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Jeremiah is known as the prophet of the new covenant. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Jeremiah heard the voice of God and saw what God had planned: a new day. A new law inscribed in the mind and written on the heart. A new and abiding knowledge of God. A new covenant where mercy runs deep and sins are forgiven and forgotten.

This hope of a new heart is found even in the midst of the Mosaic Covenant. Moses foretells the unfaithfulness of the people and also tells them of God’s promise to restore their hearts (Deuteronomy 30:1–10).

Even that first covenant had rules and regulations about how to worship and how to set up an earthly sanctuary for God. In the Book of Exodus,[a] we read how the first tent was set aside for worship—we call it the holy place—how inside it they placed an oil lamp, a table, and the bread that was consecrated to God. Behind a second dividing curtain, there was another tent which is called the most holy place. In there they placed the golden incense altar and the golden ark of the covenant. Inside the ark were the golden urn that contained manna (the miraculous food God gave our ancestors in the desert), Aaron’s rod that budded,[b] and the tablets of the covenant that Moses brought down from the mountain. Above the ark were the golden images of heavenly beings[c] of glory who shadowed the mercy seat.

I cannot go into any greater detail about this now. When all is prepared as it is supposed to be, the priests go back and forth daily into the first tent to carry out the duties described in the law. But once a year, the high priest goes alone into that second tent, the most holy place, with blood to offer for himself and the unwitting errors of the people. As long as that first tent is standing, the Holy Spirit shows us, the way into the most holy place has not yet been revealed to us. That first tent symbolizes the present time, when gifts and sacrifices can be offered; but it can’t change the heart and conscience of the worshiper. 10 These gifts and sacrifices deal only with regulations for the body—food and drink and various kinds of ritual cleansings necessary until the time comes to make things truly right.

11 When the Anointed One arrived as High Priest of the good things that are to come, He entered through a greater and more perfect sanctuary that was not part of the earthly creation or made by human hands. 12 He entered once for all time into the most holy place—entering, not with the blood of goats or calves or some other prescribed animal, but offering His own blood and thus obtaining redemption for us for all time. 13 Think about it: if the blood of bulls or of goats, or the sprinkling of ashes from a heifer, restores the defiled to bodily cleanliness and wholeness; 14 then how much more powerful is the blood of the Anointed One, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice to God, purifying your conscience from the dead things of the world to the service of the living God?

15 This is why Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant: through His death, He delivered us from the sins that we had built up under the first covenant, and His death has made it possible for all who are called to receive God’s promised inheritance. 16 For whenever there is a testament—a will—the death of the one who made it must be confirmed 17 because a will takes effect only at the death of its maker; it has no validity as long as the maker is still alive. 18 Even the first testamentthe first covenant—required blood to be put into action. 19 When Moses had given all the laws of God to the people, he took the blood of calves and of goats, water, hyssop, and scarlet wool; and he sprinkled the scroll and all the people, 20 telling them, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded for us.”[d] 21 In the same way, he also sprinkled blood upon the sanctuary and upon the vessels used in worship. 22 Under the law, it’s almost the case that everything is purified in connection with blood; without the shedding of blood, sin cannot be forgiven.

In chapter 9 we are reminded that what is most real, what is most true, is the unseen reality. The writer tells us that the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, was merely a copy or shadow of another place, the heavenly temple. Whatever took place in this shadowy temple could not change the realities of alienation from God, sin, and death.

Every year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would don his priestly garb and enter the most holy place in the temple. His task was profound, his duty dangerous: he must appear before God carrying the sins of his people. All the sins of Israel were concentrated in him as he carried the blood of the sacrifice into the divine presence. But there was another day, a Day of Atonement unlike any other, when Jesus concentrated in Himself the sins of the world, hanging on a cross not far from the temple’s holiest chamber. Indeed, for a time, He became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). But unlike the high priest, the crucified and risen Jesus entered the true temple of heaven and was ushered into the divine presence. At that moment, everything changed.

23 Since what was given in the old covenant was the earthly sketch of the heavenly reality, this was sufficient to cleanse the earthly sanctuary; but in heaven, a more perfect sacrifice was needed. 24 The Anointed One did not enter into handcrafted sacred spaces—imperfect copies of heavenly originals—but into heaven itself, where He stands in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 There He does not offer Himself over and over as a sacrifice (as the high priest on earth does when he enters the most holy place each year with blood other than his own) 26 because that would require His repeated suffering since the beginning of the world. No, He has appeared once now, at the end of the age, to put away sin forever by offering Himself as a sacrifice.

27 Just as mortals are appointed to die once and then to experience a judgment, 28 so the Anointed One, our Liberating King, was offered once in death to bear the sins of many and will appear a second time, not to deal again with sin, but to rescue those who eagerly await His return.

Worship in the Earthly Tabernacle

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.(A) A tabernacle(B) was set up. In its first room were the lampstand(C) and the table(D) with its consecrated bread;(E) this was called the Holy Place.(F) Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,(G) which had the golden altar of incense(H) and the gold-covered ark of the covenant.(I) This ark contained the gold jar of manna,(J) Aaron’s staff that had budded,(K) and the stone tablets of the covenant.(L) Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory,(M) overshadowing the atonement cover.(N) But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly(O) into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered(P) the inner room,(Q) and that only once a year,(R) and never without blood,(S) which he offered for himself(T) and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.(U) The Holy Spirit was showing(V) by this that the way(W) into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration(X) for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered(Y) were not able to clear the conscience(Z) of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food(AA) and drink(AB) and various ceremonial washings(AC)—external regulations(AD) applying until the time of the new order.

The Blood of Christ

11 But when Christ came as high priest(AE) of the good things that are now already here,[a](AF) he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle(AG) that is not made with human hands,(AH) that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves;(AI) but he entered the Most Holy Place(AJ) once for all(AK) by his own blood,(AL) thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls(AM) and the ashes of a heifer(AN) sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit(AO) offered himself(AP) unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences(AQ) from acts that lead to death,[c](AR) so that we may serve the living God!(AS)

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator(AT) of a new covenant,(AU) that those who are called(AV) may receive the promised(AW) eternal inheritance(AX)—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.(AY)

16 In the case of a will,[d] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.(AZ) 19 When Moses had proclaimed(BA) every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves,(BB) together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.(BC) 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[e](BD) 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood,(BE) and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.(BF)

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies(BG) of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one;(BH) he entered heaven itself,(BI) now to appear for us in God’s presence.(BJ) 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place(BK) every year with blood that is not his own.(BL) 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.(BM) But he has appeared(BN) once for all(BO) at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.(BP) 27 Just as people are destined to die once,(BQ) and after that to face judgment,(BR) 28 so Christ was sacrificed once(BS) to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time,(BT) not to bear sin,(BU) but to bring salvation(BV) to those who are waiting for him.(BW)

Footnotes

  1. Hebrews 9:11 Some early manuscripts are to come
  2. Hebrews 9:12 Or blood, having obtained
  3. Hebrews 9:14 Or from useless rituals
  4. Hebrews 9:16 Same Greek word as covenant; also in verse 17
  5. Hebrews 9:20 Exodus 24:8

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to 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, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.

19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,

20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

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