HEBREWS Study Six 9: 1-12
In Hebrews chapter 8 the author began to summarize the first seven chapters of the epistle. In this chapter he demonstrated the superiority of Christ as a Great High Priest who did away with earthly High Priests as well as the old covenant that gave them their authority and purpose. Chapter 8 ends by telling us the old covenant was fulfilled and was fading away. We were shown a new covenant that provides us direct access to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Not only is the High Priest and the covenant new, but those who come to God through this covenant are also made new. Romans six tells us that the flesh (the natural man, or old man) was crucified with Christ. Under the Old Covenant the natural man was alive and it was contingent upon him to become righteous by obedience to the law. He failed because of the weakness of the flesh. In the New Covenant the “new man”(Eph. 4:24) is made righteous by obedience to the faith (Rom. 1:5; 15:26); which is to say trusting in the finished work of Christ.
In Chapter 9 the author now turns his attention to the temple, specifically the place of meeting, to show the superiority and far greater glory of the new man who is filled with the Holy Spirit and communes with God by grace through faith in the finished work of our Great High Priest.
To see the contrast between the old and new man, we will spend some time discussing the natural man and his means of approaching God. We will then consider the temple and its furniture as Hebrews 9 reveals it, and conclude with some comments about the new man.
First, we will recap what we have learned up to this point. The Book of Hebrews is pure theology. The author lays out a coherent and logical argument demonstrating by contrast the sacerdotal system instituted by Moses to the Excellency of Christ in everything and in every way. We have looked at the Mosaic Covenant and saw expressed in it the glory of God’s holiness. It was necessary to see that glory to understand how offensive sin is to God so we could understand the high price that was necessary for God to dwell among men without destroying them in his anger. It was necessary for the Law to be written so man could understand sin. This is all now being set in contrast because the old system pointed to the need for a conclusion it could not provide; it could not solved the problem of sin and death and enabled mankind to make peace with God.
In the examination of the mystery of the Kingdom of God we saw that God is sovereign over his entire creation; everything he created is part of his kingdom; and we have been brought back into right relationship to him in that kingdom. This is new.
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
What has vanishing away is not the promises to the patriarchs; it is the Law of Sin and Death and the sacerdotal system built around it. A sacerdotal system is based on a priesthood, altars and sacrifices. The Mosaic Law was sacerdotal. Paul tells us this law was added because of sin, but it is done away in Christ.
Religion for the Natural man
The religious impulse is sensual. Man seeks to provide the means for his access to God through codes and rules; through different means of disciplining or purging his body; through methodology and ritual; through euphoric feelings; or natural awe or inspiration which he elevates to spiritual significance by uses music, sexuality, mystical experiences, holy places and holy people (charismatic). These methods are used to try and satiate his need to feel blessed and right with the higher things he worships. For example, the natural man associates higher power and glory with his ability to procreate, and imagines sexual ecstasy to be equivalent with the presence or power of the gods. Romans chapter one and other passages demonstrate how commonly and often man incorporates sexual experience into his religious experiences and self-identity.
This is how the furniture of the natural man’s mind is arranged. What seems natural and right to him is often the way to death. Ancient temples were often filled with male and female prostitutes. The sexual experience, like drugs and other things are mistakenly considered to be transcendent. God called the Hebrews to be a holy people and to build a holy tabernacle to be set in contrast to those things, making the Hebrews a light in the world. Sadly because of their flesh they frequently imitated the carnality of the neighboring religions rather than living in holy obedience to God.
The Hebrew Temple was a tangible place where God met man. The whole world was filled with temples of one sort or another. People created holy places because it inspired awe and devotion. In the ancient history of man all religions were sacerdotal. The natural assumption of primitive cultures was that God or the god’s were easily offended and required some sort of sacrifices. God entered this historical reality by choosing the Hebrews as his people; giving them laws that reflected his character and a sacerdotal system that dealt with the problem of sin and death. God set a real model of the heavenly reality in the midst of all the pagan counterfeits.
It was early in man’s history that he developed a fear of spirits and the other world. These are not things the natural man intuits. Evolution would not have made the early man think in categories that were spiritual or otherworldly. He would have been immersed in the experiences of new life in this world. But what we see is that those seventy early human cultures that were closest to the flood (which was a judgment from God), feared the spiritual world and made sacrifices to placate what they interpreted as divine or demonic wrath.
The natural order was sacerdotal. Man needed a mediator. He built shrines to assuage the wrath of the spiritual things he feared.
