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THIS CHAPTER IS a chapter of contrasts. We have in it the great contrasts between:
- The two tabernacles: (a) one earthly, way to God veiled; (b) the other in Heaven itself--no veil there! the one "made by hands"; the other, "not of this creation."
- The two priesthoods: (a) Levitical priests, and (b) CHRIST, our one Great High Priest.
- Their offerings: (a) The Levitical priests' continued sacrifices, and Day of Atonement every year; and (b) Christ's one sacrifice of Himself at the Cross.
- The results: (a) Of their sacrifices of animals, "goats and bulls"; could not atone for sin or relieve the conscience of the sinner. (b) Christ offered up Himself, through the Eternal Spirit, which "cleansed the conscience to serve the Living God": Christ's one offering obtaining "eternal redemption," and an "eternal inheritance."
- (a) The earthly sacrifices, mere "copies of things in the heavens," sanctifying "unto the cleanness of the flesh." (b) Christ's sacrifice, which brought Him "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" not once a year, but constantly!
- (a) The sacrifices of the Levitical priests constantly repeated; (b) Christ's, once for all: "Now ONCE at the consummation of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
- (a) The universal appointment unto men "once to die, and after this, judgment" (vs. 27). (b) Christ, "having been once offered to bear the sins of many (which included death and judgment) shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation" (which includes our bodies).
In the opening words of Chapter 9, Even the first covenant--we see to what degree that covenant, with the ordinances of which, the unbelieving Hebrew nation were occupied, had disappeared; or, rather, been fully discerned in its shadow character by the writer of Hebrews. Contrast Even the first covenant had ordinances, with the Jews' words: "We are disciples of Moses ... but as for this man (Jesus) we know not whence he is." To one, therefore, taught by the Spirit, it was clear that the first covenant was "becoming old and waxing aged, and nigh unto vanishing away" (8:13).Now as to the Levitical ordinances of Divine service, we have the following description of the tabernacle and the furnishing thereof:
1. The tabernacle containing (a) the candlestick, and (b) the table, and the showbread, all these pertaining to what was called the Holy Place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle ... called the Holy of Holies, having (vs. 4) (a) a golden altar of incense; (b) the ark of the covenant overlaid ... with gold, ... holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; (c) and above it (golden) cherubim of glory, overshadowing the mercy-seat (vs. 5).
*The statement in vs. 4 that the Holy of Holies had a golden altar of incense, together with the ark of the covenant, has been attacked by shallow infidel criticism as ignorance and inaccuracy on the part of the author. This is just another example of the inventive recklessness of unbelief. In 1 Kings 6:19-22 we read that Solomon, in preparing the temple, (the furniture of which was arranged exactly as was that of the tabernacle), "prepared an oracle in the midst of the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of Jehovah"; and, "the whole altar that belonged to the oracle, he overlaid with gold." Here in the Holy Place, close to the second veil, therefore near the ark of the covenant, was this golden altar for incense. It, therefore, is regarded by the Spirit of God, in Heb. 9:4, as belonging to the Holy of Holies, although placed in the Holy Place, that incense might be offered Up daily. We read also in Ex. 30:1, 6, 10:
"Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon ... thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with thee ... And Aaron shall make atonement upon the horns of it once in the year; with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement once in the year shall he make atonement for it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto Jehovah."
And, "Thou shalt set the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony" (Ex. 40:5).
These passages clearly show that the golden altar for incense "belonged to the oracle," that is, to the ark, although placed where it was available at other times than on the Great Day of Atonement.
*Take heed to Scripture's attitude towards Scripture!
OT: "God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Gen. 1:3).
NT: "God commanded the light to shine out of DARKNESS." (2 Cor. 4:6).
OT: "Yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years" (Gen. 6:3).
NT: "The days ... before the Flood-- (Matt. 24:38).
OT: Elijah's prayer for rain (1 Kings 18:41-5).
NT: Elijah "prayed ... and the heaven gave rain" (Jas. 5:18).
OT: Elisha's cleansing Naaman, the Syrian leper (2 Kings 5:7).
NT: To "Naaman, the Syrian," was Elisha sent (Lk. 4:27).
OT: "My God hath sent His angel and hath shut the lions' mouths" (Dan. 6:22).
NT: "By faith ... stopped the mouths of lions" (Heb. 11:33).
OT: "And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jon. 1:17).
NT: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale;" (Matt. 12:40).
OT: "His (Lot's) wife ... became a pillar of salt" (Gen. 19:26).
NT: "Remember Lot's wife" (Lk. 17:32).
OT: "Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the standard" (Num. 21:9).
NT: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness;" (John 3:14).
See also Rev. 2:14, 20, where our Lord mentions two OT characters.
When God's Word says, "The sun stood still" at Joshua's word to Jehovah: or, "The iron did swim", at the prayer or will of "the man of God," (Elisha); and here (Heb. 9:4), Aaron's rod that budded--(OT: "The rod of Aaron ... was budded, and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and bare ripe almonds" (Num. 17:8), simple faith delights in the showing of the majesty of God.
Christ, walking on the water, commanding the tempest to be still; feeding thousands from a few loaves and fishes; saying "Cast the net on the right side of the boat and ye shall find," or telling Peter how to find the coin in the mouth of a fish--little things, all but "to be explained by natural processes," say the infidel-modernists, with the smile of superiority and tolerance: (which smiling is on this earth only: "Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall weep; whose weeping shall be forever!")
Know ye not that this book called the Bible is the Word of the Living God Who has spoken it and Who lives therein? How can He, being the Mighty One, keep His might forever concealed? How can He, being the King, never display His royal robe? Miracles are manifestations of Majesty.
"The haughtiness which excludes God, because it is incompetent to discover Him, and then talks of His work, and meddles with His weapons, according to the measure of its own Strength, can prove nothing but its own contemptible folly. Ignorance is generally confident because it is ignorant; and such is the mind of man in dealing with the things of God." These words from J.N. Darby's Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, (Vol. 1, preface, p. xi) are very truth.
At the beginning, we find two firsts. For verse 1 sets forth the first tabernacle as a whole, which had ordinances of Divine service, and its sanctuary, ... of this world. This evidently refers to the wilderness tabernacle as a whole, called in verse 8, "the first tabernacle."
Then immediately this tabernacle is divided up. For in verse 2 we read, There was a tabernacle prepared, the first--and in verse 3, And after the second veil (the second division) the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies. Here, then, two divisions, or parts, of the whole tabernacle are before us: the one called the first ... the Holy Place (into which the priests went continually (vs. 6); and after the second veil, (vs. 3) the second, called the Holy of Holies into which went "the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood" (vs, 7). We may remark that together they are called "the Holies."
Now concerning the some ten articles in the two parts forming this sanctuary of this world, we have this surprising yet comforting statement at the end of verse 5: of which things we cannot now speak in detail. I say, this is a surprising statement, when we see the awe-inspiring particularity of directions for both the making and the use of these various articles by Israel of old.
*The R.V. correctly renders of which things--that is, of all the things of this tabernacle, indeed, of the whole tabernacle itself. The word is plural in the Greek.
I may say here, that in Hebrews, the tabernacle worship, and not the temple services as instituted by David, are always in view. The tabernacle worship typically sets forth the work of Christ in redemption, whereas the temple service pictures the millennial kingdom worship, when Christ "shall sit a Priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13).
We see at once that something new has taken the place of all these old-time things, types though they doubtless were, of which the author of Hebrews cannot now speak in detail. (It is not the time nor the place to do so, else we would become absorbed in the details and miss the lesson of the great contrast.)
*Is it not true that in some meetings God's people have pondered over the measurements, furniture, colors, and materials of the tabernacle, and been occupied with its shadowy worship, while the Son of God, of whom all these things are a mere shadowy picture, was by His Spirit present, and ready to reveal Himself? I would prefer an old-fashioned "holiness meeting," where people dealt directly with God, and became devoted to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit; though they would not have been able to answer many of the questions that these students of a model of the tabernacle might have asked them!
It is the worship, and not the furniture, of which God is speaking here. (Paul carried no model of the tabernacle about with him!)
Kelly well says: "The aim of the Holy Spirit, in referring to the first covenant with its ordinances, and especially its sanctuary, becomes now apparent. It was not to speak in detail of the contents of the tabernacle exterior or interior, however symbolically instructive, but (to speak) of its distinctive contrast as a whole with Christianity.--W. Kelly, p. 161.
But it is the disposition of "religionists" to go deeper and deeper into the bondage of the forms and ceremonies of their "religion." The Gospel, believed, delivers the heart, and enables the mind to view types and shadows with profit, but not be enslaved by them.
The high priest alone--These statements concerning the high priest have power over a legal heart. Be watchful here! For we are going to read the contrast of all this: for, first, the high priest of Israel himself dared not go in "at all times" (Lev. 16:2); second, he went in only once in the year; third, he went (not through his own blood), but not without blood -- (that of appointed animals); fourth, he had to repeat the sacrifice each year: it was never finished, witnessing that sin was not put away forever; fifth, he had to pass through a veil that shut out all the people; sixth, the high priest himself was subject to death, and his office passed to another; seventh, the sacrifices of the high priest made "a remembrance of sins" (Heb. 10:3), but could not remove them. No Levitical high priest even remotely thought of his own blood being offered up! Therefore his sacrifices could not set forth the great coming fact of redemption by Christ.
- The high priest of Israel on the Day of Atonement entered the presence of God, the Holy of Holies on earth.
Contrast, Christ after His death, "entered into Heaven itself," (called the Holies), "before the face of God" (vs. 24).
- The high priest had no personal right to be there: he was a sinner.
Contrast, Christ had a personal right to return to "the glory" which He had With the Father "before the world was" (John 17:5).
- The high priest had to have the blood of a bullock poured out for him before he dared enter the Holy of Holies.
Contrast, Christ through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish (at the Cross) Unto God.
- The high priest carried the blood of the slain goat ("blood not his own"--vs. 25), for the sins of the people.
Contrast, Christ, through His own blood (shed for the sinners) entered in.
- The high priest did this "year by year" (10:1).
Contrast, Christ ... entered in once for all into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.
- The Levitical high priests "by death were hindered from continuing" (7:23).
Contrast, Christ "abideth a Priest forever" (7:24), having "a priesthood that doth not pass to another" (7:24, R. V. Margin).
- The Levitical high priest was "after the order of Aaron." (7:11).
Contrast, Christ was after another order, "the order of Melchizedek" (7:11), One greater and "better" than Abraham (7:6-7).
We must see that Christ's work in Heaven governs all previous Levitical "shadows"; not the Levitical "shadows," Christ's work in Heaven! The very thought of the high priest entering, and the people left outside, is to be put away in Hebrews! Do we not read at the beginning (2:11), "He that sanctifieth (Christ) and they that are sanctified are all OF ONE"? The very opposite was true in the Old Testament arrangements. For there we read (as in Ch. 9:7) the high priest alone entered within the veil. Further, only a special class, "the priests," went into the first part of the tabernacle, while the people stood without.
Keep these contrasts in mind. Study the lesson of the "shadows," or types, but do not be brought into bondage under their influence--Romanists are, and most Protestants. To find one reading the types of Leviticus with a spirit set free by the blood of our Great High Priest, once-for-all shed, is rare. And now mark most carefully:
The Holy Spirit this signifying--not that you are to get a model of the tabernacle and spend hours and days upon it, however helpful a simple review of the tabernacle might be, but, The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the Holy Place hath not yet been made manifest, while the first tabernacle is yet standing. The great message of Chapters 9 and 10 is of a closed way, and then of an open way. God here emphasizes that the first tabernacle constantly said to the nation of Israel, God is here, but you cannot come to Him. That is what the veils meant, and especially, of course, the second veil. That word "not," NOT yet ... made manifest, should be emphasized constantly. Otherwise, the human heart being what it is, those Levitical forms and ceremonies which made up Judaism, will secure an almost unshakable power over the conscience and heart. if you do not go to the Cross and get deliverance from all "religion," and find yourself in the presence of God, with all claims met, these Levitical things will have a subtle hold upon you, like the Cross on top of a Romish cathedral--while the "Word of the Cross" (1 Cor. 1:18), the "Power of God" which sets people free, is wholly unknown to that monstrous pagan system. In the Levitical things, you are to see the contrast to what you now enjoy, not the very example of it.
