Hebrews 9–1. Access to God

9:1–10 Access under the Old Covenant
9:11–14 Access under the New Covenant
9:15–22 Concept of the Will

A diagram of the Tabernacle is on the right with the furniture key at the bottom. There are three enclosure: the outer court excluded all but the priests. Sacrifice was daily performed at the alter before the outer court. The Holy Place was available only to the priests. The Holy of Holies, the Inner Sanctum, was visited only once a years, by the High Priest.

The priest or worshipper, could not approach without an animal sacrifice. Each morning the priest offered two lambs (Num.28:1–10). The altar (9) was kept burning day and night. (Lev.6:8–13).

Details of the atoning sacrifice for individuals or groups are in Leviticus chapter 4. A petitioner brought an flawless animal to the priest and laid his hand on the animal's head, transferring guilt to the animal. The animal was killed. Its blood was sprinkled before the veil and on the horns of the altar of incense (3) . The animal carcass was taken outside the camp and burned on a wood fire, symbolically eradicating the sin. Atonement had been made and forgiveness extended.

Our salvation was purchased by the sacrifice of Christ.
..."while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom.5:8) "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb.9:22)
"...we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.' (Heb.10:10).
We become believers when we transfer our guilt onto His head, He who was slain for us 2000 years ago. We look back on His sacrifice just as Abraham and his children looked forward 2000 years to it.

During the day, the priest might become ceremonially or physically defiled. It was not necessary then to perform another sacrifice. Cleansing was done at the Laver (8).

"Jesus said to him (Peter),'He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over, and you are clean....'" (Jn.13:10).
The daily cleansing of the believer does not involve another sacrifice of Christ, but
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (IJn.1:9)

The priests performed duties in the Holy Place (6) (Heb.9:6). They had access to sacred bread (4) for their nourishment, representing the Bread of Life (Jn.6:35).
They could see by the light of the candelabra (5) which burned olive oil perpetually, representing the Light of the World (Jn.9:5).
They burned incense on the altar of burnt incense (3) , representing the prayers of the saints (Rev.5:8).

These three activities represent the fellowship of the believer with Christ. The believer is a priest before God (IPet.2:5)
We are nourished by Christ, the Bread of Life. In the literal breaking of bread of the Communion Supper, we participate in fellowship with Him and each other.
"The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?" (ICor.10:16–18).

We are enlightened by Christ's life, "the light of life". (Jn.8:12), and the presence of the Holy Spirit (Jn..14:26). Oil fuels the lamp. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit who anoints (Isa.61:1).
Our prayer ascends to God through Christ and with the Holy Spirit's intercession (Rom.8:26).

4. But how can one enter into the Holy of Holies (2), into the presence of God? The name of the game is "how do you get home?" It was forbidden even to the priests.
"Only the High Priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing". (Heb.9:7).

Under the Old Covenant, access into the presence of God was through the office of the High Priest. Aaron was instructed on the details of the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. (Lev.16). On that day the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled blood to atone for his own sins and the sins of all Israel. Yom Kippur means the Day of the Covering. It is a double reference: the ark has a lid, the cover; sin is covered there. The ark of the covenant was the "mercy seat", where men were reconciled to God by the sacrificial offering.

The high  priest wore bells on the fringe of his robe (Ex 28:33–35) which would sound as he offered his sacrifice in the Holy of Holies within the veil. To Israel that might signify the word of God to them, but it also was a sign that the priest was still alive, and still accepted before God. In the silence of millions of people waiting around the tabernacle, afflicting their souls and praying for God's forgiveness, the sound of the bells would have great meaning.

The ark of the covenant contains the law; the blood is sprinkled before it; the angels (two cherubim) are in worship on it; the Shekinah light, the glory of God, shines over it. The cross of Christ is behind it.

In the NT, the word "mercy seat" in Gr. is translated "propitiation" in English. Propitiation means a gift to turn away anger--God's anger against sin (Rom.3:25). Sometimes a less adequate word, expiation is substituted, which means to wash away sin. The work of salvation, the atonement, is a more general term English word and means reconciliation, coming from the old English “at-one-ment”. Atonement includes justification, redemption, propitiation as well as reconciliation.

At the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matt.27:51). The veil is the symbol of the body of Christ.
"...since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,...let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith...." (Heb.10:19–22).

So the death of Christ enables us to enter into the presence of God without fear,
"...a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf...." (Heb.6:19) "...let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb.4:16).

The criticism of the Old Covenant was that the worshipper had
a. limited access: 9:8  The way into the sanctuary was not yet opened.
b. limited pardon: 9:9  Sacrifices cannot perfect the conscience.
c. limited cleansing: 9:10  These were regulations for the body.

When Christ appeared, He provided a new way:
a. eternal redemption. 9:12
b. a pure conscience. 9:14
c. pure service. 9:14  We are purified from dead works to serve the living God.
Dead works are dead because they don’t work;  they cannot sanctify. They are also dead because they are “as filthy rags in His sight.” (Isa.64:6). We need to be purified from them because they are motivated by pride and self-sufficiency.

There are three appearances of Christ in this passage.
9:11 He appeared as high priest of the things to come in His First Advent.
9:12 He entered once for all in the Holy Place after His death.
9:28 He will appear a second time to save those who are waiting for Him.

*9:4 says the altar of incense was in the Holy of Holies. All other Scripture sources say it was outside the veil, but pertained to the Holy of Holies because it was used on the Day of Atonement. One apocryphal source says it was inside the Holy of Holies. It may be that the altar of incense was put inside the Holy of Holies after the Ark of the Covenant was destroyed by the Babylonians  in 587BC when they sacked Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was never rebuilt when the temple was restored after the Exile.

*9:13 “the ashes of an heifer” refers to a ritual described in Num.’. A heifer  was offered in sacrifice and the body burned to ashes. The ashes were mixed with water and used for purifying the person or articles that had touched a dead body. We know that lye-water is an effective cleansing agent.

*9:12 "Not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." (NAS)
The NIV and RSV imply that Christ carried his blood into the presence of God. The NAS correctly reads the Greek as "through His own blood" rather than "by His own blood". We need to understand that the "blood" stands for His death. Christ’s sacrifice and our atonement was accomplished on the cross, not at the ascension. Christ entered the Holy Place through His blood, i.e., through His death and resurrection.

Then what is His intercession for us? What is Christ doing now on our behalf? We will work on that in the next lesson.