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Hebrews 9

April 1st, 2012 by Vic

Hebrews 9

“The Meaning of Easter – part 1”

Palm Sunday

April 1, 2012

 

Today we remember Palm Sunday.  This is the day when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Multitudes welcomed Him into the city and large crowds had followed Him from Galilee.  Just a couple miles back down the road in Bethany He had raised Lazarus from the dead.

 

This next week is packed with confrontation and teaching in the Temple.  Jesus celebrates the Passover feast with the disciples.  He is arrested, crucified and the temple curtain is ripped.  Next Sunday He appears with a resurrected body and 40 days later He ascends to heaven.  9 days later on the day of Pentecost, He confirms His promise to His disciples that He is seated on the throne by sending the Holy Spirit.

 

Pentecost was the day the Jews celebrated the writing of the Law of Moses on the stone tablets.  Now on this Pentecost the Holy Spirit writes the commands of God on our hearts.

 

All of this happened according to the pattern that God gave to Moses on Mt Sinai.  Moses built the Tabernacle and established the ceremonies according to the picture he saw on the mountain.  The writer to the Hebrews looks at the clothing and rituals required of the High Priest and gets excited about the original of all these things that Jesus has shown us.  The Tabernacle was very beautiful, but it was only a shadow of reality.  The High Priest’s clothing was elegant and costly, but it was also a shadow of the real.  The first covenant was imperfect and provisional.  It was only a shadow of the blessings of the new covenant.

The Tabernacle was made of acacia wood planks 15’ high, 2’ 3” wide overlaid with gold and set in sockets of silver.  48 planks enclosed an area 15’ x 45’.  One end of that was the Holy of Holies which was 15’ cubed and closed off with a heavy curtain, made of fine linen, embroidered in scarlet, purple and blue with cherubim on it.

 

The first compartment or Holy Place contained the Golden Lamp stand on the south side.  It was always lit.  (Jesus said He was the light of the world.)  On the north side stood the Table of the Loaves.  It had 12 cakes of unleavened bread made of the finest flour and replaced every week.  (Jesus said He was the bread of life.)  On the west end of the first room, in front of the curtain was the Altar of Incense.  Incense was burned every morning and evening to symbolize the prayers of the people rising to God.

 

Within the Holy of Holies stood the Ark of the Covenant.  It contained 3 items: the golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the law.  It was only 3’ 9” long, 2’ 3” wide, and 2’ 3” high.  The Ark foreshadowed Christ: abundant life, fruit of the Spirit, Law in our hearts, angels watching over, and mercy covering all.

 

The day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was filled with meaningful ceremony to confirm the seriousness of sin and the need for forgiveness and cleansing.

 

Very early in the morning the High Priest cleansed himself by washing.  Then he put on the elegant and dazzling robes.  Next, like every other day, he burned the morning incense, made the morning sacrifice, and trimmed the lamps.  Unique on this day he sacrificed a bullock, 7 lambs and one ram.  He took off his robes and put on a plain white linen robe, that was worn only on this day, confessed his own sin and the sins of his family.  He slit the throat of the bull, caught some blood in a basin.  He took coals from off the altar and put them in a censor with incense and walked into the Holy of Holies, the presence of God.  After filling the room with incense, he went out and took the basin of blood back into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it 7 times up and 7 times down.  He came out, killed one goat, released the scapegoat, did some more sprinkling and set the basin at the foot of the altar.  He quoted Lev 16; 23:27-32 and Numbers 29:7-11.  He prayed for the people, sacrificed all the animals on the altar.  Cleansed himself.  Put on the elegant robes for the regular afternoon sacrifice.  Cleansed himself again and put on the plain linen to return to the Holy of Holies and retrieve the incense sensor that had been burning all day.  He cleanses himself again.  He puts the elegant robes back on.  He has now completed his work for the day.  He comes outside, blesses the people and they celebrate and break their fast.  To the Jews this was all very familiar.

 

What the writer wants them to think about is that Jesus came from heaven and appeared in humble clothes like a man.  His ministry and prayers preceded His sacrifice on the cross.  He carried His own blood into God’s presence.  He will return appearing in His royal robes and all who are waiting for Him will rejoice and celebrate a great supper.

 

9:1 announces 2 subjects: regulations of worship (vs 6-10) and the arrangement of the Tabernacle (vs 2-5).

 

9:2-5  The tabernacle was one building with 2 rooms.  The first room could represent earth, where we as a kingdom of priests minister.  The second could represent the presence of God.  However, the writer does not want to discuss any hidden meanings of the 2 compartments at this point (vs 5b).

 

9:6-10  The tabernacle was maintained by priests that trimmed the lamps daily and replaced the loaves in the first room weekly.  The High Priest carries the incense and basin of blood into the second room only once a year.  Blood is mentioned 12 times in this chapter.  Blood is the evidence that life has been given.

 

The Holy Spirit has given the writer and others insight (8) that as long as the first room was being used, access to the presence of God was limited and not available to all the people.  The Holy Spirit has taught us what the OT worshippers could not see.  The shadow has become inoperative.  The time of the new covenant has come (10).  The real Tabernacle now provides cleansing for the conscience and not just clothing and hands.  A defiled conscience is an obstacle to the worship of God.  In Christ there is cleansing of the conscience and unrestricted access to God.

 

9:11-14  The old regulations regarding external cleansing were required until the time of reformation, correction, or new order.  But when Christ appeared that reformation began.  His appearing was the “climax of the ages” (26).  He brought to all men good things like forgiveness of sins and access to God.  He dispelled the shadow of the old with the light of the new.

