The Real Deal

Posted: June 28, 2009 in Hebrews

Hebrews 9:1-14, “The Real Deal”

I’m not a big art fan (certainly not a connoisseur), but I can appreciate good work…and I especially enjoy paintings with a Christian theme. One of Rembrandt’s most famous pieces is “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” I had heard of it in the past & seen pictures of it – but I never truly appreciated it until I saw the original painting hanging in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The way the museum is set up, you can walk right up to the painting, look at the brush strokes & see the detail…amazing. There was no comparison from a scan in a book to the real deal.

After all this discussion about the various priesthoods in the book of Hebrews, what the Holy Spirit (through the author) is showing us today is that Jesus is the real deal! He is the true High Priest Who performs the true service in the true tabernacle of God…all that came before Him was like a scan of a painting. All the Levitical priests were meant to ultimately point to Christ Jesus.

‘Man, this is a lot of discussion about priests. Is this really all that important?’ If you came from a Jewish background in the 1st century, the answer would have been so obvious, the question wouldn’t ever have been asked. To them, of course it’s important! Everything about their relationship with God hinged upon the acceptable service of the priests. It didn’t matter what sacrifices an individual wanted to offer to God, if there was no way of offering it…and that was the primary function of the priest. So the author of Hebrews takes a lot of time to dig into the fact that Jesus is indeed our High Priest, that He is eminently qualified for the position, and that His service is perfectly sufficient for our every need – past, present, and future.

We’ve not only seen that Jesus’ priesthood is of a superior order than the other high priests, but the covenant He mediates is better than the covenant the other high priests ministered within… Now the author of Hebrews turns to the place and acts of priestly service. There was definitely an earthly version set up by God, but it pointed to the heavenly version where Jesus served & Jesus is far superior in every respect.

Hebrews 9:1-15 (NKJV)
1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.

A. What did the 1st covenant have? (1) Ordinances of divine service, (2) Earthly sanctuary. Gives us an outline for the chapter:
__a. Vss. 2-5 describe the earthly sanctuary (the tabernacle – PIC). Author of Hebrews concentrates on the Tabernacle here rather than the temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, or Herod (or Ezekiel, for that matter!) because the Tabernacle is what God had ordained through the Law of Moses. The temples are all based upon God’s original design in the Tabernacle.
__b. Vss. 6-10 describe the ordinances of divine service…
__c. Vs. 11 describes the heavenly sanctuary…
__d. Vss. 12-28 describe the heavenly divine ordinances…

B. The point? If the 1st covenant had these items/components detailed out & addressed, we can be assured that the new covenant will also address these things as well.

2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;

A. The 1st part of the Tabernacle was the holy place – “called the sanctuary.” [PIC] Literally, “holies.” This was the place separated beyond the courtyard for the priests to enter on a daily basis in ministry. It was sanctified away from sin, and for the use of God & His priests. What made it holy? God…that’s it. Otherwise, it’s just a dark room with a lamp in it & some bread. God declared it to be holy, and so it was.
__a. That’s what God did with every born-again believer in Jesus Christ! Through the righteousness that Jesus gives to us (in exchange for our sin), God “justifies” us – He declares us to be righteous in His sight. Thus we are both sinner AND saint, because we have been set apart for God’s use & glory, and have been declared to be holy by none other than the word of God…

B. Several components were included in the sanctuary. You can read about the various details in Exodus 25-30. The design of every single piece of furniture both inside and outside of the tabernacle was given to Moses by God, and it was constructed exactly according to this vision & the written word of God. All of it points to Christ in various ways – which is exactly what God wanted to do, as we’ll see in vs. 9.
__a. Lampstand: Made of a talent of pure gold (over 98 pounds worth!), this was not a candlestick, but a true lamp. There was one main lampstand, and 3 branches going out to either side (7 altogether) – fueled by oil, and trimmed on a daily basis. This was the only source of light in the tabernacle itself…and considering this was a windowless structure covered by several layers of animal skin & cloth on the roof, it would have been pretty dark inside. [] Jesus is the light of the world! Not empowered (fueled) with anything dealing with mankind, but with the oil of the Holy Spirit of God…
__b. Table & Showbread: It’s difficult to separate the two, as the whole purpose of the table was to showcase the showbread. Like the wall-boards of the tabernacle itself (and the ark, the incense altar, etc), the table was made out of acacia wood & overlaid with pure gold. The showbread was also called the “bread of presence” as it not only represented the presence of the 12 tribes of Israel before the Lord, but it was eaten in the presence of the Lord by the priests. [] Jesus is the bread of life! We partake of Him solely because of the grace of God…

3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,

A. The thing separating the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies? The veil. God prescribed it to be made with blue, purple, and scarlet thread, woven into linen, with artistic designs of cherubim on it (Exo 26:31). This separated the final third of the structure from the rest… The author of Hebrews calls this the “second veil”… The 1st veil was the curtain leading into the sanctuary itself.

