The sphere of Christ's "more excellent ministry," as the "Mediator of a better covenant," having been shown to be elsewhere than in the earthly tabernacle, the ministry itself is now contrasted with that of the superseded priesthood. With this view the latter is described, and shown to express in itself its own insufficiency and to point to a more availing one to come.
Then verily (or, now indeed) the first covenant also (or, even the first covenant) had ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary (rather its sanctuary of this world ( τὸ ἅγιον κοσμεκόν). The definite article points to the well-known one of the Mosaic dispensation, which, unlike the true one, was in its bearings, as well as locally and materially, of this world only). This sanctuary itself is now first described in necessary preparation for an account of priestly ministrations in it.
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbead; which is called the holy place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holy of holies; having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid with gold, wherein was a golden pot having the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat; of which things we cannot now speak particularly. The tabernacle as a whole is first spoken of; and then its two divisions, called respectively "the first 'and "the second" tabernacle. The account of them is from the Pentateuch, and describes them as they originally were. In the then existing temple there were neither ark, mercy-seat, nor cherubim, though the ceremonies were continued as though they had been still there. The ark had been removed or destroyed in the sack by the Chaldeans, and was never replaced (for the Jewish tradition on the subject, see 2 Macc. 2:1-8). Josephus says ('Bell. Jud.,' 5.5. 5) that in the temple of his day there was nothing whatever behind the veil in the holy of holies; and Tacitus informs us ('Hist.,' 5 9) that, when Pompey entered the temple, he found there "vacuam sedem et inania arcana." A stone basement is said by the rabbis to have occupied the ark's place, called "lapis fundationis." In the "first tabernacle," called "the holy place" ( ἅγια probably, not ἁγία: i.e. a neuter plural, equivalent to "the holies"), the table of shewbread (with its twelve loaves in two rows, changed weekly) stood on the north side, i.e. the right as one approached the veil; and opposite to it, on the left, the seven-branched golden candlestick, or lamp-stand, carrying an oil-lamp on each branch (Exodus 25:1-40; Exodus 37:1-29; Exodus 40:1-38). Between them, close to the veil stood the golden altar of incense (ibid); which, nevertheless, is not mentioned here as part of the furniture of the "first tabernacle," being associated with the "second," for reasons which will be seen. The "second veil" was that between the holy place and the holy of holies (Exodus 36:35), the curtain at the entrance of the holy place (Exodus 36:37) being regarded as the first. The inner sanctuary behind this second veil is spoken of as having ( ἔχουσα) in the first place "a golden censer," as the word θυμιατήριον is translated in the A.V. (so also in the Vulgate, thuribulum). But it assuredly means the" golden altar of incense," though this stood locally outside the veil. For
Now these things being thus ordained (A.V rather, arranged or constituted; it is the same word ( κατασκευάζω) as was used in Hebrews 9:2, "there was a tabernacle made;" also in Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4, of God's "house;" on which see supra), the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services. (Observe that here, where the ministrations are described, present tenses are used; perhaps because these ministrations were still going on when the Epistle was written) The continual services in the "first tabernacle" were
Hebrews 9:7, Hebrews 9:8
But into the second the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offereth for himself and for the errors (literally, ignorances; cf. Hebrews 9:2) of the people. For the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, see Leviticus 16:1-34. They may be summarized, in their main characteristics, thus:
Which ( ἥτις, with its usual force) is a parable for the time present (i.e. present as regarded from the standpoint of the old dispensation. The A.V., translating "then present," and using past tenses throughout, though departing from literalism, still gives, we conceive, the idea correctly); according to which (referring to "parable," if we adopt the best-supported reading, καθ ἥν. The Textus Receptus, followed by the A.V., has καθ ὅν, referring to "the time") are offered both gifts and sacrifices (cf. Hebrews 9:1), which cannot, as pertaining to the conscience, make him that doth the service (or, "the worshipper," the idea not being confined to the officiating priest; cf. Hebrews 10:2, where τοὺς λατρεύοντας is translated "the worshippers") perfect. The emphatic expression here is κατὰ συνείδησιν. The gifts and sacrifices of the Law availed in themselves only for external ceremonial purification; they did not reach, however typical, the sphere of man's inner consciousness; they could not bring about that sense of spiritual accord with God which is spoken of in Jeremiah 31:1-40. as marking the new covenant (see below, Jeremiah 31:13, Jeremiah 31:14).
Rendered in A.V.," Which stood only in ( μόνον ἐπὶ) meats and drinks and divers washings, and carnal ordinances [ καὶ δικαιώμασι σαρκὸς, Textus Receptus], imposed on them ( ἐπικείμενα) until the time of reformation." This is a satisfactory rendering of the Textus Receptus, ἐπὶ before "meats," etc., being taken in the sense of dependence, and ἐπικείμενα necessarily as agreeing with "gifts and sacrifices" ( δῶρα τε καὶ θυσίαι) in Hebrews 9:9. But there are other readings, though none, any more than that of the Textus Receptus, to be decidedly preferred on the mere ground of manuscript authority. The best sense seems to be given by that of δικαιώματα instead of καὶ δικαιώματι, so that we may render ( ἐπὶ being taken in the sense of addition), Being only (with meats and drinks and divers washings) carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation. We thus have an obvious neuter plural ( δικαιώματα) for ἐπικείμενα to agree with, and we avoid the assertion that the "gifts and sacrifices" of the Law "stood only" in "meats," etc. This was not so; their essential part was blood-shedding ( αἱματεκχύσια, Hebrews 9:22) the other things here mentioned were but accompaniments and appendages. The "meats and drinks" spoken of may refer mainly to the distinctions between clean and unclean viands, which we know were made such a point of by the Jews of the apostolic ago. The "diverse washings" ( βαπτισμοῖς) may be taken to include both the ablutions of the priests before sacrifice, and those enjoined on the people in many parts of the Law after ceremonial defile-merit, which kind of washings had been further multiplied variously in the traditional law.
Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12
But Christ having come ( παραγενόμενος, cf. Matthew 3:1; Luke 12:51) a High Priest (or, as High Priest) of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation ( κτίσεως), nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all ( ἐφάπαξ) into the holy place, having obtained ( εὑράμενος, not necessarily antecedent to εἰσῆλθεν) eternal redemption. On the futurity expressed (here and Hebrews 10:1) by "the good things to come" (the reading μελλόντων being preferred to γενομένων), see under Hebrews 1:1 ( ἐπ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων) and Hebrews 2:5 ( τὴν οἰκουμένεν τὴς μέλλουσαν). Here, certainly, the period of the earthly tabernacle having been the temporal standpoint in all the preceding verses, futurity with regard to it may, without difficulty, be understood; and hence "the good things" may still be regarded as such as have already come in Christ. On the other hand, there is no difficulty in regarding them as still future. For the full and final result of even Christ's perfected high priesthood is not yet come. But what is "the greater and more perfect tabernacle," through which he entered the heavenly holy of holies? It seems evidently, in the first place, to be connected with εἰσῆλθεν, being regarded as the antitype of that "first tabernacle" through which the high priests on earth had passed in order to enter within the veil; διὰ having here a local, not an instrumental, sense. The instrumental sense of the same preposition in the next clause ( διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος) is not against this view. In English, "through his own blood he entered through the tabernacle" presents no difficulty, though "through" is used in two different senses. But what is exactly meant by the tabernacle through which Christ has passed? Bearing in mind what was said under Hebrews 8:2 of the prophetic visions of a heavenly temple—corresponding to the earthly one—and that the epithet ἀχειροποίητος is applied also (verse 24) by implication to the counterpart of the holy of holies, and also the expression (Hebrews 4:14), "having passed through the heavens ( διεληλυθόντα τοὺς οὑρανοὺς)," we may regard it as denoting the heavenly region beyond this visible sphere of things ( οὐ ταύτης τῆσ ̓τίσεως), intervening between the latter and the immediate presence, or "face," of God. Thus "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle" of this verse answers to "having passed through the heavens" of Hebrews 4:14; and "entered once for all into the holy place" of Hebrews 4:12 to "entered into heaven itself" (the very heaven) of verse 24. Thus also the symbolical acts of the Day of Atonement are successively, and in due order, fulfilled. As the high priest first sacrificed the sin offering outside the tabernacle, and then passed through the holy to the holy of holies, so Christ first offered himself in this mundane sphere of things, and then passed through the heavens to the heaven of heavens. Delitzsch, taking this view, offers a still more definite explanation; thus: "The former ( τὰ ἅγια) is that eternal heaven of God himself ( αὐτὸς ὁ οὐρανὸς) which is his own self-manifested eternal glory (John 17:5), and existed before all worlds; the latter ( ἡ σκηνή) is the heaven of the blessed, in which he shines upon his creatures in 'the light of love'—'the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven' of Revelation 15:5, which the apocalyptic seer beheld filled with incense-smoke from 'the glory of God, and from his power.'" There are other views of what is meant by "the greater and more perfect tabernacle." The most notable, as being that of Chrysostom and the Fathers generally, is that it means Christ's human nature, which he assumed before passing to the throne of the Majesty on high. This view is suggested by his having himself spoken of the temple of his body (John 2:21), and calling it, if the "false witnesses" at his trial reported him truly, ἀχειροποίητον (Mark 14:58); by the expression (John 1:14), "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled ( ἐσκήνωσεν) among us;" by St. Paul's speaking of the human body as a tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:4); and by Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20, where the "veil" through which we have "a new and living way into the holy place through the blood of Jesus" is said to be his flesh. There is thus abundant ground for thinking of Christ's body as signified by a tabernacle; and the expression in Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20 goes some way to countenance such an interpretation here. The objection to it is that it seems neither suggested by the context nor conformable to the type of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. For, if the human body of Christ assumed at his birth is meant, he entered into that before, not after, his atoning sacrifice; and if, with Hofmann, we think rather of his glorified body, in what sense in accordance with the type can it be said that he entered through it? We should rather say that he ascended with it to the right hand of God. The further points of contrast between Christ's entrance and that of the earthly high priests are:
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling those that have been defiled ( κεκοινωμένους, cf. Matthew 15:11, etc; Acts 21:28), sancfifieth to the purifying (literally, unto the purity, καθαρότητα) of the flesh. In addition to the sin offerings of the Day of Atonement, mention is here made of the red heifer, whose ashes were to be mixed with water for the purification of such as had been ceremonially defiled by contact with dead bodies (for account of which see Numbers 19:1-22). They are classed together because both were general sin offerings for the whole congregation, representing the idea of continual and unavoidable defilements notwithstanding all the daily sacrifices; the difference between them being that the ashes were reserved for use in known cases of constantly recurring defilement, the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement were for general sin and defilement, known or unknown. But neither, in themselves, could from their very nature avail for more than outward ceremonial cleansing—" the purity of the flesh." This, however, they did avail for; and, if so, what -must the cleansing power of Christ's offering be? Its deeper efficacy shall appear from consideration of what it was.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purify your (al. our) conscience from dead works to serve the living God? As in Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12 Christ's entrance was contrasted with that of the high priest, so here is the sacrifice itself, in virtue of which he entered, similarly contrasted. The points of contrast to which attention is drawn are these:
And for this cause he is the Mediator of a new testament, that by means of death (literally, death having taken place), for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Here the view of the gospel as a new διαθήκη (introduced first in Hebrews 7:22, and enlarged on in Hebrews 8:6-13) is again brought in. For the word is still διαθήκη, though here, for reasons that will appear, rendered "testament" in the A.V. The connecting thought here is—It is because of Christ's sacrifice having been such as has been described, that he is the Mediator of that new and better covenant; it qualified him for being so. A sacrifice, a death, was required for giving it validity (Hebrews 9:16-23), and the character of his sacrifice implies a better covenant than the old, even such a one as Jeremiah foretold. Further, the purpose of his death is said to be "for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant." For in the passage of Jeremiah the defect of the first covenant was based on the transgression of its conditions by man, while under the new one, such transgressions were to be no more remembered. But this could not be without atonement for them; the whole ceremonial of the Law signified this; and also that such atonement could not be except by death. The death of Christ satisfied this requirement; and so the new covenant could come in. So far the course of thought is clear. Nor is there difficulty in understanding the purport of verse 18, etc., taken by itself, where the "blood-shedding" that inaugurated the first covenant is regarded as typical of that of Christ in the inauguration of the new one. But there is a difficulty about the intervening verses (16, 17), arising from the apparent use of the word διαθήκη in a new sense, not otherwise suggested—that of testament rather than covenant. The verses are, as given in the A.V., For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be ( φέρεσθαι. a word of which the exact meaning is not clear; some interpret "be brought in, or proved," some "be understood, implied ") the death of the testator ( τοῦ διαθεμένου, equivalent to "him that made it"). For a testament is of force after men are dead ( ἐπὶ νεκροῖς): otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (or, for doth it ever avail while he theft made it liveth? ἐπεὶ μήποτε: cf. Hebrews 10:2; Romans 3:6; 1 Corinthians 14:16; John 7:26; Luke 3:15). Now, the word διαθήκη itself undoubtedly may bear the sense of "testament." Its general meaning is " disposition," or "settlement;" and it may denote either compact between living persons, or a will to take effect after the testator's death. In the verses before us it appears to be used specifically in the latter sense. For they express general propositions, which are not true of all covenants, but are true (according to their most obvious sense) of all testaments. Further, this sense is distinctly applicable to the new διαθήκη, regarded as the dying Christ's bequest to his Church. Hence, but for the context, we should naturally so understand it in these verses. The difficulties attending this sense are:
Wherefore neither hath the first (testament, A.V or, covenant) been dedicated without blood. Here the blood of slain victims, which had been essential for the first inauguration of the old διαθήκη, is referred to as expressing the principle of Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, viz. that there must be death for a διαθήκη to take effect. Whichever view we take of the intended import of the word, the reference is equally apposite in support of the introductory proposition of Hebrews 9:15; which is to the effect that Christ's death ( θανάτου γενμένου), fulfilling the symbolism of the old inaugurating sacrifices, qualified him as Mediator of a new διαθήκη.