The New Man That Made These Old Ways Obsolete
Christianity was the one successful counter against this mindset and it changed the world. But people fear change. We are reading in Hebrews that God has given them a new revelation in his Son and this has caused the old things to pass away. Throughout the New Testament we read about how Jewish Christians fought against this change and tried to blend the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. They are called Judaizers. Correcting this error was the central theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
This was not limited to the Jews. The Natural Man always seeks to play a part in his own righteousness and his impulse is to institutionalize any truth God reveals. He uses ritual to make himself feel worthy. So we find in Church history that many denominations have morphed into sacerdotal systems. The interior of their buildings are divided by a common area for common people and a holy area where the priest alone can approach God on the behalf of the common people. (1) Often these holy areas are considered to only be holy when a service is taking place or a particular holy object is present.
It is not uncommon for people to build what they call “the house of God” with or without those divisions that existed in the temple. The flesh is satisfied when it creates a “holy place” it can visit. Paul is emphatic that the believer is the temple of God. The preaching of the cross stands in contrast to man’s efforts to be holy or create holy sanctuaries or places.
The natural man likes tangible things. Aaron made a golden calf and said here is your god and they worshipped it. They didn’t want an invisible God so they took the tangible things in the Old Testament and changed them from the simple means which God created to allow them access to him; and made them the end (they pointed to themselves rather than God) and so became thing to be venerated. Aaron did not deny God; he made a visible representation of him (a violation of the First Commandment (second for Hebrews (2)). Similarly the Hebrews worshipped the means by which God delivered them. They worshiped the brass serpent (Num. 21:49; 2 Kings 18:4). They looked to the ark to give them victory in battle (1 Sam. 4:1-22). They considered that possessing the temple and the scripture was enough to make them special and even righteous (Rom. 2:12-29). What should have pointed to God took the place of God in their minds.
In the history of Christianity we read about relics and holy sites; pilgrimages and monument building (3).
It is Not Faith; it is the Object of Our Faith that Matters
The epistle of Hebrews tells us most of the Jews never developed faith as a result of the old system. All the trappings of religion became a system of mechanical works and ritual that were ends in themselves. They did not develop a trusting, seeking faith. In the New Covenant God has changed all that. We are told “Behold all things are new.”
2Co 5:7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight);
The Tabernacle served Israel’s need as the place of meeting in the Wilderness. Jerusalem became the center of Jewish religion, the holy city, when Solomon built the temple.
Jews were required once a year to go to Jerusalem and stand before the temple. These were pilgrimages. As they stood there looking at this huge temple they knew this was the place where God lived; they came here to the place of meeting; this was where their sins were covered.
It was the covenants God made with them, first through Abraham (unconditional) and then through the Mosaic Law (conditional) that separated them from all the people of the world. Those covenants from God made them the chosen people of God. The sacerdotal system was designed to address the problem of sin.
The Place of Meeting Became Empty
After the Babylonian Exile the Jews once again kept the feasts and gathered in Jerusalem even though the Holy of Holies was empty. The ark disappeared around 586 BC when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. This in itself should have been a sign of a need for something more. (4)
Early in his life Jesus considered the Temple to be his Father’s House even though the mercy seat was gone. When the Pharisees rejected him he spoke about the temple and said “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. At that point he was speaking of his own body. The way to the Heavenly Temple, the tent of meeting between man and God, was opened to all believers through his blood. That rendered the earthly temple obsolete.
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
In Chapter nine the author of the letter wants to make clear what is being removed. He will first describe the temple and its furniture in detail making it clear that this was a place of glory because God established it as a means for them to draw near to him.
Heb 9:1 ¶ Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
Heb 9:2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary (Holy Place).
Heb 9:3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
Heb 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
Heb 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly (in detail).
There was lots of detail in the Old Testament about the ark, but no living man had seen it for almost six hundred years.
In Chapter 9 there are 19 Old Testament references, many are in regard to this passage. The author is teaching Hebrew Christians how to read the Old Testament in light of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The author continues to refer to the tabernacle rather than the temple, because the tabernacle speaks of temporality.
In the Holy Place the candle stick was designed so that it reflected its light across the room onto the table where the twelve loaves were placed. There was one loaf for each tribe signifying God’s love for each tribe and his blessings (truth and providence) that shined upon them.
The author has not stopped to reminisce about the furniture or what each piece might mean; what he has laid out is the pathway to God in the old system and the fact that only a chosen few had access to it. This is the reason he states that the incense altar was inside the Holy of Holies. It was actually outside by the veil so that the smoke of the incense would go through the veil and fill the Holy of Holies. What he is describing is the function by which they approached God; the need for mediators (priests) and the need to for them to be holy if they were to be in God’s presence. Smoke also testified to the fact that their prayers reached the presence of God even though they were barred from his presence. The design always left the common Jew outside and dependent on others to access God on his behalf.
