“Christ has arrived as our High Priest to officiate the good things that have come. He established a greater and more perfect tent of worship not made with human hands, meaning it was not part of our created world. He did not use the blood of goats and oxen, but entered once into heaven by His own blood, thereby securing everlasting redemption for us all. For if the blood of oxen and goats, as well as heifer ashes sprinkled on persons ceremonially defiled, was sufficient for liturgical purity, how much more effectively shall the blood of Christ, who through His Eternal Spirit offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purge your conscience from lifeless formalities to render you fit to serve the living God?” (paraphrased)
A keynote of this epistle is its consistent futuristic focus. Whereas the first ten verses of this chapter concern the transitory things of this world, the remainder of it deals with the permanence of the heavenly world. The tabernacle and its elusive shadows failed to connect human beings with spiritual realities. The writer now contrasts the empty ceremonialism of the past with the wondrous era Christ has introduced. This verse compares things already revealed with things we can anticipate.
The writer speaks of Christ “having come” (paraginomai). The term means “to come alongside” or “to arrive on the scene.” Jesus’ incarnation began the process of His transition into the human race, “coming alongside” fallen humanity in order to redeem it. Jesus is our High Priest of “the good things that have been accomplished already”. The “wondrous things still ahead” include everything connected with the New Testament dispensation Christ inaugurated.
The quality of the priestly ministry was reflected by the elaborate tabernacle in which they ministered. But all the combined talents of the artisans, carpenters, and weavers did nothing to prevent the eventual deterioration of this magnificent edifice. Christ ministers in a place more glorious than anything constructed by men. The intricate and costly tabernacle is but an insignificant emblem compared to all we anticipate in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The phrases “not made with hands” and “not of this building” convey the same idea. Everything connected with the construction of the tabernacle has its origin in the earthly realm, rather than the heavenly realm. Jesus spoke of a time when Jerusalem’s temple would be replaced by one not made by human beings (Jn. 2:19).
The comparison between animal blood and Christ’s blood contrasts that which is earthly and ineffective with that which is heavenly and effective. It is a popular but fanciful interpretation of this verse to imagine that Jesus somehow offered His own blood in heaven. The writer deliberately avoids any suggestion of this. The cross of Calvary was the altar upon which He offered His blood. He had no need to sprinkle it upon a mercy seat in some imaginary celestial tabernacle. This verse can only mean His sacrificial blood was shed and accepted by God who dwells in heaven. The “holy place” mentioned in this verse is clearly identified by the writer as “heaven itself” (9:24). Christ entered into His Kingdom, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
“Obtained” is heurisko which means “to find something sought after, to discover, procure, or acquire.” Heurisko can also mean “to win something for oneself.” This term conveys the combined concepts of seeking, obtaining, and appropriating our eternal redemption. “Redemption” means “to liberate or release upon payment of a ransom.” Because God’s law must be upheld and His justice vindicated, it was necessary that Christ pay the ultimate price for our sins. Because Jesus loves us, He washed us from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5). Jesus won everlasting redemption for the human race. Everything Jesus obtained is contrasted with the work of earthly priests, who never truly effected expiation for sins. Christ’s redemptive work is crowned by His ascension into heaven, where He eternally orchestrates the reconciliatory process He instituted.
The foundational truths presented concerning Jesus’ blood (vv. 11-12) are fully developed in the rest of the chapter (vv. 13-28).
No sacrificial animal could have any blemishes. It could not be missing a limb – or be blind, bruised, or diseased (Lev. 22:19-24). Sacrifices must be “perfect to be accepted” (v. 21). As a sacrifice had no physical defects, so Christ had no moral defects. Even a perfect animal was incapable of removing sins: only the unblemished Lamb of God could suffice.
When viewed together, the concepts of animal blood and heifer ashes cover the entire spectrum of rituals regarding the removal of sin and defilement. Blood must be shed to atone for personal sins, but the ashes of a heifer were necessary for purification from uncleanness contracted by touching something that was dead. Any Israelite who came in contact with the dead became ceremonially unclean, including touching a body, a bone or a grave (Num. 19:11, 14-18). Such persons were temporarily ostracized from the encampment. However, as outlined in Numbers 19, God provided a specific method for their reinstatement:
<> A red heifer was selected, which had never been yoked (v. 2).
<> This unblemished heifer was slaughtered outside the camp in view of the priest (v. 3).
<> A priest sprinkled its blood in front of the tabernacle seven times (v. 4).
<> The body of the heifer was incinerated, together with cedar, hyssop, and red cloth (vv. 5-6).
<> These ashes were preserved in a state of perpetual readiness (v. 9).
<> Some ashes were mixed with water and used as specified by law (vv. 9-10).
<> After compliance, the formerly defiled person was pronounced cleansed seven days later (v. 12).
<> Failure to obey this law resulted in excommunication (v. 20).
