New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for Divine service and an earthly sanctuary- The implication is that the second or new covenant also has a sanctuary and a structure for service. But that is all ongoing in Heaven, thus declaring the attempt at "Divine service" through the temple system to be redundant. The same word is used of how each believer is to do "service" to God in the new order, by presenting their own bodies as sacrifices, acting as both priest and offering (Rom. 12:1). The priests did God's "service" in the first tabernacle, i.e. the holy place (:6); we in Christ do His service in the most holy place, associated with heaven itself.

9:2 For there was a tabernacle prepared, the first section, wherein was the candlestick, the table and the bread of the Presence, which is called the Holy Place- The presentation of the Most Holy as being sectioned off by the Holy place is to emphasize how the tabernacle system did not give entrance into God's presence, but rather created barriers. It was the priests who served in the Holy Place who effectively stood between God and man, rather than enabling ordinary worshippers to come into the Most Holy place. However, it could be argued that the candlestick speaks of the church (as in Revelation), and the table and bread refer to the breaking of bread; as if after the laver [cp. baptism and the regeneration of the Spirit], we must pass through the experience of church life before we enter the direct fellowship with God in the Most Holy. This raises serious questions over the attitude that we can be 'out of church Christians', walking with the Lord in splendid isolation because of various crotchets of interpretation or past hurts. Perhaps the term "bread of the presence" is used to suggest a connection between the holy place (church life now) and the presence of God in the Most Holy place.

9:3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies- The Holy and Most Holy places are presented as two distinct tabernacles or tents. The old and new covenants are presented in :1 as the first and second covenants [although the promises to Abraham forming the new covenant were in fact given before the Mosaic legislation, although that new covenant was only ratified and brought into operation for men through the Lord's death]. The flow of thought is presumably that the new or second covenant is to be associated with the second tabernacle, the Most Holy place, in which believers in Christ are now located. We are therefore described often in Paul's thought as "the heavenlies", sitting in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3; 2:6). The rending of the veil into the Most Holy at the Lord's death made the same point- the way into the Holiest was now opened.

9:4 This had the golden altar of incense- This could be translated "censer" [as AV]. The censer was only in the most holy place on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:12), so perhaps that is the situation Paul is presenting here (see on :5). The incense altar was in the holy place, not the holy of holies (Ex. 31); and so "censer" is likely the correct translation option, although that was only in the most holy on the Day of Atonement. The argument will develop that we are now with the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy, for we are "in Christ"; and so Paul takes a picture, as it were, of the situation as it was on the Day of Atonement, the only time when the high priest entered the Most Holy.

And the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was a golden pot holding the manna and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant- It has been complained that the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod were not within the ark, but "before the testimony" (Ex. 16:34; Num. 17:10). I suggest that "the testimony" referred to the tables of the covenant, which were within the ark (Ex. 25:16). However, Israel were not obedient to this, for in Solomon's temple "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone" (1 Kings 8:9). The actual temple system never matched up to what it was supposed to be anyway, and Paul appears to be making this point. That manna symbolized the Lord Jesus, as did the budding rod, with its message of resurrection of the Messianic "rod". But Judaism was without the awareness of these things.

9:5 And above it were cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat- The reference may be to the shining forth of the shekinah glory from between those cherubim on the Day of Atonement, which is the situation being described here; see on :4.

Of which things we cannot now speak in detail- This sounds similar to the comment on 5:11 that Paul could not speak as he could have done about some things because of the immaturity of the audience. But the Greek could also imply that he was running out of time and so had to skip talking about the cherubim- which would be appropriate to a spoken address (see on 13:22).

9:6 Now these things having been thus prepared, the priests went in continually into the first tabernacle, performing the services- The 'continual' entry is in contrast with the way the Lord Jesus entered once- and not into the Holy but the Most Holy place, and remains there. The Holy Place is called the "first" tabernacle, associating it with the first or old covenant (:1; see on :3).

9:7- see on Jn. 12:24.

But into the second only the high priest went, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people- As noted on :6 and so often in Hebrews, Paul is comparing and also contrasting the Lord's priesthood with that of the Levitical priests. Indeed, most of the points of contact are in terms of dissimilarity rather than identity. And the difference here is that the High Priests were sinners and needed to atone for their own sins as well as the peoples; whereas the clear emphasis of Scripture is that "Christ died for our sins", and His work was and continues to be for our forgiveness and salvation rather than His own.  Likewise the Lord did not enter once / year, but once for all- and remained there. So the points of contact with the Levitical High Priests are in the dissimilarity rather than similarities. See on 7:27,28.

