1Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.
2For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.
3Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies,
4having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;
5and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
Without going into detail, the author points out some of the basics as to the design of the Old Testament tabernacle. The tabernacle was the house of worship where the priests made the offerings on behalf of the people. The offerings were done in the holy place, which was the second innermost portion of the tabernacle. Only the priests could enter this portion. The holy place had the lampstand, the showbread, and the table. The innermost portion of the tabernacle was called the holy of holies, in which was the most valued items in regard to God’s working in Israel’s history. These included the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered in gold in which was Aaron’s rod that budded, the ten commandments, and a golden jar of manna. The ark had cherubim of gold erected upon it, in between which was the mercy seat. This earthly sanctuary was very much part of the first covenant between God and Israel. In addition, there were regulations of divine worship.
6Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship,
7but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.
Once the tabernacle was properly arranged according to God’s prescribed design, the priests regularly offered up the sacrifices of the people in the holy place, doing their service of divine worship, which was being obedient to God. Obedience was always more important to God than the sacrifices themselves (1 Samuel ). The high priest was the only one who could enter the holy of holies, the innermost portion of the tabernacle where the glory of God dwelled. He could only go in once per year having cleansed himself with blood offered up for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.
8The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing,
9which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,
10since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.
The author makes it clear that the Holy Spirit had not disclosed the full meaning of the holy place and how it would be entered, for it was merely a shadow of the better new covenant under Christ. Yet with Christ’s coming, the revelation had now become clear. The tabernacle was merely a symbol for the present time, and the various washings, regulations, gifts, and sacrifices were never enough to cleanse a person’s conscience. The Law was not given to save but to show us our sin. Why else would God have ordained the tedious nature of sacrifices unless He had a message to show His people that they were fallen and needed redemption? They were saved, as Abraham was, by faith, not by keeping the rituals of the Law (Romans 4:3). These regulations for the body were between Israel and God, but God was most concerned about their hearts and the heart of every man. With Christ’s death and resurrection, a time of reforming of the old covenant had come as He revealed the true spiritual meaning of the Old Testament symbols.
11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;
12and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
When Christ came, He entered into a tabernacle that is not of this world but spiritual and heavenly. As our high priest, He tore down the veil that prevented the ordinary man from entering the presence of God, and He made it possible for God to dwell in our hearts and to come near to man. This He did by the shedding of His own blood, offering Himself up as a perfect sacrifice for sin so that we can all enter the holy of holies in the spiritual sense. Our eternal redemption was accomplished not by the blood of bulls and goats and calves but by Jesus’ sacrifice.
13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,
14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The blood of bulls and goats and the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer offered to God in the old covenant were for the purpose of sanctifying and cleansing the flesh. It was a way of outwardly consecrating the Jews before God. However, it could not do what Christ’s blood did because the perfect sacrifice of Christ alone can change us from the inside out, redeeming our conscience and changing our hearts.
15For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Since Christ was the one Who died for sin, He is the One Who has the role of mediator of the new covenant. In other words, salvation is only through Him and no other means. Through Him alone is redemption for sin possible. Man has been sinning from the beginning. They sinned before the Law was given, they sinned under the Law, and they sin today. It is Jesus’ sacrifice that blots the sin of all believers away, including those who walked by faith even before Christ came. All who have responded to the call of God in faith will receive the promise of eternal life. Now that Christ has come and definitively spoken, salvation is by no other name (Acts ). More revelation has been given, and we are accountable to know it, to believe it, and to preach it.
16For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
17For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
By God’s rules of establishing a covenant between He and man, there must be the death of the One who made it. This is the way it is because this is how God says it is. As long as the one who made the covenant is alive, the covenant is not in force, according to God. The point is that Jesus’ death and then resurrection was sufficient before God to establish a new covenant with Jesus as the mediator of it.
18Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.
19For 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,
20saying, "THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU."
21And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.
22And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
The first covenant was also inaugurated with the shedding of blood (Exodus 24:8), but it was only animal blood and not that of our precious Savior. This was merely a shadow of what was to come in Christ’s perfect sacrifice. It is so important that we understand that the old covenant and system of worship was a copy of spiritual things to come in the new covenant. Thus, the symbols in the Old Testament, such as the tabernacle and the vessels of ministry (altars, etc.), were sprinkled with animal blood, water, scarlet wool, and hyssop to show their imperfection. The people and even the book of the Law were sprinkled with blood, foreshadowing the need for a Savior and a new covenant. Indeed, the gospel requires the shedding of Christ’s perfect blood, without which there is no forgiveness of sin. His blood spiritually sprinkled on our hearts and appropriated by repentance and faith is the core of the gospel message and new covenant.
24For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
25nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own.
Christ entered heaven itself, not a mere copy of the true one. He now sits at God’s right hand making intercession for us and advocating for us. He only needed to offer Himself up as a perfect sacrifice one time unlike the priests of old that had to enter the holy place time after time.
26Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Christ’s institution and establishment of the new covenant serves as a consummation of the ages in that the old covenant has passed away and God has now spoken to us of His spiritual kingdom more clearly than ever through His Son Jesus Christ. There is no need for Him to be crucified over and over again, for His blood has been shed once for all.
27And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
28so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Christ’s second coming will be to take up His church into heaven with Him so that they get to see the fullness and culmination of their great salvation. His is coming again not to die for sin but to establish an eternal kingdom as King. He is coming to reign, and we who are His eagerly await His coming. Every person will die once. There is no reincarnation. After death, every person will face the judgment of God. Those who never received Christ on the merits of His sacrifice will not enter heaven. However, He died that many would come to know Him, but sadly few will respond in faith.