The tabernacle and later the temple both in their turn were the tent of meeting where God met with the Hebrews. In the first two studies we looked at how everything God instituted through Moses was done in a prescribed order. God would reject anything that failed to perfectly replicate what he prescribed. This was worship; it was a choreographed ritual. It was not creative or spontaneous. God set all the terms from design to execution.
He describes how they were to make all the objects in the Temple. It was necessary to continually purify the temple and everything in it because the chance of defiling it by contact with something or someone common or unclean was a real possibility.
The Temple and rituals testified to the holiness of God and built into that testimony were barriers that set limited access between man and God. The common man needed a mediator. Behind the first veil was a large room called the holy place where the candle stand, the table with the showbread, and the incense altar were all located. Only Levitical priests descended from Aaron were appointed for service and could enter here. Then there was a second veil which led to the Holy of Holies.
Originally, the ark was in the Holy of Holies. It contained items for a remembrance of how God had delivered them and established a covenant relationship with them. On the Mercy seat covering the ark were two Cherubim’s. In Ezekiel 1: 5-7 and chapter 10 Ezekiel tells us that there is a Cherub on each of the four corners of God’s throne. In Ezekiel chapter 14 we find that Lucifer was the anointed cherub that covered.
Cherubs seem to be of the highest heavenly order. When we look at the mercy seat we see these highest order cherubim’s bent down looking at the mercy seat. The mercy seat is where the blood was placed that brought forgiveness, reconciliation and glorification. Because Lucifer started war in heaven, it may symbolize that the sacrifice of Christ brought righteousness and reconciliation to both heaven and earth. At some point in the future Christ said he would create a new heaven and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells (Rev. 21:1).
The author repeats the word gold and golden several times.
Heb 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna.
Gold is used to symbolize purity. It is what God chose to cover all the furniture inside and out.
The Hebrew people the author was writing to were not the priests, they were Jews from every tribe. They saw the outside of the temple. Their whole lives were filled with imagining the things inside. The temple was a perpetual object of fascination. God lived there. That is where the atonement for sin took place. There entire existence as a people was tied directly to the tabernacle and later to the temple. The author is getting them to call all that imagery and reality into mind. It was glorious. There was nothing in the world ever to be compared to it. It was the place where the wrath of God was restrained. It was the meeting place with God.
Sin Separates Man from God
The problem is that it never brought full atonement for sins. The author is stirring their imaginations to consider how central the temple had been to them. But that covenant has been fulfilled in Christ and is about to vanish. The writer does not dismiss these things. They were necessary in the process of salvation history. We still learn from them as we do all scripture. For these Hebrews they spoke of limited access; the fear of judgment; and the continual problem of sin and death.
Heb 9:6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
Heb 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors (unintended sins) of the people:
Built into the tabernacle design was a series of barriers. The Outer Court separated Jews and Gentile; the inner courts separated Levites from other Jews; the first veil separated Levites from Levitical priests; Levitical priests only entered when it was their appointed time; the second veil separated the High Priest from the Levitical priests. In Solomon’s Temple he built balconies where the women could observe the sacrifices. The new thing Christ did was to destroy all these barriers.
Ga 3:28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.
The separations in scripture taught them that the sacred and the common could not be mixed; the unclean and the common could not mix. A clear divide existed between what was sacred and what was not. The message was that sin separates man from God.
In the Old Testament the emphasis was always upon becoming cleansed and forgiven for sins so that they could live in a covenant relationship with God. The natural man does not easily grasp the depth of sin. The natural man is presumptuous and thinks he should be accepted on his own terms. The organization of these barriers communicated the difficulty of gaining access to God.
The design of the tabernacle and the teaching of the Law amplified their awareness of sin. The sacrifice reminded them of the high cost of being offensive. Only those appointed by God could act on their behalf.
Whatever is Not of Faith is Sin
Christians often think of sin in terms of bad behavior. In truth whatever is not of faith is sin. James says if we make plans and say we will go here or there and do this or that and do not say ‘Lord willing’ we commit evil. The word for evil here means a boisterous spirit. It is the voice of independence. It rises out of self-confidence and self-will. By saying Lord willing we concede our mortality and proclaim our trust in God’s faithfulness. Being boisterous or braggadocios is a form of theft from God, denying him an open expression of our faith in the fact that he purchased our lives and we belong to him.
Sin is an act of enmity against God? We see in the law both sins of commission and omission. Omission is equally sinful. The things they ought to have done and didn’t do were of equal offence to God. These sins carried penalties.
