In this passage, the author of Hebrews continues his discussion of Jesus’ priesthood. As he has previously stressed the superiority of Jesus over the angels. And his superiority over Moses. Now he drives home the point that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood. He is a superior high priest.
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Table of contents
The Service of Our High Priest
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.Hebrews 8:1-2 NIV
The Main Point
Hebrews has been building to this point. And the author makes that emphatic with his opening words here, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this.” There are all kinds of things that we could derive from the first seven chapters. But it has all been pointing toward the reality of this high priest. One who has set down at the right hand of God and is serving in the heavenly tabernacle.
Hebrews 1:3 looks ahead to the Son sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. And that was after providing purification for sins, a high priestly role. Psalm 110:1, 4, used as source material in Hebrews, looks forward to the Lord sitting at God’s right hand. And becoming a priest after the order of Melchizedek. And in the previous passage, Hebrews 7:11-28, the author affirms that Jesus is our eternal high priest.
A Priest King
Hebrews has exhaustively demonstrated that Jesus is in a place of authority at the right hand of God. He is ruling with God. And he is also a high priest serving at the heavenly sanctuary. These two roles that have previously been separated in the life of God’s people have now been joined into one with Jesus.
Most significantly, he is serving at the heavenly sanctuary. This is described as the true sanctuary rather than the copy built by Moses. The earthy sanctuary had a most holy place, and that was where God was. And there was a holy place and the courtyards. But in the heavenly sanctuary, there is no need for the holy place and courtyards. Because heaven itself is God’s home, the most holy place. There is no “outside”.
The Necessity of a Gift to Offer
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.Hebrews 8:3 NIV
The role of the Levitical priests, especially the high priest, was to offer the sacrificial gifts on the altar. Their offerings were many. And they were offered regularity. Leviticus describes at least five different types of sacrifices that would be made on different occasions, and for different reasons.
So Jesus, as a high priest, needed something to offer. The author here is looking ahead to the coming chapters when he describes this offering in greater detail. But the language he uses indicates that, unlike the gifts of the other priests, it was a single offering. It was the offering of himself as the atoning sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
A Copy and a Shadow
If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”Hebrews 8:4-5 NIV
The author here reemphasizes that Jesus is serving in the heavenly sanctuary. And that he is serving under the terms of the new covenant. The old covenant specified who could be a priest, what they would offer, and how they would do so. There was no need under that covenant for a new priesthood. But because of the new covenant described in the following verses, there is a need for a new priest with a new sacrifice.
But that earthly priesthood, along with the sacrifices they offered, and the sanctuary they served at were only copies of the more perfect. They looked ahead to the reality that has come with Jesus, our new High Priest. The next chapter will come back to this idea of the earthly sanctuary being a copy of the heavenly. But for now, the author is content to emphasize that the pattern of the earthly sanctuary was important. Each of the elements that went into it had significance. Even if much of it is lost on us today.
A Superior Ministry
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.Hebrews 8:6 NIV
The author of Hebrews is making it clear to his audience that what Jesus does for us is superior to what the priest under the old covenant did. In the same way that the new covenant is superior to the old. Most of the rest of this chapter is about the new covenant, and it will be discussed in the next post in this series.
But there are two significant points about it that the author makes here. The first relates to the mediator of the covenants. Hebrews 2:2 implies that the old covenant was mediated through angels. While the new covenant is mediated through Jesus, the Son. This helps to make clear why the author of Hebrews spent so much effort in the first chapter to demonstrate the superiority of the Son of angels. It had, at least in part, to do with the covenants they mediated.
And the second significant point here is that the promises of the new covenant are better than those of the old. Both covenants point to the people under the covenant as being God’s people. People under his care. But the old covenant was focused on an earthly kingdom while the new covenant looks to membership in a heavenly kingdom, the kingdom of God. Under the new covenant, we have the hope of eternal life.
Hebrews Post List
- Hebrews: An Introduction - This article gives a brief introduction into the book of Hebrews. It is the first of a series of on this sermon from a pastor to his people.
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4) - In the prologue to Hebrews the author identifies the supremacy of Christ over the prophets and angels as well as summarizing his Christology.
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14) - This passage uses seven quotes from the Old Testament to demonstrate that Christ, the Son, is superior to the angels.
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4) - The author of Hebrews here warns us to pay attention to the great salvation we have been given. If we do not, the danger of drifting away is great.
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9) - Humanity is not what God created us to be. But we see Jesus, who took on a human nature, tasted death for us, and is now crowned with glory and honor.
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13) - Jesus, the author of our salvation, was made perfect, as a savior, through his suffering on the cross. The perfect lamb sacrificed for us.
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18) - Jesus became fully human in every way, allowing him to defeat death and to become our perfect high priest, offering himself as our atonement.
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6) - To one raised in Old Testament Judaism, there was no one greater than Moses. But Hebrews here affirms that Jesus is greater than Moses.
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19) - Hebrews uses Psalm 95 to demonstrate that failure to enter into God's rest is because of our disobedience and failure to remain faithful.
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11) - The promise of entering into God's rest is still open to us today. Unlike many in the past, make every effort to enter into that rest.
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13) - God's word is active and alive. It is not just words on a page. It is his message for us that reaches deep within us to shape our lives.
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16) - Because Jesus is our great high priest, who has experienced the life we live, we can confidently come to God for his grace and mercy.
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10) - Jesus, the Son of God, learned obedience through his suffering on the cross. He knows what it is to obey the Father, even in suffering.
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3) - The author's challenge to us here is to move beyond the elementary teachings of the faith. To be growing ever deeper in the truth.
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12) - There are a number of warnings in Hebrews about falling away. But this is the most explicit of them. How should be understand there warnings.
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20) - The promise that God made to Abraham is relevant to those of us who have come to trust in Jesus. And that hope is an anchor for our soul.
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10) - Two priesthoods are examined here. That of Melchizedek and that of Aaron. And Melchizedek's is demonstrated to be the superior one.
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28) - Jesus has ushered in a new priesthood. One that is after the order of Melchizedek, eternal and fully able to meet our needs.
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6) - Hebrews has been building toward this point. A high priest after the order of Melchizedek is not just theory. In Jesus, it is a reality.
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13) - The new covenant that Jeremiah foresaw has found its fulfillment in Jesus. He is the mediator of this new covenant made with us.
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10) - The worship in the old covenant tabernacle was a shadow of what was to come. Especially the hiddenness of the Most Holy Place.
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15) - The old covenant was written on tablets has been replaced with a covenant written on our hearts and inaugurated by the blood of Christ,
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28) - The earthly tabernacle was only a shadow of the heavenly sanctuary that Jesus entered into on our behalf, offering a perfect sacrifice.
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18) - Jesus sacrificed himself for us. One sacrifice that was sufficient for all time. There is now no longer any need to sacrifice for sin.
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39) - Because of what Jesus did for us, we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place with full assurance. We have been cleansed and washed.
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31) - The 11th chapter of Hebrews is nicknamed the Hall of Faith. The author here defines faith, and then shows faith in action.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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