Chapter 9

Here we begin a new section of the Epistle. Already the Holy Ghost has fixed our attention on the enthroned Sinpurger, the living Victor at God’s right hand, and the mode of our association with Him there, and next proceeded to direct our eye to Him as our Priest, succouring and befriending us, in all our unworthiness and weakness, as we pass along, through the world, to that throne which He as our Forerunner, has already reached, and from which He will come to consummate His work of grace, by lifting us up bodily and altogether into His presence and glory, with exceeding joy. Had it been the purpose of the Holy Ghost to trace, in chronological order, the glories that must follow His exaltation there, then this chapter on which we are about to enter, must have treated of His millennial kingdom and rule, and told out His glories as King. But, instead of this, the Holy Ghost here proceeds to unfold the value of the Sacrifice He has offered—in other words, to look back to Calvary, rather than onward to the millennial glory and the universal sceptre. For the time of His kingdom is not yet, save in the hearts of His own. The present time is, so to speak, a parenthesis—a period of infinite patience, during which Christ is hid in God. Having been rejected by His earthly people Israel, He retires, as it were, into a higher glory, and during His session there, the Spirit is engaged in revealing to the ear of faith the glory of His acceptance there, and so of associating with Him there as His Church, His Body, His Bride, those who are being gathered out from the world, during the period of His rejection here, and His exaltation there. To tell out the value of His Sacrifice, the matchless worth of that blood-shedding, which is the ground of our association with Him there, is therefore the delightful work of the Spirit in this and the following chapters. The full worth of which work will require all the resources of God in grace to be drawn upon, to glorify Him in the ages which are yet to come.

The whole of the present dispensation corresponds to the day of atonement in Israel, and to that part of it in which the high priest went into the holiest with the blood, while the people waited without for His return (see Leviticus 16). He is now appearing there in the presence of God for us. The whispers of the Spirit in our hearts correspond with the tinkling of the bells on the high priest’s robe, as He moved in his service in the holy place, telling he was alive and active there. O, had we but ears to hear, and hearts to perceive, what sounds would we hear from heaven; what revelations of the grace and glory of Him who is our great High Priest up there. Thus, the period of His session there, is identical with the period of the Church’s call here, the doctrine of which Paul was raised up and called to unfold, after the final rejection of Christ, in resurrection, by the Jews, shewn by their rejection of the Spirit’s testimony to Him through His servant Stephen, whom they murdered. Then He sat down, and God’s dealings with the earthly people were suspended until, after the present out-calling of the Church, they are resumed at the point at which they were broken. Then shall His brethren according to the flesh, own Him and bow down to Him whom they once rejected, as did Joseph’s brethren of old. Then they will discover, as these did, that, during the time of their hardness and impenitance, He has won and married a Gentile Bride!

“A worldly sanctuary;” a sanctuary for the earth, for the state of things on this planet. There was such a sanctuary owned of God upon earth once; there will be such again in the age to come (see Ezek. 48:8; Dan. 9:26); but there is none now. The devil is the “prince” of this world, and the “god” of this age. It is called “the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4), especially in its religious aspect. “The Jews religion “(Gal. 1:13)—Judaism, was a religion for the world; it had its day; but passed away at the rending of the vail. The Holy Ghost calls it “the elements of the world” (Gal. 4:3), “beggarly elements” (v. 9)—a religion of works down here, instead of a Christ in glory.

Verses 2-5.—“For there was a Tabernacle.” It is not the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Tabernacle as reared in the wilderness, that is here described. The reason for this is: the Temple represents an established religion on earth, as it will be when the true Solomon reigns; whereas, the Tabernacle was a moving tent, suited to the pilgrim condition, and God was a pilgrim God. How blessed is this to us, who are only pilgrims passing over to the rest beyond, to have such a God, and “such a Great High Priest” (8:1), exactly suited to our condition. The Ark in the Tabernacle stood on the desert sand: in the Temple, on the golden floor. There was in the Tabernacle of the Wilderness, the golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded —the former, the type of Christ, who had humbled Himself, now glorified, hid in God; suggestive too of the secret communion of the Father and the Son now, as to the shame and suffering He endured here (Rev. 2:17): the budded rod tells of Christ’s priestly work in resurrection, and of grace to rebels. “The cherubim of glory shadowing the mercyseat.” They looked down upon the blood, in the Tabernacle: in the Temple, they looked out toward the glory, for it then filled the land. “The Ark of the Covenant,” with its two tables of stone, represents Christ, in whose heart the law of God had its place. He only could say: “Thy law is within My heart” (Psa. 40:9), The mercyseat, or propitiatory, points to Christ—”whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:25). All God’s dealings in mercy and grace rest on absolute, perfect righteousness, through shed blood. The tables were within, hid from man’s gaze: it is in a living Christ there as He is before God, in all the glory of His person and infinite value of His work, that we are accepted. “Cherubims of glory.” Here only are they so called. The glory rested between them, on the blood. O, it is so precious: the blood brings us so near!

