As Christians we have citizenships in two worlds, the earthly and the heavenly. This is why Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God, the things which are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) Herein lies one of our major problems, we are told to walk by faith in a world which walks by sight. The world says, ‘Seeing is believing, but faith tells us, ‘believing is seeing.’ Difficult to remember this truth sometimes, isn’t it?
Here is who we are and what has happened once we believed and were sealed by the Holy Spirit:
- Dual citizenship.
- Two natures- old vs. new
- Two powers in the world- good (light) evil (darkness) they travel on a parallel path, so when you want to do good – evil is always present.
- Two ways- narrow and broad.
- We are now God’s people, adopted into His family- peculiar people.
- We are a royal priesthood.
- We are as the Church- the body of Christ, a Holy Nation.
- We are a living stone in the temple of which Christ is the foundation.
- We are God’s tabernacle, our bodies, the very tent in which He dwells and our hearts His Holy of Holies where He is enthroned.
- We are lights in the darkness of this world under the power of the evil one at this time. And Paul told us to be careful what we build upon this foundation. (I Cor 3.)We are not to alter our convictions and adapt to social whims. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, which is our reasonable act of worship and be not conformed by the world but be transformed by the renewing our mind ( with the Word of God) so we know what is the good, perfect and acceptable will of God. ( Romans 12)
I love One whom I have never seen. I believe there is a heavenly sanctuary I have not seen with my eyes, where God the Father and the Glorified Lord Jesus reside and reign. The writer of Hebrews has thus far, via the Word of God, shown us we have a Superior High Priest who has initiated a Superior Covenant. And today we will see it is in a Superior Sanctuary.
The Tabernacle was an earthly sanctuary built by man according to a blueprint, a pattern, after the heavenly sanctuary. The author in a brief description speaks of the two parts or two rooms where the priest carried on their duties. The first room is called the Holy Place and the second room was called The Most Holy Place. Only priests entered these areas and only the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place. The people entered only the outside courtyard. This is where they brought their appropriate sacrifice to the bronze altar as a blood offering for their sins and guilt. Here a person would bring their lamb and place their hands upon the lamb’s head which was symbolical of laying their sins upon the lamb. The lamb was then slain as God had taught from the time when sin first entered the world, for without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins. The only other article in the courtyard was the bronze laver made from the donated mirrors from the women. This was filled with water for the priest to cleanse himself after ministering the sacrifices.
In the Holy Place were three pieces of furniture. Although the author identified the Altar of Incense with placement in the Most Holy Place, it was against the wall of the veil separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. However on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest was to ‘take a censer full of burning coals from the altar of incense and two handfuls of finely ground incense into the Most Holy Place behind the veil. So the incense from the altar physically was taken into the Most Holy Place. He was then to put the incense before the Lord to conceal the atonement cover.’(Leviticus 16: 12, 14)
AN OVERVIEW OF THE TABERNACLE
God has always wanted to dwell among His people. How does a Holy God dwell among sinful people? The Tabernacle of old shows us how God does this and also revealed a pattern of worship. First God required the people to sacrifice a perfect animal for their sins. Only the finest animals, a perfect one was good enough. Sacrifices needed to be done on a regular basis. The person bringing the offering would put their hand on the head of the lamb while it was killed, symbolizing placing his/her sins on the animal to die in his/her place. The priest took the blood and placed it on the four horns on each corner. This represents the whole world, north, south, east and west. It also reminds us of the ram whose horns were entrapped in the thorns thereby providing a sacrifice for Isaac that Abraham had said God would provide Himself a Sacrifice.
The laver of brass was the next step for priests only as he washed himself for purification before entering the Holy Place. These two pieces represent the sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Lamb of God who takes away sins and the cleansing through confession.
In the first room behind the wall were three pieces of furniture. The lampstand, which contained 7 vessels where pure olive oil was burned. (Keep in mind, there were no windows in this area, so it would be cloaked in darkness. Our world is cloaked in darkness today.) This represents Christ also who was the Light of the World and the Holy Spirit who enlightens the eyes of our heart that we might see. The Table of Showbread represent Christ who is the Bread of Life of which the Manna in the wilderness was a symbol. Incenses burned constantly and represented the prayers of the people which we are told to pray always. The coals which ignited the incense which included a special formula of which pure frankincense was an ingredient, came from the altar in the courtyard. This means the coals came where from where the blood was shed. There is a connection between our prayers to God and the blood of Jesus. For it is by the power of His blood that we are able to enter the throne room of heaven with prayers to our Heavenly Father made accessible to us by the Blood, the Wonder-Working Power of the blood. So in this section, the first room, we have the lampstand symbolizing the Light of the World, the Holy Spirit who enlightens us making us lights of the world. The Table of Showbread which the priest would eat, show us we are fed by the Word of God. The Altar of Incense represents prayer, communication and intercession.
