Exposition of Hebrews 13:11-14


The writer to the Hebrews peruses his instruction concerning the error and danger of returning to the Old Testament tabernacle after Jesus has suffered for the sins of the people outside of the gate of Jerusalem, at Calvary. This he does in a very profound way in which he incidentally gives us some very pointed exegesis concerning the meaning and the intent of the Old Testament sacrificial atonement on the great Day of Atonement. The writer lets the Scriptures themselves speak once more, and from these Scriptures he draws certain unerring and binding conclusions. 

He is speaking here of certain sacrifices of the Old Testament priesthood. In this case he is speaking of the blood which was carried into the most holy place once a year as delineated in Leviticus 16. Of this yearly entering into the holy place the writer of the Hebrews had spoken before. (Heb. 5:2, 3Heb. 9:7Heb. 10:3) In each case he draws a contrast between the priesthood of the Old Testament high priest after the order of Aaron and the New Testament high priesthood of Christ according to the order of Melchizedec. And now, once more, as a parting warning to the Hebrews, the writer once more points out a great difference between the two Testaments, indicating the greater benefit of what Jesus did for us when compared with the ritual of those who continue (hoi latreuontes) to minister in the tabernacle of Sinai. 

Things must be seen and understood in their proper perspective and meaning. The readers must clearly understand the typical transaction of the Day of Atonement, which was a yearly event in Israel. They must notice what happens to the bodies of those beasts (living creatures whose life was in their blood) whose blood was carried into the most holy place by the high priest. In many sacrifices which were brought into the tabernacle the priests had their regular portion of the meat assigned to them. Among the distinct provisions made for the support of the priests from the altar were those of the sacrifices, the flesh of burnt-offerings, peace-offerings and the trespass-offerings, and especially the heave-shoulder and the wave-breast. (Num. 18:1-14) This was to be eaten in the temple, and it was also for the house of the priests. However, there was one sacrifice which was not eaten at all among others. It was the flesh of the bullocks which were slain for the sins of the priests on the great Day of Atonement. On this day atonements were made for the priests, the temple and the altar, and for the sins of all the people. It was the grand finale of all the feast days of the yearly lunar and Sabbatic Calendar in Israel. All the sacrifices proclaimed that a better sacrifice was needed. And so such a great sacrifice came before the Feast of tabernacles on the seventh month, the fifteenth day. This was a day in which all Israel humbled themselves with fasting. (Lev. 16:29) And it was a day in which two goats were selected for the sacrifice for the sins of all the people. It was a sin-offering which brought about atonement and was a picture of a sacrifice which would be well-pleasing to the Lord, whereas in it all the former sacrifices were proclaimed to have perfected nothing. (Heb. 7:19) In this sacrifice on the day of atonement the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat of the ark, proclaiming that the just demands of the law were now fulfilled. Of course, the just demand of the law was not fulfilled; it was only fulfilled in a typical, prefiguring way. It was gospel tidings of better things to come when Christ would cry from the cross with a loud voice, “It is finished”. (John 19:30

It is to this that the writer in Hebrews 13:11 refers when he speaks of the “bodies of those beasts” whose blood is carried (eispheretai—present tense) into the holy place. The writer here refers really to the most holy place, as is evident from such passages as Hebrews 9:8, 12, 24, 25. Here the high priest only might enter, and that, too, only once per year, and not without blood. What happened to the “bodies” of these beasts, the goats and the ‘bullocks? Did the priests receive a part of this sacrifice as they did with certain sacrifices which we have pointed out in the former paragraph? Not at all. All that belonged to the sacrifice was unclean. In other words, the sacrifice was such that it afforded no benefit for those who ministered in the tabernacle. They could not eat from this altar. They ended up with zero. The burning of these beasts was not a whole-burnt-offering of thankfulness and of being accepted of God in the worship of profound gratitude. It simply meant that the greatest sacrifice in Israel “perfected nothing”. Here the writer once more does what Jeremiah did when he found fault with the old covenant which can be broken. (Hebrews 8:8-13Jer. 31:31-34) The writer is standing on solid Scriptural ground. He demonstrates conclusively that the Old Testament Day of Atonement was only a failure in itself; it called for endless, annual repetition without having any positive benefit for those who minister in the tabernacle. And if it had no benefit for those ministering, far less did it have any benefit for the “people”, the congregation of God. It ended in a heap of stinking ashes outside of the camp of Israel. What folly on the part of those who continue to carry blood of the beasts and continue to burn their “bodies” outside of the camp! 


