Hebrews 9:1-15 | "1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant."
DREW: Today we’re looking at Hebrews, chapter 9, verses 1 through 15, Jesus is the High Priest. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you so much for this time together and we pray that as we look at this passage and what it meant in the history of your people and what it means for us today we pray that your Holy Spirit would work in our minds to give us understanding and insight and to change the way we think and live. We commit our time to you. We thank you. In Christ’s name. Amen.
In the sport of baseball -- we were talking about baseball earlier -- the best game that can be pitched by a pitcher is called the perfect game. That is when the pitcher pitches all nine innings, he throws to 27 consecutive batters and gets them all out, no hits, no walks, no errors. A perfect game can be pitched by a pitcher for eight innings, but it’s a perfect game and yet it’s an incomplete game -- perfect, but incomplete. Now, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are essential for our salvation, but while the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are perfect, they are incomplete. It’s the ascension of Jesus Christ when He goes up into heaven that completes the process of atonement and it’s at the ascension that Jesus began his ministry as our High Priest and that’s what we’re going to look at today.
Here’s the first point: First, we’re going to see the superiority of Christ’s ministry as high priest and how it derives from the uniqueness of the sanctuary that He entered and the uniqueness of the sacrifice that He presented. Jesus offered himself in a different sanctuary and He offered a different kind of sacrifice. And we’ll read the scriptures as I go through here, but first, we’re going to look at the differences in the sanctuary from the Old Testament sacrifices to Jesus’s sacrifice.
The first is the Old Testament high priest entered what this passage calls the earthy tent. Let’s look at verses 2 and 3 and then 6 and 7 and you’ll see it was a tent made with human hands and he entered it once a year. Verses 2 and 3, “For a tent was prepared for the first section, in which there were the lampstand and the table and the bread of Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place. Now, verse 6, “These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” So the Old Testament high priest entered the manmade tabernacle or tent and he entered the Holy of Holies once a year.
Now, let’s look at Jesus. Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary. He entered the sanctuary that’s not made with human hands and he did so only once, once and for all. Look at verse 12 of this chapter, “He” -- Jesus -- “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Let me read verse 11, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect (not made with hands, that is not of this creation).” I should have read that first. So you see the idea? The Old Testament high priest entered into a manmade tent and he had to go into the Holy of Holies on the day of atonement, Leviticus 16, once a year. Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary, which is an eternal sanctuary, not made with human hands, and He did so once and for all. When He ascended, He actually took His blood, as we will see later, and placed it before the Father in the Holy of Holies and His blood remains there forever. So that’s the difference in the sanctuary between what happened under the old covenant and what happened with Jesus’s sacrifice.
Now, what I want to do here next is look at five ways -- I’m going to go through these quickly -- five ways in which Christ’s sacrifice is superior to Old Testament sacrifices. Here’s the first: Christ as both priest and sacrifice offered himself, not something or someone else. Look at verse 14, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” It was the priest who offered the sacrifices under the old covenant. The priest didn’t offer himself, he offered an animal -- a bull, a goat, sheep, turtle dove, pigeon -- but Jesus as the priest, our high priest, who is greater than the high priest under the old covenant, offered himself. He didn’t offer something or someone other than himself. He was both priest and sacrifice.
Secondly, Christ offered himself willingly. The Old Testament animals did not offer themselves willingly. They did not volunteer. They would have been passive or at best neutral. And I want to read this passage in the next chapter, Hebrews 10, because it really makes that clear as to how Jesus offered himself willingly. Hebrews 10, verses 5 through 9, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,” -- you see He’s volunteering -- “as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offering and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.” And you see there the reason why the Father wasn’t satisfied with the offerings under the old covenant is because they weren’t offered willingly. They would have been offered -- they would have been either neutral or passive, but Jesus volunteered. It’s very important to understand these distinctions when talking about the sacrifice of Christ. And then, of course, in John, chapter 10, verses 17 and 18, Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me,” -- there you have it -- “but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” So you see throughout the New Testament Jesus is showing that His sacrifice is going to be something that’s different. He’s priest, He’s sacrifice, He’s offering himself willingly.
Third, Christ offered himself once for all, whereas the Old Testament priest offered the sacrifice on the day of atonement once a year. And, of course, in the temple under the old covenant sacrifices were occurring on a daily basis, but Hebrews 9 is referring to the day of atonement, which happened once a year. Look at verse 12 of Hebrews 9, again, “Jesus entered once for all into the holy places, not by the means of blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” He entered once for all.
Now, let’s look at the Old Testament high priest entering once a year in verse 7 of Hebrews 9, “But into the second” -- that would be the Holy of Holies -- “only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” And, of course, the blood that the Old Testament high priest took into the Holy of Holies was not his own; it was the blood of a bull mainly, but Jesus went into the heavenly Holy of Holies and offered himself.