9:8 The Holy Spirit indicating that the way into the Holy Place was not yet made manifest whilst the first tabernacle remained- As noted on :3, the Holy place is associated with the "first" covenant and the Most Holy with the new or second covenant (:1). The Holy Place is therefore presented here as a barrier to entry into the Most Holy; and the priesthood are therefore framed as standing between God and man rather than as a conduit whereby men could come to God's presence. That first tabernacle no longer "remained", according to Paul's logic; the Mosaic system was over. The tearing of the veil at the Lord's death showed in visual terms what is being explained here- the way into the Holiest was made open to all.

9:9 (Which is symbolic for the present age)- The idea may be that the present age, that of the Christian dispensation, was symbolized or pointed forward to by the arrangements of the tabernacle. It was all a parabole ("symbolic"), a parable to be interpreted. But now that age had come, they are of no practical value apart from as symbols of the reality we are now in.

According to this system, both gifts and sacrifices were offered which could not make the worshiper perfect as relates to the conscience- This is parallel with the thought of :8, that the tabernacle system was actually a barrier between God and man, stopping men coming into the Most Holy, the presence of God. No worshipper could come into the Most Holy, the presence of God, because all within him would cry out that he was imperfect; his conscience wouldn't allow him to seek to enter, even if it were legally possible. The "system" in Christ enables our complete forgiveness and cleansing; we are counted as "in Christ", as righteous as He, thereby cleansing the conscience and allowing our entry into the very presence of God. The Lord's teaching about the Comforter speaks of similar things; through the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our hearts, we can come directly to God without mediation (Jn. 14:16; 16:26), to the extent that the Lord's physical absence is not felt and we live as in His very personal presence.

9:10 Being merely foods, drinks and various washings, earthly ordinances imposed until a time of reformation- The inadequacy of the rituals in allowing man to come into the Most Holy place of itself implies that there had to be a "time of reformation". The word for "reformation" is found again in 12:13: "Make straight ['reformed'] paths for your feet", lest any stumble. The idea is of making a path straight and direct (LXX Jer. 7:3,5). The way of Judaism caused men to stumble; there was no direct path into the Most Holy. No amount of ritual could cleanse the conscience; a radical reformation was required, a straightening out of the path between God and man.

9:11 But Christ having become a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation- The "good things to come" may be from the perspective of the old covenant; the tabernacle system was parabolic of the good things to come (:9). And they had now come, Paul is saying; the Greek can be rendered "the good things realized", or "come to pass". It was as if the good news was too good to believe; the Hebrews preferred to shrink back from the good things because the goodness of them was too demanding. And that is the attraction of legalism; it allows us to feel still connected to God, but the reality of the good news, of salvation by pure grace, has passed us by. As the High Priest passed into the Most Holy, the Lord Jesus has passed into Heaven itself (4:14). This greater tabernacle was pitched by God and not man (8:2), not of "this creation", made with the material things of this world.

9:12 Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption- The Lord not only entered once and then left, as the priests did; He entered and remained, "once for all". And the Most Holy is Heaven itself. As noted earlier, the scene here is the Day of Atonement, when goats were offered for the sins of the people and a bull calf for the sins of the High Priest (Lev. 16:6,15). The plural is because these animals were offered each year. The redemption achieved by the Lord was "eternal", not temporary. Paul appears to be quoting here from the midrash of Jonathan ben Uzziel on Gen. 49:18; ben Uzziel would have been contemporary with Paul: "Jacob said, when he saw Gideon the son of Joash, and Samson the son of Manoah, who should be redeemers; not for the redemption of Gideon am I waiting, nor for the redemption of Samson am I looking, for their redemption is a temporal redemption; but for thy redemption am I waiting and looking, O Lord, because thy redemption is "an everlasting redemption"". The redemption in view is clearly of others rather than of Himself; for the Lord was the redeemer of God's Israel (Lk. 1:68; 2:38). He gave His life as a redemption for many (Mt. 20:28); He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from our sins (Tit. 2:14). That redemption worked out in redeeming us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). The AV defines the eternal redemption as "for us"; and the Cambridge Bible comments: "The “for us” is rightly supplied; but the middle voice of the verb shows that Christ in His love to us also regarded the redemption as dear to Himself". So the inference that the Lord 'obtained for Himself' our eternal redemption doesn't mean that He obtained redemption for Himself plus for us; rather does the Greek mean that He obtained our redemption for Himself, He wanted it to be His. The allusion may be to the language of a man 'redeeming' a wife for himself, just as God redeemed His people for Himself. But this does not mean that He redeemed Himself.