The Law addresses another category of sin other that commission and omission; that is unintentional sins. Here in Hebrews it is translated as sins of ignorance or errors of the people.
Heb 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
Heb 9:8 ¶ The Holy Spirit signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
The Holy Spirit was in the Holy of Holies. The veil testified to the fact that the way to the presence of God would not occur until the veil was removed. When Jesus was hanging on the cross he said “it is finished” and the veil was torn in half. God supernaturally ripped it apart. As long as there was a distinction between the holy place and the most holy place, it was a reminder that there were still more sins that had to be dealt with. The temple was still open for business. The writer says while it stood, its very existence was crying out for something else to bring completion.
Heb 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Gifts and sacrifices were commanded. They were important. They held back the wrath of God and were a sweet smelling savor to him. But they did not fix the conscience of the worshipper. These were external things. The heart was still like stone (Ezek. 36:26). They provided a service but left the conscience dirty. None of those things, even the thing done by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies cleansed the conscience of the worshippers. The gifts and sacrifices temporarily covered them, but always demanding more because it could not free them from their flesh. They sinned again.
All Things Are New
Now that it is finished by the sacrificial death of Christ there are no distinctions. We do not go to temples or worship at altars. There are no holy places on earth today. The building we gather in is not holy. God is making people holy. He has made his church (the believers) the temple of God. We have no priests who stand between us and God, we are a priesthood of believers and Jesus Christ is our High Priest (1 Pet. 2:5).
They had a dirty conscience because they kept sinning. Their imaginations were corrupted. They could never be free from a defiled conscience. But honestly, Christians have the same problem. They wrestle with areas of their lives and have not gained victory over many sins. What’s the difference?
Hebrews tells us something has changed so that Christians can be victorious. Many Christians have asked the question, “Why has God changed everyone else, but not me?” Most Christians live with the sense that if the church saw some of their thoughts they would excommunicate them. No one wins their battles all the time. How are we different from the people in the Old Testament that had an unclean conscience?
God Covers Your Sins.
The difference is that Jesus Christ has covered our sins in blood and his sacrifice is sufficient for eternity. The bad conscience of the Old Testament saints was towards God. They were always aware of their inadequacy. They lived in fear because they sinned after they sacrificed. What would happen if they didn’t get everything covered? They feared the anger of God. Certain sacerdotal denominations duplicate this fear by insisting that sinners must confess to a mediator other than Christ or they may be damned in their sins. Israel was a society based on fear and guilt because of the weakness of their flesh.
For Christians the change is this. God has done it. He completely accepts us. He sees us through the blood of Christ. We don’t have to pretend before him and we don’t have to shrink away in shame. We are forgiven because we have faith in the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.
We still sin and we don’t want to. We need to see that the battle of the flesh and Spirit is part of the process by which God builds spiritual muscle in us. Our faith grows through the experience of the Holy Spirit working in us and transforming us, but it rests in the knowledge that all is complete in Christ. God is no longer angry or offended by us. The Father has made peace with us through the cross. Sin remains and we seek God’s grace so that we might be pure in all things.
Fight the Good Fight of Faith
Only as we grow in our understanding of scripture can we really begin to see how deep and defiant our sins are. C S Lewis said it takes a good person to know how bad they are. It is only when we try to change that we discover we are slaves to sin. Paul wrote in Romans that when he would do good sin was always present with him (Rom. 7:21). He saw and desired the things he ought to do but he found himself always doing what he didn’t want to do. He consented to the law that it was good but he found another member warring in his body; bringing him captive to the law of sin that permeated all his appetites and ambitions. So he concluded
Ro 7:23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.
Here Paul recognizes conflicting laws at work within him. The law of his mind ascents to God and desires to be pure. Something else is at war within him bringing him into captivity to the law of sin. The members he speaks of here were his desires, ambitions; the appetites that always screamed “I will, I will, instead of thy will.
God has allowed this conflict to continue so believers have determination in their desire to follow him; they must consciously moment by moment choose him and agree with him about righteousness; they must in faith give Jesus Christ their desperate prayers for holiness, which is a sweet savor to him; this is the fruit he died to possess. It is love that commits itself to God. God wants a people who seek, depend and stand in faith even when they fail so miserably to do what they ought. To gain this God no longer holds us guilty.
Ro 7:24 Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?
Does he say how can I fix myself? It’s not how, it’s who. We can’t change. Who will change me?
Ro 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Think about that phrase “with the flesh we serve the law of sin”. If I yield to my flesh, I am judging myself by the Law of Sin and Death. The fruit of the Law of Sin and Death is condemnation. It is not God condemning me; it is the Law of Sin and Death condemning me.
