The two sanctuaries
There is a message contained in the basic arrangements of the earthly sanctuary, as described under the Law..
We find a distinction between two areas, the “outer tent” and the “Holy of Holies”.
This represents the distinction between the earthly world, “the present age”, and the heavenly world, “the age to come”.
Nobody except the High Priest is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and this restriction carries a symbolic meaning. It demonstrates that nobody has
access to the heavenly sanctuary except Christ, as High Priest, and those who are brought in as belonging to Christ.
Even the High Priest is not allowed to enter without blood, as an offering for the sins of the people, and this restriction carries a symbolic
meaning. It demonstrates that Christ himself could not enter the heavenly sanctuary without making an offering for our sins.
There are substantial differences between the two offerings.
The high priest under the covenant of Moses is also covering his own sins, and he is obliged to return every year. He offers the blood of animals,
which have no real effect in dealing with sin. They cannot cleanse or make perfect the consciences
of the worshippers.
Christ enters the heavenly sanctuary offering his own life.
He has no need to make an offering for sins of his own.
His offering is able to cleanse the conscience as well as the flesh.
And he only needs to enter the sanctuary once, because he has obtained for us an eternal
Another way of demonstrating the need for sacrifice is to observe that covenants in general are established by the death of a sacrificial animal.
That was the case in the making of the covenant of Moses.
In the same way, the death of Jesus was an essential condition in the making of the new covenant.
The better sacrifice
What is it that makes the death of Christ a “better offering” than the Temple sacrifice?
We need to understand that the only kind of offering which God really wants is the self
The old priest enters the sanctuary by offering the blood of animals- that is, blood which is not his own. Christ enters through the offering of his
The event is foreshadowed in the words of the Psalmist, when the speaker offers to God the true sacrifice of obedience.
The fact that Christ is offering his own life is what makes the sacrifice unrepeatable.
A sacrifice which does not need to be repeated is a sacrifice which has completed the work of dealing with sin.
Christ has “made perfect” for all time those who have been set apart for God.
Draw near with faith
This case has been made for a reason.
The writer wants to evoke a response.
The key word is “confidence”.
Christ has entered the sanctuary like the priests under the old covenant.
Yet we are not required to wait for him outside, like the worshippers of the old covenant.
On the contrary, we may follow him in.
We now have that freedom to enter the presence of God.
We enter under the same conditions that he entered himself, using the route that he pioneered for us.
That is, we come under the authority of “the blood of Jesus”, namely the self-offering which he made.
He warns his readers very seriously of the danger in allowing their faith to fail, and giving up their commitment to Christ. This would be tantamount
to rejecting God and exposing themselves to judgement.
Then he changes his tone again and pleads with them in a more encouraging way;
“Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward”.
The rollcall of faith
To encourage them further, he shows then how faith runs like a thread through the story of their people in the Old Testament.
By faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, and still “speaks” after his death. By faith, Enoch pleased God, and Noah built an ark. The common
factor here is that righteousness is combined with different forms of “continuing life”.
Other examples of faith relate to the promises which were made to Abraham, including the faith of Sarah.
We may see, again, how faith challenges natural expectations.
The faith of Abraham in offering Isaac challenged the expectation that the dead remain dead.
The faith of Isaac and Jacob, in blessing younger sons, challenged the expectation that God favours those who are “great” in the eyes of the
The faith of Joseph, on his deathbed, challenged the expectation that Israel would be held in Egypt.
Faith was displayed, of course, in the story of Moses, in the redemption from Egypt, and the entrance into the promised land.
In summary, everything that was achieved by leaders and prophets was achieved through their faith.
That includes “Women received their dead by resurrection”.
These people did not fully attain the inheritance they had been promised, but that was only because they were waiting for us.
God was planning a climax, in which we were meant to be included, and therefore it was fitting that God’s people should not be brought to perfection
without our participation.
Finishing the race
They should be inspired by this to imitate their ancestors and “finish the race”.
They should be fearful of the precedent of Esau, who threw away his chance of an inheritance, and was never able to recover his original privileged
They should resist any temptation to fall back on their old allegiance to the covenant of Moses.
It would be much better, indeed, to follow the example of Jesus in his death and “go outside the camp”.
Here we have “no continuing city”, because we are waiting for “the city to come”.
The God of Hebrews, the God of the Old Testament
From time to time I take the opportunity to underline this point.
In every part of the New Testament, including
the direct words of Jesus, it is taken for granted that Christians are following the same God who
speaks and acts all the way through the Old Testament.
The Bible is understood as the single continuous history of the relation between the one God and his people.
In the case of Hebrews, the argument rests so heavily on the continuity of God’s activity in the two testaments that it is not rationally possible
to separate them out as the work of two different gods.