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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 9

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

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Verses 1-28

Subdivision 3. Chaps. 9, 10

The Perfection of Christ’s Work

Section A. Hebrews 9:1-10

The Earthly Sanctuary a Shadow of the Heavenly

As we enter now into the very heart of this precious portion of God’s Word, the apostle at the outset directs our attention to the typical character of the sanctuary and its service under the former dispensation. It will be noted throughout that he has the tabernacle in view rather than the temple. This is not, as some have supposed, because the construction of the temple was any less divinely ordered than that of the tabernacle. David plainly declared to Solomon, in giving him the plan of the more permanent sanctuary, “All this the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19). But the temple types evidently prefigure millennial glory and blessing and will be fully entered into and understood in that day of Jehovah’s power. The tabernacle, on the other hand, which was a temporary dwelling-place, picturing truth for a pilgrim people, has its application to the present times when the Holy Spirit, typified by the cloudy pillar of old, is leading the new dispensation company through the wilderness of this world, on to the rest that remains for the people of God.

As the first covenant was but for a time, so with the first tabernacle. It had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary. By “worldly” we are not to understand “unspiritual,” but rather that which is in contrast with the heavenly.

The tabernacle itself was, as we well know, divided into two parts, the first called the Holy Place, and the second, the Holiest of all, separated by the sacred veil. And as the apostle points out the various pieces of furniture connected with each compartment, we have another most striking illustration of the absolute verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; and this, in regard to a point which unbelievers have eagerly seized upon, claiming that it showed the very opposite, namely, apparent inaccuracy on the part of the sacred writer.

When he speaks of the first compartment, he says, “Wherein was the candlestick and the table, and the showbread.” He makes no mention of the golden altar of incense. Had he forgotten that this altar stood immediately before the veil? Or was there some divine reason for omitting mention of it in this connection?

All becomes very clear when we carefully note the next three verses: “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, 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; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly” (Hebrews 9:3-5). Now observe carefully the change from the expression “wherein” to the altogether different term “which had.” And then notice that the golden censer is really the golden incense altar. The original is “thumiasterion,” which is the ordinary word for an incense altar. It is not at all the same as the word used in Revelation 8:3; Revelation 8:5 for a censer. This is “libanotos.” Any Ordinary reader of English can see how utterly different the two words are. There can be no question, then, but that “censer” here means the incense altar. But why did the writer not say it was in the Holy Place? Why does he plainly connect it with the Holiest? The answer is perfectly simple. It belonged to the Holiest because it typified Christ’s Person and intercessory work in the Holiest of all. But during all the Old Testament dispensation it must stand outside the veil where it could be approached by the priests, and yet so near the veil that the moment this curtain was rent in twain from the top to the bottom the fragrant smoke of the incense entered the Holiest. The apostle does not say it was in the Holiest, but he does declare it belonged to the Holiest “which had the golden incense altar.” So then the apparent imperfection is really a most beautiful evidence of the perfection of Holy Writ.

As long as the old dispensation lasted the priests had no access into the Holiest. They went only into the first tabernacle and accomplished the liturgical service. Once a year the high priest alone was permitted to enter the sacred inner chamber where the Shekinah hovered over the mercy-seat. Nor could he approach without atoning blood, which he offered first of all for himself as being but a sinful man, and also for the failures of the people.

By this arrangement, the Holy Spirit was declaring the solemn fact that the way into the immediate presence of God had not yet been made known, nor could be, so long as that first tabernacle had any standing before Him. The expression “was yet standing” is misleading. It would suggest that the way into the Holiest was not made known until the destruction of the temple about A.D. 70, and thus many have understood it. But it clearly means that the way into the Holiest was not opened up so long as God recognized the first tabernacle. The moment Christ Jesus died upon the cross the entire typical system ceased to have any standing before God. It was but a figure for a time then present, and the gifts and sacrifices offered in connection with it were simply picturing the offering up of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. In themselves, they were of no real value. They could not settle the sin question, and therefore could not perfect the consciences of those who brought them. The many ordinances in connection with meats and drinks and different baptisms, whether of persons or things, in fact all the fleshly observances which were connected with the first covenant, were only intended to serve a temporary purpose and to be in force until the time of reformation; that is, until Christ by His death and resurrection fulfilled them all and brought in the present new and glorious dispensation of the grace of God.

