SANCTUARY AND SACRIFICE
The Epistle has exhibited to us the glory of the eternal Priest and the wealth and grandeur of the new Covenant. It advances now towards the Sanctuary and the Sacrifice wherein we see that covenant sanctified and sealed, under the auspices of our great "Priest upon His throne."
The Teacher first dilates to the Hebrews upon the outstanding features of the type. He enumerates the main features of that "sanctuary, adapted to this (visible) world" (τὸ ἅγιον, κοσμικόν), which was attached to the first covenant (ver. 1). Particularly, he emphasizes its double structure, which presented first a consecrated chamber, holy but not holiest, the depository of lamp and table, but then beyond it, parted from it by the inner curtain, the adylum itself, the Holiest Place, where lay ready for use "a golden censer," the vessel needful for the making of the incense-cloud which should veil the glory, and, above all, the Ark of that first covenant of which so much has now been said. There it lay, with the manna and the budding rod, symbols of Mosaic and Aaronic power and function; and the tablets of that law which was written not on the heart but on the stone; and the mercy-seat above them, and the cherubic bearers of the Shechinah above the mercy-seat; symbols of a reconciliation and an access yet to be revealed (verses 2-5).
[F] Assuredly we must delete σκηνή from the text in this verse, and understand διαθήκη (see viii. 13) after ἡ πρώτη.
Such was the sanctuary, as depicted to the mind of the believing Hebrew in the books which he almost worshipped as the oracles of God. That tabernacle he had never seen; that ark he knew had long vanished out of sight. The temple of Herod, with its vacant Holiest, was the sanctuary of his generation. But the Mosaic picture of the Tent and of the Ark was for him the abiding standard, the Divine ideal, the pattern of the realities in the heavens; and to it accordingly the Epistle directs his thought, as it prepares to display those realities before him.[G]
[G] I do not attempt in these papers to do more than allude to the controversy of our time over the historical character of the Mosaic books. But I must allude in passing to a noteworthy German critique of the Wellhausen theory, "by a former adherent," W. Möller: Bedenken gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese, von einem früheren Anhänger (Gütersloh, 1899). The writer, a young and vigorous student and thinker, explains with remarkable force the immense difficulties from the purely critical point of view in the way of the theory that the account of the Tabernacle was invented by "Levitistic" leaders of the time of the Captivity. The work has been translated into English, and published by the Religious Tract Society "Are the Critics right?"
Then it proceeds to a similar presentation of one great feature in the ritual, the "praxis," connected with this Tent of Sanctuaries. It takes the reader to his Book of Leviticus, and to its order of Atonement. There (ch. xvi.) a profound emphasis is laid upon both the secluded sanctity of the inner shrine, the place of the Presence, and the sacrificial process by which alone the rare privilege of entrance into it could be obtained. The outer chamber was the daily scene of priestly ministration. But the inner was, officially at least, entered once only in the year, and by the High Priest alone, in the solitary dignity of his office. And even he went in there only as bearing in his very hands the blood of immolated victims, blood which he offered, presented, in the Holiest, with an express view to the Divine amnesty for another year's tale of "ignorances" (ἀγνοήματα, ver. 7), his own and the people's.
Such was the sanctuary, such the atoning ritual, attached to the first covenant. All was "mysteriously meant," with a significance infinitely deeper than what any thought of Moses, or of Ezra, could of itself have given it. "The Holy Ghost intimated" (ver. 8), through that guarded shrine and those solitary, seldom-granted, death-conditioned entrances into it, things of uttermost moment for the soul of man. There stood the Tent, there went in the lonely Priest, with the blood of bull and goat, as "a parable for the period now present,"[H] the time of the Writer and his readers, in which a ritual of offering was still maintained whose annual recurrence proved its inadequacy, its non-finality. Yes, this majestic but sombre system pictured a state of jealous reserve between the worshippers and their God. Its propitiations were of a kind which, in the nature of things, could not properly and in the way of virtual force set the conscience free from the sense of guilt, "perfecting the worshipper conscience-wise." They could only "sanctify with a view to the purity of the flesh" (ver. 13), satisfying the conditions of a national and temporal acceptance. Its holiest place was indeed approachable, once annually, by one representative person; enough to illustrate and to seal a hope; but otherwise, and far more deeply, the conditions symbolized separation and a Divine reserve. But "the good things to come"[I] were in the Divine view all along. The "time of reformation" (ver. 10), of the rectification of the failures suffered under the first covenant, drew near. Behold Messiah steps upon the scene, the true High Priest (ver. 11). Victim and Sacrificer at once, He sheds His own sacrificial blood (ver. 12) on the altar of Golgotha, to be His means (διὰ c. gen.) of acceptable approach. And then He passes, through the avenue of a sanctuary "not made with hands" (ver. 11), even the heavenly world itself (cp. διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς, iv. 14), into the Holiest Place of the eternal Presence on the throne. He goes in there, there to be, and there to do, all that we know of from the long context previous to this chapter, even to sit down accepted at the right hand of the majesty on high, King of Righteousness and Peace. And this action and entrance is, in its very nature, a thing done once and for ever. The true High Priest, being what He is, doing what He has done, has indeed "found eternal redemption for us" (ver. 12). It is infinitely unnecessary now to imagine a repetition of sacrifice, entrance, offering, acceptance, for Him, and for us in Him. Such an Oblation, the self-offering of the Incarnate Son in the power of the Eternal Spirit (ver. 14), what can it not do for the believing worshipper's welcome in, and his perfect peace in the assurance of the covenanted love of God? Is it not adequate to "purge the conscience from dead works," to lift from it, that is to say, the death-load of unforgiven transgressions, and to lead the Christian in, as one with his atoning Lord, "to serve a living God," with the happy service of a worshipper (λατρεύειν) who need "go no more out" from the Holy Place of peace?