Ro 8:1 ¶ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
If we walk in faith and rely on the finished work of Christ to be the author and finisher of our faith we do not condemn ourselves because we are focused on Christ and his work in us. If we willfully sin the Law of Sin and Death condemns our flesh. Does Rom 8:1 say God condemns us? If we have a bad conscience does it come from God? No. It comes from the law of sin and death. So I return to the question: how are we different from the Hebrews who always had a bad conscience?
You Can’t Make a Corpse Feel Guilty
Ro 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Ro 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Ro 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
How did God condemn sin on our flesh? (See Romans 6)
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Jesus took on the likeness of sinful flesh because sin in the flesh robbed his creation of the glory it was supposed to have. So by being tempted in every way that man is tempted, yet without sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. He overcame it. How did he condemn it? He nailed it to the cross. That is why we are new creatures. Jesus put our flesh to death.
Did Paul gain total victory in his life? No. He said I have not yet attained all that for which I was apprehended in Christ, but I forget what is behind and I press on to the target of the High calling of Christ (Philippians 3:12-13).
We are new creatures, who belong to a new race (1 Cor. 15:20-28), and we worship Christ by obedience to the faith. Paul teaches us how to make war against the members of sin in our body. Adam fell by a choice. Now we grow in grace by the choices we make. We do not work to become righteous; we work because Christ has declared us to be righteous by faith in his finished work. We are being changed from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit. We still have fleshly bodies that are attached by necessity to this world, but we walk in hope of being changed because Christ is in us (Col. 1:27).
Ro 6:8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Ro 6:9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Ro 6:10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Ro 6:11 Likewise (IN THE SAME WAY) reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
What is reigning in your mortal body? Your appetites! Your thoughts! Paul says we have a choice.
The Battle is in the Mind
We serve God by choosing against our own flesh. When God made man there was no conflict between himself and God; he was made to belong to God, he was made to be an integrated whole; he was made to be united to the world and other people and to live in truth in all those relationships. I said last week that Only in Christ and man before the fall was truth and reality the same thing. Now reality is what we are born into and what we make by our own choices. Because of the fall the very things we were made to belong to are at war with the truth. We must choose between our desires and Gods; between belonging to man or belonging to God; between believing the lies of society or standing for the truth as God reveals it. All of those choices are what I call wounds from the garden. We are choosing between things that we were made to belong to because those things are now at war with God. But the choice is made at the core of our being. Our core that was destroyed by sin is being rebuilt by our trials and it only works as we respond to God by grace though faith in praise and thanksgiving. This is obedience to faith. Faith comes by knowing and believing the word of God. We cannot win against the flesh if we do not let the word wash us and teach us how we ought to live.
The natural man cannot see that. He lives in darkness. When we are born again we are born into this conflict. We glorify God in our trials by choosing him over everything else that may seem right or natural. Unlike the Old Covenant that was for the natural man; in the New Covenant our war is internalized; it is not about feeling bad about the failings of our flesh; it is about believing God that our flesh is dead and done away with on the cross with Christ. The flesh is not who we are. We are a spiritual, but our flesh draws us into acts of self-will. Is the cure condemning our self-will (the law of sin) or turning back to God and saying thy will be done (the law of the mind).
If we are condemning our self we do so under the law of sin and death. God says we have been set free from that. Our job is to worship God for the work he is doing in us despite the flesh. We don’t practice self-denial; we don’t psychologize the gospel in order to fix the flesh or give it closure; we accept the truth that God condemned it and killed it on the cross. It was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14).
Ro 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Paul says we are not debtors to our flesh (Rom. 8:12). We do not owe it a party; we owe it to our new self in Christ to lay our struggles at his feet and thank him that he is working in us to change us. The word “Recon” means you recognize something that is true.
In Christ we are learning to walk in the Spirit and we begin to see what is of the Spirit and what is of the Flesh. We don’t need to have a bad conscience. What we see is the war between flesh and Spirit; we are looking at the process of our deliverance. It is not about feeling bad because we can’t fix the flesh; it’s learning to choose life rather than death. We recon the truth. We agree with God. We take our place on the cross with Christ as we say to the flesh “you are dead; you don’t matter; you don’t get to have a voice in the choices I’m making; this thing is between Jesus and me and you’re not a part of it”. David talked to himself. He said “Soul why are you cast down within me. Don’t you trust God?” When we are in a trial and our flesh wants to tell us about our rights, we need to tell it to shut up, and remind our self that we are not about that. You are walking in newness of life.
Here is the point. The battle is for our mind. When we find our self with thoughts that exalt themselves above the throne of Christ, we must arrest them (2 Cor. 10:5). This truth needs to become part of our normal thought process.
