Summary of Hebrews 9 to Date



THE COMPOSITION OF THIS TEXT IS VERY CLEAR.  IT STARTS WITH A MENTION OF THE “RITES OF WORSHIP” AND OF THE EARTHLY “HOLY PLACE” (9:1). The author then first describes “the holy place” in 9:2-5 and then the “rites of worship” in 9:6-7.  Then comes the criticism in 9:8-10.  It concerns, first, the holy place (9:8), then the ”Gifts and sacrifices” (9:9-10).

IN THE INTRODUCTORY SENTENCE (9:1), THE HOLY PLACE OF THE FIRST COVENANT RECEIVES A PEJORATIVE DESCRIPTION: IT WAS ‘OF THIS WORLD’ IN GREEK: KOSMOKON (HERE ONLY AND IN TITUS 2:12 IN THE BIBLE); SO IT WAS NOT REALLY GOD’S DWELLING. To describe it the author relies on the Law of Moses, which does not speak of a building but only of a tent, divided in two, “the Holy and the Holy of Holies.” (Exodus 26:33).  The author is therefore not speaking of Herod’s temple, like the Gospels, or of Solomon’s temple, but only of the text in the desert, to which he has already alluded in Heb 8:5.  He insists on its division into two parts, which he calls “the first tent” (9:6) and “the second” (10:7).  He does not use the expressions “the Holy” nor “the Holy of Holies,” but he simply uses, without any articles, the corresponding adjectives: the first tent “is called holy” (9:2) the second is “called holy of holies” that is to say “very holy.”  Many manuscripts have some variant readings here that seek to bring the text back to the wording, quoted above, in Exod. 26:33  “the Holy and the Holy of Holies.”  That is mistaken.  Without the article, holy of holies qualifies many things in the Old Testament.

THE FIRST COVENANT WAS NOT WORTHLESS OR POINTLESS.  GOD GAVE IT AND HE DOES NOTHING THAT IS WORTHLESS OR POINTLESS.  Through it He prescribed certain kinds of worship and a special place in which to worship.  But it was temporary, signified by the earthly character of the sanctuary.  The sanctuary and its worship were divinely instituted, but they, like the earth, were temporary.  They were ordained of God and give a beautiful, meaningful, detailed picture of the eternal Messiah.

THE WRITER OF HEBREWS MAKES MANY COMPARISONS.  HE HAS COMPARED THE PROPHETS, THE ANGELS, JOSHUA, AND AARON TO CHRIST – ALWAYS POINTING OUT AND PROVING CHRIST’S SUPERIORITY.  But he never depreciates the persons or the things he compares with Christ or with Christ’s work.  In fact, he exalts the prophets and the angels and Aaron and Moses and the Old Covenant. He does not compare to Christ to persons or things that were insignificant or meaningless or worthless, but to ones that were God-ordained and faithful and purposeful.  He does not try to build Christ up by running these down.  Quite to the contrary, he magnifies them and praises them.  In doing so, he exalts Christ all the more.  The more the other persons and things are legitimately magnified, the more Jesus is magnified, the more superior He is sown to be.

THE REGULATIONS OF DIVINE WORSHIP, THE RITES AND CEREMONIES ARE INSTITUTED BY GOD TO HELP SHOW HIS SON, THE MESSIAH, THE TRUE SAVIOR. They were divine services, but they were also temporary services, performed in a temporary sanctuary.  Verses 2-10 mention three things about the old worship, its sanctuary, its services, and its significance.


FOR THERE WAS A TABERNACLE PREPARED, THE OUT ONE, IN WHICH WERE THE LAMPSTAND AND THE TABLE AND THE SACRED BRASS; THIS IS CALLED THE HOLY PLACE.  And behind the second veil, there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 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.  And Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (9:2-5)

HERE IS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE OLD SANCTUARY – FIRST THE TABERNACLE AND THEN THE TEMPLE.  THE EMPHASIS HERE, HOWEVER, IS ON THE TABERNACLE.  It was the first sanctuary and also the most temporary and the most earthy.  Thus it serves to illustrate best the writer’s point.  It was made largely of skins and was designed to be portable.  Even from the human view, it was the essence of impermanence.  It gave every impression of being temporary.


