Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Hebrews 9:1-2
The book of Exodus relates that at Mount Sinai, Moses was given instructions for a portable tent-like sanctuary that was to be the center of Israel’s worship (Exodus 25-30). The sanctuary was called both the “Tabernacle” (dwelling) and the “Tent of Meeting.”
Within the tabernacle’s first room (the Holy Place) was the golden lampstand. Symbolizing light from God, the intricately patterned lampstand was to give light continually, fueled by clear olive oil (Exodus 27:20). Revelation 1:12-20 indicates that the local churches were represented by golden lampstands. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Christians are to be a light to the world, also (Matthew 5:14).
The table of showbread is a symbol of God’s omnipresence and provision. The table held the twelve loaves of bread that were a reminder that the tribes were constantly in the presence of God and that God saw all that they did (Leviticus 24:5-9).
The bread also reminded the people that God fed His people. God provides what we need (Matthew 6:25-34). We as Christians are daily in God’s presence. We are to “feed on” God’s truth (Matthew 4:4). Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. Hebrews 9:3-4a
The golden altar was actually in the Holy Place where it stood before the inner veil (curtain) separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
Hebrews 10:19-20 teaches that this veil represents Christ’s body which was given for us on the cross. When He offered up His spirit, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, thus allowing anyone to come at any time into God’s presence (Matthew 27:50-51).
Aaron, the High Priest, was instructed to burn incense on the altar each morning and at twilight, every day, as a regular offering to the LORD (Exodus 30:7–8).
The altar of incense can be seen as a symbol of the prayers of God’s people. Our prayers ascend to God as the smoke of the incense ascended in the sanctuary. The fact that the incense was always burning means that we should always pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
The altar of incense can also be seen as a picture of the intercession of Christ. Just as the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard was a type of Christ’s death on our behalf, the altar of incense in the Holy Place was a type of Christ’s mediation on our behalf—Christ’s work on earth and in heaven.
Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, would the high priest enter into the Most Holy Place through the inner veil. The high priest was first to make atonement on the horns of the golden altar of incense before entering the Holy of Holies. The writer of Hebrews places the altar of incense behind the second curtain because on the important significance of the Day of Atonement, the most solemn day on the Hebrew ceremonial calendar. It is when the smoke from the incense would shield the High Priest from the overwhelming divine presence – the Shekinah glory of God.
“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat.”
“He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task.” Leviticus 16:20-21
The Day of Atonement is the only day each year on the Hebrew calendar when the high priest offers up sacrifices for the corporate national sins of Israel including wickedness and rebellion.
This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. Hebrews 9:4b-5
A symbol of God’s law and authority, the ark was made of wood covered with gold. The ark was the throne of God where His glory rested above the Mercy Seat (top), a symbol of His loving kindness and compassion. The sacrificed blood was sprinkled on the ark to cover the sins of the people.
The phrase “Mercy Seat” also means “propitiation.” Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering. In relation to salvation, propitiation means placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Jesus is the propitiation for us today (Romans 3:25; I John 2:2.) His blood was shed to cleanse our sins. We come to God through Him and offer our spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5,9).
The stone tablets of the covenant (10 Commandments) served as a reminder of mankind’s disobedience to Gods commandments.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10
Since no one is able to measure up to God’s holiness in his own efforts, the law pointed to the need for a savior.
A golden pot of manna was a reminder of ancient Israel’s rejection of Gods provision.
“But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:6
The budded rod of Aaron was a reminder of how the people questioned God’s appointed leadership.
Numbers 17:1-13 can be summarized as follows: The Israelites were constantly grumbling against Moses. God said, “Moses, get me twelve staffs, one from each tribe. The staff that sprouts belongs to the man I have chosen” Aaron’s rod was the one that budded.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. Hebrews 9:6-7
The high priest could not go within the veil, because he was not perfect. He had to be sprinkled with blood, and that made him ceremonially acceptable to stand before the divine presence. But when next year came around he was not fit to go within the veil till blood was sprinkled on him again. And the next year, though he was always a consecrated man set apart by God to the office of high priest, he was not a perfect man. He had to be sprinkled with blood again. And so, year after year, the high priest before he went within the veil, first needed to make atonement by the sprinkling of blood for his own sins and then for the nation in order that he might obtain access to God.
There are two types of unintentional sins. The first type is committed in ignorance. This occurs when there is any disobedience to a specific Biblical command because the offender was unaware of the command. The second type is unintentional known sin. This involves an unplanned or unintended disobedience to a biblical command which the offender knew. He accidentally did evil. Leviticus 4:1-12 and Numbers 15:22-29 refer to unintentional sin in general.
On the other hand, presumptuous or willful sins are deliberate known sins that occur when a person who knows God’s revealed will written in the Bible, yet chooses to disobey by doing what is prohibited or not doing what is commanded.
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. Hebrews 9:8-10
The first tabernacle was still functioning in a symbolic way since the second temple was still in use when the epistle (letter) to the Hebrew believers in Christ was written. The great weakness of the Old Covenant was that it dealt with external regulations. The worshiper who offered the proper sacrifices, washed himself ceremonially upon required occasions, observed the regulations as to meats and drinks was accepted into the commonwealth of God during that period. But none of those external ordinances did anything at all to cleanse the consciences of sinners. The blood of bulls and goats, the sprinkling of altars, the ashes of a red heifer, the burning of incense, the washings, etc., none of those things made the slightest change in people’s hearts.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12
The earthly tabernacle was built by human hands and was based upon the pattern of the preexisting perfect heavenly tabernacle.
