Hebrews Chapter 9: Christian Lessons from the Tabernacle and Sacrifices

Jan 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews Chapter 9: Christian Lessons from the Tabernacle and Sacrifices

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 showbread; which is called the sanctuary.

Now Paul went back to the original Tabernacle of Moses and spoke of the two compartments, the Holy (called the “sanctuary”) and the Most Holy. Why did he use the term “a worldly sanctuary”?

Comment: The Tabernacle was literal; it was natural.

In the description of the Holy, the “golden censer” is missing (see verse 4). However, the Vatican manuscript, which is as old as the Sinaitic manuscript but not quite as accurate, is superior in some places, and verse 2 is one of those places. Nevertheless, on the whole, the Sinaitic manuscript is superior. One reason is that it has the entire New Testament, whereas the Vaticanus 1209 cuts off in the Book of Hebrews around this chapter. However, just enough leaves are left in the ancient manuscript that verse 2 is included. The Vatican manuscript tells that the golden censer, called the “golden altar of incense” in the Diaglott, is in the Holy.

Heb. 9:3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

Paul styled the Most Holy “the Holiest of all.” When verses 2 and 3 are compared, we see that Paul called both the Holy and the Most Holy a “tabernacle.” In Exodus 40:19, we read that the Tabernacle (the Holy and the Most Holy) was under the tent. And in some cases, the “tabernacle” takes on the larger, broad-brush meaning to include the outside Court. In a particular sense, the Tabernacle is the enclosure under the skins, under the tent of testimony.

In the Gospel Age, the Church is the “sanctuary.” Paul said that we “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Therefore, during the present age, the Holy has been a holy sanctuary as well as a peaceful, restful place. There are no storms in the Holy for the new creature. Light is supplied from a candlestick, and a prayer altar and shewbread are there. No matter how turbulent conditions are outside, the Holy condition is a dwelling place of rest, peace, and quiet for the new creature. However, the flesh is outside in the Court, where, under certain circumstances, there can be a measure of flak.

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;

As already stated, the first part of verse 4 pertaining to the golden censer should be in verse 2.

Even though the Sinaitic and the Vatican are the oldest manuscripts available and scholars as a whole admit that they are contemporaneous, they are not the originals. These are the most ancient copies that we have, one being of the New Testament in its entirety and the other being up through part of the Book of Hebrews. The Alexandrian manuscript followed, and then came a big time gap. As time went on, and particularly with the invention of the Gutenberg press, a serious concerted effort was made to have a complete manuscript with one of two principles.

(1) We usually give priority and attention to the most ancient manuscripts, whereas (2) the general Christian world goes by the abundance of testimony. However, the latter method is not advisable because human error crept in, especially erroneous doctrinal beliefs. For example, the Roman Catholic Church tried to influence doctrine, for they feel that the church doctrine is superior to apostolic doctrine. As justification, they say that the apostles had a conference in Paul’s day to decide how to handle certain issues (Acts 15:13-21). As successive councils were held down through the Gospel Age, each council felt that its decisions were superior to those of the preceding council.

In the Most Holy were the “ark of the covenant … [in which were] the golden pot that had manna, … Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the [Law] covenant.” Of the three articles in the Ark of the Covenant, two of them disappeared: the golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod. When we read Kings and Chronicles, only the tables of the Law remained. The absence of the two articles is really proper, for the New Covenant will be made with the natural house of Israel. The rod that budded pertains to the selection of the spiritual priesthood, and the uncorruptible manna in the golden pot is the food of the Church. Just as the Jewish Mosaic Law faded out and was replaced with the Christian sanctuary, spiritually speaking, so as time goes on, the Church will be complete and phase out while the New Covenant with Jesus as the Mediator phases in down here.

Paul was describing the Mosaic Tabernacle, and now he would start the story all over again but add a few other thoughts. In Ezekiel’s Temple, even the Ark of the Covenant will be missing, and instead of the tables of the Law—instead of the Bible itself per se being the instructor— there will be a living Bible, the spiritual Church, the Law going forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord through the Ancient Worthies from Jerusalem. The news media in the Kingdom will not be reading the Bible. The Bible will be an interesting historical book, but specific instructions will be given that are necessary for that period of time. The old Law Covenant will become archaic because new circumstances will arise in the Kingdom Age when Jesus is reigning. Just as Paul said that we are living epistles now, so the Ancient Worthies will be living epistles down here in the Kingdom Age (2 Cor. 3:2,3).

Heb. 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

“Cherubims of glory” shadowed the Mercy Seat. Paul did not “speak particularly” (go into detail) about the articles of furniture. He merely showed that the first covenant had a literal physical structure that contained furniture. He was setting the stage for an analogy and comparison.

