Studies in the Book of Hebrews—Chapter 9

Patterns of Heavenly Things

IN THIS CHAPTER Paul outlines in detail some of the important features of God’s typical dealings with Israel in connection with the Law Covenant, as well as the Tabernacle and its services. All Israel was blessed under that typical arrangement, but the priests were the ministers of the people, and only the high priest entered into the Most Holy of the Tabernacle on the Day of Atonement. In considering the antitype, it is essential to keep in mind that throughout the epistle Paul identifies the church of this age as the antitypical priesthood, not the antitypical camp of Israel; and in this chapter (as also in Heb. 6:19,20) he reveals that the joint-heirship of the church with Jesus means that she enters into the antitypical Most Holy with him, and shares his work as the world’s great High Priest. If we keep this antitypical position of the church in mind, we will have no difficulty in understanding properly any part of the Book of Hebrews pertaining to the covenants and the sin offering.


VERSES 1-5  “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 shewbread; 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 cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.”

‘Of which we cannot now speak particularly’—Paul did not write this epistle for the purpose of explaining the typical significance of all the details of the Tabernacle and its services, but refers to these and other types of the Old Testament in his effort to revive the faith and zeal of the Hebrew brethren by emphasizing that in Christ, and in their association with Christ, they could realize the fulfillment, the substance, of all that God had promised through their prophets, and had illustrated by the Tabernacle and its services. It is true, nevertheless, that his incidental references to the types throws much light upon their true meaning, which otherwise we would not be able to understand.

The point Paul is stressing in this reference to the typical Tabernacle and its services is the fact that it was related to the first, or Law Covenant. It was part of the mediatorial arrangements of that covenant. Bringing that lesson forward to the present age, it means that now there is also a tabernacle, and sacrifices, and that the church as the ‘brethren’ of Christ, participate with him in all these, even to entering into the antitypical ‘Holiest of all.’

In Paul’s itemizing of the various articles contained in the typical Tabernacle, the King James Version places the golden altar of incense in the Most Holy. The Vatican Manuscript, however, places it correctly in the first Holy, as is so clearly shown in the Old Testament. This is obviously correct, for the ‘Holiest of all’ represents heaven itself, the presence of God, and there is no sacrificial work carried on in heaven, as would be suggested by the presence of an altar in the Most Holy.

Each of the three articles of furniture in the Holy of the Tabernacle represents the spirit-begotten church. The table of shewbread pictures the church holding forth the Word of life; the candlestick shows the church in the role of light-bearer, while the golden altar is typical of a sacrificing church. It is the smoke of the burning incense sacrificed on the altar and penetrating into the Most Holy that prepares the way for an acceptable entrance into glory, the hoped-for abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Ark of the Covenant represents the church, Head and body in glory. In the ark was the golden bowl of manna, representing the immortality of the Christ; Aaron’s rod that budded showing the elect quality of those who are to bless the world; and the tables of the Law, suggesting not only that the Christ has fulfilled the righteousness of the Law, but will serve in the great work of writing God’s law in the hearts of the people during the Mediatorial Age, the thousand years of the kingdom.

In the Ark of the Covenant we have foreshadowed the four great attributes of Jehovah. The mercy seat proper—the slab of gold which covered the Ark of the Covenant and on which the blood of atonement was sprinkled—represents Jehovah’s justice, the two cherubim foreshadow his love and power, while the ark itself (the golden chest) represents his wisdom.

VERSES 6-10  “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 Spirit 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.”

The services rendered by the priests in the first Holy (vs. 6) were the morning and evening care of the lamps, the morning and evening offering of incense, and the weekly care of the shewbread. This was done by the priests, and the church is a part of the antitypical priesthood.

Only the high priest went into the Most Holy, and then only once each year, which was on the typical Day of Atonement—an exception being when the Tabernacle was to be moved: then it was the high priest’s duty to go into the Most Holy and cover the ark and mercy seat in preparation for moving. The yearly visit of the high priest in the Most Holy was to sprinkle the blood of atonement on the mercy seat ‘for himself, and for the errors of the people.’

Jesus is the one in the antitype who ‘sprinkles’ the blood—his own blood—on the heavenly mercy seat, the ‘throne of grace.’ It was not necessary that he do this for himself individually, but in the antitype the church is the body of the great High Priest; so it was essential that he ‘appear in the presence of God for us.’ As in the type the high priest also sprinkled the mercy seat with blood on behalf of ‘the people,’ so it will also be in the antitype.