The implication of Lev. 16:14,15 is that the High Priest went beyond the veil twice during this ritual- once to atone for his own sins, and once for the sins of the people. But Heb. 9:12 labours that the Lord did this only once, and thus entered Heaven itself- for us, for our sins. Because the point of contrast is that He had no personal sins to atone for. So the idea that the Lord offered for Himself and then for us is actually the opposite of what Heb. 9:12 is teaching. The "type" was by way of contrast and not similarity. Those who have failed to appreciate this have gone further after this wrong turning, and ended up constructing theories of 'atonement for human nature' which are foreign to the scriptures.   

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, could sanctify to the cleansing of the flesh- The ashes of the heifer were sprinkled in the water of the laver to create water used for cleansing (Num. 19:1-10). The laver speaks of the baptism into Christ which leads to the regeneration of the Spirit (Tit. 3:5). The Lord's blood makes our baptism into Him have meaning far beyond the cleansing rituals of the tabernacle system. Our very conscience can be cleansed (:14). "The cleansing of the flesh" refers to some surface level 'cleansing' which did not touch the conscience; the contrast is between the flesh and the heart or conscience. They experienced forgiveness on a technical level, but remained with a bad conscience, knowing they were likely to sin again, and with no means of feeling that sin had not only been removed but that they would surely be saved and washed in their inward parts. The individuals such as David who came to such a realization in Old Testament times did so through their faith in God's grace rather than through the legal processes of the law of Moses. The sanctification was not a sham, however ("how much more...", :14). But there was internal cleansing of the spirit, even though forgiveness was granted on one level. The defilement that was cleansed or sanctified was ritual defilement; but the defilement of the spirit and conscience was not addressed by the sacrificial system. But the Lord's priesthood enables that too to be addressed, through the ministry of the Spirit in human hearts. Those who deny the work of the Spirit are in effect in the position of those who were technically forgiven and cleansed from legalistic defilements by the Mosaic sacrifices.

9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God-

"Without blemish" seems to be saying that the Lord had no sin to personally atone for, unlike the human priests who were blemished.

As noted on :13, ritual defilement and legalistic infringements could be cleansed by the Mosaic sacrifices, but the sacrificial system did not address the spirit or conscience. The work of the Lord is on the conscience, on the spirit through His Spirit. His sacrifice is therefore described here as having been one of the Spirit; His Spirit or mind was and is eternal, in that the mind He achieved by the end of His mortal life has been eternally preserved (see on 5:7-9), and is given to His people eternally. The Mosaic sacrifices had to be repeated, and related to the flesh ("the cleansing of the flesh", :13). The Lord's sacrifice pertained to the Spirit, and was eternal rather than of only temporary consequence. He did not offer an animal, but Himself; as the animal was to be "without blemish" in the flesh (Lev. 1:10), the Lord was "without blemish" morally, in His Spirit. The animal had no choice in being offered; the Lord "offered Himself" as an act of conscious volition. He was spiritually without blemish whereas the animal sacrifices were only unblemished in the flesh. His cleansing of our spirit / conscience was dia or on account of His spirit. And His spirit is eternal; for He is now immortalized, His personality, mind, spirit, character lives on eternally, both in Himself and ultimately in us to whom He gives His Spirit. He is a priest who operates now according to the power / spirit of an endless life (7:16).

The Lord offered Himself on the cross "through the eternal spirit" in that it was the Spirit of God, understanding from His word what God really wanted, what He is really like and thereby demands of us, which led the Lord Jesus to the cross. And why the odd phrase "the eternal spirit"? Surely to show that this same Spirit operates today, and if we follow it, will lead us likewise to the same death of the cross. These things are challenging to the very core of our being, the very fabric of our self-understanding. We who cower in the dentist's chair, who fear and avoid pain, who would sooner die than have a surgery without anesthetic... are called to die with Jesus, the death of the cross. God was manifested in the flesh of Christ, but now Christ is living "in the Spirit", thus justifying God's righteousness (1 Tim. 3:16). He was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by (on account of) the Spirit", the Spirit-man within Him (1 Pet. 3:18). Thus Christ's sacrifice was acceptable by reason of his "eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14); his perfect spiritual character was what enabled his physical blood and death to win our salvation. His resurrection was due to his "spirit of holiness" (Rom. 1:4). We can only relate to Him now as a spiritual being. We can not now know Him after the flesh. Now his mortal flesh has been destroyed, He is "the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18 R.V.); He is called "the Spirit" in Revelation because the spiritual character He developed in his mortal life is now what He is.

Cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?- The "dead works" are those which can be turned away from by baptism into Christ and forgiven (6:1). The contrast is with how the sprinkling of blood and water cleansed the flesh, getting technical forgiveness for legal infringements, but could not cleanse the conscience or spirit of the offerer. 1 Pet. 1:2 states that the sprinkling of the blood of Christ is to be associated with our sanctification by the Spirit, referring to the internal cleansing of the heart by the gift and operation of the Spirit there. As explained in Romans 1-8, we are "in Christ", counted as Him, with His righteousness imputed to us; and therefore we can be confident that if He returns today or we die, we shall surely be saved. The bad conscience regarding our previous "dead works" is totally removed; and on this basis we can do priestly service in the Most Holy place. We are not to simply rejoice in our own redemption, but to realize that our cleansing is so that we may serve. The mention of "the living God" would suggest again the function of the Spirit; He is alive and interactive with us, and we are to therefore serve the God who is Spirit in spirit (Jn. 4:24).

The Greek word translated “conscience”, sun-eidesis, means literally a co-perception. It implies that there are two types of perception within the believer- human perception, and spiritual self perception. The conscience that is cleansed in Christ, that is at peace, will be a conscience that keeps those two perceptions, of the real self and of the persona, in harmony. What we know and perceive humanly, is in harmony with we spiritually perceive. Our conscience, our co-perception, our real self, makes sense of the human perceptions and interprets them in a spiritual way. So, a young man sees an attractive girl. His human perception signals certain things to his brain- to lust, covet, etc. But his co-perception, his conscience, his real self, handles all that, and sees the girl’s beauty for just simply what it is- beauty. Job before his ‘conversion’ paralleled his eye and his ear: “My eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it” (Job 13:1). He was so sure that what he heard was what he saw; he was sure that his perceptions were operating correctly. But later, he comes to see a difference between his eye and his ear. He says that he had only heard of God by the ear; but only now, he says, “my eye sees You” (Job 42:5). He had heard words, but, he realized, he’d not properly ‘seen’ or perceived. Finally, he had a properly functioning ‘conscience’, a co-perception. What he saw, was what he really heard.

Our conscience is not going to jump out of us and stand and judge us at the day of judgment. There is one thing that will judge us, the word of the Lord (Jn. 12:48), not how far we have lived according to our conscience. It’s therefore unreliable (1 Cor. 4:4). And yet there is Bible teaching concerning the need to live in accordance with our 'conscience', and the joy which is possible for the believer who has a clear conscience (e.g. Acts 24:16; Rom. 14:18-22; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:21). This must mean, in the context, the conscience which God's word has developed in us- it cannot refer to 'conscience' in the sense of our natural, inbuilt sense of right and wrong; because according to the Bible, this is hopelessly flawed. The fact the "conscience" is "cleansed" by Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 9:14; 10:22) proves that the Biblical 'conscience' is not the natural sense of right and wrong within our nature; for our nature can never be 'purged' or 'cleansed', the believer will always have those promptings within him to do wrong. The cleansed, purged conscience refers to the new man that is created within the believer at baptism. This new 'conscience' is not just a sense of guilt which is invoked on account of not living an obedient life; it is also a conscience which positively compels us to do something, not just threatens us with a pang of guilt if we commit a sin.

We have a conscience which in God's eyes is cleansed of sin, knowing that our sin has been overcome once and for all, and that we have access to this through baptism. Our hearts were purified by that faith (Acts 15:9); we were cleansed from the conscience of sins (Heb. 9:14); all things became pure to us (Tit. 1:15; Rom. 14:20). This is a good conscience, Biblically defined. When Paul said he had a pure conscience before God, they smote him for blasphemy (Acts 23:1,2); there is an association between a clear conscience and perfection (Heb. 9:9; 10:14). A clear conscience therefore means an awareness that in God's eyes, we have no sin. Thus Paul's conscience could tell him that he was living a life which was a response to his experience of God's grace / forgiveness (2 Cor. 1:12). The conscience works not only negatively; it insists that we do certain things. It may even be that the goads against which Paul was kicking before his conversion were not the pricks of bad conscience, but rather the positive directions from God that he ought to be giving his life to the service of His Son. Whilst we may still have twinges of guilt, and sins to confess, from God's viewpoint the slate is clean, and has been since our baptism. It is impossible to believe this without some kind of response. We are purged in our conscience so that we might serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).