[H] I think the Revisers are right in giving "now present" instead of "then present" as the rendering for τὸν ἐνεστηκότα (ver. 9). The Epistle alludes, so I should conjecture, to the period of its writing as a time when the sacrifices were still going on, albeit on the eve of cessation. --- It seems best to read καθ' ἥν, not καθ' ὅν, in ver. 9; "in accordance with which parable."
[I] Possibly we should read τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν, "the good things that are come" (R.V. marg.). But the practical difference is not great.
But the Teacher has not yet done with the wealth of the Mosaic types of our full salvation. He has more to say about the profound truth that the New Covenant needed for its Mediator, its Herald, its Guarantor and Conveyer of blessing, not a Moses but a Messiah, who could both die and reign, could at once be Sacrifice and Priest. Covenants, in the normal order of God's will in Scripture, demanded death for their ratification. "Where covenant is, there must be brought in the death of the covenant-victim." with the old covenant (verses 18-21) in the narrative of Exodus xxiv. So, throughout the Mosaic rules, we find "remission," practically always, conditioned by "blood-shedding" (ver. 22). Peace with violated holiness was to be attained only by means of sacrificial death. The terrestrial sanctuary, viewed as polluted by the transgressions of the worshippers who sought its benefits, required sacrificial death, the blood of bulls and goats, so to "cleanse" it that God could meet Israel there in peace (ver. 23). Even so, only after a higher and holier order, must it be with the better covenant and that invisible sanctuary where a reconciled God may for ever meet in peace His spiritual Israel. There must be priestly immolation and an offered sacrifice; there must be peace conditioned by life-blood shed. And such is the work of our Messiah-Priest. He has "borne the sins of many" (ver. 28). Presenting Himself (ver. 6) as the Atonement Victim, in the heavenly Holiest, He has thereby "borne," uplifted (ἀνενεγκεῖν), in that Presence, for pardon and peace, the sins of the new Israel. And so "the heavenly things" are, relatively to that Israel, "cleansed"; their God can meet them in that sanctuary with an intimacy and access free and perfect, because their High Priest and Mediator has done His work for them. For ever and ever now they need no new sacrifice; His blood, once shed, is eternally sufficient. Aye, and they need now for ever no repeated offering (ver. 25) of sacrifice, no new presentation of His blood before the throne, since once He has taken His place upon it. To offer again He must suffer again (ver. 26). For it is the law of His office first to offer --- and then to take His place at the right hand. He must leave that place, He must descend again to a cross, if He is to take again the attitude of presentation. "Henceforth" He sits, "expecting" (see below, x. 13), "till His enemies be made His footstool." And His Israel on their part wait (ver. 28), "expecting," till in that bright promised day "He appears, the second time, without sin," unencumbered by the burthen He once carried for them, "to salvation," the salvation which means the final glory. "Once, only once" --- this is the sublime law of that Sacrifice and that Offering. As death for us men comes "once," and then there follows "judgment," so the death of Christ, the "offering" of Christ, comes "once," and then comes, in a wonderful paradox, not judgment but "salvation," for them that are found in Him.
[J] So, with the late Professor Scholefield (Hints on a New Translation) I venture to render τοῦ διαθεμένου. I am convinced that this rendering, though it has the serious difficulty of lacking any clear parallel to certify the application of διαθεμένου, is necessitated by the connection.
The messages of this chapter for our time are equally manifest and weighty. It closes with the assertion of a principle which should be for all time decisive against all sorts and forms of "re-presentation" of the Lord our Sacrifice. He has "offered" Himself once and for ever, and is now, on our behalf, not in the Presence only but upon the Throne. Yet more urgent, more vital, if possible, is the affirmation here of the need and of the virtue of His vicarious death. The chapter puts His blood-shedding before us in a way as remote as possible from a mere example, or from a suffering meant to do its work mainly by a mysterious impartation to us of the power to suffer. He dies "for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant" --- in other words, for the welcome back to God of those who had sinned against His awful Law. He dies that we, "the called," "might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance." He dies, He offers, that we, wholly and solely because He has done so, may find the heavenly, invisible, spiritual Holiest a place of perfect peace with God, dwelling in it as in our spirits' home.
Are these the characteristic accents of the voice of the modern Church? Have we not need to listen again, reverent and believing, to the ninth chapter of the Hebrews, as it discourses about sanctuary, and sacrifice, and offering, and peace?
From Message from the Epistle to the Hebrews, By HANDLEY C.G. MOULE, D.D. BISHOP OF DURHAM. First Edition May 1909, Produced by Colin Bell, Thomas Strong and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Hebrews - H.C.G. Moule
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.