Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hebrews - True Sanctuary with a Superior Sacrifice

Continued from yesterday
... So the author has powerfully argued that Jesus is a superior priest to any earthly priest. Next he will argue that Jesus offered his sacrifice in a superior sanctuary to any earthly sanctuary. Jesus serves in the heavenly sanctuary, the one that served as the pattern for the sanctuaries of Israel on earth (8:5).

Is there actually a structure in heaven? Different interpreters of Hebrews have different interpretations. For some, Hebrews is like other Jewish writings that picture an actual building in heaven. [1] For others, the author is thinking more generally of heaven as the Most Holy Place within a universe that, as a whole, is like a temple for God. [2]

The most important point, though, is not what kind of a temple Hebrews pictures being in heaven. What is important is that the sanctuary in which Jesus offered his blood is a far superior sanctuary to the sanctuary on earth. If you have a superior priest offering a superior sacrifice in a superior sanctuary, why would you need an earthly temple at all?

And Jesus' death on the cross was a superior sacrifice. The blood of bulls and goats can't really take away sins, Hebrews says (10:4). By contrast, Jesus offered his blood "through the eternal Spirit" (9:14). The author of Hebrews makes the bold claim that none of the sacrifices of the old covenant actually took away sins (10:1). They were just foreshadowings of the one true sacrifice that Christ offered (e.g., 8:5; 10:1-2). They were like a rain check, a promise that those under the old covenant would find forgiveness once Christ's sacrifice was in place. [3]

But now that Jesus has offered himself on the cross, there is no more need for earthly sacrifices. The body of Christ has taken away the first sacrificial system (10:8-9). And while priests continually offered sacrifices in that old covenant, Christ's death is a once and for all sacrifice (10:12).

Hebrews makes an allegory out of the two parts of the wilderness tabernacle (9:6-9). Priests used to go into the first room, the Holy Place, continually, but only high priest went into the second room once a year, the Most Holy Place. In the same way, in the first age under the old covenant, sacrifices were offered without end. But now, in the new covenant, Christ has offered his sacrifice once and for all, with no need for a sacrifice ever to be offered again...

[1] E.g., 1 Enoch.

[2] E.g., Philo, Josephus

[3] Hebrews 11:40 puts it this way: "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

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