“So nigh, so very nigh to God, More near I cannot be.”

And God will yet get “glory in the Church in Christ Jesus, throughout all the ages” (Eph. 3:21). The last glimpse we get of her is, as the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven, “having the glory of God” (Rev. 21:10, n). God rests in Christ first, then in His Church for ever.

It is worthy of notice that “the golden altar of incense” is not mentioned here, the reason being, that it was not used on the day of atonement; whereas, “the golden censer” is spoken of as in the most holy place, which was only on that one day. Then the high priest carried it there, when he entered with the blood of atonement (see Lev. 16:12). Three hundred and sixty-four days every year, Aaron ministered at the golden altar which stood in the holy place; but on this one day, he passed right through, into the presence of God, bearing the censer, with its incense and its fire. The incense tells of Christ’s merit, His preciousness to God: the fire taken from the brazen altar, of Justice satisfied. And so our Great High Priest has now passed “through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14), with His own blood. We have boldness to enter there by the same title. God would thus teach us where to pray and worship—not at a distance, but in the immediate presence of God, where the blood has brought us, and where the incense ascends for us. O, to grasp this in our souls; to live in the joy and power of it continually; to bring all our cares, as well as our praises, and tell them out to God. The three pieces of furniture of the holy place, were the golden candlestick or lampstand, made of pure gold, with its continual light. In the Tabernacle, there was no window—no natural light. This shews that the Holy Ghost alone is the Teacher of the Word, and that ministry and testimony in the Church must be in the power of the Spirit. There was no wood in the candlestick—no human nature: all was pure gold—all Divine. The table of shewbread, with its twelve loaves, speaks of fellowship. As priests, we are called to have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with one another, around the Lord’s table, where only the redeemed should gather.

The altar of incense tells of intercession—the merits of Christ ever ascending before God, for His people.

Verses 6, 7.—The vail is done away now, and the place of all God’s priests is in the holiest, the very presence of God. In Acts 2:42, the early Church continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and breaking of bread, and prayers—which four correspond to the four vessels in the sanctuary of old.

Verses 8-10.—“The Holy Ghost this signifying.” All this is ascribed to the Holy Ghost. He it was who caused that ancient tabernacle to be reared in such a manner as that it might shew forth “the time then present.” It was a standing witness that there was no way into “the holiest of all,” under the covenant of law. It told of the insufficiency of the sacrifices then offered. There was no access to God; no rest to the conscience. And need we wonder? For the services of that tabernacle were “only meats and drinks and divers washings.” Not one sin did they actually take away; no nearer to God did they bring the offerers. They were but shadows, pointing onward to the substance.

Verses 11-14.—”But Christ being come.” This changed everything. Not into Moses’ tabernacle, but into one not made with hands, “not of this creation,” has He passed with “His own blood.” As Man He has entered into a glory, where creature’s foot has never trod, right into the presence of God. And He has entered there “by His own blood.” He might have gone up there on other ground (John 17:5), but then He would have gone alone. But He entered by “His own blood,” in order that we might enter on the same footing (chap. 10:19); that is to say, our title into God’s presence is perfectly identical with His own. If that title be weak for us, it is also weak for Him. If in virtue of that blood, God has fully welcomed Him, and caused Him to sit down there, so its efficacy avails for us. Thus Christ and His own, stand or fall together. Had there been the slightest flaw in the title upon which He entered there, it would assuredly have been detected by the gaze of Omniscience in that light, where for over eighteen centuries He has been. But there He remains, with the eye of God resting upon Him with infinite delight. And there also are His people equally welcome, for they enter upon the same ground. Oh how assuring to the heart is this! Is it any wonder we sing—

“Accepted I am, in the once-offered Lamb,
It was God who Himself had devised the plan.”

Two gaps separated the sinner from God. First, that which must be between the Creator and the creature; next, the still wider gap between a Holy God and a sinner. The blood of Christ carries the believer right across both, and places him in the light of God, where Christ is. He may not always be in the enjoyment of it, but there is his home.

“He entered in once”—once for all times, in contrast with Aaron who entered once a year. And His redemption is “eternal.” In striking contrast to the oft-repeated sacrifices of the old economy, He, “through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God;” and of His sacrifice, there will be no repetition. It has eternal efficacy, and the conscience of the saint is so perfectly purged from dead works, as to serve and “worship the living God.” By considering the perfect object thus set before us, our conscience must inevitably be perfected, and established before God, for He could not be there, had He not put away our sin. If we believe what that sight teaches, the conscience must be clean.

Verses 15-21. The saints of old had the promise of the inheritance, but not till the sacrifice was offered, could they enter upon its undisputed possession. They were forgiven in trust, as we learn from Rom 3:23, and God in view of the blood which was to be shed, could do it. His righteousness in so doing was declared, when the mercy-seat with the blood of Christ was “set forth.” No blessing could reach sinners save through that blood. Even at the ratification of the first covenant, the book and the people who had promised obedience to all that God had spoken, were sprinkled with blood, thus was it ratified on both sides. But they failed to do their part, and all its blessings being dependent upon obedience, were forfeited, yea, even life itself. How blessed to know, that in the new and real covenant, all is dependent upon Christ. And in virtue of His shed blood, which is of priceless value in the sight of God, we are brought into that very dazzling light in which He dwells, and there, in virtue of that blood, we are perfectly at home.

