The original readers were Christians from a Jewish background, under pressure to go back to the old Jewish ways so they could have an easy life ‘here and now’. The author of Hebrews – Paul, or more likely one of his friends – is writing to urge them to continue pressing on in the blessings of the new covenant.
- Jesus is superior to any angel, 1:1-4
- We have a great salvation, 2:1-4
- Jesus is a sympathetic Saviour, 2:5-15
- Jesus is greater than Moses, 3:1-6
- Rebelling may mean they fail to enter into rest, like Israel in the wilderness who had been saved by the blood of the Passover Lamb and gone through the symbolic baptism waters of the parted sea, but failed (apart from two of the original crowd!) to press on to the inheritance of the promised land 3:7-4:13
- Jesus fulfils the Mosaic system
- high priest, 4:14-16
- fulfilling the Levitical sacrificial system, 5:1-10
- helps us to gain God’s oath of reward and rest, ch 6
- like Melchizedek, ch 7
- brought in a new priesthood and covenant, ch 8.
So chapter 9 shows us how Jesus fulfills the symbolism of the tabernacle (and by extension the later temple). To desire for a new temple in Jerusalem is thus pretty much blasphemy, because it is saying Jesus is no longer enough. The very thing Hebrews is warning against!
The tabernacle has two parts – the Holy place that the priests entered daily and then a veil to the second part, the Most Holy Place, that held the very presence of God on earth and could only be entered once a year by the high priest.
All of that is symbolic. The tabernacle was symbolic of heaven and the presence of God that we can enter any time. Jesus has torn down the veil. The Holy Place represents the old covenant, v.8, the Most Holy Place the new – we can enter the very presence of God in the Spirit, because of Jesus, anytime!
Verse 11 – “But Christ” – all the old covenant symbolism and systems are completely fulfilled in Jesus by his blood shed on the cross.
Note the tenses in v.11-15:
v.12 – past tense – we have received eternal redemption – it’s yours and you can’t lose it once you have trusted Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation.
v. 14 – future tense – we shall, day by day, receive a cleansed conscience. Jesus’ blood, given at his once for all time sacrifice, deals daily with our ongoing sin.
v.15 – subjunctive tense – we may/might receive the full inheritance. It’s not automatic, and is received by faith and patience.
Grace enables you to have eternal life and is guaranteed. But don’t just get in by the skin of your teeth; press on with faith and patience, obeying Jesus and the whispers of the Spirit, to receive that “well done good and faithful servant” and the reward to come!