The Heavenly Throne and Cherubim:
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. Revelation 4:7
The Earthly Ark, Mercy Seat, and Cherubim (patterned after the heavenly):
“Make an atonement cover of pure gold-two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. Exodus 25:17-19
The Earthly Twenty-Four Courses of Priests:
After Moses received the Torah by the hand of God, his brother Aaron was ordained as High Priest. Aaron had four sons. His oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, were struck dead for offering profane fire before the LORD. Nadab and Abihu had no sons of their own. Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, served as priests. They and their male descendants after them served as priests before the LORD from the time that Israel wandered in the wilderness until the time of King David. There were a total of twenty-four heads of families from the tribe of Levi during the days of King David’s reign. The regulation of twenty-four courses of priests rotating to minister in the Tabernacle was established in the days when Solomon had the Temple constructed and continued to be observed until the Second Temple was destroyed by Rome in AD 70.
The Heavenly Pattern of the Priests:
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. Revelation 4:4
The twenty-four courses of priests serving in the earthly Temple were patterned after the twenty-four angelic priests who minister in the heavenly sanctuary.
Unlike the earthly high priest who entered into the Most Holy Place by the blood of sacrificed animals once a year over and over again, Jesus only had to enter once for all by his own blood. He was then able to obtain eternal redemption for those who by faith would place their trust in His work of redemption on the cross.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. Hebrews 9:13
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a ritually pure red heifer were necessary to purify the furnishings in the temple. They were also used to purify people who may have become unclean by touching a dead body for example. But these rituals only sanctified the people outwardly.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:13-14
People’s consciences could not be cleansed by doing the works of the law. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin. A good conscience becomes reality when a person receives the gospel of Christ through faith and repentance. He or she testifies of the inward work of grace by baptism, and rising to walk in newness of life.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15
A mediator is one who intervenes between two people and serves as an intermediate and conduit of communication between these two contracting parties. Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.
Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5). He makes reconciliation between God and man by his all-perfect atoning sacrifice. Such a mediator must be at once divine and human. Being divine, Christ’s obedience and his sufferings possess infinite worth. By his infinite wisdom, knowledge, and power, he can perfectly direct all things in the kingdoms of providence and grace which are committed to his hands. In his humanity, He is the perfect representative of mankind, and was capable of rendering complete obedience to the law and satisfying the requirement of justice. In his glorified humanity He reigns as the head of a glorified Church (Colossians 1:18).
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. Hebrews 9:16-17
While a person is still alive, they can alter their last will and testament. Only after they die, are the provisions of the will put into effect. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross and the shedding of His blood both ratified the New Covenant as well as put it into effect.
This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:18-22
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word “berith” is always translated as covenant. Berith is derived from a root which means “to cut,” and hence a covenant is a “cutting,” with reference to the cutting or dividing of animals into two parts, and the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant.
A series of events are set into motion when two people decide they want to “cut the covenant.” It is referred to as the blood covenant ceremony and is considered a most serious and solemn event.
The walk of blood: Each participant walks a path in the shape of a figure “8” between the halves of the slain animal, then stops in the middle in the midst of the pool of blood to pronounce the blessings and the curses of the covenant. The curses would be brought to bear upon the one who broke the blood covenant. It basically said, “The one who breaks this covenant will die just like this animal has died.” A pledge was also made that said, “Just as this animal gave its life so I will give my life for you if necessary.”
The LORD cut a covenant with Abram.
But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Genesis 15:2-3
According to the account found in the first two verses of Genesis chapter 12, Abram had been promised that the LORD would make him into a great nation and would bless him if Abram would leave his country, his people and his father’s household and go to the land that the LORD would show him. Abram had made the arduous and dangerous thousand mile journey. First Abram transported his family, servants, goods, and animals on a hard trek from the Chaldean city of Ur to Haran, and then from Haran to Canaan.
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars —if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:4-5
Abram had believed God’s promise that he would have an heir from his own body and numerous offspring. Abram was declared righteous because of his faith.
He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Genesis 15:7-8
Abram asked for a sign that he would possess the Land of Canaan, but instead the LORD ratified His promise by entering into a covenantal relationship with him.
So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Genesis 15:9-10
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” Genesis 15:17-21
Both the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant involved the death of ceremonially clean animals and the shedding of their blood.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Hebrews 9:23-24
The earthly tabernacle and the later two temples in Jerusalem were patterned after the heavenly sanctuary. The man-made tabernacle was declared ceremonially clean by purification with the blood of animals. As the heavenly tabernacle is far superior to the earthly copy, so is the blood of Christ far superior to the blood of sacrificial animals.
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:25-26
The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man.
Since Jesus is fully God and fully man, His blood has infinite worth. Unlike the earthly high priests who had to enter the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of animals, Jesus only had to be crucified once to shed his blood to do away with sin.
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28
During the “First Advent”, when John was baptizing in the Jordan, he declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus rode into Jerusalem lowly on a donkey’s colt. Five days later, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 53 as the “Suffering Servant” who would bear the sins of His people by His death on the cross.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:27-28
Note that this Bible verse does not say, “Redeemer” but “redemption.” He is coming back to redeem our mortal, corruptible bodies. Both those saints who are alive at His coming as well as those who are asleep in Christ will receive their glorified bodies to meet Him in the air.
He came the first time as a sacrificial lamb, but He is returning as, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” When Jesus returns to the earth, the King of Kings and Lord of lords will be riding a “war horse.” He will be king over all the earth!