THE COURTYARD OF THE TABERNACLE WAS ONE HUNDRED FIFTY FEET LONG AND SEVENTY-FIVE FEET WIDE. Its single gate, on the east side, was thirty feet wide and seven and a half feet high, allowing a large number of people to enter at the same time.  It is a graphic picture of Jesus Christ, who side, “I am the way” and “I am the door.”  Just as there was only one entrance to the Tabernacle, there is only one way to God—the only Wy and the only door, Jesus Christ.  Christianity is exclusive, not because Christians make it so but because God has made it so.  Throughout the centuries, of course, Christians have made the earthly church exclusive in many wrong ways.  But God has intentionally made His spiritual, eternal church exclusive.  It can be entered only through Jesus Christ.

THE FIRST ARTICLE OF FURNITURE IN THE OUTER COURT WAS THE BRONZE ALTAR.  IT WAS MADE OF ACACIA WOOD SHEATHED WITH BRONZE.  It was seven and a half feet square stood four and a half feet off the ground and was topped with a bronze grate.  The coals were placed underneath the grate and the sacrifice was placed on top.  On the four corners of the altar were horns, to which the animal was bound when it was being sacrificed.  The bronze altar is again a perfect picture of Jesus Christ, who Himself was a sacrifice for sin.

THE NEXT PIECE OF FURNITURE IN THE COURT WAS A LAVER OR BASIN, ALSO MADE OF BRONZE.  In it the priests would wash their hands, and even sometimes their feet, as they went about the bloody services of sacrifice.  Here is a picture of Jesus Christ as the cleanser of His people.  Once we have received forgiveness for our sins through Christ’s sacrifice of Himself, we still need His daily cleansing that restores fellowship and joy.

STILL MOVING WET ACROSS THE COURTYARD, WE COME TO THE TABERNACLE PROPER FORTY-FIVE FEET LONG, FIFTEEN FEET WIDE, AND FIFTEEN FEET HIGH.    The holy place took up two-thirds of this area, which means that the holy of holies was a perfect fifteen-foot cube.  Only priests could go into the Holy Place, in which were three pieces of furniture.  The writer of Hebrews mentions only two, because, as he says, he cannot speak in detail (9:5).

THE UNITY OF 9-1 IS BEYOND QUESTION.  IN V.1 THE PASTOR ANNOUNCES HIS TOPIC AS THE “REGULATIONS FOR WORSHIP” AND “EARTHLY SANCTUARY” OF THE FIRST COVENANT. Verses 2-5 describe this sanctuary, and vv. 6-7  the First Covenant worship appropriate for such a sanctuary.  Verses 8-10 conclude by unveiling the significance of this sanctuary and liturgy as intended by the Holy Spirit.  The structure of this sanctuary and liturgy.  This structure of the earthly sanctuary (vv. 2-5) is determinative for its worship (vv. 6-7.  Both structure and liturgy have a twofold significance:  First, they demonstrate the impossibility of approaching God through the old sanctuary.  Second they anticipate the “new and living way” (10:20) of approach to God through Christ.

SEVERAL FEATURES OF THE PASTOR’S DESCRIPTION REVEAL THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF APPROACHING THE DIVINE PRESENCE THROUGH THE “EARTHLY SANCTUARY.” The text emphasizes the distinction between the impenetrable boundary separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.  The Holy Place with its repetitious worship is a graphic reminder that access was not available before Christ.  On the other hand, by emphasizing the majesty of the Most Holy Place the pastor anticipates the way in which its liturgy foreshadows Christ’s entrance into God’s heavenly presence as described in vv. 11-14.  The details used in describing this “earthly sanctuary” keep the hearers from forgetting its earthly and therefore limited character.

  1. DURING ITS TENURE THE “FIRST” AND INADEQUATE “COVENANT “ WAS HAVING AN EARTHLY SANCTUARY, THAT COULD ALSO BE CALLED A “TENT” (v. 2) Contrast Christ’s entry into “the Sanctuary and true “Tent” as recorded in 8:2.  A comparison if these expressions reveal the importance of the word “earthly.”  JUST AS THE PASTOR NEVER USES “TENT” FOR THE HEAVENLY REALITY WITHOUT A QUALIFYING DESCRIPTION, SO HE NEVER USES “SANCTUARY” FOR THE EARTHLY COPY WITHOUT QUALIFICATION – “AN EARTHLY SANCTUARY: (9:1), “A SANCTUARY MADE BY HAND” (9:24).  Furthermore, the pastor has emphasized the “earthly” by locating it in the predicate position after the noun “sanctuary.”  His meaning is well rendered by a translation such as the following” the First Covenant had “the Sanctuary, but it was earthly,” or “the Sanctuary was indeed earthly.  This “sanctuary” is severely limited because it is part of the temporal, created universe and thus can provide no access to the Creator, who is beyond his creation.  Contrast the opening section of the next and final movement where the Sanctuary entered by Christ is nothing less than “heaven itself.”

