By Adrienne Crist
Before quarantine we were studying the Promises of God. Today we will look at the absolute best Promise that was made to man. Today we look at the Chapters where the author of Hebrews has the Rubber meet the Road
Yom Kippur or the day of atonement was just about a month ago. While the Jewish faith has changed in many ways, this holiday remains. It is known as one of the High Holidays, along with Rosh Hashana which is celebrating the New Year. It is more important than Passover. The Jews understand the need for forgiveness of sin. These passages explain how Jesus is their Atonement.
It has occurred to me while studying there are some words that have jumped out at me that are important to the concepts that we have been teaching. As a teaser I will share some of these words now: BETTER, MEDIATOR, COVENANT, TESTEMENT I want to look at the word Better first, In the context of Hebrews, specifically when discussing Jesus the best definition I found was : of a more excellent or effective type or quality. In the context of the book of Hebrew’s Skip Heitzig in his book “The Bible from 30,000 Feet” state’s it this way:
Jesus is a better Messenger than Angels
A better Moderator than Moses
A Better Mediator than Jewish Priests
A Better Minister than the Law
And as we look at Hebrews 8 & 9, He is a Better Covenant Keeper than the Jews, and a Better Sacrifice than any animal which is why He is the Better Covenant Keeper. This teaching is where we understand the meanings to song’s like “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” or “At the Cross.”
The Jewish believer faces a different set of circumstances when they declare their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. For the Jews in Jesus’s day it looked different from today’s Jew, yet through the ages many of the stumbling blocks are the same. When you come to Jesus with no faith/no religious background you have nothing to compare your faith to. If someone turns from their faith, they turn back to the bleakness of the world. Now it may look tempting because of the momentary “pleasures” of an old life, but there is a clear emptiness that a believer would experience if they ever genuinely believed and turn away. 2Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
This is the case for all believers of course. The Jewish believers of today are living a faith that is powerless, if they are even practicing Judaism. Today’s Judaism does not look like it did in the days of the OT for many reasons… Not recognizing the Messiah was the starting point, shortly followed by the destruction of the Temple. There is schism in Judaism. There is Secularism or there is Orthodoxy and little in between. And the Conservative Judaic movement is just part of the slippery slope that led to the Reform sect of Judaism. Practicing as a Jew today seems to look like strict adherence to the law and the rules or it is slapping on the cultural banner of “I’m Jewish.” My brother used to say to people “I’m Jew-ish” Stepping away from the latter lax Judaism is much easier than leaving Orthodoxy. The biggest obstacle for Jews today is the name of Jesus. It has rendered their faith virtually empty.
It took me many years to be comfortable with that name, because of the decades of conditioning I had received. Following Jesus often means breaking from your culture and the bedrock of your families identity, or trying to reconcile the two, which is not simple and is a process that takes many years of growth, prayer, confidence and faith.
The believer’s addressed in this Epistle practiced their pre-Jesus faith a lot like the modern Orthodox Jews, but on steroids. Their whole world was occupied in the rituals and ceremonies of the Jewish Life. However, their understanding of who Jesus claimed to be was much clearer than the Orthodoxy of today who are blinded.
All this to say that all the teachings that we have been looking at: Angels, and Rest, Obedience and Priesthood were all concepts that were apart of their day to day existence and culture. Just like the biblical topics of pre, mid and post tribulation, what day of the week we should worship and whether speaking in tongue is for today are modern day topics of dissension. I am not trying to make light of their faith or ours. Those examples are modern day distractions for us. Those topics were distracting the Hebrews from really understanding who Jesus is. It’s not that those topics are not important, they are and that is why the author of Hebrew’s needs to explain them to these believers, but as we study them we realize that they are not things that many modern day believers get tripped up over.
Just as today’s believers can be pulled away by their own lusts and desires, the desire to fall back on the old way of following Jehovah was stumbling the Hebrews. We all have areas of our faith that need in-depth teaching and truth that is fundamental to our believing. The concepts in these next two chapters were pivotal for the Hebrews to understand the Ministry of Jesus as His position as the Mediator of the New Covenant.
As I was studying the covenant’s I found myself getting overwhelmed, the following video does a great job outlining the bare bones of this topic.
PLAY BIBLE PROJECT VIDEO on the Covenants (YouTube)
We could not get the video to work so I just paraphrased it in this way:
The covenants were God’s way of reaching down to men to enter into a partnership with man or an agreement. The four OT covenants were with Noah, where God redeems his family for an essential do-over and promises never to flood the earth again, with Abraham where he promises to make him a great nation through which he will bless the world. The Mosaic covenant where God gave the Israelites the law and the commandments and making an agreement with them to bless them if they keep the law. And lastly the Davidic covenant where God promises a Messiah will come through the line of David.
The problem with the covenants was not God who broke them, but man. While it is impossible for man to keep the law, there was still a way to forgive them of their sin, which we will look at in Hebrews 8. The problem was with the heart of man, man is the one who cannot keep his end of the covenant so there was a need for the New Covenant.
Read Hebrews Chapter 8
Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. 2 There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle,[ a ] the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.
3 And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. 4 If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. 5 They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.”[ b ]
6 But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
7 If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. 8 But when God found fault with the people, he said:
“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
9 This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day,[ c ] says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
nor will they need to teach their relatives,[ d ]
saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
will know me already.
12 And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.”[ e ]
13 When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.
The author wants the Hebrews to fully understand that there is now a new way a better way to enter fellowship with God, through the New Covenant.
Now I want to give you another definition, its for the word Testament
- a person's will, especially the part relating to personal property.
- (in biblical use) a covenant or dispensation.
- something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event, or quality
In the Latin, the word specifically relates to the first definition. In the Greek, the second. But in what is defined as Christian Latin or Middle English we use the word to convey both meanings. When someone says the words Old Testament and New Testament, you probably like me immediately just think of those words as the title or description. But the title is powerful. When we study the Old Testament, we are looking at the Old Covenant Promise. When we study the New Testament, we are looking at the New Covenant Promise. I realize this is elementary but its meaningful and as we continue in Hebrews we will see why.
Read Hebrews Chapter 9
For time’s sake I am not going to read verses 1-6, in summary it is a description of the Tabernacle, the earthly sanctuary that God ordained to Moses. Diane touched on this a little last week. In Exodus 25:8 God said, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them”. The Tabernacle represents the first covenant, it has many rules and regulations to follow so that God is able to dwell among them. However, The Tabernacle was only accessible to the priests, not the people. The first ten verses touch on the ordinances and services needed to be performed by the priests before they could enter in to the second part of the tabernacle; called the Holiest of All. As many of us are familiar with the fact that only the High Priest could enter in, and only once a year. Sacrifices were to be made so that the Priest could enter in and not be incinerated by the holiness of God.
V.8 states “The Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing”
I want to dwell here for a moment. I had to really study this to understand what it means. In this passage we are to understand that the Holy Spirit has a place, a function in the Tabernacle. Let me read from Andrew Murray:
We said that the Holiest of All, or, as it is literally, the Holiness of Holinesses, was the very embodiment of the holiness of God, the place of His presence. The Holy Spirit specially bears the epitaph Holy, because He is the bearer of the divine holiness to impart it to man – He is the Spirit of holiness. It will appear no more than natural that there should be a close connection between the sanctuary as the revelation of God’s holiness, and the Holy Spirit as the revealer. This is what we are taught here; the high priest’s entrance once a year was so ordered by the Holy Spirit as to be a great object-lesson in which the truth was taught that so long as the veil hung there, the way into the holiest was not yet open. …. Later in this text he goes on to say “The living power of the truth, the actual experience of entering in through the opened veil into the presence of God, can only be communicated and wrought in the life within by the Holy Spirit…. We have seen that the two compartments of the tabernacle represent two degrees of nearness to God, two dispensations of God’s grace, or two stages in the Christian life, a lower and a higher. Into the Holy Place every priest might come daily to do the service God had appointed. Into the Most Holy he might not enter till Christ had opened it for all believers. There are two ways to relate to God they are described by Andrew Murray as the lower and the Higher. As we serve Him, gather together, worship Him, we participate in the lower. But is in that higher place, where the Holy Spirit speaks to us, when we humble ourselves to seek communion with Him, we experience the Holy of Holies, without the New Covenant we cannot reach the higher place.
So, while the Old Covenant was in place, we, the average people could not experience the Holy of Holies without a High Priest who can make the way for us. Read v 11-1511 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,[ a ] he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[ b ] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[ c ] so that we may serve the living God! (His blood washes us white as snow like we sang!)
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
We are now being told again how Christ is a better(a more superior) mediator, here I’m going to go with another definition : a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement; a go-between …. Christ holds back and Holy God, one who has long suffered with man who has been unable to keep the law, unable to keep up our end of the agreement. Now Christ serves as the go between of this new Testament, this new agreement, new promise.
I know we read it just a few minutes ago, but I’m going to read it again
from the Tree of Life Version, let’s hear it with a Jewish flair!
For this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel
after those days, says Adonai.
I will put My Torah into their mind,
and upon their hearts I will write it.
And I will be their God,
and they shall be My people.[ e ]
11 And no more will they teach,
each one his fellow citizen
and each one his brother, saying,
because all will know Me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and their sins I will remember no more.”[ f
These are life changing promises. This is the New Covenant Promise, The New Testament Promise. We now have access to the Holy of Holies!
Now the next passages explain how this agreement has been secured.
16 In the case of a will (the NKJV uses the word Testament),[ d ] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
Before my father-in-law died his Last Will and Testament, his promise to his heirs, was worthless. My husband could not go to him and say Dad, you said that you are going to give this to me…. I want this now; this document says so. No, this document means nothing while the testator, the creator of the document is alive. But upon his death, the will… the way someone speaks from the grave right? It is someone’s final wishes, that are bound by law…they must be executed. The new covenant could not come into effect without the death of the testator, in this case Jesus.
18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool, and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[ e ]21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Jesus’s blood is the blood for the new covenant. Only Jesus could make the way. Only a man’s blood, a perfect man’s blood is the acceptable cleansing of the Heavenly Tabernacle.
Only a great high priest, in the order of Melchezidek, an eternal priest can enter into this most high place. Wouldn’t you like to see a replay of this? Jesus entering the Most High Place with His blood. Sprinkling his blood over the Sanctuary of Heaven, and then sitting down at the right hand of God! He sits because the work is finished! Maybe when we are experiencing eternity God will give us a Movie night…I think it will be more captivating than anything we have ever seen.
Is this what Jesus meant when He said in John 14…I go to prepare a place for you? I need to go because that most high place, it can only be entered into if it has been sprinkled with the purest blood. When Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He meant it… He made the way when the veil was torn… Hebrews 10:19-20 states “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh”…the way to God is through Jesus… He is truth, there is no deceit therefore you can trust Him when he says that there is a way, and he is the Life, in His blood is life. Blood reveals a lot about what the condition of a living being is. Jesus’s blood was perfect, it was the only blood that could make a way for sinful man to be covered and presented to Holy God.
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves withbetter (more superior) sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
After reading these passages I cannot help but think that he got through to those Hebrew believers. He fed them some meat to chew on for sure.
When I became a Christian, I had to reconcile the Jewish way with the Christian way. Having my heart change 180 degrees made the change much easier. People ask me do I celebrate the Jewish Holiday’s? Maybe thinking that it will make my relationship with the Lord much richer, I always tell them No. The rituals feel just like what they are, rituals. They feel just as empty to me as they did before I believed. Why? Because Jesus is my atonement…He died once for my sins, I have no need for yearly fast and atonement, He did it! And it makes me contemplate how precious and valuable the blood of Jesus truly is. Sacrifices were made in the Tabernacle and at the synagogue every single day, and even more sacrifices once a year…. that is a lot of blood. But it was the blood of animals, not the blood of a man. Jesus gave human blood for all of humanities sin. How precious and valuable Jesus’s blood must be, so valuable that His blood was only needed one time to cleanse the sin of man throughout all of time past, present, and future!
Jesus Christ was the only one worthy to enter the Sanctuary. And when he brought His shed blood into that Sanctuary, He paved the way for us to enter into the Sanctuary. He Mediated, He interceded on our behalf. Why would I want to go back to laws, and rules when I can have relationship? There is absolutely no comparison. The fact that we can have life-giving intimacy with the Lord, not dependent upon man, that we have the Holy Spirit who has written His law on our hearts and with a gentle prompting we know what is the correct path to take…how can we return to blindness and empty rituals?
We cannot take for granted the blood of Jesus. His death on the cross and resurrection… was the turning point in the history of man, the scripture says the culmination of the ages!!! This was the event that made Him the Perfect Savior. After the events on earth followed the events in Heaven. The veil torn on the earth and in Heaven and the blood sprinkled on the altar unleashing the Holy Spirit from Heaven.
Rev 5 - In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Truly the Lord Jesus is Worthy!