However I suspect that the idea is that we have attained such a forgiveness that we now have no more conscience of sins. This would explain why David and Paul could speak and write of how they were relatively innocent and of a good conscience, when they had both sinned grievously at earlier points in their lives. Forgiveness is one thing; and God granted forgiveness in the Old Testament. The Mosaic rituals repeatedly stated that the sinner was indeed forgiven. And we must give this its due weight. But receipt of forgiveness is one thing; salvation and psychological cleansing from guilt are other things. And it is these things which were achieved for us in the Lord's death. The day of Atonement, which is in view throughout this chapter, signalled that there was some other kind of forgiveness and cleansing available, far beyond the regular forgiveness of specific sins. And that looked ahead to the Lord's work which we now experience.

9:15 And because of this, he is the mediator of a new covenant; that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance- The Lord's ability to cleanse even the conscience of believers through His total eradication of sin is what makes Him the mediator of the new covenant, even though that new covenant was comprised of the promises made to Abraham and his seed [the Lord Jesus] of eternal inheritance of the earth. By association with the representative sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, we can become "in Him", we become the seed, and thereby the promises to Abraham and Jesus are made to us. His sacrifice thereby enabled us to receive the promise of eternal inheritance- the promise made to Abraham. His death was also the basis for the salvation of those who sought forgiveness under the old covenant; for the blood of animals of itself could not take away sin. It was only effective insofar as it pointed forward to the Lord's future sacrifice.

It must be remembered that the High Priest of the Old Covenant did not offer up the prayers of the people. Yahweh's ears were ever open to the cry of the individual Israelite, without an intercessor. Moses mediated the Old Covenant in the sense that he obtained it and relayed it to Israel; his mediation was a one-off act. This is the basis of the NT passages concerning the mediation of the New Covenant through Christ; He did this through His death and resurrection (Gal. 3:19,20; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Christ was the mediator of the new covenant so that the sins committed under the old covenant could be forgiven; thus His mediation is not in the relaying of our words to God, but in the sealing of the new covenant through His own blood. The mediation between God and man by the Lord is paralleled with His giving Himself as a ransom on the cross (1 Tim. 2:5,6). This is the sense in which He is the mediator of the new covenant; He mediated it once, not in an ongoing sense.

9:16 For where a will is of power, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it- Paul is playing on the meaning of the word translated "testament" or "covenant"; it also means a will, a set of promises which become actual after the death of the one who made the promises. I have commented elsewhere that whilst Paul's reasoning is true enough as it stands for us as Christians, viewing it retrospectively from our position, there are times when it would appear that he is rather forcing a point. For the obvious objection would be that it was God who made the new covenant, not Jesus; His death is not to be seen as the death of God, leaving us without Him to receive what He has left behind for us. But this kind of apparently forced logic would have been acceptable within the paradigm of Rabbinic midrash. The point becomes more logical however when we consider the argument that the old covenant or "will" was ordained with the shedding of blood, as if it would only come into true effect when someone died. And as explained in :15, the forgiveness offered under the old covenant was only finally effective when the Lord died. For the blood of animals of itself could not take away sin.

The death of the covenant victim was to act as a warning for what would happen to those who broke the covenant. Thus "The men who transgressed my covenant… I will make like the calf which they cut in two" (Jer. 34:18 RSV). In the account of a Babylonian covenant it was written: "This head is not just the head of the goat… it is the head of Mati'ilu… If Mati'ilu breaks the oath, then as the head of this goat is cut off… so shall the head of Mati'ilu be cut off". Thus the dead animal was seen as a representative of the person who entered the covenant. The death of our Lord, therefore, serves as a reminder to us of the end for sin. We either put sin to death, or we must be put to death for it. Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:16 and other passages liken the blood of Christ to a covenant; and yet the Greek word used means definitely the last will and testament of a dead man. His blood is therefore an imperative to us to do something; it is His will to us, which we must execute. Thus His death, His blood, which is also a symbol of His life, becomes the imperative to us for our lives and living in this world. Note how blood is a symbol of both life and also death (Gen. 37:26; Num. 35:19,33; Lev. 20:9). Both His death and His life form a covenant / testament / will for us to obey- in both baptism and then in living out the death and life in our daily experience. We cannot be passive to it.

