place immediately after Christ, on the cross, triumphantly cried "It is finished." Some of our reasons for believing this we give below.
First , the typical priest’s entrance within the veil took place immediately after the victim’s death: its body being carried without the camp to be burned in a public place, its blood being taken into the holiest, to be sprinkled on the propitiatory, covering the ark. Those closely-connected acts in the ritual were so related that, the burning followed last in order. Now Hebrews 13:11 clearly establishes the fact that that typical action coincided with Christ’s sacrifice outside Jerusalem: therefore, to make Christ’s entrance into heaven occur forty days after His death, destroys the type. In pouring out His blood on the cross and surrendering His spirit into the hands of the Father, Christ expiated sin, and at that very moment the veil of the temple was rent, to denote His entrance into the presence of God. No sooner had He expired, than He entered Heaven, claiming it for Himself and His seed. His resurrection testified to the fact that God had accepted His sacrifice, that justice had been fully satisfied, and that He was now entitled to the reward of His obedience. His resurrection was the antitype of Aaron’s return from the holy of holies unto the people, which was designed as a proof that Divine wrath had been averted and forgiveness secured.
Second , Aaron began by laying aside his robes of glory (Leviticus 16:4 ), putting on only linen garments: that was far more in keeping with Christ’s abasement at the cross, than His triumph and glory at His ascension. Third , when Aaron entered the holy of holies, atonement was not yet completed: that awaited his sprinkling of the blood upon the propitiatory. Therefore, if the antitype of this occurred not until the ascension of Christ, His sacrifice waited forty days for God’s acceptance of it. Fourth , while Aaron was within the veil, the people without were full of fear for the high priest, lest he fail to appease God. Similar was the state of Christ’s disciples during the interval between His death and resurrection: they remained in a state of suspense and doubt, dejection and dread. But far different were they immediately after His ascension: contrast Luke 24:21 and 24:52, 53! Fifth , God’s rending of the veil at the moment of Christ’s death was deeply significant: it was the Divine imprimature upon the Son’s "It is finished." It was the outward adumbration in the visible realm to image forth what had taken place in the spiritual Christ’s entrance into heaven. In like manner, Christ’s appearance to the disciples after His death, and His "peace be unto you," evidenced that peace had been made, that the atonement was completed.
"By His own blood He entered in," entered heaven as the Surety of His people, as their "Forerunner" (Hebrews 6:20 ). That which gave Him the right to do so was the perfect satisfaction which He had made, a satisfaction which honored God more than all our sins dishonored Him, which magnified the law and made it honorable. It was not the shedding of His blood alone which constituted His satisfaction or atonement, any more than a heart-belief in His resurrection (Romans 10:9 ) without "faith in His blood" (Romans 3:25 ) would save a sinner. He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8 ), and what He there voluntarily endured was the climax and consummation of His redemptive work. "His own blood" emphasises its inestimable value. It was the blood of the "Son" (Hebrews 1:2 , Hebrews 1:3 ). It was the blood of "God" incarnate (Acts 20:28 ). Well might the Holy Spirit call it "precious" (1 Peter 1:19 ). No greater price could have been paid for our redemption. How vile and accursed, then, must sin be, seeing it can only be expiated by so costly a sacrifice! What claims Christ has upon His own! Well might He say, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33 ).
"He entered in once into the holy place." The word "once" is that which has led so many to conclude that the reference was to the Savior’s ascension. But this, we have endeavored to show above, is a mistake. As we shall (D.V.) yet see, Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 contemplate a double entrance of Christ into heaven in fulfillment of the double type Aaron and Melchizedek. That Christ did enter heaven at death is clear from His words to the thief (Luke 23:43 ); 2 Corinthians 12:2 , 2 Corinthians 12:4 places "paradise" in the third heaven. In every other passage where the term "once" occurs concerning the atoning work of Christ, it is always used contrastively with the frequent repetitions of the Old Testament sacrifices: see Hebrews 7:27 ; Hebrews 9:7 , Hebrews 9:25 , Hebrews 9:26 ; Hebrews 10:11 , Hebrews 10:12 . That which is contemplated is Christ’s presenting His satisfaction unto God. His ascension was for the purpose of intercession, which is continuous, and not completed.
"Having obtained eternal redemption," and this before He entered Heaven. To "redeem" is to deliver a person from a state of bondage, and that by the payment of an adequate ransom-price. Four things were required unto our redemption. It must be effected by the expiating of our sins. It must be by such an expiation that God, as the supreme Ruler and Judge should accept. It must be by rendering such a satisfaction to the Law, that its precepts are fulfilled and its penalty endured, so that its curse is removed. It must annul the power of Satan over us. How all of this was accomplished by the Redeemer, we have shown in our articles upon His "Satisfaction." This "redemption" is eternal, which is in contrast from Israel’s of old after their deliverance from Egypt they became in bondage to the Philistines and others. As the blood of Christ can never lose its efficacy, so none redeemed by Him can ever again be brought under sin’s dominion.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ" (verses 13, 14). Having again demonstrated the pre-eminency of our Priest in verses 11, 12, the apostle now exhibits the superior efficacy of His sacrifice. By a synecdoche all sacrifices of expiation and all ordinances of purification appointed under the law are here summarized: the blood of lambs, etc., being included. The particular reference in the "ashes of an heifer" being to Numbers 19:2-17 , with which should be carefully compared John 13:1-15 . It is principally the use of the ordinance of Numbers 19:0 which is here in view. An heifer having been burned, its ashes were preserved, that, being mixed with pure water, they might be sprinkled on persons who had become legally unclean. When an Israelite, through contact with death, became ceremonially defiled, he was cut off from all the public worship of Jehovah; but when he carried out the instructions of Numbers 19:0 he was restored.
Those "ashes," then, were a most merciful provision of God; without them, all acceptable worship had soon ceased. They had an efficacy, for they availed to the purifying of the flesh, which was a temporary, external and ceremonial cleansing. Typically, they pointed to that spiritual, inward and eternal cleansing which the blood of Christ provides. "The defilements which befall believers are many, and some of them unavoidable whilst they live in this world: yea, the best of their services have defilements adhering to them. Were it not that the blood of Christ, in its purifying virtue, is in a continual readiness unto faith, that God therein had opened a fountain for sin and uncleanness, the worship of the church would not be acceptable unto Him. In a constant application thereunto, doth the exercise of faith much consist" (John Owen).
"How much more shall the blood of Christ," etc. If the blood and ashes of beasts, under the appointment of God, were efficacious unto an external and temporary justification and sanctification that is, the removal of both guilt and ceremonial pollution how much more shall the sacrifice of Him who was promised of old, was the Anointed and therefore the One ordained and accepted of God, effectually and eternally cleanse those to whom it is applied
"The blood of Christ is comprehensive of all that He did and suffered in order unto our redemption, inasmuch as the shedding of it was the way and means whereby He offered Himself (in and by it) unto God" (John Owen).
"Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself." There has been considerable difference of opinion as to whether the "eternal Spirit" has reference to the Divine nature of Christ animating and sustaining His humanity, or to the third Person of the Trinity. That which settles the point for us is this: Christ "offered Himself" to God: that is, in His entire person, while acting in His mediatorial office. As the Mediator, He took upon Him the "form of a servant," and therefore was He filled and energized by the Spirit in all that He did. Christ was "obedient unto death:" as He was subject to the Spirit in going into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1 ), so the Spirit led Him a willing victim to the cross. This wondrous statement shows us the perfect cooperation of the Eternal Three, concurring in the great work of redemption.
Christ offered Himself "without spot," to God. There is a double reference in these words: unto the purity of His person, and to the holiness of His life. There is both a moral and a legal sense to the expression. It speaks of Christ’s fitness and meetness to be a sacrifice for our sins. Not only was there no blemish in His nature and no defect in His character, but there was every moral excellence. He had fulfilled the law in thought, word and deed, having loved the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbor as Himself. Therefore was He fully qualified to act for His people.
"Purge your conscience from dead works." This is one of the effects produced by Christ’s sacrifice, an effect which the legal ordinances were incapable of securing. Because Christ’s sacrifice has expiated our sins, when the Spirit applies its virtues to the heart, that is, when He gives faith to appropriate them, our sense of guilt is removed, peace is communicated, and we are enabled to approach God not only without dread, but as joyous worshippers. The "conscience" is here specially singled out (cf. Hebrews 10:22 for the larger meaning) because it is the proper seat of the guilt of sin, charging it on the soul, and hindering an approach unto God. By "dead works" are meant our sins as unto their guilt and defilement cf. our comments on Hebrews 6:1 . True believers are delivered from the curse of the law, which is death.
"To serve the living God," not simply in outward form but in sincerity and in truth. This is the advantage and blessing which we receive from our conscience being purged. Christians have both the right and the liberty to "serve God." The "living God" cannot be served by those who are dead in sins, and therefore alienated from Him. But the sacrifice of Christ has purchased the gift of the Spirit unto all for whom He died, and the Spirit renews and equips the saint for acceptable worship. "This is the end of our purgation: for we are not washed by Christ that we may plunge ourselves again into new filth, but that our purity may serve to glorify God" (John Calvin). Under the word "serve" is comprised all the duties which we owe unto God, not only as His creatures, but as His children. Then let us earnestly seek grace to put Romans 12:1 into daily practice.
(Hebrews 9:15 )
The proposition which the apostle is occupied with proving and illustrating in this section of the epistle is that which was laid down in Hebrews 8:6 , "But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." In the verses which were before us in the last article, the superiority of Christ over Aaron was brought out in the following respects. First, in that He officiated in a more excellent tabernacle (verse 11). Second, in that He offered to God a superior sacrifice (verses 11, 14). Third, in that He has entered a more glorious sanctuary (verse 12). Fourth, in that He secured a more efficacious redemption (verse 12). Fifth, in that He was moved by a more excellent Spirit (verse 14). Sixth, in that He obtained for His people a better cleansing (verse 14). Seventh, in that He made possible for them a nobler service (verse 14).
