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Chapters 9 and 10 form a wonderful climax in the orderly presentation of the truth in this epistle: If according to the new covenant, a man must be morally fitted for the presence of God by means of the new birth, as we have seen, yet the way into Gods presence, the holiest of all, must also be clearly made manifest. These chapters admirably and fully deal with this grand subject.
And first, from verse 1 to 10, the service of the tabernacle is summarized for us, for its typical significance is of deepest importance in this matter. A study of the details of these things in Exodus and Leviticus would greatly repay the godly reader. "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread: which is called the sanctuary. 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 cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."
The details are not to be dwelt upon here, but we are intended to closely observe the distinction between the two holy places, the sanctuary and the holiest of all. Indeed, emphasis is put strikingly upon the holiest of all; for in the outer sanctuary the candlestick was of pure gold, the table of shewbread was overlaid with gold, yet the gold is not mentioned in connection with these, while it is mentioned three times in verse 4, in connection with the holiest. Moreover, the incense altar, which was in the outer sanctuary, is not mentioned at all. It was also overlaid with gold. Perhaps the reason for this is that under law there had been no true, real worship, of which the incense altar would speak. Gold is typical of the glory of God, and though this was involved in Judaism, yet His glory could not in any full measure be revealed under law and its shadows. Thus the Spirit of God would direct our attention to the greater revelation connected with the holiest. This is typical of Heaven itself, while the outer sanctuary is typical of the sphere of Judaism and the earthly priesthood.
This is intimated in the following verses: "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service. But into the second went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." Judaistic priests had access at all times into the first sanctuary: it was the sphere of their common service as the sons of Aaron. But none of the common priests were allowed at any time in the holiest of all.
The High Priest alone on the great day of atonement each year was allowed in, in order to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering before and on the mercy - seat. The veil remained always between the two sanctuaries, keeping the holiest of all in constant darkness.
What a lesson for Israel! Here was continual testimony to the fact that there was a sphere into which Judaism could give no free access. God Himself remained in the thick darkness. Yet the entrance of the High Priest each year was an indication that God had not precluded the possibility of man's entrance there; while at the same time the High Priest is a striking type of the Lord Jesus - the Man Christ Jesus, Mediator between God and men. But the way into the holiest could not be made manifest in connection with the first tabernacle, that is, under the legal system: the system itself pointed to something beyond itself. It 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, which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."
Such gifts and sacrifices left the conscience still unpurged. Their actual value lay only in the fact that they typified a better sacrifice than these. Meats and drinks too were but typical of the food and refreshment of the sacrifice of Christ - both for God and for the believer. Divers washings and carnal ordinances were typical of the application of the truth of Christ to the soul, in cleansing and sustaining power. Such things, being typical, were of course temporary, - imposed only until the time of reformation, when God would set things in proper relationship and perspective, introducing a change to end all changes.
"But Christ being come an High Priest of good 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." Blessed fulfilment of all these types! Christ is come, "an High Priest of good things to come." These good things have of course not yet been secured by the nation Israel, as they will be; though the church is infinitely blessed in anticipation of that day, by her reception of Christ, with all the blessings His Priesthood brings. The greater and more perfect tabernacle is that which is eternal in contrast to the earthly system of Judaism committed to men's hands: it would speak of the universe as in the counsels of God, - God's eternal building.
Verse 12 speaks of the eternal character of His work, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the old testament. By the blood of goats and calves the high priest in Israel had title to enter into the holiest on the great day of atonement; but this gave no title to remain in, and the same sacrifice must be repeated each year. But Christ, by His own blood, because of its eternal value, had title to enter into Heaven "once," having obtained eternal redemption for us." The work of the priest in Israel was always unfinished: that of Christ was perfect and complete in every respect, and God has received Him in perpetuity in His own holy presence, the holiest of all.
In the type, the high priest brought with him the blood of the sin offering into the holiest, and sprinkled it before the mercy - seat, and upon it. This was necessary, in order to illustrate the fact that it was "by blood" that he had title there. It is of course evident that the actual material blood of Christ was not brought by Him into Heaven. Not "with blood;" but "by His own blood He entered in." That is, the eternal value of His sacrifice gave title to His entering Heaven as Redeemer and High Priest of His people.
"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, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" These formal ordinances accomplished a formal result. "The purifying of the flesh" was merely an outward, public setting apart from the sin for which the sacrifice was offered. The very fact of the sacrifice was a public condemnation of the sin; and the offerer thereby linked himself with the repudiation of the sin, publicly. But there was no vital, eternal value in it.
But a sacrifice of such vital, eternal character as that of the Lord of Glory, must necessarily have vital, eternal results. This is involved strikingly in the expression, "by the eternal Spirit." His was not a sacrifice by formal appointment, but by the voluntary, Divine energy of the Spirit of God. Nor are we to narrow our thoughts so as to think of "the blood of Christ" as merely the material blood which was shed, but rather to consider its deep, precious significance. For it is the sign of His life given up in sacrifice, - offered to God, whose heart takes unutterable delight in the infinite value of this. Well may Peter speak of "the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).
Another matter of consequence is to be observed here. The actual offering of Christ through the eternal Spirit to God is seen in His baptism by John the Baptist, when the Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father's voice bore witness to His pleasure in Him. His baptism was the very figure of the death to which He pledged Himself. But offering Himself then to God, His utter devotion eventually culminated in His being "offered up" at Calvary, His blood shed for us. How fully and blessedly such a sacrifice purges the conscience from dead works (an effect vital and permanent), to energize the soul to serve the living God!
