Lesson Nine—Hebrews 8 The Sanctuary… Superior to the Tabernacle

In our journey through this Epistle to the Hebrews, we reach the high point in the opening verses of chapter 8. All that has been unfolded in the previous chapters is summed up in the first verse.

“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”

Having had our eyes directed heavenward in the course of this letter, they are now fixed there. All that might have demanded our attention has been displaced by Christ. The glory of the Man in heaven eclipses all other. Christ in glory sums up all our faith. In Him we reach the blessed goal of all our heart’s desires, the summit of hope’s aspirations, the acme of all blessedness.

Four precious things are suggested in this verse:

1. Possession. “We have.” Though distant in the heavens, Christ is not lost to us; unseen by human eyes, still He is ours. On .earth loving hearts mourned His absence, they thought they had lost Him when He descended into the gloomy grave. He appeared again to their joy. Then the cloud hid Him from their view as He ascended into glory, but faith sees Jesus there, and “we have Him” now as we never could have had Him while He was here on earth.

Israel had everything here on earth. Priest, and sanctuary, and inheritance were all down here. We have nothing here; Christ’s cross has severed ties that bound us here, “Himself our treasure in a brighter sphere.”

2. Attraction. “We have such an High Priest.”
In the one word—“such”—are summed up all the glories, beauties and moral qualities seen in our blessed Jesus. He is the Incomparable One. There is none beside Him. He is Altogether Lovely. Aaron may have been attractive, clothed in his garments of beauty and glory, but we sing:

There is none, Lord Jesus, there is none like Thee—
For the heavy laden, for the brokenhearted,
For the soul that thirsteth, there is none like Thee.

3.Satisfaction. “Who is set.”
The high priest in Israel found no seat in the sanctuary, he could never rest there. The altar demanded his constant attention, his work was never finished. But our Christ sits in glory. He has been to the altar once, never to return to it again. The sanctuary is occupied because the altar is satisfied. In virtue of His finished work, Christ is enthroned on high, and where He rests, we rest—satisfied with Jesus.

4. Exaltation. “The throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”
In what a glorious setting we see Jesus. Never were the heavens so garnished as when He entered them. They did ever tell forth God’s glory; now there is added glory. A Man sits enthroned where only Deity can sit; and that Man hung in deepest shame on Calvary’s cross for us.

Lord, we rejoice that Thou art gone
To sit upon Thy Father’s throne;
Thy path of shame and suffering o’er,
Thy heart shall grieve and mourn no more.

Having thus been occupied with our glorious High Priest, we are introduced to the heavenly sanctuary in which He serves. Indeed, this chapter is a sort of vestibule to the rest of the letter. It bids us look back over the ground already covered, and indicates to us what is yet to be unfolded. Let us consider the two great themes presented here.

1. The Heavenly Sanctuary and Its Ministry (vv. 2-6)

High in the heavens is the sanctuary from which God made the “blueprints” for Moses to copy. The earthly tabernacle was patterned after the heavenly. Israel had the model, we have the original; they had the picture, we have the Person; they had the shadow, we have the substance. The Israelite had very little or nothing to do with the heavenly; for him the earthly building was the center of all his activities. The existence of the heavenly sanctuary was no secret; but the presence of a High Priest serving there was indeed strange news to a “Hebrew.” There was no place in the earthly picture for our High Priest; “seeing there were priests that offer gifts according to the law.” He is of a different order and His is “a more excellent ministry.” He had somewhat to offer for He gave Himself; and now He “stands by His burnt offering” and represents His people in the very presence of God. Christ is our Aaron, He is also our Moses, He is the Mediator of a better covenant. This brings us to the second great theme of our chapter.

2. The New Covenant and Its Better Promises (vv. 7-13)

The old covenant was faulty (vv. 7-9); the new covenant is final (vv. 10-13). The old covenant had promises, but its blessings were dependent upon absolute obedience on the part of the second party. Not one with whom the contract was made could possibly meet the requirements, for they were all sinners; and so there was an end to the whole thing. But a new covenant will be made. Jeremiah was the first to announce it. His words are quoted in this chapter (vv. 8-13). He was aboard the wreck of Judaism as it sailed into Babylonish waters. He declared the charter under which Israel sailed as obsolete. The contract being conditional and having been broken, was not binding. But God would bind Himself by another. This one would be unconditional. What characterizes it are the “I wills” of a covenant-keeping God. This promise Jeremiah held out to captive Israel.

For many centuries no more was heard about it. Then one night in an upper room in Jerusalem, where a small group was assembled to eat the Passover, after supper, the Lord Jesus took a cup in His hands, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” It was His death that met the old obligation, and laid the foundation for the new covenant.