Christ has "obtained eternal redemption" for His people. As we pointed out in our last article, to "redeem" signifies to liberate by the paying of a ransom-price: "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36 ). The freedom which the Christian has is, first, a legal one: he has been "redeemed from the curse of the law" (Galatians 3:13 ). Because of this, second, he enjoys an experimental freedom from the power of sin: "sin shall not have dominion over you" (Romans 6:14 ). Justification and sanctification are never separated: where God imputes the righteousness of Christ. He also imparts a principle of holiness, the latter being the fruit or consequence of the former; both being necessary before we can be admitted into heaven. Because the blood of Christ has fully met every claim of God upon and against His people, its virtues and purifying effects are applied to them by the Spirit. Both of these were foreshadowed under the Levitical types of the old economy, and are seen in Hebrews 9:13 .
"The blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean" sanctified "to the purifying of the flesh." There is here both a comparison and a contrast. The comparison is between the type and the Antitype; the contrast, between what the one and what the other effected. Those typical rites procured only a temporary "redemption" from the governmental consequences of sin; Christ’s sacrifice has secured an "eternal redemption" from all the consequences of sin. A double type is referred to in Hebrews 9:13 . No single sacrifice could adequately represent the power and efficacy of the blood of Christ. By the "blood of bulls and goats" the guilt of Israel’s sins were temporarily removed; by the sprinkling of the "ashes of an heifer" they were ceremonially purified from the defilements of the wilderness. We quote below a valuable footnote from Adolph Saphir:
"The ashes of an heifer. It was to take away the defilement of death. The institution is recorded in the book of Numbers as relating to the provision God makes for His people in their wilderness journey. As no blood of the slain victim was ‘incorruptible,’ it was necessary, in order to show the cleansing by blood from defilement through contact with death to have as it were the essential principle of blood, presented in a permanent and available form. The red heifer, which had never been under the yoke, symbolizes life in its most vigorous, perfect, and fruitful form. She was slain without the camp (Hebrews 13:11 , Numbers 19:3 , Numbers 19:4 ). She was wholly burnt, flesh, skin, and blood, the priest casting cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet into the fire. The ashes of the burnt heifer, put into flowing water, were then sprinkled with hyssop for ceremonial purification . . . Christ is the fulfillment. For the blood of Christ is not merely, so to speak, the key unlocking the holy of holies to Him as our High Priest and Redeemer, it is not merely our ransom by which we are delivered out of bondage, and, freed from the curse, are brought nigh unto God; but it also separates us from death and sin. It is incorruptible, always cleansing and vivifying; through this blood we are separated from this evil world, and overcome; by this blood we keep our garments white (John 6:53 , Revelation 7:14 ).
"What had necessarily to be separated in the types, is here in unity and perfection. Likewise, what really and potentially is given to us when we are first brought into the state of reconciliation and access, of justification and sanctification, is in our actual experience continually repeated. We have been cleansed and sanctified once and forever; the same blood, remembered and believed in, cleanseth us continually. The difference between this continual cleansing and the first (according to John 13:10 ) must never be forgotten, or we fall into a legal condition, going back from the holy of holies into the holy place. But, on the other hand we must not forget the living character of the blood, which by the Spirit is continually applied to us, and by which we have peace, renewal of the sense of pardon, and strength for service (1 Peter 1:2 )."
Having pointed out what God’s people are redeemed from, the Holy Spirit next makes a brief notice of what Christ has redeemed unto. He has delivered us from the curse of the law and the bondage of sin; He has also procured for us an "eternal inheritance": His satisfaction has merited for us the favor and image of God and everlasting bliss in His presence. In referring to this, the Spirit also takes occasion to bring out the fact that the sacrifice of Christ was necessary in order for God to make good His promises of old. Herein too He once more meets the Jewish prejudice why must this great High Priest die? The death of Christ was requisite in order to the accomplishing of God’s engagements to Abraham and his (spiritual) seed, to confirm His covenant-pledges, which, once more, brings into view the relation which Christ sustains to the everlasting covenant.
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (verse 15). Each word in this verse requires to be duly weighed and carefully considered both in the light of what immediately precedes and follows, otherwise we are certain to err. The opening "And" is plain intimation that no new subject begins here, which at once disposes of the figment that this and the next verses require to he placed in a parenthesis. The apostle continues to treat of what was before him in the verses which we considered in the last article. He is still showing the excellency of our High Priest and the superior efficacy of His sacrifice. That the contents of this verse are by no means free from difficulty is readily allowed, yet its leading thoughts are plain enough.
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament." The Greek words for "for this cause" are rendered "therefore" in Hebrews 1:9 and other places. They signify, because of this, or for this reason. There has been a great deal of discussion as to precisely what is referred to in "for this cause": some insisting that it looks back to what has been affirmed in the previous verses, others contending that it points forward to that which is declared in the second half of this verse. Personally, we believe that both are included. There is a fullness to God’s words which is not to be found in man’s, and whenever an expression is capable of two or more meanings, warranted by the context and the analogy of faith, both should be retained. Let us then look at the two thoughts here brought together.
"For this cause": because of the superior nature and efficacy of the sacrifice which Christ was to offer, God appointed Him to be the Mediator of the new covenant. It was out of (prospective) regard unto the fitness of Christ’s person and the excellency of His offering, that God ordained Him to make mediation between Himself and His fallen people. Because He should make an effectual atonement for their sins and provide a way whereby their troubled consciences might have peace, God decreed that His Son, becoming incarnate, should interpose between poor sinners and the awful Majesty they have offended. "For this cause": and also, because it was only by means of death that the transgressions under the first testament could be redeemed and the called receive the promise of eternal inheritance, Christ was appointed Mediator of the new covenant.
With his usual sagacity John Owen combined both ideas: "It is evident there is a reason rendered in these words, of the necessity of the death and sacrifice of Christ, by which alone our consciences may be purged from dead works. And this reason is intended in these words, ‘For this cause.’ And this necessity of the death of Christ, the apostle proves both from the nature of His office, namely, that He was to be the Mediator of the new covenant, which, being a testament, required the death of the testator; and from what was to be effected thereby, namely, the redemption of transgressions, and the purchase of an eternal inheritance. Wherefore, these are the things which he hath respect unto in these words."
"He is the Mediator of the new testament." It seems strange that some of the best of the expositors understand this to mean that after Christ had "offered Himself without spot to God" he became "the Mediator," which is indeed a turning of things upside down and a putting an effect for a cause. A mediator is one who stands between two parties, and two parties at variance, and that with the object of settling the difference between them, that is, of effecting a reconciliation. Hence we read, "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Timothy 2:5 , 1 Timothy 2:6 ). The second half of our verse ought to have prevented such a blunder: "He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."
As we pointed out in our comments upon Hebrews 8:6 , it is most important to recognize that Christ is a sacerdotal Mediator, that is, one who has interposed His sacrifice and intercession between God and His people in order to their reconciliation. In voluntarily undertaking to serve as Mediator between God and His people considered as fallen creatures, two things were required from Christ. First, that He should completely remove that which kept the covenanters at a distance, that is, take away the cause of enmity between them. Second, that He should purchase and procure, in a way suited unto the glory of God, the actual communication of all the good things summed up in "grace and glory" (Psalms 84:11 ) which belong to those whose Surety He was. This is the foundation of the "merits" of Christ and of the grant of all blessings unto us for His sake.
In what has just been pointed out, we may perceive an additional signification to the opening "And" of our verse. Christ is not only "High Priest" (verses 11-14), but "Mediator" too. He undertook office upon office in order to our greater good. Christ is, in the "new covenant" or "testament," the Mediator, Surety, Priest and Sacrifice, all in His own person. In order that we may have something like a definite conception of these, let us consider, separately, the various relations which our blessed Redeemer sustains to the everlasting covenant. First, He is the Surety of it: Hebrews 7:22 . As such He engaged to render full satisfaction to God on behalf of His people, to do and suffer for them all that the law required. He transferred to Himself all their obligations, undertaking to pay all their debts. In other words, He substituted Himself in their place and stead, in consequence of which there was a double imputation: God reckoning to Christ all their liabilities, God imputing to them His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21 ).
As the "Surety" Christ most blessedly fulfilled the type of Genesis 43:9 , being Sponsor to His Father for all His beloved Benjamins, Hebrews 2:13 , Isaiah 49:5 , Isaiah 49:6 , John 10:16 . Second, as the Mediator of the covenant (Hebrews 12:24 ), He took His place between God and His people, undertaking to maintain the interests and secure the honor of both parties, by perfectly reconciling the one to the other. As the "Mediator" Christ has blessedly fulfilled the type of Jacob’s "ladder," uniting heaven and earth. Third, as the Messenger (Malachi 3:1 ) or "Angel" of the covenant (Revelation 8:3-5 ) He makes known God’s purpose and will to His people, and presents their requests and worship to Him. Fourth, as the Testator of the covenant (Hebrews 9:16 ) He has ratified it and made bequests and gifts to His people. Finally, and really first, as the Head of the whole election of grace, the covenant was made with Him by God: Psalms 89:3 , etc.
"For this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament." Here again there has been an almost endless controversy as to whether this last word should be rendered "covenant" or "testament," that is, "will." The same Greek word has been translated by both these English terms, some think wrongly so, for a "covenant" is, strictly speaking, an agreement or contract between two parties: the one promising to do certain things upon the fulfillment of certain conditions by the other; whereas a "testament" or "will" is where one bequeaths certain things as gifts. Thus there seems to be little or nothing in common between the two concepts, in fact, that which is quite contrary. Nevertheless, our English translators have rendered the Greek word both ways, and we believe, rightly so. Nevertheless it remains for us to enquire, why should the same term be rendered "covenant" in Hebrews 8:6 and "testament" in Hebrews 9:15 ? Briefly, the facts are as follows.
