Lesson 21: ". . .Not Yet Manifest, While the First Tabernacle was Yet Standing" (Hebrews 9:8)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome again! This is lesson #21. In this lesson (I think) we are ready to begin reading (in Heb. ch. 9). In what we call the 9th chapter of HEBREWS our writer continues his shadow-type discussion of the old covenant as compared to the new covenant, i.e. the Mosaic dispensation as compared to the Christian dispensation. This shadow-type discussion began at the beginning of ch. 7, Christ is our High Priest after the order of Melchisedek...not after the order of the Mosaic priests. The priesthood was changed and the law was changed accordingly (Heb. 7:12). We now live under a new covenant with a better hope, this is the way "we draw nigh unto God" (Heb. 7:19). Then at the beginning of what we call ch. 8, our writer interrupted himself. In this pause or interruption (Heb. 8:1-6), lie summarized what he (himself) had already said by reemphasizing the high points he had already made AND further then by commenting upon the real significance of his theme. (#1) Jesus is our High Priest sitting on the right hand of God.. .now. Jesus obtained a more excellent ministry. (#2) He is the mediator of a better covenant (v.6), i.e. the law has now been changed and that covenant is now in force. (#3) By quoting from the O.T. prophets, our writer (in ch. 8) showed how this new covenant is a better covenant and this had been foretold. All under this new covenant "Know the Lord" (v.11)...this knowledge is written in our hearts and minds (v.10). You can't be a Christian without knowing Jesus and having the appropriate knowledge of our High Priest. This is the principal difference in the old covenant and the new covenant.
Then in what we call ch. 9, our writer returns to his type-antitype discussion, picking up from where he interrupted himself at the end of chapter seven. Let's read ch. 9, please put your eyes on the text. Are you ready? We're going to do a long reading. We want to begin in 9:1 and we're going to read down through 10:18...a very long reading. That is a total of 45 verses. We usually do not read that large a block at one time; but, I'm making an exception here BECAUSE: I want you to see and get a feel for the entire block of our writer's shadow-type discussion, contrasting the old with the new. Now, we will not have time to discuss all of this 45-verse block in this lesson, obviously. We'll have to stretch it into two or three lessons. However, you need to recognize and comprehend this division as part of the outline of this book. It is only when you see our writer's defensive and argumentative style of reasoning and explanation of purpose, that you begin to get real insight and develop the contextual setting, as it relates/ed to the brethren in and around Jerusalem (in the AD 60's). And, it's only when you begin to get a feel of the urgency that our writer injects into their relationship and then you are able to apply that urgency and relationship to us, that this discussion begins to take on real meaning. If you lift any one verse out of this section and try to stand it alone with no background and disconnect it from the context, then it's liable to take you almost any where. It's only when you keep it tightly connected to the writer's point of view that it really begins to bear down with real faith building stuff. Let's read! Are you ready? Here we go... beginning in Heb. ch. 9, verse one.
"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all; 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; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 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 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: 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; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a 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; 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. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; 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? 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 where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 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, saying, this is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 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. 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: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 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. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 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. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offerings thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou has had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, 0 God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadest pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever.them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."
O.K. 45 verses! Bring your eyes back up to 9:1 and let's go verse by verse. Back in ch. 7, our writer concentrated on the high priest, the priesthood and the way the priests were made or ordained. In contrast to the old system, keep in mind, the priesthood had been changed at the time of this writing. Christ is our High Priest. It's a different order and the law has been changed correspondingly. The new is now in force. After a pause for summary and explanation (what we call ch. 8), our writer (here in v. 1) moves into the items of worship and the divine service preformed by those priests under the old system, i.e. the old covenant. That first covenant had rules or laws (here called ordinances, in v.1) of divine service, i.e. the way the Mosaic worship was conducted. As our writer reviews the Mosaic worship, he keeps hopping back and forth between the shadow (i.e. the old system) and the type (by that, I mean, the real thing which cast that shadow...in other words: the Christian system or what we call the new covenant). The writer's thesis (here) is developed out of a contrast between the old system and the new system, the old covenant and the new covenant. The "worldly sanctuary" at the end of 9:1 is a reference to the old tabernacle in the wilderness, a tent like structure that was moved from place to place back when the Israelites were a nomadic people. That tabernacle was ultimately changed (500 years later) to a permanent structure, located in Jerusalem, at the time of David and Solomon and was generally (after that) referred to as the temple; but, essentially the same thing, built on the same general plan of two rooms separated by a partition or heavy curtain called the "veil of the temple." That veil was rent (do you remember?), i.e. miraculously rent or torn from the top to bottom that day that Jesus died on the cross. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of this event (Matt. 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). You see, at that moment when Jesus died on the cross, the old system became obsolete. That veil no longer served it's purpose. Jesus became the mediator between God and man. At that time the temple became "desolate" (Matt. 23:38)...i.e. it was no longer God's house. God no longer had a claim in it. Or to say it another way, God on that day deserted the temple. Very appropriately, the public announcement of this in the temple by Jesus on that Tuesday (before he was crucified that Friday) was the last public discourse Jesus ever gave. He said to the multitude in the temple "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matt. 23:39).
In v.2-3-4-5 (here in Heb. ch. 9), our writer goes back and briefly describes that old tabernacle in the wilderness. In Mt. Sinai, 1500 years before, God gave Moses the pattern for building that old tabernacle. God told Moses in Ex. 25:8, "let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." The Israelites did as God directed, it was made from free will offerings...i.e. the materials were donated out there in the middle of the wilderness. Moses had to restrain the Israelites from over-giving (that's Ex. 36:6-7). Our writer simply says here (in v.2), "there was a tabernacle made." In the verses that follow, our writer gives a very good description... very brief; but, very comprehensive. In Ex. ch. 25 and following, several chapters are used in describing this. Here in 9:2, when our writer says: "the first" (see that? v.2!). "The first" means the first room in this tent- like-structure. There were two rooms. This first room was the larger room and had three items, i.e. three pieces of furniture, we would say. There was a candlestick that held seven lamps which burned perpetually... this is described in Ex. 26:31ff, if you are interested. The priests went in daily with a supply of oil and kept those lamps burning. Besides the candlestick there were two tables. These tables are sometimes called altars, if you like that word better. One of these tables had "showbread" as it is called (here in v.2). The showbread was placed in 12 containers on that table according to the 12 tribes. Then, there was a smaller table in front of the veil (separating the two room) where incense were burned perpetually. This was the table of incense where John the Baptist's father (a priest named Zechariah) was replenishing the incense and doing whatever had to be done, when the angel, Gabriel, appeared to him (that's Luke l:5ff). Only the priests were allowed to enter this first room carrying out their duties. When the priests went in (to do this) the people would gather outside the tabernacle/temple and pray. However, as v.3 here indicates there was another room (a smaller room) beyond that curtain (also called the veil) ...i.e. God's dwelling place.. .where the priests were NOT allowed to go. In that room there was only one piece of furniture, a very ornamental table. It was called the ark of the covenant (and is described here in v.4). We usually refer to the big room, the first room, as the holy place and the second room (smaller room) beyond the veil (where God dwelt) as the holy of holies. Now, those rooms, the veil, God's dwelling place and all of that have a sort of counterpart in our system, i.e. the Christian system. This is why we have called our writer's discussion a shadow-type discussion, remember? This is what our writer is saying in v.5, when he points out that the cherubim of glory (some kind of angelic figures or ornament(s) that were placed above the mercy seat...i.e. above the top of this table called the ark of the covenant); he says in essence that he sees no counterpart in our system for this item... if you will. Now, it's a little hard to hold this all together...especially if it is new to you. For example, back in 7:19, (next to the last verse in ch. 7) our writer said (#1) our hope is within the "veil" and (#2) that our forerunner (i.e. Jesus) is for us entered.. .i.e. through the veil. Where is Jesus? He is now in Heaven! Thus, the veil (i.e. our counterpart) separates between us and heaven. There is another reference to this over in 10:20, which says that Jesus has consecrated for us a new and living way "through the veil," (it says). We're going to have to bring this lesson to a close; but, we'll continue this (in lesson #22). Why don't you take the time to read about a half dozen chapters in the book of Ex... starting in Ex. ch. 25! I'll be with you in lesson f22...until then, this is saying: have a good day.