This way into the Holiest in Heaven, our access thither, yea, unto the continual access and worship described in Hebrews as full growth, is the great distinction of the work of Christ. Under the old legal Levitical offerings and gifts the veil was never done away with. There was no access, there was no coming nigh to God. The way into the holy place now has been opened, as we are to see, and a mighty invitation and exhortation--the great, central exhortation of Hebrews (10. 19), sounds out, to enter into it with boldness. (See 10:19 ff.)
Which (the first tabernacle with its worship) is a figure (Gr.: parabole, parable) for the time present; according to which (parable or temple worship) are (constantly being) offered both gifts and sacrifices which cannot, as touching the conscience, perfect the (one serving, or) worshiper.
As touching the conscience--now what is "conscience?" It is commonly said to be that by which we distinguish good and evil. Yet, like Paul, a man may live mistaken "in all good conscience:" "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth"--really opposing God. Conscience, therefore, is not a complete guide to conduct, but is subject to instruction. So we have the presence with us of the inspired Word of God, which sets forth our path. Revelation of Scripture's meaning, by the Holy Spirit to the human spirit will therefore govern conscience.
The human spirit is controlled by what is believed, and the seat of believing, the throne room of the being, is the heart. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." In this throne room we live and make our decisions, for, "Out of the heart are the issues of life."
*Man, as we have before said, is a spirit, living in a bodily tabernacle, and possessing a soul. So God says, "My son, give me thine heart"--not, thy conscience. And, "Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life." Concerning David's desire to build God a temple, Jehovah said to him, "Thou didst well that it was in thy heart." To Ananias, Peter said, "Why hath Satan filled thy heart? ... How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart?" And to Simon Magus, "Thy heart is not right before God ... Pray the Lord if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee."
Paul wrote of the gospel, "The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart: ... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Read also Ex. 35:29 concerning those whose hearts "made them willing." Finally, Christ would "dwell in our hearts by faith." (Eph. 3:17).
When the heart seeks refuge from conscience, it may so harden itself against light and truth as to "sear" or "brand" the conscience "as with a hot iron" (1 Tim. 4:2). In this case a course of sin may be followed without feeling (Eph. 4:19).
Or, the heart may so rest in the shed blood of Christ (by Whom sin was once for all and forever put away) as to be wholly relieved from all accusation by conscience, and so cease from all religious self-efforts--"dead works" (Heb. 9:14). This is what is meant by "a cleansed conscience" (vs. 14), or, "hearts sprinkled from an evil (or accusing) conscience" (10:22). For the conscience of a true believer may be weak and therefore easily "defiled"--that is, rendered accusatory.
*We are to "hold faith and a good conscience," (1 Tim. 1:19), which is further associated in vs. 5 with "love out of a pure heart, and faith unfeigned." Paul exercised himself to have "a conscience void of offence." (Acts 24:16). The conscience is seen in 1 Cor. 10:29 discerning or judging actions in other persons as good or evil: "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other's; for why is my liberty judged by another conscience?"
The fact that the conscience "of a believer" looks morally Godward is seen in 1 Pet. 2:15: "For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." The conscience of all men is seen in Rom. 2:15 as "bearing witness," testifying within: "In that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them."
Paul says, "My conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit," not that every moral choice of a believer is to have the conscious inner witness of the Holy Spirit, but that the indwelling Spirit guiding us into all truth may be relied upon to warn against an evil path, and check by inward darkness or trouble in experience, any false step; for "the mystery of the faith" is held "in a pure conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9).
Our Saviour has rendered our conscience perfect, so that we can go into the sanctuary without an idea of fear, without one question as to sin arising in our minds. A "perfect" conscience is not an innocent conscience, which, happy in its unconsciousness, does not know evil and does not know God revealed in holiness. A perfect conscience knows God; it is cleansed, and, having the knowledge of good and evil according to the light of God Himself, it knows that it is purified from all evil according to His purity. Adam in innocence, not knowing good or evil, needed not and had not conscience. But when Adam sinned, God said, "Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil." (Gen. 3:22.) This, then, can be the basic definition of conscience.
To continue: Vincent's rendering of the latter part of verse 9, and verse 10, is striking: according to which are offered gifts and sacrifices which cannot perfect the worshipper as touching the conscience, (10) being mere ordinances of the flesh on the ground of (resting upon) meats, etc. Or, we may render verse 10 again, Being ONLY (with meats and drinks and divers washings -- See Appendix B.) ordinances of flesh (i.e., to be performed by bodily, not necessarily spiritual exercises which until a season of rectifying (when Christ should come) are IMPOSED. ("The gifts and offerings of that time were only provisional, to tide the people over to a better time."--Vincent, p. 480.)
Only carnal ordinances--Let those occupied with forms and ceremonies pay heed, whether Jewish, Romanists, or pagans. God brands "ordinances" of men carnal, of the flesh. Here perish before Him all "observings" of days, seasons, months, years; all "unbloody" sacrifices of the Mass; all demon-taught forbiddings of meats (1 Tim. 4:1-3); all rushings to dying bedsides with "holy water"; and a thousand other inventions of ignorant presumption! If God has set aside as "carnal", ordinances which He Himself had imposed, how much more doth He now abhor the thrice carnal lying forms and "observances" that men have brought in to hide the perfect finished work of His Blessed Son? ("The services of that tabernacle were only meats and drinks and divers washings. Not one sin did they actually take away; no nearer to God did they bring the offerers. They were but shadows, pointing onward to the substance."--William Lincoln.)
Imposed until a time of rectification: ("Setting things right, Gr. diorthoseos: "A complete rectification."--Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon.) We may ask, What was to be rectified? And answer:
- The old worship and its meats and drinks and divers washings called carnal ordinances, the indefinite continuation of which would shut out spiritual realities.
- The entire Levitical system, called "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (8:5). A time must come when the reality of which they were a shadow would be revealed, which was done, of course, by Christ, in His Person and work.
- The veil shutting the worshipers out from God. This was rectified when the veil was rent by our Lord's death, so that we now come, by "a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (10:20) and by His blood, and having Him as our Great High Priest in Heaven, directly to God. The time of rectification has come!
Let every Gentile believer be therefore encouraged--not to remain in ignorance of the things of the first tabernacle, but joyfully to reflect that all those things are in contrast to what we now enjoy, a contrast as to the very thing which the book of Hebrews especially enjoins, that is, drawing near to God.
For however closely the student of the old tabernacle may consider it, however distinctively and accurately he has its form and furniture in his view, he comes always to the UNRENT VEIL. There he is shut out, as was the Hebrew nation, from entering into the very presence of God; whereas now, drawing near is commanded: "Let us draw near"; "Come with boldness," since the veil was rent at the Cross when Christ was "put to death in the flesh." (Compare Heb. 10:20 and 1 Pet. 3:18.) This mighty contrast must be constantly borne in mind by the reader of the Levitical ordinances. We repeat Hebrews 7:12, 18, 19, for we dare not forget these verses:
"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the Law ... For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the Law made nothing perfect) and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God."
This "better hope", as we know, is Christ: His work on the Cross in putting away our sin, and His priesthood in Heaven, in leading our worship and interceding for us. We dare not confuse the two (Law and Grace). That which God put asunder let not man join together. The fact that our Lord's heavenly priesthood, while after the Melchizedek order, is typified in Aaronic and Levitical things, that is, the things of the tabernacle worship, being compared, or mostly contrasted therewith, does not warrant for one moment our forgetting that the "heavenly calling" (of which these Hebrew believers are said in Chapter 3:1 to be partakers) was given to Paul to set forth in detail in his epistles, from Romans to Philemon. We remind the reader again that Hebrews does not set forth Church truth, (See Appendix C.) never reaching what we might call the corporate calling of believers as the Body of Christ; nor does it describe our individual position as enlifed with Christ, raised up with Him, and made to sit with Him in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:5-6). Indeed, it does not go back to the great fundamental thing, our identification in death and resurrection with Christ.
There is a danger therefore in the study of this great book of Hebrews (which takes us back to the whole sweep of Old Testament history, type, and prophecy), that we become occupied with our journey "through this world," and are ready to set up the "tabernacle in the wilderness" again, as it were, and spend our time in religious forms, and man-invented ceremonial worship; whereas the apostle tells us that even the tabernacle forms afore prescribed by God have now passed away.
Let the preacher and teacher of the Word of God be occupied with the doctrines belonging to the Assembly of God today, and the exhortations connected therewith, as seen in the epistles of Paul. Let him make them constantly live before those to whom he speaks. Thus will be evident perpetually the facts and duties of our walk in the Spirit as dead and risen with Christ; and thus only shall we hold in proper proportion this mighty truth of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, referred to in Romans 8:34, and set forth fully in Hebrews, as contrasted with the former earthly worship.
In Chapter 9, attention should be fixed on five subjects:
- The tabernacle in the wilderness, with its furniture, and its ordinances of Divine service, (vss. 1,7).
- The emphasis thus by the Holy Spirit upon the fact that "the way into the Holy Place was NOT made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing" (vs. 8).
- The fact that this tabernacle economy provides a parable "for the time present," (i.e., for the present dispensation).
- The fact that the time of rectifying was at the Cross, where there was "a disannulling of a foregoing commandment"--the Law (which "made nothing perfect"), and the disappearance therefore, from God's sight and consideration, of all the typical ordinances of the old tabernacle, because Christ fulfilled all by His one offering at the Cross, and by means thereof brought in "a better hope, by which we draw nigh unto God." Thus the temporary things (the Law, tabernacle, and priesthood), gave way to eternal things: (a) eternal redemption, verse 12; (b) eternal inheritance, verse 15; (c) eternal salvation, Ch. 5:9. Note also the precious name, "eternal Spirit," (vs. 14); and "eternal covenant" (between the Father and the Son: 13:20).
- The good things to come, that is, when our Lord shall return, which is "the promise," the spirit of which runs all through Hebrews:
"For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry" (10:37).
But Christ having come--Christ Himself appears, having nothing to do with carnal ordinances or Levitical forms; but, a High Priest of good things to come: "to come" contrasted with all old things. First let us observe that it is as High Priest that our Lord is spoken of here, not primarily as Redeemer from the penalty of sin, but as in verse 14, where we see His blood cleansing the conscience "from dead works to serve the Living God." He is viewed as having obtained eternal redemption, not as in the process of obtaining it. Human priests are always occupied with the business (as they say) of obtaining Divine favor. Our High Priest has obtained that infinite boon forever!
Further, the good things to come of which He is High Priest are those good things brought by His having obtained eternal redemption at the Cross: pardon, justification, reconciliation, association with Him as His brethren; "access with confidence," "drawing near" to God in Heaven through Him; and, of course, all future blessings connected with "the promise" of His coming again (10:36-7). Of course the good things connected with Christ's priesthood are on now, and must be, ever since He obtained eternal redemption.
Next note the words: Through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands (as was the tabernacle in the wilderness). There are two tabernacles in this chapter: the one, "of this world," (Gr., _skene), verse 1. But the other, the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands ... not of this creation, in Heaven itself!
In the tabernacle in the wilderness, God was indeed present, in infinite condescension, between the cherubim, upon the mercy seat, behind the veil. But the greater and more perfect one is Heaven itself. (Compare Revelation 11:19, 15:5, and see Appendix D.) Moses was told to make all things "after the pattern of the things in the heavens," and here are the things in the heavens! If we make this "temple of God that is in Heaven" a mere idea, that is, make it into a phrase describing in general God's presence, we do violence to our reason, for God speaks even more definitely concerning "the temple of God that is in Heaven" in Revelation 11:19, and 15:5, 8. Now we know (unless we are ignorant modernists, idly denying God's Word), that angels are realities. And these angels "come out of the temple." There is, therefore, in Heaven now, what God calls His "temple," as we read also in Revelation 14:17, 16:1. It is an evidence of the inconsistency of unbelieving hearts that people can believe that the earthly tabernacle, when reared up and dedicated, saw the glory described in Exodus 40:34-35; and that when the earthly temple was dedicated, "the glory of Jehovah filled Jehovah's house," as described in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 7:2; and these same people doubt the reality of the heavenly temple. (It is indeed true that we, the Assembly of God, "worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus"; that "by one Spirit we have our access unto the Father," because we have been directly created by God "the firstfruits of His creatures," of the New Creation; and "are the righteousness of God in Him," and belong to that place which our Lord is preparing which when revealed as the New Jerusalem ("which is our mother"--Gal. 4:26), will be found to have no temple. "I saw no temple therein; they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Rev. 21:22; 22:4). Then shall be realized in every outward sense what is true today of every believer.)