Section B. Hebrews 9:11-23

The Superiority of the Sacrifice of Christ to all those Offered under the Old Dispensation

The apostle now proceeds to show how marvelously the one offering of our Lord Jesus Christ transcends all the types and shadows of old. He is both High Priest and Victim. As High Priest of good things to come, whose ministry is linked with a greater and more perfect tabernacle, that is, with the eternal dwelling-place of God, He has by the presentation of His blood entered in once for all into the Holiest on the basis of an accomplished redemption. His work abides eternally before God. No failure on the part of His redeemed can touch the value of His finished work. Of old, every time an Israelite sinned he needed a new sacrifice; but Christ’s one perfect offering up of himself has settled the sin question for ever, and therefore no wandering of heart nor failure in life on the part of those who have availed themselves by faith of His atoning work can alter for one moment their standing before the throne of God.

“That which can shake the cross

Can shake the peace it gave;

Which tells me Christ has never died,

Nor ever left the grave.”

Because of the infinite value of His precious blood, He has fully met all the claims of divine justice and thus secured eternal redemption. The moment His blood was shed upon the cross its efficacy was recognized in Heaven, thus answering to the sprinkling of the blood upon the mercy-seat. But it is not only seen as sprinkled upon the throne of God but also upon the believer, who is thus purged from all uncleanness.

Hebrews 9:13 brings vividly before us the ordinance of the red heifer as given in Numbers 19:0. The heifer was burned to ashes, the ashes mixed with water, and this water of separation was sprinkled upon an unclean Israelite in order to make him fit for participation in the service of the earthly sanctuary. Ashes in this connection became eloquent indeed. They cried aloud, as did the expiring Saviour, “It is finished!” For ashes tell of fire burned out never to burn again. And so the failing believer has daily recourse to the washing of water by the Word, bringing afresh to his soul the truth of that finished work wherein every sin was settled for when Jesus died upon the tree. Therefore the apostle says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” He, the Sinless One, offered Himself to take the sinner’s place, and this in the power of the Eternal Spirit; and through the shedding of His blood our consciences are purged from works of death and we are set free to serve the living God. The Israelite of old who was defiled by coming in contact with the dead, had recourse to the water of separation. But all our best efforts were defiled by the fact that we ourselves in our unsaved state were dead in trespasses and in sins. Now, with all the past settled for, we are free to serve the living God in faith and in the power of a new life.

Christ is therefore the Mediator of the new covenant, which is founded upon His own death, whereby He settled for the transgressions of all who turned to God in faith during the times of the first covenant, that they, with us, might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression, “The redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant.” The sins of Old Testament saints were not actually put away until Christ accomplished redemption on the cross. Then these came into all the blessing of the new covenant which He sealed with His own blood.

There has been much controversy as to whether the change from covenant to testament, in the sense of a will, is intended in the verses that follow. But the two are so intimately connected that there would seem to be no reason for difficulty in understanding the truth presented. The old covenant was God’s will for His people prior to the coming of Christ and was sealed by the blood of calves and goats, which Moses sprinkled upon the book and all the people saying, “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” The new covenant is the will of our blessed Lord whereby He decrees that all who put their trust in Him should receive part in that eternal inheritance which He gladly shares with all believers. By His death this testament came into force. Apart from His death, there could be no such blessing for guilty sinners. A testament is in effect after men are dead. His death upon the cross puts this new covenant, or testament, or will, into operation, and inasmuch as it is a covenant of pure grace, all who believe enter into the good of it even before the day when it is to be openly confirmed with Israel and Judah, as we saw in the previous chapter. The blood of the covenant having already been shed, there is nothing to hinder the outflow of blessing. The sprinkling of the blood under the old dispensation confirmed that covenant, and was a warning to the people that death would result for its violation; while at the same time it typified the shedding of the blood of the new covenant Victim. Therefore we are told that Moses 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 the shedding of blood there is no remission.” This last statement is absolute. It is not restricted to the old covenant, as the verses that immediately follow make plain. It was necessary in the plan of God that the patterns and figures of things in the heavens should be purified with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the realities with better things than those of old. The heavenly things need purification because sin began in the heavens. It was there that Satan fell, and thus the heavens became unclean. Christ’s sacrifice is the basis for the purification of the polluted heavens and guarantees the bringing in of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Thus eventually, all in Heaven and all on earth will be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross.