The statement ‘once’ each year cannot be taken too literally. The thought is that in one service each year the high priest frequented the Most Holy. In this one service, however, he actually went into the Most Holy twice, and twice sprinkled blood on the mercy seat—first, the blood of a bullock, and on his second entry, the blood of the Lord’s goat. More about this as Paul unfolds the lesson.

The blood was sprinkled, the apostle says, for the ‘errors’ of the people. The Greek word here used has as its root meaning the thought of ignorance, of not knowing, which strongly suggests the idea of shortcomings, or sins which are not willful, those which are due to inherited weaknesses. In other words, Adamic sin.

Paul explains that the restriction which limited the high priest to entering into the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement signified that the way into the antitypical ‘Holiest of all was not yet made manifest.’ In chapter six Jesus is referred to as the ‘Forerunner’ in entering into the antitypical Most Holy, hence the first. It was Jesus who opened the way to this heavenly reward, doing so when he appeared “in the presence of God for us.” (vs. 24) None could be a partaker of the heavenly calling until Jesus came. He “brought life and immortality to light.” (II Tim. 1:10) We again emphasize that this heavenly calling, partaking with Jesus in the priestly work, is for the church alone, whereas the world will be blessed with earthly life through this spiritual priesthood.

It is not difficult for those of us who were never under the Law Covenant arrangement to realize that those typical sacrifices and ordinances could not take away sin, hence could not give one the sense of a guiltless conscience before God. The situation with Hebrew Christians in the Early Church was probably quite different. To them, those visible things perhaps had a great degree of reality, especially if their faith could not easily grasp the invisible, spiritual arrangements of the antitypical priesthood. Paul therefore more than once in the epistle emphasizes that the old arrangements were never intended to be anything more than ‘figures’ of the ‘better things’ to come, and encouraged the Hebrews to take a firmer hold of these better things.

The ultimate to which the typical sacrifices and other services under the old Law Covenant pointed forward was what Paul speaks of in verse ten as ‘the time of reformation.’ This is what Peter describes as the “times of restitution.” (Acts 3:21) While in the antitype the priesthood of the Gospel Age benefits from the sacrifice of Christ, even as did the priesthood in the type, the priestly service was then performed on behalf of all Israel. In the antitype, the blessing of Israel and the world is the final objective of the work of the present age, the antitypical Day of Atonement. That blessing will be the reformation and restoration “spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began.”

VERSES 11-14  “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; 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 an 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?”

The typical sacrifices could not purge the conscience, but the blood of Christ can. This is the substance of Paul’s argument in these verses. He speaks of the blood of Christ as being the antitype of the blood of both the bulls and goats offered by Israel’s priests. In the Divine arrangement for sin atonement, there is no other blood antitypically than the blood of Christ. The church shares in the sin offering work, as foreshadowed by the sacrifice of the Lord’s goat on the typical Day of Atonement, but this is possible only because of the blood of Christ. Blood symbolizes life, and the life which we sacrifice is the life we receive by faith from him. We have no life of our own, being condemned to death because of sin.

VERSE 15  “For this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament [covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

‘For this cause.’ For what cause? The cause of sanctifying, purifying and the purging of conscience. The blood of Christ accomplishes this necessary cleansing from sin for his body members, the church, but the cleansing work of Christ’s blood does not stop with the church; for, as Paul explains in this text, it is for this purpose also that he is the Mediator of the New Covenant.

These verses in Hebrews can be understood properly only in the light of God’s plans to bestow blessings upon Israel and all nations during the age to come. There is the erroneous view that the New Covenant is now functioning, that at Jesus’ death it immediately took the place of the Law Covenant, and that now all believers are being blessed under it.

But how much more meaningful the passage is when we recognize the distinction between the ‘servants’ and those whom the Lord is preparing to serve when the servant class has been completed. It is the same difference which should be discerned between those who are now being prepared to be the future kings of earth as joint rulers with Jesus, and the subjects over whom they will rule. It is the same difference we should recognize between those being prepared to judge the world, and the people of the world who, in the future judgment day, are to be judged by them.

VERSES 16,17  “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.”

The ‘testator’ of the New Covenant is primarily Christ. Certainly there could be no move toward the making of this covenant until Christ died. As outlined in the Scriptures, there were to be called from the people those who would participate with Christ in the administration of its laws. Not even the selection and preparation of these could begin until the death of the Testator, although the fact that they are being selected does not imply the functioning of the covenant itself. Indeed, the covenant cannot function until all its servants have been selected, prepared, and qualified to serve.

VERSES 18-20  “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.”

As Paul here explains, it was after Moses had spoken every precept of the Law to ‘all the people’ that the typical covenant was dedicated with blood. No one will argue that the pure Gospel has not yet been explained to all the people. But when the New Covenant actually goes into full operation this will be the case for then none will need to say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”—Jer. 31:34

VERSES 21,22  “Moreover he sprinkled 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.”

Exodus 24:6-8 makes it clear that the sprinkling of the ‘book and all the people’ followed the sprinkling of the “altar,” or, as Paul details it, ‘the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.’ Paul evidently made no attempt to give these two uses of the blood their proper sequential order. The sequence set forth in the Exodus account, however, is in keeping with the antitype; for, as we have seen, the blood of Christ is first used to sanctify the servant class—those who will serve the New Covenant as the heavenly, or spiritual sanctuary.

The Exodus account explains that Moses used half the blood for the ‘altar,’ and with the other half he sprinkled the book and the people. This, harmonizes with the two sprinklings of the blood on the mercy seat on Israel’s annual Day of Atonement—first the blood of the bullock, and then the blood of the goat. In both instances the blood points forward to the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, and both types teach that there were to be two applications of the antitypical blood, first for the church, and then for the world. There is no remission of sin for either class aside from the shed blood of Christ.

VERSES 23-26  “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.”

The apostles knew that some time was to elapse before their Lord would return. They all expected to die and be resurrected when that great event occurred. Nevertheless, they believed that Jesus’ First Advent marked what Paul here describes as the ‘end of the world.’ To them the “night” was “far spent,” and the day was “at hand.”—Rom. 13:12

With this thought in mind, it was not difficult for Paul to see the significance of the two sprinklings on Israel’s typical Day of Atonement as that which in antitype occurred ‘once.’ It was, indeed, but one ceremony in the type, its many occurrences being the year-by-year repetition. In the antitype, in the ‘end of the world [age],’ there is but one ceremony in which Christ puts away sin. But in this one service there is, as shown in the type, the two sprinklings, and the two appearances—the first is for ‘us,’ the church of Christ, and the second will be for all the people.

VERSES 27,28  “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.”

Verse twenty-seven is frequently misused to prove the erroneous theory that there is no probation after death, that the destiny of each individual is unalterably fixed the moment he dies. The text has no direct reference to the death of humanity in general; but even if it did, the language proves that judgment is not rendered at the time of death but ‘after’ death, and the Scriptures generally bear this out. After humanity goes into the Adamic death, they will be raised from death and given another, an individual, judgment or trial for life.

The text, however, is really continuing the discussion of sacrificial death. The ‘men’ referred to seem clearly to be Israel’s high priests, and this is borne out by the Greek definite article, “the.” (See “Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott”) They died sacrificially as represented in the animals they offered. If they did not carry out every detail of the service according to the Lord’s instructions, they would be judged unworthy to enter into the Most Holy with the blood, and would die as they passed under the second veil.

So Christ was once offered, Paul continues. He did not offer a bullock as did the high priest in the type, but offered himself. Had he been unfaithful in this offering he would have died the ‘second death,’ and would not have been raised from the dead, therefore could not have appeared in the presence of God for us. But he was faithful, and assurance has been given all men of this, said Paul on Mars’ Hill, “in that he [God] hath raised him from the dead.”—Acts 17:31

He appeared for the church at the beginning of the age. The evidence of this was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But he is to ‘appear’ again, not in sacrificial robes, but in glory, and the evidence will be the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. This will be on behalf of ‘them’ that look for him. Note again the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ as in verses twenty-four and twenty-eight. Those who ‘look for him’ will doubtless embrace practically all mankind as they become acquainted with the love of God and with the wonderful provision he has made through Christ for their salvation—their restoration to human perfection and everlasting life.—Isa. 25:9

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