Today we conclude the book of Hebrews. Our passage begins with a comparison between the earthly Tabernacle and the atonement made therein, and the atonement won by Christ. In 9:7, the writer is talking about the Day of Atonement. Interestingly, He says that what the high priest did in the Holy of Holies was regulated by what happened outside of it. The Holy Spirit, by what went on outside of the Holy of Holies, revealed that there was not yet an acceptable atonement for sin (v. 9). For throughout the rest of the year, there were offerings for sin that did not serve to “perfect the conscience,” that is, truly take away guilt. Even life itself under the law – the food laws, the cleansing rituals, the laws about how the body was to be treated – these only served a temporary purpose until that true atonement came (v. 10 – see Gal 3:23-25).
By contrast, when the true High Priest appeared, Who as we have seen, did not pass through the veil in the Tabernacle but through the heavens (v. 11 – see 4:14), His sacrifice has provided that acceptable atonement (v. 12) and has objectively taken away our guilt (v. 14). Therefore, the covenant He mediates is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (which is a spiritual covenant) because the New Covenant is the one that provides redemption even for those under the Mosaic Covenant. And as we saw, God swore by Himself when He made the promise to Abraham (see Heb 6:13). And if you’ll remember back to Genesis 15, God Himself took on both sides of the covenant by being the only One to pass through the animal pieces.*
In Hebrews 9:16 we have a play on the word in Greek for “covenant” – διαθήκη – which can also mean “will” (like a last will and testament). The transgressions of those in covenant with God (those for whom Jesus died on the cross) have, like all men, broken covenant with God. Jesus’ death (as pictured by God in Genesis 15) atones for that. But as a will, which Webster defines as “a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death,” we see that Christ died to leave this salvation legacy, and entrance into this new and better covenant, for us. And to do that, He had to die (vv. 16-17).
The writer then explains how all covenants are ratified by blood (vv. 18-21), and how the shedding of blood under the law was required for the forgiveness of sins (v. 22). Then, we see that the earthly Tabernacle was indeed a copy of heaven, but that the true heavenly covenant requires more than the symbolic shedding of blood by animals (v. 23). Christ, having provided His own blood, passed back through the veil of heaven into the presence of God for us (v. 24), but unlike under the old covenant, the sacrifice is final and acceptable to God (vv. 25-26), and the only other time Christ will pass through the veil is to come in judgment (vv. 27-28).
Chapter 10 begin with the clear assertion that the Law and its sacrifices and its ceremonies pointed us to Christ (10:1). In fact, the continual sacrifices of the Mosaic Law served not to take away sin, but as a constant and repeated reminder of sin for God’s people (vv. 1-4). The writer then quotes Psalm 40 to show that God’s acceptable sacrifice was never the animals offered under the Law, but the human body of Christ (vv. 5-7). In verses 8-10, we see that the active obedience of Christ (doing God’s will in verse 9) is what was required for Him to be the true acceptable sacrifice for us, once for all.
In verses 11-13 we see again that Christ’s sacrifice is once for all, and that the next work He will do is at His return. His offering was sufficient for all believers of all time who are being sanctified (v. 14) by the Holy Spirit (v. 15) Who confirms that the law is fulfilled in Christ, which has changed our very hearts (v. 16), and that our sins are forgiven by the once for all sacrifice of Christ (vv. 17-18).
In verse 19, the writer begins to tie in all he has said. Christ opened the way to God’s presence (and note now how the curtain is His flesh – the Tabernacle also prefigured Christ!), He is our High Priest, our hearts are changed, our guilt is gone. Let us then be faithful to Him Who did all of this. Let us exhort each other (v. 24) and be together since He is coming soon (v. 25). If we are the saved, let’s live like the saved (the main point of verses 26-39)!
Chapter 11 is the great “faith hall of fame” chapter. On the heels of his exhortation in 10:19-39, the writer points us to the faith of our brothers and sisters throughout history. In verse 4, we see the faith of our brother Abel, the prototype for believers.** We see Enoch who “walked with God” (v. 5 – see Gen 5:22-24). And that means he lived by faith (v. 6). Noah acted in faith (v. 7). Abraham acted in faith (vv. 8-9). And we see how Abraham obtained the promise (see 6:15): he understood the promise spiritually (v. 10 – the “land” was not a physical land).
And yet we see, that these saints did not “receive the promise.” How can that be if we have already been told Abraham did obtain the promise? Here (v. 13), the promise is the coming of Christ. They had this amazing faith in Him before He came. How much more should we who live after His coming live by faith? And that is the point. After giving more details of the faith of the Old Testament saints, chapter 12 begins with the exhortation to share that faith, living lives of faith in Him Who gave Himself for us (12:1-2). And if living by faith becomes difficult, consider what Christ endured (v. 3), and know that the sufferings of this present age are meant to increase our faith (vv. 5-11). So let’s be courageous and live by faith (vv. 12-13), and help each other all do the same (vv. 14-15). In verse 18, the writer calls our minds back to the giving of the old covenant, and the fear with which those to whom it was given were struck (vv. 18-21), and compares it with the heavenly reality in which we live as those of faith (vv. 22-24), which will last into the world to come and beyond the coming judgment (vv. 25-29).
Chapter 13 is the closing of the letter/sermon. The application of the truth of our salvation in Christ is this: love your neighbor as yourself (13:1-3), flee from sin and live righteously (vv. 4-5), realize that God is with us so we can do so (v. 6 – quoting Psalm 118:6), and respect those God places in authority over you (v. 7).
And remember Who Christ is, for He does not change (v. 8). His Word does not change (v. 9). And He is our sacrifice for sin, Who like the inedible parts of the animals from the sacrifices, was taken “outside the camp,” a reference to Calvary (vv. 10-12). Let’s run to the cross (v. 13)! Let’s be like Abraham who by faith looked forward to the culmination of the promise (v. 14). Let us offer to Christ the appropriate sacrifices: praise Him (v. 15), give of ourselves for others (v. 16), submit to our pastors/elders whom He has called to be responsible for our souls (v. 17), and pray for each other (v. 18).
There is much more we could talk about, but I will stop myself. If there is one thing to remember as we turn back to the Old Testament and see how God dealt with His people under the Mosaic Covenant, it is this: Christ is greater!
*This is what we saw back in Genesis 15: “Then, God alone moves through the sacrifice, in effect taking on both sides of the covenant. If either side breaks it, God will be sacrificed. And He was. We see here how salvation is 100% God’s work, and how Christ paid the price for our failures.”
**This is what we said about Cain and Abel: “And the Bible makes a distinction between two types of people – those who hope in the Lord, and the rest of the world. They are distinct in their actions and their hearts. Abel brings the Lord both the first and the best of what he has, Cain does not. And the difference in their actions stems from the difference in their hearts.”