Next came the Most Holy Place behind the veil, entered only by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. It contained the Ark of the Covenant. This a box of Acacia wood with pure gold cover with two cherubim angel looking down at the mercy seat. The High Priest would enter with the censer of incense and the blood to be sprinkled on the mercy seat for the sins of the people. The Ark contained, Aaron’s Rod which budded; the jar of manna and the stone tablets of the law. This veil in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom the day Christ died. Man could now enter into the presence of God through Christ.
Why is the tabernacle and this pattern of worship important today? Today, we are the dwelling place of God (I Cor.6:19) God’s Holy Presence is among us, His People. As believers, we are told we are a royal priesthood. (I Peter 2:5) We will see in Hebrews 10 it also shows us a pattern of worship.
Look at the route by which we have entered into the Throne Room of Heaven, the Most Holy Place: we came by way of the altar where the Lamb of God was slain. I was saved by Grace through faith, and that not of myself, it was a gift of God, not of works lest I should boast. Now with my sins covered, by His substitute for me, I have been cleansed and can enter into the work He has ordained for me as a royal priest. (* The writer of Hebrews says we cannot discuss these things in detail now. As I was researching the Tabernacle, I realized the same thing. There is so much to learn from the Tabernacle and pattern of worship it reveals to us we will have to devote a separate study just to the Tabernacle. God described the creation of the universe in 10 words, the placement of stars in the sky in five words, but the Tabernacle received over 50 chapters of detail in the OT.)
Verse 6 tells us: “When everything had been arranged like this, the priest regularly entered into the outer room to carry on their ministry.” The people never entered further than the outer court with their bringing of their sacrifice to the bronze altar. From that point on, only priest went to the bronze laver for cleansing and entered into the first room, the Holy Place, to perform their priestly duties. Verses 7-10 then tell us: “But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were NOT able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings- external regulations applying until the time of the new order.”
The Jewish High Priest was a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Superior High Priest, who would enter the Superior Sanctuary in heaven of which the tabernacle was a copy. The Jewish High Priest was a mediator between God and the people who offered the blood of animals to be sprinkled on the mercy seat. Notice the people could only enter the outer court, and only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place. When Jesus died on the cross, we know the veil in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom as a new way had been opened to the Most Holy Place, the very throne room of heaven. Now believing sinners could come into the presence of God. We have the wonderful privilege to enter into the throne room of grace. We can stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. The writer of Hebrews is telling the people this was all an illustration. It was also temporary and external. They were not able to clear the conscience.
Now God had given Moses and the nation of Israel these instructions and order of worship. They were illustrations and pointed to what needed to happen. He tells them in the next verses they cleansed outwardly, but had not power to cleanse the inner man, the conscience. They had to be performed over and over because they were temporary and external. It would be like buying all new socks, underwear, pants and shirts every time you needed a bath.
These were symbolical and these rituals stood for the sacrifice of the Lamb of God which would initiate a new covenant, a better hope. They would be initiated by a Superior High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God- the sacrifice, God Himself would supply. King David understood this and in a moment of anguish in Psalm 51 a great truth is revealed to David and us. “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God thou will not despise.” David understood the worthlessness of mere ritual. This is why he is called a ‘man after God’s own heart.” So the people were goaded by their conscience into an endless routine of religious activity, until like David, they came to despair. Or as Paul described himself- ‘what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?”(Romans 7) Consider the husband who speaks harshly to his wife and abuses her mentally or physically. Then he returns with flowers and candy and wants everything to be right again. The wife wants a change of heart – she wants a husband with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. The child whose father neglects him for other things which consume his time, does not want a new bike- he wants a father with a new caring attitude.
God does not want our activity, He wants our heart. He does not love us more or better because we serve Him. When we sin, He does not want us to work harder and take on another responsibility at the church. In fact, this is the work of the deceiver who wants to use our guilt to make us work harder. But harder work, more external activities will only make us more aware of our guilty conscience. And instead of making us feel better, often make us resent God as if He is a cruel taskmaster wanting us to really work harder and sacrifice more so He will forgive us and love us more. He loves us- because GOD IS LOVE. And God wants us to love Him back. We were created by Him in order for Him to give Himself to us.
When you love Him, service is no more duty, it is delight. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37) The world system and culture is one of: affluence, materialism, wealth and possessions, status and recognition are the things the world says will delight you. But they are temporary and will not last. If we delight ourselves in God, in Who He is and all of His eternal attributes- our desires will begin to parallel with His. We will want what He wants. Our service to Him does not become duty, we do not serve as one who has to serve in order to keep in the good graces and favor of God- we keep His commands because we love Him. And we love Him because He first loved us.