This, of course, is not Universalism. It does not imply the salvation of all who have lived on earth, and certainly not of fallen angels who defiled the heavens. But it does speak of a time coming when sin and sinners will be banished from the earth and the heavens, and God be all in all.

Section C. Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:1-22

The Way into the Holiest through the Blood of Jesus. His entrance the Pledge of Ours

The ground has now been laid which enables the Apostle to open up for us the special truth of the new dispensation, and to show how fully Christ has superseded all the types of old. In Hebrews 9:24-28 of this ninth chapter we have what some one has very aptly designated, “the three appearings of our Lord Jesus Christ:” He hath appeared, He doth appear, He shall appear. The order, however, is somewhat different, for the Holy Spirit dwells first on His present appearance as our Intercessor above, then turns our minds back to the time when He appeared to settle the sin question, and in the closing verses carries us forward to the glad hour when He shall appear the second time for our complete and glorious redemption.

In Hebrews 9:24, then, we look by faith into the true tabernacle which is above, the Holy Places not made with hands, and there we see our blessed risen Lord as He appears in the presence of God on our behalf. He is there to give us a perfect representation before the throne of God and we are accepted in Him. He is also there to make intercession for us in view of human frailty and tendency to err. And as the apostle John shows us, He is there as our Advocate with the Father, to undertake for us when actual failure has come in and broken communion. How full and complete is His present service as He officiates for us in the Holy Places! We often speak, and rightly so, of the finished work of Christ. This refers of course to His vicarious atonement which took place upon the cross. But it is just as scriptural to speak of His unfinished work, if we have in mind this special ministry of intercession which He has been carrying on in the Holiest ever since He was received up in glory, and which will never be finished so long as one needy saint is in the place of testing here on earth. His Cross work can never be repeated. No repetition is required, for He settled the sin question perfectly when He took our place in judgment. And in this we have the great distinction between the legal sacrifices and His one offering of Himself, when in the consummation of the ages He appeared to put away sin by His mighty sacrifice. The offerings of old had to be repeated again and again because they did not possess value sufficient to settle the sin question. But His precious blood poured forth for our redemption was of such infinite value that it is sacrilegious even to think of adding to it in any way. Having officiated at the altar, answering to the type of the great Day of Atonement, He has now gone into the sanctuary in the value of His own blood, and by and by He will come out to bless His people as did the priest of old.

“And though a while He be

Hid from the eyes of men,

His people look to see

Their Great High Priest again.”

Just as truly as men were under sentence of death with judgment beyond it, so Christ took that sentence upon Himself and was once offered to bear the sins of many. And just as certainly shall He appear unto them that look for Him the second time, altogether apart from the sin question, unto the complete and final salvation of all His own. Meantime the Holy Spirit has come forth to bear witness to the efficacy of His propitiatory work, while He Himself continues His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.

It ought to be clear that the latter part of Hebrews 9:28 is not intended to teach that only those who have advanced in knowledge along prophetical lines, and therefore live in daily expectation of the second coming of the Saviour, shall be caught up to meet Him at His return. This is not at all what was in the mind of the writer, and is certainly not the teaching of the Holy Spirit elsewhere in Scripture. But just as all Israel could be said to look for the coming forth of the high priest who had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood of atonement, so all believers look for the coming again of our Lord Jesus. There may not be much intelligence as to the mode of His coming, nor in regard to the order of events, but the renewed heart cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/hebrews-9.html. 1914.
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