First, the word "diatheke" occurs in the Greek New Testament thirty-three times, having been translated (in the A.V.) "covenant" twenty times (twice in the plural number) and "testament" thirteen times, four of the latter being used in connection with the Lord’s supper. Second, in the Sept. version (the translation of the Hebrews Old Testament into Greek) this word "diatheke" occurs just over two hundred and fifty times, where, in the great majority of instances, it is used to translate "berith." Third, the Greek word "diatheke" is not that which properly denotes a covenant, compact, or agreement; instead, the technical terms for that is "syntheke," but the Spirit never once uses this word in the New Testament. Fourth, on the other hand, it should be noted that the Hebrew language has no distinctive word which means a will or testament. Fifth, the most common use of the term "diatheke" in the New Testament, particularly in 2 Corinthians 3:0 and in Hebrews, neither denotes a "covenant" proper (a stipulated agreement) nor a "will," but instead, an economy, a dispensational arrangement or ordering of things.
Now it needs to be very carefully noted that from Hebrews 9:15 to the end of the chapter, the apostle argues from the nature of a will or "testament" among men, as he distinctly affirms in verse 16. His manifest object in so doing was to confirm the Christian’s faith in the expectation of the benefits of this "covenant" or "testament." Nor did he violate the rules of language in this, straining neither the meaning of the Hebrews "berith" nor the Greek "diatheke," for there is, actually, a close affinity between the two things. There are "covenants" which have in them free grants or donations, which is of the nature of a "testament"; and there are "testaments" whose force is resolved into conditions and agreements as when a man wills an estate to his wife on the stipulation that she remains a widow which is borrowed from the nature of a "covenant."
If we go back to the Old Testament and study the various "covenants" which God made with men, it will be found again and again that they were merely declarations whereby He would communicate good things unto them, which has more of the nature of a "testament" in it. Sometimes the word "covenant" was used simply to express a free promise, with an effectual donation and communication of the thing promised, which also has more of the nature of a "testament’’ than of a "covenant." Thus, once more, we perceive a fullness in the words of the Holy Spirit which definitions from human dictionaries do not include. That which was a "covenant," has become to us a testament. The "covenant" was made by God with Christ. By His death that which God pledged Himself to do unto the heirs of promise in return for the work which Christ was to perform, is now bequeathed to us as a free gift: what was a legal stipulation between the Father and the Mediator, comes to us purely as a matter of grace.
Some have insisted that "the Mediator of the new covenant" is understandable, but that "Mediator of the new testament" is no more intelligible than the "testator of a covenant" would be. Our answer is that, the Spirit of God is not tied by the artificial rules which bind human grammarians. Romans 8:17 tells us that Christians are "heirs of God," that is of the Father, yet He has not died! No figure must be pressed too far. Some have argued that because the Church is the Body of Christ, it cannot also be His "Bride," but such carnal reasoning is altogether inadmissible upon spiritual and Divine things; as well might we argue that because Christ calls us "brethren" (Hebrews 2:12 ), therefore we cannot be His "children" (Hebrews 2:13 ); or that because Christ is the "everlasting Father" of Israel (Isaiah 9:6 ), He cannot also be their "Husband" (Isaiah 54:5 ). The truth is, that Christ is both the Mediator of the new covenant, and the Mediator of the new testament, looking at the same office from two different angles. God has so confirmed the promises in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20 ), that at His death He made a legacy of them and bequeathed them to His people in a testamentary form.
To sum up what has been said on this difficult but important subject: throughout the New Testament the Holy Spirit has intentionally used only the one word "diatheke" though there was another in the Greek language ("syntheke") which more exactly expressed a "covenant" because it was capable of a double application, and that, because the Son of God is not only the Mediator of a new covenant, but also the Testator of His own gifts. Thereby God would fix our gaze on the cross of Christ and see there that what had up to that day existed as a "covenant," then ,became for the first time, a "testament"; and that while the covenant between the Father and the Son is from everlasting, the "new testament" dates only from Calvary.
"For the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament." This states one of the principal ends which God had in view when appointing Christ to be the "Mediator," namely, to deliver His people from all the bondage they were subject to as the result of their violations of His law, and that by the payment of a satisfactory price. But, it may be asked, why not "the redemption of the transgressors" rather than "transgressions"? Did Christ purchase sins? The reference is to His expiation of His people’s iniquities, and they were "debts," and Christ’s death was a discharge of that debt. "The discharge of a debt is a buying it out. Thus to redeem sins is no more harsh a phrase than to be ‘delivered for our offenses’ (Romans 4:25 ), or ‘who gave Himself for our sins’ (Galatians 1:4 ), or to be ‘merciful to their unrighteousness,’ Hebrews 8:12 ’ (William Gouge).
"For the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament.’’ In these words the Spirit makes a further exhibition of the virtue and efficacy of Christ’s death, by affirming that it paid the price of remitting the sins of the Old Testament saints. Here again the apostle is countering the Jewish prejudice. The death of Christ was necessary not only if sinners of New Testament times should be fitted to serve the living God (verse 14), but also to meet the claims which God had against the Old Testament saints. The efficacy of Christ’s atonement was retrospective as well as prospective: cf. Romans 3:25 . The true (in contrast from the typical), spiritual (in contrast from the ceremonial), and eternal (in contrast from the temporal), "redemption’’ of the Old Testament saints was effected by the sacrifice of Christ. The same thing is clearly implied in Hebrews 9:26 : had not the one offering of Christ as the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:19 , 1 Peter 1:20 ) been of perpetual efficacy from the days of Abel onwards, then it had been necessary to repeat it constantly in order to redeem believers of each generation. It was God’s eternal purpose that Christ’s atonement, settled in the "everlasting covenant," should be available to faith from the beginning. Hence, the apostle said. "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins (cf. Galatians 3:8 , Hebrews 4:2 ), and by Him all that believe Old Testament saints as truly as the New Testament are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38 , Acts 13:39 ).
"Now, if any one asks, whether sins under the Law were remitted to the fathers, we must bear in mind the solution already stated, that they were remitted; but remitted through Christ. Then notwithstanding their external expiations, they were always held guilty. For this reason Paul says that the law was a handwriting against us (Colossians 2:14 ). For when the sinner came forward and openly confessed that he was guilty before God, and acknowledged by sacrificing an innocent animal that he was worthy, of eternal death, what did he obtain by his victim, except that he sealed his own death as it were by this handwriting? In short, even then they only reposed in the remission of sins, when they looked to Christ. But if only a regard to Christ took away sins, they could never have been freed from them, had they continued to rest in the law" (John Calvin).
"For the redemption of the transgressions under the first testament.’’ It remains for us to ask, Why this limitation? for Christ atoned for the sins of those who were to believe as much as for those who had, before He became incarnate, looked in faith to Him. First, because a measure of doubt or uncertainty could exist only concerning them. Some have taught, and possibly some in the apostle’s day thought, that naught but earthly blessings would be the portion of those who died before the present dispensation. Therefore to remove such a doubt, it is affirmed that Old Testament believers too were redeemed by Christ’s blood. Second, because the apostle had pressed so hard the fact that the Levitical sacrifices could not remove moral guilt from those who lived under the Mosaic economy, he shows Christ’s sacrifice had. Third, because by just consequence it follows that, if those who trusted Christ of old had redemption of their transgressions through Him, much more they who are under the new testament. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7 ): it was just as efficacious in taking away the transgressions of believers before it was actually shed, as it is of cleansing believers today, nineteen centuries after it was shed.
"They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.’’ Here the "heirs" are designated by character rather than by name, by this qualification (Greek) "they which have been called," that is, effectually so, or truly converted to God. In John 1:12 this privilege of heir-ship is settled upon "believers," such as do heartily accept of Christ and His grace. In Acts 26:18 and Colossians 1:12 the heirs are described as "sanctified," that is, as personally dedicated to God and set apart to live unto Him. This expression "the called" is a descriptive appellation of the true spiritual people of God, and looks back to the "call" of Abraham (Hebrews 11:8 ), who, in consequence of the mighty workings of divine grace in his heart, turned his back upon the world and the things of the flesh (Genesis 12:1 ), and entered the path of faith’s obedience to God. Only those possessing these marks are the spiritual "children" of Abraham, such as have been "called with a holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9 ).
"Might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." This is the goal toward which the apostle has been steadily moving, as he has passed from clause to clause in this verse. That the called of God might receive the promise of eternal inheritance was the grand ultimate object of the "everlasting covenant" so far as men are concerned, and the chief design of the new testament. But an obstacle stood in the way, namely, the transgressions or sins of those who should be "called." In order to the removal of that obstacle, Christ must die that death which was due unto those transgressions. For the Son of God to die, He must be appointed unto a mediatorial position and become incarnate. Because He was so appointed, because He did so die, because He has redeemed from all transgressions, the "eternal inheritance" is sure unto all His people, His heirs, the "called" of God.
"Might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." The children of Israel received from God an external call which separated them from the heathen, and when they were redeemed from Egypt they received promise of a temporal or earthly inheritance. But inside that Nation was "a remnant according to the election of grace," and they, individually, received from God an inward call, which made them the heirs of an eternal inheritance. It is of these latter that our verse speaks, yet as including also the saints of the present dispensation. Promise of an "eternal inheritance" had the Old Testament saints. They had the Gospel preached unto them (Hebrews 4:2 ). They were saved through "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:11 ) as well as we. They "did all eat the same spiritual meat and did all drink the same spiritual drink," even Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3 , 1 Corinthians 10:4 ). And therefore did they "desire a better country, that is, an heavenly" (Hebrews 11:16 ). How all of this sets aside the preposterous figment of the modern "dispensationalists," who relegate "Israel" to an inferior inheritance from that which belongs to "the Church"!