Hebrews 9:19, Hebrews 9:20
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water anti scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant (A.V. testament) which God enjoined unto you (strictly, to you-ward; i.e. enjoined to me for you). The reference is to Exodus 24:3-9, where the account is given of the inauguration of the covenant between God and the Israelites through Moses. He "came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do." And then he wrote all the words of the LORD in a book, and builded an altar under the mount, and sacrifices were offered, and half of the blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the words were read from the book, and again the people undertook to observe them, and the other half of the blood was sprinkled on the people, and so the covenant was ratified. The essential part of the whole ceremony being the "blood-shedding," it is of no importance for the general argument that the account in Exodus is not exactly followed. The variations from it are these:
Moreover the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry be sprinkled in like manner with the blood. This refers to a subsequent occasion, the tabernacle not having been constructed at the time of the inauguration of the covenant,—probably to the dedication of the tabernacle, enjoined Exodus 40:1-38., and described Leviticus 8:1-36. It is true that no sprinkling of the tabernacle or its furniture with blood is mentioned in the Pentateuch; only the anointing of them with oil (Le Leviticus 8:10). But the garments of Aaron and his sons are said on that occasion to have been sprinkled with the blood as well as with the anointing oil (Hebrews 8:1-13 :30), and Josephus ('Ant.,' 3.8. 6) says that this blood-sprinkling was extended also to the tabernacle and its vessels ( τήν τε σκηνὴν καὶ τὰ περὶ αὐτὴν σκεύη). Here, as well as in Leviticus 8:19, our writer may be supposed to follow the traditional account, with which there is still nothing in the Pentateuch inconsistent. Be it observed again that the force of the argument does not depend on these added details, but on the general principle, abundantly expressed in the original record, which is assorted in the following verse.
And almost all things are according to the Law purified with blood; and without shedding of blood there is no remission. The essentiality of blood, which is "the life of all flesh," for atonement and consequent remission, is emphatically asserted in Le 17:11, which expresses the principle of the whole sacrificial ritual. The idea seems to be that the life of man is forfeit to Divine justice (cf. Genesis 2:17), and so blood, representing life, must be offered instead of his life for atonement.
It was therefore necessary (i.e. in accordance with the principle above expressed) that the patterns (rather, copies, see Hebrews 8:5, supra) of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. According to the view taken under Hebrews 8:2 and Hebrews 9:11, "the heavenly things" here must be taken to denote the corresponding realities in the heavenly sphere of things to which Christ has gone. But how can they themselves be said to require purification or cleansing? The mundane tabernacle did, being itself conceived as polluted by human sin; but how so of the unpolluted heavenly tabernacle? The answer may be that the expressions, chosen to suit the case of the earthly type, need not be pressed in all their details as applying to the heavenly sanctuary. With regard to the latter, they may he meant only to express that, though it be itself pure, yet man requires purification for access to it, and that for this purpose "better sacrifices" are required. "In hac apodosi verbum καθαρίζεσθαι, mundari, subauditum, facit hypallagem: nam exleslia per se sunt pura, sed nos purificandi fuimus, ut ilia possemus capessere" (Bengel). The general meaning is obvious enough. Commentators sometimes raise needless difficulties, and may sometimes even miss the essential purport of a passage by the too constant application of the critical microscope. If, however, it be thought necessary to find a sense in which the heavenly sanctuary may be said to need purification, the idea may be the appeasing of Divine wrath which bars the entrance of mankind.
For not into holy places made with hands did Christ enter, which are figures ( ἀντίτυπα, antitypes) of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of (literally, before the face of) God for us. This verse confirms the view that "the heavenly things" of Hebrews 9:23 denoted the heavenly regions into which Christ is entered. ἅγια at the beginning of the verse may be better translated "holy place" (as at Hebrews 9:12 and Hebrews 9:25) rather than "places," since here the heavenly counterpart of the holy of holies, as distinguished from the" first tabernacle," appears to be in view, viz. "heaven itself," the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence or "face" of God, the "throne of the Majesty on high," to which Christ passed through the intermediate heavens. There he now (the perpetual now of the new era of accomplished redemption), in his humanity, in behalf of and representing all humanity, beholds for ever the very face of the eternal God, which Moses could not see and live, and of which the typical high priest saw from year to year but the emblem, in transitory glimpses, through intervening clouds of incense. The word ἀντίπυπα, like ὑποδείγματα in Hebrews 9:23, expresses the idea of the earthly sanctuary being a visible representation answering to a heavenly reality. The original τύπος (type) was shown to Moses in the mount (Hebrews 8:5); what was constructed by him on the earth below was the antitype to it. The words τύπος and ἀντίτυπος are elsewhere used to express respectively a prophetic figure of a fulfillment to come and the fulfillment itself (as in Romans 5:14 and 1 Peter 3:21, baptism in the latter text being regarded as the ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge), but still with the same idea of the type being prior to the antitype, the latter answering to the former.
Hebrews 9:25, Hebrews 9:26
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others (i.e. blood not his own, ἀλλοτρίῳ); for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now (probably νυνί, not νῦν, meaning "as it is ") once at the end of the ages hath he appeared (rather, been manifested, πεφανέρωται) to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Here (as above noted) the idea of ἐφάπαξ in Hebrews 9:12 is taken up. That Christ's offering of himself is once for all, needing no repetition, follows from the view of it already given, viz. that it is a perpetual presentation of himself, after fully availing sacrifice of himself, before the very face of God. That this is of necessity once for all is now further shown by the consideration that repeated offerings of himself would involve the impossible condition of repeated deaths. Observe that "offer himself" in Hebrews 9:25 does not refer to the death upon the cross, but to the intercession before the eternal mercy-seat after accomplished atonement, answering to the high priest's entrance, with the blood of previous sacrifice, within the veil. The death itself is denoted in Hebrews 9:26 by παθεῖν ("suffered"). The argument rests on the principle, already established as being signified by the whole of the ancient ritual, that, for acceptable intercession in behalf of man, previous death or blood-shedding is in every case required. But why add "since the foundation of the world"? We must supply the thought of the retrospective efficacy of Christ's atonement. Ever since sin entered, man needed atonement, signified, but not effected, by the ancient sacrifices. Christ's one offering of himself has supplied this primeval need, availing, not only for the present and future, but also for all past ages. This view was definitely expressed, with reference to "transgressions which were under the first covenant," in Hebrews 9:15, and, though not repeated here, is prominent in the writer's mind. This view accounts for "since the foundation of the world," the idea being that, the transgressions requiring atonement having been since then, repeated deaths since then would have been needed had not Christ's one offering of himself availed for all time, just as repeated sacrifices were needed for the high priest's symbolical yearly intercessions. The question is not asked, nor is any reason given, why this one all-sufficient offering was deferred till so long after the need began. It is enough to know that such has been, in fact, the Divine will, viz. that not till the fullness of time was come—not till the end (or consummation) of the long preceding sinful ages—should the Redeemer once for all be manifested for atonement. The phrase, ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων, seems certainly to imply the idea, otherwise known to have been prevalent in the apostolic age, of the end of all things being close at hand; and this expectation further accounts for the reference to the past rather than the future in the expression, "since the foundation of the world." For, with regard to the future, the second coming of Christ was the one great idea present to the minds of Christians, the intervening time being regarded by them as but the dawn of coming day (see, on this head, what was said under Hebrews 1:2). The strong expression, εἰς ἀθέτησιν ἁμαρτίας (for the sense of ἀθέτησις, cf. Hebrews 7:18, where it means "abrogation"), used as it here is with reference to all the transgressions of the ages past, though not to be pressed so as to invalidate what is elsewhere said of the future penal consequences of all willful and unrepented sin, may still be cited among the texts supporting the view of those who "trust the larger hope."
Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28
And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this judgment: so the Christ also, once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, without sin, to them that look for him, unto salvation. The Divine ordinance concerning mankind in general has its analogy in the truth concerning Christ, who was made like unto us in all things, and who represents humanity. As human life, with all its works, comes to an end in death, and only judgment fellows, so Christ's death once for all completed his ministerial work, and nothing remains for him to do but to return as Judge in glory—he judicaturus, men judicandi. "To bear the sins of many" is taken from Isaiah 53:12. For similar use of the word ἀναφέρειν, el. Numbers 14:33, LXX; and especially 1 Peter 2:24, τὰς ἁμαρτίᾶς ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν ἐν τῷ σώματι αὑτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον, which expresses the idea of Christ's taking our sins upon himself and bearing them up to the cross, and so removing them. The ideas of bearing and of taking away may thus be both implied. In contrast with this is the χωρίς ἁμαρτίας ("without, or apart from, sin") when he shall appear again. For then he will have been, as he is now, removed from it altogether—from its burden and its surroundings; it is in glory only that he will then appear. And so also "to them that look for him" his appearing will be "unto salvation" only. They, too, will have done with sin. The insertion of the words, "to them that look for him," precludes the conclusion that it will be so to all. The many passages that express the doom of those who shall be set on the left hand, whatever they imply, retain their awful meaning (cf. especially infra, Hebrews 10:27).
Arrangements of the first covenant.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is the New Testament Leviticus. In itself, the book of the Jewish ritual is rather dry reading. "Nothing can well be duller or more dingy than the appearance of a stained-glass cathedral window to one who is looking on it from the outside of the building; but, when you enter and gaze at it from within, the whole is aglow with beauty" (Dr. W.M. Taylor). Now, from this Epistle we learn to read Leviticus with the bright gospel sunlight for a background, and we thus discover how rich that ancient Scripture is, in instruction regarding the way of access to God, and the means of fellowship with him.
I. THE HEBREW SANCTUARY. (Verses 1-5) The tabernacle was the Divine palace, the symbol of Jehovah's residence among his ancient people. There was a gracious presence of God in Israel which other nations did not enjoy. Mention is made here of the two chambers of the sacred tent, each of which had a "veil" covering the entrance, and of the principal articles of furniture in these two chambers respectively.
1. The holy place. (Verse 2) This anterior apartment was oblong in shape, being thirty feet in length, fifteen in width, and fifteen in height. Three articles are named as belonging to it.
2. The holy of holies. (Verses 3-5) This innermost recess of the sanctuary, separated from the outer chamber by a richly wrought curtain, was the dwelling-place of Jehovah. It was a smaller apartment than the other, measuring fifteen feet in length, breadth, and height, and thus forming a perfect square. Seven things are named as belonging to it.
II. ITS SERVICES. (Verses 6, 7) While the outer court of the tabernacle was open to the whole congregation of Israel, except to such as might at any time be ceremonially unclean, only the sons of Aaron were allowed to minister at the altar, or within the sanctuary proper.
1. The holy place was for the daily ministration of the ordinary priests. (Verse 6) Their duties were such as these: They sprinkled the blood of the sin offerings before the "second veil;" they lighted and fed and trimmed the seven lamps of the candelabrum; they offered incense upon the golden altar; they changed the shewbread every sabbath day.
2. The holy of holies was for the annual ministration of the high priest alone. (Verse 7) None of the ordinary priests ever dared to enter the inner sanctuary, or even to look into it. And even the high priest could only do so on one day in the year—on the great annual fast day, the Day of Atonement. In the course of that day, however, he went into the holy of holies at least three times: first, with the censer and incense; secondly, with the blood of the bullock, for his own and the priests' sins; and, thirdly, with the blood of the goat, for the people's sins. He went in "not without blood," the presentation of the blood being necessary to the completion of the sacrifice.
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BOTH. (Verses 8-10) These verses remind us that the institutions of Judaism were established by the Holy Spirit himself as a symbol of Old Testament facts, and as a prefiguration of the privileges of the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8-12. It was not Moses who ordained the Levitical ceremonial; it was the Holy Ghost. And by this means the Spirit taught the great truth that on the ground of nature access to God is barred for all sinful men; and that even under the "first covenant" of grace this blessing was only most imperfectly realized. The division of the sacred tent into two apartments, and the exclusion of the ordinary priests from the holy of holies, illustrated the great defect of the old covenant. The nature of the services, too, reflected its imperfections. The rites of Judaism cleansed the body from ceremonial defilement; but they could not wash the soul from sin. They involved, indeed, a continual remembrance of sins, rather than a putting away of sins forever. And yet, notwithstanding this, the tabernacle-worship was a bright promise and prophecy of the "opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers" at the time of rectification foretold by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Superiority of the new covenant.