Verse 22.—“Almost all things are by the law purged with blood”—the only exception being Leviticus 5:11. All things under grace are so purged. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” No arrangement between a holy God and rebellious man was possible, save on the ground of shed blood. Even in the past, when Jehovah dwelt in the midst of His chosen but sinful people, it was because the blood shed and sprinkled on the tabernacle and its vessels, had adjusted His holy claims, and established a divine harmony between the worshipped and the worshippers. So that in spite of all their sin and failure, He could say through the lips of Balaam, He had not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither had He seen perverseness in Israel (Numbers 23:21).

Not a blessing we possess, we owe not to that blood; yea, the very world owes all the mercy it receives to the death of Christ. But for the shed blood, sin would have blocked up the way, and God’s love had been locked up in His own bosom.

Verse 23, tells that the time of shadows is past, and that we live in a day of realities. God, Christ, sin, redemption, heaven, are intensely real. The heavens have been put on a redemption footing, by the sacrifice of Christ.

Verses 24-28.—Three times does the word “appear” occur in these verses; in each case a different word in the Greek. In verse 26, the word “appear” means that the Eternal One became visible, came into sight, so that He could be beheld. The same word occurs in 1 John 4:9—“In this was manifested the love of God.” That love was made visible in the sending His Son. Next, in verse 24, He appears officially, “is manifested before the face of God for us.” All His virtues, all His excellencies are bared before God. He knows them all, and gives them their full value. “For us.” What a thought! All that He is, all that God sees Him to be, is for us. Here is something for the soul to ruminate upon, to derive joy and strength from. Then in John 14:27, “I will manifest Myself to Him,” tells how He makes Himself known to the obedient disciple, who, sacrificing His own pleasure, seeks to do His will. To such He even now manifests Himself: with such He makes His abode.

Then in verse 28, “He shall appear,” that is, He shall be “seen face to face,” with which connect 1 John 3:2, —”We shall see Him as He is.”

The first of these is past. He became visible to put away sin, and this He did once for all, by the sacrifice of Himself. So fully, so completely did He accomplish this, that He will never again need to repeat His work. He put away sin as a barrier between God and man; He cleared it away from before God. Once God could see nothing but sin; now He sees Christ’s atoning blood. Ultimately sin will be cleared out of earth as well as heaven, and shut up in hell. “By the sacrifice of Himself.” Nothing else would do. Sin is easily committed: hard to take away. But Christ has done it, and now the grace of God can flow out in righteousness to all men. No matter how bad, how vile the sinner, when He rests in Christ, God at once accepts him, saves him, sees him in Christ; while on the other hand, the most moral, refined, or religious sinner who refuses Christ, He rejects. The sin question is settled: the Son question God now presses on the consciences of men. What think ye of Christ? is now the test. According as men now treat Christ, so is their present relation to God, and so will their portion be eternally. Two different words are in these verses translated “world.” “Since the foundation of the world”—the material world, “He must oft have suffered.” “Now once in the end of the age hath He appeared.” It is an accomplished fact. Now in all the infinite value of that perfect sacrifice, He is manifested before the face of God for His own.

In verse 28, this great work is attributed to God, as in verse 26 it had been to Christ. “So Christ was once offered,” regards Him as the Victim, and God as the Provider and Offerer. Thus it is seen that God the Father’s love of and desire for us, has been commensurate with that of the Son. It was according to the Father’s will and purpose, that we should be before Him (Eph. 1:4), yea, it was His own act, to lay our sins upon His Son (Isa. 53:6), and to put them out of His sight for ever. O what a God is our God! Well may we praise and adore Him.

The words “as” and “so” in verses 27, 28, tell the consequences of sin, and the results of sovereign grace. “As it is appointed unto men once to die.” To this God’s answer is, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” He died. But there was a further consequence of sin, “After this the judgment.” And this judgment had it overtaken us in our sins, would have been our damnation. Immediately after death men know their doom. In hell the rich man lifted up his eyes in torment (Luke 16:11). Remotely they will, at the great white throne (Rev. 19:11), from which the wicked are hurled into the lake of fire. God’s answer to this is, “He shall appear without sin unto salvation.” It will then be seen how completely He has put these sins away, for He appears without them, and instead of His coming bringing “judgment,” it will bring “salvation” to those who are on the look out for Him. Salvation here is regarded in its full and final aspect, which includes the redemption of the body. For this we wait. But while all His own do look for Him, all do not “love His appearing” (2 Tim. 3:10), for in this is embraced the judgment-seat, where our ways and works will be manifested (2 Cor. 5:10). O to be swayed by that coming! To have the heart beat true to Him. To be on the tiptoe of expectation, looking for Him. For some will “be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 Jno. 2:24).