To conceive of a tabernacle--temple on high, "made without hands," is Scriptural. Otherwise, we should have a type typifying a type--as those must do who say that the patterns of the things in the heavens were real, but that the heavenly things themselves were not real!
Also, the words, not of this creation, while not asserting that the temple-tabernacle in Heaven was created, intimate that it was so: when, we know not, But from what we see therein (Rev. 11:19), we at once associate it with the Ark of the Covenant on earth, which was patterned after that in Heaven and had to do with it. The Ark, as the Ark of the Covenant, was the symbol of the absolute faithfulness of God, and marvelously set forth Christ, in both His Person and His work.
The Levitical system was a series of "shadows" of heavenly things, giving the earthly nation of Hebrews a hint of possible future earthly fellowship with God, but not setting forth to that nation as such even a suggestion of entering Heaven, or of the glorious sanctuary prepared by the Risen Christ. For the Hebrew nation had and has an earthly calling. Their future blessing, even in the Millennium, is earthly and is to be connected indeed with the glorious temple at Jerusalem.
However, the Hebrews to whom this epistle was addressed, were partakers of the heavenly calling. Crucified, risen, and glorified, He had sent forth the Holy Spirit, baptizing believers into Him, into actual sharing of His heavenly life and place.
No more shadows! Did the Levitical Day of Atonement demand the sprinkling of blood on and before the mercy seat? Yes, every year.
The blood of Christ was shed once for all; all Levitical shadows disappeared to the eyes of faith--disappeared as fulfilled, and therefore done.
While into Heaven itself the Risen Christ had gone, and all believers with Him, they were now wholly heavenly: not Jewish, Israelitish, or even Hebrew; not Gentile, but a new creation, new creatures in Christ.
And their worship, that of these new creatures, was wholly heavenly. The blood of Christ was their right; the Holy Spirit of God was their power. They had "eternal redemption," we shall see; and an "eternal inheritance." The greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands ... not of this creation, is, therefore, the tabernacle with which the Risen Christ is connected.
Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves--the means by which Israel's high priest came before Jehovah, even into His presence, on the Great Day of Atonement. But such blood was a typical, temporary shadow, of what was to be done. Such offerings could not maintain man, nor even his representative, the high priest, in Jehovah's presence; nor, indeed, give him liberty to open his mouth from behind the veil in Jehovah's presence, the Holy of Holies. All he could do was to swing a censer of incense which spoke of that "sweet savor" which Christ's sacrifice was one day to be before God; and then sprinkle the blood, the laid-down life of the sacrifice, upon the mercy seat, then seven times before the mercy seat, and then withdraw. (Mark well, however (Lev. 16), that the high priest was also to cleanse, to "make atonement for the holy place" (vs. 16), "because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins," AND "go out unto the altar ... and make atonement for it ... and cleanse it, and hallow it from all the uncleannesses of the children of Israel" (vss. 18, 19). The holiness of God's being and the effect of the blood in Heaven, was the primary consideration in the Great Day of Atonement, as afterwards on the Cross.)
But through His own blood, entered in once for all into the Holies--Here we learn several astonishing things.
First, these words, through (dia) His own blood, reveal that Christ entered Heaven with a memorial of His own sacrifice. "Named of God (a High Priest) forever after the order of Melchizedek," He comes back to Heaven in that character! Not merely as Son of God, Creator of all things; not as Heir, nor as the sinless Man, returning (as in Ch. 7:26), "holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." (He could indeed say to the Jews, "Which of you convicteth Me of sin?") But it was not on that ground or in that capacity that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. He entered in by virtue of His blood. He might have entered Heaven at any moment during His perfect life here. But He would have gone alone as He came alone. But He has not entered Heaven in that way. Always pleasing unto the Father, through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish (at the Cross) unto God (vs. 14). We glory in Him as the sinless One, but as such our sins were laid upon Him, with the guilt thereof. So they became His, on the Cross. Indeed, He was "made to be sin on our behalf." He was forsaken of God. He cried:
"For innumerable evils have compassed Me about; Mine iniquities have overtaken Me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of My head; And My heart hath failed Me" (Ps. 40:12).
We had committed those sins, of which He said again,
"Mine iniquities are gone over My head: As a heavy burden they are too heavy for Me" (Ps. 38:4). He said, "That which I took not away" (man's standing with God)' "I have to restore" (Ps. 69:4).
He recognized our iniquities now as His. Hear Psalm 22: "Forsaken ... groaning ... My heart is like wax; it is melted within Me ... My strength is dried up ... My tongue cleaveth to My jaws ... brought into the dust of death."
Such words were His in the day that your load of guilt and mine lay upon Him! Then after He had said, "It is finished," there came the piercing spear, and the outflowing blood and water.
He was buried. But according to His frequent words to His disciples concerning His death, that the third day He would be raised up, He was "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father." Forty days He spent with His beloved disciples, "showing Himself alive after His passion by many proofs." Then He ascended on high, saluted by God as a High Priest "after the order of Melchizedek," as we have seen.
He was the Creator--"All things have been created through Him and unto Him." But not as the Creator did He enter Heaven, "now to appear before the face of God for us." He kept the Law perfectly, as Israel had not; but He did not go back to Heaven as one who had kept that Law. He was the Son of God, but He did not return to Heaven merely as the Son.
Nor is it as though He came to the earth and did something for us and then went back to Heaven, leaving us to get there if we could; but, contrariwise, having entered through His own blood He has us there already potentially; and to simple faith, actually.
*Inasmuch as this wonderful phrase, through His own blood, is such a vital one, upon the proper understanding of which so much depends, we think it well to subjoin a brief extract from each of several comments thereupon, to set before the reader's mind the judgment of these godly saints whose aim has been to make plain God's truth as it has appeared to them:
Ridout well says; "Christ might have entered Heaven at any moment during His perfect life here, but He would have gone alone, as He came alone; there would not have been a single one to share His glory with Him. But He has not entered Heaven in that way. He has entered by, or, in virtue of His blood--not by His perfect character, not by His keeping the Law of God, not by His personal worthiness, even; but He has entered by His own blood, after having accomplished redemption: and because of that work He is there before God." Pp. 164-5.
And J. N. Darby: "Not, He got in by that means, even as to us, but He went in in that way."--XIII, p. 193.
And in his Synopsis: "He has gone into the heavenly sanctuary by virtue of an eternal redemption, of blood, that has everlasting validity. The work is completely done, and can never change in value ... The blood shed once for all is ever efficacious.
"Here then are the three aspects of the result of the work of Christ: immediate access to God; a purged conscience; an eternal redemption."--Pp. 288-9.
"The worshiper, under the former tabernacle, did not come into the presence of God; he stayed outside the unrent veil. He sinned--a sacrifice was offered: he sinned again--a sacrifice was offered. Now the veil is rent. We are always in the presence of God without a veil. Happen what may, He always sees us--sees us in His presence--according to the efficacy of Christ's perfect sacrifice. We are there now, by virtue of a perfect sacrifice ... He has opened an access for us, even now, to God in the light, having cleansed our Consciences once for all--for He dwells on high continuously--that we may enter in, and that we may serve God here below.
"God has established and revealed the Mediator, Who has accomplished the work in an eternal way The Mediator has paid the ransom. Sin has no more right over us."--PP. 293-5.
Behold, then, the Son of God, the Man also, without blemish, returning whence He came: and entering God's presence through His own blood. He must enter thus or leave the redeemed behind forever. But His character now forever was that of a Redeemer. For did He not enter in ... having obtained eternal redemption? He must be forever before God as One Who "bare our sins in His own body on the Tree," Ours was the sin and guilt; His was the finished sacrifice of the Cross. That work was done. But He returns gladly in the character God gave Him: "Thou art a Priest forever." He would forever be connected with those whom He had redeemed.
*It behooves us to know in what attitude to God our Lord returned on high--in what old and new respects He came there: for we enter with Him! He re-entered indeed as Deity, that "glory He had with the Father before the world was." Into that place He alone could enter. To speak reverently, He could give to no creature to be Deity! God is God; creatures, creatures--forever!
But Christ re-entered Heaven as Man, also. And do not be led into that source of error--seeking to distinguish between "natures": He was ONE PERSON. Let John 3:13 suffice: "The son of man Who is in Heaven." Do not reason here, for reason fails; but believe. Our Lord spoke so to Nicodemus--"the Son of Man Who is in Heaven"--for He is ONE PERSON: and, "God was manifest in the flesh," and thus speaks, to the great comfort of faith, the element in which the just live!
Christ went into God's presence for us with only one claim on our behalf: His shed blood! That blood was the witness that in the person of our Substitute, Divine wrath and judgment had been endured. That blood witnessed that we who believe dared not in ourselves approach God, that we abandoned all hopes in ourselves, and were "made nigh in the blood of Christ." There is nothing that should bring men to despair of self -righteousness like the story of the Cross, for all we can do is to sit there in the darkness and let Another be judged in our place!
As Priest, that is, as representing us, not God: God's claims against us having all been satisfied at the Cross, forever--as Priest He is committed to our interests. (For, we repeat, a prophet came out from God, representing God to the people; while a priest went in to God, representing the people to Him. Hebrews, presenting access and worship, does not take up the question of an individual Christian's sin. We find this dealt with in 1 John 2:1-2, where "any man" means of course, any believer. If believers sin, fellowship is interrupted, but the attitude of the Advocate changes not!)
Indeed, having borne our sin with the guilt thereof, Christ entered in above as our Substitute and Representative, not alone, but taking us with Him, in the right and power of His infinite sacrifice. Thus He is before God, and thus, as to fact and standing, are all those in Him. Is Christ there? Then we are there in Him, blessed be God.
When the redeemed are in the glory above, there will be this consciousness: Christ, the Son of God, became what I was. I committed the sin; He bore the sin. He even became sin on my behalf, and here I am, the righteousness of God in Him! I am not only righteous now before God, but I am the righteousness of God! (2 Cor. 5:21). Therefore, to bring me here, Christ exchanged places with me. My Lord, Himself, became so completely my sin, that when He returned to the glory there, He entered in through His own blood. Therefore, when I look at my righteousness, my heart turns with unspeakable love back to where He put away my sin, and when I look at the Cross and its finished work I look at this, that I am now forever more "the righteousness of God in Him." Unspeakable Grace surrounds me, whichever way I turn. I am overwhelmed with the Grace of God that brought this salvation.
*If our blessed Lord had reversed His work; if He had renounced us, for whom His blood was shed; He would have had to put off manhood, the form of man, and return as the Second Person of the Deity only. But this was impossible--although it had been possible: for even in Gethsemane He said He could make request of the Father and He would even then send Him more than twelve legions of angels.
But He went on to the Cross, and the Cross became a fact. That day was "the consummation of the ages" (9:26) we read. It could not now be reversed, that He had "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself"! Forever before God, Christ is in the character of having been the Sin-Bearer. That is why "There is life for a look at the Crucified One"--a look of faith!
So if He, our Sin-Bearer, entered the Holies above through His own blood, we whose sins He bore find a glad welcome there also. A sense of eternal unchanging welcome at the throne of grace possesses our hearts. Oh, if we could always abide in this, that God is evermore delighting in Christ, that dear Son Who, after finishing the work of redemption the Father had given Him to do, entered the Holies above through His own blood, and now "appears before the face of God for us." What a rest of heart would be ours!
Here then, let our conception of the priesthood of Christ find its eternal foundation. He entered into Heaven itself, through His own blood, as having borne our sins, having been once offered to bear the sins of many. (The hideous paganism of Roman Catholicism glares here with the eyes of the serpent it is! The man-appointed, therefore pagan, priest, undertakes to offer in the Mass, over and over, what he calls "the sacrifice," and promises the poor dupes that he will obtain them Divine pardon and favor by his lying performances. Rescue all the Romanists you possibly can, showing them the great words of Heb. 9:12, 14, 24, 28: Christ "once offered to bear the sins of many." And, the one Mediator: "There is one God, one Mediator also between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).)