The fourth distinction, Christ’s sacrifice cleanses us from all of our sins -- this is a powerful point -- whereas the sacrifices under the old covenant were offered for unintentional sins only. Look at the Old Testament sacrifices as we find them spoken of in verse 7 of Hebrews 9, “But into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” This is where it becomes somewhat mindboggling when we think about this. I want to draw your attention to an Old Testament passage, the Book of Numbers, chapter 15 -- it’s up to you whether or not you turn there -- verses 27 to 31. This is going to help illustrate the point that the Old Testament sacrifices took away unintentional sins only and not intentional. Numbers 15 beginning at verse 27, “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything with a high hand,” -- that’s intentional public rebellion against God -- “whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” And then Numbers goes right on in verses 32 to 36 of chapter 15 to show that that man who collected sticks on the Sabbath day, he was in public intentional rebellion against the command of the Lord, so he was stoned. You get an immediate illustration right there that if you’re going to sin intentionally that’s a death wish and a death penalty. What if we were still living in a time in which our intentional sins were not forgiven?
Hebrews 9, verse 12 -- I’m reading this a lot, but it’s critical -- “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Look at chapter 10, verses 11 and 12, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” And then verse 18 of chapter 10, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Where there is true forgiveness, the sacrificial system ceases. It never ceased under the old covenant, because sins weren’t forgiven. It has ceased now, because Jesus offered himself once and for all, for unintentional sins and for intentional sins.
Fifth point. Christ’s sacrifice cleanses our conscience. There’s a decisive purgation. The Old Testament sacrifices cleansed the flesh only. Verse 13 of Hebrews 9, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,” -- that’s it -- “how much more” -- verse 14 -- “will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” You see the difference? One is in some way a superficial cleansing, it really doesn’t take away sins, but it was the system that God had established for the time being. When Christ came and died once and for all, it digs deep; it’s not just a fleshly cleansing. That sacrifice is so powerful it’s able to enter the human conscience and cleanse it. That’s a powerful sacrifice and we could elaborate on that a bit. Jesus died once, His blood was offered once in the presence of God and remains there forever. When we sin, the Savior’s blood is seen by God in the heavenly sanctuary, the heavenly Holy of Holies, and our sins are paid for continuously and eternally.
Think of this: The high priest under the old covenant entered the Holy of Holies and he would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat but he’d have to do that year after year after year. When Jesus died and ascended He’s presenting His blood or His sacrifice before the Father, the Father accepts it, and Jesus is given a kingdom. That blood, Jesus’s blood, remains in the heavenly Holy of Holies, the sanctuary made without human hands and that blood is indicative that Jesus died once and for all. And think of it this way, every time we sin what does the Father see? Not us. He sees us through the blood of Jesus’s sacrifice and that’s why we’re clean. It’s amazing. It’s continuously and it’s eternally. Once and for all sin is taken away.
How does it help us to understand more about Christ’s sacrifice in relation to the Old Testament sacrifices?
LOLLIS: I think it really helps me understand how difficult the Old Testament law was and how difficult this process of forgiveness and, you know, the priest had to do this and had this section and that section and, you know, all these various parts of the temple in the Holy of Holies. And, gosh, how much more thankful I should be of how the doctrine of grace and how we’re saved by grace now rather than having to be saved, through a process, through a priest, through any of that. We’re saved not only -- we’re forgiven not only of our unintentional sins, but even our intentional sins. Hey, we’re -- all the way to our -- not just the sins on the outside, the sins of omission, commission, everything, and it’s so complete. That’s what sticks out to me more than anything else.
MARY: The thing I’m getting out of it is that I have a tendency to beat myself up over and over and over again and that just taught me it’s already gone. It helps tremendously to know that, you know, God sees it through Jesus’s blood and He doesn’t see it anymore because it’s gone.
DREW: Anyone else? Okay. Is this material relevant as we talk with people who do not believe in Jesus? If so, how?
NANCY: Well, I think it’s incredibly relevant. The difficulty I think is how do you really explain that to somebody who has no belief. I mean, it’s -- you know, I struggle sometimes with, you know, how do I really talk with this particular person, you know, to have them understand God’s grace and love and forgiveness. It is such a phenomenally fabulous thing that God has done and that Jesus did when He went to the cross. It’s like in Psalm 139, ‘it’s too wonderful for me.’ You know, I love that phrase in Psalm 139. It’s just I need help in knowing how to explain that to people.
DREW: When I was preparing that question my thought was most of us wouldn’t begin, right, with where Hebrews 9 and 10 would take us, but if we have this clearly in our minds the power that will be given to us because of our understanding or better understanding of the grace of God can influence any conversation.
PENNY: I was just going to say it kind of brings up something I’ve been reading in an article yesterday, which actually shared something that Alan Hirsch very much focuses on in one of his books called The Shaping of Things to Come, and it’s called the four different levels for a missionary and there’s M1, M2, M3. Like M1 to zero to one would be something that’s very familiar. It’s like right where we are right now in the Bible Belt and as you progress down you become less and less familiar and it becomes more and more abstract in how you’re going to relate the Gospel to someone and you have to think very out of the box. You’re no longer -- you might have a language barrier, you have definitely religious barriers, so that’s where I think culturally speaking it would make so much sense to do a lot of studying culturally about Israel and what was going on in the other nations, because you wouldn’t understand that and even where that religion, whatever people group you’re ministering to on that extreme of a level, you would be able to better understand the bridges that are naturally there, but every place has bridges and that’s exactly what Nancy’s talking about. You just have to see them and understand and let the Spirit of God show us, you know, where we link that and where we start, but they’re there.