"Might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." What is meant by the first four words here? First, let us very briefly define the "eternal inheritance." By it we understand God’s "great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3 ), considering it in its most comprehensive sense, as including justification, sanctification and glorification. It is that blessed estate which Christ has purchased for "His own," here called an "inheritance" to remind us that the way whereby we come unto it is by a gratuitous adoption, and not by any merits of our own. Now as the state of those who are to receive it is twofold, namely, in this life and in that which is to come, so there are two parts of this inheritance: "grace and glory." Even now "eternal life" is communicated to those who are called according to God’s purpose. But "grace" is only "glory" begun: the best "wine" is reserved for the time to come. For the future aspect of the "eternal inheritance" see 1 Peter 1:3-5 .
The way whereby God conveys this "eternal inheritance" is by "promise": see Galatians 3:18 and Hebrews 6:15-18 . And this for a threefold reason at least. First, to manifest the absolute freeness of the grant of it: the "promise" is everywhere opposed unto everything of "works" or desert in ourselves: Romans 4:14 , etc. Second, to give security unto all the heirs of it, for the very veracity and faithfulness of God is behind the promise: Titus 1:1 , etc. Since God has "promised" to bestow the "inheritance," nothing in, of, or from the heirs can possibly be an occasion of their forefeiting it: 1 Thessalonians 5:24 . Third, that it might be by faith, for what God promises necessarily requires faith, and faith only, unto its reception: Romans 4:16 . The "receive the promise" has a double force. First, it is to "mix faith" with it (Hebrews 4:2 ), to appropriate it (Hebrews 11:13 , Hebrews 11:17 ), so as not to stagger at it in unbelief (Romans 4:20 , Romans 4:21 ). Second, it is to receive the fulfillment of it. As unto the foundation of the whole inheritance, in the sacrifice of Christ, and all the grace, mercy and love, with the fruits thereof, these are communicated to believers in this life: Galatians 3:14 . As unto the consummation, the future state in glory, we "receive the promise" by faith, rest thereon, and live in the joyous expectation of it: Hebrews 11:13 .
In conclusion, let us sum up the contents of this remarkable verse, adopting the analysis of John Owen. 1. God has designed an "eternal inheritance" unto certain persons. 2. The way in which a right or title is conveyed thereunto is by "promise." 3. The persons unto whom this inheritance is designed, are the "called." 4. The obstacle which stood in the way of their enjoyment of this inheritance was their "transgressions." 5. That this obstacle might be removed, and the inheritance enjoyed, God made a "new covenant,’’ because none of the sacrifices under the first covenant, could expiate sins. 6. The ground of the efficacy of the "new covenant" unto this end was, that it had a Mediator, a great High Priest. 7. The means whereby the Mediator of the new covenant did expiate the sins against the first testament was by "death," and this of necessity, seeing that this new covenant, being also a "testament," required the death of the Testator. 8. The death of this Mediator has taken away sins by "the redemption of transgressions." Thus, the promise is sure unto all the seed.
The New Testament
(Hebrews 9:16-22 )
Having affirmed (Hebrews 9:12 , Hebrews 9:14 ) that the blood of Christ is the means of the believer’s redemption, in verse 15, the apostle proceeds to make further proof of this basic and vital truth. His argument here is taken from the design and object of Christ’s priesthood, which was to confirm the covenant God had made with His people, and which could only be done by blood. First, he affirms that the Savior was "the Mediator of the new testament." Many functions were undertaken by Him. Just as one type could not set forth all that the Lord Jesus did and suffered, so no single office could display all the relations which He sustained and all the benefits He procured for us. That which is done by a prophet, by a priest, by a king, by a surety, by a mediator, by a husband, by a father, that and more has been done by Christ. And the more dearly we observe in Scripture the many undertakings of Christ for us, as seen in His varied relations, the more will He be endeared to our hearts, and the more will faith be strengthened.
Christ’s undertaking to be a "Mediator" both procured a covenant to pass between God and men, and also engaged Himself for the performance thereof on both parts. This could only be by a full satisfaction being rendered to Divine justice, by the shedding of blood infinitely valuable as His was. To assure His people of their partaking of the benefits of God’s covenant, the cross of Christ has turned that covenant into a testament, so that the conditions of the covenant on God’s part (its requirements: namely, perfect obedience rendered to His law, and thus "everlasting righteousness’’ being brought in: Daniel 9:24 ; and full satisfaction being taken by the law for the sins of His people) might be so many legacies, which being ratified by the death of the Testator, none might disannul.
Unspeakably blessed as are the truths expressed (so freely) above, there is another which is still more precious for faith to apprehend and rest on, and that is, that behind all offices (so to speak), lying at the foundation of the whole dispensation of God’s grace toward His people, is the mystical oneness of Christ and His Church: a legal oneness, which ultimates by the Spirit’s work in a vital union, so that Christ is the Head and believers are the members of one Person (1 Corinthians 12:12 , 1 Corinthians 12:13 ). This, and this alone, constituted the just ground for God to impute to Christ all the sins of His people, and to impute to them the righteousness of Christ for their justification of life. What Christ did in obeying the law is reckoned to them as though that obedience had been performed by them; and in like manner, what they deserved on account of their sins was charged to and endured by Him, as though they themselves had suffered it: see 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
The first spring of the union between Christ and His Church lay in that eternal compact between the Father and the Son respecting the salvation of His people contemplated as fallen in Adam. In view of the human nature which He was to assume, the Lord Christ was "predestinated" or "foreordained" (1 Peter 1:20 ) unto grace and glory, and that by virtue of the union of flesh unto His Godhead. This grace and glory of the God-man was the exemplary cause and pattern of our predestination: Romans 8:29 , Philippians 3:21 . It was also the cause and means of the communicating of all grace and glory unto us, for we were "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4 ). Christ was thus elected (Isaiah 42:1 ) as Head of the Church, His mystical body. All the elect of God were then committed unto Him, to be delivered from sin and death, and brought unto the enjoyment of God: John 17:6 , Revelation 1:5 , Revelation 1:6 .
In the prosecution of this design of God, and to effect the accomplishment of the "everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13:20 ), Christ undertook to be the "Surety" of that covenant (Hebrews 7:22 ), engaging to answer for all the liabilities of His people and to discharge all their legal responsibilities. Yet was it as Priest that Christ acted as Surety: God’s "Priest," our "Surety." That is to say, all the activities of Christ were of a sacerdotal character, having God for their immediate object; but as these activities were all performed on our behalf, He was a Surety or Sponsor for us also. As the "Surety" of the covenant, Christ undertook to discharge all the debts of those who are made partakers of its benefits. As our Surety He also merited and procured from God the Holy Spirit, to communicate to His people all needful supplies of grace to make them new creatures, which enables them to yield obedience to God from a new principle of spiritual life, and that faithfully unto the end.
When considering the administration of the "everlasting covenant’’ in time, we contemplate the actual application of the grace, benefits and privileges of it unto those for whose sakes it was devised and drawn up. For this the death of the Mediator was required, for only through His blood-shedding is the whole grace of the covenant made effectual unto us. This it is which is affirmed in Hebrews 9:15 , and which we considered at length in our last article. In the passage which is now to be before us, the apostle does two things: first, he refers to a well known fact which is everywhere recognized among men, namely, that a will or testament requires the death of the testator to give it validity. Second, he refers to an Old Testament type which exemplifies the principle which he is here setting before us.
"For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" (verses 16, 17). That which is found in verses 16-23 is really of the nature of a parenthesis, brought in for the purpose of showing why it was necessary for the incarnate Son to die. In verse 24 the apostle returns to his proofs for the superiority of the ministry of Christ over Aaron’s. What we have in verses 16, 17, is brought in to show both the need for and the purpose of the death of Christ, the argument being drawn from the character and design of that covenant of which He is the Mediator. Because that covenant was also to be a "testament" it was confirmed by the death of the Testator. Appeal is made to the only use of a will or testament among men.
The method by which the apostle here demonstrates the necessity of Christ’s death as He was "the mediator of the new testament’’ is not merely from the signification of the word "diatheke" (though we must not lose sight of its force), but as he is speaking principally of the two "covenants" (i.e., the two forms under which the "everlasting covenant" has been administered), it is the affinity which there is between a solemn covenant, and a testament, that he has respect unto. For it is to be carefully noted that the apostle speaks not of the death of Christ merely as it was a death, which is all that is required of a "testament" as such, without any consideration of the nature of the testator’s death; but he speaks of it also (and primarily) as it was a sacrifice by the shedding of His blood (verses 12, 14, 18-23), which belongs to a Divine covenant, and is in no way required by a "testament." Thus, we see again the needs-be for retaining the double meaning and force of the Greek word here.
There has been much needless wrangling over the Divine person alluded to under the word "Testator," some insisting it is Christ, some the Father, others arguing the impossibility of the latter because the Father has never died. We believe that, in this case, Saphir was right when he said, "The testator is, properly speaking, God; for we are God’s heirs; but it is God in Christ." Had he referred the reader to 2 Corinthians 5:19 his statement had been given scriptural confirmation. The "everlasting covenant" or Covenant of Grace has the nature of a "testament" from these four considerations or facts. First, it proceeded from the will of God: He freely made it (Hebrews 6:17 ). Second, it contained various legacies or gifts: to Christ, God bequeathed the elect as His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9 , Psalms 16:6 , Luke 22:29 ); to the elect themselves, that they should be joint-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17 , Revelation 3:21 ). Third, it is unalterable (Galatians 3:15 ), "ordered in all things and sure" (2 Samuel 23:5 ); having been duly witnessed to (1 John 5:7 ), hence, being of the nature of a "testament" there are no stipulations for men to fulfill (Galatians 3:18 ). Fourth, the death of Christ has secured the administration of it.