If Christ, Who did no sin, yet bore mine, entered into the Holies "before the face of God" through His own blood, shed at Calvary, how shall I, being invited through that blood also to enter with boldness--how can I shrink back?
It is not (far, far be the thought!) that we sinners learn that our sins have been borne, that the work is finished, and we can forget that, and pass on to something beyond and deeper. THERE IS NOTHING DEEPER, for all eternity! The gift of God was infinite: His only begotten Son. The devotion of Christ was infinite: "The cup My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" The devotion of God to His Son (always unmeasured) is now communicated to creatures, yea, sinful creatures. It is beheld by the holy beings of Heaven with endless marvel!
But some say they are on a higher level than those newly pardoned through Christ's blood, because they are now new creatures and are seated in heavenly places. But in Whom were they created? The only answer is, In the Risen Christ: the Christ of the wounds; the Christ Who entered Heaven through His own blood. It is a fearful undertaking to try, as some (like Bullinger)* do, to describe a condition beyond and above being redeemed by the shed blood of Christ, Who Himself sits at God's right hand, through His own blood! (* "I am dealing with a book--with principles and with minds that may be affected by it. I believe it is a dishonour to yourself; but as regards your book, you are but a name attached to the moral condition of mind contained in it, and there represented to the public. I am not dealing with you about it, but with it before God and my reader."--J. N. Darby. Vol. 6, p. 3.)
It will be found in eternity that the endless love of an infinite God was expressed at Calvary; also the quenchless affection of our Great High Priest, even Jesus. Get beyond that, you never will!
To have been redeemed will be the highest place in glory, because God is most revealed by the sacrifice of His Son, and the Son most revealed by His offering of Himself! And mark this, it is not as having left the shedding of that blood behind as a past event, merely, that He enters into the glory above, but it is strictly in the character of One Who has shed His blood, which character He will retain for all eternity.
Should He, my friend, He the Holy One, enter God's presence through His own blood, and you dare dream of entering in apart from that blood? Would you as a sinner (and you know you are that) pass right by the blessed Son of God, Who entered God's presence through His own blood, and present yourself to that Holy God as one who had "done his best"; who had "tried to keep the Law"; one who "had been a 'church member', and recognized on earth as 'good'"? I say, would you dare, you who have never as a guilty sinner fled to Him for refuge, thus enter God's holy presence?
There could be no more absolute and eternal insult to the God Who gave His Son, and Whose Son entered His presence through His own blood, than for you to undertake to come to God apart from the blood of Christ.
Hear the description of the saints in Hebrews:
Those "that draw near unto God through Him" (Christ).
Those that "enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, ... by a freshly-slain and living way, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh."
Those who, "having a Great Priest over the house of God, ... draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience."
Those who "have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe."
Those who "offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name."
Those who "endured a great conflict of sufferings," for their faith's sake; being "in subjection" (as sons) under their Father's chastening hand.
Those who "bear the reproach" of Jesus, Who "suffered with, out the gate"; "laying aside every weight" and beseting sin; running with patience the race that is set before us."
Those who refuse to "cast away their boldness" toward God, despite all obstacles and temptations; looking for THE PROMISE: "He that cometh shall come"--"shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation."
If you and I find ourselves among this company, blessed are we! But take heed: the Divine elevator is about to start for Heaven, but there is a great sign above its door, "FOR SINNERS ONLY." Paul is in it, who of sinners is the chief. Peter is there, who swore he did not know Christ. Jerry McAuley, "the river rat," is there; and John Newton, "once a libertine and infidel, a servant of slaves in Africa," as reads his epitaph written by himself and a great multitude of others.
(Tertia, who is writing this dictation, says that readers will object, saying, "These men are already in Heaven." It is not my thought when they go there, but how they go there. This I am illustrating by the elevator.)
"FOR SINNERS ONLY": Here comes a Jew, saying, "I belong to the Chosen People." Paul's answer is ready, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly." Nobody gets on the elevator for Heaven because of racial descent.
But now comes a Presbyterian, and the keeper of the door (a faithful pastor or teacher of the word of God), says "Do you see the sign above the door, 'For Sinners Only'? Will you step in as a sinner only?" The reply of this estimable person is, "I am a Presbyterian!"
"Keep back, then, with the Jew."
Then comes the great roll of "church people": Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Christians. The question of the faithful man who keeps the door always is, "Do you enter only as a sinner?" How evasive are the replies! Once in a while, one, like the publican, says, "Indeed, yes! Nothing but a sinner, thanking God for the news that Jesus died for me!"
"Step right in!"
Dear friends, pardon this crude illustration. it is for your soul's sake, and we hope it is spoken in tender love. No one will get to Heaven as a Presbyterian, as a Baptist, as a Congregationalist, as a Lutheran, as a Plymouth Brother, for they all are sinners only! But we ask you solemnly to consider: is your hope that of a sinner only? No righteousness of yours, whether personal, or attained (in your imagination) through "church work," or denominational "membership," has anything whatever to do with your entering the heavenlies above. Christ Himself entered there through His own blood. Have you given His shed blood that absolute Place God has given it? We do not now pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner" for since Christ spoke those words, God has been merciful, and has transferred the sin of the world to the Substitute, even Christ, Who Put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Is that your only hope?
O "Professing Christians," "church members," down here on earth--whether "active" in "church work" or not, hearken! Whereon are your hopes of Heaven built? What right have you, who committed the sins Christ bore, what possible right have you to Heaven? None whatever! If He entered through His own blood, how do you expect to enter? God has shut out all "good works." I beg you, trust not in "confirmation," or "baptism," or in any ordinance whatever; or in your "church duties," or generous giving, or "regular attendance," or zeal in "Christian activities," whether at home or abroad, and however approved by men. Nay more, trust not in your fancied "spirituality," your "prayer-life," your separation from the world, your being persecuted, even.
For Christ Himself entered in through His own blood. And what do you mean, you poor sinner? Do you dream that God will look at your "works"? Why then did not Christ return to Heaven in view of His works? He was sinless, and His life, perfect. You are a poor sinner, nothing else: "All have sinned"! hear it; and, "There is no difference": God, Who cannot lie, says that! You, a sinner, thinking to enter Heaven by works, while Christ the Holy One entered through His own blood--though he had never sinned, entered with blood--not works! Oh, the damning delusions under which many so-called "Christians" walk! Never having known their guilty, lost, state; never told by their preachers that guilty men can be made nigh to a holy God only by shed blood; that "apart from shedding of blood there is no remission": that Christ has entered Heaven and God's presence through His own blood; that He is there representing only sinners, who, as guilty sinners, have seen their guilt put away by the shedding of Christ's blood--that alone!
Oh, the vast multitude of so-called "Christians" relying on their own profession, and not upon the blood of Christ!
And what about your "moralists," your "evolutionists," your worldlings," your careless crowds (for whom, all, the undertaker is patiently waiting: for, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment")--what about these? "Modern education," and "modern life," leave the Bible out; these millions, God will leave without! For Christ entered Heaven through His own blood, and these know nothing, willingly know nothing, of the way to God, of pardon through Christ's blood.
Nay, do not begin to say that you "believe in a God too merciful to shut out forever these creatures--who were ignorant of His salvation." Ignorance! You say you believe in such and such a God--a god made in your own sin-darkened imagination; a God that does not exist! You will find this to be true at "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven."
All sinners who enter God's presence enter by the shed blood of Jesus.
Tell me, sinner, Do you desire to spend eternity in Heaven, like the elect angels whom God's power kept from all transgression? Or do you desire, yea, long, to be eternally on exhibition as one toward whom the unaccountable love of God was extended in pardon, wholly on the ground of the shed blood of his Creator-Redeemer?
Christ in Heaven can only say to any human being, that He is forever in the character of One Who has borne sin. On earth He said, "NO man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Now in Heaven, having entered through His own blood, He is infinitely ready to receive any sinners who rely on the blood He shed on the Cross as having put away their guilt. Read in the first two chapters of the Hebrews, of Who He is. Then read in the ninth of Hebrews of how He put away human sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And now and forever He is the Lamb that hath been slain. He can receive only sinners! If you can, as nothing but a sinner, rely on Him, He is your Great High Priest in Heaven. You need not fear: He bore your sin for you.
For us who have sinned, have been guilty, to be able to have rest of conscience, is a miracle, an operation of God within the soul. But Christ is seated in Heaven (and will be eternally so) as having put our guilt away. Meditate upon that. For no half-measures are possible: our sin has either been put away, or it has not. And God says it has!
Remember always to distinguish between that eternal redemption which Christ purchased upon the Cross, and His entering into the Holies through His own blood. People say, I thought Christ's work was finished at the Cross. It was, as bearing wrath and judgment for our sin, as you read in Chapter 9:26: "Now once at the consummation of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Therefore it is not in any sense an atoning work that Christ as Priest is carrying on in Heaven.
But notice once more, and finally, lay to heart with all your being, that Christ is eternally in the Holies on the basis of having been the Sin-offering. He entered Heaven not, as He came, as One that had no sin; but as One that had borne sin, and put sin away by the pouring out of His blood on the Cross. That was the character in which He entered, and continually abides, a High Priest forever! The Cross was primarily atoning; our Lord's place in Heaven is primarily positional.
Thus are we in Christ brought to God. God extends to the believing sinner all the benefits of Christ's death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven, and place at God's right hand! The believer is in exactly the same infinite love and favor as His Redeemer!
Then the last words of this great twelfth verse, eternal redemption--how they rest the heart! An Israelite who had sinned brought a sin offering, and placed his hand upon its head, confessing his sins. The victim was then slain, its blood presented before God, its body burned without the camp. The priest could then say to him, Jehovah's word is, You are forgiven.
Nevertheless, on the yearly Day of Atonement, the whole sin question is up again for all Israel. No Israelite could leave that great concourse rejoicing in heart, saying, My sins have been put away forever from Jehovah's sight. I have eternal redemption. He knew the Great Day of Atonement would come again in another year. Nay, Moses, their leader, lamented,
"Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, Our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance (Ps. 90:8).
That was the design and proper effect of the Law, which was a ministration of condemnation and death, a stern conductor of the soul to Christ and His salvation. "The Law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal. 3:24-25).
To the Jews under Law, therefore, there was no consciousness of the putting away of sin, for sin was not put away until it was done once for all by Christ at the Cross.
Eternal redemption (Redemption; See Ex. 21:30; Lev. 25:24, 51; Num. 3:46, Ps. 49:8, etc.) in Hebrews 9:12 signifies everlasting freedom from the penalty of sin, Christ having borne it at the Cross; and includes also complete and eternal deliverance from the power of sin; not only from spiritual death. It also includes the redemption of the body, for which believers are waiting; and finally, praise God, complete deliverance from the power of the devil, who had the power of death over the race (2:14) from the time that Adam fell. Such glorious words as those of our verse should be kept in the heart and repeated over and over: Having obtained eternal redemption. The opening word, "For," of verse 13, has in view this complete and eternal separation from the very presence of sin which is the hope of the instructed believer.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: In the earthly tabernacle, in which, behind the veil, God dwelt, there was indeed prescribed the blood of designated animals, of goats and bulls.
*In the ordinance of the red heifer (Num. 19:2), the high priest took the ashes of an heifer "without spot, wherein was no blemish," the blood of which had been sprinkled toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times, and then the entire body burnt, along with cedar wood (representing power), and hyssop (faith), and scarlet (royalty). Then the high priest washed his clothes, and bathed his flesh in water, and afterward came into the camp and was unclean "until the evening." The man that burnt the heifer had to do and be likewise.
Then we read, "A man that is clean, (that is, ceremonially, outwardly) shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place; and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water for impurity: it is a sin-offering" (Num. 19:9). This "water for impurity" was to be sprinkled on anyone who touched a dead body (Vss. 11, 12). Read Num. 19 carefully: it is a commentary on our present verse, Heb. 9:13, sanctifying unto the cleanness of the flesh.