But now the entire matter has changed for the church, the believers of the New Testament in Christ’s blood. For Jesus did something outside of the “gate” of the earthly city of Jerusalem. He suffered there for the sins of the people. He brought the sin offering! 

It is interesting to notice that the writer here, when speaking of what Jesus performed, does not speak of Jesus outside of the “camp” but outside of the “gate”. Reference is here not to the holy camp of Israel, where God dwells in the midst of His people, the chosen tribes, but rather to the earthly city, which is left desolate. (Matt. 23:38Jer. 22:5I Kings 9:7) Even the fleshly Israel, which continues to carry blood into the holy place, shall be a “proverb and a by-word amongst the people”. For the city of which the writer here speaks is not an “abiding city”. (Heb. 13:14) Truly that city where the Lord was crucified is the “great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt”. (Rev. 11:8) From out of this city Jesus bore his cross on his “Via Dolorosa” till they came to the place of the skull, called Golgotha. There they crucified him between two malefactors, being numbered with the transgressors. In this city, the attendants at the altars continue with the Old Testament sacrifices in the days of the Hebrews to whom our letter is addressed. Judgment hangs over this “city”. The fatal year is 70 A.D. 

Now the church of Christ, the believing Hebrews, must notice that Jesus “suffered” without the gate of this city. He suffered for the sins of the people. He says: “Sacrifice and burnt-offering thou didst not desire; it is written in the volume of the book: Behold, I come to do thy will, O God!” “Outside of the gate of Jerusalem, before all the world, Jesus hanged on the accursed tree. There He suffered his inexpressible sorrows, pains, and hellish agonies, and shed his blood. There He suffered and died till the full atonement was made. He carried our sins outside of the “camp” of Israel when He passed through the “gate” of Jerusalem. There walked the “Lamb of God, who carried away the sin of the world”. (John 1:29

For His name is “Jesus”! The writer emphasizes more than once that Jesus is the Mediator who brings the blood of the Covenant, the sin-offering, the blood ofsprinkling. It is the blood which Christ will bring into the better and heavenly tabernacle, before God Himself on the throne of grace. This Jesus is the Son of God in our flesh. He is real and righteous man, and yet very God! He came to save his people from their sins. Thatthe Hebrews must not ever forget. They must not forget that Jesus also brought blood into the sanctuary of God. He brought his “own” blood, and not the mere blood of “beasts” which could not make satisfaction to the righteous demand of the law. In bringing his “own blood” Jesus “sanctified the people”. This means that He suffered the wrath of God against our sins. It must be the final and perfect cleansing. It behooved God, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the captain of our salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:8Heb. 5:8Heb. 9:26) And the altar upon which Christ brought the sacrifice, the Cross of Calvary, is such that we may eat from it and hunger nevermore. It became for us the bread of life. (John 6:53-55) When the writer to the Hebrews speaks of “sanctifying” the people it does not merely refer to what we call sanctification, the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man, but it refers both to the taking away of the guilt of sin as well as the corruption. It is the complete redemption which Christ became unto us, when He was made to us from God wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification. (I Cor. 1:30, 31) Here, too, the truth is: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”. (Jer. 9:23, 24) Jesus on the Cross is “JEHOVAH—TSIDKENU“, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! (Jer. 23:6) And the people who are sanctified outside on the “gate” are also denominated “The Lord, our righteousness”. (Jer. 33:16) Jesus so cleansed the “congregation” that no further cleansing is needed. For where there is cleansing, God says, “I will remember their sins and iniquities no more”. (Jer. 31:34Heb. 10:17) And where there is such forgiveness there “is not more offering for sin”. (Heb. 10:18


What is striking in the text is that the writer says to the believers, “Let us go forth therefore”. The term “therefore” in Greek is “toinun“, that is: indeed now! Since Christ has suffered, for us without the “gate” we, too, must pass through that gate of the earthly city, which is made a desolation. We must not stay in this error of Judaism, with its manifold and strange teachings, but we must leave it all behind, once and for all. Never must the church look back to this teaching as something to which they would return. Such is thisprecept of the Gospel here. It is the counterpart of Christ’s all when He says, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is really seeking the “old paths” and the “good way” when we pass through the “gate” of Jerusalem to be with Christ, where the middle-wall of the partition has forever been broken down, and where the set times and seasons of the Old Testament are no more kept, whereas they have been nailed to the cross as the weak and beggarly principles. (Gal. 4:9, 10Col. 2:20)