Growing Through Grief and Grace
What am I talking about? I’m talking about how we define our trials. Do we see our trials as our flesh always winning or do you see it as our new self being yoked together with Christ against our flesh. Just because the battle takes place in our body and mind doesn’t mean we are outside of God’s will. It should cost us something to choose him. Fight the good fight of faith. Forget about condemnation. It’s our flesh that is being condemned and we are choosing to stand with God against our flesh. Naturally we will feel both sides of the battle. Sort out the sides and stand with God.
Heb 5:13 For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe.
Heb 5:14 But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.
As we consume the word of God we grow in our understanding and when we apply that understanding to trials we discern what is of God and what is not. God didn’t save us to be robots. He is teaching us to think righteous thoughts. The trying of our faith is precious to him. It has nothing to do with feeling inadequate or condemning ourselves. That is the flesh and it is dead. Now our growth is relational. We should see ourselves the way a parent delighted to watch its baby learn to walk and talk. Is a good parent angry at his child for only taking three steps, or does it joyfully say to its spouse ‘the baby took three steps without falling’. God is our heavenly Father.
Rather than internalizing the trail and making the trail about our failings and allowing the Law of sin and death to condemn us; thank God that you have hope in Christ that he will in good time give you victory. You are under the law of the Spirit and Life. Under the old law there was no hope. But now God has revealed to us a new name by which we can know him: he is the God of Hope.
Ro 15:13 ¶ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul and Barnabus grew to the point where they wrote that in Asia their trials were so severe that they despaired of their lives, but they had this sentence of death in themselves (2 Cor. 1:9). They learned that no matter how their flesh was reacting, God was in control. They learned not to listen to their dead flesh (their mind, emotion, will, ambitions, desires appetites, sufferings and pain); they listened to God and they prevailed in a situation that was impossible for their flesh. Biblical hope is founded upon knowledge of God’s character.
We will learn latter in Hebrews that God does chastises us but he does not punish us. It might feel like punishment, because the Greek can mean beat the hide off, but the operative in that verse is so we can be partakers of his holiness (Heb. 12: 6-11). His method precludes the chance for the flesh to take the credit for our changes.
All of the things wrong in our lives are his tools to perfect our faith in a manner that will give all the praise to him. It is he alone who made our salvation possible.
1 Co 1:27.…but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong;
1Co 1:28 and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are:
1Co 1:29 that no flesh should boast before God.
This is true of the church as a lowly witness in the world. But it is also true in our individual lives; the things that make us feel weak; the things about ourselves we despise; the things that happen that seem stupid and empty, are things our flesh cannot put any value in.
Those are Gods tools to convince us that all our hope is in his finished work alone. He is our Great High Priest and he has promised that when we are finally united with him we will be a bride without spot or blemish; that is without any of the damage done by the fall; or the world or what we’ve done by our own sins. God puts it all behind his back and remembers it no more.
In Hebrew 9:11-12 we have the whole gospel being explained to us. As important as the tabernacle and the sacrifices were, they did not cleanse the worshiper’s heart; they did not cleanse his conscience. They did not achieve salvation. “But when Christ appeared….”, once for all, then everything is made ours, freely, if we take it by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is not about the initiative of the sinners. This is God’s work. There is nothing about any human means of self-rescue. It is the Father’s initiative in the Son. Everything is now changed because “Christ appeared.” This is the decisive change in God’s disposition towards sinners. Christ became a man. This is the turning point in the book of Hebrews. We’ll consider this truth more later on.
Heb 9:10 being only (with meats and drinks and divers washings) carnal ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation.
In all of the glory of the old covenant, it was something imposed upon them. The phrase carnal ordinances signify that these were activities of the flesh; it depended on man to carry out all the duties. So it was external and earthly. It did not restore them to the presence of God; It had no power to change them. It condemned them.
God is a God of Hope
In Numbers chapters 13 and 14 is the account of the rebellion in which the Hebrews refused to enter Canaan. After being judged and told by God they would die in the wilderness they tried to enter the land but were defeated. Chapter 15 begins by telling them about all the sacrifices that will be required of them in order to have a relationship with God. The enormity of what God requires is not possible unless they possess the land and so even here, hope is being given; the promise of God stands because they will only be able to meet his demands when they gain the promise. Here we see God’s grace at work. What God requires, he provides. For the next generation of Hebrews who would wander for forty years before they received the promise; every act of obedience pointed to the time when God would bring them in.
