[This is the tenth section of a paper I wrote for the Great Plains Pastors' Conference (of Circuits 7, 8, & 9) which is titled Notes on Reading the Letter to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9. It was delivered at Bethany Lutheran College on Wednesday, May 25th
τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν]
The earthly tabernacle was made on the pattern of the actual court in heaven, with the Son of God as the High Priest, the temple, the altar. (8:1-5) This First (Old) Covenant was established to teach the Promise that access to the presence of God was only possible through the life-blood. Nothing sinful can live before the presence of God. The First Covenant was established to keep the people marked for that promise through ritual/liturgy—this Divine Service. And it was to be fulfilled and set aside when the New (Second) Covenant was established by the Incarnate Son of God (8:7-13)
Hearkening To The Ordinances of the Earthly Sanctuary: v. 1-5
Εἶχε μὲν οὖν ἡ πρώτη
τό τε ἅγιον κοσμικόν.
Then indeed, even the first covenant had
ordinances of divine service
and the earthly sanctuary.
σκηνὴ γὰρ κατεσκευάσθη
ἐν ᾗ ἥ τε λυχνία
καὶ ἡ τράπεζα
καὶ ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων,
ἥτις λέγεται Ἅγια·
For a tabernacle was prepared:
the first part,
in which was the lampstand,
and the showbread,
which is called the sanctuary;
μετὰ δὲ τὸ δεύτερον καταπέτασμα σκηνὴ
ἡ λεγομένη Ἅγια Ἁγίων,
and behind the second veil,
the part of the tabernacle
which is called the Holiest of All,
χρυσοῦν ἔχουσα θυμιατήριον
καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης
περικεκαλυμμένην πάντοθεν χρυσίῳ,
ἐν ᾗ στάμνος χρυσῆ
ἔχουσα τὸ μάννα
καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος Ἀαρὼν ἡ βλαστήσασα
καὶ αἱ πλάκες τῆς διαθήκης,
which had the golden censer
and the ark of the covenant
overlaid on all sides with gold,
in which were the golden pot
that had the manna,
Aaron’s rod that budded,
and the tablets of the covenant;
ὑπεράνω δὲ αὐτῆς
κατασκιάζοντα τὸ ἱλαστήριον·
περὶ ὧν οὐκ ἔστιν νῦν λέγειν κατὰ μέρος.
and above it
were the cherubim of glory
overshadowing the mercy seat.
Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
From v. 2 σκηνὴ γὰρ κατεσκευάσθη “For a tabernacle was prepared.” This theme is repeated with reference to Christ in 10:5 Θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ ἠθέλησας, σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι·“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” Ps 40 is used to show that this meaning was intended and proclaimed in the Old Covenant Divine Service. Thus John states of the Incarnation: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας·”And the Word became flesh and tabernacled with us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the Onlybegotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Tabernacle was prepared:
There is an outer and an inner place. The outer is veiled from the inner. The veil marks the division between where a sinner can stand and where a sinner cannot enter. This construction of the אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד Tabernacle/Temple under the Old Covenant is a liturgical enactment of Gn 3:22-24. Man cannot be in the presence of God, the Tree of Life. A barrier was erected and guarded by cherubim with a flaming sword to prevent mankind from entering the Sanctuary, to protect sinful man from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever as aliens from God.
Again the Sacrament of the New Covenant is a direct fulfillment of the Promise made to mankind in the curse on Satan. The exile from Eden and access through the veil to the Son of God is granted only through the shedding of life-blood.
The author of Hebrews assumes familiarity with the liturgical structure of the Tabernacle/Temple and the teaching about their functions. Today we cannot assume any familiarity with these.
All the articles of the Divine Service surround the Sanctuary, and surround the Ark of the Covenant. The purpose of the Ark was to hold the Written Word of God. This is the focal point of the Divine Service. The Word was to be taught. The Promise expounded. The testimonies to that Word (the staff of Aaron, the manna) bore witness to the truth of the Word. The heavenly figures of cherubim bearing witness to the fact that this Word is not of this World but from the throne of God Himself.