Heb. 9:6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

“The priests went always into the first tabernacle [the Holy], accomplishing the service of God.” Paul was talking about the old arrangement, for which we use the broad term “the sacrifices subsequent to the Day of Atonement.” These were daily sacrifices of the people, for which the priests went into the Holy, whereas on the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest went into the Holy and the Most Holy. The priests went into the Holy every day to trim the wicks of the candlestick and supply the oil, and every seven days, they put new bread on the Table of Shewbread. Also, individual offerings were made, and unusual circumstances occurred on certain days other than the Day of Atonement if a priest, a ruler, or the congregation sinned. In other words, there was activity in the Holy every single day, but the Day of Atonement was so superior that there were only a limited number of sacrifices, one of which was the daily offering of two lambs, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. Of course a bullock and the Lord’s goat were offered on the Day of Atonement. Paul would expound upon this subject, but for now he was saying it was unusual that on the Day of Atonement, the high priest went alone into the Holy and the Most Holy. Because that day was very holy and solemn, business was not carried on as usual. Paul would go into detail and try to educate the Hebrews on the sacrifices that the priests performed without knowing the significance.

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:

The high priest went into the Most Holy alone once each year with, first, the blood of the bullock, which he offered for himself, and, second, the blood of the Lord’s goat, which he offered for the sins of the people. As Bro. Anton Frey said, the blood of a bullock was infused into the goat to make the goat acceptable as an offering for the errors of the people as national atonement. In subsequent verses, Paul focused on the meaning of the Day of Atonement services.

Comment: For “errors of the people,” the Diaglott interlinear has “ignorances of the people.” Clearly the sins were not willful.

Reply: All the services of Leviticus were for sins of ignorance. Stripes were needed to expiate willful sin. In addition, there was a price to pay, and finally there was an offering.

Heb. 9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

The way into the Most Holy (“the holiest of all”) was made manifest when Jesus died.

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;

Those who had a guilt complex and were honest-hearted back there would admit that when such a service was performed, it was hard to feel the sin was entirely washed away.

Heb. 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

Now Paul was going into sacrifices other than those on the Day of Atonement, even though that seemed to be foremost in his mind, generally speaking. “Carnal ordinances” were earthly ordinances. (“Carnal” is based on a Greek word meaning “flesh.”) Since these ordinances were ordained of God, they could in no way be sinful. We should not cast aspersions on the Law, for God instituted it. The Law was perfect, but we are not justified by the deeds of the Law. The Law was imposed on the Jews “until the time of reformation,” that is, until the change to the gospel dispensation, when Christ opened up a new and living way, bringing life and immortality to light. The old Tabernacle was supplanted by a new tabernacle, which, in reality, is spiritual. The three tabernacles, listed in chronological sequence, are (1) the archaic tabernacle, (2) the Mosaic Tabernacle, and (3) the antitypical (or spiritual) tabernacle.

Heb. 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Christ became a high priest “by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building [not of the material Tabernacle of Moses].”

Heb. 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Christ “by his own blood … entered in once into the holy place [the Most Holy], having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Paul was again focusing on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest went into the Most Holy. He did not go into the Most Holy on the other days of the year unless an emergency arose that would affect the nation. But Paul was talking about that which was authorized on a regular annual basis.

The term “eternal redemption” is tied in with the thought of Jesus’ sacrifice being “once” for all. The “once” is eternal; it is lasting. Paul was trying to show that while the type was repeated annually, the antitype occurred only once.

Heb. 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

Verse 13 refers to another type of offering that was not annual, namely, the “ashes of an heifer.” The ashes were used for various cleansing rituals. The “blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.” In other words, the ceremonial cleansing was superficial, for it did not purify the heart or salve the conscience of the honesthearted. However, the many—those who stifled the conscience—felt the ritual was satisfactory. That is true today with the Roman Catholic religion.

The offerings in the early chapters of Leviticus were for sins of ignorance; that is, once a person became aware of his sin, he had to make up for his past sins of ignorance. The sacrifices in chapters 1-7 were not for willful sins, generally speaking, although there were a few exceptions. Incidentally, it is dangerous for Christians to be willingly ignorant, thinking that the less they know, the less they are responsible for. Those with this attitude do not want to search too deeply into God’s Word, for in doing so, they would have a sense of guilt and would then have to do or change something.

Heb. 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

How did Christ “through the eternal Spirit” offer himself to God? Because of the abiding nature of Jesus’ sin-atoning blood, we can apply for forgiveness by asking God, in the spirit of prayer, in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ blood, offered once for sin, is a continual offering. The “eternal [agelasting, Greek aionian] Spirit” is applicable to Christians for the duration of the Gospel Age.

Sometimes the best prayers are those offered in agony, remorse, and bitterness of spirit, where the Holy Spirit interprets the words that are not grammatical, intelligible, or sequential. In other words, the Holy Spirit interprets our groanings in times of great distress (Rom. 8:26).