The advent of the Messiah has removed the defects suggested by the Mosaic ritual. He has obtained for the true Israel those great spiritual blessings which "the first covenant" was powerless to bestow. These verses indicate various elements of superiority. The new covenant has provided—
I. A BETTER HIGH PRIEST. (Hebrews 9:11) Our priestly Mediator is "Christ," the Anointed. He has been divinely ordained, equipped, and accredited. He is a better High Priest than Aaron, because the Minister of a better dispensation. The "good things" denote the blessings of the new covenant; and these are described as "to come," because they had been always premised and expected in connection with the advent of the Messiah. How joyful the tidings to our guilty, sin-deflowered, distracted world, that its true Priest has "come"! He has assumed our nature; he has lived and died; he has risen and ascended; he has "entered in once for all" into the true sanctuary.
II. A NOBLER TABERNACLE. (Hebrews 9:11) The sacred tent of the Hebrews had, doubtless, many excellences. It was a costly erection. Its arrangements were "a parable" (Hebrews 9:9) which instructed the Jews in spiritual truth. The ark was an emblem of the Divine majesty. The cherubic figures were "cherubim of glory," for Jehovah dwelt in symbol between them. Yet, after all, the Jewish tabernacle was only an earthly structure. It was "made with hands." But our High Priest ministers in "the greater and more perfect tabernacle." The place of his priestly service is the highest heavens. The true tabernacle is "not of this creation;" it is in the unseen—in the immediate presence of Jehovah. And the work of Christ there is to interpose and intercede for his people. Every act of saving power results directly from the expression of his will, as our Advocate at the bar of God.
III. A RICHER SACRIFICE. (Hebrews 9:12-14) Salvation comes to us as the result of satisfaction rendered to Divine justice. We are not saved by receiving Christ's doctrine, or by observing a Christian ritual, or by following Christ's example, or by imbibing moral influence from him as a Teacher and Martyr. Christ saves us "by the sacrifice of himself." As he laid down his life for us, and as "the blood is the life," he is said to have "entered into the holy place" "through his own blood." How much richer and more powerful is this blood than that which was shed upon the brazen altar of the tabernacle! The latter contained only the principle of brute life. But Christ's is:
1. Human blood. Our High Priest is a real man, woman-born—our own mother's Son. He is "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." So he yielded himself up intelligently and voluntarily as our Sacrifice.
2. Holy blood. Jesus "offered himself without blemish unto God" (Hebrews 9:14). His earthly life was absolutely faultless. He is the only perfect specimen of humanity that has ever lived upon earth—the one "Son of man" who did not share in human corruption and condemnation.
3. Heavenly blood. The Man Christ Jesus had an "eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14); i.e. he possessed the Divine nature. He is personally and literally God. And it is his Deity that gives to his death its marvelous significance. No creature-blood could atone for our sins; but the sacrifice of Christ is of infinite value, because there resides in him" the power of an endless life."
IV. A MORE THOROUGH CLEANSING. (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14) The writer concedes that the Levitical sin offerings did purify. One purpose of their appointment was that they might effect legal or ceremonial cleansing. "The blood of goats and bulls," which was presented for the collected guilt of Israel once a year, consecrated the Jew ceremonially to the worship and service of Jehovah. In like manner the sprinkling of "the ashes of a red heifer," mixed with water, removed legal defilement from the person who had touched a dead body (Numbers 19:2-9). But the blood of Christ purifies from a deeper pollution. It cleanses the "conscience." It is the God-provided solvent for the stains of sin. It can
"Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart."
This blood purifies from "dead works"—those deeds which are done by dead souls, and which, however excellent some of them may appear when viewed in themselves, are yet of no avail to recommend to the Divine favor. Under the new covenant the conscience is cleansed so thoroughly that the service of God becomes a constant joy to the believer's soul. The Divine statutes become his "songs," and he learns to "run in the way of God's commandments."
V. A MORE BLESSED REDEMPTION. Some of the positive elements of the Christian salvation are indicated in these verses. Those had not been "made manifest" under the old covenant.
1. Perfect access to God. The subject of access is the nerve-thought of this whole section of the treatise. The worshipper under the new covenant, being cleansed through the "one offering" of Christ, is admitted into the immediate presence of Jehovah. He stands within the "second veil," that veil being now "rent in twain" (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2).
2. Full freedom to serve God. (Hebrews 9:14) A guilt-stained soul can perform only "dead works;" but the spirit that is washed in the blood of Christ's atonement begins immediately to be of use to its Redeemer. Oar High Priest has shed his blood, not only to render us safe, but to make us holy; not only to deliver us from God's wrath, but from our own wickedness. So soon as Christ destroys "the body of sin" within us, we discover that it is our "reasonable service" to present our persons "a living sacrifice."
3. The gift of eternal life. (Hebrews 9:12) The gospel salvation redeems both soul and body, finally and for ever. It saves, not only from the curse of the Law, but from all evil. "Eternal redemption" expresses the sum total of the benefits which accrue from Christ's mediation, and includes the consummation of the plan of grace in the heavenly world. It denotes "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory."
Ratification by blood.
Here the writer pauses in his argument regarding the superiority of Christ's sacrifice to the sacrifices of the Law, and directs attention to an important point of similarity between the old covenant and the new. This passage is a serious crux. It has perplexed the most eminent commentators. The great question is, whether διαθήκη should be translated "covenant" or "testament:" in Hebrews 9:16 and Hebrews 9:17. For ourselves, we have come to the conclusion that as this Greek word does not bear the meaning of "testament" or "will" in any other part of Scripture, and as it is unquestionably used in the sense of "covenant" in the immediate context (Hebrews 8:6-13), as well as in Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:18-20 of this very passage, we are compelled, in spite of opposing considerations, to attach to the word the sense of "covenant" in Hebrews 9:16 and Hebrews 9:17 also. Moses did not make a will at Mount Sinai, the provisions of which could only be carried into effect after his death. Neither did Christ speak of a will when he instituted the Lord's Supper in the upper room—using the words of Moses. The one reference throughout the paragraph before us is to a covenant, or rather to the two covenants which are being compared and contrasted in this section of the treatise. It is most unfortunate that the two great parts into which Holy Scripture is divided should be designated among the English-speaking nations by the word "testaments," which is confessedly a mistranslation. Rather, the Hebrew oracles ought to have been called "The Book of the Old Covenant;" and the Christian Scriptures "The Book of the New Covenant."
I. IN OLDEN TIMES COVENANTS WERE SEALED BY THE DEATH OF VICTIMS. "For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the ratifying victim. For a covenant is of force where there hath been death; for doth it ever avail while the ratifying victim liveth?" (Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17). The Hebrew word for a covenant means primarily "a cutting;" the reference being to a common custom among the ancients of dividing into two the animals slain for the purpose of ratification, that the contracting parties might pass between the pieces (Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:10, Genesis 15:17; Jeremiah 34:18, Jeremiah 34:19). It is certain that in the oldest times of Scripture history, covenants were sealed by means of sacrifice. God's covenant with Noah (Ge 8:20-9:17), and his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), were thus ratified. And it is probable that the prevalent custom among both Jews and Gentiles of confirming contracts in this manner originated in the Divine appointment of animal sacrifice as a type of the atonement of Christ.
II. THE "FIRST" OR MOSAIC COVENANT WAS THUS SEALED. (Hebrews 9:18-22) This old covenant, made at Mount Sinai, comprised the Ten Commandments and the body of laws contained in Exodus 21:1-36.- 23. These laws were called "The Book of the Covenant." They were the first rough outline of the Mosaic code which Jehovah gave to his people. In Exodus 24:3-8 there is a description of the ceremonial which is here referred to. The awe-stricken people were gathered before an altar erected at the foot of the mountain. The book of the covenant was read over to them. Twelve young men, acting as priests, shed the blood of certain propitiatory victims. Then Moses sprinkled half of the blood upon the altar and upon the book of the covenant, and the other half upon the assembled multitude. Some of the circumstances of the ceremonial which are alluded to in verse 19 are not mentioned in the narrative of Exodus; but the writer of our Epistle refers to them as matter of well-known and thoroughly authenticated Hebrew tradition. This solemn ratification of the Sinaitic Law shows that God and the sinner can only be made "at one" through a covenant of blood; and thus, the words spoken by Moses when he sprinkled the blood (verse 20) were adopted by the Savior in instituting the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:28), to signify the confirmation of the "new" and "eternal covenant" through the shedding of his own blood. But, besides this, the tabernacle and its furniture were dedicated with the sprinkling of blood; and blood continued to be used in connection with nearly all the rites of which the tabernacle was the center (verses 21, 22). The ceremonial Law was, in fact, one vast system of blood-symbols. The crimson streams never ceased to flow upon the brazen altar; blood was put upon the altar of incense; the holy of holies itself was sprinkled with it. There was blood everywhere;—no access to God except by blood. The Jews were thus taught, with solemn and continual iteration, that the forgiveness of sins can only be obtained by means of a substitutionary atonement.
III. THE NEW COVENANT HAS BEEN SEALED BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST. (Verse 15) This death was at once a sacrifice for sin and a covenant offering. The blood of Jesus has done for the new covenant, in sealing it, what the blood of the Mosaic sacrifices did for the old. His death as the ratifying Victim took place "of necessity." It was necessary, not certainly because of the ancient custom of sealing covenants by sacrifice; rather, God had appointed sacrifice, and employed it in his gracious communications with his ancient people, in order to prefigure thereby the true meaning and purpose of the death of Christ. The necessity of the atonement was neither hypothetical, nor governmental, nor a necessity of expediency. It arose out of the nature of God, as infinitely holy, just, and righteous. "For this cause" that by his death he has paid a full ransom for human sin, "he is the Mediator of a new covenant"—of that better economy promised long before by Jeremiah (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrifice of Christ is of such transcendent efficacy that it has availed to wash away the guilt of all God's people who lived under the former imperfect covenant; as well as to secure for all saints, whether Jewish or Christian, the inestimable gift of eternal life.
1. We should avail ourselves of the benefits of the new covenant.
2. Have confidence that all its promises will be fulfilled.
3. Cherish grateful love to the Lord Jesus, who has sealed the covenant with his blood.
4. Celebrate the Lord's Supper with intelligence and joy.
5. Consecrate our lives to the service of our Redeemer.
Perfection of Christ's atonement.
In these verses the writer contrasts the incompleteness of the Mosaic sacrifices with the finality which attaches to the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus.
I. THREE GREAT CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES. These rest respectively upon three facts, viz. the death and the ascension of Christ, which are matters of history; and the second advent, which is still future.
1. Christ died as a Sacrifice for sin. (Hebrews 9:28) His death was a stupendous event—being that of a Divine Person. It did not occur as the result of disease, or of natural decay. It was not an accidental death. It was judicially inflicted. Sentence was pronounced upon Jesus, not merely in the high priest's palace and in Pilate's judgment-hall, but in the court of heaven. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; 'The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.'"
2. He ascended to heaven as our Priest. (Hebrews 9:24) Of the three offices which Jesus executes, the prophetical occupied the most prominent place while he was on earth; his priestly office has seemed to come into the foreground now that he has gone to heaven; and his kingly functions will appear to be most fully discharged after the second advent. Why was it necessary that he should enter heaven as our Priest?
3. He shall come again to consummate the salvation of his people. (Hebrews 9:28) On the Day of Atonement, after Aaron had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood, he came forth from the holy of holies, reclothed himself in his splendid vestments of blue and red and purple, trimmed with pomegranates and golden bells, and appeared outside to bless the waiting multitudes. So our High Priest, although he still tarries in the heavenly tabernacle, filling it with the fragrant incense of his intercession, shall appear at the end of the ages, wearing the robes of his immortal glory, to say to his expectant people, "Come, ye blessed of my Father." He shall appear "apart from sin." When he came the first time, he was "made to be sin on our behalf," although he "knew no sin;" but at his second advent he shall not again assume the dreadful burden. He shall appear "unto salvation," i.e. to complete the redemption of his people. By his first coming he saved their souls; at his second coming, he shall save their bodies. Or, rather, at his first coming he paid down the ransom-price of our redemption; while at his second coining he shall receive the final installment of his purchased possession.
II. THE DOCTRINAL FOCUS OF THE PASSAGE. The chief point of thought for the sake of which these three doctrines are adduced is marked by the repetition of the word "once" in Hebrews 9:26-28; and by the contrast between this "once" and the "often" or "year by year" of Hebrews 9:25. Christ died only once; he ascended only once; he shall come again only once. Why is it that, while Aaron entered the Hebrew holy of holies every year, Jesus Christ has gone into the heavenly sanctuary "once for all"? Two reasons are assigned: the one, that to repeat his sacrifice would be unnatural; and the other, that to do so is unnecessary.
1. It would be unnatural. (Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28) Jesus Christ is the Son of man, and in all things he has been "made like unto his brethren." Now, it is a human thing to die once; and the death of every child of Adam will be followed by his appearance at the general judgment. So "it was in harmony with the law of mortality in this world that Christ should die but once. There would have been something unnatural in his dying and rising, and dying and rising, again and again without end" (Dr. Lindsay). The Lord's death and his second advent are parallel arrangements to what is the common lot of man.
2. It is unnecessary. This reason is still more satisfying, and it receives great prominence in the verses before us. It was not needful that Christ should die and ascend and come again oftener than once; for:
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
Hebrews 9:4, Hebrews 9:5
The ark of the covenant, a symbol of redemptive truth.