God offers this same hope to the Hebrew Christians who received this letter. The mention of the furniture signifies God’s faithfulness to remember his covenant. Just as the sacrifices in Numbers 15 pointed to a promise they could not achieve without possessing the land; so in Hebrews the temporality of the tabernacle and the limited atonement of the animal sacrifices pointed to a greater hope; a closure, where sin and death would be fully wiped from the leger and the faithful would stand free and clean in the presence of their heavenly Father.
All the things done in the tabernacle did not amount to salvation. They held back the wrath of God from pouring forth because of their sins. In themselves they did not offer any hope for the future, but they demonstrated the need for a new and better covenant to finish the work begun. The animal sacrifices let people off in the moment, but always with a dirty conscience. They cried out for completion.
The good news of the gospel is here in Hebrews 9:11. “But Christ our high Priest has appeared…”
We can follow him with a clear conscience because he has already paid for all of our sins. His love and mercy is so sound that Ephesians declares that we are already seated with him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). That is about the most secure picture God could give us to let us know he will see us through all things and bring us home. We have a chair there and God already sees us in it. His ability to apprehend the future is far beyond our own.
Heb 9:11 But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation,
Heb 9:12 nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.
This is the point the author has been leading up to.
“But Christ having come as a high priest.”
By making a reference to bulls and goats it is clear that what he is speaking about is the Day of Atonement. In Lev 16 the blood of goats is for the sins of the people. The blood of bulls or calves is for the priests. Daily sacrifices were suspended for this one day and it was a Sabbath of Sabbaths. Anyone who did any kind of work on this day was killed. The High Priest would offer a bull for the priests and a goat for the people. There were two goats that were brought before him. He drew a lot to see which would be sacrificed and which would be sent into the wilderness. One goat was killed and its blood was taken into the Holy of Holies (5).
After this the High Priest would place his hands on the other goat that lived and prayed all the sins of the people on that goat. The goat was then led out into the wilderness to carrying the people’s sins with it (6).
Our Priest, Having Come…
The word “having come” (9:11) can be translated appeared. The point is a shift in the narrative, all that was summarized from the first seven chapters are transformed by the ideas that when Christ appeared something new happened. Melchezedek appeared to Abraham. Now Christ appears to the Jews and the author argues that he did so as a High Priest. The verb tense is not future. It is present tense as the readers were receiving it. He is the High Priest of good things to come and those who are hearing it are the ones receiving those good things. Those good things also belong to the church. We are promised eternal life with God; and life with God right now, Peter says everything necessary for life and godliness is ours in Christ Jesus (2 Pet. 1:3).
1Co 1:30 But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:
There is no room to insert the flesh in here. So many good things are ours. We are heirs with Christ. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the captain of our salvation. He is our High Priest. These are good things that have come but there are also good things that will come. The context here is speaking about the fruit of the atonement that Christ has already accomplished for us. We have a God that has done it all so that when we believe everything else begins. The process of our total transformation into the image of Christ is even now working in us a far greater glory that we will fully realize when we are joined together with him in eternity. The goal has never changed. God’s plan was to make a holy people that could abide in his presence without offence.
What do we do if it is all done? We do what Phil. 2:12-13 says,
“….work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Php 2:13 for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.
Why fear and trembling? We must take God seriously and reverently. We know from experience that as we struggle with sins now, he does not have to change us. We have to seek it. James says “the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). We have the promise in Christ that we will be changed; we have permission to get as much of it as we can in this life (1 John 3:3) because the Holy Spirit works in us (2 Cor. 3:16-18). We do it because he first loved us and we are reciprocating his affections when we do it earnestly (Luke 7:47). It’s not about external observations; it’s about changed lives. We work out our salvation by choosing to follow Christ and to allow him to be glorified by our obedience to the faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). The Law of the Spirit and Life is founded on faith. Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). The law of sin and death is founded on dead works. We work out our own salvation by reconciling our mind to the truth of his word and standing there.
In verses 11-12 we are given a summary of everything that preceded in this letter.
He entered into the holy place; he went into the presence of God. He did not take the blood of an animal; he took his own blood and secured with it our eternal redemption.
Imagine the thousands or millions of animals over the millenniums that had to die to hold back the wrath of God. The cost was unimaginable. The amount of blood is unimaginable. But Jesus by means of his own blood paid a price that was once for all satisfactory to the holiness and justice of God. It achieved an eternal redemption. Eternal means no sacrifice will ever be required again. Why? Jesus created all things (John 1:1-3). His blood was sufficient to redeem all things.
Jesus blood was significant because it was human blood. It was the blood of a man who was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin. He had the only innocent human blood on earth. After Genesis 3 there was no sinless human blood except for Jesus Christ. He was obedient in every way. He had no sin of commission, omission, or ignorance. He declared I have always done the work of my Father in heaven (John 4:34; 5:17; 6:38). His obedience is the ground of our salvation.