9:17 For a will is of force where there has been death; it does not have power while he that made it lives- The new covenant as given in Genesis 15 also required the shedding of animal blood to ratify it; but it only came into force in the death of the Lord Jesus, thereby enabling all men to become part of Abraham's seed and share in the promise of eternal inheritance made to him (:15). Now the Lord has died, the promises to Abraham of eternal inheritance, the new covenant, is "of force". Paul uses the same word about the solidity of this hope in Rom. 4:16: "It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure [s.w. "of force"] to all the seed". If it were not of grace through faith, it would have to be on the basis of works. And our human weakness would leave us with no sure hope, knowing we would never be perfectly obedient or do enough in order to make the promise of salvation "of force" or "sure". The same idea is carried in the word elpis, "hope"; not a hope for the best at judgment day, but a solid, certain knowledge of the future. Paul connects the ideas in 3:6 and 6:19, saying that we are to hold fast the confidence of the hope "firm", "of force" (s.w.), unto the end. This solidity of hope, this confident sense that our salvation is sure, "of force", is lacking in many who name the name of Christ today. They still sense that they must attain the new covenant by some form of works. But if we are focused upon the meaning of the Lord's death, then we can feel the "force", the sureness, of the promise of future salvation and inheritance of the earth. The prophetic word which has been made "more sure" (s.w. "of force") is surely a reference to this same wonderful truth- that the prophetic word to Abraham of salvation for his seed has been made "more sure", "of force", by the Lord's death (2 Pet. 1:19). The idea is not that predictions of future events were proven true; but rather that the word of salvation has been made sure, and we ought to thereby make our calling and election "sure" (s.w.; 2 Pet. 1:10).

9:18 Therefore even the first covenant has not been dedicated without blood- Salvation and forgiveness was possible for those who lived under the old covenant on the basis that the covenant was of power in these ways on account of the Lord's blood, to which the blood of animals pointed forward.

9:19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people- This brings out the link between blood and law-giving; the people were sprinkled with blood as they heard the Law read to them. The new covenant in Christ’s blood results in the laws of God being written on our hearts, in our consciences (Heb. 8:10). Then Heb. 10:14-16 goes on to say the placing of the laws on our hearts in this way is in fact a “witness" to how His blood sanctifies us. We can’t be passive to His sacrifice; the conscience elicited by it, the writing on our hearts, is what propels us forward to live a sanctified life. The language of blood, water, scarlet and hyssop is full of reference to the circumstances surrounding the Lord's death on the cross. It was to this that the Mosaic dedication and cleansing rituals pointed forward, and it only had power on that basis.

9:20 Saying: This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded for you- At the breaking of bread, it's as if Christ is sprinkling us with His blood, it's as if we are Israel assembled together, re-entering the covenant each time we break bread. No wonder we are asked to assemble ourselves together (as far as possible) to remember Christ (Mt. 26:28 = Heb. 9:20). We have elsewhere made the point that Hebrews is full of appropriate material for a breaking of bread exhortation (see on Heb. 13:22), which we believe it to have originally been. The language of the inauguration of the covenant is clearly applied here to the breaking of bread, for the allusion is to Mt. 26:28: "For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins". Does something happen when we break bread? The connection surely suggests that the covenant is again made with us, not simply celebrated. We again face the huge comfort of knowing that the new covenant, total blotting out of sin, removing all conscience of sin, has been made with us. We are no longer like Israel experiencing the pattern of failure and forgiveness; more than that, conscience of guilt for sin has been removed, and like David and Paul we can speak and feel as those whose sin has been dealt with. 

Far back in Mosaic ritual, the voice of command was associated with the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat; the blood of the lamb was a command to respond (Ex. 25:22), and God's presence and voice came from over the blood sprinkled mercy seat. Hence instead of reading of the laws which were commanded, we read of “the blood of the covenant which God commanded"; the book of the law was sprinkled with that blood to show the connection between the blood and the book. To eat His flesh and blood (in evident anticipation of His coming sacrifice and the memorial meeting) was to eat Him and His words (Jn. 6:53,54,63). His words were all epitomized in His offered flesh and blood. In His death and sacrifice (which "the blood of Jesus" represent), we see His very essence: He Himself. On the stake He poured out His soul unto death (Is. 53:12), and yet in His life He poured out His soul too (Ps. 42:4). The cross was an epitome of who He really had been for those 33 years. To know Christ is to know His cross (Is. 53:11). See on Heb. 12:25.

9:21 Moreover the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry he sprinkled in like manner with the blood- The vessels of the ministry which were used to achieve some level of sanctification were only of power by reason of the blood sprinkled upon them; and that blood of itself was just red liquid. It was only meaningful in that it pointed forward to the Lord's sacrifice. The point was that even if the Hebrews wished to continue participating in the temple rituals, they were to realize that they had only ever had any meaning on account of the blood of Christ.

