In chapter nine the author of Hebrews continues to build the case for his Jewish readers to consider giving their full attention to Jesus the Messiah. So far, he has established Jesus as better than the angels, better than Moses, and better than the great high priest Melchizedek. Not only that, he has established the new covenant of Jesus as better than the flawed old covenant, which is now obsolete. Now he aims to establish that the “sanctuary” of the new covenant is better than the sanctuary that was associated with the old covenant.
When God established the original covenant (or agreement) with His people, there were specific temple regulations and practices that went along with it. The sanctuary (or “Holy of Holies”) was an inner room of the temple that contained the Ark of the Covenant. It was where God lived. The writer of Hebrews describes this “most holy place” in detail, making note of the “gold altar of incense,” a “gold jar containing manna,” the “cherubim of glory,” and many other breathtaking elements. He then gives five reasons why the Heavenly sanctuary of Jesus is superior to the earthly sanctuary of the old covenant:
The old earthly sanctuary was made by the hands of men. The new heavenly sanctuary is not of this creation, which means it stands outside of the constraints of time.
The old earthly sanctuary was satisfied by the sacrificial blood of goats and calves, and those sacrifices were inadequate. The blood of an animal will not eternally atone for the sins of man, and so the sacrifice had to be repeated over and over. “How much more will the blood of Christ cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?”
The old earthly sanctuary was “only a model” (or a forerunner) of the true sanctuary. The new Heavenly sanctuary is the real deal, because it’s Heaven itself.
The old earthly sanctuary was not accessible to people. Only the high priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies, and only once every year. The new Heavenly sanctuary is always accessible to all of God’s children.
The old earthly sanctuary was temporary. The new Heavenly sanctuary is permanent and eternal. Jesus doesn’t have to come back to make new sacrifices every year. The sins of men have been satisfied once for all by the shed blood of Jesus.
For the Jews of the Old Testament, there was no place more revered or holy than the sanctuary. That’s why it was referred to as the Holy of Holies, to emphasize the sacred nature of that space. Although it was made by the hands of men, it was conceived and ordained by God and was the place where the people were able to encounter God. The fact that Jesus has established a Heavenly sanctuary that is better in every way than the old earthly one makes for a compelling case for Jesus the Messiah. The fact that our eternal future is secure in Christ is the best news of all!
And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.
Old Testament References
- Exodus 25-30, 35-40
- Leviticus 16
- Leviticus 17:11
- Romans 5:6-11
- 1 Peter 3:18
- Revelation 15:1-5
- Using the words of Hebrews, describe the sanctuary of the Old Testament. Why was it so significant in the life of the Old Testament Jewish community? How was that sanctuary a foreshadow of the present and future sanctuary of Jesus?
- As the Israelites waited for the high priest to reappear each year on the Day of Atonement, we now wait for Christ to reappear to finish His work of salvation. How can you increase your level of anticipation for the glorious future that awaits? What step can you take toward being less focused on the temporal and more focused on the eternal?
- Does Jesus have your full attention? What distractions do you face?
Make a list of people in your life who, as far as you know, do not yet have a relationship with Jesus. Take some time each day this week to pray for each of these people by name. Ask God to provide you (or someone else) an opportunity to share the Gospel with them, so that they might decide to trust in Jesus and someday join you in the Heavenly sanctuary with Jesus.
[expand title=”Life Group Questions”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 9:1-28. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- Do you tend to “zone out” when you read the Bible? Why? What distractions do you face? What would help you focus?
- In what ways does our culture tend to minimize the significance of particular sins? Are there certain sins you’re tempted to downplay? How does the reminder that Jesus literally shed His own blood change your perspective about both the magnitude of sin and your level of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice?
- Read Hebrews 9:27-28. What is going to happen after we die? How does that reality impact the way you choose to live now?
- We are about halfway through the Hebrews series. How is the book of Hebrews impacting your belief and faith? What changes have you made in the way you think and live? This week, consider taking some time to read and study Hebrews 10:1-18 in preparation for the Feb 29 – Mar 1 weekend.