We remember that the sin-offering was to be burned entirely without the camp. The water of sprinkling which was poured upon the ashes of the red heifer was prescribed as a simple, constantly available means of that ceremonial cleanness of the flesh demanded by Jehovah, Who dwelt among the Hebrews. Doubtless to many of them God opened the truth that the blood of this creature had been shed under His direction, that the body had been burnt in a clean, holy place which belonged entirely to God, and that the application of the ashes meant self-judgment and reliance upon the death of the substitute. But we know that all these types pointed to Christ. The cleanness of the flesh was all that any of them ever accomplished, however much they exercised the conscience, and however fully the Israelite might cast himself upon the mercy of God, as, for example, David did (Ps. 51). There never was the consciousness that sin had been removed, had been put away out of God's sight forever. And why? Because, we repeat, sin had NOT been removed until Christ put it away by His one sacrifice.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? We enter here upon one of the great verses of Scripture. How much more or, How much rather? As much more as Christ the Creator is greater than the creatures He created. Again we have an infinite chasm between two contrasted persons or things, as in Chapters 1:4 (see footnote there), 3:3; 7:22; 8:6. Shall the blood of Christ--perhaps in Chapters 9 and 10, which form one passage, blood is more frequently mentioned (15 times) than in any other equal portion of Scripture. The blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God--We knew that each Person of the blessed Trinity was equally eternal, but it is sustaining to the heart to have the fact noted here that it was through the eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself without blemish unto God. It is beyond measure blessed that we find here all three Persons of the Godhead occupied in our salvation! First, it is God to Whom the atoning sacrifice for our sin is to be made; second, it is Christ Who offers Himself to this end; third, it is through the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself without blemish.
Always the Levitical offerings were to be without blemish, as in the case cited in verse 13, from Numbers 19:2. But that was mere freedom from outward blemishes; whereas we know that Christ walked all of His life, from Bethlehem to Calvary, without moral or spiritual blemish before the all-seeing eye of God the Father. It is to be marked that again and again our Lord disclaimed; "The working by His own power: "I live because of the Father"; "the Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father doing"; "The Father abiding in Me doeth His works." The Holy Spirit descended upon Him at the Jordan; He was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness at the time of temptation. When He began to preach in Galilee, He announced, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach good tidings." And again, "I by the Spirit of God cast out demons." But here in Hebrews 9:14 we find that it was through the eternal Spirit that He walked and wrought, and thus by that Spirit at Gethsemane and on Calvary, offered Himself without blemish unto God, as the Great Sin-Offering for us.
It is most natural that those directly serving the Living God must have their conscience cleansed from condemnation and defilement.--
*The conscience is never said to be cleansed from sin. Believers are, and so are believers' hearts. See Acts 15:8-9, where Peter, referring to the filling of believing Cornelius and his household with the Holy Spirit, said, "God, Who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith."
The word "cleansing" here is in the aorist (definite past tense). After that experience, Cornelius had what Scripture calls "a clean heart," the heart of a little child toward God, even as the Lord said, "Except ye become as little children."
If it be objected that "The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt," and, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool"--certainly! And in the natural state, "evil thoughts," "evil things" (Mk. 7:21-22), "proceed out of the heart of men." But Christ came, and on the Cross all these evil things were dealt with. And when He entered into the Holies above, in virtue of, by power of His own blood, all these sins were as if they had never been. The blood of Christ met not only all that man had done but all that man was, so that we read: "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
Sin does not reside in the conscience, but the consciousness of sin, does. Therefore the conscience, knowing good and evil, accuses the heart (the throne room of the being, "out of which are the issues of life"), until the heart is cleansed by faith.
The body, of course, remains unredeemed until Christ comes, and even though Christ be in us, "is dead because of sin." It is the tabernacle in which we groan, "longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from Heaven," our new bodies.
But we are not our bodies, nor our souls; we possess both. We are spirits: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit," the new creature called into being by God's creative act in the Risen Christ, the last Adam (2 Cor. 5:17).--
But lo, and behold, the blood of Christ is here regarded as cleansing the conscience, not from consciousness of sin and guilt, but from something entirely different: from dead works. What a strange expression! Generally we connect works with life, but here, the opposite--dead works, appears. What can this mean?
We read in 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9 that the Law written "in tables of stone" was "a ministration of death ... of condemnation"; and in Galatians 3:10, "As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them." The conscience drives the heart of one who knows his sin, to get relief. Dead works, therefore, become the vain effort to relieve a troubled conscience by legal obedience.
With the Hebrews, of course, it was efforts through the works prescribed by the Law. With the sincere Gentile, like Cornelius, the action of the conscience was the same. Not only Hebrew believers, but Gentile believers also, burden themselves with dead works. They become occupied with "duties," with "church work," even with "Christian service." They are not serving the Living God.
*We repeat, conscience involves the knowledge of good and evil. Before man sinned, he was in innocency. But when he had sinned, Jehovah God spoke a solemn word: "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." Here is the basis, the beginning, of human conscience, literally joint-knowledge. God knew good and evil, and chose holiness and good, absolutely and forever. However, knowing all things, He discerned both the character of and all the operations of, evil. Nothing was hid from Him. Evil was by Him known but rejected, and its power never felt.
Not so with fallen creatures, whom man had now joined. To the sinning creature, evil became a master, and good, a memory. There was the knowledge of good and evil, but no power in himself to extricate him from either the guilt or defilement. If God redeem him not, he goes into eternity unredeemed. But Christ having come, in the mercy of God, and at Calvary having borne sin for the whole world, the cleansing of the conscience became possible. For conscience deals directly with God, and, Gospel enlightened, is set free.
Note the following Scriptures: "Conscience toward God," (lit., of God--1 Pet. 2:19); "a good conscience," (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 13:18); "a pure conscience," (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3); a "conscience ... defiled," (Tit. 1:15); a "conscience weak ... defiled," (1 Cor. 8:7, 12); a "conscience void of offence," (Acts 24:16); conscience "branded", or seared--disregarded; no longer able to function (1 Tim. 4:2); "No more consciousness (conscience, same Greek word) of sins," because conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:2).
But Moses endured "as seeing Him Who is invisible." David danced before the ark of God because he knew the God of the ark. Paul cried, "God is my witness, Whom I serve in my spirit": Jude exhorts us to build up ourselves on our most holy faith, "praying in the Holy Spirit." John on Patmos, after he saw the glorified Christ, feared not, though taken up to Heaven, and seeing the throne of the Triune God, the wonderful living creatures, the elders, the innumerable host of angels. Why? He served the Living God.
Four times in Hebrews is this great name, the Living God, written: twice concerning the saved, twice concerning the lost. Here in Chapter 9:14 believers, their conscience cleansed from dead works, delivered from self-effort and all fear, serve with gladness One Whom they know, the Living One, God. So that we find them in Chapter 12:22 arriving at the "city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," for an eternity of untold delight with Him Whose service "is perfect freedom."
To serve the Living God: Elijah's voice on Carmel to the gathered nation of Israel, was, "If Jehovah be God, follow Him." You say, What has that to do with the words, the Living God? it has this: Christendom today, (like Israel when Elijah spoke), is not serving a Living God. If it were, it would allow all its service to be judged by the consciousness of God's presence, of His infinite, intimate knowledge of us, of our hearts and motives. This would be worshiping "in spirit and in truth" (and God accepts no other worship); not by mere "church membership," by forms warned against in God's Word; by ceremonies, days, months, years; even in idolatrous, blasphemous caricatures of true worship and service in the Spirit. It would be judging everything by the question, What does God, Who is living, think of this? You have heard earnest preachers say, "You cannot fool God." Yet how many professing Christians (and this may mean you), expect to do so.
*The words a Living God, (28 times in Scripture), are not a title of God, but a definition of His being. A Living God takes no interest in "church attendance" as such. How would you like people to drive up to your residence, seat themselves in your house, and by and by depart--without ever speaking to you, or recognizing your presence? And how would you like it if before departing one of them should arise and say, "We will now take up a collection for the running expenses of this establishment"--all without speaking to you or recognizing you as head and master of the establishment?
Note that A LIVING GOD is one of the great key words of this great epistle. The modernist talks about a "God of love," "the universal fatherhood of God," etc. But alas, the modernist has never met a living God! God is living, before He is loving. All His motions toward guilty sinners, whether pardon, justification, or (here in Heb. 9:14) service, are based on the shed blood of Christ. Yet the false prophets of Christendom proclaim neither guilt of lost sinners, nor transference of their sin and guilt to the head of a Substitute. Avoid them, flee them, unless you court your doom! Read Jeremiah 23 about the false shepherds and prophets.
"Concerning the prophets. My heart within me is broken, all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man ... whom wine hath overcome, because of Jehovah, and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. And their course is evil, and their might is not right; for both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in My house have I found their wickedness, saith Jehovah. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery places in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein; for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith Jehovah.
"And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied by Baal, and caused My people Israel to err. In the prophets of Jerusalem also I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies; and they strengthen the hands of evil-doers, so that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them become unto Me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem is ungodliness gone forth into all the land" (Jer. 23:9-15). (See also vss. 16 to end of chapter, and Ezek. 13:10 ff.)
There is peace through faith in the shed blood of Christ, and there is no other peace. And lying Modernists will learn it.
Has the blood of Christ so cleansed your conscience from dead works--all "religious" forms whatever, that you are consciously in the presence of God? Or, if walking in darkness, having no light, are you yet able to stay upon His Word, and occupy yourself with a "sacrifice of Praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name," even though you are in the midst of trial? So did Christ: "Hold not Thy peace, O God of My praise:" so the 109th Psalm, in which He continues, "They have compassed Me about with words of hatred, and fought against Me without a cause." So Jeremiah: "Heal me, O Jehovah, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for Thou art my praise."
To serve the Living God includes, besides a cleansed, freed conscience, a heart believing God's love, and acceptance of Christ's easy yoke in the knowledge of being in Him (having died with Him to sin and to the Law, having been enlifed with Him, and raised up with Him, and made to sit with Him in the heavenlies-- the "heavenly calling" of which these Hebrew believers were partakers, though the details of it are not given in Hebrews). Last, in patiently "doing the will of God," in view of the promise, "Yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry" (10:36-7), and the sure realization of the "good things to come," at His coming.
And for this cause He is the Mediator of a new covenant--In these words (and the same words in Ch. 12:24), there is no infraction of the statement of Galatians 3:20: "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is One." Both Stephen (Acts 7:53) and Paul (Gal. 3:19) declare that the Law at Sinai was "ordained through angels." The meaning of this statement we do not find amplified in Scripture; the fact alone is revealed. In the next verse, Galatians 3:20, Paul adds to the words "ordained through angels," the additional phrase, "by the hand of a mediator" (of course, Moses): and he explains, as just quoted, "Now a mediator is not (a mediator) of one; but God is One"; that is, the contrast is drawn between God's promises made unconditionally and directly by God to Abraham "and to his Seed ... Christ," Galatians 3:16, (which promise needed no mediator!) and the Law afterwards "added" till the Seed should come, of Whom the promise had been made.
For this cause He (Christ) is the Mediator of a new covenant. That is, Christ has taken the place of Moses, a mediator of the first covenant. We have all heard the fatuous expression, "Christ, when on earth, re-affirmed the Ten Commandments." No one who has brought God's truth to human souls will deny that the last fortress of unbelief to be overthrown in man's heart is his persuasion that God is requiring righteousness of him. But the mediatorship of a new covenant spoken of in our verse (9:15) passes over all man's works and duties and ability to the words, a death having taken place. Christ's mediatorship dates after His death, not to his life and preaching.
For example, our Lord in Matthew 5 to 7, the so-called "Sermon on the Mount," was bound to back up God's legal covenant to Moses, giving also His own commands as the great Prophet Whom God had raised up to Israel (foretold by Moses, Deut. 18:15, 18), and announcing the kingdom. Then in Matthew 8 to 15 the unbelief and rejection of the Jews is brought out; and in Chapter 16:18 the Lord prophesies that He will build (what was not yet built) the Assembly, His Body, the Church; and the disciples are commanded to publish no further the Gospel that Christ is the Messiah of Israel. He must go and die, and be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40).
