By Blake E. Jones
HEBREWS CHAPTER IX
I. The Tabernacle Pattern (9:1-5)
The pattern of the tabernacle set apart two enclosures that were separated by what the writer calls the second veil. The Holy Place was in daily use and housed most of the holy furniture. The table of shewbread on the right held twelve loaves called the "bread of Presence". On the left was the golden candlestick which was used to light the sanctuary at night. Just before the veil was the altar of incense from which the sweet fragrance arose. This seemed to represent the prayers of God's people which filtered into the presence of the Holy God. Beyond the veil was the "Holiest of All" --God's dwelling place. Here the ark of the covenant was placed and its cover, called the mercy seat. The writer of Hebrews mentions a "golden censer" as part of the furnishings of this cube-like room. Some feel that it was the censer used yearly by the high priest and left just within the veil so that he might grasp it by simply reaching under the curtain. Others are convinced that it was the altar of incense to which reference is made. These suggest that the fact of it being before the mercy seat is all that is really being stated.
An interesting note is made in the book entitled, Exploring the Old Testament, and reads as follows: "The furniture in the entire Tabernacle was arranged in the form of a cross, which seemed to cast its shadow backward through the veil".1
II. The Tabernacle Ministry (9:6-7)
Even though the tabernacle service was elementary in the sense that it was to give way to the better covenant and true heavenly ministry; it was, none the less, a most hallowed and sacred performance. It drew its sacredness from the fact that God had ordained it, and from the glory of what it prefigured of the heavenly sanctuary. Thus it was that the priest went daily into the Holy Place to perform the daily ministration. Once every year, the high priest entered through the veil into the very Holy of Holies. Note the Scripture's emphasis on the phrase "not without blood". This was the priest's "pass" into the Shekinah presence of God. To enter otherwise would have been death. This blood was a sin offering for the sins of the priest and the people that he represented.
III. The Holy Spirit Expresses Significance (9:8-10)
Dear Hebrews, can you not see that the Old Testament system was not God's final plan for His people? Do you not recognize that it did not give the common man access to God? The Holy Spirit "was showing us that we could not truly come to God through the old sacrifices. The way to God is through Christ."2 The whole system could not make man "perfect, as pertaining to the conscience". For the most part, there did not seem to be a clear, assuring witness of forgiveness. To what extent their faith grasped the sacrificial death of a future Lamb, we do not know. Yet, there had to be a certain level of faith involved to participate in such a ministry, otherwise it would be cast off as a pretentious and useless superstition. By faith, the Jews obediently carried out these "carnal ordinances" expecting expiation for their sins. It was, however, only in the fact of Christ's coming and the shedding of His blood, that their faith found fruition.
This series of washings, offerings, gifts and sacrifices was obligatory until the time of the "reformation" as the King James version translates it. Adam Clark suggests that this means the "time of rectifying...the Gospel dispensation, under which everything is set straight; everything referred to its proper purpose and end; ...the spiritual nature of God's worship taught, and grace promised to purify the heart; so that, through the power of the eternal Spirit, all that was wrong in the soul is rectified; the affection, passions, and appetites purified; the understanding enlightened; the judgment corrected; the will refined; in a word, all things made new."3 Mr. Lenski translates this reformation the "period of the right order"4 at which time the Old Testament ministry of ceremonies and rituals would no longer be binding.
The Christian religion has been ridiculed and scorned as a bloody religion. It must be clearly understood, however, that we are not merely stressing the gory, stomach turning part of this; but the merit of One's death blood, in our place, as our substitute. "Although references to the shed blood of Jesus Christ are graphic descriptions of His death, one must wonder why the Good News for Modern Man (Today's English Version) substituted the word "death" for "blood" thirty-eight times in the New Testament. Was it to avoid the reproach of having a "bloody religion"?5 asks Vic Reasoner. To the Christian, the blood of Jesus Christ is a most hallowed thing and calls forth a great and solemn veneration. No doubt, in this supposedly sophisticated, learned, and cultured day, the blood of Christ has been too well ignored and too little extolled in preaching, in teaching and in practical evangelical application and worship.
I. Better Blood (9:11-14)
At the very outset of this study, it should be recognized that the blood of "goats and calves" does not possess any redemptive merit and can in no way expiate sin's guilt and punishment. If that were not so, then perhaps Satanic rituals of cat killing, human sacrifice, and drinking blood might offer some hope. That is as absurd as it is horrifying. The blood of an animal or a human is powerless to win favour before God. No human could sacrifice himself and expect that, having bled to death, he would find appeasement before God.
Old Testament sacrificial blood did not offer pardon to the penitent by virtue of the efficacy of that animal blood. As has been discussed under verses 8 - 10, it was their obedience in faith that wrought merit to the shedding of blood. That faith, whatever their minds grasped of the future Saviour, was founded in God's provision. God provided a sacrificial covenant that actually found its strength in a future event; that being the shedding of the blood of the Son of God. So it was, as we were told in Bible School, "the New was in the Old concealed and the Old was in the New revealed".
Verse 13 presents the inferior statement of contrast. The blood and ashes of animals provided, at least, a ceremonial purification for physical or fleshly defilement. All of this ceremony only set the stage for the enormous, contradistinction between the blood of animals and the blood of Christ.
Because our Saviour was the spotless, sinless Son of God, His blood could be shed without involving a hint of personal judgment or just retribution. In short, Jesus was not getting what He deserved. His blood claims merit by the very fact that it is divine blood. Thus, it can accomplish what otherwise would have been a futile speculation.
The blood of Christ can perform an inner spiritual purging. It can deal, first of all, with the conscience or awareness of guilt and pending condemnation. The conscience of a burdened, convicted, guilty soul can be set at ease and, as far as eternal damnation and the wrath of God are concerned, it can be wiped clean. This we call being "saved". Keeping God's law is not merely the observance of rules upon rules with no inner compulsion of power to obedient adherence. That is Old Testament religion. Some laws were tenaciously and fiercely clung to, while others seemed to be out of the grasp of willing, heartfelt obedience. What was adhered to was merely "dead works" that lacked the power of Holy Ghost enabling. They lacked the power of the Gospel. John makes this clear when he writes, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3) We now serve our great Emancipator because we love Him. This is New Testament religion! Beyond this, the blood of Christ can cleanse the heart from the consciousness of sin. That is a purging from the defilement that brought us to sinful deeds and a burdened conscience in the first place. Where the conviction of need and the consciousness of defilement reigns, the Holy Spirit can apply the blood of Christ to effect a perfect purifying of the soul.
Who, but those who have not tasted the "good things to come" of verse 11, could deny that the blood of Jesus is "better" blood?
II. Testament Blood (9:15-17)
First, it should be noted that the word translated "testament" in these verses is the same word we have been noticing earlier translated as "covenant". It appears that with reference to the death of the covenant maker, we are now using "testament" to aid our grasp.
No will or testament is valid and able to be enforced until the death of the will (or covenant) maker. A promise had been made to human kind, that better things were in store involving moral, spiritual verities. None of that could be accomplished, however, until Jesus shed His blood and died as the will maker or testator. Thus we understand that Christ's death validated His will and testament as efficacious, meritorious and supernaturally powerful. To us, it opened our inheritance in the Gospel. A beautiful inclusion is made in verse 15 that speaks volumes, both of the great mercy of God and also of the immensity of His power and the broad scope of this testament blood. It is clearly stated that, in the death and shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, sins committed beforehand by Old Testament people of faith were amply pardoned and atoned for since their embracing of the old covenant, in faithful obedience, had reached forward to Christ's testament blood. Adam Clarke says, "The death of Jesus had respect to all the time antecedent to it, as well as to all the time afterward till the conclusion of the world".6
III. Dedicatory Blood (9:18-23)
The access to God's presence, the pass into the Holy of Holies, was blood. It was used to set apart and purify the tabernacle, its vessels and furnishings and the priest that was approaching God's glory. Blood must be shed for sins to be remitted.
When the true and real system came into fruition, blood was the basis upon which the heavenly sanctuary was opened to sinful man. This time, however, animal blood would not do. It would be meaningless and obnoxious. It was with better blood, testament blood, that a way into God's presence was dedicated and a pass offered to repentant sinners to come and come confidently. More will be seen of this in the next chapter.
IV. Consummating Blood (9:24-26)
The sacrificial death of Christ consummated all the blood sacrifices of all time. It was the perfect completion of atonement offerings and the very crown of thousands upon thousands of previous blood gifts. It was also the final sacrifice, for never again would it be necessary for Jesus to die. His blood was final, conclusive and consummate.
To the fact of its finality, verse 26 points out that the blood of Christ is effectual in making a final death stoke to sin. Not only can sin's guilt and record be "put away", but sin, the nature itself, can be given a death blow in the heart of the believer. As Dr. Yocum put it in his preaching, this was no mere "bandage" for the sin problem; this was God's plan from 'the foundation of the world" to provide a cure, a remedy for sin.
V. Promising Blood (9:27-28)
Through the blood of Jesus Christ, salvation can replace the judgment of God's wrath. For those who have embraced by faith the grace offered through Christ's sacrificial death, He will "appear the second time" to claim His own. The writer is saying that when our Lord returns, it will not be to make another offering for sin. No, it will be "apart from sin" (NKJ) that he comes; and this time to usher in final salvation of those who have embraced the promise of His blood.
With Mrs. C. H. Morris we would sing:
"Hallelujah for the Blood, for the sin cleansing fountain,
1. W. T. Purkiser, Ed., Exploring The Old Testament, (Kansas City, MO.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1955) p. 127.
2. Albert Harper, Gen. Ed., The Wesley Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,1990) p. 1854.
3. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, (Nashville, New York: Abingdon Press) Vol. VI, p. 746.
4. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966) p. 281.
5. Vic Reasoner, Ray Crooks, Ed., Adult Teacher's Insights, Studies in Hebrew, (Overland Park, Kansas: Herald and Banner Press, 1992) Vol. 15, No. 3, p. 64.
6. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, (Nashville, New York: Abingdon Press) Vol. VI, p. 747.
7. Mrs. C. H. Morris, Praise and Worship Hymnal, (Kansas City, Missouri: Lillenas Publishing Co., n.d.) pp. 405-406.