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THE PRIEST IN THE HOLY PLACE
Heb_9:11-14 ; Heb_9:24-28 .
SPACE forbids attempting full treatment of these pregnant verses. We can only sum up generally their teaching on the priesthood of Jesus. I. Christ, as the high priest of the world, offers Himself. Obviously verse 14 refers to Christ’s sacrificial death, and in verse 26 His ‘sacrifice of Himself’ is equivalent to His ‘having suffered.’
The contention that the priestly office of Jesus begins with His entrance into the presence of God is set aside by the plain teaching of this passage, which regards His death as the beginning of His priestly work. What, then, are the characteristics of that offering, according to this Writer? The point dwelt on most emphatically is that He is both priest and sacrifice. That great thought opens a wide field of meditation, for adoring thankfulness and love. It implies the voluntariness of His death. No necessity bound Him to the Cross. Not the nails, but His, love; fastened Him there. Himself He would not save, because others He would save. The offering was ‘through the Eternal Spirit,’ the divine personality in Himself, which as it were, took the knife and slew the human life. That sacrifice was ‘without blemish,’ fulfilling in perfect moral purity the prescriptions of the ceremonial law, which but clothe in outward form the universal consciousness that nothing stained or faulty is worthy to be given to God. What are the blessings brought to us by that wondrous self-sacrifice? They are stated most generally in verse 26 as the putting away of sin, and again in verse 28 as being the bearing of the sins of many, and again in verse 14 as cleansing conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Now the first of these expressions includes the other two, and expresses the blessed truth that, by His death, Jesus has made an end of sin, in all its shapes and powers, whether it is regarded as guilt or burden, or taint and tendency paralysing and disabling. Sin is guilt, and Christ’s death deals with our past, taking away the burden of condemnation. Thus verse 28 presents Him as bearing the sins of many, as the scapegoat bore the sins of the congregation into a land not inhabited, as ‘the Lord made to meet’ on the head of the Servant ‘the iniquities of us all.’ The best commentary on the words here is, ‘He bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ But sin has an effect in the future as in the past, and the death of Christ deals with that, So verse 14 parallels it not only with the sacrifice which made access to God possible, but with the ceremonial of the red heifer,’ by which pollution from touching a corpse was removed. A conscience which has been in contact with ‘dead works’ and all works which are not done from ‘the life’ are so is unfit to serve God, as well as lacking in wish to serve; and the only way to set it free from the nightmare which fetters it is to touch it with ‘the blood,’ and then it will spring up to a waking life of glad service. ‘The blood’ is shed to take away guilt; ‘the blood’ is the life, and, being shed in the death, it can be transfused into our veins, and so will. cleanse us from all sin. Thus, in regard both to past and future, sin is put away by the sacrifice of Himself. The completeness of His priestly work is further attested by the fact, triumphantly dwelt on in the lesson, that it is done once for all, and needs no repetition, and is incapable of repetition, while the world lasts. II. Christ, as the high priest of the world, passes into heaven for us.
The priest’s office of old culminated in his entrance into the Holy of Holies, to present the blood of sacrifice. Christ’s priesthood is completed by His ascension and heavenly intercession. We necessarily attach local ideas to this, but the reality is deeper than all notions of place. The passage speaks of Jesus as ‘entering into the holy place,’ and again as entering ‘heaven itself for us.’ It also speaks of His having entered ‘through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,’ the meaning of which phrase depends on the force attached to ‘through.’ If it is taken locally, the meaning is as in chapter 4:14, that He has passed through the [lower] heavens to ‘heaven itself’; if it is taken instrumentally as in following clause, the meaning is that Jesus used the ‘greater tabernacle’ in the discharge of His office of priest. The great truth underlying both the ascension and the representations of this context is, as verse 24 puts it, that He appears ‘before the face of God,’ and there carries on His work, preparing a place for us. Further. we note that Jesus, as priest representing humanity, end being Himself man, can stand before the face of God, by virtue of His sacrifice, in which man is reconciled to God. His sinless manhood needed no such sacrifice, but, as our representative, He could not appear there without the blood of sacrifice. That blood, as shed on earth, avails to ‘put away sin’; as presented in heaven, it avails ‘for us,’ being ever present before the divine eye, and influencing the divine dealings. That entrance is the climax of the process by which He obtained ‘eternal redemption’ for us. Initial redemption is obtained through His death, but the full, perfect unending deliverance from all sin and evil is obtained, indeed, by His passing into the Holy Place above, but possessed in fact only when we follow Him thither. We need Him who ‘became dead’ for pardon and cleansing; we need Him who is ‘alive for evermore’ for present participation in His life and present sitting with Him in the heavenly places, and for the ultimate and eternal entrance there, whence we shall go no more out. III. Christ, as the high priest of the world, will come forth from the holy place.
The ascension cannot end His connection with the world. It carries in itself the prophecy of a return. ‘If I go,... I will come again.’ The high priest came forth to the people waiting for him, so our High Priest will come. Men have to die, and ‘after death,’ not merely as following in time, but as necessarily following in idea and fact, a judgment in which each man’s work shall be infallibly estimated and manifested. Jesus has died ‘to bear the sins of many.’ There must follow for Him, too, an estimate and manifestation of His work. What for others is a judgment,’ for Him is manifestation of His sinlessness and saving power. He shall be seen, no longer stooping under the weight of a world’s sins, but ‘apart from sir,’ He shall be seen ‘unto salvation,’ for the vision will bring with it assimilation to His sinless likeness. He shall be thus seen by those that wait for Him, looking through the shows of time to the far-off shining of His coming, and meanwhile having their loins girt and their lamps burning.
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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/
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