The Gospel Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles begins with Christ's death, not with His virgin birth, or His spotless life: "I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1, 3). Therefore Hebrews 9:15 sets Him forth as the Mediator of a new covenant, in view of the fact of a death having taken place, (on account of which only) they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (John MacNeil used to say, when questioned about election, "Preach the Gospel to all sinners, and if you get somebody into Heaven that God didn't elect, He'll forgive you, for He loves sinners!") Note that they that have been called have this relationship to the new covenant, that its conditions have been fulfilled, and that on the basis of this death of Christ, the new covenant is in operation, Christ being its Mediator. Moses in his day was "mediator" to bring the Law with its commands, its demands, its threatenings, and its blessing conditioned on obedience, into the camp. But do not dare to make Christ a second Moses because the word Mediator of a new covenant is used concerning Him.
"Our Lord Jesus was made a curse for us, became the great Sin-Offering, and now has become the Mediator of a better covenant, in which all the promise is on God's part, and man receives every blessing as pure grace."--Ironside, Studies in the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 97.
For this new covenant is that of Hebrews 13:20, in which the parties are the two Persons of the Godhead. Our blessed Lord did not come as Moses, bringing conditions for man to fulfill. But He said, "The words that I say unto you, I speak not from Myself: but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works" (John 14:10); "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30). God was manifested in the flesh. Therefore, when our Lord is called the Mediator of a new covenant, it is of the new covenant in His blood (Lk. 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25). So that, Christ being God, Galatians 3:20 is fulfilled. And when we come to the name "mediator" in 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, one Mediator also between God and men, Himself Man, Christ Jesus," we find the word "Mediator" having the meaning of Galatians 3:20--the other side of that verse: "A mediator is not a mediator of one." Christ is seen here between God and men: blessed fact! But let not this truth disturb in our minds the blessed words, Mediator of a new covenant, in which the parties are God and Jesus Christ, and we the beneficiaries. We are receivers, not contracting parties, not actors. God and Christ are the contracting parties in that eternal covenant (13:20) by which we receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Luther used to say, "Christ is no Moses! Take heed lest thou set Christ upon the rainbow, with a stern countenance, as of a judge." No! God has made no legal covenant with men, that if they will do and be so and so, He will "save them at last." What a blessed place have we, the beneficiaries of an eternal covenant the conditions of which have already been fulfilled! "It is finished," Christ said; and the God of peace raised Him from the dead in view of that covenant. (13:20).
*The words, a death having taken place, involve:
First, The putting away of all sins (Ch. 9:26, 1 Pet. 2:24).
Second, The identification of Christ with sin, with our old man as connected with Adam, so that it was written (Rom. 6:6): "Our old man was crucified with Him"; "We died with Christ" (Rom. 6:8).
Third, Our relationship to sin broken, for (Rom. 6:10, 11): "The death that He died, He died unto sin once; but the life that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." In view of the death of Christ (in Whom we now are) unto sin, our relationship to sin becomes that of the Risen Christ to sin.
Fourth, Death to Law (which gave sin its power--1 Cor. 15:56; as was manifest in the commandments, of the Mosaic Law), meaning the legal principle upon which God demanded righteousness of the creature; and the believer's complete discharge therefrom. Mark the correct translation of Rom. 7:6: "But now we have been discharged from the Law, HAVING DIED to that wherein we were held"; instead of the A.V. translation, which mistakenly makes the Law die, whereas the believer dies unto the Law and the legal principle.
One more point as to Hebrews 9:15: Reading this verse carefully, we see that if those that were called, God's elect, were to receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, there must be the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant. Strictly speaking, this limits the application of this verse to those who were under the Law: for Gentiles were never in covenant with God. To every sincere Hebrew believer, this "redemption" or removal from before God of their former transgressions under Law, came as a welcome thing. The Law with its "ten thousand things" (Hos. 8:12), is no longer between the Hebrew believer and the eternal inheritance. Indeed, the Law had nothing to do with this inheritance, "For the Law made nothing perfect" (Heb. 7:18); bringing neither life nor righteousness nor peace, not to speak of hope.
Peter thus describes the eternal inheritance:
"An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5).
Paul calls this "the recompense of the inheritance" (Col. 3:24), and declares (Rom. 8:17) that believers are "heirs of God (marvelous words!) and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be (or since) we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him"--more marvelous words! The inheritance of these Hebrew believers had formerly been earthly, the land of Israel, with millennial blessings to come. But the eternal inheritance goes infinitely beyond that!
*It has often been remarked in this passage how God delights to dwell upon the word "eternal"--
- Eternal salvation" (Ch. 5:9): Christ the Cause, obedience the condition.
- "Eternal redemption" (9:12): By the blood of Christ, Who "THROUGH THE ETERNAL SPIRIT offered Himself ... unto God" (vs. 14).
- Eternal inheritance (9:15): Compare, "the inheritance among all them that are sanctified.--Acts 20:32; "an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Me" (Jesus), Acts 26:18; "The Father made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," Col. 1:12; "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away. reserved in heaven" for us--1 Pet. 1:4, as we have quoted above.
For where (there is a) covenant, there must of necessity be brought the death of the one covenanting, vs. 17. (OT, death proceeding from one covenanting--genitive of definition.--Winer, Ed. vi, p198.) For a covenant has force over dead (persons or things), since it in no way has power when he is living who covenanted. The opening word, "For," of verse 16 must be governed, we see at once, by the "death" spoken of in verse 15: A death having taken place. Any reader of this page who is familiar with the King James, or Authorized Version of the New Testament, has also noticed that we are translating the Greek word diatheke, covenant, and not "testament" as does the Authorized Version. This we shall now explain and consider.
Two facts must be borne in mind in our examination of this word diatheke, covenant.
- The word "covenant" is confined, as are all other quotations and references in the book of Hebrews, to the definition and use already made of them by God in the Word of God. Therefore arguments concerning the use of diatheke in Greek or Roman literature have no bearing whatever.
- The word "covenant," or diatheke in Chapter 9:15-17 is evidently spoken of those covenants that have to do with relationships, communication, and dealings with the holy God, which of course are confirmed by shed blood: and therefore is the use of blood emphasized.
We are persuaded, therefore, that the change in translation of the Greek word diatheke from "covenant" (vss. 15, 20) to "testament" (vss. 16, 17), in the Authorized Version, is both incorrect and confusing. For the expression the first (covenant) of verse 18 simply continues the argument (the first covenant) of verse 15. We would commend to the student the unanswerable comment by Westcott (Hebrews, p. 298 ff.) We quote from this in the footnote below:
* "The Biblical evidence then, so far as it is clear, is wholly in favor of the sense of 'covenant,' with the necessary limitation of the sense of the word in connection with a Divine covenant ... The mention of the 'Inheritance' in vs. 15 does not appear to furnish any adequate explanation of a transition from the idea of 'Covenant' to that of 'Testament.' It is true that Christ has obtained an inheritance (1:4); and it is also true that He entered on the possession of it through death. But it cannot be said that He 'bequeathed' it to His people ... By union with Him they enjoy together with Him what is His. But He does not give them anything apart from Himself, It is also important in this respect to notice that the thought of the bequeathal of an inheritance by Christ to His people is not supported by any other passage of Scripture (not by Lk. 22:20) ... The conceptions of Christ as the 'Mediator of a Covenant,' and as a 'Testator,' the 'framer of a will,' are essentially distinct. A covenant is the disposition of things determined by God for man and brought about through Christ; a Testament would be the expression of Christ's own will as to what should be after His death. The thoughts are wholly different; and the idea of death is unable in itself to combine them.--Westcott in loc.
Nor am I at all persuaded that verses 16-17 constitute a parenthesis, as some say. For,
- The argument of verses 15 to 20 is continuous: the word diatheke being translated "covenant" in vs. 15, is called "the first" (covenant understood), in verse 18; and verse 18 begins with the word "Wherefore," or "Whence," and the word diatheke is translated "covenant" consequently in verse 20.
Note that "For" in both verses 16 and 17, like "Wherefore" in Verse 18 and "For" in verse 19, closely connect the argument of the whole paragraph about a covenant. These verses cannot be set asunder.
- It is inconceivable that only the Epistle to the Hebrews should depart from the Old Testament use and meaning of the word "covenant" (used 17 times in Hebrews and 17 times in the rest of the New Testament), to a new and entirely different meaning of the word--a Graeco-Roman use, not a Biblical!
- Moreover, it is a "Mediator of a new covenant" the passage has been speaking of, and a "testament" (vs. 17) or "will" does not need a "mediator." A covenant in Scripture has a mediator, as Moses, the mediator of "the first" (vs. 18); and Christ, the Mediator of a new covenant.* A man who makes a will does not perforce execute its provisions!
The great Bible illustration of the word "covenant" is given in Exodus 24.
"(Moses) sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:5-8).
* "With the utmost decision must we continue to protest against the introduction of 'testament' as the meaning of diatheko in verses 16, 17. It is needless, and it does violence to the continuity of our Author's argument. It is needless, as a patient consideration of Gen. 15:7,21, and Jer. 34:18-19, might have shown, where both parties to the Covenant are represented as dead to all change of mind; and it does violence to the argument of the present passage as the sudden jerk back to the covenant idea, which in that case is felt in vs. 18, all sufficiently shows: Whence not even the first apart from blood hath been consecrated. The first--what? 'Testament'? Nay! the first (that at Sinai) was not a testament but a covenant. Besides, as well said by the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Ch. 7:22, 'A testament no more requires a surety than it does a mediator' and on Ch. 9:15, 'The use of the term 'Mediator' shows that we have here to do with the Hebrew idea of a covenant, not with a Roman idea of a 'testament.' A mediator is the proper guardian of a covenant (see Gal. 3:15-20), but has no place in regard to a testament. Neither, again, does the death of a testator possess any of the sacrificial character which is referred to in vss. 15-22."--Rotherham, pp138-9.
"There is not a trace of the meaning testament in the Greek O.T."--Vincent.
See also the able and searching rejection of the word "testament" in Kendrick's edition of Olshausen, pp512-17.
This, mark, is the example of the inauguration of a Biblical covenant, and it is a Biblical covenant only which is before Us throughout Hebrews 9 and 10.
*A covenant is between two or more parties.
A covenant states the conditions of relationship or action.
The Old Covenant made Divine blessing dependent upon human obedience. The New Covenant proceeds wholly from God, and is based entirely upon Christ's work.
Note. "the blood of the covenant ... Heb. 9:20; and "The Lord Jesus ... said, This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (1 Cor. 11:23-25).
Note that it was the blood, not of the Israelites, who were entering into the covenant; nor of Moses, a Mediator of that covenant, but of appointed animals, that was shed: death proceeding from the covenanting one. The one great point is that a covenant with Jehovah could not be dedicated or inaugurated apart from bloodshedding.
For a covenant is of force where there hath been death: (or, Over dead persons or things): since it in no way has power when he who covenanted is living: Why death, bloodshedding, in pledge or "ratification" of God's "covenant"? First, God could have dealings with fallen man only on the ground of death. "Thou shalt surely die," God had said to Adam--if he should sin. And when he did sin, and God sent him and Eve from Eden, He "made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins" (obtained after death) "and clothed them." Also when Abel learned (as Cain never did) the way of approach to God, it was by blood--the blood of a firstling lamb.
Again, when God desired to confer upon Abram's seed the land of promise, He directed Abram to place on the right hand and on the left the divided carcasses of appointed victims, symbols of the death of Christ by means of which alone He can bestow promised blessing upon His own:
"And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces. In that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:17-18).
Here Abram, with whom Jehovah was covenanting, did not die, but appointed sacrifices died in his stead. It was a covenant of promise, an announced purpose of God to bless him, and--through his Seed, Christ--all nations. The fact, however, that it was a mutual agreement between God and Abram, each fulfilling prescribed conditions, is brought out in Nehemiah 9:7-8:
"Thou art Jehovah the God, Who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham, and foundest his heart faithful before Thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite, and the Girgashite, to give it unto his seed, and hast performed Thy words; for Thou art righteous."
Second, This ratification by blood-shedding certainly indicates the solemnity, "even unto death," of undertakings between God and men. Even men thus ratify their statements and promises: "I hope to die, if I don't do it!"