AN ADDITIONAL COMPARISON BETWEEN 9:1 AND 8:2 IS ALSO INSTRUCTIVE.  THE PASTOR USES THE SINGULAR WHEN HE REFERS TO THE “EARTHLY SANCTUARY” BUT THE PLURAL IN 8:2 AND ELSEWHERE IN REFERENCE TO THE SANCTUARY ENTERED BY CHRIST.  This contrasting use of the singular is in accord with the inferiority of the earthly sanctuary.  The singular also shows that the pastor thinks of this sanctuary as one structure despite his reference to first and second tents in vv. 2-3 below.

  1. THIS IS THE “TENT” THAT “HAD BEEN PREPARED” BY MOSES (CF. 8:5) IN THE WILDERNESS UNDER GOD’S DIRECTION. The pastor is anxious to point out the division between the two parts of this “earthly sanctuary” in order to demonstrate the limitations revealed by the first and the significance of the second as foreshadowing Christ’s work.  Although he knows that there is one “earthly sanctuary.” which he calls a “Tent,” he describes it as if its two parts were two separate “Tents – a “First” and a “Second.”  Thus he brings distinction and to “the strongest possible expression.  The impenetrable barrier between the two is vital to his argument.

THE PASTOR REFERS TO THE SEVEN-BRANCHED “LAMPSTAND” DESCRIBED IN EXOD.25:31-40 AND 37:17-24 (CF.  EXOD. 40:4, 24).    The lamps on this lampstand were kept perpetually burning before the Lord.  Exod. 25:23-30 (cf. 39:36; 40:23) described the “table upon which the “presentation of the bread” was renewed each week after the old loaves were consumed by Aaron and his sone (Lev.24:9).  Since the OT locates the “lampstand” and the “table” with its “bread” in the outer section of the Mosaic Tent, it is no surprise that the pastor identifies this first “Tent” as the “Holy Place.

  1. “AFTER THE SECOND CURTAIN,” CONTINUES THE PASTOR’S EMPHASIS ON THE DIVISION BEWEEN THE HOLY AND THE MOST HOLY PLACES. Verse 2 described the contents of the First Tent and then identified it as the “Holy Place.”  Verses 3-4 call the Second Tent the “Most Holy Place” before describing its furnishings.  Thus, “after the second curtain” comes at the central emphatic position created by the chiastic relationship between these two descriptions.  This emphasis on the distinction between the Holy and Most Holy Places and the barrier separating them serves the immediate purpose of disclosing the lack of access to God under the old system.  In the larger picture it highlights the magnitude of the barrier breached by Christ.
  2. THE PASTOR HAS CRAFTED EVERY DETAIL OF THIS DESCRIPTION TO EXPRESS THE BEAUTY AND MAJESTY OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE IN ANTICIPATION OF ITS ROLE AS FORESHADOWING THE HIGH-PRIESTLY MINISTRY OF CHRIST. Verse 4a describes the two articles of furniture as “golden”: “having a golden Altar of Incense and the Ark of the Covenant covered all over with gold.”  In Greek “golden” and “gold” as the first and last words of this statement.  The pastor focuses our attention on the Ark.  Verse 4b describes its contents, and v. 5 climaxes with the Cherubim over the Mercy Seat, the place of atonement above the Ark.

TWO INTERRELATED QUESTIONS SURROUND THE TERM TRANSLATED “ALTAR OF INCENSE.”  FIRST, THE UNDERLYING GREEK WORD COULD BE USED FOR “CENSER” AS WELL AS FOR “INCENSE ALTAR.”  Second, according to the OT text, the Altar of Incense was located in the Holy Place, not the Most Holy Place.  Some would solve both questions by arguing the Hebrews is referring to the censer that the high priest took into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 15:12-13).  Thus, by speaking of a censer in conjunction with the Ark the pastor draws his hearers’ attention to that great Day now fulfilled by Christ.  Riggenbach, in particular, contends that the author was far too conversant with the OT to mistakenly locate the Altar of Incense in the Most Holy Place.  He knew that the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on this altar (Ecid,30:10) and took coals of fire from it (Lev. 15:12-13) before entering the Most Holy Place.

