Hebrews 9:1–15 (NKJV)
This passage addresses the comparison between the earthly sanctuary and the heavenly sanctuary. The author describes the floor plan and furniture of the earthly sanctuary, the work of the priests in the earthly sanctuary, and then the powerful imagery of the heavenly sanctuary.
1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.Hebrews 9:1-5
This passage describes the service of the earthly sanctuary under the first covenant. The tabernacle was built with courtyards and common areas, but the part considered the specific purview of the priesthood was distinct from the common areas and areas for animal sacrifice. The first part of the sanctuary, the Holy Place, was separated from the common areas by a veil, and it contained the lampstand, the table, and the showbread. Behind the second veil, the Holiest of All, was the golden censer and the ark of the covenant. Inside the ark was the golden pot with manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. The ark was covered above by cherubim of gold, overshadowing the mercy seat. There could be no more detail given in this setting, but nevertheless these details describe furniture and utensils for ritual worship.
The lampstand represented the light of the world. The table represented the table of God set for His people, and the showbread represents the bread of life. The golden censer represents the Spirit of God, and the ark of the covenant represents the express presence of God and the seat of mercy. The ark also carried the tablets of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the Rod of Aaron that miraculously budded, showing that He was qualified to be priest, and the pot of manna that came from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. These physical items represent spiritual realities and worship encounters. However, they are simply symbols of God’s presence and blessing, not the reality. The key is to see them as such, and not as the reality.
6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.Hebrews 9:6-10
When the priests went into the sanctuary, they performed the services of trimming the lamp and cleaning the lampstand, making the table ready, and replacing the showbread daily. Only the high priest could enter the Holiest of All, offering a blood sacrifice once a year for himself and the people on behalf of sins they may have committed in ignorance. The way into the Holiest of All for other priests, Levites, other Jews, and Gentiles had not been revealed under the first covenant or during the usage of the first tabernacle. This tabernacle was simply a symbol of the tabernacle to come, and the first covenant was a symbol of the covenant to come through Jesus Christ. This tabernacle carried out the laws and the sacrificial system to the ability it was able until the great reformation and renewal of Christ would come. It was inferior. It was incomplete. The reality of the crucifixion and the rending of the temple veil made it clear that the rules had changed.
11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.Hebrews 9:11-15
When Christ came as the High Priest of grace, of the better covenant, He served in the greater tabernacle, the one not made with hands, not of this world. He did not offer the blood of bulls and goats, but His own precious blood. He offered this complete, perfect, eternal blood sacrifice for all men and women everywhere who would believe, once for all. He obtained eternal redemption for those who would follow Him in obedience and faith. If the blood of bulls and goats could effect sanctification and purifying of the flesh on a temporary basis, how much more must the righteous blood of the sinless Christ cleanse a soul’s conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Through the Spirit, Christ offered Himself without spot to God. He paid the price, He satisfied the need for a sacrifice and death.
Because of His eternal gift, Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, offering forgiveness and cleansing from all sin, even that committed under the first covenant. He made it possible for those who are called to receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Christ did that for those living during His public ministry. When He died on the cross, He went into the belly of the earth and preached to the dead in chains. His gospel goes around the world today, liberating souls from death, sin, and bondage. He is the heavenly High Priest, the Mediator of a new covenant, and the Priest of the Heavenly Sanctuary. Worship Him, worship with Him, and worship all that is Him!
Artwork from https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D517nYOXsAAa5j8.jpg