But to access to the Word was represented in four stages: 1) Outside the Tabernacle, 2) Within the Outer Court, 3) Within the Inner Court, 4) Within the Sanctuary.
The entire Tabernacle opened to the East, to the rising sun. This simple liturgical element teaches not only about the Creator of light and of the Sun, but of the title He bears as Oriens, Morning Star, Sunrise. This confession is made beautifully in Is 60:18-20. It is a confession of faith in the Resurrection of Christ on the 8th Day—the Sunday of the New Covenant. This is tied directly to Circumcision and entrance from the outside to the Outer Court.
Outside the Tabernacle is the world. Believers are sinners who live in the world, and they are aliens and saints who interact with the world outside the gate of the Tabernacle. The world consists of our neighbors. And it is this outside world that needs the grace of God. The writer to the Hebrews emphasized how the Divine-Human God came to the world to redeem a world unable to enter His presence. Outside is where the bodies of the sacrifices were burned. And while the Tabernacle was built on the pattern of the Son of God in heaven, that Son used the Tabernacle to show how He would come into the world. The Tabernacle was never instituted to be our enduring home or city of God's elect.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. [He 12:13-14]
A white linen fence/curtain surrounded the Outer Court separating it from the world. There could be no casual intrusion to the Outer Court or into the Divine Service God rendered there for His people. The whiteness of the linen barrier was a constant reminder of the purity and holiness of what was inside in contrast to the dirty world outside.
Within the Outer Court is the calling and gathering of those who hearken to the Word of God. This is the court of Bronze. Access was granted only for the circumcised—those who had received the Promise of the Seed of Abraham with the mark on their reproductive organ. They were to be circumcised on the 8th day, the first day of the week of their New Creation. And even with this there was still the requirement of blood sacrifice and baptism. The bronze altar for the burnt offering מִזְבַּ֣ח הָעֹלָ֑ה was first, then the bronze basin כִּיּ֥וֹר נְחֹ֛שֶׁת .
The bronze altar מִזְבַּ֣ח הָעֹלָ֑ה was the center of God's grace distributing forgiveness to the people.
'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.' [Lv 17:11]
Everyone who hearkened to God's Law could hear the Gospel at this altar through this Divine Service.
The bronze basin כִּיּ֥וֹר נְחֹ֛שֶׁת stood at the entrance to the Inner Court. According to Ex 20:17-21 only those men with a call to be priest (sons of Aaron) could enter the Inner Court, and for this they needed to be baptized (washed). They also needed to be baptized when exiting the Inner Court.
There were two basic kinds of baptisms at the כִּיּ֥וֹר נְחֹ֛שֶׁת. The first was upon ordination into the priesthood. In Ex 40:11-16 we learn that after Aaron and the Priests received this full washing, they were dressed in the righteousness of God with the robes of the priestly service. This particular baptism was done only once at their ordination. And so also the Christ subjected Himself to this ordinance by the hand of the last Prophet of the Old Covenant [Mt 3:15]. [cf also 1 Pe 2:4-10]
The second kind of baptism was of hands and feet for the daily service in the Inner Court and Holy of Holies. Only the priests were washed. [compare the foot washing Jn 13, “after the supper had ended” i.e. after the giving of the New Covenant/the Lord's Supper.]
Within the Inner Court (Sanctuary) stood the liturgical tools made of Gold. On the right hand (North) was the Table הַשֻּׁלְחָן for the לֶחֶם פָּנִים Showbread/Bread of the Presence [Ex 25:23-30]. 12 loaves were placed there, one representing each tribe of the sons of Israel. The setting out of fresh loaves was part of the Sabbath Day service [Lv 25:23-30]. The Kehathites בני קהת בן לוי would bring fresh loaves on each Sabbath, the Priests were to consume the loaves from the previous week [1 Chr 9:32]. Thus, they were the presence of these tribes before God.