OTHERS ARGUE THAT THE GREEK WORD REFERS TO THE ALTAR OF INCENSE AND THAT THE AUTHOR IS FOLLOWING AN EXEGETICAL TRADITION THAT LOCATED THE ALTAR OF INCENSE WITHIN THE MOST HOLY PLACE  After all, the instructions for building this altar are given separately from the instructions for other furnishings.  Furthermore, some OT passages associate the Altar of Incense closely with the Ark and the Most Hold Place.  Several other writings roughly contemporary with Hebrews may bear witness to a tradition locating the Incense Altar within the inner sanctuary.  Those who espouse this position argue that the author could not have omitted something so important as the Altar of Incense.

IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT THE PASTOR IS REFERRING TO THE ALTAR OF INCENSE AND NOT TO A CENSER.  BOTH PHILO AND JOSEPHUS BEAR WITNESS TO THIS MEANING FOR THE UNDERLYING GREEK TERM.  furthermore, the description would incomplete if the author omitted what was arguable the second most important article of furniture in the Mosaic sanctuary.  We would expect him to make use of exegetical traditions available to him.  He was not, however, the mee hapless victim of an exegetical tradition that located the incense altar within the Most Holy Place.  Riggenbach is correct in his contention that one so schooled in the OT would not misplace this altar.  Rather, the author draws on those OT passages cited above that connect this alter with the Most Holy Place.  In making this connection he joins his contemporaries, also cited above, who made like association.  Note the difference between the way he locates furniture “in” the Holy Place but speaks of the Most Holy Place “having” the Incense Altar and the Ark of the Covenant.  He does not “relocate” this altar within the inner sanctuary but closely associates it with the Most Holy Place in accord with its function.

WESTCOTT REMINDS US THAT JUST AS THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE WAS IMPORTANT FOR ENTRANCE INTO THE HOLY PLACE, SO THE INCENSE ALTAR WAS CRUCIAL FOR ENTRANCE INTO THE MOST HOLY PLACE.    On the Day of Atonement the high priest could not enter that inner sanctum without filling his censor with coals of fire from this altar (Lev 16:12-13). He sprinkles the blood of the sin offering on the horns of the Incense Altar as well as on the Mercy Seat or Place of Atonement above the Ark (Exod.30:10; Lev. 16:15).  Thus the pastor has associated the Incense Altar with the Most Holy Place in accord with its function and own purposes.  By making this connection he magnifies the Most Holy Place and anticipates its role as foreshadowing Christ’s entering “heaven itself” (9:24) in fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.  However, that fulfillment will denude its earthly type of all magnificence.

THE PASTOR FOCUSES HIS HEARERS’ ATTENTION ON THE ARK BY ENUMERATING ITS CONTENTS.  ITS MOST IMPORTANT OBJECTS WERE “THE TABLES OF THE COVENANT” ON WHICH THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WERE ENGRAVED. According to Exod. 25:16 and Deut.10:1-5 these tablets had been deposited in the Ark by Moses.  The presence of the “jar containing manna and Aaron’s rod that budded” is suggested by God’s command to put these objects in the Most Holy Place as recorded in Exod. 16:32=34 and Num 17:10-11.  Some rabbinic sources agree that these items were in the Ark itself.  Later reference to the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments as the only contents of the Ark may have suggested that something else had been located therein.  If the Ten Commandments were the foundation of God’s covenant, manna was evidence of His provision, and the rod symbolized his choice of Aaron as priest.  Only in the LXX of Exod.16:33 is the “jar of manna” described as “golden.”  Philo picks up this description in Prelim Studies 100.  Our author who has emphasized the gold covering of both Altar and Ark, would not miss the chance to call this jar “golden” and thus increase his emphasis on the majesty of the Most Holy Place.

