INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS: Hebrews 9:1-10
The chief subject in Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:19 should not be lost from view. There is a danger that one becomes so involved in the details of the book that he fails to keep in mind the line of thought. For this reason it ought to be kept in mind that the main question here in this entire section is: the kind of High Priest that we have.
Let it then be remembered that our High Priest is Jesus, the Christ, the eternal Son of God in the flesh.
He is greater than Aaron, even as Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, as is evident from the Scriptures. He is not a priest according to a carnal commandment, but he is a priest according to the power of an endless life. With His coming there was a change in the priesthood and thus also there is of necessity a change in the law governing the priest. Wherefore Christ is out of Judah and not out of the tribe of Levi as was Aaron and his priesthood. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did. Thus the promise is made sure unto all the heirs.
This Christ is a minister in the true tabernacle which is pitched by the Lord and not by man. He is at the right hand of God. God hath made Him both Lord and Christ—the LORD of glory. (Hebrews 7:1 ff.)
But Christ is also the author of a better covenant. This better covenant is not like the covenant which God made at Sinai through Moses. That covenant was written upon tables of stone, and not upon the fleshy tables of the heart. It was a covenant which was impotent to make alive and to make the corrupt and unwilling sinner willing with a new obedience. And therefore this is a covenant with which God Himself finds fault in Jeremiah 31:31-34. And he will now make a better covenant. He will write His law upon the heart and will forgive our sins and will remember them no more. And we will know God even as we are known in heavenly perfection of the Canaan above forever.
Now the writer in Hebrews 9 will make a careful comparison between the Old Testament tabernacle and the New Testament realization of the true tabernacle, and will show their respective place in our salvation; He will show how greatly superior the New Testament is over the Old Testament. For the Old Testament tabernacle is, with its priesthood and sacrifices, merely a figure, a parable of the real. It is in the New Testament that eternal redemption is obtained for us by Christ.
THE OLD TESTAMENT TABERNACLE (Hebrews 9:1-5)
In these verses the writer is speaking of the “first covenant (which) had ordinances of divine services, and its sanctuary, a (sanctuary) of this world.” Particularly he will speak here of the “tabernacle” of this first covenant. This tabernacle is really a “tent.” It was made of curtains. It was not a building which was established upon strong foundations. It was not a fixed abode. As it was fashioned by Moses the Tabernacle was adapted for Israel’s journey in the wilderness enroute to Canaan. Besides, the Old Testament tabernacle was constructed of materials which were the free-will offerings of the people. The people were not taxed or assessed for these matters. Thus we read in Exodus 25:1 ff. “And the LORD spake unto Moses saying, speak unto the children of Israel that they may bring me an (heave) offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering . . . . And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”
It was to be a “sanctuary,” a “place set apart.” It is a place which the LORD set apart from all the rest of the “cosmos” for himself to reveal His glory and grace in the midst of His people. Such a place could not be bought and purchased with money. It must be the gift of love; it must itself be the fruit of grace in the hearts of God’s people, as they are constituted by the LORD: Most Holy to the Lord!
The writer to the Hebrews calls this tabernacle a “worldly sanctuary.” To the ears of some this might seem to indicate that this temple was something evil: it was worldly. However, it ought to be understood that the term worldly is here free from all anabaptistic flavor. The term in the Greek is “kosmikon,” that is, it is cosmic. It belongs to this cosmos and does not have in its ingredients anything of the world to come. It is a little bit of sanctuary set apart in this great present heaven and earth, which shall once be renewed. It is the habitation of God in this present world, more particularly, in the Old Testament dispensation. In the New Testament dispensation there is no longer a tabernacle. The temple, which was built as the continuation of the tabernacle by David, was destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans. It has now long since been abrogated and removed from the earth. In this and in the future ages to come there shall be “no temple there.” But here we have and need a tabernacle. We need a medium of revelation here where we see in part and know in part. The manner of revelation is here such that it is through the “cosmos.” And this “cosmos” belongs to the things which are so many words of God, the book of creation. Here all revelation is indirect. Presently, in the future glories it shall be face to face. (I Cor. 13:12) It is my belief that this is the implication, too, of what we read in Revelation 21:22, where we read “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. . . .”