A deed is not valid without a seal; a will cannot be probated until the legatee dies, nor were God’s covenants with men (the historical adumbrations of the "everlasting covenant") ratified except by blood-shedding. Thus it was with His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9 , Genesis 15:18 ); thus it was with His covenant with Israel at Sinai (Exodus 24:6 ). Thus, unto the confirmation of a "testament" there must be the death of the testator; unto the ratification of a "covenant" the blood of a sacrifice was required. Thereby does the apostle prove conclusively the necessity for the sacrificial death of Christ as the Mediator, both as the Mediator of a "covenant" and as the Mediator of a "testament": for through His sacrificial death, both the promises contained in the "covenant" and the bequeathments of the "testament," are made irrevocably sure to all His seed. We trust, then that we have been enabled to clear up the great difficulty which the word "diatheke" has caused so many, and shown that it has a double meaning and force in this passage.
It remains for us to point out that the Old Testament supplies us with a most striking type which blessedly illustrates the principle enunciated in this 16th verse. But note first of all that verse 15 opens with "For" and that this comes right after the mention of "the Mediator of the new testament," and the promise of "eternal inheritance" in verse 15. Now the "mediator" of the "Old Testament" was Moses, and it was not until his death, though immediately after it, that Israel entered their inheritance, the land of Canaan! Looked at from the standpoint of God’s government, the death of Moses was because of his sin (Numbers 20:10-12 ); but considered in relation to his official position, as "the servant over the house of God," it had another and deeper meaning as Deuteronomy 3:26 shows, "the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes" how blessedly did this foreshadow the reason why God’s wrath was visited upon Christ: Christ, as Moses, must die before the inheritance could be ours.
In verse 17 it is not of the making of a testament which is referred to, but its execution: its efficacy depends solely on the testator’s death. The words "is of force" mean, is firm and cannot be annulled; it must be executed according to the mind of the one who devised it. The reason why it is of "no strength" during his lifetime, is because it is then subject to alteration, according to the pleasure of him who made it. All the blessings of "grace and glory" were the property of Christ, for He was "appointed Heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2 ): but in His death, He made a bequeathment of them unto all the elect. Another analogy between a human testament and the testamentary character of Christ’s death is that, an absolute grant is made without any conditions. So is the kingdom of heaven bequeathed to all the elect, so that nothing can defeat His will. Whatever there is in the Gospel which prescribes conditions, that belongs to it as it is a "covenant" and not as a "testament." Finally, the testator assigns the time when his heirs shall be admitted into the actual possession of his goods; so too has Christ determined the season when each shall enter both into grace and glory.
Perhaps a brief word should be added by way of amplification to the bare statement made above respecting the conditions which the Gospel prescribes unto those who are the beneficiaries of Christ’s "testament." Repentance and faith are required by the Gospel; yet, strictly speaking they are not "conditions" of our entering into the enjoyment of Christ’s gifts. Faith is a means to receive and partake of the things promised, repentance is a qualification whereby we may know that we are the persons to whom such promises belong. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that He who has made the promises works in His elect these graces of repentance and faith: Acts 5:31 , Philippians 1:29 .
"It is a great and gracious condescension in the Holy Spirit to give encouragement and confirmation unto our faith, by a representation of the truth and reality of spiritual things, in those which are temporal and agreeing with them in their general nature, whereby they are presented unto the common understandings of men. This way of proceeding the apostle calls, a speaking ‘after the manner of men’ (Galatians 3:15 ). Of the same kind were all the parables used by our Savior; for it is all one whether these representations be taken from things real, or from those which, according unto the same rule of reason and right, are framed on purpose for that end" (John Owen).
"Whereupon neither the first was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (verses 18-22).
In these verses the apostle is still pressing upon the Hebrews the necessity for the blood-shedding of Christ. Their national history witnessed to the fact that when God entered into covenant with their fathers, that covenant was confirmed by solemn sacrifice. In the verses upon which we are now to comment, the apostle is not merely proving that the old covenant or testament was confirmed with blood, for had that been his only object, he could have dispatched it in very few words; rather does he also declare what was the use of blood in sacrifices on all occasions under the law, and thereby he demonstrates the use and efficacy of Christ’s blood as unto the ends of the new covenant. The ends of the blood under the old covenant were two, namely, purification and pardon, both of which were confirmed in the expiation of sin. Unless the main design of the Spirit in these verses be steadily kept in view, we miss the deeper meaning of many of their details.
What has just been said above, supplies the explanation of what has seemed a problem to some, namely that in these verses the apostle mentions five or six details which are not found in the historical narrative of Exodus 24:0 . But the Holy Spirit is not here limiting our view to Exodus 24:0 , but gathers up what is found in various places of the law; and that, because He not only designed to prove the dedication of the covenant by blood, but also to show the whole use of the blood under the law, as unto purification and remission of sin. And He does this with the purpose of declaring the virtue and efficacy of the blood of Christ under the new testament, whereunto He makes an application of all the things in the verses which follow. The "Moreover" at the beginning of verse 21 is plain intimation that the Spirit is here contemplating something in addition to that which is found in Exodus 24:0 .
Verse 18. The opening word is usually rendered "therefore" or "wherefore": it denotes the drawing of an inference; it confirms a general rule by a special instance. In verse 16 the general rule is stated; now, says the apostle, think it not strange that the new testament was confirmed by the death of the Testator, for this is so necessary that, the first one also was confirmed in the same manner; and that, not only by death, but not "without blood," which was required for the ratification of a solemn covenant. That to which reference is made is the "first" testament or covenant. Here the apostle makes clear what he intended by the first or old covenant, on which he had discoursed at large in chapter 8: it was the covenant made with Israel at Horeb. Just a few words on the character of it.
Its terms had all the nature of a formal covenant. These were the things written in the book (Exodus 24:4 , Exodus 24:7 ) which were an epitome of the whole law, as contained in Exodus 20-23. The revelation of its terms were made by Jehovah Himself, speaking with awful voice from the summit of Sinai: Exodus chapters 19, 20. Following the fundamental rule of the covenant, as contained in the Ten Commandments, were other statutes and rites, given for the directing of their walking with God. The same was solemnly delivered to Israel by Moses, and proposed unto them for their acceptation. Upon their approbation of it, the book was read in the hearing of all the people after it had been duly sprinkled with the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:7 ). Thereupon, for the first time, Jehovah was called "The God of Israel" (Exodus 24:10 ), and that by virtue of the covenant. This formed the foundation of His consequent dealings with them: all His chastening judgments upon Israel were due to their breaking of His covenant.
While there is a contrast, sharp and clear, between the Old Testament and the new, yet it should not be overlooked that there was also that which bound them together. This was ably expressed by Adolph Saphir: "The promise given to Abraham, and not to Moses, was not superseded or forgotten in the giving of the law. When God dealt with Israel in the wilderness, He gave them the promise that they should be a peculiar treasure unto Him above all people: ‘for all the earth is Mine’; and that they should possess the land as an inheritance (Exodus 19:5 , Exodus 19:6 ; Exodus 23:30 ; Deuteronomy 15:4 ). Based upon this promise, and corresponding with the Divine election and favor, is the law which God gave to His people. As He had chosen and redeemed them so that they were to be a holy people, and to walk before Him, even as in the Ten Commandments the gospel of election and redemption came first: ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt.’ Hence this covenant or dispensation, although it was a covenant, not of grace and Divine gifts and enablings, but of works, was connected with and based upon redemption, and it was dedicated, as the apostle emphatically says, not without blood.
"Both the book, or record of the covenant, and all the people, were sprinkled with the blood of typical sacrifices. For without blood is no remission of sins, and the promises of God can only be obtained through atonement. But we know that this is a figure of the one great Sacrifice, and that therefore all the promises and blessings under the old dispensation, underlying and sustaining it, were through the prospective death of the true Mediator. When therefore the spiritual Israelite was convinced by the law of sin, both as guilt and as a condition of impurity and strengthlessness, he was confronted by the promise of the inheritance, which always was of grace, unconditional and sure, and in a righteous and holy manner through expiation."
Verse 19. The one made use of for the dedication of the covenant was Moses. On God’s part he was immediately called unto this employment: Exodus 3:0 . On the part of the people, he was desired and chosen to transact all things between God and them, because they were not able to bear the effects of His immediate presence: Exodus 19:19 , Deuteronomy 5:22-27 ; and this choice of a spokesman on their part, God approved (verse 27). Thus Moses became in a general way a "mediator" between God and men in the giving of the law (Galatians 3:19 ). Thereby we are shown that there can be no covenant between God and sinful men, but in the hands of a Mediator, for man has neither meetness, merits, nor ability to be an undertaker of the terms of God’s covenant in his own person.
Moses spake "every precept unto the people." This intimates the particular character of the Old Testament. It consisted primarily of commandments of obedience (Ephesians 2:15 ), promising no assistance for the performance of them. The "new testament" is of another nature: it is one of promises, and although it also has precepts requiring obedience, yet is it (as a covenant) wholly founded in the promise, whereby strength and assistance for the performance of that obedience are given to us. Moses’ reading "every precept unto the people" emphasizes the fact that all the good things they were to receive by virtue of the covenant, depended on their observance of all that was commanded them; for a curse was denounced against every one that "continued not in all things written in the law to do them" (Deuteronomy 27:26 ). Obviously, such a "covenant" was never ordained for the saving of sinners: its insufficiency for that end is what the apostle demonstrates in the sequel.
We are again indebted to the exposition of John Owen for much of the above, and now give in condensed form some of his observations on the contents of verse 19. Here, for the first time, was any part of God’s Word committed to writing. This book of the law was written that it might be read to all the people: it was not to be restricted to the priests, as containing mysteries unlawful to ,be divulged. It was written and read in the language which the people understood and spake, which condemns Rome’s use of the Latin in her public services. Again; God never required the observance of any rites or duties of worship, without a previous warrant from His Word. How thankful should we be for the written Word!
