A Watered-Down Word

In Hebrews 9, the author compares the old way to the new way. The fun part is, I can link you to some of my previous studies on the book of Exodus if you’d like to understand the Old Covenant better. Frankly, to understand the New Covenant, you must understand the Old Covenant. The Bible is the best commentary on itself.

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

-          On August 27, 2017, I wrote about the Tabernacle in Exodus 26. Ironically, as I went back through that post, I cross-referenced Hebrews 9. As I mentioned before, the Old Testament is the best commentary on the New Testament. Knowing both are essential to growing in God’s grace. Think about the last book you read. If you took the number of chapters and divided it down the middle and then only read the beginning half, you wouldn’t have closure. If you only read the latter half of the book, you wouldn’t have the foundation or context to apply the ending to. Friends, the Bible is no different. This world would like you to think differently, but you must not shrink back from studying the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Do you want God to finish the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6)? Of course! That’s why He doesn’t just write half your story and then stop. Do you want Him to only start in the middle of your life and not redeem your past? That would be terrible! My past has lots of yuck in it and I am thankful He makes me a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, because God is in the business of “wholeness,” I want to ensure I’m taking His whole redemptive Word into my life.

-          Now, back to this Tabernacle business. The Tabernacle was a frame with multiple coverings. It was divided into three sections: the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. Here’s a link to a drawing if you’re more visual. The Outer Court was a general place of worship and fellowship. Those who wanted to enter could do so (sound familiar from a spiritual parallel?). Only priests were to be in the Holy Place and their purpose was to carry out God’s responsibilities. Finally, the Most Holy Place—which pointed to ultimate glorification—was reserved for only the High Priest, once a year, and there was a special purification ritual necessary to enter. This gives you the foundation and context to set you up for the New Testament plan, which the author writes about next…

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

-          Christ came so that there would no longer be a division between God and His people. The Tabernacle provided an understanding that to approach God, sacrifice must be made. Purification was essential. Holiness was non-negotiable. God’s plan was for Christ to come and enter the Most Holy Place by His own pure blood. This provided freedom to us and continual access to God.

-          I love how it reminds us in verse 14 that the sacrifice of Christ doesn’t just cleanse us from sin, it cleanses our “conscience from acts that lead to death.” In Hebrews 8 we talked about how God is constantly reprogramming our mind and inscribing your heart with His desires.

16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[e]21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

-          In these verses, we learn how Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t made in the earthly tabernacle. If that had been the case, He would’ve just replaced the earthly High Priest and had to continue sacrificing over and over. Instead, Christ did what was better: He brought Himself as the perfect sacrifice into heaven. He appeared in the heavenly, once for all, to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

-          David Guzik provides clarity around the truth regarding heaven and hell: “The principle of sacrifice explains why the suffering of hell must be eternal for those who reject the atoning work of Jesus. They are in hell to pay the penalty of their sin, but as imperfect beings they are unable to make a perfect payment. If the payment is not perfect, then it has to be continual and constant – indeed, for all eternity. A soul could be released from hell the moment its debt of sin was completely paid – which is another way of saying never.”

- Many “pastors” and “people at the pulpit” want to skirt or downplay hell. Friends, God’s Word is true. If hell were not real or eternal, the work of Christ would be unnecessary. Think about that and remember that Jesus answered in John 14:6 by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  He’s not one of many ways, He is it. Choose your road wisely in a world that loves a watered-down gospel. Amen.