Introduction: When God gave His people the Ten Commandments, He also gave them detailed instructions on how to build a place for Him to live with them. God's home on earth was designed for a procedure the people could use to rid themselves of sin. Any "outsider" looking at this would have concluded that God was very concerned about sin. After all, His dwelling itself addressed the problem of sin. Of course, an outsider would also probably be mystified by the "sin removal procedure" with its focus on the shedding of animal blood. This week we study Hebrews 9 to try to uncover what God really had in mind with His house design and sin procedures. Let's dive into our study!
- Earth Sanctuary
- Read Hebrews 9:1-5. What is this "earthly sanctuary?" What is being described in these verses? (If you review Exodus 25 & 26 you will see this is a description of the tabernacle that the Israelites built while on the Exodus from Egypt.)
- Read Exodus 25:8-9. What was God's reason for having the Israelites build this tabernacle? (God wanted to dwell with them. This was to be God's dwelling on earth.)
- Who decided how the tabernacle and the furnishings should be made? ( Exodus 25:9 and Exodus 26:30 reveal that God gave the plans for the tabernacle and the furnishing to Moses. You would expect the owner of a home to select the design.)
- Hebrews 9:1 describes the "first covenant" as having "regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary." Is the "first covenant" the same as the "old covenant?" (Yes, these are interchangeable terms.)
- Was God's house part of the "old covenant?"
- How about the Ten Commandments? Are the Ten Commandments also part of the "old covenant?" ( Hebrews 9:4 mentions the "stone tablets of the covenant." This is a clear reference to the Ten Commandments. However, Hebrews 9:1 teaches us that the old covenant was not simply the Ten Commandments, but the entire system of worship regulations that were part of the sanctuary service.)
- Let's continue on in Hebrews 9. Read verses 6-8. Carefully consider verse 8.
- Why was God's dwelling place designed to deal with the sins of the people?
- What is the "way into the Most Holy Place?"
- How was that "way" not disclosed? Wasn't it just the next room? Was God's house so big you couldn't find your way around it?
- Why did God's house, the tabernacle (sanctuary, temple) have to be destroyed before the "way" could be disclosed?
- What did finding the "way" get you?
- Read Hebrews 9:9-10. How do these verses answer the questions I just asked? (What happened in the temple service on earth was merely an "illustration" - it was symbolic. The high priest went into the Most Holy Place only on the Day of Atonement - the one day a year when the sins of the people were totally erased from them and the temple. (See Leviticus 16) The purpose of the Day of Atonement was to remove sin from the community and God's house. This ritual illustrated (symbolized) Jesus' death to take away sins. Therefore, until Jesus came, the "way into the Most Holy Place" was not truly realized. Once Jesus came and died for our sins, the symbol no longer had any purpose. The reason for its existence had ended. It is for that reason that the curtain which separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple was torn in two at Jesus' death. ( Matthew 27:60-51))
- Notice something interesting in verse 9: we are told the sanctuary sin removal procedure "is an illustration for the present time." I thought it was an illustration for the people who lived under the old covenant, not for the people who were first reading Hebrews. Why does the writer of Hebrews say this? (2,000 years after Jesus' death the answer is not obvious to us. We think (correctly) that the old covenant sacrificial system was a lesson to the people about what would happen to the Messiah. However, if you back things up about 2,000 years ago, we see the Bible writers trying to convince the people that Jesus was the Messiah. Thus, the writer of Hebrews is arguing that Jesus' death is proof that He was the Messiah because the sanctuary service illustrated the fact that the Messiah would have to die for our sins.)
- Heavenly Sanctuary
- Read Hebrews 9:11. What tabernacle "is not a part of this creation?" (This turns on the light. This text tells us that God has a perfect home (tabernacle, temple, sanctuary) in heaven. God's command for the Israelites to build a place for Him to dwell on earth based on a pattern He gave them was merely a command to build a model based on God's perfect dwelling in heaven.)
- Read Hebrews 9:12-14. Why did God set up the "sin removal procedure" in His earthly home? (It symbolized what Jesus is doing for us.)
- Do you think that Jesus actually entered God's temple in heaven just as the high priest entered the Most Holy Place in the earthly temple on the Day of Atonement? (That is exactly what this text tells us.)
- Notice that Hebrews 9:13 speaks of being "outwardly clean." Why does it use that term to describe the old covenant system? (It is only the life and death of Jesus on our behalf that truly cleans us of our sins. He is the only way to have our sins truly forgiven. Hebrews 10:4 tells us it is "impossible for the blood of [animals] to take away sins.")
- Read Hebrews 9:15. What new things are we learning about the "new covenant" in this text? (What is "new" about the new covenant is that Jesus has given His life for our sins so that we can be truly clean of sin. He is also our mediator, like the high priest of the old sanctuary service, except Jesus' mediation gives us "the promised eternal inheritance.")
- Read Hebrews 9:24. Under the new covenant, what is Jesus doing for us right now? (He is "appearing for us." When I represent a client in court, I make what is known as "an appearance" for that client. We are Jesus' clients when He appears before God the Father in God's dwelling in heaven.)
- What kind of client are you?
- How much does it matter?
- Read Hebrews 9:26b-27. Who is the focus of this judgment? (This says that Jesus sacrificed Himself to do away with our sins. The focus is on Jesus, not you. However, we must not forget the "big picture" of the symbolic system on earth. The people came to the temple, they confessed their sins and the shedding of animal blood pointed them towards the coming sacrifice of Jesus. Nothing under the new covenant lessens the need for coming to God, confessing our sins, and relying on the sacrifice and work of our Mediator in heaven.)
- Verse 27 tells us that Jesus is coming again "to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." Don't we already have salvation? What does this mean? (Read Galatians 1:4. The NIV says "rescue us from the present evil age." "Evil age" is the phrase used by about half the translations I consulted. "Evil world" is the phrase used by the other half. I think the "rescue" takes us out of this evil world. When Jesus comes to bring salvation to us, He is coming to take us out of this world and up to heaven where He lives!)
- Friend, God has always been greatly concerned about the sin problem. His home on earth and His home in heaven address this very issue. He sent His Son to come and live as a man, perfectly obey the law, and then die on our behalf. Jesus, as fully God and fully man, is the perfect connection between God and us. Given God's great concern about sin, and His offer of a way out of sin and into salvation, will you accept it today? Will you determine to avoid sin until He takes you to heaven with Him?
- Next week: Covenant Faith