The Golden Lampstand מְנֹרַ֖ת זָהָ֣ב טָה֑וֹר [Ex 25:31-40] was one lamp with 7 lights. These were never to go out [Lv 24:2]. The Menorah stood on the left hand (South) as one enters the Sanctuary. It was to be tended twice a day [Ex 30:7]. These seven lights were the only light in the Sanctuary. While the imagery of branches used in the design is common for Christ [Is 4:2; 11:1] and the symbolical use of Light as representing the Christ's presence is also common [Is 49:6], there is another Biblical understanding of the meaning of the Menorah. That is, it represents the New Covenant Church that would come to be [Rv 1:20ff].
With the Old Covenant Church represented on the one side and the New Covenant Church represented on the other, in the middle, blocking the way before the Veil stood the Golden Altar of Incense מִזְבֵּ֖חַ מִקְטַ֣ר קְטֹ֑רֶת. Here, before the veil הַפָּרֹ֔כֶת אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־אֲרֹ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֑ת, stood an altar that would be daily sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering, and twice a day incense would be offered on it. These are both a sweet smelling aroma before God and liturgically they are the prayers of God's saints, both of the Old and New Covenants [Rv 5:8; 8:3-4].
Two other things to note: First: Old Covenant or New Covenant-Prayer is only for saints and only saints can pray. Prayer comes after faith, after circumcision, after baptism, after the forgiveness of sins in Sacrifice or Sacrament. It is the holy response of faith. And the prayer of God's people is there in the presence of God at the veil, at the gateway to Eden. The aroma of the incense comes before God, as does prayer through faith in Christ.
Second: This is as far as the regular priest could go. Only the High Priest was allowed beyond the altar, past prayer beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies. And then, only once a year. This Divine Service will be the focus of the next verses.
The Veil הַפָּרֹֽכֶת is representative of the Body of Christ in His Incarnation [He 10:20]. The veil is access to the presence of God. And that is what the Holy of Holies was designed to represent.
Within the Holy of Holies קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים stood in darkness. It contained only one thing. The Ark of the Covenant אֲרֹ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֑ת. It was a gold box. It held a jar of Manna, Aaron's staff (which had budded), the two stone tablets of the Law, and the books of the Covenant. The lid was made with the shape of two cherubim facing each other with wingtips outstretched to the center. The surface of the covering on the lid was called הַכַּפֹּ֗רֶת אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־הָ֣עֵדֻ֔ת “the covering which is on the Testimony,” τὸ ἱλαστήριον the “Mercy Seat.” Here is where God would manifest His presence for the people [Lv 16:2; 1 Sm 4:4; 2 Sm 6:2; Ps 80:1].
God's Written Word is at the heart of everything. But the sinful human High-Priest could only enter this space one time a year.
Hearkening To The Day of Atonement יוֹם כִּפּוּר, v. 6-10
The Old Covenant Divine Service:
Τούτων δὲ οὕτως κατεσκευασμένων,
εἰς μὲν τὴν πρώτην σκηνὴν διὰ παντὸς εἰσίασιν οἱ ἱερεῖς τὰς λατρείας ἐπιτελοῦντες,
Now when these things had been thus prepared,
the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the Divine services.
εἰς δὲ τὴν δευτέραν
ἅπαξ τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ μόνος ὁ ἀρχιερεύς,
οὐ χωρὶς αἵματος,
ὃ προσφέρει ὑπὲρ ἑαυτοῦ
καὶ τῶν τοῦ λαοῦ ἀγνοημάτων,
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year,
not without blood,
which he offered for himself
and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;
The Meaning of the Old Covenant Divine Service:
τοῦτο δηλοῦντος τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου,
μήπω πεφανερῶσθαι τὴν τῶν ἁγίων ὁδὸν
ἔτι τῆς πρώτης σκηνῆς ἐχούσης στάσιν,
This is what the Holy Spirit is indicating:
that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest
while the first tabernacle was still standing.
ἥτις παραβολὴ εἰς τὸν καιρὸν τὸν ἐνεστηκότα,
καθ’ ἣν δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίαι προσφέρονται
μὴ δυνάμεναι κατὰ συνείδησιν
τελειῶσαι τὸν λατρεύοντα,
It was symbolic for the present time
in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered
which cannot make with regard to conscience
the one who performed the divine service perfect,
μόνον ἐπὶ βρώμασιν
καὶ διαφόροις βαπτισμοῖς,
μέχρι καιροῦ διορθώσεως ἐπικείμενα.
concerned only with foods
and fleshly ordinances imposed
until the time of reformation.
