NAS Hebrews 9:1-10 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For 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. 3 And behind the second veil, there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4 having 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. 5 And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 Now when these things have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the divine worship, 7 but 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. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.
VERSE 9 – THE PASTOR CALLS THIS “FIRST TENT” A “PARABLE” FOR “THE PRESENT TIME.” How could a Tent whose every feature demonstrated the impossibility of access to God be a “parable for “the present time” of fulfillment in Christ? The First Tent is not a parable of the present as the time before the greater, final access to God that will be available after the Judgment (9:28; 12:25-29). The pastor is at pains to emphasize the marvelous access believers now have (4:14-16; 10:19-21) as reason and resource for perseverance.
Thus ATTRIDGE SUGGESTS THAT THE FIRST TENT WAS “AN INVERSE PARABLE” – LACK OF ACCESS UNDER THE OLD POINTS TO ACCESS THROUGH THE NEW. ELLINGWORTH PROPOSES THAT THE HOLY PLACE WAS A “PARABLE” OF THE SITUATION THAT EXISTED “UNTIL THE PRESENT TIME.” Others suggest that it was a “parable” with relevance “for the present time” and disclosed only in the present age. Many, however, have followed a simpler and more direct interpretation. THE HOLY PLACE WAS NOT A TYPE ANTICIPATING THE TIME OF FULFILLMENT, BUT A “PARABLE” OR SYMBOL OF “THE TIME THEN PRESENT” DURING THE PERIOD OF ITS VALIDITY.
IN ANY CASE, THE FIRST TENT OR HOLY PLACE REPRESENTED THE SITUATION BEFORE CHRIST WHEN THERE WAS AS YET NO PROVISION FOR DIRECT ACCESS TO GOD. The situation has come to an end with the fulfillment brought by Christ at the “time of correction” (v. 10; as described in vv. 11-15 below…
ESV Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
ALTHOUGH THE PASTOR USES THE HOLY PLACE AS A “PARABLE OF THE SITUATION BEFORE CHRIST, HE STOPS SHORT OFDESIGNATING THE MOST HOLY PLACE A PARABLE FOR THE AGE IGNAUGURATEDBY CHRIST. We have seen that the annual repetition of the high priest’s entrance into this inner sanctum highlighted the liability of the rituals done in the Holy Place to provide access into the divine Present. Nevertheless in vv. 11-14 below the pastor will demonstrate that this same annual entrance also foreshadows the “one-for-all” entrance of Christ into God’s true presence.
9b10 – The repetitious rituals of the earthly Holy Place demonstrate clearly that the way of access into “heaven itself” (9:24) was neither open nor disclosed under the Old Covenant. The pastor is now going to show why such access was unavailable. The ineffective sacrifices offered “in relation to that Tent” were its undoing. The combination “gifts and sacrifices” embraces all the offerings of the First Tent and thus condemns them all to futility. They were not able to perform the essential purpose of sacrifice; they could not “cleanse the worshipper in regard to conscience” no matter how many times they were offered. The “conscience” is to “flesh” (v. 10) as the inner person is to the outer. It is the worshiper’s inner being or true self, the “heart.” As the wilderness generation has demonstrated the essence of the human predicament is an “evil heart of unbelief” not only burdened with guilt but dominated by the proclivity to sin and rebellion (3:12-14).
The sacrifices of the First Tent could not touch this need, for they “pertained only to the realm of food and drink and various washings. “only” is emphatic. These sacrifices could produce nothing more than the kind of purity that came from observing dietary laws and ceremonial washings. The sacrifices of the First Tent belonged to the same sphere as these ceremonial regulations and provided the same kind of cleansing – outward and ceremonial. thus the First Tent’s “regulations for worship” (9:1) can be described as “ordinances of the flesh.” They are external, ceremonial, temporal and weak. They were devoid of divine power and thus unable to change the heart or transform the person. They were appropriate only for a priesthood based on “a fleshly commandment” (7:16). Thus they were valid and “incumbent upon” God’s people but only “until the time of correction” when Christ “arrived as High Priest of the good things that have come” (v.11). The word translated “correction” can refer to the abrogation of a law and its replacement by a better. The pastor is referring to the time described in vv. 11-15 when Christ “corrected” the Old Covenant by establishing the New.
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE MODERN READER GRASP THAT THE INTRINSIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LACK OF CLEANING AND THE INABILITY TO ENTER GOD’S HEAVENLY PRESENCE. Only those who have been forgiven and cleansed from sin so that they now live in faithful obedience are able to enjoy such communion with our holy God. The pastor uses this description of inadequate sacrifices to prepare his hearers for what he will say about Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice in vv. 11-15.
BY HIS OBEDIENT SACRIFICE CHRIST CAN “CLEANSE” THE CONSCIENCE (9:14) FROM THE IMPURITY OF SIN AND WRITE GOD’S LAWS ON HIS PEOPLE’S HEARTS AS PROMISED IN THE NEW COVENANT (10:15-18).
THUS, CHRIST’S OBEDIENCE EMPOWERS THE FAITHFUL TO LIVE IN OBEDIENCE AND IN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD (see 10:5-10).
AS BELIEVERS WE COME THROUGH HIM TO GOD’S “THRONE” IN ORDER TO FIND GRACE FOR LIVING THIS LIFE OF FAITHFULNESS (4:14-16; 10:19-25). – Cockerill
Professor Thomas A. Rohm