Third, To go further, there is the sanction of death in these Old Testament covenants, especially in that of Exodus 24. Why should not the Law, which was a "ministration of death," have the sanction of death? As our next verse reads:
Wherefore even the first covenant hath not been dedicated without blood. We repeat, the word "Wherefore" opening this verse connects it directly with what is said in verses 16 and 17. Verse 18 ff. is an illustration of the ratification of a covenant, not the announcement of a will or testament.
It must be constantly remembered that in verses 11 to 28 there are two tabernacles and two covenants before us. In verse 11 Christ is seen "having come a 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"; and in verse 12, entering into the holy place--Heaven itself, "through His own blood." The infinite efficacy of this blood is contrasted with that of animals, in verses 13 and 14. Then (vs. 15) because of this efficacy He is the Mediator of a new covenant, a death having taken place, for There must of necessity be the death of the one covenanting (Vs. 16). Then in verse 18 the comparison is carried on: Wherefore even the first (covenant) hath not been dedicated without blood ... The tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry (vs. 21) (Moses) sprinkled in like manner with the blood ... all things ... cleansed with blood and apart from shedding of blood ... no remission (dismissal) of sins (22).
In verse 23 we find the comparison still carried on: The copies of the things in the heavens ... cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. The whole thought so far has been that of a ratification by death of a Divine covenant.
We must go back now for a longer look at the remarkable scene of verses 18-22, reported from Exodus 24, to which we have already referred. Let us remember that it is to a people that have been redeemed from Egypt that this solemn covenant was given; and that this covenant of Exodus 24, under which Israel passed after the Law had been proclaimed from Sinai, leaves blessing dependent upon man's faithfulness, man's responsibility. There are several elements in the striking scene:
- Aaron and his two eldest sons and seventy of the elders (representatives of Israel) are called up and worship afar off.
- Moses, a type of Christ the Mediator, alone comes near.
- The people are forbidden to come up (for God is preparing for a priesthood to intervene between Him and them).
- Moses reports to the people Jehovah's words, the ordinances of Chapters 22 and 23.
- The second time, the people solemnly promise, "All the words which Jehovah hath spoken will we do" (vs. 3). They repeat this promise (vs. 7) after burnt-offerings and peace-offerings are offered by "young men of the children of Israel" (vss. 4-5).
- Moses sprinkles half the blood upon the altar.
- Then he takes the book of the covenant, that is, the law with the ordinances of Exodus 22 and 23, and reads it in the audience of the people: upon which they promise to do "all that Jehovah hath spoken, and be obedient."
- Moses then takes the other half of the blood and sprinkles all the people, after having sprinkled the book itself (Heb. 9:19) saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded to you-ward (20).
- Note that no man was ever saved by keeping this Law. This sprinkled blood of course pointed to Christ's shed blood; yet here emphasizes that sanction of death which the legal covenant had.
And according to the Law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission. To grasp the deep import of this most important verse, we must turn to that instructive, and, alas, neglected, book, Leviticus:
- "The life of the flesh is in the blood": (Lev. 17:11, 14).
- God commanded Israel that blood, whether of sacrifices (Ex. 29:12; Lev. 4:7, 18, 25), or of that which was taken in hunting (Deut. 12:16, 24; 15:23), was to be "poured out upon the earth."
- Blood was not to be eaten, forbidden even to Noah: this is one of the conditions of the everlasting covenant: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat" (Gen. 9:4). This prohibition was repeated under the Law to Israel (Lev. 7:26; 17:10-13). It was one of the four directions sent to the Gentile churches from the council at Jerusalem: "... That we write unto them, that they abstain ... from what is strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:19-20). (It is to this day a mark of inherent savagery and infidel brutality to consume "blood puddings.")
- The essence of any of the offerings was the pouring out of its blood: whether of the burnt offering (Lev. 1), the peace offering (Lev. 3), the sin offering (Lev. 5), or the trespass offering (Lev. 6); or the morning and evening sacrifice of the lamb, or the slaying of the goat for Jehovah's lot on the Great Day of Atonement. The essence of all was the pouring out of the blood, this being the laying down of the life: for the blood was the life.
Doubtless in the burnt offering there was the sweet savor in the burning of the whole body upon the altar, representing Christ giving Himself up for us, "an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell" (Eph. 5:2). There was also the fellowship of the priests with Jehovah in those parts of the various sacrifices assigned to them to eat. But, we repeat, in every offering where death took place, it was the pouring out of the blood, the laying down of the life, that was the essential thing.
- It is of the utmost importance, then, to remember that the shedding the blood, the pouring it out upon the ground, meant laying down what God calls "the life of the flesh": "As to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof ... the life of all flesh is the blood thereof" (Lev. 17:14, and see vs. 11, quoted above.) The great point in our minds here should not yet be why the shedding of the blood of the offering was demanded, but the fact that it was so. The shed blood was an open witness that the life with which it was connected, which life indeed it was had been laid down. See Jehovah's word concerning the Passover blood sprinkled upon the doors in Egypt: "When I see the blood I will pass over you." All Egypt, including the Israelites, was under Divine judgment, but the outpoured blood of the Passover lamb protected the houses of Israel from the judgment that fell upon those not having the sprinkled blood. And remember that Paul wrote, "For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ" (1 Cor. 5:7). His poured-out blood, which was "the life of the flesh" which He laid down, protects us from Divine judgment, as Israel was protected in Egypt.
- If we inquire now, Why shedding of blood? Why must life be laid down? Scripture answers, it is demanded by the being of God: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Hab. 1:13); "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty" (Rev. 4:8); and by the government of God; "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne" (Ps. 97:2). Every sin defies the majesty of the infinite God. Therefore, however measureless His love to man may be, man's sin must be taken away ere he can stand for an instant before God.
But taken away--how? In Hebrews here we read, Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission. This statement arouses the venom of a serpent-taught, human, shallow "theology" to cry, "We do not believe in a God like that, Who must have His anger appeased by the blood of a victim!" What sheer, blind folly such utterances show! What ignorance of Scripture! What fancied security of the speakers in their lives of sin and guilt!
Have they never considered that the shed blood witnessed to a life laid down, ended? Not only has the God of this universe risen in judgment, but in the shed, outpoured blood of Christ, the great Sin Offering, man disappeared! his human standing was ended. When the Jewish high priest took the blood of the slain goat into the Holy of Holies on the Great Day of Atonement, with the whole congregation of Israel assembled without, he spake no word, uttered no confession, made no plea. Going to the mercy seat, the top of the ark of the covenant, he sprinkled the blood upon it, and before it, seven times, then went out. That blood witnessed that the goat which was "Jehovah's lot" had died; its life was poured out, ended. When the high priest went forth from the tabernacle and, laying his hands upon the head of the other goat (for the people), confessed all their sins and iniquities, it was as a result of the laying down of the life of the first goat, for the two together constituted one type of Christ's death, Christ's shedding His blood for sin, and the result. This second goat was sent away into the wilderness, not to be found.
Remember, Christ did not resume the flesh and blood life that He had before dying. That life was laid down, ended. We are so accustomed to associate resurrection with sin bearing, that Christ's resurrection becomes in our mind a resuming of the life that He laid down. We forget that the blood poured out ended the life in the flesh. The blood of the Cross takes away all man's possible standing before God forever and ever. It brought it to an end. The Cross brought man to an end.
We know that God did raise up Christ, but as The Firstborn from among the dead, in newness of life of which mankind knows nothing until saving faith comes. And saving faith, Divinely given, includes despair in consciousness of unremovable sin and guilt, with a resting upon the shed blood of Christ as removing personal sin and guilt (as human means could not) and a claiming of the Risen Christ by faith.
It was necessary therefore that the copies of things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these: Both in Hebrews and in The Revelation we find that there is a temple at present in Heaven. This word "temple" means sanctuary, or place of worship of God as He shall prescribe. In The Revelation, such words as these occur:
"There was opened the temple of God that is in Heaven; and there was seen in His temple the ark of His covenant" (Rev. 11:19)
"And after these things I saw, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in Heaven was opened: and there came out from the temple the seven angels, that had the seven plagues, arrayed with precious stone, pure and bright, and girt about their breasts with golden girdles ... And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power; and none was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished ... And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go ye, and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth" (Rev. 15:5-6, 8; 16:1).
We find then that there is a temple in Heaven. Moses was told to make the tabernacle "according to the pattern shown him in the mount"; and in Hebrews 9:23 we find that those tabernacle and temple forms were copies of the things in the heavens; and in the following verse that Christ entered not into (lit.) Holies made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us. ("Heaven itself, the heaven of heavens, the place of the glorious residence of the presence or majesty of God, is that whereinto He entered."--Owen, vol. 6, p278.)
Now you may ask, why must the copies of the things in the heavens be cleansed? Scripture answers, "Behold, He putteth no trust in His holy ones; Yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight. ... The stars are not pure in His sight" (job. 15:15; 25:5). Also, it was in Heaven that Satan, the "day-star, son of the morning" sinned, said his fivefold "I will" in his heart, and was cast out as profane" (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:14-16). Again, the record of man's sin existed in Heaven. But when the great Sin-Bearer entered into Heaven itself, "through His own blood, once for all ... having obtained eternal redemption," as we have seen, sin had been put away from God's sight through the value and power of that infinite sacrifice of Himself, the laying down of His own life. Then were the heavens "cleansed," potentially and eternally cleansed; and then indeed were the sins of all believers, all who would risk themselves upon the sin-bearing, the bloodshedding of this infinite Sin Bearer,--then were their sins actually put away from God's sight forever.
For Christ entered not into holies made with hands (the Levitical tabernacle), like in pattern to the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: But many object, We died with Christ and have been created in the Risen Christ, enlifed together with Him, and raised up with Him, and made to sit in the heavenlies in Him; if we are the very Body of Christ, why should we need that Christ now appear before the face of God for us? This is a natural question, but it shows utter ignorance of the place of priesthood. We must learn what that is. For there are matters revealed pertaining to the priesthood of Christ, that are not touched even by the fact of our union with Him as His Body.
*If there be any question who is meant by this word "us", we would say, it must be the "us" of Rom. 8:34; "maketh intercession for us"--Jewish and Gentile believers alike; and the "us" of Heb. 10:19-20, 22: "the way which He dedicated for us ... Let us draw near."
Furthermore, the "us" in Rom. 8:31, "If God is for us, who is against us?" connects with the same word in Heb. 6:19-20: "--within the veil; whither as a Forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
Alas for those who are told in gospel meetings simply to believe in Christ and His finished work, and are not told of His present priestly work of keeping and caring for His own. If they are indeed Christ's own whom the Father has given Him, they will indeed be brought safely through. But let all true preachers and teachers of the Word be careful to speak of this work of intercession in which our blessed Lord is continually occupied on behalf of His saints! God has chosen that believers be "sojourners and pilgrims" here. If Israel needed a priesthood in connection with their earthly worship, how much more do we need one! For Israel was journeying from one earthly country to another not far distant. But we are journeying to the heavenly city that has no connection whatever with this world. Moreover, our Lord has been rejected and crucified by this world, and has passed, by resurrection, into a new state of being, in a realm called "the heavenlies" (Eph. 1:3 etc.), and while we as belonging in the heavenlies with Christ, are travelling thither, all is by faith: as see the great faith Chapter, 11:14-16, "We walk by faith, not by appearance." Besides, we face deadly foes--Satan and his hosts; and have a warfare appointed unto us.
So we need a priest, and thank God! we have a priest--"a Great Priest over the house of God," that is, all believers. May God give us open eyes, and the humility to recognize our great need--our daily need, our hourly need, of His blessed, glorious, and intercessory work.
*Heb. 9 presents Christ as a High Priest--for whom?
- Not to the Jewish nation, for He is of another order than Aaron and the Levitical system.
- Not of unbelievers, Jews or Gentiles. Note His high priestly prayer of John 17: "I pray not for the world, but for those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine." What unbelievers must do is appropriate Christ, believe in Him, and receive the right thus to become sons of God.
They then become (John 1:12) "children of God," and the objects of His priestly prayer. It is for believers passing through the world to their eternal home in glory, that Christ is "a Great Priest over the house of God." He "maketh intercession for us" with infinite watchfulness and marvelous sympathy.