"The ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein … were the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat." Jewish solemnities were types of Christian truths and relations. The furniture of their sacred courts possessed symbolical significance. Their religious institutions were parables of spiritual and saving truths. Deep significance of this kind attached to the ark of the covenant. We shall regard it as setting forth certain facts and features of God's redemptive relations with men. In it we discover—
I. THE RECOGNITION OF LAW IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "The ark of the covenant, wherein were the tables of the covenant." The two tables containing the ten commandments, in accordance with Divine directions, were deposited in the ark (Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:21; Exodus 40:20). Thus Law was recognized and honored there:
1. As a sacred thing. The tables were in the most holy place and in the most venerated receptacle which that place contained. Law is a benevolent thing, a holy thing. It is at the very center of all things. In the material universe, in human history, and in Divine redemption, law is present everywhere, and operative everywhere. It is of a religions nature, of a Divine nature.
2. As a permanent thing. Ceremonial laws pass away; moral laws are abiding. The "ten words" given on Sinai in their essential characteristics are as binding now as they were under the earlier dispensation. Our Lord endorsed and enforced them. He said, "Thou shall love the Lord thy God," etc. (Matthew 22:37-40). The everlasting continuance of law is essential to the order and well-being of the universe of God. The redemption which is by Christ Jesus aims at the establishment of the Law of God in blessed and perpetual supremacy, and the inspiration and confirmation in man of the spirit and habit of cheerful conformity to that Law. There is law in heaven. The ark of the covenant is there. "And there was opened the temple of God that is heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant" (Revelation 11:19).
3. As a witness against man. Man had broken this holy Law. In his fallen and sinful condition he could not thoroughly keep it. Hence it bore witness against him. The tables of the covenant were also called "the two tables of testimony," and they testified to the transgressions and failures of men. "By the Law is the knowledge of sin." And in this way the Law witnessed to man's need of mercy and forgiveness and spiritual power.
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF GRACE IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. The ark of the covenant was covered, and the covering was called "the mercy-seat." The word which is here rendered "mercy-seat" is applied to our Savior: "Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation," etc. (Romans 3:25). There was a manifestation of grace:
1. In the mercy-seat itself. It was the lid of the chest which contained the tables of the Law. Those tables testified against man, and the mercy-seat hid, as it were, their testimony from the eyes of the Holy One who dwelt between the cherubim. The mercy-seat covered and concealed the accusing tables. Hence arose the poetical view of forgiveness as a covering of sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
2. In the symbolical atonement which was made upon the mercy-seat. The covering of the tables of testimony was not in itself sufficient to put away the guilt of the people. For this atonement also was necessary. Hence on the great Day of Atonement the high priest was required to sprinkle the blood of the sin offerings upon the mercy-seat to "make an atonement, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins" (Le 16:11-16). To the mercy-seat in this aspect there is reference in several verses of the Scripture, or at least the verb used in these verses (kaphar) suggests such a reference. "Our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away" (Psalms 65:3); "He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity" (Psalms 78:38); "To make reconciliation for iniquity" (Daniel 9:24). In this the mercy-seat pointed to the Christ, the great Atonement, the true Propitiatory, "whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith by his blood" (Romans 3:24-26). Thus the manifestation of the grace of God in his redemptive relations with man was symbolized in the covering of the ark of the covenant. Moreover, grace and Law appear here as connected and harmonious. Rightly understood, Law itself is an expression of Divine grace, and Divine grace aims to establish the universal reign of Law, which is but another word for the reign of God. The mercy-seat was "God's throne of grace founded upon Law." Here "mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
III. THE ATTITUDE AND ACTION OF ANGELS IN RESPECT TO GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat." We regard the cherubim as emblems of angelic powers; and their position here suggests that they are:
1. The solemn guardians of God's holy Law. They kept constant watch over the "tables of testimony." They are deeply interested in the maintenance of moral law. They "are in Scripture evermore the attendants, and bearers up, of the throne of God." When man rebelled against the authority of that throne, they were appointed ministers for punishing the transgressors (Genesis 3:24).
2. The interested students of God's redemptive relations with men. The cherubim were represented as looking intently and constantly upon the ark of the covenant. "Toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be," etc. (Exodus 25:20, Exodus 25:21). "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). "Unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places is made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).
3. The willing servants in promoting the successful issue of God's redemptive relations with men. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" (see on Hebrews 1:14).
IV. THE REVELATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN HIS REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Cherubim of glory." They were so called because they appeared to bear up the visible symbol of the presence of God, which in the Old Testament is sometimes called "the glory." God promised to commune with his people "from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Exodus 25:22). "Moses heard the voice of one speaking unto him from between the two cherubim" (Numbers 7:89). God was said to "dwell between the cherubim" (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalms 80:1; Psalms 99:1). God sometimes manifested his presence here in a luminous cloud, which the Jews called the Shechinah, and here he was always thought of as present. Jesus Christ our Redeemer is the true Shechinah. He is "the Effulgence of the Father's glory, and the very Image of his substance." He is the truest, the highest, the fullest manifestation of God to man. And in spiritual presence God dwells with his people now. The Holy Spirit is present with every godly soul. And Christians are inspired by the mighty and blessed hope that when this life in the body ends, they will follow their Forerunner within the veil and see God "even as he is."—W.J.
Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12
The pre-eminent priesthood.
"But Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come," etc. Our Lord is here represented as the pre-eminent High Priest in three respects.
I. IN THE TEMPLE IN WHICH HE MINISTERS.
1. The temple in which he ministers is itself pre-eminent. He has "entered in once for all into the holy place." He ministers in the true holy of holies, of which the Jewish one was only a figure. He is not in the symbolized, but in the veritable and immediate presence of God. "A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." "Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us."
2. The access to this temple is pre-eminent. The Jewish high priest entered the holy of holies through the holy place. Our Lord passed into the true holy of holies "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands." It seems to us that "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" cannot mean either
No interpretation of this part of our text is without its difficulties; but that which seems to us to be the true one is, that he passed through the visible heavens as through an outer sanctuary into the inner sanctuary of "heaven itself." Our "great High Priest hath passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14), and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The outer sanctuary of the Jewish temple was "made with hands," small and imperfect; but the heavens which Christ passed through were created by the Divine fiat, and they are immeasurably vast and unspeakably glorious.
II. IN THE ATONEMENT WHICH HE MADE. "Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered in once for all into the holy place." The entering in through blood refers to the blood which the high priests took into the holy of holies to" make an atonement" (cf. Le 16:14-16). Christ is represented as entering the heavenly sanctuary through blood. Not literally, but figuratively, must we accept this. He complied with the condition of entrance into the perfect sanctuary as our great High Priest. He made atonement for sin previous to his appearing "before the face of God for us." But, unlike the Aaronic high priests, he needed not to make atonement for himself. For us and for all men he made the pre-eminent atonement—the perfect atonement. How?
1. By the sacrifice of the highest life. Not animal, but human life. Not a sinful or imperfect human life, but a pure, holy, perfect one. He gave his own life—the undefiled, the highest, the sublimest, the supremely beautiful life—as an atonement for the sin of the world.
2. By the voluntary sacrifice of the highest life. Christ did not die as an unwilling Victim. He freely gave himself for us. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," etc. (John 10:17, John 10:18). "Through his own blood," which was willingly shed for us, he effected human redemption, and then ascended to his mediatorial throne.
III. IN THE BLESSINGS WHICH HE OBTAINED FOR MAN.
1. He has obtained eternal redemption for us. Man was in bondage. Wicked powers had enslaved him. He was the thrall of corrupt passions and sinful habits; "sold under sin;" "the slave of sin;" the "bond-servant of corruption." Christ redeemed man from this bondage. He paid our ransom-price. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, with silver or gold; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." He is the great Emancipator. He "proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to the bound." He delivers from the condemnation, from the guilt, from the defilement, and from the sovereignty of sin. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And this redemption is eternal. Its benefits endure forever. It introduces man into everlasting liberty and light, and starts him upon a career of endless progress and blessedness.
2. He is "a High Priest of the good things to come." These good things are the blessings of the gospel age, the privileges which Christians now enjoy. Under the former covenant they were in the future; now they are a present possession. They who lived during that dispensation had the figures of gospel blessings; we have the very blessings themselves. But there is more than that here. Christ is a High Priest of good things yet to come. There are blessings which we hope for in the future, and shall obtain through his glorious priesthood. We look forward to the time when we shall enter upon "the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled," etc. (1 Peter 1:4, 1 Peter 1:5). The blessings which flow to man from his priesthood are inexhaustible and infinite. Through him there will ever be "good things to come" for those who by faith are interested in his gracious and blessed mediation.—W.J.
Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14
Ceremonial and spiritual cleansing.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats," etc.
I. THE HUMAN NEED OF CLEANSING. By implication our text teaches the moral defilement of man. Both under the Mosaic and under the Christian dispensation the impurity was moral. But in the earlier dispensation the external and ceremonial uncleanness was made most conspicuous. A very small thing led to this defilement. If a man unwittingly walked over a grave, or touched a dead human body, he was accounted unclean seven days (cf. Numbers 19:11-22). This was designed as a parable of spiritual uncleanness. It was intended to lead men to feel the contamination of sin. So in the Christian economy it is the internal and moral impurity that is exhibited, and the need of spiritual cleansing that is insisted upon. Sin is the corrupting, defiling, separating thing. The great need is a clean heart and a right spirit.
II. THE DIVINE METHODS OF CLEANSING. Our text brings before us two methods, that of the Mosaic economy and that of the Christian, the ceremonial and the spiritual.
But in other respects these methods were widely different. Let us notice the method:
1. In the earlier dispensation.
2. In the Christian dispensation.
(a) It was the sacrifice of a human life. "The blood of Christ, who … offered himself."
(b) It was the sacrifice of a holy human life. "Christ offered himself without blemish unto God"(cf. Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19).
(c) It was the sacrifice of the holy human life of a Divine Person. "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God." By "the eternal Spirit" we understand, "not the Spirit of the Father dwelling in Christ, nor the Holy Spirit given without measure to Christ, but the Divine Spirit of the Godhead which Christ himself had, and was in his inner personality" (Alford, in loco). Our Lord's Divine nature acquiesced in the redemptive plan and purpose, and contributed to its fulfillment. "It was 'the blood of Christ; 'of the whole and undivided Christ," as Richard Watson observes, "who was both God and man. For though a Divine nature could not bleed and die, a Divine person could. This distinction is to be kept in mind: for, the person being one, the acts and sufferings of each nature are the acts and sufferings of the same person, and are spoken of interchangeably." "His blood, though not the blood of God, yet was the blood of him that was God." The chief value of our Savior's sacrifice was not in the physical life which was offered, although that was perfect, but in the spirit in which it was offered, tie shed his blood for us in the spirit of uttermost and perfect obedience to the Divine Father, and of willing sacrifice for the accomplishment of human salvation. And this spirit of obedience and self-sacrificing love was eternal; not a transient mood or a temporary feeling, but his eternal disposition. "The sacrifice of Christ," says Ebrard, "could only be offered in the power of eternal spirit. Only the eternal spirit of absolute love, holiness, wisdom, and compassion was capable of enduring that sacrificial death."
III. THE EFFICACY OF THESE METHODS OF CLEANSING.
1. The sacrifices of the Jewish ritual were efficacious in producing ritualistic purity. Doubtless there were persons who, regarding these sacrifices as types of a far higher sacrifice, and these cleansings as figures of a spiritual cleansing, derived spiritual and saving benefits through them. To these benefits the text does not refer, but to the national and ceremonial use of these institutions. They "sanctified unto the cleanness of the flesh." By means of them ceremonial impurity was removed, the separation consequent upon that impurity was brought to an end, and the cleansed person was restored to the congregation of Israel.
2. The sacrifice of Christ is far more efficacious in producing spiritual purity. "How much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse your conscience?" etc. By "conscience" in this place we do not understand any one faculty of our spiritual nature, but our entire moral consciousness in relation to God, our religious soul. "Dead works" are those which are regarded as meritorious in themselves, and apart from the disposition and motive which prompted them. They do not proceed from a heart alive by faith and love. No living spiritual sentiment breathes through them. And their influence on the soul is not inspiring, but depressing. They have no fitness for quickening spiritual affections and powers, but for crushing and killing them. They, moreover, tend to defile man's religious nature. As the touching of a corpse, or the bone of a dead body, or treading upon a grave, defiled a man under the Mosaic Law, so the contact of these dead works with man's soul contaminates it. The moral influence of the blood of Christ cleanses away this contamination (cf. 1 John 1:6-9). The holy and infinite love of God manifested in the death of Christ for us, when it is realized by us, burns up base passions and impure human affections and unholy desires. It acts within us as a fervent and purifying fire. And it inspires the soul for true spiritual service. It "cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God." The word used to express this service indicates its religiousness. It "denotes in the New Testament the priestly consecration and offering up of the whole man to the service of God. the willing priestly offering of one's self to God." It does not signify service which is limited to religious duties, but the performance of every duty and all duties in a religious spirit. The whole life is consecrated to the living God, and all its occupations become exalted into a Divine service (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). "How much more," then, "shall the blood of Christ?" etc. In the ceremonial cleansings the connection between the means and the end was merely symbolical and arbitrary; but in the redemptive influences of the gospel there is a beautiful and sublime fitness for the accomplishment of their end. The infinite righteousness and love manifested in the great self-sacrifice of the Savior are eminently adapted to redeem and purify man's soul from sin, and to inspire and invigorate him for the willing service of the living God. Our text corrects two errors concerning the sacrifice of Christ.