As a form of ritual purification, this ceremony was extremely practical. While animal blood could not be preserved, dry ashes could be mixed with water and used whenever needed. The fact these ashes were readily available was very pragmatic, for such defilement was no doubt a common occurrence. It is also significant that a red heifer was required, because red is emblematic of guilt. “Although our sins were red like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; they were red like crimson, but will be white like wool” (Isa. 1:18).
Under the old covenant, external uncleanness could only be removed through symbolic ritualism. As heifer ashes purified dead things, so Christ cleanses us from dead works. God instituted these Levitical laws because what is dead can pollute individuals. Fellowship with the living God is the goal, but this cannot be achieved through lifeless works. We are renewed, “not through works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us – by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Ceremonial oblations of the old covenant were able to effect temporal sanctification, but were powerless to provide eternal regeneration.
When the epistle to the Hebrews was written (c 65 AD), the nation of Israel had been performing Levitical rituals for centuries. Some priests must have realized the futility of it all. Added to the frustration of ceremonialism was the suffocating oppression of the Romans. When these two factors are considered, it becomes apparent Messiah’s arrival was perfectly timed to intervene in that stressful era. However, the Jewish priestly aristocracy viewed Jesus as an uneducated interloper (Jn. 7:12-15). For three years Jesus taught them who He was and why He came, but the envious religious leaders murdered Him anyway (Mt. 27:18).
The writer asks, “How much more effective is the blood of Christ?” His intention is to cause his readers to ponder this rhetorical question by drawing upon their collective personal experiences. In this verse we are informed of the value, necessity, and result of Christ’s shed blood. Without His expiatory sacrifice, Christianity would have degenerated into a religious cult.
The Eternal Spirit (pneuma aionion) referred to here is not the Holy Spirit, but rather Christ’s divine nature. Isaiah informs us the Messiah will offer His soul “unto death” (Isa. 53:10-12). Jesus was motivated by love, in contrast to the offerings mandated by law. Whereas animals lack the will to voluntarily offer themselves, the spotless Lamb of God willingly gave Himself for our redemption. Christ’s “Eternal Spirit” bespeaks the timeless quality of His divine personality, including the mercy, truth, love, holiness, and selflessness expressed through Calvary. Sacrificial animals must be physically unblemished – and Christ was free from any taint of sin (Isa. 53:9). As the ultimate substitute, Jesus was simultaneously both the officiating Priest as well as the sacrificial Lamb. Several significant facts can be ascertained from this verse:
<> Christ’s death satisfied the demands of law forever: animal sacrifices were perpetual.
<> Christ’s death was voluntary: animals had no option.
<> Christ’s atonement is eternally effective: all other sacrifices were temporarily effective.
<> Christ’s life was free from sin: human lives are not.
<> Christ’s redemption purges the conscience: other sacrifices cannot.
<> Christ’s work on the cross was a living sacrifice: rituals and ceremonies are lifeless.
The term “conscience” occurs five times in this epistle (9:9 & 14; 10:2, 22; 13:18). To “purge the conscience” means to relieve it from both the guilt and defilement of sin. Under the Levitical system, God provided the means to rectify ceremonial uncleanness and thereby avoid temporal punishment. The writer verifies these formal rites were powerless to free the mind from the guilt of sin.
This can be illustrated by the interaction of Christ with Peter. Having denied the Lord, Peter wept bitterly (Lk. 22:62). He stood in need of the expiation of his sin, as well as freedom from guilt. Luke records that “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon Peter” (Lk. 24:34). This private interview was so intimate, the details are not recorded. This personal conversation freed Peter to evolve into a great apostle. Christ’s sacrifice has the power to transform character and allows Believers to develop spiritually through effectual communication with Him.
As contact with the dead caused physical contamination, so dogmatic theology pollutes the conscience. Ones best efforts avail nothing if the soul is not liberated from the awareness and burden of sin. This verse serves as a warning to all who seek to earn God’s favor through the “vain oblations” of religious ritualism (Isa. 1:13). Only with a conscience cleansed by the blood of Jesus can one serve the living God “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28).
1. A keynote of the book of Hebrews is its:
a. lack of doctrinal concerns
b. emphasis on water baptism
c. focus upon the temple in Jerusalem
d. its consistent futuristic focus
e. none of the above
2. According to II Corinthians 5:1, what awaits Believers in heaven?
3. The word “redemption” means “to liberate by payment of a ransom. True or False?
4. In certain cases, diseased animals could be offered as sacrifices. True or false?
5. An Israelite who carried his deceased father to the grave was not considered ceremonially unclean. True or False?
6. According to Leviticus 19, one who was defiled and followed the necessary procedure for ceremonial cleansing was pronounced clean and was restored to fellowship on the:
a. second day
b. fourth day
c. fifth day
d. seventh day
e. none of the above
7. According to imagery in Isaiah 1:18, our sins will become white like snow. What color is used to represent our former sins?
8. The word “conscience” is used how many times in the book of Hebrews? Why is this significant?
9. When one “flirts” with members of the opposite sex at their workplace, how should such behavior affect ones conscience?
10. List those things bother your conscience. Why do these things trouble – and what is the solution?