After the Kingdom Age, there will be no further need for sin atonement because sin will no longer exist. With regard to the Church and the Great Company in the Gospel Age, once one dies, his course is finished. What one does before death is significant, for we are told, “Be thou faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10).

Paul was giving principles to show that we have a living Savior, who died once. The doctrine of the Mass is an abomination, for it claims to sacrifice Jesus over and over, continually.

Supposedly Jesus is crucified afresh each time the Mass is said. It is taught that the symbols represent the actual body and blood of Christ, and these are offered on a repetitive basis—the very thing that Paul said is no longer necessary. Jesus’ sacrifice, once for all, is an eternal, abiding redemption. Satan has blinded the minds of the people.

The academic field did not flourish in the past. Since Latin was the mother tongue in the Roman Catholic Church, to be a priest was considered desirable. Priests with talents could be bishops, and perhaps a bishop could become a cardinal, and a cardinal might become pope. Thus the religious field was attractive. In the Old Testament, the people went to the priest, who was the center of attention. In the nominal church, clergy wore rich garments, and people kneeled before them—how flattering! To be in the priesthood itself was a pleasing profession according to the flesh, whereas to be merely a communicant was way down in rank. In fact, communicants were not considered part of the church; they were just beneficiaries of the church’s benevolence for a certain amount of money, burning candles, buying crucifixes, etc. Those with money could “atone” for their sins. In contrast, to be a priest in Moses’ day was a serious matter, for one was responsible for the sin of the nation and had to see that it was atoned for.

Heb. 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

“For this cause he [Christ] is the mediator of the new testament.” The very fact God said, “Behold, the days come … that I will make a new covenant” made archaic the old Law Covenant; that is, it was waxing old and was on its deathbed (Jer. 31:31). Down to the time of the inauguration of the Kingdom, the Law is binding on the natural Jew who does not accept Christ. Reason should say that the God who ordained the Law will make an allowance where it is impossible to obey, but otherwise, the Jews are obligated to obey. Generally speaking, the Hasidic or Orthodox Jews try to obey the letter of the Law. Some of the Conservative Jews, being right-hearted, are at least trying to enter into the spirit of obedience, whereas the Reform (or liberal) element of Jewry is way out.

Jesus “is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” The death of the testator is taught under the Law Covenant. It is pictured on the Day of Atonement by the animal on the altar, which represents the death of the flesh of the priest or priesthood. Also, the high priest’s going under the Second Veil into the Most Holy pictures the death of the human body.

Why did Paul use the expression “eternal inheritance,” which is the hope of glory? He was still comparing the old versus the new. Under the old Law Covenant, perfect obedience brought everlasting life. Stated another way, one could inherit life by perfect obedience to the deeds of the Law, and that is what Jesus did. He obeyed the Law throughout his life, and when his life was taken from him in a violent fashion, he did not lose the right to life. Jesus will give his right to eternal human life to redeem Adam and the human race condemned in him.

“They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Paul was saying that the Law had shortcomings, for the cleansing was only ceremonial. There was a purifying of the flesh but not redemption. In contrast, the new way, the way of Christ, was eternal redemption, real redemption. Paul was trying to wean the Hebrews away from the thought that they could be justified by the deeds of the Law.

Heb. 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

Heb. 9:17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Next Paul talked about the “death of the testator.” Right away we think of a will, which does not go into effect until the one who made the will deceases. Even the power of attorney terminates with the death of the testator. In the antitype, therefore, Jesus had to die at least once so that other things could happen subsequently.

Jesus died willingly, and now God will fulfill His promise with regard to that death; that is, God will justify humanity. Not only was Jesus’ death necessary but also his resurrection. Paul tied both together in his First Epistle to the Corinthians to show that Jesus is a living Savior.

Heb. 9:18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.

Heb. 9:19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,

Heb. 9:20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

Paul mentioned another feature of the Law that merits consideration, namely, that death is pictured by blood. As long as blood is in the veins, it pictures life, but blood outside the veins pictures death. When Paul said, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin,” he meant, “Ye have not yet resisted unto death” (Heb. 12:4).

Paul was referring to the inauguration of the old Law Covenant. After Moses came down from Mount Sinai, the Law was officially inaugurated in a very public fashion. The book of the Law was sprinkled with blood as well as the people and the altar, as recorded in Exodus 24:5-8.

“And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” Since Moses had to sprinkle a considerable number of people, he had quite a basin of blood. Also, it took time for him to sprinkle all of the Israelites. Probably the people paraded past him so that he could sprinkle all 2 million. Not only did Moses need a lot of blood, but in time, it would coagulate, so the blood was no doubt thinned with water. Only one bullock and one goat were technically needed for sin, but the blood was multiplied through the sacrifice of many animals to provide a sufficient quantity to bless the people. The “blood of calves and of goats [plural]” was not a repetitive service on different occasions but just this one occasion in which the Law Covenant was inaugurated. Dipping the wool in the blood solution made it scarlet. Thus in the type, as the people walked by and Moses did the sprinkling, the nation came “under the blood.” In the antitype, we come “under the blood” when we make a full consecration and are immersed in water, picturing death.

The Law was strictly followed while Moses was on the scene. Some whose hearts were not right were jealous of Moses’ authority and recognition—in spite of such happenings as the shining of his face when he communed with God (Exod. 34:29,30). In fact, one who has the wrong spirit can become blind to sight, hearing, and reading, no matter who the individual is. All the eloquence in the world cannot remove that prejudice. Since Moses represented Christ primarily, we can see from the type how prejudice kept many from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Wasn’t jealousy a factor in Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees?

They resented the attention he received from the people, who followed him by the thousands.

Notice that Moses “took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people” and said, “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” Moses kept repeating this statement as he sprinkled the people one by one.

The Bible was written low-key, but the necessary information is all there. The Scriptures are like silver refined (purified) seven times, and the more we think on them, the more we are benefited (Psa. 12:6). No matter how many years we study, we can never hit bottom because God’s thinking is so deep. Even after decades of consecration and study, “still some new, rich gem appears,” as the hymn states.

Heb. 9:21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

The main picture of the inauguration ceremony is Exodus chapter 40. The Book of Numbers provides a little more insight into what happened, and here Paul gave additional details to help us see the depth of the significance.

Heb. 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Jews say that nowhere in the Old Testament does a Scripture say that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. But to the contrary, that statement is everywhere. The Jews find fault because they do not see a statement with just that wording. However, verse after verse and chapter after chapter speak of animal sacrifices and the shedding of blood for the remission of sin. The Jews do not grasp this point because they are blinded (Rom. 11:7,25). For the same reason, not many rich, not many noble, and not many wise get the truth. The poor, the weak, and the relatively ignoble individuals of life are the ones who respond to the calling.

Comment: Leviticus 17:11 comes close to saying there has to be the shedding of blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”

Reply: The Jews object to the word “without,” which has the thought of no exception: “Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” They give a wrong emphasis instead of reading the Scripture as stated. For instance, when a lawyer reads a sentence, he sometimes emphasizes a word that was not the original intent at all. A play on words is used to try to sway the jury to issue a decree favorable to one side. At any rate, Paul was using common sense in verse 22, but the Jews find fault with him.

Heb. 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these [cardinal ordinances].”

Heb. 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

“The holy places made with hands [the Holy and the Most Holy of the Tabernacle] … are the figures of the true [spiritual tabernacle].”

Heb. 9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

In the type, the high priest entered the Most Holy once each year, but in the antitype, Jesus died once for all.

Heb. 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches in effect that Jesus suffers every time the Mass is said. “But now once in the end of the world [at the end of the Jewish Age] hath he appeared [as a perfect man] to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself [to pay the ransom price for Adam].”

Heb. 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Heb. 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Jesus’ role as sin-bearer is past. He was crucified once for all, and now he is alive. What joy there was with regard to Lazarus, who was only resuscitated from the tomb, so when Jesus appeared after his resurrection and manifested himself with a body of flesh, the disciples were delirious with joy. Incidentally, blood (among other things) was not mentioned at that time, for Jesus was a spirit being after his resurrection. Similarly, when angels came down here, they were not humans. In materializing, they merely took on the form, or likeness, of man.

Therefore, when Jesus manifested himself after his resurrection, he was not literally a human being of flesh and blood. To all appearances, he was a human at that time, but that was not the reality. After all, didn’t materialized angels also eat food? Jesus said, “I am not a phantom spirit or a mirage; I am he that was dead and am now alive” (Luke 24:37-43). Moreover, Jesus satisfied doubting Thomas, removing the obstacle from his head, for the apostle had said, “Unless I put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:24-27 paraphrase). That is a rather gory thought—to put his finger through the nail holes on the hand and to thrust his hand into the wound on Jesus’ side—but, as with Thomas, the Lord sometimes caters to our lack of capability of understanding. Thomas wanted to believe, but he needed more concrete evidence. To his credit, Thomas is the one who said, “Let us go up to Jerusalem and die with him” (John 11:16). At times, the Lord humors us with our weaknesses and lack of faith and makes exceptions based on certain principles that we are just beginning to learn. Even though we have been consecrated for a long time, there is no guarantee, by any means, that we have fathomed the bottom of many subjects.

Comment: In his great prophecy, Jesus had cautioned against believing a literal manifestation of him subsequently, so perhaps Thomas recalled those words and thus wanted an assurance (Matt. 24:23-26).

Reply: That is a possibility. However, the principle was expressed by Jesus: “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). Jesus knew the heart of Thomas.

(2000 Study)

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