B. The 2nd room: “the Holiest of All” or (more literally in the Greek) the Holy of Holies. Why was it so holy? Because this was the earthly representation of the throne room of God…this was the place where the shekinah glory of God dwelt among men.

C. Why the need for the separation between the two? Because God is holy. Not just “holy”, but “holy, Holy, HOLY” (Rev 4:8)… He is pre-eminently holy. For a sinful person to step into the presence of God’s perfect holiness outside of His invitation & covering of sin is to invite death. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29) – who can withstand His holy wrath?
__a. For Christians, does the veil remain? Gloriously, not! The separation is gone in Christ Jesus! Matthew 27:50-53 (50) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (51) Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, (52) and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (53) and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. [] In Jesus, the curse is reversed, death is conquered, sin is paid for, and we are given an invitation to come boldly before the throne of God to find mercy in our time of need!

4 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; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

A. [PIC] For those of you familiar with the layout of the tabernacle (or looking at the diagram on the screen), you might have noticed a difficulty here regarding the golden censer. The actual altar of incense was located inside the sanctuary; not the Holy of Holies… (re: Exo 30:6) So was the author of Hebrews mistaken? Obviously not – he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… … The altar of incense was kept in the sanctuary, but the golden censer was used in the Holy of Holies anytime the high priest entered. The cloud of incense was brought in as a barrier between the priest and the ark of the covenant & mercy seat (Lev 16:13)…utmost care was given to demonstrate the ultimate holiness of God.
__a. Incense typically symbolizes prayer (Ps 141:2, Rev 5:8) – as we’ve already seen, Jesus is our intercessor! He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25).

B. The only other item ever brought into the Holiest of All? The only item that remained in the Holiest of Holies? The “ark of the covenant” topped by the mercy seat of God. This is what was topped with the “cherubim of glory” (depictions of angels) & what Indiana Jones apparently found. 🙂 An ark is simply a box – this was a box made of acacia wood & overlaid with gold, dedicated unto the Lord & in many ways symbolized the very presence of God among them. What did it contain?
__a. The pot of manna: This was the Hebrews “daily bread” while in the wilderness, miraculously provided for by God & miraculously taken away. Only this one pot remained, without any rot in the ark for years. [God’s provision…]
__b. Aaron’s rod: When Korah & his companions rebelled against Moses & Aaron in the wilderness, God demonstrated His own choice of a high priest by miraculously causing Aaron’s rod (there was one for each tribe of Israel) to bud leaves & almonds (Num 16-17). [God’s sovereignty…]
__c. 10 Commandments: This was the most famous of its contents & where the ark got its name. When God gave the law to Moses, He had written it upon two tablets of stone with His very finger. Moses broke the original two tablets upon seeing the golden calf, but God gave new tablets that were placed inside the ark (Exo 34:1). [God’s righteousness…]
____i. By the time the ark was brought into Solomon’s temple, the two tablets of the Commandments were the only things that remained inside. We don’t know what happened to the other things along the way (1 Kings 8:9).

C. We’ve spoken in a little detail; the author of Hebrews just mentioned these things in brief. Why? He was writing to Jewish Christians, so they surely knew the background of these items well & didn’t need to review it. Plus, the point of mentioning it was not to give a lengthy academic lecture about the value of each item, but to set up a comparison between the earthly & the heavenly…

6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.

A. This things had to be prepared (set in order in the tabernacle) 1st, before any sacrifices took place. The priests could not perform their ministry before the Lord if the tabernacle had been set up incorrectly. As is emphasized throughout the NT & OT, we can only approach God by His invitation on His terms (by His grace), and this was the method by which God ordained it with the Hebrews.

B. That said, this comprised their daily duties. Keeping the lampstand lit – maintaining the altar of incense – attending to the showbread every Sabbath day. All of this took place inside of the 1st part – the sanctuary. See vs. 7…

7 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;

