Superior Sacrifice, part 1
Today’s Text: Hebrews 9
The New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant according to the book of Hebrews. It has two elements that make it superior; a superior High Priest (5-7) and a superior sacrifice (9-10). We have already studied the High Priest and the Covenant itself. Here we turn to the sacrifice. Hebrews discusses the superior sacrifice in three parts: First the Old Testament tabernacle is described and used to explain what Jesus has done in the New Covenant (9:1-10), then the effectiveness of Christ’s blood for forgiveness is described in 9:11-28, and finally, the effect of the sacrifice as being once for all is explained in chapter 10.
Points of Interest
9:1-5: We begin this discussion with a brief description of the contents of the Holy of Holies in the temple. This is not an authoritative description of everything recorded in Exodus 25-40.
The chart below compares the items found in the Old Covenant Tabernacle with its New Covenant counterpart:
|OT Tabernacle||New Covenant counterpart|
|Altar of burnt offering||The cross and death of Jesus|
|Holy Place||The church|
|Lamp||The Word and the Holy Spirit|
|Table||Fellowship between God and Man|
|Altar of incense||Prayer|
|Veil||Body of Christ|
|Ark||Presence of God|
|Staff||Leaders of God’s choice|
|Cherubim||Ministering angels of God|
|Atonement cover||Reconciliation to God|
9:6-14: After a brief description of the earthly place of worship from the Old Covenant, we now go on to a brief description of the activities on the Day of Atonement. The author uses this discussion to express that the regulations of the Old Covenant were merely an illustration of what was to come in Christ; that which we now have as a present reality. For detailed information on these activities in the Old Covenant, see Leviticus 16.
The author’s application begins with verse 8:The Holy Spirit has constructed the tabernacle, and later temple, worship with a purpose. That purpose was to show us what was to come. As long as the earthly practices remained, the way to the Most Holy Place was not disclosed; there was always a veil there that separated mankind from God’s presence. That veil could not be removed during the Old Covenant. Verse 9 tells us that the old illustration was for the “present time” to show Christians (and Jews) that the gifts and sacrifices of the Old Covenant could not provide a clear conscience for the sinner. Put another way, these sacrifices could not take away the guilt of sin. This condition would continue until the day of a new order being established; a reference to the sacrifice of Christ which did take away the guilt of sin. (9:10). This is exactly the point that is made and supported in verses 11-14.
9:15-22: In this section we see another accomplishment of the sacrifice of Christ’s blood; the establishment of a new covenant. “For this reason” refers back to the previous verses dealing with the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice takes away the guilt of sin leaving the redeemed sinner with a “clear conscience”. Because of this sacrifice… Christ is the mediator of a new covenant. In 16-17 the author uses the idea of a will and an inheritance to illustrate why Jesus had to shed His blood and die, and then this is compared to the shedding of blood in the establishment of the Old Covenant. Note the comparison of Christ shedding His own blood versus the shedding of an animal’s blood.
9:23-28: This final section of chapter 9 makes the clear case that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all, and that it put an end to the earthly and outward practice of the Old Covenant. Christ was the reality that the Law only gave us a preview of, and His sacrifice was the one that ended the sin problem. The Law had recurring sacrifices for as long as it existed, but when Jesus shed His blood and entered not the Most Holy Place in the temple, but into the very center of Heaven itself, the Law was over. Instead of having the continual temple practices to illustrate what would some day come, Jesus entered the throne of God because God’s redemption had come and would be maintained forever.