AS WE SAW IN LAST WEEK’S STUDY, AS THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST UNLIKE THE TRADITION OF THE MOSAIC PRIESTS, JESUS OFFERED DIFFERENT SACRIFICES. THIS WEEK WE FOCUS ON JESUS AS A DIFFERENT PRIEST…
NAS Hebrews 8:1-6 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
IF THE EARTHLY WRITER OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS SEEMS TO BE REPEATING HIMSELF, IT MAY BE ACCURATE TO SAY, AS I HAVE NOTED BEFORE, IT IS NOTABLY HIS WAY OF EMPHASIZING.
HEBREWS 8 IS A MOST EMPHATIC CHAPTER.
“JESUS WAS A PRIEST, BUT HIS PRIESTHOOD WAS DISTINCT FROM THE PRIESTS WHO SERVED UNDER THE MOSAIS LAW. The author characterizes Jesus’ priesthood in a fascinating way, saying that ‘if He were on earth, He wouldn’t be a priest.’ Jesus’ humanity, as noted previously (cf. 2:5-18), is a major theme in Hebrews, and in that sense His priesthood had an earthly dimension. Indeed, as Hebrews regularly affirm, He suffered and died on earth. Still, the author asserts that Jesus was not an earthly priest. What he means must be discerned by the broader argument. It is apparent, by way of contrast, that an earthly ministry was exercised by the Levitical priests who offered sacrifices in accord with the Mosaic law. Jesus, on the other hand, ministers in the true tabernacle, the heavenly tabernacle where God rules. Levitical priests offered their sacrifices at the earthly tabernacle, which is ultimately not the true tabernacle. However, Jesus was not an earthly priest, i.e., He was not a priest in accord with the Mosaic law. His priesthood has a different location (heaven) and is thus more effective. But this does not mean Jesus’ sacrifice was actually in heaven. Instead HIS SINGULAR DEATH ON EARTH IS THE BASIS FOR HIS HEAVENLY MINISTRY.
“EARTHLY PRIESTS SERVE AT THE EARTHLY SANCTUARY, AT THE EARTHLY TABERNACLE GOD COMMANDED ISRAEL TO BUILD (CF. EXODUS 25 – 31; 35 – 41). THE NIV CAPTURES MOST CLEARLY THE VERSES’S MEANING: ‘THEY SERVE AT A SANCTUARY THAT IS A COPY AND SHADOW OF WHAT IS IN HEAVEN.’ EVEN THOUGH THE WORD ‘SANCTUARY’ IS ABSENT IN GREEK, IT IS CLEARLY IMPLIED BY THE REFERENCE TO EXODUS 25:40 AND BY THE FLOW OF THE ARGUMENT:
NAS Exodus 25:40 “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.
“THE EARTHLY SANCTUARY, HOWEVER, WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE ULTIMATE. IT SERVED AS ‘A COPY AND SHADOW’ OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.
“WE SEE AGAIN THE SPATIAL OR VERTICAL THOUGHT OF THE AUTHOR. It has affinities with Plato’s thought, but the notion that Hebrews mediates Platonic thought via Plato or any other thinker has been discredited. It doesn’t follow from the wording here that there is a literal tabernacle in the heavens. Still, the author views the earthly as an inferior reflection of what is heavenly. Once again, however, what is vertical is also eschatological. The law and the earthly tabernacle were intended to be in force under the old covenant: they were set in place for a limited period of salvation history.
“WE SEE HERE THE ROLE OF THE DIVINE AUTHOR IN THE HISTORY OF REVELATION. When Moses was instructed to complete the tabernacle, he was commanded to make everything ‘according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain. The typological role of the tabernacle through three different terms: ‘copy’ (τύπος, too-pahs, a mark struck by a blow or by pressure, i.e., copy – v. 5); ‘shadow’; and ‘pattern’). The original plan for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:40) reveals from the beginning that it signified a greater reality, that the earthly place of God’s residence figuratively represented His residence in the heavens.” – Schreiner
NEXT WEEK WE WILL TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT V. 6, THE FINAL VERSE IN THIS FIRST SECTION OF CHAPTER 8.
I, FOR ONE, AM CAPTIVATED BY THE DETAIL, THE SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT AND HARMONY, AND TRANSCENDENTAL IMMAGERY OF THE TEXT. I THINK IT IS BEAUTIFUL AND IN EVERYWAY BEFITTING OF GOD.
– Professor Thomas A. Rohm