1. It corrects the error of those who make the essence of that sacrifice to consist in the physical sufferings and death of our Lord. God has no delight in mere pain, or blood-shedding, or death. In themselves these things cannot be pleasing to God. It was the spirit in which Christ suffered and died that made his death a Divine sacrifice and a mighty power of spiritual redemption.
2. It corrects the error of those who depreciate the expression of the Divine spirit of self-sacrifice in the life and death of our Lord. It was morally necessary that he should give himself as a sacrifice for us, in order that the mighty influence of the Divine righteousness and love might be brought to bear upon us and redeem us. "Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things?" "Thus it behooved the Christ to suffer," etc. (Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46, Luke 24:47).—W.J.
Forgiveness through sacrifice.
"Without shedding of blood is no remission." This is as true in Christianity as it was in Judaism. The text suggests—
I. A SAD FACT. Implied in the text and in the whole of the present section of the Epistle is the sad fact that men are sinners, needing forgiveness of sin and cleansing of soul. Men endeavor by various methods to get rid of this fact of sin. Some attribute what the Bible calls sin to defective social arrangements. Men, say they, are parts of a very imperfect and faulty organization, and their errors are to be charged against the organization, not against the individuals composing it. Others denominate sin "misdirection" or mistake, thus eliminating the element of will and moral responsibility. Others speak of it as "imperfect development." Others charge all personal wrongdoing upon the force of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances, ignoring the fact that solicitation is not compulsion. With these theories, how are we to account for the self-reproaches which men heap upon themselves after wrong-doing—for the fact that men do blame themselves for wrong-doing? We feel that we have sinned, that we are morally free and responsible individually, that we have broken a holy law, that we deserve punishment. The penitent heart cries, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," etc; "God be merciful to me the sinner." It is a terrible fact that sin is in the world, that we individually are sinners.
II. A GREAT WANT. Remission of sins—forgiveness. Man everywhere is consciously guilty before God; everywhere his heart cries out for reconciliation with him, and forgiveness from him. Altars, sacrifices, pilgrimages, penances, all witness to this. Evidences of this deep need are in our personal experience. The guilt, the consciousness that we have offended God, the dread of the stroke of his just wrath, the aching want of his forgiveness,—these things we have felt. Who shall roll away the burden of our guilt? Who will give us peace? etc. Oh, very deep is this need, and wide as the world!
III. A DIVINE CONDITION. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." Under the Mosaic economy atonement for sin was made and ceremonial cleansing obtained by the shedding and the sprinkling of blood. And the text teaches that forgiveness of sin is attainable, but only through the shedding of blood. What is the reason for this condition? The sacred Scriptures assert that "the blood is the life" (Deuteronomy 12:23). "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Le 17:11). Now, life is our most precious possession. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." Thus the "shedding of blood' is equivalent to the giving of the life. And to say that we are "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ" is to express the truth that we are redeemed by the sacrifice of his pure and precious and perfect life. But why should forgiveness of sin rest upon this condition of sacrifice? How the atonement of the death of Christ is related to the Divine Being and government we know not. But in relation to man and the forgiveness of sin we may without presumption offer one or two observations. Forgiveness cannot be granted at the sacrifice of law and moral order. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Man must be brought to recognize this, or to pardon him would be to license wrong-doing. A forgiveness which did not respect and honor the law and order of God would sap the foundations of his government, blight his universe, and prove an injury to man himself. How shall the Law be maintained and honored and man be forgiven? God has supplied the answer. He gave his only begotten Son to shed his blood and give up his life for us sinners, as a grand declaration that Law is holy and righteous and good, and must be maintained, and that the Lawgiver is the righteous and loving Father, who is willing to forgive all men who turn from sin and trust the Savior. Through the death of Christ God proclaims the wickedness of sin, the goodness, beauty, and majesty of Law, and his own infinite righteousness and love. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." This is not an arbitrarily imposed condition of forgiveness of sin. The necessities of the case demand it. It is gracious on the part of God so clearly to declare it. And he who declares it has himself provided for its fulfillment. "Herein is love," etc. (1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:10); "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc. (Romans 5:8). "Forgiveness of sin through the shedding of blood, the salvation of the sinner through the sacrifice of the Savior, is the Divine and the only true method. The atonement of the cross is a comprehensive force in the actual redemption of the world from evil."
IV. A GLORIOUS FACT. Forgiveness is attainable unto all men. The blood has been shed, Jesus the Christ has offered up his most precious life as a sacrifice for sin, the Divine condition of forgiveness is fulfilled, and forgiveness is now within the reach of every man. It is freely offered to all men, and upon conditions which render it available unto every man. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," etc. (Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 55:7). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "If we confess our sins," etc. (1 John 1:9).
1. There is no forgiveness for us apart from Jesus Christ. Our works cannot merit it. Presumptuous trust in the mercy of God, as though he were regardless of law and order, will not meet with it. Future obedience as an atonement for past sins cannot secure it. Apart from Christ we cannot obtain it.
2. Accept heartily the forgiveness which is offered to us through him.—W.J.
"For Christ entered … into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Our text teaches—
I. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS A LOCALITY. It is spoken of here as a place into which Christ entered. In his glorified body he entered there, and we cannot conceive of the existence of a body apart from space and place. Body cannot exist apart from place. Our Lord said to his disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." Doubtless the blessedness of heaven is chiefly a thing of moral condition, not of circumstances; of character, not of locality. If a person's soul be impure, sinful, and possessed by wicked passions, no place could afford him joy. To such a one "heaven itself" would be a place of intolerable misery. Heaven as a state is in the holy soul; but there is also heaven as a place in which the holy dwell. We know not where this place is. We know it is not in the visible, stellar heavens; for Christ passed through them (Hebrews 4:14) into heaven itself. But where it is situated we know not. We know not its aspects or the character of its scenery. But we are convinced that it must be supremely beautiful. There are scenes of exquisite beauty and glorious grandeur and awful sublimity in this world. And we cannot but believe that in this respect heaven will, at least, be not less beautiful, or grand, or sublime. Rather, does not every consideration encourage the belief that it will present scenes that for beauty and sublimity, grandeur and glory, will immeasurably surpass everything that we know at present?
II. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE SCENE OF THE SUPREME MANIFESTATION OF GOD. "The presence of God" is manifested there. "The face of God" is seen there. Moses said unto Jehovah, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" and he was answered, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live Thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen" (Exodus 33:18-23). It must, we conceive, in one sense remain forever true that no man shall see the unveiled face of God, and live. "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). But it is also true that in the future there will be granted unto his people a spiritual vision of God of much greater clearness and fullness than any which they have in this present state. Their "future life will be spent in God's presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life." For this the intensely religious soul of David yearned. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness," etc. (Psalms 17:15). With ardent desire St. Paul anticipated that he should see him "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). And St. John was thrilled with the sublime and sanctifying hope that he should "see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). At present we see him through his works. Creation is a revelation of his might and majesty, his wisdom and goodness. But a nearer and clearer vision of him awaits us in the future. In that future our perceptions will doubtless be more quick and true, more comprehensive and strong, than they are at present. Here and now some men discern signs of the Divine presence and catch sounds of the Divine voice, where others recognize nothing Divine.
"Cleon sees no charms in nature—in a daisy, I
Cleon hears no anthem ringing in the sea and sky:
Nature sings to me for ever—earnest listener, I."
But the perceptions of even the spiritual and thoughtful man here are dim to what they will be hereafter. Then we shall see him, not through the veil of flesh, not through the clouds which our doubts and sins interpose between us and him, but with the clarified vision of the pure heart (Matthew 5:8). This vision is promised unto his servants. "His servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face "(Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:4; see also Revelations Revelation 7:15; Revelation 21:3). This vision of God is:
1. Enrapturing. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
2. Transforming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after forty days' communion with God, "the skin of his face shone." He had caught something of the glory of the august and awful Being with whom he had been in communication. How much more will the saints in heaven receive of his glory! For
3. Abiding. In heaven itself the manifestation of God will not be occasional or intermittent, but regular and constant. "He will dwell with them," etc. (Revelation 21:3).
III. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE ABODE OF THE CHRIST AND THE SCENE OF HIS PRESENT MINISTRY. "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there in his mediatorial glory (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1).
1. He is there as the Representative of man. The expression, "to appear in the presence of God for us," suggests that he is in heaven as our Representative or Advocate (cf. Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). As the Aaronic high priest, on the great Day of Atonement, went into the holy of holies as the representative of the people; so our Savior, "when he had made purification of sins," "entered into heaven itself," etc.
2. He is there continuously as the Representative of man. The meaning of the "now" is, "from the point of time when he entered heaven as our High Priest, onward indefinitely." It implies the continuance of his appearance before the face of God for us.
3. He is there as the Forerunner of man. (Cf. Hebrews 6:20; John 14:2, John 14:3)
CONCLUSION. Let us seek for heaven in the soul, or we can never be admitted into heaven itself. "Blessed are the pure in heart," etc. (Matthew 5:8). "Follow after holiness," etc. (Hebrews 12:14).—W.J.
Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28
The two deaths, and the two appearings after death.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die," etc. The writer is still treating of the completeness of the sacrifice of our Savior. That sacrifice was offered once for all. Being perfect, it needed no repetition. And now he shows that its repetition was impossible. Notice—
I. THE TWO DEATHS. The death of man, and the death of the Christ. They are mentioned together here to bring out the fact that Christ's offering of himself will not be repeated. Notice these two deaths in the order in which they are here mentioned.
1. The death of man.
2. The death of the Christ. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."
(a) Its repetition is impossible. As man can die only once, so the Christ can only be offered in death once.
(b) Its repetition is unnecessary. His offering was perfect in itself and in its efficacy; its efficacy, moreover, is perpetual, so that it need not be repeated. Heaven asks no more. Man needs no more.
"His precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till the whole ransomed Church of God
Be saved, to sin no more."
II. THE TWO APPEARINGS AFTER DEATH.
1. The appearing of man after death. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this, judgment." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:10). The fact of human responsibility to God suggests the coming of a great day of account. The Divine government of the world, and the inequalities between the characters and conditions and circumstances of men, which are so many and remarkable at present, point to the necessity of such a day. The holy Bible declares it as a certainty (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10-12). How unutterably solemn the consideration that all the myriads of the dead shall appear again in the great day, and before the awful and holy tribunal of the Son of God and Son of man.
2. The appearing of the Christ after death. "The Christ, also, having been offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time," etc.
(a) The attitude of his people in relation to his coming. "Them that wait for him" This implies:
( α) Faith in his coming. "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. (Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21).
( β) Desire for his coming. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
( γ) Expectation of his coming. They "wait for God's Son from heaven," etc. (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
(b) The object of his coming in relation to his people. "Unto salvation." To perfect their salvation. He will raise their bodies, reunite body and soul, receive them into his glory. He will say unto them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father," etc. They shall enter into the joy of their Lord. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things," etc. (2 Peter 3:14).—W.J.
HOMILIES BY C. NEW
Passing reference to the symbolism of the Jewish tabernacle.
The third deduction from the fact that Christ, infinitely greater than Aaron, is High Priest at the right hand of God: The abolition of the Jewish types by their fulfillment in the Redeemer. This occupies Hebrews 9-10:18.
Subject—Passing reference to the symbolism of the Jewish tabernacle. The importance of the tabernacle is obvious, since thirty-seven chapters are devoted to describe it and its services, and seven times it is said to have been made according to the heavenly pattern; so much so that when the writer of this Epistle has to refer to what was typical in the old economy, he does not speak of the temple, but of the original sanctuary. Moreover, but for the tabernacle and its services, much of what is most important in the New Testament would be unintelligible—the veil, mercy-seat, priest, atonement, Lamb of God, etc. The tabernacle standing in its sacred enclosure in the midst of the vast encampment, with the cloudy pillar resting upon it, was the dwelling-place of Israel's King. At Sinai God and Israel entered into solemn covenant. He was to be their King, and they a people peculiarly his own, and from that time he made his visible abode among them. But what was the purpose of the particular form this abode assumed? They were ignorant of him, and in so low a condition that abstract truth was insufficient for their teaching; they needed heavenly things in pictures. The tabernacle, therefore, was doubtless designed in its construction to meet this need. It would convey to them very plainly that God is real, one, theirs, holy, only approachable to man by sacrifice. But the New Testament throws additional light on this ancient sanctuary, by which its details are seen to be profoundly symbolic of New Testament truth, and Christians may better understand, because of it, their position in Christ. The Jewish tabernacle is the type of the Christian Church (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). The Church, founded on "the atonement money" (Scripture name for the hundred silver sockets which were the foundation of the tabernacle); the Church, habitation of God through the Spirit; the Church, witness to the world of the reality, character, and grace of God.
I. THE SYMBOLISM. IN THE JEWISH TABERNACLE. The tabernacle consisted of two apartments separated by the veil, the inner one called "the holy of holies."