A. The service inside the Holy of Holies was reserved for the Day of Atonement, when things had to take place in a certain order & condition:
__a. The “high priest” went in: Not any priest – certainly not any Levite or anyone else from the nation of Israel. Only the high priest could enter into that place, and the people weren’t even sure he was qualified. Apparently, they had a celebration every year when he came out, simply because he was still alive.
__b. “Alone”: The high priest could not be accompanied by anyone. He was alone in the presence of the holiness of God atoning for sin. Not unlike Jesus when He went into the grave alone, atoning for the sin of the world… No one could help Him in the effort; the work of Jesus alone satisfies the righteous wrath of God.
__c. “Once a year”: There was a specific time the high priest could enter – utmost care had to be paid attention to it, as he only had one opportunity to get it right.
__d. “Not without blood”: On one hand, this would seem to be obvious, because the very reason the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies was to pour the blood upon the Mercy Seat of God for atonement. But not only was this the reason he entered the room; it was the basis by which he entered the room. He did not dare enter it without blood, because otherwise his sins would be glaringly present.
__e. “for himself”: This is a crucial difference between the high priests of ancient Israel & the superior High Priest Christ Jesus & one the author of Hebrews comes back to again & again. The Israelite high priest was a sinful human being just like anyone else – and he needed the blood of the sacrifice to cover his own sins.
__f. “for the people”: This was why he was commanded by God to enter. Someone needed to bring the atonement on behalf of the people. That someone was the high priest.
__g. For sins done in “ignorance”: It’s not only the sins we know about that matter to God; it’s also the sins we don’t. Just like with the State of Texas, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just because we think we can claim that we didn’t know (even though the law is written on our hearts – Rom 2:15), that doesn’t make our rebellion any less of a sin against Almighty God. Sins need to be dealt with; and they are only dealt with through the blood of atonement.

B. Great care was taken in all of this – no one went about the ministry of the Lord in a harey-scarey method. And if this much care was taken in the earthly sanctuary, how much more in regards to the heavenly sacrifice? Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies in His 1st coming to a “T”… … Jesus always does exactly what God the Father had Him to do…

8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

A. What exactly does the Holy Spirit indicate? That access to the Holy of Holies was completely restricted during the old covenant. The average Israelite may have had a wonderful devotion to the Lord, but he didn’t dare think about barging into the Tabernacle, much less the most Holy place. King Uzziah is a case in point! He obviously had a devotion to the Lord & did what was right in God’s sight (2 Chr 26:4) – but he went too far & tried to take part in the priestly service. 2 Chronicles 26:18-19 (18) And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.” (19) Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. [] He was a leper till the day he died. As bad as that was, imagine what would have happened if he had tried to enter into the presence of the ark!
__a. It was restricted! That “way” (path) was not made manifest to the general people of God. It was closed off for a reason: the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ had not yet been made. Only when that was completed was the veil rent in two…

B. BTW – Who inspired the text of the OT? The Holy Spirit. Just like the NT…

9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

A. All these things were always symbolic. The sacrifices of the law cannot make the priest perfect…it could not bring complete atonement and forgiveness to the priest or the people. And that kind of perfection is exactly what we need. Not merely moral perfection for the future (when we are made new creations in Christ), but a perfect sacrifice for the past, that our sins could be completely atoned for & done away with.

B. ‘So why did God command them? Was it a waste of time?’ No! Ultimately, all this ritual had a purpose: to teach God’s people about God’s glory until “the time of reformation” to when it pointed ultimately to Jesus Christ…until that point, the conscience of the priest (and the parishoner) was never truly cleansed because the nature of the tabernacle demonstrated & taught that the sacrifice was never truly sufficient. “Symbolic” = παραβολε “parable”…they had a purpose of teaching. Teaching what? Teaching the people about Christ Jesus! Teaching them about the holiness of God, the need for atonement, the insufficiency of animal sacrifice, and the promise of God that He would provide the perfect sacrifice in His own chosen Lamb, His only begotten Son.

11 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.

A. “But”: great conjunction! Jesus is diametrically opposed to those high priests… The old priest could not be made perfect under the law, but Jesus is drastically different…

B. Jesus ministers as our High Priest over what? “the good things to come…” Other translations say, “the good things that have come…” – there’s a bit of debate in the manuscripts. Either rendering is obviously true: Christ is our High Priest now & in the future. We have “good things” now in our justification from sin, our relationship with God the Father, and new life in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. We have good things to come in our inheritance in Christ, eternity in His presence, and a guarantee of those promises through His blood. We have only just begun to understand the results of our new covenant in Christ; but one day we will see Him face-to-face & we’ll realize the fullness of it as we worship at His feet.

C. Where does Jesus serve as High Priest? Not at the tabernacle made by hands. That was just the type – just the shadow. That was the teaching illustration. Jesus serves in the real deal; the “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (tent). How did it all work? See vs. 12…

12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

A. The old high priests entered with blood; they were forbidden to enter without it. Jesus also enters with blood; but His blood is far more precious than that of goats & calves. He entered the heavenly tabernacle “with His own blood.” We may not understand how every detail worked out on a spiritual level, but we can say with confidence that through the Cross, Jesus rent the veil in two, and His shed blood was the means by which He entered the true throne room of God Almighty. Whereas the Hebrew high priests entered the type & shadow by placing the blood upon the Mercy Seat on the ark, the blood of Jesus Christ was effectual in the true Holiest of places – where the cherubim weren’t mere statues, but living creatures continually surrounding God singing & proclaiming His holiness.