That which Moses performed on this occasion was to sprinkle the blood. Exodus 24:6 informs us that he took "half of the blood" and sprinkled it "on the altar" (on which was the book); the other half on the people. The one was God’s part; the other theirs. Thereby the mutual agreement of Jehovah and the people was indicated. Typically, this foreshadowed the twofold efficacy of Christ’s blood, to make salvation God-wards and to save man-wards; or, to the remission of our sins unto justification, and the purification of our persons unto sanctification. The "scarlet wool," probably bound around the "hyssop" (which was a common weed), was employed as a sprinkler, as that which served to apply the blood in the basons upon the people; "water" being mixed with the blood to keep it fluid and aspersible. In like manner, the communication of the benefits of Christ’s death unto sanctification, is called the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2 ). To avail us, the blood must not only be "shed," but "sprinkled."
The mingling of the "water" with the "blood" was to represent the "blood and water" which flowed from the pierced side of the Savior (John 19:34 ,John 19:35 ), the spiritual "mystery" and meaning of which is profound and blessed. In 1 John 5:6 the Holy Spirit has particularly emphasized the fact that the Christ came "by water and blood." He came not only to make atonement for our sins by His blood that we might be justified, but also to sprinkle us with the efficacy of His blood in the communication of the Spirit unto sanctification, which is compared unto "water": see John 7:38 , John 7:39 , Titus 3:5 . The application of the blood to the "book" of the covenant was an intimation that atonement could be made by blood for the sins against its precepts, and the application of the "water" to it told of its purity. The sprinkler pointed to the humanity of Christ, through which all grace is communicated to us: the "scarlet wool" speaking of His personal glory (Daniel 5:7 etc.), and the "hyssop," the meanest of plant-life (1 Kings 4:33 ), being a figure of His lowly outward appearance.
Verse 20. In these words Moses reminded Israel of the foundation of their acceptance of the covenant, which foundation was the authority of God requiring them so to do; the word "enjoined" also emphasized the nature of the covenant itself: it consisted principally not of promises which had been given to them, but of "precepts" which called for hearty obedience. By quoting here these words of Moses "this is the blood of the testament," the apostle proves that not only death, but a sacrificial death, was required in order to the consecration and establishment of the first covenant. The blood was the confirmatory sign, the token between God and the people of their mutual engagements in that covenant. Thus did God from earliest times teach His people, by type and shadow, the supreme value of the blood of His Son. These words of Moses were plainly alluded to by the Savior in the institution of His "supper": "This is My blood of the new testament" (Matthew 26:28 ) i.e., this represents My blood, by the shedding of which the new testament is confirmed.
Verse 21. The apostle now reminds the Hebrews that, not only was the Old Testament itself dedicated with blood, but that also all the ways and means of solemn worship were purified by the same. His purpose in bringing in this additional fact was to prove that not only was the blood of Christ in sacrifice necessary, but also to demonstrate its efficacy in the removing of sins and thereby qualifying sinners to be worshippers of the most holy God. The historical reference here is to what is found in Leviticus 16:14 , Leviticus 16:16 , Leviticus 16:18 . The spiritual meaning of the tabernacle’s furniture being sprinkled with blood was at least twofold: first, in themselves those vessels were holy by God’s institution, yet in the use of them by polluted men, they became defiled, and needed purging. Second, to teach the Israelites and us that, the very means of grace which we use, are only made acceptable to God through the merits of Christ’s sacrifice.
What we have just sought to point out above, brings before us a most important and humbling truth. In all those things wherein we have to do with God, and whereby we approach unto Him, nothing but the blood of Christ and the Spirit’s application of it unto our consciences, gives us a gracious acceptance with Him. The best of our performances are defiled by the flesh; our very prayers and repentances are unclean, and cannot be received by God except as we plead before Him the precious blood of Christ. "The people were hereby taught that, God could not be looked to for salvation, nor rightly worshipped, except faith in every case looked to an intervening blood. For the majesty of God is justly to be dreaded by us, and the way to His presence is nothing to us but a dangerous labyrinth, until we know that He is pacified towards us through the blood of Christ, and that this blood affords to us a free access. All kinds of worship are then faulty and impure until, Christ cleanses them by the sprinkling of His blood . . . If this thought only came to our mind, that what we read is not written so much with ink as with the blood of Christ, that when the Gospel is preached, His sacred blood distils together with the voice, there would be far greater attention as well as reverence on our part" (John Calvin).
Verse 22. "By the law" signifies "according unto the law," that is, according to its institution and rule, in that way of faith and obedience which the people were obligated unto. This has been shown by the apostle in the verses preceding. His design being to prove both the necessity for the death of Christ and the efficacy of His blood unto the purging of sins, whereof the legal institutions were types. The qualifying "almost" takes into consideration the exceptions of "fire" (Numbers 31:23 ) and "water" (Leviticus 22:6 , Leviticus 22:7 , etc.): but let it be carefully noted that these exceptions were of such things as wherein the worship of God was not immediately concerned, nor where the conscience was defiled; they were only of external pollutions, by things in their own nature indifferent, having nothing of sin in them; yet were they designed as warnings against things which did defile. The "almost" also takes note of the exception in Leviticus 5:11 .
The last clause of verse 22 enunciates an axiom universally true, and in every age. The curse of the law was, and still is, "the soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20 ). But whereas there is no man "that sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ), God, in His grace, provided that there should be a testification of the remission of sins, and that the curse of the law should not be immediately executed on them that sinned. This He did by allowing the people to make atonement for those sins by the blood of sacrifices: Leviticus 17:11 . Thereby God made known two things. First, to the Israelites that, by the blood of animals there should be a political or temporal remission of their sins granted, so that they should not die under the sentence of that law which was the rule of government over their nation. Second, that a real spiritual and eternal forgiveness should be granted unto faith in the sacrifice of Christ, which was represented by the slain animals. The present application of this verse is that, no salvation is possible for any soul that rejects the sacrifice of Christ.
The Great Sacrifice
(Hebrews 9:23-28 )
Our present passage is so exceeding full that it is expedient we should reduce our introductory remarks. Perhaps about all it is necessary to say is, that here in Hebrews the apostle is treating of the priestly ministry of Christ, and demonstrating the immeasurable superiority of His sacerdotal functions over those of the legal priests. In the verses which are now to be before us, the apostle makes a definite application of that which has been treated of in the preceding section. A contrast is now drawn between the types and their Antitype. Therein we are shown that inasmuch as the Great Sacrifice which Christ offered unto God was the substance of all the Old Testament shadows, it was efficacious, all-sufficient, final.
In Hebrews 9:1-10 a declaration is made of sundry types and shadows of the law. In Hebrews 9:11-28 a manifestation of the accomplishment of them is seen in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. In this second section we are shown the excellency of Christ’s priesthood in the effecting of those things and the securing of those blessings which Aaron and his sacrificing of animals could not effect and secure. First, the affirmation is made that Christ has entered into the true tabernacle, Heaven itself; that He did so on the ground of His own infinitely meritorious blood, the value of which is evidenced by the fact that it has "obtained eternal redemption" (verses 11,12). Second, confirmation of this is then made: inasmuch as the blood of beasts purified the flesh, much more can the blood of Christ purge the conscience (verses 13,14). Moreover the Mediatorial office which Christ undertook guaranteed our salvation (verse 15). So too the validity of the covenant-testament insured the same (verses 16, 17); as also the types pledged it (verses 19-22).
In Hebrews 9:23 (which properly belonged to our last section) the apostle concludes the main point he has been discussing, namely, that the typical things being purged with animal’s blood, there must needs be a more excellent way of purifying and consecrating heavenly things, and that was by the precious blood of the incarnate Son of God Himself. Having established this fact, he now returns to the other points of difference between the legal priests and Christ. Those priests entered only an earthly tabernacle, but Christ has gone into Heaven itself (verses 24, 25). The entrance of Israel’s high priest into the holy of holies was repeated year by year, but Christ entered once for all (verses 25, 26). This is confirmed by the fact that men die but once, still less could the God-man suffer death repeatedly (verses 27, 28). Hence the blessed issue to all who rest upon the Great Sacrifice is, that He shall appear unto them "without sin unto salvation" (verse 28).
"Therefore (it was) necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these" (verse 23). The opening word denotes that a conclusion is now drawn from the premises just established, a conclusion which has respect unto both parts of the assertion made. In this verse the apostle brings to a head, or sums up, his previous argument concerning the typical purification of all things under the law, and the spiritual purification which has been effected by the sacrifice of Christ. "The general principle involved in these words is, plainly, that in expiation the victim must correspond in dignity to the nature of the offenses expiated, and the value of the blessings secured. Animal blood might expiate ceremonial guilt and secure temporary blessings, but in order to secure the expiation of moral guilt and the attainment of eternal blessings, a nobler victim must bleed" (John Brown).
"Therefore necessary (it was)": the reference is both to the type and the Antitype. It was so from God’s institution and appointment. There was nothing in the nature of the typical objects themselves which demanded a purgation by sacrifice, but, inasmuch as God designed to foreshadow heavenly things by them, it was requisite that they should be purged with blood. Likewise, inasmuch as God ordained that the heavenly things should be purified, it was necessary that a superior sacrifice should be made, for the typical offerings were altogether inadequate to such an end. Such "necessity’’ was relative, and not absolute, for God was never under any compulsion. His infinite wisdom deemed such a method fitting and suited to His glory and the good of His elect.
The "patterns" or "figures" (verse 23) were the things which the apostle had been treating of, namely, the covenant, the book, the people, the tabernacle and all its vessels of ministry. The "things in the heavens" were the everlasting covenant, the Church, and its redemption by Jesus Christ. The "heavenly things" had been designed in the mind of God in all their order, causes, beauty, and tendency unto His own glory, from all eternity; but they were "hid" in Himself (Ephesians 3:8-10 ). Of these was God pleased to grant a typical resemblance, a shadowy similitude, an earthly adumbration, in the calling of Israel, His covenant with them, and the appointing of the tabernacle with its priesthood. By this means He deigned to instruct the early Church, and in their conformity to that typical order of things did their faith and obedience consist; the spiritual meaning of which the Old Testament saints did, in measure, understand (Psalms 119:18 ).