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Having offered a sacrifice of eternal value, He is therefore necessarily the Mediator of the covenant that displaces the temporary one. Moreover, His death fulfils that which the old covenant demanded: it has satisfied the judgment of God against those sins which the old covenant brought to light. His death therefore is in a very real sense the end of the old covenant. Nothing in the old covenant could possibly provide redemption in regard to the sins it exposed; but it demanded death. Its claims have been met in the death of Christ, and its authority set aside by this great Mediator. He has triumphed in resurrection - a new and eternal condition, which involves a new covenant and introduces the "promise of eternal inheritance."
How much greater is this than anything that Israel has as yet inherited? Again and again has God demonstrated to them that their possession of the land of Israel is far from permanent. Law could not secure it to them. Nor, now that many of them have returned there, will all their political diplomacy and military prowess be sufficient to hold what they have gained. They will yet be more violently oppressed than ever before, their land torn from their hands. But God has decreed that under the new covenant Israel will dwell in peace, in full possession of their inheritance, given them by God's sovereign intervention in power and grace. Above this however, the church has her eternal inheritance "in Christ" and "in the heavenlies," and this perfectly secure now. This is consistent with the New covenant, but not actually a part of it, for we are not in any sense under a covenant, however rightly and greatly we may enjoy the benefits of it.
It is to be remarked also that "covenant" and "testament" are actually the same Greek word, translated in either way. This will give more clear understanding as regards what follows: "For where a testament is, there must be also 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. Whereupon neither the first testament 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, and 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 the shedding of blood is no remission."
How perfectly this illustrates the fact of God's foreknowledge that blessing for Israel under the law was impossible, that is blessing promised by the testament of law. The blood, shed at that time, and sprinkled so profusely, really only insisted upon the necessity of death; and being a conditional testament, that is, its blessings conditional upon the obedience of the people to law, then blessing under it was hopeless. Indeed, disobedience demanded the shedding of blood, but blood was shed in the very giving of the law and its ordinances, before ever it brought guilt to light. And every service of the sanctuary was a continual reminder that blood must be shed: there could he no remission without it. Even formal remission, applicable to a public, temporary system of things, demanded the blood of an animal. What then must eternal remission require? The old testament required death, and so must the new. And the new is entirely a testament of Divine character, expressing the will of God. How admirable the truth here: in order to come into force, the death of the testator must take place.
But while law could demand death, it could not provide the death of the great Testator: indeed it only affirmed Him to be the living God, and man rightly under the sentence of death. All was hopeless under this testament. But how marvelous therefore is the new testament, full of unconditional blessing for confessed sinners, because it provides in pure grace the amazing incarnation and matchless death of the Testator Himself, on their behalf. This is what gives it eternal force and value. Only by the great mystery of incarnation - God's being made manifest in flesh - could this wonderful death have taken place, opening the floodgates of Heaven's blessing to unworthy sinners. The New Testament has fullest force on this grand basis of Divine grace. Sad to say, of course, Israel has today refused such grace, and there can be no application of this to that nation until they bow their hearts to acknowledge this blessed Testator who died for them. Meanwhile others, who have received Him, reap the benefits of this testament which was not actually made for them at all, - and thus grace is magnified.
"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Such purification was strictly formal, that is the patterns were purified: all was external. The pattern itself accomplished no actual result, no more than a dress pattern could substitute for the dress itself. But the pattern must illustrate in its measure the form the dress is to take. So the heavenly things must be purified with a sacrifice of vital character, not formal.
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." He is not a formal priest of the line of Aaron performing the daily ritual of an earthly tabernacle, but infinitely above this. He has entered into Heaven itself, the true "Holy of holies," in gracious mediation on behalf of His redeemed people.
"Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year, with the blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Even a casual reader of Hebrews ought not to fail to observe the apostle's insistence upon the fact of Christ's being sufficient and final, in contrast to the repeated offerings of the Old Testament, specifically the sin offering on the great day of atonement. If His sacrifice were comparable to these, then He must offer Himself repeatedly, and with no hope of cessation? But as Hebrew's has so fully illustrated, since He is in Person infinite, therefore His one sacrifice has infinite value, not limited by the greatness of man's sin, nor by the element of time, - that is by the question of whether sins were committed before or after the offering of Himself: its value is all-sufficient. It is the perfect basis for the complete putting away of sin from under Heaven, as will be known in the eternal state; and by it the sins of believers are now put away, through faith in this blessed sacrifice: faith in this way anticipates eternity.
Another expression here must be noticed: "once in the end of the age hath He appeared." The age here is of course the probationary age of Judaism, which made nothing perfect. When all else was proven hopeless, theGreat Creator Himself became Saviour, in one great work of infinite perfection and completeness. Blessed Redeemer indeed! Blessed grace that offered no less than Himself!
"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." Here is another viewpoint also involved, that since man is appointed to die only once, on account of sin, after which he has an appointment to give an account of his sins, therefore Christ died once, offering Himself for sins, that judgment might be averted for "many," that is believers, for He Himself has borne this judgment fully for them. If it is true that He died for all, yet to "bear the sins of many" is limited to those who in faith receive Him. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12). Thus such grace is available to "all," but applicable only to "many."
The many are of course "them that look for Him." Every true child of God looks for the Lord Jesus to eventually take His rightful place of authority and glory in the universe. All may not have clear thoughts as regards the truth of the coming of the Lord, but all "look for Him." To these He shall appear the second time, apart entirely from any raising of the question of sin. This has been settled long before, and cannot be raised again. Judgment is past, and therefore His coming will be "unto salvation," that is, complete salvation bodily, the believer delivered entirely from the very presence of sin. Wonderful prospect indeed! This is the first part of the second coming, for here He appears only to believers, while later "every eye shall see Him," when He must mete out judgment to those who have refused His blessed mercy.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany