In our study of Hebrews chapter nine, we look at the fact that Christ's blood paid for our salvation once and for all. In chapter eight, we saw that Jesus is a superior High Priest and now we see that the sacrifice that He offered was far superior to that of the Levitical priesthood.
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
Paul begins by explaining the general setup of the earthly tabernacle of the Mosaic Law. He describes the physical tabernacle and its separate rooms and what they contained. We notice that in the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant. The word ark refers to a coffin and over this coffin was where God met with the high priest. The altar of incense was the prayer altar and it was here that the prayers were lifted up to God.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.
All the priests were allowed to enter the outer room to perform their service to God but only the high priest could enter the inner room and only once each year. This Day of Atonement required much preparation with blood to cover the sins of the high priest as well as the people. These regulations were showing that it was just a temporary way of entering the presence of God and that a better way was yet to come.
This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings - external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
The sacrifices and rituals were required to be performed but they were outward things and could not clean man's conscience. The conscience is a God-given mechanism which lets us know basic truths such as right from wrong. No matter what ritual man went through, deep down they knew that they were still the same. Even today, there is a spirit of religion that attempts to place people back under a similar type of system of rituals and outward actions. This has entered the church (body of Christ) and has brought in people that really do not have a relationship with Him. As Paul described here, they have some rituals but deep down inside they do not have a clear conscience with God and continue to walk in bondage instead of the freedom of Christ.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 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, having obtained eternal redemption.
The "good things that are already here" speaks of the Law of Moses and Christ came to us as the High Priest of the law. Unlike the high priests before Him, Jesus went into the tabernacle of heaven where He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. The Law demanded payment for sin and Jesus presented the payment in Himself.
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. 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, so that we may serve the living God!
The sacrifices at the temple made a man clean on the outside but could not remove the guilt from our consciences. Jesus presented himself as a perfect sacrifice that can clean the conscience as well as the outside.
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.
Only the blood of Jesus Christ can pay the price for our sins. He is the bridge (mediator) that guarantees our right relationship with God for eternity. He cleans us on the inside as well as the outside and makes us acceptable to God.
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
A will is a contract (covenant) that distributes a person's belongings and goes into affect once a person dies. A person is appointed to carry out the wishes of the one that has passed and is called an executor (mediator). One of the first responsibilities of the mediator is to present evidence that the person has passed away and this is usually done by providing a death certificate signed by a doctor. In the same manner, Jesus was appointed by God to execute His will in bringing men into a right relationship with their Maker. He was killed on the cross for everyone to see and, when the soldier pierced His side, it was like a doctor signing a death certificate.
When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to 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. He said, 'This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.' In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
In the same way, covenants under the law required the shedding of blood. Like a will, this blood was required for the contract to take effect.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.
The animal sacrifices were sufficient for the earthly temple but a better sacrifice was required to enter heaven itself.
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. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The high priest had to enter every year to atone for the sins of the people and he could never say it is finished like Jesus did on the cross. He presented Himself once and for all; for all people and for all time.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Just as we do not normally die over and over again, Jesus does not have to go back to the cross over and over again to pay for our sins. He has paid the penalty for sin once and for all but He is coming back to get those who are His. Are you waiting for His return?