  1. THE PASTOR CLIMAXES HIS DESCRIPTION NOT WITH WHAT WAS WITHIN BUT WITH WHAT WAS “ABOVE” THE ARK – “THE CHERUBIM OF GLORY OVERSHADOWING THE MERCY SEAT The cherubim were two figures made of gold whose wings overshadowed the” Place of Atonement” or “Mercy Seat” covering the Ark (Exod. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). They were Cherubim of “Glory” because it was between them that the “Glory” of the divine presence dwelt among god’s people (cf. Exod 25:22).  This was the earthy “throne” of God (1 Sam. 4:4l 2 Sam 6:2; Ps 80:2,; 99:1).  It was the place where the most high priest came annually on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle sacrificial blood before the “Mercy Seat” in atonement for sin (Lev. 16:1-10_.  The pastor concludes his description of the “earthly sanctuary” by focusing his hearers’ eyes on this place of atonement in anticipation of fulfillment in Christ (vv. 11-14).  As High Priest, the Son has made atonement sufficient for entrance into the true heavenly presence of God where he now sits with all authority on the right hand of the divine “throne.”  Through his ministry this “throne” has now become a “throne of grace” (4:16) for God’s people a true “Mercy Seat.”  His description mirrors the high priest’s annual from initial approach to crowning act of atonement.  These foreshadowings anticipate their all sufficient fulfillment in Christ.

THE PASTOR HAS ACCOMPLISHED HIS PURPOSE.  HE HS EMPHASIZED THE “EARTHY” AND THUR PRELIMINARY CHARACTER OF THE MOSAIC SANCTUARY.  He has demonstrated the great separation between the Holy and the Most Holy Places.  He has shown the corresponding splendor of the latter in anticipation of the way it foreshadows Christ’s entrance into Heaven itself.  Thus he would not sidetrack his hearers from these important issues by speaking “of these things in greater detail.  He proceeds immediately to the ministries appropriate to these two parts of the “earthly sanctuary” (vv.6-7) and to their significance (vv. 8-10, 11=14).

6-7. “WHEN THESE THINGS HAD BEEN PREPARED” INTRODUCES THE AGE THAT BEGAN WITH MOSES AND ESTABLISHED THE “EARTHLY MINISTRY” AN AGE THAT WAS CHARACTERIZED BY REPETITION OF THE LEVITICAL RITUALS.  Verse 6 describes the ministry of the “priests” in the “first Tent” v. 7 that of the high priest” in the “Second.”  Everything in v. 6 emphasizes the continuous, repetitive nature of the priests’ ministry and its consequent limitation to “the First Tent.”  The LXX uses the term here translated “regularly” to describe the routine lighting of the lamps in the Holy Place (Exod. 27:20), the daily offering of incense (Exod.30:8), and the regular presentation of the bread (Exod.25:40).  The verbs “enter” and “perform” are iterative present emphasizing the repetitive character of these liturgical acts.  The ministers of the “First Tent” repeatedly “enter” to “perform” their ministry.  The pastor refrains from further description of these rituals so that the weight of his words might fall on their repetition.

THE PASTOR HAS CAREFULLY CHOSEN THE VERBS TRANSLATED “ENTER” AND “PERFORM”.  HE DISTINGUISHES THESE PRIESTS FROM CHRIST BY USING A WORD FOR “ENTER” THAT DIFFERS FROM THE WORD USED FOR CHRIST’S ENTRANCE INTO THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY. “Perform” is regularly used for executing religious rituals.  Nevertheless, the pastor uses this verb with subtle irony.  In other contexts this word has the connotation of bringing to completion.  These priests are continuously performing rituals that are never completed and that never get them further than “the First Tent.”  They never achieve even symbolic access into the divine Present.  Thus, the pastor lays a firm foundation for demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the ministry on which the First Covenant was established.

EVERY FEATURE OF MINISTRY IN “THE SECOND” TENT AS DESCRIBED IN V. 7 ALSO DEMONSTRATES THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE FIRST TENT’S RITUALS TO PROVIDE ACCESS.  “Only” the “high priest” enters.  None can “draw near to God” through him, (cf. 7:25).  He enters only “once a year.”  His annual entrance indicates both the limitation of his access and is repeated, and therefore inconclusive, nature.  His entrance is also limited in that it is “not without blood,” and he must “offer” this blood both “in himself” and for the people’s sins of ignorance.  There is little distinction between ”sins of ignorance: and “sins.”

