In the latter part of Hebrews 8, the author introduced the new covenant foretold by Jeremiah. This passage builds on that, talking about the blood used in both the old and the new covenants. Expressing that the blood of the new covenant is superior to, and more effective than, that of the old.
Entering the Heavenly Tabernacle
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, 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. 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 eternal redemption.Hebrews 9:11-12 NIV
The Levitical priests served in a tabernacle that was a copy of the heavenly one (Heb. 8:5). In contrast to that, Jesus, as our great high priest, serves in the heavenly sanctuary. This sanctuary is described as greater and more perfect than what Moses made. And it is not a part of the creation. God is pictured as dwelling between the cherubim atop the mercy seat in the earthly tabernacle. But God himself is in this more perfect tabernacle that Jesus entered. This tabernacle is the presence of God.
In the old tabernacle, for a priest to enter into the Most Holy Place, he had to take blood. This blood was from a sin sacrifice and was to make atonement for himself and the people. So Christ also entered the heavenly tabernacle with blood. But rather than the blood of an animal, it was his blood.
As we will see later, the blood of an animal only provides an outward cleansing. And a temporary one at that. But the blood of Jesus was able to cleanse entirely and forever. The redemption he obtained for us was eternal.
The Cleansing Blood
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!Hebrews 9:13-14 NIV
Cleaning the Outside
The blood of bulls and goats was significant in many of the sacrifices. This was especially true of the Day of Atonement but was also a part of the sin offering. The life of the animal was considered to be in its blood. And that blood was brought before God as a way of purifying them from their sin. The blood symbolically represented payment for the sin of the people.
The expression “ashes of a heifer” points back to Numbers 19 and the water of cleansing. The cleansing water was used in the purification rites for a person who had become ceremonially unclean. This water of cleansing, like the blood of the sacrifices, only made them outwardly clean. As Hebrews 9:9-10 pointed out, these sacrifices could not clear the worshipper’s conscience. But they were pointing ahead to the new order being described now.
Cleaning the Inside
The author now contrasts the blood of Jesus with the blood of bulls and goats. If the animal blood was able to cleanse the outside of the person, think how much more the blood of Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, will cleanse the inside of the person.
This is connected to the two covenants. The old covenant was an external one. It was written on stone tablets and inaugurated with the blood of animals. And it was a covenant that the people were never able to live up to. In contrast, is the new covenant. A covenant that is written on our hearts and inaugurated with the blood of Christ. Under this covenant, our hearts are cleansed and we are able to fully serve the living God.
Mediator of a New Covenant
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.Hebrews 9:15 NIV
A mediator is a person who serves to reconcile two parties. Under the old covenant, this role was managed by the Levitical priests and the offering of animal sacrifices. But the Levitical priesthood has no role under the new covenant. Instead, Jesus, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, serves as the mediator between humanity and God.
Jesus is qualified to serve as the mediator of this new covenant because he offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God. A sacrifice that, unlike the animal sacrifices, is able to cleanse our conscience from the stain of sin. And now, as the mediator, he is able to ensure that we receive the promised inheritance.
This promised inheritance is the promise made to Abraham. We are his descendants and inheritors of the promise made to him. And that is because of what Jesus has done for us.
Those Who Are Called
Under the new covenant, those who are called will receive the promised eternal inheritance. That raises the question of who is called? Unfortunately, Hebrews does not really answer this question. Hebrews 3:1 refers to those who have received the heavenly calling. This calling is from heaven and is a call to heaven. But he does not say here who receives this heavenly calling.
Hebrews 4:3, while discussing God’s rest, says that we who have believed enter into that rest. So it would appear that Hebrews would connect believing with this calling. But, as far as I know, he never makes clear what that connection is. Do we believe because we are called? Or are we called because we believe? There are arguments made in favor of both of these positions. And I find the argument in favor of the second more compelling. But that argument is beyond the scope of this study.
Died As a Ransom
Jesus died as a ransom to free us from sins committed under the first covenant. There have been several ways over the years that people have understood the atoning work of Jesus. One of the earlier ways was that his death ransomed us from Satan’s dominion. That, because of our sin, Satan was our rightful lord. And the price Saan demanded as a ransom for us was the blood of Jesus, the Son. And Jesus paid that ransom to him, thus setting us free.
A more common view today is that Jesus’ death was substitutionary. That, as a substitute, he paid the penalty that I had accrued. This is a position that is supported in the New Testament. But Hebrews points to a third alternative. That the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin. That, because of what Jesus did for us, we can now stand before God as holy and clean.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)