One more thing: "Christ suffered for sins once ... that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). We are told to come boldly unto the throne of grace. Now our Lord is not upon His own throne yet, as He will be when He returns and the Lord God gives unto Him the throne of His Father, David, in Jerusalem. He is on His Father's throne, and it is unto God, by Christ that we are to come, rather than to Christ. Some one has said, "Most Christians connect Christ with love, and God with judgment." But this is to forget that "God so loved the world that He gave." This attitude of heart imagines Christ doing atoning work in Heaven, propitiating an angry God. No wonder such a state of heart does not understand Hebrews!
Christ died for us, did He not? Was not that a priestly work? Did not God have all salvation depend on His sacrifice? Even so, now, in Heaven He "appears before the face of God for us."
*You may say, "Christ finished His work for me, on the Cross." Scripture answers, "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
You may say, "I read in Ephesians 2 that we have been 'made alive together with Christ and raised up with Him and made to sit with Him in the heavenly places.'"
Scripture also says, "He ever liveth to make intercession for us," and He appears "before the face of God for us."
You say, "I am complete in Him" (Christ).
Scripture says, "He (Christ) ever liveth to make intercession for us."
You may say, "Christ offered up one sacrifice for sins forever and sat down at the right hand of God."
Scripture still says, "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
You may say, "Christ acted as our Great High Priest when He offered up Himself on the cross, putting away our sin from God's sight forever."
True, He certainly did. Yet Scripture says, God saluted Him, as risen from the dead, "Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"
You may say, as did Peter, "Lord ... I will lay down my life for Thee ... And in like manner also said they all" (Mk. 14-31; John 13:37).
But Scripture says, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you (plural], that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee (singular) that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren" (Lk. 22:31-32).
These disciples were honest and earnest; they had faith in their Lord, but they did not know their own hearts nor the journey they had to make through this world, nor their need of a priest.
Oh, if young believers were but instructed in these things--their own weakness; the untrustworthiness of their own hearts, even in the best frames and feelings; the deadly enmity of Satan, and his planned wiles against all Christ's own; together with the fact that the world through which he journeys is "lying in the evil one"!
Then too we need a priest because we are going on into eternity. How wonderful it is to know that we are in One Who is both God and Man. As God, He sits upon the throne, "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1). The Lamb, Christ, is God the Son; yet, having become man, He can say, "My Father and your Father, and My God and your God." This does not argue distance, however. We are already addressed as those "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1).
But God is infinite in all His attributes; and we shall be learning, and adoring, forever! A great part of the Levitical priest's work was to instruct the people in the word and ways of Jehovah, their God. So will it be with Christ. The question of sin will not come up, for that was forever settled; but the remembrance of the love that put sin away will be eternal.
How wonderful, then, is the eternal scene! Christ not ashamed to call the redeemed ones "brethren"; Christ declaring the name of God the Father unto His brethren--ever with fresh knowledge; finally, Christ in the midst of the great Assembly of His saints, singing, along with them, the praise of God! To contemplate an eternity with such an outlook is to have a heart filled with holy and heavenly expectations, even on the way to Heaven.
Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; (26) else must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: These verses emphasize still further the contrast between the things of the Levitical economy, with its oftrepeated sacrifices, and Christ's offering Himself once, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Here again permit the Word of God to relieve your inmost heart and conscience of the thought that Jesus Christ is now making sacrifice for you in Heaven. He is not now offering Himself in sacrifice for our sins, for this was done ONCE at the consummation of the ages, at the Cross, as we read in verse 26.
Beginning with the words (1) the foundation of the world, we have next to look (2) at the "ages" or _aions of the world's existence; then (3) at the remarkable phrase the consummation of the ages--at which time Christ was manifested; and finally (4) at the meaning of the words to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
- The foundation of the world--We look back to Chapter 1:10 when God addresses Christ thus: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth." How far back in years Genesis 1:1 and John 1:3 take us, God has not revealed. But when it came to creation by the Father's will and the Son's word, "It was very good."
- Ages (Heb., olams, Gr. _aions), succeeded. Again, God does not say how many. The term "ages" denotes lapses of time during each of which was being accomplished some phase of the Divine purpose. There came the invasion of sin into the world--nay, into the universe. Although we cannot here go thoroughly into the passages concerning sin's history, we repeat that sin is _anomia, lawlessness (1 Jon 3:4): that it is the rising into independency of the will of the creature. We may also repeat Romans 5:12, "Through one man sin entered into the world"; and recall our Lord's words concerning the tempter of Eve, "He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44); and 1 John 3:8, "The devil sinneth from the beginning."
- We come next to the astonishing phrase, the consummation of the ages. To explain these words, demands a Divine plan. We read in Galatians 1 of "this present evil age, out of which Christ will deliver His saints. Our Lord spoke also when on earth of "this age", and "that which is to come." To set forth the meaning of the consummation of the ages, then, let us first look at the end of the verse:
- (Christ) hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself: Recall to mind the wounds in the hands and feet and side of the Son of God's love Who is at His right hand. In Romans it is, "justified in His blood": in Ephesians, "made nigh in the blood of Christ"; in Hebrews, Christ entered into the holies "through His own blood," and our entering "into the holy place by the blood of Jesus."
Thus He put away sin, and this putting away sin was at the consummation of the ages. All previous ages led up to this; all succeeding ages are governed by this! It seems necessary, therefore, to believe that each _aion had to do with this stupendous thing, Christ's being manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
As to the devil, for example, whatever the history of the past, the consummation is seen at the Cross (Ch. 2:14): "That through death He might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Again, as to Adam, upon his sinning, "Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins," as a result of a death first inflicted on substitutes by God, "and clothed them." So that, outside of Eden, they began a fallen race, each individual of whose millions is dependent upon that manifestation of Christ at the consummation of the ages to put away his sin,--dependent if ever to be saved!
Again, on Sinai, Jehovah spoke awful earth-shaking words to Israel. For what purpose? That the Law might "become our tutor" (Gr., _paidagogus) to bring unto Christ those who had been kept in ward under the Law (Gal. 3:24), that is, Israel; that they "might be justified by faith." But faith in what? In His blood Who was manifested to put away sin. Whether therefore we look at man's fearful need, or at the display of the infinite mercy and love of God; or whether we look at the ages past or at the ages to come, that manifestation of Christ to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself will be the theme forever.
And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, APART FROM SIN, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation: There could not be a greater contrast than this. We see on every hand unsaved men and women to whom two things are appointed; (1) death, (2) judgment. So Christ on the Cross met the double-appointment: not only physical death, but death under Divine judgment, for He cried that He had been forsaken of God.
But when we see a believer, one of those who are waiting for Him, we see one for whom death and judgment are gone! If physical death comes, the Lord calls it "falling asleep," or "departing to be with Christ." And John 5:24 will be literally fulfilled at our Lord's second coming: the believer "entereth not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life." If the Lord should come today, believers would be "caught up to meet Him in the air," to "see Him as He is," to enter into His glory. Neither, death nor judgment is "appointed" unto believers.
But in Hebrews 9:28 we have in the words: Christ ... offered to bear the sins of many, what Peter wrote of: "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). Or Paul, "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). It is the actual bearing of sins by the Substitute that is looked at here. Notice also the word "many": ("Solely His own (people) and not mankind indiscriminately."--Kelly "'Many' is opposed here not to all but to few"--Schlichting, from Alford): as Paul writes in 1 Tim. 2:5-6, "Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all"; and as our Lord said in Matthew 26:28, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins."
Shall appear a second time, apart from sin (Gr., choris hamartias, "sin apart," as in Ch. 4:15) unto salvation: Compare Romans 13:11: "Now is our salvation nearer to us than when we first believed." (Not that we do not now possess salvation: we do: as see Lk. 1:77, Eph. 1:13, Phil. 1:29 and many other verses. Nor is it that our salvation is not being carried on: it is: 1 Cor. 1:18, margin; Phil. 3:20-21. But our salvation will be consummated at the coming of the Lord Jesus and the redemption of our bodies.)
Sin apart--The sin question will not be brought up at Christ's second coming, any more than it is now being brought up by Christ, our Great High Priest, at God's right hand. He bare sin "once for all"!
To them that wait for Him--(A.V., "look for Him"): The verb in the Greek is a very intensive one: meaning to wait eagerly or ardently.
*This word "wait" apekdechomai is found in Rom. 8:19, 23, 25, which verses set forth the spirit of the meaning, which is, "desired anticipation": "The earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God ... We with patience wait for it." And in 1 Cor. 1:7: "Ye ... waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." (See also Phil. 3:20, Gal. 5:5. Thayer's definition of this word is, "assiduously and patiently to wait" for Him. Compare English, to "wait out." Liddell and Scott give, "expect anxiously.")
Let me here, emphasize the fact that all whom our Lord has redeemed, all "they that are Christ's" are raised or raptured at His appearing. It is not a question here of those having "dispensational" instruction concerning our Lord's coming, concerning the distinction between the Rapture and the Revelation, known now by thousands of believers. Some "groaning" ones (Rom. 8:23) have not much knowledge of prophecy, Yet they have the "firstfruits of the Spirit," and they are waiting for the glorious day of their adoption, even the redemption of their bodies; and of course, being born again, their faith and hope are all in Christ. These all wait for him in the sense of Hebrews 9:28.
There are, sad to say, many thousands of true believers who have not yet fully entered into the great fact that their own sins are forever gone in Christ's death. Yet they once learned their lost, guilty condition; and threw themselves, like the publican of Luke 18, upon the mercy of God; and their hope is in Christ, though that hope be not yet blossomed out into confident assurance. So they are Christ's, and in the sweep of Divine grace, they are included. There are those also who, through personal failure, or from listening to weak, ignorant preaching, are spiritually poor and wretched: yet their hope is in Christ. Thousands of backslidden ones, too, belong to Christ. Think of him of 1 Corinthians 5:1, and 1 Corinthians 11:21!
In 1 Corinthians 1:7, just quoted in the footnote, to those "waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ", there follows the Promise, "Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." But though they would be finally unreprovable," Paul at once sets out to reprove them! Yet these members of Christ's Body, of the "church of God," (1:2), called "babes in Christ" (3:1), are said to be "waiting for Christ," for His coming again.
We do not say these things to excuse ignorance, spiritual poverty, backsliding, or sin of any kind, but the contrary. Nothing but grace could write the Corinthian epistles! Grace is for those who need it, as did they, and as do we, both in our walk, and in our judgment of others. Remember, you who deem that only a peculiar, "consecrated", "overcoming", "devoted" few are meant in Hebrews 9:28, that Paul did not threaten these carnal babes in Christ in Corinth with exclusion from the Rapture. He said,
"We all shall not sleep, but WE shall ALL be changed ... The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and WE shall be changed ... Thanks be to God, Who GIVETH US the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast" (1 Cor. 15:52-58).
Blessed are they that are saying with Paul, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing"; who have found that the law of life makes free from the law of sin and death. These, if true, are tender, and ready to weep over others, as was Paul.
Christ shall appear a second time ... to them that wait for Him--that is, then, to all His own.
*The "partial rapture" people refer to the "overcomers" of Rev. 2 and 3 as the only ones to be raptured. But God sets forth who are the overcomers, when the New Creation comes: Rev. 21:6, 7: "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son." It is plain that all that are born of God "overcome," for the following verse says, "But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." Only two classes: those who have God and are His children; and, on the other hand, the eightfold list of the eternally lost!
In a sense, Chapter 9:24-28 sums up the whole book of Hebrews. For we have here first, the Person of Christ, entered into the Holy Place above. Then, His priesthood, "now to appear before the face of God for us." Then, the finality of His one offering: Once at the consummation of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And lastly, His second coming, apart from sin. These are the great themes of the exhortation TO THE HEBREWS.
Erewhile I reasoned of Thy truth,
I searched with toil and care;
From morn to night I tilled my field,
And yet my field was bare.
There lie my books--for all I sought
My heart possesses now.
The words are sweet that tell Thy love,
The love itself art Thou.
One line I read--and then no more--
I close the book to see
No more the symbol and the sign,
But Christ revealed to me.
And thus my worship is, delight--
My work, to see His Face,
With folded hands and silent lips
Within His Holy place.
I sit an infant at His feet
Where moments teach me more
Than all the toil, and all the books
Of all the ages hoar.
I sought the truth, and found but doubt--
I wandered far abroad;
I hail the truth already found
Within the heart of God.
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 9". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter