As we come to our study, let’s bow in prayer. We are grateful, our Lord, that you are real, Jesus Christ is real, the Spirit of God is real, the Word of God is real, and our salvation is real. How fitting it is that that song be sung that Father we are no longer involved in a ritual but we are involved in a reality. And even as we come to the book of Hebrews, we are reminded as the Spirit of God has taught repeatedly through this book that all of the old priesthood and the old sacrifices and the Old Testament and all that was was only a shadow of the real, but when Jesus came the real came. And oh, it is real. Thank you, Father, that we do not worship in the shadows, that we do not bow before a pale copy of truth but that we have real substance. We have the reality himself, Jesus Christ, God in us. Now as we come to this word tonight, we pray that our hearts would be opened to be taught of the Spirit. Strip away our blindness and our prejudice. Make us into soft clay upon which the Spirit can write the truth that will harden into an indelible part of our lives, that these things may become ours for eternity. We give the glory to Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.
As you well know, I have a great love for the Old Testament. I have great love for all that makes up Judaism, for all that Judaism is. I have a great love for Israel. I would have to say that the most joyous experience, apart from the experiences of love and salvation, was the experience of visiting the land of Israel, the experience of seeing some of the things that I saw which brought so close to my own heart those things which have been a sacred part of my life in the study of the Word of God for some years. And as we have studied the book of Hebrews, we have not only been studying the truths of the New Testament but we have been studying the truths of the Old Testament, so rich and so deep and so picturesque. And tonight, we come to the ninth chapter of the book of Hebrews, and if you have your Bible, I want to ask you to turn to that chapter. And my it seems as though that we have hardly begun our study of Hebrews and we’re already in chapter nine and there’s only 13.
Some of you are saying, “Praise the Lord because this is tough to handle.” Well that’s all right; it is difficult, but oh what a blessing it has been. We have endeavored to be somewhat repetitious in order that you might get some lasting impressions and some cardinal truths, if in fact you don’t get every detail, which we would never assume. But as we come tonight to the book of Hebrews, just a couple of comments to lead us into the ninth chapter. To the author of Hebrews, a book written to those in a Jewish community just sometime passed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those in that community had heard the truth of Christ. Some had believed and some had come all the way to the edge but not quite believed. Now to the author of Hebrews, the most important truth is a simple truth, access to God. What he is talking about in this book is how to get to God. He uses the terms access to God, salvation to the uttermost, and perfection. And those three are really synonymous terms having to do with entering into the presence of God. And he shows that such access to God, or perfection if you will or salvation to the uttermost, is impossible except through Jesus Christ. He shows to the Jew how that all of the old economy, all of the old priesthood, all of the old sacrifices and all of the old covenant could not bring men to God. They could only take a man so far; they could not provide uttermost salvation, full access to God. And full access to God, according to the New Testament and according to the Holy Spirit writing in the book of Hebrews is by Jesus Christ, and Jesus himself had said, “No man cometh unto God but” what? “By me.” And that’s exactly the message of this book.
There is no access to God apart from Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, men have access to God. So first, the Holy Spirit is concerned with presenting Christ in this book, because if you’re going to get to God, you must accept the fact of who Christ is. If you’re not willing to respond to Christ, then you have cut off the only access. So he begins with a clear presentation of the superiority of Jesus Christ and tells us that he is superior to everything and everyone. And then he goes on to show us three things by which Christ had made this access possible. First of all, by his priesthood, and this through divine mediation. In chapter 7, verse 27, “Who needeth not daily as those high priests who offer up sacrifice first for his own sins and then for the peoples. For this he did once when he offered up himself.” And he shows us that Jesus has a new priesthood. And by his new priesthood of divine mediation, he has brought us to God.
And he not only talks about a new priesthood, but secondly, he talks about a new sacrifice, a new sacrifice. Very clearly this becomes a theme in chapter 10, but look at chapter 9, verse 22: “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood and without shedding of blood is no remission.” In other words, there’s no forgiveness of sin apart from sacrifice. And if you go to chapter 10, you find that Jesus says, “I am the final sacrifice.” So he brings a new priesthood and a new sacrifice. One is divine mediation; the other is divine redemption. Then the third thing that he offers that is new is a new covenant, or divine promises, and that we found in chapter 8, didn’t we, in verse 6. “He hath obtained a more excellent ministry. He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Now the Old Testament worship was based on those three things: The priesthood, the sacrifices, and the covenant. Jesus says, “I bring a better priesthood, a better sacrifice, a better covenant.” Now that only comes from chapter 7 on. The first six chapters are to show you that he is a better mediator to begin with. So the first six chapters deal with the preeminence of his person, then the preeminence of his priesthood, then the preeminence of his sacrifice, then the preeminence of his covenant.
That’s the message of Hebrews. And on the basis of his priesthood, his sacrifice and his covenant, men can enter into God's presence. There is access. And since his is an eternal priesthood, an eternal sacrifice and an eternal covenant, our access is eternal as well. To put our trust then in Jesus Christ is to receive the benefit of all three of these things. Now if this is going to be his theme it’s no shock to us that he’s going to talk about these three in relation to the Old Testament, and that’s exactly what he does. If he’s going to show the Jews that there needs to be a better priesthood and a better sacrifice and a better covenant, he’ll have to show them out of their own text, which is the Old Testament. And he does.
First of all, you’ll remember that all through chapter 7 he uses Psalm 110:4. For example, look at verse 21. Here he quotes Psalm 110:4. The middle of the verse, “The Lord swore and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Now he says in effect David prophesied that the Messiah would be a priest after a different order. If there needs to be a different order, that means the Levitical order is not sufficient, and that’s his point. We need a new priesthood, which provides divine mediation that is final, that is eternal. And he uses the Old Testament prophesy that there would be such a priesthood.
The second thing he wants to talk about is a new sacrifice, and he uses Psalm 40 verse 6-8, and that comes in chapter 10, verse 5. And here he quotes out of Psalm 40 verses 6-8, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not but a body hast thou prepared me in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, ‘Lo I come in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, oh God, above when he said sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not. Neither haddest pleasure in them which are offered by the law.’” In other words, Psalm 40 said, “God is not pleased with the sacrificial system. He wants to prepare a body for his son to offer a new sacrifice.” So he proves there needs to be a new priesthood and a new sacrifice and proves it out of the Old Testament, that the Old Testament prophets and the God of the Old Testament never intended the Old Testament priesthood and the Old Testament sacrifices to be the ones that brought final access to God; there had to be better ones.
The third thing is he wants to prove there needs to be a better covenant, and he does that by quoting Jeremiah 31. And that we studied last week in 8:8 and following. You remember that he quotes right out of Jeremiah, “Behold, the days come saith the Lord when I will make a new covenant for the house of Israel.” And the very fact, look at verse 13, that he said a new one realizes that the old one isn’t any good. As soon as the new one comes, the old one vanishes away.
So what are we seeing then? The Holy Spirit is talking about three things that are new in Jesus Christ. And he wraps up the discussion of the covenant, which is new in verse 13, in that he saith by the very fact that God said a new covenant, he hath made the first old. You understand that? Now I have a 1972 Volvo, you know that. I just thought I’d throw that in; no, I have an illustration. But I have a 1972 Volvo. That is a new Volvo. In a few weeks, 1973 ones will be out, and in that they say that is a new one, mine is automatically what? Old. Oh, that’s terrible. When God brought a new covenant, that automatically makes the old one old. And so he has shown us then that the old covenant needs to pass away because the new one has arrived. And that moves us into chapter 9, because that’s the basis of the discussion of chapter 9.
The question that immediately arises in the Jew’s mind is this, “Okay, in chapter 7 you told us we need a priesthood, and you proved it by the Old Testament and you said Jesus was the new priest, right?” Yes. “In chapter 8, you showed us we needed a new covenant and you showed us that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant.” True? True. “Then are you telling me that the old covenant was purposeless, valueless and of no worth? I mean wasn’t it any good for anything?” The answer is a ringing no, of course it was good. Is it purposeless? Is it valueless? No, not at all. It has its purpose, and that’s the meaning of chapter 9:1-14. It is to show us the meaning of the old covenant, what was it for. And oh, is this ever-rich material, and I want you to get this. He is asking them to give up the old for the new. That does not mean that the old is evil; it does not mean the old is worthless. It means the old is old.
In its day, it was the best thing going, but it’s a new day. And you realize of course don’t you that in our sharing Christ with Jews, with those of the Hebrew faith, those of Israel, as in the day of Peter and as in the day of Paul and all of the New Testament men, the chief obstacle, now mark it, the chief obstacle from a technical standpoint in the way of the Hebrew’s faith is their failure to see that everything in the ceremonial law was only a ritual. It was only a type. It was only a symbol. It was only a picture, temporary and transient, and it needs to be done away when the reality comes, you see. That’s the stumbling block, because they cannot see that it was only a picture, not a reality.
It’s like you having a long-lost person that you love with all your heart and you sit there and you look at the picture, and oh the picture means so much. You know when they’re not around and all of a sudden they show up and they come in and say, “Hello,” and you just keep looking at the picture. And they sit down and two weeks later you’re looking at the picture, and they’re saying, “But hello?” And you’re looking. That doesn’t make any sense. But in effect that’s exactly what is happening in Israel. The reality is here proclaiming his presence and they stare at the picture. And he keeps saying to them in Hebrews, “Throw the picture away. You don’t need it anymore. The reality is here.” That’s the whole point. And so the shadows aren’t needed when the substance comes. The Mosaic ritual is good, but it’s only background. It’s only background, and it is out of the Mosaic ritual that Jesus emerges.
Now in these verses, 1-14, he presents a contrast between the old and the new. Verses 1-10 he outlines the characteristics of the old covenant, and in 11-14 the new. Now we’re going to go as far as we can, and this is exciting. In verses 1-10, he just talks about the old covenant. Let’s look at verse 1: “Then verily truly the first covenant also had ordinances of,” what? “Divine service, even though it was an earthly sanctuary.” I’m not saying that the old covenant is worthless. I’m not saying that the old covenant has no point. It had divine services. Who instituted the old covenant? God did. It had divine meaning. It had divine services, but it was temporary and that is signified because it was an earthly sanctuary, an earthly sanctuary. The very fact that it was an earthly sanctuary indicates that even though its service was divine, it was also temporary. So he says, “No, please don’t understand that I am telling you the old covenant is bad. It’s only temporary. And I’m not saying that its services were not of God. They were of God; they were ordained of God.” So beautifully ordained of God down to every detail, that they present to us clearly a picture of Messiah in every detail. They were all ordained of God. And so he begins by establishing the fact that these services were divine.
Now this leads us a little footnote that I think you ought to keep in mind. It is typical of Hebrews in this book to draw comparisons. They are constant, aren’t they? He compared Israel’s prophets to Christ, angels to Christ, Moses to Christ, Joshua to Christ, Aaron to Christ, and so forth and so on. But you have never once heard him depreciate any of those others by comparison. He never says, “Oh that crumb Moses compared to Jesus. That’s terrible. Moses was the greatest.” He never says, “Oh, those lowly worthless angels compared to Christ.” He never does that. He exalts the prophets. He exalts the angels. He exalts Moses. He exalts Joshua. He exalts Aaron. He exalts the old covenant as far as it can be exalted. He never depreciates it, and that’s a wise thing. The more they are legitimately magnified, the more Jesus is magnified when he is proven to be superior, you see. And so his words are always gracious. There’s no sense in running that down; that was divine. His words are gracious.
Now he says in verse 1 of chapter 9, “Verily the first covenant also had ordinances.” That means rights and ceremonies. It had certain ceremonies that were instituted by God. They were divine things. They were all laid out by God to show us the Savior. But the fact that it was an earthly sanctuary means it was only temporary; it was passing. The services were divine, but they were temporary in an earthly tent. Now he proceeds then to describe the earthly pattern, and I want to show you three things: The sanctuary, the services, and their significance. The sanctuary, the services, the significance. Then when we go to the new, we’ll see the same three things: The sanctuary, the service, and its significance.
First of all, let’s read verses 2 to 5 and see the sanctuary. “For there was a tabernacle,” – that’s the word for tent – “the first in which was the lampstand and the table and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary. And after the second vail, 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 in which 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.” In other words, I don’t have time to go into all the details, but you know all about it. And he even skipped some of the things that are in there, because he’s speaking to a group of people who are terrifically familiar with all of this anyway. So he’s saying, “Look at all of this. This is what the sanctuary possessed.”
Now let’s look at it beginning in verse 2. “There was a tabernacle.” Now we’re talking about the old covenant, the ceremonies and rituals of Israel. There was a tabernacle. Now he’s dealing here with the tabernacle rather than the temple, because he wants to pull out the primary things that God placed initially in that tabernacle, and it was the earthiest of the two between the tabernacle and the temple. It was the most transitory and passing thing because of its mobility and the substance of which it was made, so it illustrates his truth. But he starts out by saying there was a tabernacle made. Now that tent is very important, and I dare say we don’t know nearly as much about it as we ought to. Do you know there are only two chapters in the Bible that talk about creation and there are 50 chapters that talk about the tabernacle? That is important. The tabernacle is important and demands attention from us in our study, because the tabernacle is a giant picture of Jesus Christ. It is a gigantic portrait of Christ in every detail. God laid out all the plans, and you look at it and it’s just Christ everywhere you look.
For example, let’s begin. This was a big tent. It was 150 feet long and it was 75 feet wide. And there was only one gate, and it was on the east. And it was 30 feet wide, seven-and-a-half feet high, and many people could go through it. Now that is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way,” who also said, “I am the door.” To the tabernacle or the place of God there was only one door. How many doors are there to God now? One door, Jesus Christ. So the fact of one door pictures Jesus Christ. Christianity is very exclusive, men only come to God through Jesus Christ. Now let’s assume that we started at the east and we were going into the 150-by-75-foot tent. The outside was a curtain that was not covered, and we would move then, and he just doesn’t even get into this but let me fill in. We would move into the courtyard, the outer court of the tabernacle. And we would see some furniture there which he doesn’t mention because of their obvious familiarity with it. But as we walk from the east going in, we would first of all come to the brazen altar.
Now the brazen altar it was just that, it was made of acacia wood. It was seven-and-a-half feet square, so it was a large altar. It stood four-and-a-half feet off the ground. The top was covered by a brass grate, and the coals were underneath the grate and the sacrifice was placed on the grate. On four corners of the alter were the horns of the altar to which the animal was bound when it was being sacrificed. The brazen altar is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, the one who was a sacrifice for sin.
Having moved past that continuing west, we would come to the next piece of furniture that is in the court, and that is the laver, or a wash area. This is made of brass. In it the priest washed their hands and used it also to wash their feet as they went about the bloody services of sacrifice. It again is a picture of Jesus Christ who is the cleanser of his people. And it’s a wonderful picture when you put the two together. Once we have come to the brazen altar and received forgiveness for sins, we are not through. We still need to go to the laver for the daily cleansing that brings about restoration and the pure joy of full fellowship. So both of them picture Jesus. And together they picture the work of Christ on earth, as he provided the forgiveness and the cleansing in the cross.
Then we’re still going west and we come to the tabernacle itself. 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, 15 feet high. The holy place took up two-thirds of it, which meant that the holy of holies was a perfect cube, 15 by 15 by 15, the other 15 by 15 by 30. We would go into the holy place, if we were priests, and in there we would find three pieces of furniture, and here the writer only mentions two. As I say, he’s in a hurry; he doesn’t have time for details, and they know them all as well as the back of their hand anyway. And we would move then into the holy place, and first of all on the left side would appear the golden lampstand. The seven-lit golden lampstand that the pure olive oil that was placed there for the fire. This golden lampstand was beaten out of solid gold. Then we would look to the right and we would see the table of showbread. This was made of acacia wood, again overlaid with gold. It was three feet long, one-and-a-half feet wide and about two-and-a-quarter-feet high off the ground. And on it every Sabbath they laid 12 loaves, one for every tribe in Israel, six in two rows. And at the end of the week the priests ate it, and only the priests were allowed to eat it.
Then continuing to the center, we would see the Altar of Incense. It again was made of acacia wood and it was sheathed in gold. It was one-and-a-half feet square, three feet high. And on this were placed the burning coals from the brazen altar way out in the courtyard where sacrifice was made. Then you say, “Well what are these three things supposed to be all about?” Again, they are pictures of Jesus Christ.
Let me show you what I mean. In the outer courtyard, all the things out there are connected with salvation and the cleansing of sin. Now where did Jesus accomplish salvation and the cleansing of sin? On the earth. And that’s the courtyard, outside God's presence. The very fact that it was the outer court, accessible to all the people pictures Christ in the world openly manifesting himself before men. But when he goes into the holy place, he is shut off from the men of the world. And so whatever it is that’s going on in the holy place it’ll have to do with that which he does when he gets back to heaven. And what are the three things that Jesus does when he gets back to heaven? Number one, he lights our path. Number two, he feeds us. And number three, he intercedes for us. And so the three pieces of furniture in the holy place are pictures of Jesus Christ. The golden lampstand is Christ, the light of life, not the light of the world. He’s not the light of the world when he’s in there. He said listen to it carefully in the Gospel of John, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” But when he left the world, the world was left in darkness, and he is only for the believer, the light of life. Don’t confuse that. It’s talking about his work in heaven. He is the light of life. He is the light that directs our paths. He is the one who through the Spirit illumines our mind, who understands spiritual truth. He is the one by the indwelling Spirit that guides us through the world of darkness. He is our light.
And then we look to the right and we see the table of showbread and Jesus is our sustenance. He’s the one who feeds us every day, who sustains us, and he sustains us with the Word. In fact, the Word is not only our food, the Word is our light, and the oil is the Spirit of God who lights the Word for us. You might say the light is our food on the other side and the Spirit is our waiter. And then we come to the altar of incense which pictures the sacrificial coals placed there and the incense smoke rising, and this is Jesus interceding for us. The perfect sacrifice became the intercessory. And so all three picture Jesus’ work in heaven for us. But we don’t stop there.
Look at verse 3. We go through a second vail, and we couldn’t do this, could we? Only if we were high priests and only once a year on one day. But in our minds, let’s go. And we go after the second vail into the tabernacle, which is called the holiest of all, the holy of holies. And we get in there and there’s only one piece of furniture, and what was it? It was the Ark of the Covenant, and it contained Aaron’s rod that budded, and it contained manna, and it contained the tables of law. It was simply made of acacia wood. It too was overlaid with gold about 3’9” long, 2’3” wide, and about 2 feet high, just a box. And the lid on top of it was called what? Look at verse. Which had the golden censer, we’ll get to that later, and the Ark of the Covenant overlaid roundabout with gold in which was the golden pot, manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, the tables of the covenant. Verse 5, “And over it the cherubim of glory showing the mercy seat.” On top of this was the mercy seat, as it’s called. And over the mercy seat on two ends were cherubim, that’s angels, whose wings stretched over and almost touched. The mercy seat was made of gold; the angels were solid gold. And it was between the wings of those angels on the mercy seat that God met men.
In Exodus 25:22, God said, “I’ll commune with you from above the mercy seat from between the cherubim.” And if God and man were to have any meeting place, they only met there. But you see isn’t it tragic that under the Old Testament economy there was only one guy who could go in there and he had to hurry in and hurry out, because there wasn’t ever really any access at all. And the people never got any further than the outer court; they never even got into the holy place. But here was the Ark. You say, “What does that represent?” It represents Jesus Christ who is the true mercy seat. When you meet Jesus Christ as Savior, you are ushered into the presence of God.
God no longer communes with men between the wings of the cherubim. He communes with men no longer on the top of a gold mercy seat. He communes with men because they come to him in the name of whom? Jesus Christ. He is the mercy seat. Only on the basis of the blood of a goat would God have fellowship with Israel, and only on the basis of the blood of Christ will God have fellowship with men. Christ is the mercy seat, the meeting place of God and men. So we see the sanctuary. It had divine services, but it was earthly, and it was so temporary and passing and it never provided true access. So the writer speaks of the sanctuary. Let’s look at the services, and this is going to be interesting especially in reference to the Day of Atonement, which is tomorrow in Israel’s calendar.
Verse 6, “Now when these things were thus prepared,” – when the furniture was all set up, watch what happened – “the priest went always into the first tabernacle accomplishing the service of God.” The first one was called the Holy Place. They went in there every day; they had to go in every day to trim the oil on the lampstand. They had to go in there every day to put the incense on the altar of incense, and they had to go in every Sabbath day to change the 12 loaves of bread. So they were in and out of there every day. Every day, every day, every day they went into the holy place. This was a never-ceasing work. It’s again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who does not cease lighting, who does not cease feeding, who does not cease interceding on our behalf. It is perpetual. It is continual. It is unceasing. Aren’t you glad you have a Christ like that who never stops his priestly work? Every day, every day, every day going about doing it on our behalf.
But verse 7, “Into the second, or the holy of all, went the high priest alone once every year, and not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people.” Now this is interesting, and I want us to take a minute to see this. What happens in Israel historically is important to us, because so much of it pictures Christ. But nothing pictures Christ more than this event. The statement in verse 7 refers to the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, which is tomorrow. Now the Day of Atonement is again a perfect picture of Christ. He doesn’t spend any detail on it because they knew it well, but I’m going to take a moment to spend some detail. We know that God had a relationship with Israel, but every time Israel sinned, what happened to the relationship? It was broken. So every day they’d come and they’d make sacrifices and it would be kind of reconnected. But all through the year sins would pile up that you forgot about that you didn’t know you committed; that’s why they’re called errors rather than sins. The things you didn’t know and you forgot about and you didn’t confess and you didn’t make a sacrifice for would pile up. So the Day of Atonement was kind of a catch-all. All of the ones for which you had not made direct sacrifice would be gathered together, and they would all be covered in the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement for the whole nation. So it was a great day of liberty of the conscience. I mean you knew all through the year that you’d be racking up and you know you remembered some of them but you hadn’t remembered all of them, and so you longed for the Day of Atonement when the sacrifice was made and at least for a few minutes you could be free.
Sin severed the relationship. Only forgiveness through sacrifice could put it together, and so there needed to be a catch-all to pick up the things the people had forgotten. And so that was the Day of Atonement. Now let’s look at the ritual. Very early in the morning the priest arose, not from the dead but from the bed. And he cleansed himself by washing; he washed himself thoroughly. Then he put on some robes that were reserved for this day; they’re the robes of glory and beauty, fancy robes. There was the robe of the ephod, and on the robe of the ephod the shoulders were two large onyx stones, and each of those onyx stones had six of the tribes’ names engraved on them. On the tunic, which was on the breastplate, was also 12 precious stones, each one of them having on it engraved one name of a tribe. So he bore, remember we saw this a few weeks ago, the names of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart. And there he is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ who takes us not only on his heart, which means he cares for us, but on his shoulders, which means he’s not only willing, he’s what? He’s able. That’s power; that’s strength.
And so the high priest then carried the people to God on his heart and on his shoulders, and I’m sure that he wished he could give them access to the holy place. And I’m sure his heart ached to give them access to God. I’m sure he ached to have it himself. He had it on his heart, but he didn’t really have the strength in his shoulders. That was a picture of Jesus who would come and be willing and also be able. And so the high priest got himself all cleaned up and put on his robes. Then he began to do his daily sacrifices. He had to go through the whole routine of all the sacrifice. One writer says, “Very likely he would’ve already slaughtered 22 different animals by the time he reached the event known as Atonement.” Very busy and a very bloody thing that he did every day.
And so he went all through the sacrifices, and when he was done, he finished all of that. He removed his gorgeous robes. He took of the robes of glory and beauty, went and bathed himself again from top to bottom so that he was completely clean, and then he put on – now mark this one, this is interesting. He then put on pure white linen with no decoration at all, and it was a symbol of holiness and it was a symbol of purity. And it is a perfect symbol of Jesus Christ who in the work of atonement stripped of all of his glory and all of his beauty and became the humblest of humble, dressed in the simplest, if you will say so, linen of human flesh. But notice it’s still white. In all of his humility, he never lost his, what? His holiness.
And so when Jesus came to do the work of sacrifice to make the atonement for sin, he took of the glory but he never took off the purity and he never took off the holiness. And so again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, and it’s interesting to note also that when the high priest was done with the sacrifice of atonement, he put right back on the robes of glory and beauty. Remember Jesus after he’d come to the cross and he was preparing for the cross and his prayer in John 17 he said, “Father, I finished the work you gave me to do, now glorify me with the glory that I had before the world began. Father, give me back my robes. I’ve done the job of atonement.” That’s exactly what the priest pictured, perfect picture.
And so the priest then put on the robes of linen, simple robes. The procedures then were as follows. In the robe of white linen, or the garments of white linen, the priest took coals off the alter. That’s the brazen alter where sacrifice is going to be made. He put them then in a censer with incense, and he carried it clear into the holy of holies. Now you’ll notice that tells that in verse 4, “Which had the golden censer.” That was not a piece of furniture in there, but the high priest on the day of atonement filled it with coals off the altar of sacrifice and took it and put it in the holy of holies, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ again. He realizes that it is only because of Jesus Christ that he can even enter into there. So before he does any sacrifice at all, he takes that which represents Christ and puts it in there in the presence of God, for no man can come into the presence of God except Christ make the way. And so the picture of incense is always the picture of prayer and intercession. So he makes sure that the picture of Christ interceding before God opens the way for him to come in.
So he puts the censer in there and smoke fills the place from the censer. No man can approach God except Christ be there first. Then he goes out and he has a bullock, and it’s a bullock that he himself has had to purchase with his own money, because it’s a bullock that’s for his sins. And so he slaughters the bullock and offers the sacrifice, catches all the blood or has someone assist him. The blood was set to drain off, and he catches it, swirls the little bowl or whatever it was in in order that it might not coagulate, and while it is swirling when he’s completed this, he takes this blood in his arms and he walks through the holy place and he walks into the holy of holies and he takes it and he sprinkles it on the mercy seat. And this is for his own sin. This is not typical of Jesus, is it? In chapter 7, verse 7, what did it say? It says this, “Who needeth not daily as those high priests who offer up sacrifice first for his own sin.” Doesn’t need to do that. Why? Why didn’t Jesus have to offer sacrifice for his own sins? He didn’t have any, he didn’t have any sins. But the priest had to, and so first of all, he had to go in and get himself right before God, and he sprinkled the blood of the bullock tradition says seven times up one side, seven times down the other side. And then he hurried out, always in a hurry to get out. And you can imagine that after the first time he came out the people went, 'cause he made it you see. If he went in there unclean, he could be dead. There were so many rules about the priesthood, and it kept saying in Leviticus “that he not die, that he not die.” If he didn’t do it right, he’d drop dead on the spot. And you could imagine the baited breath of the people as he would go in and then he would come out again. And when they’d see him again, sigh of relief.
And he’d offer his own bullock blood and then he came out. And when he came out, there were two goats waiting for him, two goats standing by the brazen altar. And there was a little urn, and in the urn were two different lots. And they used to cast lots just like anybody, one short and one long and they would determine which went there. One lot was marked, and they were usually scarlet cloth. And one was marked for Jehovah and the other was marked for ozeal, which is for the scapegoat. And he would draw them out and then he would lay one of those on the head of each goat and tie it to his horn. One of them being designated as for Jehovah and the other one being designated as for the scapegoat.
Now the goat that was designated for Jehovah was then killed on the altar. The blood was then caught in the same way and swirled in the bowl that it not coagulate. He reentered the holy of holies again and this time this blood was for the people and he sprinkled all on the mercy seat again and hurried back out, and again there was a sigh of relief when he made it out the third time. And he came back out and then the interesting part, there was still the scapegoat standing there. And he was brought to the priest, and the priest put his hands on the scapegoat. And then the high priest confessed his own sins and the sins of all of Israel, and he transferred them in a sense to the goat. He laid all his sins on that goat, and then that goat was taken way out into the wilderness and they couldn’t go more than a Sabbath day’s journey. They couldn’t go a Sabbath day’s journey. They would go half of that, and so it would take a great group of men who would little by little take that goat far enough away so that the goat would be turned loose in the wilderness. Some said that they would push him off a cliff. Some tradition says they killed a goat. The best tradition indicates they just turned him loose, way out in the wilderness. They wanted to be sure that that goat didn’t come back. They had enough trouble forgetting their sin without a goat with the red thing tied to its horn wondering through camp.
So the first goat then represented satisfaction. Christ’s death was a death-satisfying God. He bore all the fires of judgment. He shed his blood. He paid the penalty; it was done. The second goat represents the removal of sin, which satisfies man. The first goat satisfies God. The second goat satisfies us. The two are not two offerings but one. Listen to Leviticus 16:5, “And he shall take two kids of a goat for a sin offering.” They’re just two parts of the same thing. So in that offering there was satisfaction to God. There was satisfaction for men. Propitiation, if you will, and pardon. In both cases, it was substitution. Now those are perfect copies of Jesus, aren’t they? Jesus who was the substitution, propitiation, he died on the altar and shed his blood. Jesus who bore away our sins.
Now what is the significance of this? Well look at verses 8-10. What was the Holy Spirit trying to teach? You say, “If the old covenant is done away, was it any good? Did it have a purpose?” Sure, and here is what, verse 8. “The Holy Spirit thus signifying.” You see, the Holy Spirit wanted to teach something by this whole thing. The Holy Spirit was using this as an illustration to teach three things primarily, at least three of them that are listed here in 8, 9, and 10. Number one, that worship of God was limited in the old covenant. There wasn’t any access, and the Holy Spirit wanted to teach it, teach them that through this there was no access. They could come but not too close. Secondly, the Holy Spirit wanted to teach them a sense of imperfect cleansing was connected with the old covenant. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit meant to teach that the old covenant was temporary. He wanted them to know that it was limited, imperfect, and temporary. Now he says this in verses 8-10. First of all, let’s look at verse 8 and see how the Holy Spirit taught that the worship was limited. Verse 8, the Holy Spirit thus signifying through all of this the Holy Spirit was saying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while the first tabernacle was yet standing. There was no access. This whole thing proved no access. Could people get into the holy place? No. Could they get into the holy of holies? Absolutely not. The whole thing was meant to prove that without a redeemer, without a Messiah, without a Savior there’s no access to God, see? The Holy Spirit was saying that. He was teaching through the old system its very limitations.
The Holy Spirit was teaching the impossibility of access to God without a perfect priest and a perfect sacrifice and a perfect covenant. And by allowing the people to go no further than the outer court and allowing the priest to go no further than the holy place, the Holy Spirit signified the old system was limited. No access to God through Judaism; there isn’t any, there isn’t any. Look at it in verse 8, “The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.” What’s the holiest of all there? It’s heaven. It’s heaven. You couldn’t get to heaven just through that; there had to be something else. You’re saying, “Are you saying that no Jew in the Old Testament ever went to heaven?” No, they did, but they didn’t go to heaven because of the Judaistic system; they went to heaven because Jesus died. And if you’ll remember carefully, you’ll find out that when Old Testament saints died who were believing saints, they went to a place called Sheol. And it wasn’t until Jesus died that he went into Sheol and gathered them up and took them to heaven. You see they could not enter into the holiest of all, into the presence of God, until Jesus had perfected the sacrifice that opened the veil. That’s why the Bible says they remained in that place called Paradise, Sheol, or Hades. When Jesus died, he descended and he led captivity captive and brought them into God's presence. That’s the first time they could have full access to God, and it was provided because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Perfect priesthood, perfect covenant.
So Jesus alone can take us to God's presence in heaven. The way into the holiest of all was not manifest while the first tabernacle was standing. And the Spirit by that very thing teaches its impossibilities. The second thing is taught in verse 9. And here he gives us a clear indication that there was an imperfect cleansing. It says, “Which was a figure for the time then present in which were offered gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” It was a lot of things going on but they couldn’t perfect. They couldn’t bring perfect cleansing. Now the word figure is parabole from which we get the word parable. The whole thing was only a parable; it was only an object less to explain the reality. So the Spirit meant to teach by that very thing itself that it had limits because it couldn’t bring access and it couldn’t bring perfect cleansing.
Thirdly, the Spirit taught that the whole thing was temporary. Verse 10, “Which stood only in,” – notice all these things are temporary things. Foods, that’s temporary. Drinks, temporary. Various washings, temporary. Carnal ordinances, or fleshly ones, temporary. “Imposed upon them until the time of reformation.” The whole thing was only a temporary thing until the time of reformation. Remember the whole system was never intended to be forever; it was never intended to be permanent. It had built-in lessons about its own impermanence. Why? ‘Cause all it dealt with impermanent things like food and drink and washing yourself and all of these fleshly things they were only signs, until the time of reformation. What’s reformation? Well the word means this, now watch this. The word reformation means to set things right. Let me give you a translation that I think is best: To bring things to a satisfactory state. You see the first covenant was not satisfactory; it couldn’t set things right. The new one can. You see it was only fleshly until the time of that which brought things to a satisfactory state. That’s Jesus. He did all the old one couldn’t do. So the first covenant wasn’t satisfactory; it couldn’t set things straight. Oh, its sanctuary was meaningful. Its services were meaningful. But their significance was a picture of Christ and a lesson in itself of inadequacy. And if you don’t have Jesus Christ, all you have is an inadequate system into which the Spirit of God has built the inadequacy so that you can see it right there.
And so the old. Sure, divine services. A divinely-ordained sanctuary, but earthly, passing, temporary.
Then he comes to his comparison, but look at the new. Oh this is good and we’ll only spend just a little time on this, 'cause you don’t need to say anything. After you’ve set the stage like that, you could read it and you’ll understand it. Verse 11, “But,” – oh you like that word? “But,” – I’m glad that’s there – “Christ being come an high priest of good things to come.” We need good things to come. We need that thing that sets everything straight. “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 goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.” I mean if they could do something to the external, “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?” In other words, if all of that was so nice, imagine what Christ must be able to do? He starts out by talking about the new sanctuary. Look at it in verse 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.” First of all, here’s the new sanctuary, and it’s not like the old. The old was a tent; it was a nice tent. It wasn’t very beautiful. It was beautiful on the inside and the outside, those crummy skins. Badger skins aren’t real pretty. We all think of the tabernacle as beautiful; it wasn’t beautiful.
But there’s a new one that isn’t even made with hands. You say, “What is that? What is this greater and more-perfect tabernacle?” I’ll tell you what it is, it’s heaven. It’s heaven. Where does Christ minister for us right now? In the throne room of heaven at the Father’s right hand. You say, “Well where is the heaven ever called a perfect tabernacle?” Well let me give you a couple verses. Acts 7:48, “Nevertheless, the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Got it? That’s a perfect comparison. And then Acts 17:24 says this, “God who made the world and all things in it seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” And here in Hebrews Jesus is pictured as one who has a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands. It must mean the same thing. It’s the same phrase, and everywhere else it means heaven. His temple is in heaven. His sanctuary is in heaven. He ministers for us in heaven and the throne room of God at God’s right hand. Oh, what a sanctuary.
And you know the wonderful part about it is this: The old priest could go in there for the people, but could he take the people in? No. Jesus can he take us in? He takes us in. You say, “Well have you ever been in the throne room of God?” I live there! You say, “You live 9282 Whitaker Sepulveda?” Not really. My body hangs out there. You say, “What do you mean you live up there in the throne room of God.” Well I’ll tell you, one of the most wonderful verses in all the Bible, listen to it. Ephesians 2:6, ready? We’ll go verse 5, “Even when we were dead in sins hath made us alive together with Christ, by grace are you saved.” Now when you were saved, here’s what happened. And raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. You know something, we live in the heavenlies. Read Ephesians and read it well. We’ve been blessed with all spiritual blessings, where? In the heavenlies. Right now we exist spiritually in the presence of God. I am not one moment of my life without the presence of God, did you know that?
Spiritually speaking I don’t even live in this world. My body hangs out here, but I live in the throne room of God. Christian, you need to realize that, you need to realize that. It may clean up your life a little bit. You live in the throne room of God, spiritually speaking. Jesus has taken us in. he not only went in and sprinkled some blood for us, but he hauled us in with him, and he says you can stay forever. That’s the sanctuary that he ministers in. now what about his services? What does he do? Look at verse 12, “Well 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.” Three things I want to pull out of that. He didn’t do it with just animals. Number one, his own blood. His service is his own blood, not the blood of an animal. That’s different than the priests, isn’t it? His own blood. Personal sacrifice of himself. His own blood. Second thing, once for all. You see he didn’t have to go in over and over and over. He entered in once into the holy place, once, never repeated it.
Third thing, he obtained what kind of redemption? Eternal. Did the high priest ever obtain eternal redemption? He got redemption good for the last year past, not the one coming up. He could only take care of the past, couldn’t do one thing for the next minute. Jesus purchased a redemption that’s not only a past, it’s not only a past, it’s a present, and it’s a what? It’s a future, see? So why is his service better? It was his own blood. It was once not repeated, and it was eternal not temporary. And so we see his sanctuary, that’s heaven, his service, oh so different. What is his significance? Verse 13, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.” I mean if that old covenant as weak as it was had some good points. You know there was an external cleansing there, wasn’t there? Sure. There was a temporary external setting aside of sin. There was a covering for sin and a covering for defilement of the old sacrifices.
There was a ceremonial cleansing in the old sacrifices, of course there was. If the death of dumb animals in a shadowy covenant like that could bring an outside cleansing, verse 14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God purge your conscience, clean it all out from dead works to serve the living God.” If that thing could clean you on the outside, oh how Christ’s sacrifice must be able to clean you on the inside. Isaac Watts, “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. But Christ the heavenly Lamb takes all our sins away, a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.” Amen. You’ll notice that it says in verse 14 that he offered himself without spot to God through the eternal Spirit.
You know that just did everything through his Spirit. He did everything on earth in obedience to the Father through the power of the Spirit, even his own sacrifice of death. And then it says, “Because he did this, he will purge your conscience.” That means clean it out and free it from guilt, total forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And it says in 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” Boy, what a blessed thing. No longer bugged by our guilt, but free. And it says this, “Purge your conscience from dead works.” That’s inward defilement. He cleans the inside. You see the old priest could cover up on the outside; Jesus cleans the inside. The old system could cleanse externally; the new one can change a man’s nature. It removes inward defilement. What it does is change his nature. The old one covered up, the outside, this one changes the man on the inside. “If any man because in Christ Jesus,” what? Not just cleaned up old creature but what? New creature. In the old economy, it would’ve have to been this: If any man does the sacrifice, he’s a cleaned-up old creature. In Christ, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Removes inward defilement.
Before Christ, men did good works through their limited strength, the limited strength of their human nature. But when you become saved, you do the things that please Christ not through your human nature but through the new nature God gave you. That’s why in Romans 13 the apostle Paul says, “Here are the commandments. Don’t covet. Don’t lie. Don’t do this, boom, boom, boom.” And then he says this, “But you have a new capacity, and all you got to remember is this, love everybody and you’ll keep all the commandments,” because you have a new capacity. You see in the Old Testament they had to have them because they didn’t really have the capacity to just exude the new life. They never got a new inside when they believed. It didn’t come; they were the same old people. It was all kind of on the external, and they needed all the rules to follow. But in the new covenant, he simply says, “Look, you got a new capacity and your new nature. Just love everybody and you won’t need to worry about anything else.”
Evangelist Wooten tells a story. He used to hold tent meetings long ago. He was outside one day and he was pulling up the stakes of his tent, one-man operation. Pulling up the stakes of his tent, and the young man came up behind him and said, “Mr. Wooten, sir, can I ask you a question?” He was bending over and he said, “Yes, sir, go right ahead.” He said, “Uh, well, what do I have to do to be saved?” Mr. Wooten turned around and said, “Sorry, it’s too late.” He said, “Oh no.” He said, “Yes, it’s too late.” He said, “You mean it’s too late because the service is over?” He said, “No, it’s too late because it’s already all been done.” And then he proceeded to tell him that he didn’t have to do anything; Jesus did it all. All you do is believe it. And he turned to the boy and he said, “Only believe what he has done.” Our salvation, dear ones, is based on a covenant that is final, a sacrifice that is once and for all, and a priesthood that is eternal. And everything in the Old Testament is only a shadow when Jesus is the substance.
I close with this: Upon a life I did not live, a death I did not die, a God I cannot see, I stake my eternity. Let’s pray. Lord God, we thank you for what Jesus has done. We thank you that we don’t have to do anything, because he did it all. Perfect priesthood, perfect sacrifice, perfect covenant. And, Father, as we think of this day of our dear Jewish friends, how our heart goes out to them who tomorrow will celebrate everything that pictures Jesus. And it will be empty, empty, empty, because Jesus will not be there. Oh God, I pray that even through this, somewhere and someway you’ll be able to revive the hearts of some in Israel, that they may see Jesus Christ in the very ritual they will go through tomorrow, that their hearts will be turned from the shadows to the substance, from the ritual to the reality. That as the writer of this book of Hebrews has said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “They may not fool around in that which is done away in vanishing, but that they may come to him who is able to give them the access to God they so desperately desire.” May it be so, Father.
And there may be in our midst tonight even some of Israel. Oh, Father, how you love them. Oh, how you love them and how you sent your Son to be their redeemer. Draw them to yourself tonight, Father. Draw them to Jesus. Make him irresistible. And, Lord, there may be some who are not of Israel with us tonight but have heard the message of Jesus Christ and who long to know God and know forgiveness and know eternal life and to live in the heavenlies where you are. May this be the night of their salvation. Thank you, Father, for what you’re going to do in the hearts of those who respond to the work of the Spirit. We pray that no one will go away who hasn’t made their life right with you.