1. The relation of Jehovah to the Church, as seen in the holy of holies. Described in Hebrews 10:3-5. A symbol of heaven, as in Apocalypse: "The city lieth four square, and the length," etc; "And the city had no need of the sun, for the," etc. Most glorious place, seat and throne of the King, where celestial beings bow in his presence! Most holy place, hidden from human gaze, inaccessible save through the atonement, inaccessible yet so near; only a veil between, which a breath might almost waft aside, and which the incense of prayer can penetrate! Most blessed place, for there our great High Priest ever carries on his work on our behalf! How well is the tabernacle a type of this! There was the ark of the covenant, and nothing more, save that the walls and ceiling were draped with curtains embroidered with cherubic figures. What did this typify? That
2. The relation of the Church to Jehovah, as seen in the holy place. (Hebrews 10:2) The golden altar, candlestick, shewbread-table, occupied this apartment. (Note, no mention of the golden altar in the text, but in the fourth verse the word "censer" signifies anything that holds incense, and probably should be rendered "altar," as we read of no censer belonging to the holy of holies. It is not said in Hebrews 10:4 that this was within the holy of holies, but only that it belonged to it; it stood close to the veil, its incense passed through the veil, its work was within whilst its form was without) These are also part of the type of the Church; the Church below, as the former the Church above. What do they teach about the Church on earth? Righteous mercy raising us to perfection with him. That is God's part of the covenant. What is ours?
II. THE CHRISTIAN LESSONS IN THE SYMBOLISM.
1. That the Church is the dwelling-place of God. The symbolism is abolished; what is left? The Christian Church, the spiritual temple, which is to be in the world what the tabernacle was in Israel. As once God dwelt in a consecrated temple, now he dwells in consecrated lives; no more worshipped by sacred forms, but by devout hearts. Symbolism has given place to spirituality.
2. That the true Church is that which embodies the teaching of the holy and most holy places. Or, in other words, the true Christian. You believe in what is done for you within the veil, the Godward aspect of Christian life; but to that do you add the manward—worship, service, consecration?
3. That the way into the Church is symbolized in the types of the old sanctuary. Between the entrance to the tabernacle and the gate of the court, stood the brazen altar on which rite sacrifices were offered, and the brazen laver. No entrance to the Church but by Christ's work and the Spirit's—the atoning blood and the laver of regeneration.—C.N.
The symbolism of the Jewish sacrifices.
Only a partial reference, but enough to call up to the Hebrew mind the round of sacred offerings prescribed in Leviticus.
I. PRELIMINARY INQUIRIES AS TO SACRIFICE IN GENERAL.
1. What was the origin of the sacrificial act? Did it originate with man or God? In favor of the former, there is the fact that it is not recorded that the first sacrifice was the result of a Divine call. But against this, we are told that the first recorded sacrifice was offered "by faith" (Hebrews 11:4), and faith implies a Divine revelation—"faith cometh by hearing, and hearing," etc. The Divine origin of the act is, therefore, implied. Moreover, the act of religious sacrifice is practically universal. Does not that imply a principle wrought into human nature by its Creator, especially when it is remembered that the act is one repugnant to human feeling? But, more than all, God's covenant with men is based on sacrifice, and it is surely incredible that Jehovah adopted for so supreme an end what man had first suggested.
2. What was the meaning the Jew attached to sacrificial rites? Whatever shades of meaning attached to different offerings, and however much or little spiritual significance to any of them, it must, at least, have been impressed on the Hebrew mind with great clearness that "without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins," that God's people only remained in covenant with him through the efficacy of a substitutionary victim. That was the basis of the Jewish system, and was before the people in various forms every day, and could hardly be missed. How far the average few regarded these as types of a perfect sacrifice to be made hereafter, or how far he trusted in them, cannot be said; but at least the pious amongst them understood that unless the physical act had a spiritual antitype it was unacceptable (Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 50:7-15; Isaiah 1:11-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:7-8).
3. What are the particular truths symbolized in the various sacrifices? The offerings (except those which applied to special and personal matters) were of five kinds—sin, trespass, burnt, meat, and peace offerings. It must be remembered that these were the offerings of those living under the privileges of the Day of Atonement; in other words, of a people already in covenant with Jehovah. The Day of Atonement was the one day on which expiation was made for all sin, and Jehovah showed himself still their God. That day was unique, and was to the nation what that day is to the believer when, on his first faith in Christ, he is admitted into God's family. By the services of that day the people stood justified before God, in covenant relation with him. No doubt the sum of the five offerings is the Lord Jesus. He is essentially the Sacrifice in whom all these typical sacrifices are gathered, up, and they are so many different aspects of his work. But beside this, and growing out of it, they have reference to different aspects of the worshipper's position. On the Day of Atonement the sacrifices were offered for the people. The high priest did it all; but in these other offerings the people appear as actors, and there is a sense in which these were not made for them, but by them. The penitent sinner has only to receive; that is the Day of Atonement. The redeemed saint has to give; that is represented by these five offerings. The sacrifices, therefore, set forth different aspects of Christ's work, revealing different aspects of the saint's position.
II. WITH THIS IDEA OF THE MEANING OF THE SACRIFICES, GLANCE AT THEM SEPARATELY. When a complete round of sacrificial offerings was required, they were generally made in a specified order: sin, or trespass, or occasionally both; burnt; meat; peace. We may divide these into three groups.
1. Sin and trespass offerings setting forth the worshipper's need off expiation. The prominent idea in both these is expiation. Israel stood before God in a state of reconciliation, yet needing constant pardon for offences committed in that state. These offerings were to meet that need. "He that is cleansed needeth not save to," etc; but he needs that. In the law of these offerings (Leviticus 4:1-35. and 5) we have sin confessed, judged, requiring blood-shed-ding, atoned for, and pardoned. The peculiarity of the trespass offering was that it was for sins which admitted of some sort of restitution. The teaching of these offerings is that for the Christian's sins there is pardon through the blood of the Lamb, but the condition of which is penitence which tries to undo the wrong done. "I lay my sins on Jesus," etc; that is the sin offering. "Lord, if I have wronged any man, I restore unto him fourfold;" that is the trespass offering. Where these are combined" it shall be forgiven him" (Leviticus 4:1-35).
2. Burnt and meat offerings expressing the worshipper's desire for dedication. These are classed together in Scripture (Numbers 15:3, Numbers 15:4), and, unlike the former, they were both "sweet savor offerings unto the Lord." The law of the burnt offering is in Leviticus 1:1-17. This was the perpetual offering of God's covenant people, being offered every morning and evening. Every sabbath, every month, and at all the annual festivals, and indeed all through the night, when the altar was required for no other use, this sacrifice was slowly consuming. The idea of sin needing expiation was here, but was not the prominent one. This could hardly refer to less than that perpetual self-dedication which is the natural result of acceptance by Geol. (Heads, legs, and inwards all burnt—thoughts, walk, affections) With this was joined the meat offering. "Meat," equivalent to "food." Man's food is symbolic of man's life. Here we have the burnt offering over again, but with this addition—part of it was bestowed on the priest. See here the Christian law of dedication—a whole life given to God, but in being given to him given to his people. Christ was both Burnt Offering and Meat Offering. "I beseech you.., present yourselves," etc; that is the burnt offering. "To do good and to communicate," etc; that is the meat offering.
3. The peace offering representing the worshipper's enjoyment of fellowship. (Leviticus 3:1-17) Its peculiarity is that it was divided into three parts; one burnt as God's portion, one given to priests, and one retained by the offerer, who might invite his friends to partake of it. The idea of unworthiness was represented with the imposition of hands and sprinkled blood; but the great idea was that, notwithstanding unworthiness, peace with God was realized, verified, enjoyed in fellowship. It was the token that the offerer was admitted to a standing in God's house, a seat at his table, communion and friendship. How much is involved when a man can eat together with God and his family! This is fulfilled in Christ; in him God and man find common food; and when we partake of him we are drawn into closest nearness to the Father. This is the peace offering—"Truly our fellowship is with the Father." Expiation, dedication, fellowship, complete Christian life.
III. SUM UP ALL THIS IN THREE PRACTICAL WORDS.
1. The privileges here symbolized are to be fulfilled by the Christian Church. "See here," says God to us, "the blessings you believers may enjoy!" Do we enjoy them? Unless we do we are no better for living under the Christian dispensation, and the Jew was as rich as we.
2. These privileges were only possible at the sacrificial altar. All five offerings were made at the brazen altar used on the Day of Atonement. All our Christian privileges flow from the cross of Christ, and can only be fulfilled as we fulfill them there.
3. These privileges only belong to those for whom the Day of Atonement avails. Only for them—but for them. If we cannot offer the unpardoned sinner these, we can offer him a share in the great essential preceding atoning work.—C.N.
The Day of Atonement fulfilled, and its imperfect blessings perfected in Christ.
In dealing with the abolition of the types of the old economy since their fulfillment in the high priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:18), the writer comes here to dwell on the Jewish Day of Atonement. That day is the key to these and following verses, and the most forcible illustration of our Lord's high priestly work. This day was at the basis of the Jewish system; by its services, Israel's covenant relation to Jehovah was re-established and affirmed. The other offerings of the year were dependent on this, representing the various spiritual privileges of those who are at peace with the Most High. On that day, not only was atonement made for the people, but also for the priesthood, and the altar on which the other sacrifices were offered, and the tabernacle and its furniture, implying that the privileges these represented were only possible through the atonement made then. Had there been no Day of Atonement it would have involved the extinction of their peculiar privileges as the chosen people. That day was to Israel what to the believer that day is when in faith he first lays his sins on Christ, and enters the number of the redeemed. Subject—The Day of Atonement fulfilled, and its imperfect blessings perfected in Christ.
I. THE IMPERFECTION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT TYPE. (Hebrews 9:6-10) It is here said that the Divine Spirit was the Author of these arrangements, that they were a representation of sacred truth, and that in every part of them we have the utterance of a thought of God—so much so that there is, probably, no fundamental doctrine of the New Testament whose striking symbol we cannot find in one or other of these ancient ordinances. Describe the Day of Atonement—the penitence which was to usher it in; the services conducted entirely by the high priest; the two sets of sacrifices, the sin and burnt offerings for himself and his house, and those for the people; the slaying the sin offering for himself, and his entrance within the veil with the blood of sprinkling; the slaying the sin offering for the people, and his second entrance within the veil, sprinkling also the furniture of the holy place as he passed out; the confession of sins over the head of the scapegoat and its being sent away into the wilderness; the putting on of his gorgeous robes and presenting the burnt offerings (dedication after expiation); the closing of the ceremony with the high priestly benediction. Now, what was the use of all this?
1. It was perfect as a type. It is not possible to imagine a more perfect parallel than exists between this and New Testament truth. On the sinner's side, repentance, faith, holiness; on the Savior's side, the substitutionary offering of himself, the passing into the Father's presence to plead his sacrifice, and then "as far as the east is from the west, so far," etc.
2. It was perfect as a means of legal and ceremonial cleansing. God has in all ages but one means of atonement. The nation was not a nation of saved persons after the Day of Atonement; the fact that this was repeated annually showed that "it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." This day "sanctified unto the purifying of the flesh" (Hebrews 9:13)—"flesh" as opposed to spirit; it removed legal and ceremonial defilement, and retained the nation in its legal standing with Jehovah.
3. But it was imperfect for giving access to God. "The Holy Ghost this," etc. Conscience knows that no formalism, no human works, can atone for sin and admit to the Divine favor; that when the Day of Atonement has done its best, the spirit of man is left as far from Jehovah as it was before; that the true veil remained unrent.
II. THE PERFECTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TYPE. Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12, and Hebrews 9:14 display the wonderful perfection of our Lord's sacrifice.
1. His Divine appointment. The various titles of the Savior are not used at random. Here he is called Christ, the Anointed One—he who was promised by God, and for whom the ages have been looking. The substitution of another in our stead depends for its efficacy on whether God will accept him in that capacity. But God "gave his Son;" God" made him to be a Sin Offering for us;" God "hath set him forth to be a Propitiation." "My son, God will provide himself a lamb;" twenty centuries later, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
2. His Divine nature. "Christ, who through the eternal Spirit," etc. Does this refer to the Holy Ghost? We think not. That name is given to him nowhere else, and it is not easy to see the bearing of that idea on the argument. We take it as referring to the eternal nature of Christ, as opposed to his fleshly nature. "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God according," etc; "A Priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." According to the flesh, he is Son of man; according to his eternal spirit, he is Son of God. The efficacy of his sacrifice was due to the eternal spirit of Godhead, the most extraordinary feature in his person. He who poured out his soul unto death at the world's great altar for man's sin was God himself, making the atonement his righteousness required. Hence the infinite efficacy of that atonement.
3. His Divine sinlessness. "Without spot." He can bear our sins because he had none of his own.
III. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT BY THE PERFECT REALITY OF WHAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO THE IMPERFECT TYPE. (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14) (The word "serve" refers to religious ministration, worship) Mark the contrast: Let the silver trumpets herald in the Day of Atonement, let its inspired solemnities be all fulfilled; and, though the nation is legally, ceremonially cleansed thereby, this has not met the needs nor silenced the fears of a single contrite soul; not one of their number is spiritually nearer to God, and the most holy place is still inaccessible. Now turn to Calvary, the reality to which these types pointed, and what is the result?
1. Our conscience is satisfied—satisfied because it knows God is satisfied. The atonement, then, meets every requirement of the Divine Law; not even Divine righteousness could demand a greater. In it every claim of our conscience is intelligently and abundantly met.
2. The way into the Divine presence is opened. Sin separates between God and us; but, with a conscience satisfied that sin is put away, we can look into God's face, venture to his side, bow at his feet, confide in his welcome. The veil of the temple fell to as before, and God was still hidden from man, after the great Jewish day; but when the true atonement had been made, the veil was rent in twain, the way into the holiest was made manifest. To the question, "How much more?" the utmost thought of man can give no answer.—C.N.
HOMILIES BY J.S. BRIGHT
Symbolism of the tabernacle.