Again, after a number of years, Paul points out the Man of Calvary as the Mediator of that new covenant, and lays down its terms.

The days of which Jeremiah spoke are still future. Neither Israel nor Judah are enjoying the administration of the new covenant. Meanwhile we, associated with Christ the Mediator and Administrator of the New Covenant, enjoy its blessings within the veil (see 2 Cor. 3:6).

The summing up of its promises is sevenfold. Let us endeavor to extract sweetness for ourselves out of these fair flowers that shall yet bloom in Israel’s garden. We have here a rich cluster of blessings, each one the fruit of the toil of Christ’s soul, and the gift of God’s grace.

1. Obedience heads the list. “I will put my laws into their minds.” Here we have not the cold tables of a relentless law, but the warmth of a regenerated heart beating in unison with God’s, because it is partaker of His own nature. “I delight to do Thy will,” was the word of our Lord Jesus, and “we have the mind of Christ.”

2. Devotion follows. “I will… write them in their hearts.” “Cut a little deeper, doctor, and you will find the emperor,” said the dying veteran of Napoleon’s army, as they probed for the bullet which had sunk deep down into his breast. God has written Christ on our hearts. The writing may not always be legible, and the dust of this world may at times hide it from view, but it is there.

3. Satisfaction lies in these words: “I will be their God.” No one but God Himself can satisfy the infinite longing of our souls. St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and only Thou canst satisfy.” Our God is El Shaddai, the God Who Is Enough.

4. Sanctification is implied in “They shall be to Me a people.” Once our name was “Lo-ammi,” that is “not My people.” Now we are “Ammi,” that is “My people.” We are a people whom God has formed for Himself and set apart for Himself, “a people for a possession, that we should show forth the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Happy in this relationship, we should seek to render to Him all we have and are.

5. Unity also marks the new covenant. They “all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.” What can exceed this? Knowing about God is good; but to know Him is far better. To enjoy Him we must know Him. Abraham knew God, and to him, not to Lot, God revealed His mind. Moses knew God, and he beheld His glory and knew His ways. Paul knew Him and committed all to Him.

6. Mercy is what God delights in, and this is promised in the sixth article of the new covenant. “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.” The blood of Jesus has removed every cloud from the sky. The favor of God rests upon us,

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee;
Thou ‘rt risen: my bands are all untied;
And now Thou liv’st in me.
The Father’s face of radiant grace
Shines now in light on me.

7. Forgiveness. The last of these blessings is really the foundation of all of them. There can be no entering into blessing apart from the sin question being settled. Christ died for our sins. God remembers them no more, for they have been put out of His sight. His eyes rest with infinite delight upon the One who removed them. If there is no cloud without, neither is there a stain within. The blood of the old covenant was a continual reminder of sins that were not put away. The blood of the new covenant was shed for the remission of our sins. We remember the One whose finished work has placed us spotless in the very holiest of all.

Gathered Gleanings

Christ our High Priest in heaven is the crowning point, the Headstone of the corner, the Keystone of the arch. This sums up all our faith. Our righteousness and standing before God. Our armory of warfare. Our citizenship and hope of glory.

The right hand is the place of affection, honor, dignity and power.

He rests—a finished work on earth—yet a constant priestly activity.

The first covenant was made with Israel, the second necessarily also. A covenant is a principle of relationship with God on the earth—conditions established by God under which man is to live with Him. The old was made at Sinai; the new will be made with the whole house of Jacob. The gospel is no covenant but the revelation of salvation of God.

In chapter one, our APOSTLE is seated. In chapter eight, it is our High Priest, the same Person but in two different characters. It is Christ for our sins and Christ for our cares.

SUCH AN HIGH PRIEST. A summing up:

· Merciful and faithful (2:17, 18). Those whom He supports know His gentleness and care, while His faithfulness to God is:

· Glorious and pre-eminent (3:1, 2, 6). We gaze upon the One who has reached the end of the road. We are subject to Him as set over God’s house.

· Exalted yet available (4:14-16). Although so high, He is touched by our infirmities. He has succor for the tempted, grace for the infirm and needy.

· Sovereign and Sympathizer (5:5-10). He is Priest on the Throne. We are saved by Him: we obey Him.

· Great and Good (6:20-7:28). We are invited to consider “How great this Man was”; whereupon the Spirit proceeds to set forth fresh aspects and a galaxy of almost bewildering glories of this wonderful Person. Greater than the patriarch Abraham and the priest Aaron. Eternal in the exercise of His priesthood.