Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
This section is one that is often a surprise to people not familiar with the relationship between Old and New Testaments. As we go through this chapter, we will be challenged to see things the way God views them, and to be quite candid, things aren’t always what they at first appear to be. These first two verses give us a bit of that; notice that there is a difference between the tabernacle that Jesus is serving in as high priest, and the earthly one. For starters, Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem, nor is He serving in a place made by human hands, but by God Himself. Finally, notice that the tabernacle He is in is “true.” If Jesus is in the true sanctuary, what does that say about the one in the Old Testament?
Fasten your seat belts, we are about to find out!
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.
The offerings and gifts that the earthly priests sacrificed were prescribed by the same Law that established their office and Jesus, because He is from the tribe of Judah could never have been a priest, and since He is an entirely different kind of priest, He has a different kind of offering. Jesus did not offer sacrifices consisting of animals for atonement to put off the penalty for sins, He offered Himself, and took sin away entirely.
They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
How surprising it would have been for those first recipients of this message to learn that their beloved Temple in their beloved Jerusalem was only a shadow of the real thing. I am often amazed today when I listen to people discuss the rebuilding of this Temple in the future, as though the Temple were the real thing… but it was never the real thing; it’s but a mere copy or shadow of the reality that is in heaven… and do you know what? So were the sacrifices, the priests and even the Law itself. Of course Jesus is superior to the Levites; He is the real thing, while they were shadows of what would come one day. Of course Jesus was the superior sacrifice; for His was the one that takes away sin. Of course the New Covenant is superior to the Old, for the New Covenant is the real deal and the Old Covenant was but a shadow of the reality that was to come, and it was set to pass away.
None of this should really be a shock to anyone, for the Old Covenant Law was entirely earthly; physical. It never promised to take away our sins, it never promised eternal life. These things weren’t even ideas that were in play anywhere at that time. The rules and regulations are but a shadow of the reality of having God’s laws written on our hearts. Most importantly, the Old Covenant and its system of laws and sacrifices and the Temple all speak of Jesus Christ who was to come one day.
And that day came!
Our author will continue to explain all of this from this point through 10:18…