It is remarkable that in the Epistle to the Hebrews there is a constant reference to the tabernacle, while the glory of the temple is not noticed and explained. This may arise from several causes, of which the following may be named as the most probable. It was the original form of Divine worship. It had the attraction of antiquity. It was connected with the personal history of Moses and Aaron. It was unpolluted by idolatry. Here the writer mentions the nature and furniture of the tabernacle, which expressed Divine ideas alone. Moses was, to use a modern phrase, "master of the works;" but the plan was Divine, and supplied by him who sees the end from the beginning. The principal thoughts which this passage supplies are:
1. The covenant had a material or worldly tabernacle which denotes approachableness. The ever-blessed God placed his tent in the midst of the tents of Israel that they might come to him, and use the ordinances of Divine service for their forgiveness, peace, and intercourse with the Father of spirits. It proclaims the truth which our Lord announced to the woman of Samaria, that God seeketh men to worship him. "He is not," said Paul," far from every one of us." This is plainly taught by the incarnation of our Lord, who is Immanuel—God with us.
2. The next thought is that of mystery, for God dwelt in the thick darkness, and once a year the solemn service of the high priest was performed with sacred awe. Within the second veil Jehovah dwelt, and taught men that, how gracious soever he was to come near, he must be had in reverence by all them that are round about him.
3. The appointment of the candlestick signifies illumination for service. It must be confessed that while there are vast and inscrutable mysteries, those things which are requisite for our salvation and growth in grace are very plainly revealed. The mystery of the inner holy place is not for us to understand; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and our children, that we may do all the words of this Law. Our Lord said to a man, probably of a serious temper, who desired to know if few were saved, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." The light of the lamp was for the service of the priest, and Scripture is given that the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works.
4. Then appears the thought of spiritual supply. The tables of shewbread were furnished every week, and the priests ate of the loaves which had stood seven days before God in his tabernacle. God blessed the provision of his house; but the arrangement foreshadowed that supply which Christ claimed to be when he called himself "the Bread of life." "My God," said Paul, "shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
5. The pot of manna and Aaron's rod presented memorials of Divine power. The one reminded worshippers of that all-sufficiency which supplied the wants of myriads with daily bread, and the other was a miraculous act which terminated all disputes about the priesthood. Believers now can look up to the throne and see more illustrious proofs of power in the glory of the Redeemer, who was proved to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead, and by the sight of the number of "spirits of just men made perfect," who have come out of tribulation, and are in the joy and felicity of heaven.
6. Then follows the acceptableness of prayer, which is denoted by the golden censer; and the odors represent the prayers of the saints. Prayers are pleasant to God from the sense of our need, and therefore humility of soul; our faith in his interest in us, and our desire to glorify his Name. The angel said to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God."
7. And, lastly, this furniture signifies mercy and adoration. There was the mercy-seat, under which, in the most sacred place, was the Divine Law. Between the Law and God came the cover of the ark, which was sprinkled with sacrificial blood, and through faith in the arrangement sins were forgiven. This is realized in the Redeemer, who is our Propitiation; through whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. Then the cherubim overshadowed the mercy-seat; for the angels desire to look into these things, and bow with reverence and love in the presence of God. The object of all revelation, all sacrifice, all the work of the Son of God, and all the sacred power of the Spirit, is to prepare believers by the experiences of earth for the adoration of heaven.—B.
Symbolism of the sacrifices.
The writer declares that the past dispensation of the Law was a parable or figure. The whole of this Epistle turns upon the interpretation of this parable. Our Lord employed many parables to set forth the nature of his kingdom. He presented many aspects and features and processes of the gospel; and the meaning of these things he explained to the humble and docile spirit of his disciples. In the condition of the Jews under the Law, there was the exclusion of the people from the first tabernacle, and the exclusion of the priests from the second, or holy of holies. The high priest, once a year, entered with awe into the presence of God. There were constant repetitions of the same service which could not take away sin. There was much that was external and ceremonial, and had respect to washings—purification from the defilement that arose from touching certain objects—and there was a sharp division with reference to meats and drinks. All these things were parables, and when the times of reformation came, their object was seen, because a parable must be lifted to the higher region of the truth which it is designed to illustrate. It must be inferior to the object. Here was a sinful priest who offered his errors, and therefore we need one who was sinless and Divine. The repetition of the sacrifice suggests the need of One who by one offering should take away sin. It suggested the need of greater light, for there was a veil which hid the interior of the holy of holies. This veil was rent at the death of Christ, and heaven is now open to faith and worship.
"The smoke of thine atonement here
Darkened the sun and rent the veil,
Made the new way to heaven appear,
And showed the great Invisible:
Well pleased in thee, our God looks down,
And calls his rebels to a crown."
It leads us to consider the removal of all exclusiveness; and while formerly priest and high priest alone could minister in the tabernacle, all believers are now kings and priests unto God. It teaches us how needful was a spiritual system to displace that which had to do with the outward washing and distinctions of food; and to make us know that the kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks, but in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."—B.
Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12
Christ's eternal priesthood.
Over against the imperfection and material character of the laws of Moses which concerned meats, drinks, and divers washings, there is here introduced the exalted nature and efficiency of the Redeemer's priesthood.
I. This appears IN THE FUTURE AND ENDURING EFFECTS OF HIS SACRIFICE. All his office relates chiefly to eternity, whereas the work of the Levitical priesthood had to do with annual atonement, purity of person, and temporal blessings. Our Lord directs our thoughts and hopes to the immeasurable future in which are to be found spiritual life, holy peace, perfection of worship, and the everlasting presence of God. These blessings will always be good things to come; for with God is the Fountain of life, and in his light shall believers always see light.
II. THE EXALTED SPHERE OF HIS MINISTRY. The old tabernacle was made with hands. The genius of Aholiab and Bezaleel, the work of carpenter, spinner, and weaver, were applied to make the holy tent. It was a narrow and perishable fabric. Our Lord is now in heaven, which is not made with hands and by the assistance of men or angels. It is the direct creation of the infinite and all-sufficient power of Jehovah, where his holy angels and archangels dwell and worship. The place is suitable for the matchless dignity of the priest. The earthly tabernacle is fit for the weakness and sin of the earthly minister, but heaven with its brightness and purity is the proper tabernacle for the Son of God.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS ATONING BLOOD. The victims whose blood was shed were unconscious of any purpose in their death. There was no willingness and no sympathy with the object of the sacrifice, and there was consequently nothing more than subjection to physical force, which deprived the death of moral value. Our Lord offered himself a willing Sacrifice, and his voluntary surrender to death has imparted to his work of suffering an inconceivable value and power. He is "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." He is now in the holy place as the one, all-sufficient High Priest, whose one sacrificial act has a vital and indestructible force in the government of God and the system of Divine grace.
IV. THE FINALITY AND ISSUES OF HIS SACRIFICE. He entered once, and is therefore unlike the Jewish priest, who went in to the holiest of all year after year. It is the glory of Christ to do this thing once, and there needs no more sacrifice for sin. The redemption is not from year to year, but it has eternal issues which, beginning by faith in him, now advances in constant acts of redemption through life, by which believers are redeemed from evil in its various forms, from the penal stroke of death, and from all the effects, traces, and influences of evil for evermore.—B.
Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14
Ceremonial and spiritual purification.
There are here—
I. THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR CEREMONIAL PURIFICATION. A red heifer—the color of red signifying the inflaming nature of sin—was to be slain by a priest; but not the high priest, who was to abstain from all contact with death. And the body and the blood were to be burnt outside the camp. Some of the blood was sprinkled towards the tabernacle, and during the process of burning, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were thrown into the fire. The ashes were laid up for use by those who had become ceremonially unclean by touching the dead, and for the purification of the house, furniture, and utensils where a death had occurred. Being mixed with water and sprinkled upon such persons and homes, on the third and seventh day the defilement was removed. This was the Divine arrangement for the purity of Israel, and those who complied with the will of God enjoyed liberty of approach to his courts, and a share in the blessings of the tabernacle and priesthood.
II. THE SUPERIOR GLORY AND EFFECT OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. The writer had previously noticed the inferior nature and limited effect of animal sacrifices; and here he rises from the blood of slain beasts, and the bodily cleansing they secured, to the Divine nature of our Lord, which gives an untold importance to his death, and ensures the highest spiritual results in the purification of the conscience. By the "eternal Spirit" is commonly understood that glory which is described in the commencement of the Gospel of John. It is probable that the writer looked back to the passage in which he declares that Jesus is "the Brightness of the Father's glory, and express Image of his person." It reminds us of his transfiguration, and the glimpses of his superhuman dignity and power which lighted up his earthly ministry. It is a thought before which we stand in silent and essential wonder, and feel that it lifts the sacrifice of our Lord to a height of glory which transcends our clearest vision. This sacrifice cleanses the conscience from "dead works." Death in the Old Testament always suggests pollution. The conscience which is defiled by dead works sheds a clear and penetrating light on the disqualifying nature of sin, and the exclusion from the service of God which it produces. The precious blood of Christ, which cleanses the conscience, makes it full of the life of love, gratitude, and filial service. The fruit which comes from life is holiness now, and hereafter it is everlasting fire. It opens the prospect of fellowship with God, who is the "living God," and communes with his people from off the mercy-seat. The life of those who are forgiven turns to God, and the living God holds fellowship with them, which is the high privilege of believers now, and the pledge of its continuance in the world to come.—B.
"The Mediator of the new testament."
The ideas contained in this section are—
I. THE TWOFOLD EFFECT OF THE DEATH OF OUR LORD. The free surrender of his life was the means of removing, in the case of believers, the burden of those sins which the Mosaic Law could not take away. The sins committed under the first covenant were not forgiven by acts of sacrifice and the aid of priestly service, which, though ordained by Jehovah, were unequal to produce peace and purity of conscience. It may be that there is a retrospective effect of the death of Christ which furnished the ground of the dispensation of mercy before the mystery of his atonement was revealed. Considering the stress which is laid upon the value of forgiveness in the Scripture, the glory of Jesus Christ shines in the fact that he is the cause, by his death and mediatorial office, of its safe and secure enjoyment. The next effect is to be traced in the vocation of believers to an eternal inheritance, which is to stand in sublime contrast to Canaan, respecting which the Jews say (Isaiah 63:18), "The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while." That inheritance was defiled by idolatry, desolated by heathen invaders, and ruled over by the pagan power of Rome; but that to which our Lord calls his followers is an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth net away." There is a sublime harmony here between the death and mediation of our Lord, and the everlasting effects which they produce and secure.
II. THE VITAL FORCE OF THE COVENANT ARISES FROM THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Here the writer passes over to the idea of a testament or will which is of force when the testator dies. The covenant is a Divine arrangement which includes two parties, for a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is One, and his people are those who, through his condescending mercy, stand on the other side as those who accept and rejoice in the arrangement. The mention of the inheritance suggests the thought of a testament, by which, as soon as the testator dies, the heir enters upon the enjoyment of the inheritance. This is an auxiliary illustration which aids us to understand the mighty love of the Son of God, who was ready to endure the woe and agony of the cross, to bequeath to us the blessing of forgiveness now, and the enjoyment of the imperishable inheritance of heaven in the future life.
III. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE NEW COVENANT ILLUSTRATED BY HISTORICAL FACTS.
The allusion in Hebrews 9:18-22 is to the original establishment of the covenant with Israel at Sinai. There are several deviations from the Mosaic narrative in this section. In the account in Exodus there is no mention of goats, hyssop, scarlet wool, the book, the tabernacle and its vessels, and therefore there may be here a traditional account; or the writer combined several subsequent acts of Levitical services which had the same signification and object. The essential truth contained in this solemn transaction was the application of blood to ratify the covenant which was made between God and his people at Sinai. It was the Divine will that such should be the method, according to which the old tabernacle, the chosen nation, and the first covenant should be consecrated, and should foretell and typify future events of the highest importance for the world. "Without shedding of blood there was no remission." This voice was heard century after century in the services of the Jewish Law; and now that Christ has become "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," the truth has received a more solemn confirmation. If he is rejected, "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins." If he is received and trusted in, there is peace with God, and hope of eternal life. The phrase which Moses used, "This is the blood of the covenant," recalls the sacred words of Jesus, who said when he took the cup at the Passover feast, and looked forward to the covenant of grace, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins."—B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The orderly arrangements of the new covenant.
Evidently a double meaning is possible to the adjective κοσμικόν. The sanctuary sheltered within the tabernacle was a sanctuary of this world; but is that all the writer means by the word he uses here? Surely we must remember the antithesis between cosmos and chaos. The furniture of the sanctuary was not a collection of objects placed anywhere and anyhow. There was as much symbolism in the order and relation of these objects as in the objects themselves. All worship and holy service had to be according to Divine regulations. And as all was κοσμικὸς in the visible, symbolic, temporary sanctuary, so all must also be κοσμικὸς in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle.
I. WE MUST RECOGNIZE CHRIST'S PLACE IN THIS SANCTUARY. The new covenant has its sanctuary, even as the old, and that sanctuary is to be found wherever Christ is manifesting himself to take away sin. It is the presence of Christ that makes the holiest place we know, and there is no making of a truly holy place without him. In the old covenant, everything was gathered round the tables of the Law as a center. They expressed the will of God. And so now the center of our religious life, around which all is to be gathered in orderly relations, is to be found in Christ—at once a High Priest to enter into the true holy of holies, and One to show the Law of God in actual working, as something not too high for human attainment. We are to worship and serve God through Christ, and there is no other way whereby we may become faultless in the presence of his glory.