HOWEVER, THE PASTOR ALSO DESCRIBES THIS MINISTRY OF THE OLD HIGH PRIEST ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT BECAUSE AS VV 11-15 WILL SHOW, IT IS THE PATTERN FOR CHRIST’S HIGH-PRIESTLY MINISTRY.  The old high priest’s entrance “once a year” into the “Second Tent” of the earthly sanctuary” was inconclusive, but it was symbolic of Christ’s entrance “once for “ (v.11-14) into “heaven itself” (9:24).  His entering “not without blood” anticipated Christ’s entrance” through his own blood” (v. 12; cf. vv. 15-23).  Finally, the old high priest’s offering for himself and for the sins of the people anticipated Christ’s obedient offering of himself for the people (7:27; 9:11-14; 10:5-10).

  1. THE PASTOR BEGIN TO EXPLAIN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PRIESTS’ MINISTRY IN THE “EARTHLY SANCTUARY” AS JUST DESCRIBED IN VV. 6-7. AS ALWAYS, THE SCRIPTURE IS OF IMMEDIATE RELEVANCE.  Thus, “the Holy Spirit” as the inspirer of Scripture is even now “revealing” the inadequacy of the old order through the biblical description of its limitations.  The pastor claims no esoteric divine disclosure.  What he has to say is drawn from the plain biblical description of the old order understood in light of its fulfillment.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, THIS DESCRIPTION OF MINISTRY IN THE “EARTHLY SANCTUARY” REVEALS THAT “THE WAY INTO THE (HEAVENLY) SANCTUARY HAD NOT YET BEEN DISCLOSED WHILE THE FIRST TENT STILL HAD VALIDITY. It is important to clarify the referents of both “Sanctuary” and “First Tent.”  That “Sanctuary” refers not to the earthly Most Holy Place but to the heavenly “Sanctuary” in which Christ is a “minister” (8:2).  “First Tent” however, refers to the first part of the Mosaic shrine, the Holy Place, rather than to the entire Mosaic structure as temporal precursor of the “true” (8:2) “greater and more perfect Tent” (9-11).  There are several weighty reasons for preferring this interpretation.  First, in the immediate context the pastor has consistently used “First Tent” and “second” to distinguish the earthly “Holy Place” from the earthly “Most Holy Place” (vv. 2, 3, 6, 7).  Second the pastor could hardly call an “earthly sanctuary” the “First Tent” since it did not precede the eternal heavenly Sanctuary of which it was a copy (8:4-5).  He can refer to the Old and New Covenants as “first” and “second” (8:7,13) because they followed one another in temporal sequence, but he cannot use this language for their respective sanctuaries.  Furthermore, the identification of the First Tent with the Holy Place makes good sense of what the pastor has said.  The First or Old Covenant was a covenant of the Holy Place.  Thus in vv. 2-5 the pastor emphasized the impenetrable barrier between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.  In v. 6 the rituals of the First Covenant were confined to the Holy Place, where they were endlessly repeated without providing access to anything more.  They could not even penetrate the boundary between the earthly Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.  The high priest’s annual entrance into the Most Holy Place, described in v. 7, was only “the exception that proved the rule.  He went “alone,” only “once a year,) and only into the earthly Most Holy Place.  OT religion might have been oriented toward the Most Holy Place, but it was confined to the Holy Place.  This very fact showed its inability to bring people into God’s presence and its nature as foreshadowing a fulfillment to come.  By contrast, the New Covenant has no Holy Place but only the Most Holy Place hat is “heaven itself.” (9:24)


  1. 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.

ALTHOUGH THE PASTOR USES THE HOLY PLACE AS A “PARABLE OF THE SITUATION BEFORE CHRIST, HE STOPS SHORT OF DESIGNATING THE MOST HOLY PLACE A PARABLE FOR THE AGE INAUGURATED YBY 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.

9B-10.  THE REPETITIOUS RITUALS OF THE EARTHLY HOLY PLACE DEMONSTRATE CLEARLY THAT THE WAY OF ACCESS INTO “HEAVEN ITSELF” (9:24) WAS NEITHER OPEN NOR DISCLOSEDUNDER 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 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).

“AFTER THE SECOND CURTAIN” CONTINUES THE PASTOR’S EMPHASIS ON THE DIVISION BETWEEN THE HOLY AND THE MOST HOLY PLACES.  Verse 2 described the contents of the First Tent and then identified it as the “Holy Place.”  Verses 3-4 call the Second Tent the “Most Holy Place” before describing its furnishings.  Thus “after the second curtain” comes at the central emphatic position created by the chiastic relationship between these two descriptions. – Cockerill

– Professor Thomas A. Rohm