If his life had been less than perfect he could not have obtained an eternal redemption for the creation. It would have left something undone. Something more would have been required.
All the time Satan tempted Jesus and taunted him; all the while man frustrated him, attacked him, scorned and rejected him; if he had just once acted out of relationship to the Father, then our salvation would be incomplete. There would be something lacking. In all his life and death, total obedience was our only hope. When he rose from the dead he went to the Father and the Father validated his sacrifice. Then he appeared to the disciples. Hebrews tells us exactly what that means: Christ appeared as our High Priest.
Heb 1:1 ¶ God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
Heb 1:2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son,
When Jesus appeared time and eternity intersected. God came to make peace with those who would have faith in him.
God is not a mystery because Jesus openly came and walked among us. He is a literal figure in man’s history. The tabernacle on earth was a shadow, a picture or pattern of something more real in heaven. Christ is the heavenly tabernacle.
Jesus told the Pharisees destroy this temple, referring to his own body, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19). He also referred to himself as the tent of meeting:
This is a declaration of Christ’s presence with his people. Jesus, the God/Man tabernacled among us. He is the tent of meeting.
Mt 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Now that he is in heaven interceding for us, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, is our comforter (14:16-18) and the assurance of our salvation (Eph. I:14-17). What is the author saying here? His death accomplished an atonement that was more than the picture of atonement the temple pointed to. He did not die in the holy place on earth. His death was accomplished in the holy place in the heavenly tabernacle where God abides in heaven. Jesus did what no human High Priest could do. He is not just a High Priest he is the Great High Priest.
High Priests brought the blood of innocent animals.
Heb 9:12….but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.
This verse speaks about the passageway by which we come to God. Jesus did not bring blood to God, as a man he entered into God’s presence “through his own blood”. The Father accepted his sacrifice and so we as humans can enter into God’s presence through Christ’s blood. A way has been opened up. He in this manner secured our eternal redemption.
This once for all character of the sacrifice of Christ is the most important issue of the Christian faith. He died once. He died for all. All people, all sins. This is the grounds for our own security in Christ. It is all Christ’s work and so if we believe in faith we cannot be lost. We didn’t earn it or deserve it. When we come to a saving faith in Christ he takes over. He reigns. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He is the captain of our salvation. Nothing can separate us from his love. He loses none of his own. He has taken all of Gods wrath regarding our sins upon his self. How can we neglect so great a salvation (Heb. 2:3)?
(1) Scripture regards all believers as saints, but today some denominations use that as a category to distinguish exceptional people from the ordinary believer. Scripture makes no such distinction.
(2) When God gave the Ten Commandments he did not divide them by number. There are twelve imperatives in The Ten Commandments so there are three versions. In the Hebrew verse the First Commandment is “I am the Lord your God.” Other versions add to the first, you shall not have any false graven images before me.” However you divide these imperatives, it was God who called them the Ten Commandments. The numbers ten and twelve are both numbers of completion that refer to totality or completeness.
(3) All this is appealing to the flesh. Man gives up a certain measure of control of his life in order to feel righteous about the rest of his self-willed life. It enables him to glory in his flesh. This is the world of the natural man; it is ritualistic and designed to foster self-justification; it appeals to his senses; to his need for belonging, and it conjures an unreal sense of the presence of God. It blinds the participants from the need for faith in God’s mercy and goodness.
(4) It is likely that the ark has passed from the pages of history. Revelation 11:19 speaks of “the ark of his covenant” in heaven. If it is the old ark it will stay there. Its function was to point to the mercy we have in the perfect blood of Jesus Christ. It will not return to earth with the return of Jesus.
Jer 3:16 And it shall come to pass, when ye are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith Jehovah, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of Jehovah; neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more.
Jer 3:17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart.
(5) The High Priest made at least he three entrances into the Holy of Holies. First he took burning coals from the altar where the bull was sacrificed into the Holy of Holies and put incense on it, then he entered again with the blood of the bull and finally with the blood of the goat.
(6) Over time the people got paranoid that the goat would come back and bring their sins with it, so they would lead it to a cliff and push it off. This eventually was not good enough so as the goat was being led past them they would punch it, hit it with rods pull out its hair anything to make it afraid to come back if it survived being shoved off the cliff. Unwittingly they demonstrated what happened to Jesus. He was punched and beaten with rods (Matt. 26:67), and had his beard pulled out (Isa. 50:61). He did not die in the temple, he died outside the camp.