II. WE MUST RECOGNIZE OUR OWN PLACE IN THE SANCTUARY. What are we doing in the way of orderly, well-considered daily service? Is the lamp of our life shining forth every day? Do we help to spread a table for the varied necessities of men, remembering that whatsoever we do for them is done for Christ, and whatsoever is done for Christ is done for God? There is to be a measure of order in our own personal religious life—repentance leading to faith, and faith opening up the way to all that is holy, pure, and Christ-like.—Y.
The parabolic function of the tabernacle services.
The tabernacle, with its contents and its institutions, was one great parable embracing and uniting many subordinate parables. A parable looking towards the time of the new covenant—the "present time," as the writer calls it; or, as we might even more closely render it, the impending season. For in God's economy the new state of things is to be ever looked at as impending. So Christ would have us, who rejoice in his first advent, to be ever making ready for his second one. And in the same way the men of the old covenant had to be on the look-out for the initiation of the new. Rejoicing in what Moses had given them, they looked eagerly for what Messiah had to give; and in the mean time Moses had given them parables through the eye, even as in after times Christ gave his disciples parables in words. Such mode was suitable for the time and the purpose. What parabolic teaching was there, then, in the tabernacle and the things connected with it?
I. THE REALITY OF GOD'S DWELLING WITH MEN. Each Israelite family had its tent, and Jehovah's tent was in the midst of all, a center of unity, protection, and glory. Jehovah was the Companion of his people in all their pilgrimage and vicissitudes. It is only as we recollect this that we get at the full significance of John's expression concerning the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The glory that belonged to the tabernacle was thus a parable of the Incarnation glory.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF SATISFACTORY INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. It was dangerous for a man to meddle in Divine things according to his own inclination and his own wisdom. Yet he could not stand aside and neglect Divine things altogether. Such a course was equally dangerous with the other. But if he would only submit to the way of Jehovah's appointment, attending to every detail, and striving to comprehend the undoubted purpose in it, then he-was assuredly in the way of safety. He was doing what God wanted him to do with the resources then within his reach. And though an obedience of this kind, an obedience in certain external rites, could not take away all trouble of conscience, yet when a man comprehended that Jehovah had even this in view, he would feel that what he enjoyed not now he would enjoy hereafter. Though the blood of bulls and goats could not put away sin and wash out the heart's deep defilement, yet the blood-shedding was not in vain, if it intimated the coming of something that would take away sin.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF REAL SERVICE. In itself, the elaborate ritual of the tabernacle was nothing. Save as it was parabolic and provocative of hope and aspiration, it could not be called other than a waste of time. "What mean ye by this service?" was a question which might well be put to every Levitical person every day.
But when the service of the high priest looked forward to the sacrificial cleansing service of Christ in perpetuity, and when the service of all the subordinate attendants looked forward to the daily obedience of Christians, faithful in little things, then assuredly the service of the tabernacle gets lifted above a mechanical routine. Under the old covenant, a whole tribe, separated for ritual observance, serving Jehovah in formal religious ordinances, was thereby serving, not only a nation, but all mankind. Serving God in appearance, the Levite served men in reality. Now, under the new covenant, we serve God in serving men. The Christian, because he is a Christian, has most power of all men to serve his brother man.—Y.
The eternal redemption.
One cannot but be struck with the occurrence three times within four verses of the word "eternal." There is the eternal redemption, the eternal Spirit, the eternal inheritance. The change from the old covenant to the new was also an escape from the temporary to the abiding. In the old covenant there had to be a constant succession of things, each lasting for a little time, and then by the nature of it giving way, and needing something new to fill its place. "Now," the writer of this Epistle seems to say, "all good things have become eternal." And first there is the eternal redemption. By contrast, then, we have to think of—
I. A REDEMPTION WHICH IS NOT ETERNAL. This idea of redemption and ransom happily an unfamiliar one to us. But there was a time when people perfectly comprehended the continual risk to themselves and their property from the attacks of strong robber-tribes, who would take a man away and keep him in captivity till his friends provided a ransom. And that ransom did only for the special occasion; there might come another captivity which would need its own ransom. So it was with the services of the old covenant. At no time was Israel allowed to think that enough of beasts had been slain on the altar. No sooner was one accumulation of defilement cleansed away than another began to appear. And thus, also, no sooner did the priest wipe away the blood of one beast than he began to make ready for shedding the blood of another. The task was endless, and no satisfaction or peace came out of it, save the satisfaction of knowing that if this redemption had not been attended to, things would have been infinitely worse.
II. THE REDEMPTION WHICH IS ETERNAL. Christ entered once for all into the holy place, and there he remains in perpetual and profoundly fruitful mediation between God and man. How different from the Jewish priest, slaying his victim, and then before long asking for another! The whole conditions of sacrifice and obedience are altered. Under the old covenant the people themselves had to provide the sacrifices; but now Jesus comes, providing the sacrifice himself, not asking us to do anything save to accept, humbly and gratefully, the completeness of his own service. We cannot provide an eternal redemption for ourselves. All we can do is to escape for the time, and to-morrow we must face to-morrow's dangers. What a grand thing to understand in our very hearts that Jesus is emphatically, the Redeemer! We are not ungrateful for the temporary redemptions of life, and the minor redeemers; but we must ever take care lest, in our natural solicitude for these matters, we neglect the eternal redemption and the eternal Redeemer. If we are safe in vital union with him, then what are all other captivities and all other losses?—Y.
Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14
Christ a self-presented offering to purify the consciences of men.
I. AN ARGUMENT FROM THE LESS TO THE GREATER. The writer reminds his readers of a kind of cleansing already practiced by them, and believed to be efficacious for its purpose. From their point of view, they had no difficulty in believing that something was really done when defiled people were sprinkled with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer. Whatever had communicated the defilement was thus removed—in a mysterious way, it is true, and so that there might be no visible sign; but still there was the feeling and the faith that things were really made different. If, then, it was so easy to believe that the sacrifice of brute-life produced such results, what profound and permanent results might not be expected to flow from the cleansing application of the blood of Christ? For in the one, case it was the blood of a brute beast poured out and then done with for ever, available for only one occasion, and needing for the next occasion that another beast should be slain. But here is the shedding of the blood of Christ, the continuous and accurate presentation of the Christ's own life by Christ himself. Surely the writer here is thinking of something more than the shedding of the blood of Christ's natural life on the cross. He is thinking of what Christ is doing behind the veil, on the eternal, invisible scene. The work, whatever it is, is the work done by Christ through an eternal Spirit. He is continually pouring forth his life to cleanse the consciences of believers. Christ's death was a passing into the holy of holies, to go on with the deep realities of which the holiest offerings of the old covenant were only feeble symbols. The writer of the Epistle, therefore, wanted his readers to appropriate the ineffably great results of what Christ was doing.
II. THE MEANS OF APPROPROATION. Clearly the appropriation was by faith. Indeed, all the good that could come through any cleansing ceremony of the old covenant came by faith—often superstitious enough, no doubt, and having little or no result in the improvement of character; but still it was faith. Faith was the element keeping these ceremonials in existence from generation to generation. If nothing more, there was at least the faith that something dreadful would happen if the ceremonials were discontinued. If, then, men will only labor to keep themselves in living connection with the ever-loving Christ, whose life is all the more fruitful since he vanished from the eye of sense, what great things they may expect! Belief in Christ is Christ's own instrument for cleansing the heart, so that there may not any more go out of it the things that defile a man. What wonder that before he closes his Epistle the writer should be so copious in extolling the triumphs of faith, and enforcing the need of it in all the relations of Christian life!—Y.
The eternal inheritance.
I. CONSIDER THE TEMPORAL INHERITANCE. The land of Canaan, which was connected with the old covenant. This land could only be called an inheritance in a typical sense, for the satisfactions which Israel was taught to expect did not come in reality. For as the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, so neither could any mere terrestrial possession ever satisfy a human spirit. This land was but the standing-ground for a time, the place of discipline and revelation. It is always necessary to show by a sufficient experience and consideration the inadequacy of earthly things for those whose proper kinship is with heaven; and the more clearly this inadequacy appears, the more clearly will it appear that somewhere there must be something entirely satisfying. The earthly inheritance proved to Israel a constant scene of struggle, temptation, and loss; and if, by some happy period of lull, an Israelite had something that might not untruly be called satisfaction out of his inheritance, yet the day came when he had to leave it. The inheritance was a more abiding thing than the possessor. Thus, in any message of comfort from God to his people, it could not fail to be pointed out that the best of earthly possessions fall far short of what a loving God intends for his separated and obedient people.
II. THE ATTAINMENT OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE, This inheritance may well be considered in a twofold aspect. It may be considered as something within us, and also as something without. The Israelite possession of the land of Canaan would have deserved something nearer the name of reality if only the Israelite had been first of all in possession of himself. But he was at the mercy of his lusts and selfish inclinations. Real self-possession means heart-submission to God. If we would enter on the real and satisfying inheritance, God must first of all enter upon his proper inheritance in us. Self-control, which suggests something like the caging of a wild beast, must be exchanged for self-surrender. And all this is to come through the searching redemption and cleansing effected by Christ. Then are we ready for that eternal inheritance, which is also external. Christ only can redeem us from present limitations and corruptions, and how great those limitations and corruptions are we have as yet no sufficient perception. It is noteworthy how the λύτρωσις of Hebrews 9:12 is strengthened into the ἀπολύτρωσις of Hebrews 9:15. We shall enter on an eternal inheritance, suited to the spirit of man—an infinite, inexhaustible possession; where every one will have exceeding abundance, from which he can never be parted, and of which he will never grow tired. In comparison with that reality, the most real things of this world will thin away into dreams. In comparison with its everlastingness, the everlasting hills will be as dissolving clouds.—Y.
The death of Jesus the seal of the new covenant.
In this passage there is allusion to an ancient, cherished custom of making a covenant over a slain animal. In the light of this custom probably we must explain Genesis 15:1-21. There Abram is represented as dividing a heifer, a goat, and a ram, and when darkness came a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces. Then follows the significant statement that in the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram. The idea in the English version of a testament and a testator is not so much misleading as meaningless, for there is no reason at all why a testament should be referred to, but every reason why the writer should go on expounding and illustrating the new covenant as compared with the old. To us, of course, the custom here mentioned is hardly intelligible, but the mention of it would throw a great deal of light on the subject at the time the reference was made. The custom may even have been still in vogue, and human customs have ever been subordinated to Divine ends. Hence we have here a special aspect of the death of Christ. It is presented as—
THE SEAL OF A SOLEMN COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, The very existence of Christ is a covenant between the Divine and the human. The glorious things that were in Christ because of the Divine Spirit dwelling in him are promised to us by their very presence in Christ. All the good things coming to Christ because of his humanity are equally offered to us because of our humanity; and all that Christ did in his humanity makes us responsible for doing the same. The promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. We may also add that the obligations of man are defined and settled in Christ Jesus. Thus there is a covenant, and we may well look on the death of Christ as giving that covenant shape in a formal transaction. For there God gave his well-beloved Son to death, the pledge of all that he is willing to give. And Jesus surrendered himself to death, giving the greatest proof of obedience and devotion which a human being can give. Christ's death becomes our death, the pledge of an individual covenant on our part, if only we choose to enter into it. The death of Christ points out a solemn duty and a large expectation. And if the death of Christ is a seal of the covenant, how much is the significance of that seal added to by the resurrection and the ascension into glory!—Y.
The difference between Christ's first and second advent.
I. THE FIRST ADVENT. Here Christ shares the common lot of men; he dies, and dies once for all. There is no dying and rising and dying again. He is offered as a Sacrifice once for all, to bear the sins of many. And here, of course, the death of Christ must be taken as representing the whole of his life in the flesh. His life in every hour and every faculty was vicarious. He was ever striving to show that he could neutralize the consequence of sins committed, and prevent the commission of sins to come. His great aim was, in every sense of the expression, to take away sin. And from his place of power and glory on high this is his aim still. No matter how laden the conscience may be with guilt and the remembrance of folly, no matter how full of weakness the life, Christ has all fullness of power and steadiness of disposition to restore strength, rectitude, and purity. Let it be remembered that this is Christ's present work. Christ is in his Church continually, that his Church may have success in setting him forth as taking away the sin of the world. Whenever we come across sin, in ourselves or in others, we should ever view it in relation to Christ. Then we shall be filled with a sense both of responsibility and hope. Sin is not a burden to be sullenly endured, but to be removed by faith in Christ.
II. THE SECOND ADVENT. In Christ's first coming everything is connected with sin. He is lifted up to draw sinners to him. All the energy of the Spirit and all the agencies of the gospel are employed to persuade sinners to accept the sin-bearing, sin-removing work of Christ. But he is coming a second time, altogether apart from sin—coming to deliver into everlasting security those who have believed in him. The completeness of salvation is always looked upon in the New Testament as a thing yet to come. The promise is of immediate safety, as far as it can be given in our present surroundings. It is our own fault if we are not safe from backsliding, temptation, and doctrinal error. But in the fullest sense of the word salvation, we are saved, as Paul says, by hope. We are hoping for full possession of every good, full security from every evil. When Christ has taken away the sin of the world, he will take away the peril, the insecurity, of the world.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Easter