The author interprets the Divine Service of the Old Covenant. He describes the service in vv6-7 and expounds the meaning in vv. 8-10.
V. 6 points out that the author is drawing a distinction between the every-day service and this unique, once-a-year service performed only by the High-Priest. In contrast to the rest of the Tabernacle, the sinful High-Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year, at God's command in the Written Word. Because that Old Covenant High-Priest was a sinner, he needed not only to have a blood sacrifice for the congregation he served, but also for himself. The argument is this: If the Old Covenant sacrifices were meant to be final and sufficient for sin, then the priest could have done the job once and not needed to go back year after year. Since they were not complete once they were performed the first time, they are not designed to be permanent. Rather they point to something else that is permanent.
The Old Covenant meal ( לֶחֶם פָּנִים), the washing/baptism, the preaching, the whole Divine Service pointed to something new and better from God. It did this through the very fact that it μὴ δυνάμεναι κατὰ συνείδησιν τελειῶσαι “it was not able to perfect the conscience”. Τελειῶσαι in this sense is not moral perfection, but the idea of completing or making whole, without blemish. Thus, with respect to the life and work of Christ, He Himself utters the sentence on the Old Covenant Divine Service: ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Τετέλεσται [Jn 19:30]
Through this liturgical design, the Holy Spirit indicated that the tabernacle and earthly service were not the solution, but rather they pointed to the real solution:
τοῦτο δηλοῦντος τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου,
the Holy Spirit indicating this,μήπω πεφανερῶσθαι τὴν τῶν ἁγίων ὁδὸν
that the way into the Holiest of All was not made manifest
ἔτι τῆς πρώτης σκηνῆς ἐχούσης στάσιν
while yet the first tabernacle was still standing.
The Old (First) Covenant was not designed to answer the problem of sin. It was designed to proclaim the problem of Sin and to proclaim the Promise of the Son of God's Incarnation for our redemption.
At this point drills into the center and focus of the whole Epistle. He has carefully expounded several different ways in which God spoke in times past to the fathers.
ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ
in these last days He has spoken to us by means of the Son...
Hearkening To The Son's Fulfillment: v. 11-14
Χριστὸς δὲ παραγενόμενος
ἀρχιερεὺς τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν
διὰ τῆς μείζονος καὶ τελειοτέρας σκηνῆς
τοῦτ’ ἔστιν οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως,
But Christ came
as High Priest of the good things to come,
with the greater and more perfect tabernacle
not made with hands,
that is, not of this creation.
οὐδὲ δι’ αἵματος
διὰ δὲ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος,
εἰσῆλθεν ἐφάπαξ εἰς τὰ ἅγια,
αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος.
Not with the blood
but with His own blood
He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
The Old Covenant Tabernacle was patterned on the presence of the Son of God in heaven. The Son of God became His own Tabernacle through the Incarnation. The blood of Christ is
εἰ γὰρ τὸ αἷμα τράγων καὶ ταύρων καὶ σποδὸς δαμάλεως ῥαντίζουσα τοὺς κεκοινωμένους ἁγιάζει πρὸς τὴν τῆς σαρκὸς καθαρότητα,
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,
πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ,
ὃς διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν ἄμωμον τῷ θεῷ,
καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν ἡμῶν ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι.
how much more shall the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,
cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hearken to the comparison of the value of the blood of creatures in comparison with the life-blood of the Divine-Human Eternal Son of God.
Hearkening To The Death Of The Mediator: v. 15-17
Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο
διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης ἐστίν,
ὅπως θανάτου γενομένου
εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῶν ἐπὶ τῇ πρώτῃ διαθήκῃ παραβάσεων τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν λάβωσιν οἱ κεκλημένοι τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας.
And for this reason
He is the Mediator of the new covenant,
by means of death,
for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant,
that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
ὅπου γὰρ διαθήκη,
θάνατον ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου·
For where there is a testament,
there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
διαθήκη γὰρ ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία,
ἐπεὶ μήποτε ἰσχύει ὅτε ζῇ ὁ διαθέμενος.