It is a tabernacle, then, which is of this world, and the present constitution of all things! It is a cosmical sanctuary! Yet, it is notwithstanding a sanctuary. That it is a sanctuary means that here the LORD reveals his “glory,” the Shikinah of the presence of the God of Israel. Here the Lord of hosts will dwell with his people between the Cherubim of the mercy-seat. Thus we read in Exodus 25:22 “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the cherubims which are above the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Yes, here Jehovah of glory, the LORD of hosts will dwell. Hence, this place is called the tabernacle of Jehovah. In Joshua 22:19 we read “Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass over into the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD’S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us. . . .” It is the LORD’S tabernacle, His dwelling in the land, the land of Immanuel which makes all the difference. Here the glory of grace and mercy, and covenant fellowship is revealed. Here the LORD gives the testimony concerning His Son under the shadows and types. Wherefore it is called the tabernacle of witness, testimony. It is the infallible testimony of God to all his own that he will meet with them and will commune with them. And for this same reason this tabernacle is also called the “tent of meeting.” It is the tent where the congregation, the flock of God enters into God’s courts with thanksgiving and praise. Here they taste the sovereign love and mercy, and so experience that the LORD is good! (Exodus 27:21).
Now this Old Testament tabernacle has ordinances of ministry and worship. This temple was “thus prepared” says the text in Hebrews 9:6, and in such a prepared tabernacle the priests were called to minister. Now what were these “ordinances.” These were the God-ordained ceremonies of the tabernacle. Nothing was left to human choice and caprice. And these ordinances were really ordinances of the throne of grace! They not only were pronounced from the throne, but they were also in accordance with the throne of grace and the very pattern of the temple. All things in this temple and its ordinances declared: God is a spirit and they who worship Him ought to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. God is the invisible God. When God spoke to Israel on the mount and gave the temple ordinances, even Moses did not see a likeness of God! Hence, we are not to make any graven images of Him. (John 4:23, 24; Deut. 4:23, 24) The ordinances of the first covenant were maintained by the LORD. And these were thus the rules, as given by God Himself, for the true worship of God.
That the writer throughout this letter speaks of the “tabernacle” and not of the temple “naos,”nor of temple, the grand architectural masterpiece of Solomon, has its reason. The intent of the writer is not to follow the historical manifestation of the temple in the Old Testament history, but rather to show the original tabernacle of Exodus to demonstrate the architectural lines as these run into the heavenly and better tabernacle. He would, furthermore, not merely call our attention to the inner part of the Solomonic temple in distinction from the outer court, but would rather show us the divine design of the entire tabernacle in its three parts: outer court, holy place and Holy of holies!Only thus will we be able to catch a glimpse of the implication of the truth that the Old Testament tabernacle was a “figure” for the time present. For the entire symbolism of the entire tabernacle is here of the essence in this passage of Hebrews. It forms the warp and woof of the writer’s argument.
It ought to be understood that the Old Testament temple and its ministry were parabolic in nature. The term “parable” is used in the Greek text where the KJV writes “figure.” (Hebrews 9:9) The German translates the Greek “paraboleen” by the term “Gleichnis,” while the Holland translation is “afbeelding.” We will need to take a hard look at the term parable in this connection and try to ascertain the meaning of the author in its usage. We believe that the term “parable” is very noteworthy. Parableand figure do have much in common, but they do not look at the same matter from the identical viewpoint. A figure may refer to a digit in the number system, a symbol. It may also refer to the “figure” of a person, the external form in which the qualities and attributes of a person come to stand before our senses. Then too it may mean: pattern or design. In the case in question as translated in the KJV it would refer to the visible pattern of the O.T. invisible presence of God, as He dwells in mercy with His people. On the other hand “parable” is a simile, an account taken from real life. The things of the kingdom come to pass in parables. (Mark 4:11) They are a part of this cosmic existence. The earthly is a picture of the heavenly. Were this not true then there could be no earthly temple and tabernacle which was a picture of the true tabernacle. But now, in the ministry of the tabernacle, we see parabolic symbolism, ministry!