Hebrews 9:11-14 tell us: “ But ( here comes the contrast) when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, the through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify those who are outwardly clean. How much more shall the blood of Christ through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself, unblemished to God cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, (dead works, RSV) so that we may serve the Living God?”
The argument and contrast here is this: the first covenant and the ritual acts were external, temporary activities, which only affected the outer man. They were something they were trying to do for God outwardly which would please God. It never gave them the peace of a cleansed conscience. Only the blood of Christ can cleanse our consciences from acts which lead to death or as RSV states from’ acts of dead works to serve the living God’. This is why Paul says in Romans 12 we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.
It is as simple as this: accept the fact the blood of Christ completely satisfies God about you and me. Remind yourself that God welcomes you into His presence not on the grounds of your Christian progress or activities, the depth of your knowledge, but on nothing less than or more than the blood of the Lamb.
Do not miss this fact: The blood of Christ cleanses our conscience to serve the living God. A word about this part of us called ‘conscience’. A conscience is a God-given capacity; we humans have to exercise evaluation. Paul said in Romans 2, the conscience could bear witness to our activities. The conscience of a person is based on their value system. The culture and society we live, for the most part, does not accept God’s Word as absolute truth and therefore our only reliable value system, they believe in relative truth and relative value system. In some cases, even Christians and their denominations are redefining their value systems against clear Scripture in the Word of God. They are altering their convictions and adapting to social whims. We are to transform our minds with the Word of God or else we will be conformed by the world’s value system. This is what we are seeing in our society today. And unfortunately we are seeing Christians who are Biblically illiterate. A mature faith produces a strong value system which your conscience will serve. As true believers our conscience have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. We keep our conscience clear by obeying God and keeping our relationship in good standing.
How do we overcome the Accuser? – ‘by the blood of the Lamb.’ We do not try to overcome the Accuser, Satan, with our own strength or inner conditions; we overcome him with the solution God has provided for the problem of sin and temptation. The Blood of the Lamb of God is the solution. “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.” (I Thess. 5:24)
On what grounds do we enter the Throne Room of heaven? On the blood of the Lamb. The priests took the coals from the outer court from the bronze altar of sacrifice where the blood of the sacrifice had been shed and brought this to the altar of incense which he would then on the Day of Atonement take into the Most Holy Place for the sins of the people. Incense is a symbol of our prayers. The prayers, which came into the Most Holy Place, a type and illustration of the Throne Room of the Sanctuary in heaven, were ignited by the coals, which came from the altar of sacrifice where the blood of the lamb was shed. Our prayers receive their power and are ignited by the fires from the altar of sacrifice where our Savior, the Lamb of God poured out His blood for us in the New Covenant.
THE BLOOD AND THE SACRIFICAL SYSTEM
The question arises why did this system of sacrifice require blood? A sacrifice is defined as an offering up of something precious for a cause or reason. Note: a sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it is precious. An atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. God commanded blood was necessary for atonement. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make an atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes an atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11) The sacrifice offered in the tabernacle and later the temple was to be perfect, without blemish. All of this pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God who would be an atonement for the sins of the world. In Malachi, we notice the sacrificial system had become the equivalent of Goodwill donation center. They brought the blind, the crippled, and the diseased animals as sacrifices. These were not precious- they were cast-offs not their best.
God has said clearly- the wages of sin is death. And without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. Blood represents life. Adam became a living soul when God breathed into his nostrils, which means the very breath, the spirit of God, created the first life from which all life came. Blood began to flow in Adam’s veins and he came to life physically. Therefore blood represents something special, something precious, life which comes from our Creator.
The blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse us from our sins or cleanse our conscience. They were only a symbol of things to come.
“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance- now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of one who made it, because a will is in force only when someone has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is still living.”
If you have received an inheritance before from a family member or loved one who has died, you know it was necessary to present a death certificate in order to receive the inheritance.
As we come to Easter and celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Our Redeemer. We will see the government of that day, are the ones who pronounced Jesus dead.
How appropriate we are at the place in our study of Hebrews where we will be looking at our Lord’s sacrifice once for all as we come to celebrate the last week of his earthly life as this next Sunday will be Palm Sunday which culminated into that fateful Friday the Lamb of God was slain and then three days later arose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Now do you understand how precious the sacrifice was which God gave in order to redeem us? God gave us His Only Beloved Son, to die on our place, to receive God’s punishment, His wrath and judgement. This was not something which lacked value, we are told our Lord’s blood was more precious than silver and gold. And not only was He God’s beloved only Son in whom He was well pleased, but since God the Father and God the Son are one- God gave us Himself, His everything. So here, we are after all these centuries and it comes down to what is the most important thing: “It’s still the Cross. It is still the Blood of Calvary, that cleanses sins and sets the captives free. It’s still the name, the name of Jesus that has the Power to save the lost, It’ still the Cross!”
To be continued…..