9:22 And according to the law, I may almost say- This is again language appropriate to a verbal exhortation rather than a letter; see on 13:22. The "almost" is because there were allowances for the very poor to not offer blood sacrifices.

All things are cleansed with blood; and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission of sin- The cleansing and remission was not therefore through ritual of itself, but on the basis that the rituals were as it were smothered in the blood which pointed forward to that of the Lord Jesus. This may seem a fine difference, but it is significant. People with all their dysfunctions and conscious and unconscious sense of sin come to perform various rituals, and then emerge from the rituals feeling better and somehow cleansed. But this is mere religion, the psychology of religious ritual. The cleansing and remission offered under the old covenant was for real, but it was only for real in that the blood looked forward to the future sacrifice of the Messiah.

9:23 It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these things- Because ritual of itself could not sanctify sin, the whole ritualistic framework had to be doused, as it were, in the blood which pointed forward to the Lord's sacrifice.

But the heavenly things themselves had better sacrifices than these- "Sacrifices" may be an example of Paul thinking in Hebrew whilst writing in Greek. We may have here an intensive plural, whereby the plural is used to refer to one great singular item- in this case, the one great sacrifice, that of the Lord on the cross. The tabernacle was a copy, a shadow, of something greater. It was a shadow of us. God dwells in the tabernacle of human hearts, rather than in any physical structure. That point was made within the Old Testament, and in the New Testament we are repeatedly portrayed as the tabernacle / temple / dwelling place of God. The better sacrifice which cleansed us, even our conscience, was the Lord's. Thus there is a parallelism between verses 23 and 24:

v. 23                         

v. 24

The patterns of things in

The holy places made with hands

the Heavens

the tabernacle

The Heavenly things themselves

Heaven itself... us

9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are only copies of the true ones; but into Heaven itself- See on :23; the things in Heaven are us who are cleansed in Christ. It is stressed in Heb. 9:24; 8:2 that this Heavenly temple was made by God not by human hands.  The Kingdom of Christ [which is essentially His people, those over whom He has Kingly dominion] is symbolized as a stone cut without hands (Dan. 2:44). We are the ones in heavenly places now (Eph. 1:3) who are cleansed by the Lord's sacrifice. Likewise Abraham looked forward to the Kingdom in terms of a city "whose builder and maker is God"; and God, we are told, has prepared that city for Abraham and his seed (Heb. 11:10,16). The coming down of that city/temple from Heaven in Rev. 21:3 is the fulfilment of Abraham's hope. The city/temple from Heaven has foundations (Rev. 21:14), just as Abraham expected (Heb. 11:10). The Lord has entered into God's actual presence, Heaven; and we are with Him there, cleansed, confident and unashamed before the presence of His glory. And this shall come to a literal fulfilment when at the last day we are presented "faultless before the presence of His glory" (Jude 24).

Now to appear in the actual presence of God for us- The language of Romans 8 about His intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered is to be connected with Hebrews 5 speaking of the Lord groaning with strong crying and tears on the cross. The point being that the intensity of His prayer there, struggling for every breath, is the same essential intensity with which He mediates for us now. He died “for us”, and yet right now He appears “before the face of God for us” (Heb. 9:24 RV). Thus there is a connection between His death and His ongoing mediation “for us”. We must struggle with Him, framing and offering our words in the full realization of the agonizing effort He is willing to make to intercede. The Greek translated "appear" meaning to exhibit openly. We are openly exhibited to God by the Lord Jesus, he reveals our inner spirit, our essential desires, to the Father; for we are "in Him". His appearance in God's actual presence is our appearance there.

We note the connection of thought between this reference to the presence of God, and the statement that the breaking of bread is an experience of the "bread of the presence".

Romans is full of legal language, of interceding, pleading, finding a favourable verdict etc., and refers this to the judgment and also to the cross. But Romans 8 uses these very ideas in relation to prayer, for in coming before the throne of grace now on account of the Lord's sacrifice, we come in essence before judgment. Coming before the throne of God in prayer (Heb. 9:24; Ps. 17:1,2) is the language of the judgment seat. If we become before His throne and are accepted, it follows that this is a foretaste of the outcome of the judgment for us, were we to be judged at that time. Our boldness before the Father in prayer will be the same attitude we have to Him at the judgment throne (1 Jn. 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; 5:14 all use the same Greek word).

