Hebrews 9–1. Access to God
Key Notes:The Temple furniture and procedures teach us salvation. The Day of Atonement. He did it once for all. Four different angles on His sacrifice.
9:1–10 Access under the Old Covenant
9:11–14 Access under the New Covenant
9:15–22 Concept of the Will or Testament
A diagram of the Tabernacle is on the right with the furniture key at the bottom. There are three enclosures: the outer court (7) excluding all but the priests. The Holy Place (6) was available only to the priests. The Holy of Holies, the Inner Sanctum (2) , was visited only once a year, by the High Priest.
Sacrifice was daily performed at the altar (9) before the outer court. The priest or worshipper, could not approach without an animal sacrifice. Each morning the priest offered two lambs. (Num.28:1–10). The altar was kept burning day and night. Lev.6:8–13
Details of the atoning sacrifice for individuals or groups are in Lev. 4. A petitioner brought a 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 us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (IJn.1:9)
The priests performed duties in the Holy Place (6) as we read in 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.
*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
The believer is a priest before God. IPet.2:5
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.9:7–8).
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 sins and the sins of all Israel. He wore bells on the hem of his robe that could be heard by the worshipers outside the Tabernacle so that they would know that their representative was accepted by God. Ex.28:34–35
Yom Kippur means the Day of the Covering. It is a double reference: the ark had a lid, the cover: sin was covered there. The cover of ark of the covenant was the "mercy seat", where Israelites were reconciled to God by the sacrificial offering. The ark of the covenant contained the law; the blood was sprinkled before it; the angels (two cherubim) were in worship on it; the Shekinah light, the glory of God, shone over it. The cross of Christ shines through it.
In the NT, the word for "mercy seat" (hilisterion) 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. Christ's death canceled God's anger and restored us to fellowship with Him--"saved by Him from the wrath of God". (Rom.5:9). The work of salvation, the atonement, is a more general English word and means reconciliation, coming from the old English “at-one-ment”. Atonement broadly 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. Hebrews 9 says the priests did not have access to the Holy of Holies, indicating that the way into the presence of God was not yet open. The closed veil is a symbol (Gr. “parabole”--parable) of the present age. That is a puzzle because the veil was torn when Jesus died. (Matt.27:51). And Hebrews 10 confirms its significance: “…the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is through His flesh….” (Heb.10:20). But the temple was still standing, so we are at some time after Christ’s death and before 70AD when Hebrews was written.
So the death of Christ enables us to enter into the presence of God now 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 could not 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 He says “…the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense….” It does not say “contains” the golden altar of incense, but that is implied. It may relate to the fact that the altar of incense was part of the ceremony of the Day of Atonement which centered on the Ark of the Covenant. The altar of incense “belongs to the inner sanctuary.” (IK.6:22). Lev.16:12–13 suggests that the altar of incense was inside the veil for the ceremony, but we cannot be certain. The altar of incense may have been put into the Holy of Holies by the Exiles, because the Ark of the Covenant was lost to the Babylonians when they destroyed the first temple in 587BC and never rebuilt.
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 ("taking") 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.
9:13 “the ashes of an heifer” refers to a ritual described in Num.19. 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 and is the basis of soap.
9:22 “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” This verse is part of our basic teaching on the atonement. It is a potent, dogmatic sentence that says a lot about the nature of both the Old and the New Covenant. It is not attractive to our modern society which abhors violence (?), but we find ritual sacrifice in almost all religions--Hinduism, Islam, etc.
9:27 “…as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment….” This is another verse of our basic teaching on the atonement. There is no second chance; no purgatory where we can undergo further cleansing, and no truth to the common aphorism: “when you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s all there is to it. ”
Folk lore suggests that everyone will go to Heaven because God is nice to everyone, even if they have not been interested in thinking about Him or care to talk to Him. We are nice people and don't steal. Heaven will be a big party and worship will not be important. God has to love us even if we don't love Him. Love wins. Judgment is out of style. That is fanciful thinking. Did Christ died for nothing?
Four loaded sentences approach Christ’s sacrifice from different angles:
“He entered / once for all / into the Holy Place / not through the blood of goats and calves / but His own blood / thus securing an eternal redemption. “ (9:12) His atoning work was initiated at the Cross, completed in Heaven.
…the blood of Christ / who through the Eternal Spirit / offered Himself / without blemish to God / purify your conscience from dead works / to serve the Living God.” (9:14. The effect of His work was on our consciences.
"So He has appeared /once for all / at the end of the Age / to put away sin / by the sacrifice of Himself”. (9:26) Jesus' came to earth as a human being to be the sacrifice.
“Christ / have been offered / once / to bear the sins of many / will appear / a second time,/ not to deal with sin, / but to save those / who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (9:28). Jesus is preparing to come to the earth a second time to do a different work.
9:25 “Once for all” is a recurring word in Hebrews using two unusual Greek words:
“hapax”, once or once for all, written seven times and "ephapax" , once for all, found three times .
“hapax” ( 6:4; 9:7, 26, 27, 28; 10:2; 12:6).
“ephapax” (7:27; 9:12; 10:10). Also I Pet.3:18 “ Christ has also once suffered for sins….”
He did it all. It is over and done with, finished, completed. I am forgiven, reconciled, sanctified, adopted into the Family, saved for eternity. Saved. Praise God.