B. He entered “once for all”: This was all that was needed. Keep this in mind for the rest of Ch 9 & part of Ch 10 – it goes to show the value of the blood of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice was actually effective. It was the price that was required to be paid in order to satisfy the debt of sin. The blood of animals merely set aside the punishment; the blood of Jesus fulfilled it. This shows what the divine service of Christ actually accomplished: The old high priests obtained temporary atonement that needed to be renewed on a yearly basis. Jesus “obtained eternal redemption.” In the end, the only redemption that is truly redemption is that which is eternal…otherwise it’s probation.

13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 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?

A. How much better is the blood of Christ than the blood of bulls! God commanded the blood of bulls because it served a purpose…the temporary setting aside of sin. In fact, that’s the implication of the Hebrew word for atonement (a covering) – sin was merely covered over for the time being. But Jesus is far better & He accomplishes a far better purpose…we have been eternally redeemed, and our consciences are internally cleansed. This was something the law could never offer (vs. 9) – only Jesus truly makes us new creations, washes us by the water & the word, and purifies us from the inside out.

B. A result from this? We move “from dead works to serve the living God.” What a message of hope this would have been for the Jewish Christians reading this letter! No longer did they have to hope in shadows & types that did not truly accomplish what was needed in their lives regarding sin. In that respect, those rules & regulations were dead. Now because of the sole work of Christ Jesus, they can serve the living God with freedom – to worship Him in spirit and in truth!

C. How was Jesus offered?
__a. “through the eternal Spirit”: Some take this to be a reference to the work of the Trinity in salvation – demonstrating that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit when He offered Himself on the cross. That is undoubtedly true, but others see this reference to “Spirit” not as the Holy Spirit per se, but as a reference to Jesus’ eternal Person. Jesus was not compelled to go to the cross by any man (no one took His life from Him – John 10:18), but Jesus willingly went there out of obedience to His Father, for the glory of God, and His love for us.
__b. “without spot to God”: No sacrifice could be offered to God that wasn’t perfect. Lambs could have no spot nor blemish – otherwise it was an unacceptable sacrifice. Jesus is absolutely perfect! Tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. No spot of sin can (or was) ever found in Him – He is truly the acceptable sacrifice!

Christian, you can be sure of your salvation in Christ! It was paid for in full by the only Person who could pay for it, in the only place where it could be paid, with the only price that could be received for our debt.

A. Person: Jesus as our High Priest – the only One truly qualified to enter into the Holy of Holies…
B. Place: the true tabernacle of God. Not the earthly shadows made with human hands, but the real sanctuary built by God Himself…
C. Price: the spotless blood of Christ… We were not redeemed with gold, silver, or precious stones. We weren’t redeemed by the blood of unworthy bulls and goats. We were purchased out of the slavery of sin and death through the precious blood of the Messiah! The Son of God Himself…

Just like the Jewish Christians of the day, we can find ourselves putting our trust into dead works. Things not necessarily bad (and perhaps very good!), but never effective for our relationship with God. “I’m giving to the poor!” Amen! But are you trusting Christ? “I’m exercising spiritual gifts!” Praise God! But are you letting them be a substitute for your Savior? “I’m sharing the gospel!” May more join with you! But are you partaking of it yourself? There are many things about the Christian life that are valuable & worthwhile. But NONE of them are a replacement for Christ Himself. Be careful never to stray from the realization that your sins were truly paid for by the blood of Christ Jesus. It may be basic. It may be repetitive. But it is the foundation of your faith! And you can never dwell too much on that truth…it gives us cause to shout for joy, to lift our hands in praise, to worship our God, and to surrender our lives completely to Him in joyful response & sacrifice.

This is great news! Don’t let it pass you by. Too many people (esp. in the Bible belt) have heard this all their lives, and they just ignore it… But know this for a fact: you will not forever be able to ignore God. One day, you WILL see Him face-to-face in all of His terrible holiness. Will your sins be paid for? Will you have been made perfect in the sight of God? Or will you stand trembling in His presence, convicted of your own sin, knowing your judgment is absolutely deserved? Please know that God wants to save you. He desires that ALL men come to repentance and be saved. The gospel call has gone out to the whole world, including you. Don’t ignore it one more time and further harden yourself to the gospel…


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