9:25 Nor must he offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the Holy Place year by year with blood not his own- The Lord entered once, into Heaven itself, with His own blood; and remained there, rather than nervously slipping in and out once / year as the High Priest did.

9:26 Or else he must often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once at the end of the ages has he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself- "The foundation of the world" surely refers to the beginning of the Mosaic system; the "end" of that world is the end of the Mosaic system at the Lord's death. He sacrificed not animals, but "Himself".

On the cross, the Lord Jesus was ‘manifested’, shown as He really and essentially is (Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:19,20; 1 Jn. 3:5,8; 1 Tim. 3:16). But the same word is also used about the final manifesting of the Lord Jesus at His return (Col. 3:4; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:2). This explains the link between the cross and His return; who He was then will be who He will be when He comes in judgment. There He endured the spitting and hatred of men in order to save them. And the same gracious spirit will be extended to all His true people, whatever their inadequacies.

The Lord's sacrifice "put away sin"; the same word has been used in 7:18 about the "disannulling" of the law. The whole concept of sin has been disannulled in that the law has been disannulled. In this sense His death "made an end of sins" (Dan. 9:24- perhaps Paul has this passage in mind here). For those in Him, sin is no longer a barrier between God and man; we stand "in Him" before God's very face / presence, counted as the sinless Lord Jesus.

9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed to men once to die and after this comes judgment- The contrast and parallel to this statement is in :28, speaking of the Lord Jesus appearing at His second coming to reveal salvation rather than judgment. Throughout this section, Paul has in view the Day of Atonement (see on :4). Judaism spoke of the annual entry of the High Priest into the Holiest as his 'death', and his return to the people as his resurrection and judgment. Verse 28 will explain that the Lord Jesus actually died, to bear our sins Himself rather than them being figuratively placed upon a scapegoat to bear them, and the equivalent to His emergence from the Most Holy is His return from Heaven to earth with the good news of our salvation. The allusion to the High Priest would account for the otherwise odd usage of the word "appointed", which is appropriate for the High Priest and also for the Lord Jesus (s.w. 1:2; 3:2).

9:28 So Christ also, having once been offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly waiting for him- As explained on :27, this is an allusion to the second coming of Christ with the good news of our salvation, which paralleled the emergence of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement from the Holiest, with the news of God's pardon. The High Priest emerged to a humbled, repentant Israel on the Day of Atonement, having confessed their sins and afflicted their souls through fasting, waiting for their High Priest to appear and pronounce upon them the blessing of forgiveness. The Spirit is using this as a type of us expecting the second coming of our Lord; the motivation for our enthusiasm should be our earnest need of ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation with God. David likewise speaks of waiting and watching for the Lord in the context of asking for forgiveness (Ps. 130:5,6). And we could possibly infer that the Lord's second coming is dependent upon Israel's humbling and repentance.

The contrast is with a worried Israel awaiting the appearance of the High Priest on the day of atonement. They hoped he had obtained atonement for them- but they didn't know. And there was always the fear he had failed in his mission and lay dead within the sanctuary. There is a Jewish tradition that a rope was tied to him in order to extricate his body were he to be slain there. The contrast is with us- not awaiting the Lord's appearance with the same sense of uncertainty. Our sins are dealt with. He has obtained our salvation. And we eagerly, therefore, await His appearing to give us that salvation in literal terms. We are not awaiting a yes / no decision, uncertain as to what it will be. We are to be certain that in Him is "yes".

The focus of the Lord at His return will not be to "deal with sin". He did this in His death. Any necessary judgments upon a sinful world will not be His prime interest; rather does He return in order to give us salvation. This was and is His focus, like His Father, taking no pleasure in punishing sin. But the AV is literally correct here: "Without sin unto salvation". The phrase "without sin" is exactly that used in 4:15 of how the Lord had all our temptations but was morally "without sin". The High Priest emerged from the Holiest on the Day of Atonement and pronouned the forgiveness. The Lord Jesus will emerge from Heaven and as it were just stand there, "without sin". His moral perfection achieved in mortal flesh is of itself the guarantee and statement of our own forgiveness and salvation.

If we understand something of the ‘mechanics’ of the atonement, and grasp something of the fact that they were outworked in a real, historical man, we will see that the final realization of the redemption achieved at the cross will be when Christ comes back. If we understand something of the atonement, we will earnestly look for the second coming, when the redemption achieved on the cross will be brought unto us (cp. 1 Pet. 1:13). An enthusiasm for the second coming, spurred by a realization that the bringing of salvation then is an outworking of the cross, will lead to a loose hold on the things of this life.