 

He entered and passed through a more perfect tabernacle (His body) to appear as High Priest in God’s presence.  He did not carry a basin of blood from unwilling goats and calves into the Holy of Holies.  (The goat’s blood was to cover the sins of the people and the calf’s blood was to cover the sins of the priest.)  He was a willing sacrifice.  He carried His own blood.  He also carried the evidence on His new resurrected body that He had died for our sin.  He gave His life for us once and for all time and presented that sacrifice of obedience to God (12).

 

The ashes of the red heifer (13) were used in the ceremony to cleanse a person who had been in contact with a dead person or a dead animal.  The Book of Numbers stipulates that the red heifer must be perfect.  It must not have hairs of any other color, must be in perfect health, and it must not have been used to perform work (Numbers 19:2). The ashes of the red heifer are required by the Torah to cleanse the Levitical priesthood before they can do work in the Temple.  As of May, 2006, Erwin Baxter Jr. of End Times Ministries reports that the Jews have a red heifer, 3½ years old in Jerusalem (among the cattle born in and imported from Mississippi). If it does not get disqualified like the previous red heifer candidates reported over the past years, it could mean that one more obstacle to the construction of the Third Temple is gone.

 

If the Jews take the old covenant this seriously, how much more (14) should we who believe in Jesus take the new covenant seriously.  If Jews are this concerned about outward purity, how much more should we be concerned about inward purity.  The purity that Christ offers is so much greater because the nature of His sacrifice was infinitely greater.  He was the Perfect Lamb of God given to take away the sins of the world.

 

The blood and ashes of goats, calves, and red heifers only provided symbolic removal of defilement.  Jesus offered a life of perfect obedience.  His blood can cleanse the conscience from defilement and dead works so that we may worship the living God.  Sterile seeds cannot produce fruit.  Neither can dead works produce life.  Jesus conquered death.  He offers us life and life abundantly.

 

9:15-22  For this reason a clean conscience is the epitome of the promised benefits of the new covenant.  The blood of Christ achieves what the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31) had foretold.  Because Jesus offered His life in perfect obedience to God He became the mediator of the new covenant.  Christ’s death fulfilled the old covenant and inaugurated the new.  We can have a clean conscience.

 

Now that Jesus has died He has made His will, testament, or covenant operative.  He ascended into heaven to become Executor of His own will.  Jesus put into effect His own will.  My will does not take effect until I die (17).  I cannot be the executor of my will.  Even the old covenant was ratified with the sacrificial death of an animal (18).  The death of the animal symbolically represented the life of the person making the sacrifice.  There was a death involved to confirm a covenant or execute a will.

 

According to the Law almost everything is cleansed by blood (22).  We’ve seen that blood provides access (7), cleans the conscience (14), inaugurates the covenant (18), consecrates the people (19), and cleanses things used in the Tabernacle. The shedding of blood provides the forgiveness of sins (22).

 

9:23-28  Therefore you can see that the sacrifice of Christ and His blood is infinitely more powerful and effective.  This verse suggests that the sin and defilement of man reached beyond the individual to taint society and creation.  The perfect sacrifice of Christ purifies all defilement in the lives of those who obey.  Jesus said a pure lifestyle can affect society like salt and light effect pollution.  When I live a pure life, I am a cleaning influence in my world.

 

The word heaven (24) is singular.  This is the heaven where the true, original sanctuary is located.  It is the dwelling place of God.  Jesus passed through the heavens (23) to get to heaven.  Jesus continually abides in God’s presence on our behalf.  On the way through the heavens He tore the veil of the Temple and now invites us into God’s presence.  He says, “Follow Me.”  “Where I am you can be also.”

 

The death of Christ is not to be repeated annually (25).  The superior sacrifice of Christ achieved with finality what was impossible under the old covenant.  Man could not destroy sin.  But Jesus has provided forgiveness and cleansing when we believe.  We come to him and ask like the cripple, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

 

Peter explains it this way.  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds we are healed (1 Pet 2:24).

 

The reference to Christ’s return (28) to those who wait for Him is a picture of the High Priest in the OT finishing all his activities on the Day of Atonement, dressing in his most regal robes and then going out the Temple area to bless the people.  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of Jesus (Matt 24:27).”  When Jesus comes again it will be spectacular.  He will not have to deal with sin.  The power of sin has already been broken by His obedience on the cross.

 

The great barrier to fellowship with God has always been the defilement of sin.  The death of Christ on the cross has overcome the power of sin.  All sacrificial blood could cleanse temporarily.  (By offering blood you were obeying the Law.)  But Christ’s blood is infinitely more beneficial.  (His obedience was perfect.)  The offer of cleansing extends to all men, but only those who believe can receive.

 

On March 16, President Obama signed an Executive Order called the “National Defense Resources Preparedness”, which in effect nationalizes all the energy, food and water currently existing on American soil.  Our government is becoming corrupt.  Our culture is corrupt.  According to a Jack-in-the-box ad you can now get married to bacon.

 

The Roman government was also corrupt.  This letter was written around the time when the Romans had flattened the Jerusalem Temple and executed many of their own citizens.  This letter of Hebrews says nothing about that.  The root problem is not the government, but unconfessed sin in the hearts of men.  Satan’s delight is to corrupt, kill and destroy.  Jesus offers us power to live clean lives.  He did not die for the government or big corporations.  He died that we might have life and have it abundantly.  We can be forgiven of our sin and live free from the fear of death.  We can receive an inner strength that purifies everything we touch.  We can make a difference in the world.

 

Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.  Be salt and light in a corrupt world.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; follow in His steps and you will be saved from the penalty of your sin.

 

 

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