A Surpassing Sacrifice in a Superior Sanctuary
If you are a parent, your house is often filled with an explosion of toys throughout the house. As you observe those toys, you’ll notice that many are models or figures of things in the real adult world. A child’s world can resemble a miniature adult world as in playing they are training for adult tasks. Here in Hebrews 9, Paul is going to demonstrate that the Tabernacle and its goings-on are a shadow, a training if you will, of heavenly activities. The chapter continues on with a comparison of the covenants and what happens in the Tabernacle on the Day of Atonement.
Hebrews 9 – Sanctuary, Service and Sacrifice of the Covenants
V1-10 – The Earthly Services of the Priest in the Earthly Tabernacle
V1 – A Full Replacement Needed
Chapter 8 closed with “He hath made… [the first covenant] old.” The Old Covenant relied on human follow-through. It was a “worldly sanctuary.” Like the rest of the Old, with Christ’s coming it became obsolete and superseded by something “not made with hands” (v11).
V2-5 – Earthly Tabernacle
These verses recall the Old at its best and busiest – the Great Day of Atonement (Lev 16, 23:26-32). As the High Priest would enter the door of the tent, the Lampstand would be on his left shining brilliantly. On his right would be the Table stacked with showbread in two piles of six pieces high. He was in the holy place. Next in v3, he enters the “second veil.” It was the separation between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Inside is the golden censer brought there by the high priest. Before him is the golden Ark of the Covenant containing three items enclosed by the mercy seat with its cherubim of glory overshadowing. What a glorious scene to imagine! Yet it pales in comparison to the heavenly.
The Ark is a container that beautifully typifies Christ. Within it are three tremendous pictures of Christ. The golden pot of manna tells of a glorified Christ, the One who is the Bread of Life (John 6). Aaron’s rod that budded speaks of a risen Christ, the One who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11). The Tables of the Covenant, unbroken in the Ark, relate to the One who is the Truth and the Life (John 14). There is much more here to meditate upon concerning the person of Christ.
There are also three pictures of the failures of the people of Israel. The golden pot of manna tells of the failures of Israel who doubted that God could feed them in the wilderness: the lust of the flesh. Aaron’s rod speaks of when Israel questioned whether God had provided a suitable man to lead them: the pride of life. The Unbroken Tablets remind that there were once broken tablets after “the people saw that Moses delayed,” and “Aaron saw [the molten calf] and built an altar before it”: the lust of the eyes. What is marvelous is that all of these failures are hidden below a blood-sprinkled mercy seat, and their Priest can approach God on their behalf.
V6-10 – Earthly Service was a Parable
There were two types of service within the tabernacle. There was the daily service, and also the yearly service. The daily service would include things like the morning and evening sacrifice (Ex 29:38-46), or the tending to the lampstand (Lev 24:1-4). The annual service included the activities of the Day of Atonement, in which the High Priest would make offerings for himself and for the sins of the people.
The significance is given in v9, that these things are a “figure” or a parable for that present time. The sanctuary and its service was a heavenly picture being acted out upon earth. This picture was extremely limited however, as v8 tells us. There was no freedom to approach the presence of God. V9 tells us that it was just ceremonial service, and had no way of dealing with the guilt of the conscience. Lastly, V10 shows that it was just a temporary service, until the time of reformation, when things literally would be “the time of setting things right” (Darby) at the cross.
V11-28 – The Greater Service in the Greater Tabernacle by a Greater Sacrifice
V11-14 – Superiority of the Blood of Christ for Entering the Sanctuary
V11-12 – A Greater Entrance
This service described in v6-10 was limited, ceremonial and temporary. The real thing, however, has now come: “but Christ.” The whole parable played out in the Old Covenant is now enjoyed in its reality because Christ has come. The sphere of the service of Christ is not now linked to the first covenant and an earthly sanctuary, but rather “a greater and more perfect tabernacle” which is “not of this creation” (ESV). The place of the service of Christ is the eternal dwelling place of God.
How can He enter there on our behalf? It wasn’t the blood of animals, a goat for the nation and a calf for his own sins and sins of his house, but by His own blood into the holy place. He didn’t enter into heaven with His literal blood, but entered there by the virtue of that blood – the blood which also obtained for us eternal redemption.
V13-14 – A Greater Effect
Our verses here are to be linked with what v9-10 states. The effect of the offerings made by the priests on behalf of the people were lacking. V13 brings into the passage three great offerings: bulls from Ex 24:5 when the Old Covenant was instituted, goats from Lev. 16 on the Day of Atonement, and ashes of the red heifer from Num 19. The greatness of the greatest Old Testament sacrifices linked with the Law are nothing compared to the blood of the sacrifice of Christ. Truly the offering of Christ is unrivalled, and should cause us to take full advantage of what it provides: the ability to serve the living God with a purged conscience. May we serve Him with joy today.
- Looking at v4 and the items in the Ark, can you link the failures of Israel with the failure in the Garden of Eden? Can you link and contrast the failures of Israel with the triumphs of Christ in the wilderness temptation?
- V6-7 compares the activities in the first tabernacle, the holy place, and the second tabernacle, the Most Holy Place. Chart out the given details to compare the two rooms inside the tent.
 Some translations follow manuscripts that say “golden altar.” This doesn’t change the teaching of the passage seeing that on the Day of Atonement, the golden altar functioned inside the Holy of Holies by having the smoke of its incense filling that room by way of the golden censer.