For a testament is in force after men are dead,
since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
The New Covenant in His Blood is established by the shedding of His blood. The comparison here is between the normal everyday “last will and testament.” The inheritors cannot benefit from the testament/covenant unless the maker of the covenant dies.
Hearkening To The Blood Of The Covenants: v. 18-23
ὅθεν οὐδὲ ἡ πρώτη χωρὶς αἵματος ἐγκεκαίνισται·
Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.
λαληθείσης γὰρ πάσης ἐντολῆς κατὰ τὸν νόμον ὑπὸ Μωϋσέως παντὶ τῷ λαῷ,
λαβὼν τὸ αἷμα τῶν μόσχων
καὶ ἐρίου κοκκίνου
καὶ ὑσσώπου αὐτό τε τὸ βιβλίον
καὶ πάντα τὸν λαὸν ἐράντισεν,
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law,
he took the blood of calves and goats,
and sprinkled both the book itself
and all the people,
Τοῦτο τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης
ἧς ἐνετείλατο πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὁ θεός·
“This is the blood of the covenant
which God has commanded you.”
καὶ τὴν σκηνὴν δὲ
καὶ πάντα τὰ σκεύη τῆς λειτουργίας τῷ αἵματι ὁμοίως ἐράντισεν.
Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.
καὶ σχεδὸν ἐν αἵματι πάντα καθαρίζεται κατὰ τὸν νόμον,
καὶ χωρὶς αἱματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις.
And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood,
and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
Ἀνάγκη οὖν τὰ μὲν ὑποδείγματα τῶν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς τούτοις καθαρίζεσθαι,
αὐτὰ δὲ τὰ ἐπουράνια κρείττοσι θυσίαις παρὰ ταύτας.
Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these,
but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Just as in every day life we see that the last will and testament/covenant can only be put into effect through the death of the one making the will, so the Old Covenant was also established through death and the shedding of life-blood. Even the individual tools used in the Divine Service of the Old Covenant were covered with blood. They were copies of the things that really exist in heaven. The Son of God is that reality. His Incarnation is both the source and fulfillment of the pattern from which the earthly Tabernacle, its rituals, and tools were made.
Hearkening To The Power of Christ's Blood: v. 24-28
οὐ γὰρ εἰς χειροποίητα εἰσῆλθεν ἅγια Χριστός,
ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν,
ἀλλ’ εἰς αὐτὸν τὸν οὐρανόν,
νῦν ἐμφανισθῆναι τῷ προσώπῳ τοῦ θεοῦ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν·
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands,
which are copies of the true,
but into heaven itself,
now to appear in the presence of God for us;
οὐδ’ ἵνα πολλάκις προσφέρῃ ἑαυτόν,
ὥσπερ ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς εἰσέρχεται εἰς τὰ ἅγια κατ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἐν αἵματι ἀλλοτρίῳ,
not that He should offer Himself often,
as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—
ἐπεὶ ἔδει αὐτὸν πολλάκις παθεῖν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου·
ἅπαξ ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων
εἰς ἀθέτησιν ἁμαρτίας διὰ τῆς θυσίας αὐτοῦ πεφανέρωται.
He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world;
once at the end of the ages,
He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
καὶ καθ’ ὅσον ἀπόκειται τοῖς ἀνθρώποις
μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο κρίσις,
And as it is appointed for men
to die once,
but after this the judgment,
οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός,
ἅπαξ προσενεχθεὶς εἰς τὸ πολλῶν ἀνενεγκεῖν ἁμαρτίας,
ἐκ δευτέρου χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας ὀφθήσεται τοῖς αὐτὸν ἀπεκδεχομένοις εἰς σωτηρίαν.
was offered once to bear the sins of many.
To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Christ is the genuine source, the genuine fulfillment. The repetition of sacrifices and ceremonies under the Old Covenant and ceremonies is done, fulfilled. Because He IS יהוה He does not need to repeat the sacrifice. Now His life-blood is given to us until His return.