"The heavenly things." "By heavenly things, I understand all the effects of the counsel of God in Christ, in the redemption, salvation, worship, and eternal glory of the Church; that is, Christ Himself in all His offices, with all the spiritual and eternal effects of them on the souls and consciences of men, with all the worship of God by Him according unto the Gospel. For of all these things, those of the law were the patterns. God did in and by them give a representation of all these things" (John Owen). More specifically Christ Himself and His sacrifice were typified by the legal rites. So also all the spiritual blessings which His mediation has secured are "heavenly things": see John 3:12 , Ephesians 1:3 , Hebrews 3:1 . The Church too (Philippians 3:20 ) and Heaven itself as the abode of Christ and His redeemed are included (John 14:1-3 ). But here a difficulty presents itself: how could such objects as those be said to be "purified"?
Of all the things mentioned above not one of them is capable of real purification from uncleanness excepting the Church, that is, the souls and consciences of its members. Yet the difficulty is more seeming than real. The term "purification" has a twofold sense, namely, of external dedication unto God and internal purification, both of which are, generally included in the term "sanctification" as it is used in Scripture. Thus, the covenant, the book of the covenant, the tabernacle, and all its vessels were "purified" in the first sense, that is, solemnly dedicated unto God and His service. In like manner were all the "heavenly things" themselves "purified.’’ Christ was consecrated, dedicated unto God in His own blood: John 17:19 , Hebrews 2:10 , etc. Heaven itself was dedicated to be an habitation forever unto the mystical body of Christ, in perfect peace with the angels who never sinned: Ephesians 1:10 , Hebrews 12:22-24 .
Yet there was also an internal "purification" of most of these "heavenly things." The souls and consciences of the members of the Church were really cleansed, purified and sanctified with an inward and spiritual purification: Ephesians 5:25 ,Ephesians 5:26 , Titus 2:14 . It has been "washed" in the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5 ) and is thereby cleansed from all sin (1 John 1:7 ). And Heaven itself, was in some sense purified as the tabernacle was, because of the sins of the people in whose midst it stood (Leviticus 16:16 ). When the angels apostatized, sin entered Heaven itself, and therefore was not pure in the sight of God (see Job 15:15 ). And upon the sin of man, a breach was made, enmity ensued, between the holy angels above and fallen men below; so that Heaven was no meet place for an habitation unto them both, until they were reconciled, which was only accomplished in the sacrifice of Christ (Ephesians 1:10 , Colossians 1:20 ).
One other detail needs to be considered: "But the heavenly things with better sacrifices." It is the use of the plural number here in connection with the sacrifice of Christ which has occasioned difficulty to some. It is a figure of speech known as an "enallage," the plural being put for the singular by way of emphasis. It is so expressed because the great sacrifice not only confirmed the signification, virtue, and benefits of all others, but exceeded in dignity, design and efficacy all others. Again; under the law there were five chief offerings appointed unto Israel: the burnt, the meal, the peace, the sin, the trespass (see Leviticus 1-5), and in Christ’s great Sacrifice we have the antitype of all five, and hence His has superseded theirs. Thus, the plural, "sacrifices" here emphasizes the one offering of Christ, expresses its superlative excellency, and denotes that it provides the substance of the many shadows under the law.
If the reader will read straight on through Hebrews 9:18-23 he will then be in a position to appreciate the lovely sequel which is recorded in Exodus 24:8-11 . A most glorious type was that. There we have a scene for which there is nothing approaching a parallel on all the pages of inspiration until the incarnation of the Son of God be reached. What we have there in Exodus 24:0 might well be termed the Old Testament Mount of Transfiguration. There we see not only Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, but also seventy "elders" (representatives of the people) in the very presence of God, perfectly at ease, eating and drinking there. The key-word to that marvelous incident is the "Then" at the beginning of verse 9, which brings out the inestimable value of the blood which had been sprinkled, and shows the grand privilege which it had procured, even making possible communion with God. The antitype of this is presented in Hebrews 10:22 .
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (verse 24). The opening "For" denotes that a further reason is being advanced to demonstrate the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over those which were offered under the law. In verse 23 this was shown by its power to "purify" better objects than the typical offerings could dedicate or cleanse. Here the proof is drawn from the place which Christ entered after He had offered Himself a sacrifice unto God, namely, into Heaven itself. That which was the peculiar dignity of the high priest of Israel, and wherein the principal discharge of his duty did consist, was that he entered that sacred abode where the typical and visible representation of the presence of God was made. The antitype of this is what is here before us.
"For Christ." The Mediator is again denominated by His official title. In addition to our notes thereon under verse 14, we may point out that this title "The Anointed" imports three things. First, the offices or functions which the Son of God undertook for the salvation of His people. These were three in number and each was foreshadowed of old: the prophetic (1 Kings 19:16 , Psalms 105:15 ), the priestly (Leviticus 8:12 ,Leviticus 8:30 ; Psalms 133:2 ), the kingly (1 Samuel 10:1 , 1 Samuel 16:13 ). Second, the right which He has to undertake those functions: He who "anointed" Christ was the Father (Acts 10:38 ), thereby appointing and authorizing Him (Hebrews 5:5 ). Third, His ability to perform those functions whereunto He was anointed: therefore did He declare "the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach" etc. (Luke 4:18 ). That expression "the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" referred to that Divine enduement which had been conferred upon Him: cf. John 3:34 .
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, the figures of the true." The negative is first expressed in order to emphasize the contrast which follows. Three things are here said of respect to its institution, it was the "holy of holies," and that, because it had been dedicated as the chamber where the special pledges of God’s presence were given. Second, as to its fabric, though framed by Divine command, it was but of human workmanship, "made with hands." Third, as to its principal end or design, it was a resemblance or figure of heavenly things. From the Sept. translation of "holy of holies" by "the holy places," it seems that they used the plural number to supply the lack in the Greek language of a suitable superlative.
"But into Heaven itself." This entrance of Christ into the celestial Sanctuary is to be distinguished from His entering "once into the holy place" of verse 12. In our exposition of that verse we sought to show at some length that the reference there is to what took place immediately after the Savior expired upon the cross, when, in fulfillment of the type of Leviticus 16:14 , He appeared before the Father to present to Him the memorial of His completed satisfaction. Aaron’s entrance into the holy of holies was not for the purpose of making atonement that was effected outside (Leviticus 16:11 ) but to present to God an atonement already accomplished. Nor could Aaron’s passing within the veil, clad only in his "linen" garments (Leviticus 16:4 and contrast Exodus 28:2 etc.), possibly be a figure of Christ’s triumphant admission into heaven with all the jubilation belonging to a coronation day. We must constantly distinguish between Christ as the antitype of Aaron, and Christ as the antitype of Melchizedek. Aaron pointed to nothing after Christ’s resurrection; Melchizedek did. The "once" of Hebrews 9:12 emphasizes the finality of Christ’s sacrifice. His "entrance" here in Hebrews 9:24 was for the purpose of intercession, which is continuous: Hebrews 7:25 .
The entrance of our royal High Priest into heaven was necessary for rendering His sacrifice effective in the application of the benefits of it to the Church. As John Owen pointed out, the entrance of Christ into heaven on His ascension, may be considered two ways. "1. As it was regal, glorious and triumphant; so it belonged to His kingly office, as that wherein He triumphed over all the enemies of the Church: see it described in Ephesians 4:8-10 from Psalms 68:18 . Satan, the world, death and hell being conquered, and all power committed to Him, He entered triumphantly into heaven. So it was regal. 2. As it was sacerdotal. Peace and reconciliation being made by the blood of the cross, the covenant being confirmed, eternal redemption obtained, He entered as our High Priest into the holy place, the temple of God above, to make His sacrifice effectual to His Church, and to apply the benefits of it thereunto."
Christ entered Heaven as the great High Priest of His Church, as the Mediator of the new covenant, as the "Forerunner" of His people (Hebrews 6:20 ), as their "Advocate" (1 John 2:1 ), and the "Firstborn of many brethren." His design in so doing was "to appear in the presence of God for us." This He does "now," at the present season, and always. What the typical priest did was of no continuance. But this "now" is expressive of the whole season and duration of time from the entrance of Christ into heaven to the consummation of all things. Absolutely, His entrance into Heaven had other ends in view (John 17:5 , Hebrews 1:3 "upholding" etc.), but to appear before God for His people as their High Priest, was the only end or object of His entering Heaven, considered as God’s "Temple," where is the "throne of grace." How this manifests Christ’s full assurance of the success of His undertaking, His complete discharge from all that guilt which had been imputed to Him. Had He not made a full end of our sins, He could not have appeared with confidence as our Surety in the presence of God!
"To appear in the presence of God for us." This is an act of His sacerdotal office. Not only is it our High Priest who does so "appear," but He doth so as the High Priest of His Church. Nevertheless, it is such an act as necessarily implies the offering of Himself as a sacrifice for sin antecedent thereto, for it was with the blood of the atoning sacrifice that Aaron entered into the holy place (Leviticus 16:0 ) as the head and representative of the people. In this appearance Christ presents Himself to God "as a lamb that had been slain" (Revelation 5:6 )! It is that which gives validity and efficacy to His "appearing." The word "appear" is a forensic one, as of an Attorney before the Judge. He has gone there to seek from God and dispense to His people those blessings which He purchased for them. He has gone there to plead the infinite merits of His sacrifice, as a permanent reason why they should be saved: Romans 8:34 , Hebrews 7:25 . This supplies the great testimony to the continuance of Christ’s love, care and compassion toward the Church: it is their interests which He promotes.
"Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others" (verse 25). In this verse the apostle does two things: meets an objection which might be made, and continues to demonstrate the superior excellency of the Great Sacrifice. The objection could be framed thus: If Aaron’s entrance into the holy of holies was a type of Christ’s entering heaven, then must He, like the legal high priest, enter oft. This the apostle here denies. Such a conclusion by no means follows, in fact, is utterly erroneous. God did not require this from Christ, there was no need of it, and, as he shows in the next verse, it was impossible that He should.
Such is the absolute perfection of the one offering of Christ, that it stands in need of, that it will admit of, no repetition in any kind. Therefore does the apostle declare that if it be despised or neglected, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26 ). This absolute perfection of the one offering of Christ arises from, first, the dignity of His person: Acts 20:28 . It was the God-man who obeyed, suffered and died: nothing superior, nothing equal, could again be offered. Second, from the nature of the sacrifice itself. In the internal gracious workings of Christ, grace and obedience could never be more glorified than they had been by Immanuel Himself. So too, in the punishment He underwent: He suffered to the full, the whole curse of the law; hence, any further offering or atonement would be highly blasphemous. Third, from the love of the Father unto Him and delight in Him. In His one offering God was well pleased, and in it He rests. Hence the impossibility of any repetition condensed from John Owen.
"Nor yet that He should offer Himself often." In these positive and pointed words the Holy Spirit has plainly anticipated and repudiated the blasphemous practice of the Papists, who in their daily "mass" pretend to sacrifice Christ afresh, and by their "priests" present Him as an offering to God, claiming that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the real flesh and blood of Christ. Therefore are they guilty of the unspeakably dreadful sin of crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6 ), for by their pretended "real sacrifice of Christ" they, through their daily repetition of it, deny its sufficiency and finality (Hebrews 10:2 ), degrading it below that of the annual atonement of Israel, which was made by the blood of beasts.
"As the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others." On these words William Gouge beautifully pointed out that, "Herein we have an evidence of God’s tender respect to man in sparing his blood. Though man were ordained a priest to typify Christ’s priesthood, though man in that function were to appear before God, though he were to bear their names, yea, and their sins (Exodus 28:38 ), all of which Christ did, yet when it came to the shedding of his blood, as Christ did His, God spared him, and accepted the blood of beasts, as He accepted the ram for Isaac (Genesis 22:13 ). How this magnifies God’s love to us, who was so tender of man, and yet spared not His own Son (Romans 8:32 )!"
"For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (verse 26). This verse consists of two parts. First, a reason is given confirming the assertion made in verse 25: had Christ been obliged to "offer Himself often" to God, then must He have "suffered" afresh "from the foundation of the world," that is, died afresh in each generation of human history. Second, a confirmation of that reason taken from the appointment of God: only once, and that in the fullness of time, did Christ come to earth to be a sacrifice for the sins of His people. Thus the apostle exposes the gross absurdity of the objection he met in verse 25: to admit that, would be to say Christ’s blood had no more efficacy than that which the Jewish high priest offered.
The force of the apostle’s argument rests upon two evident suppositions. First, that the "offering" (verse 25) and "suffering" (verse 26) of Christ are inseparable. It was in and by His suffering that the Lord Jesus offered Himself unto God, and that because He was Himself both the Priest and the Sacrifice. Aaron "offered" repeatedly, yet he never once "suffered," for he was not the sacrifice itself. It was the bullock which was slain, that suffered. But Christ being both Priest and Sacrifice could not "offer" without "suffering," and herein does the force of the argument principally consist. The very especial nature of Christ’s offering or sacrifice, which was by the shedding of His blood in death, precluded a repetition thereof.
Second, the apostle’s argument here is also built on the fact that there was a necessity for the expiation of the sin of all that were to be saved from the foundation of the world. Sin entered the world immediately after it was founded, by the apostasy of our first parents. Notwithstanding, numbers of sinners, as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and the spiritual remnant in Israel had their sins pardoned and were eternally saved; yet no sacrifice which they offered could remit moral guilt or redeem their souls. No; their salvation was also effected by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. Hence it follows unavoidably that unless the merits of His own one offering extended unto the taking away of all their sins, then either He must have suffered often, or they perish. Contrariwise, seeing that elect sinners were saved through Christ "from the foundation of the world," much more will the virtues of the Great Sacrifice extend unto the end of the world.
"But now," not at the beginning of human history; "once," that is, once for all, never to be repeated; "in the end of the world," or in "the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4 ). This expression "end of the world" or more literally, "consummation of the ages" is here used antithetically from "since the foundation of the world" which usually has reference to the first entrance of sin into the world. and God’s dispensation of grace in Christ thereon; as "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4 , etc.) expresses eternity and God’s counsels therein. The Divine distinctions of time with respect to God’s grace toward His Church, may be referred to three general heads: that before the law, during the law, and since the incarnation of Christ unto the end of the world. This last season, absolutely considered, is called the "fullness of times" (Ephesians 1:10 ), when all that God had designed in the dispensation of His grace was come to a head, and wherein no alteration should be made till the earth was no more.
"Hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." He "appeared" here on earth (the Greek word is quite different from the one used in verse 24): of old He had been obscurely shadowed forth in types, but now He was "manifest in flesh" (1 Timothy 3:10 ). The end or purpose of this appearing of Christ was to "put away sin" the Greek word is a very strong one, and is rendered "disannuling" in Hebrews 7:18 . Let it be carefully noted that this declaration is made only as it respects the Church of Christ. He made a complete atonement for all the sin of all His people, receiving its wages, expiating its guilt, destroying its dominion. The results are that, when God applies to the penitent believer the virtues of Christ’s sacrifice, all condemnation is removed (Romans 8:1 ), and its reigning power is destroyed (Romans 6:14 ).
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (verses 27, 28). In these verses the apostle concludes his exposition of the causes, nature, designs and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, wherewith the new covenant was dedicated and confirmed. In them a three-fold confirmation is made of the uniqueness and sufficiency of the Savior’s atonement. First a comparison is drawn: pointed by the "as" and "so". Second a declaration is made as to why Christ died: it was to "bear the sins of many." Third, the resultant consequence of this is stated at the end of verse 28.
First, the comparison. This is between the death of men by the decretory sentence of God, and the offering of Christ by God’s appointment. "It is appointed unto men once to die." That "appointment" was a penal one, being the sentence and curse of the broken law (Genesis 2:17 ), consisting of two parts: temporal death and eternal judgment. Death is not the result of chance, nor is it a "debt of nature," a condition to which man was made subject by the law of his creation. Death is something more than the result of physiological law: the same God who sustained Methusalah for well nigh a thousand years, would have sustained Adam’s body for all eternity had he never fallen. Sinless angels are immortal. Death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23 ). The case of Enoch and Elijah, Lazarus and that generation of believers alive on earth at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51 ), are only exceptions to the common rule, by mere acts of Divine sovereignty.
"After this the judgment." This, by the same Divine, unalterable constitution, is also "appointed" unto all: Acts 17:31 . Death does not make an end of man, but is subservient to something else, which is equally certain and inevitable in its own season. As death leaves men, so shall judgment find them. This "judgment" is here opposed to the "salvation" of believers at the second appearing of Christ. It is the judgment of the wicked at the last great day: Romans 2:5 . It will be the executing upon them of the condemnatory sentence of the law, the irrevocable curse of God eternal banishment from Him, for indescribable and eternal torments to be inflicted upon them.
"So Christ was once offered." As the death-sentence, as a penal infliction, was passed upon all of Adam’s descendants (Romans 5:12 ) viewed as criminals, as having broken the law in the person of their federal head, so Christ was "appointed" or sentenced by God, the Judge of all, to undergo the curse of the law, on the behalf and in the stead of those whom He represented. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many." Here we see that deliverance from the curse which the wisdom and grace of God provided for His elect. The Anointed One, as the High Priest of His people, presented to God an all-sufficient and final satisfaction for all the sins of all who have been, from eternity, given to Him by the Father. Thus verses 27, 28 present the antithesis of the Law and the Gospel, as it relates to "men" indefinitely, and to the "many" specifically. The sins of many He "bare" had imputed to Him, received the punishment of, and fully expiated in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24 ).
"And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." This needs to be interpreted in harmony with its context, and as furnishing the antitype of what is found in Leviticus 16:0 . The word for "appear" here is not the one commonly used for the return of Christ it means "to be seen." When Aaron disappeared within the veil, the people waited with eager expectation until he came out again to bless them. So Christ, having made atonement, and gone into heaven, shall yet re-appear and be seen by those who wait for Him. As men after death, must yet appear the "second time" in their body, to undergo condemnation therein; so Christ shall appear the second time, to bestow on God’s elect eternal salvation.
"Unto them that look for Him:" that is, all the redeemed, the "many" whose sins He bore. Though the vision tarry, they wait for it (Habakkuk 2:3 ). Five things are included in this word "look for." First, the steadfast faith of His appearing, resting with implicit confidence on His promise in John 14:2 , John 14:3 . Second, a real love unto it: 2 Timothy 4:8 . Third, an ardent longing after it, so that they cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20 ). Fourth, a patient waiting for it, in the midst of many discouragements: James 5:7 , James 5:8 . Fifth, a personal preparation for it: Matthew 25:10 , Luke 12:35-37 .
"Without (imputed) sin, unto salvation." Hereby Christ’s second advent is contrasted from His first. When he appeared the first time, it was with "sin" upon Him (John 1:29 ) as the Surety of sinners. Therefore was He the Man of sorrows, and afflicted from His youth up (Psalms 88:15 ). But He will re-appear in a very different state: as the Conqueror of sin and Satan, the Savior of His people, the King of kings and Lord of lords. At His return, the efficacy of His once-for-all offering will be openly manifested. The question of His peoples’ sins having been finally settled at the cross, He will then glorify His redeemed. "For our conversation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile ,body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:20 , Philippians 3:21 ).
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
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