Hebrews 9:23“Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
Hebrews is dealing with the superiority of Christ. Here in Chapter 9, we see Christ is clearly superior to the Old Testament sacrifices, for they must be offered continually, but He was offered once to take away sin. We are even told, while it is appointed for all men to die once, then to face judgment, Jesus took the penalty on the cross, rescuing all who believe in Him from the judgment to come.
In discussing the superiority of Christ, the furnishings of the Tabernacle are listed; we are told they are “copies of heavenly things.” In fact, the Tabernacle and it’s furnishings, become a perfect illustration of the way of salvation. In Exodus, as the Children of Israel are working their way from Egypt to Canaan, God gave them plans for building the Tabernacle. This building would serve the purpose of making a way for man to be in right relationship with God.
The Tabernacle measured 15’x15’x45′ and was surrounded by a linen fence. Linen is not a durable fencing material. It is safe to say, none of our houses are surrounded by linen fences. The purpose of this fence was to symbolize the holiness of God, reminding the people they could not have access to God. However, on the eastern side of the fence, was an opening large enough for all to enter. Jesus told us, He was the doorway to heaven (John 10:7). Although God is holy and men are sinful, Jesus has provided a way, for any and all who will come to Him, to be forgiven and restored.
Once a person walked through the gateway, they would be face to face with the altar of sacrifice. This would remind them they are sinners in need a Savior. Just as the innocent animal was sacrificed for the guilty sinner, so Jesus, the Lamb of God, went to the cross to make a way for us. Right behind the altar was a large basin in which the priests would wash. Paul compared the Bible to water that washes the believer. Jesus told us that after He has cleansed us, we still need to have our feet washed (John 13:10a). The Word of God is the Christian’s cleansing agent. As we walk through this life, we get dirty, the Bible cleanses our mind and refreshes our spirit.
Inside the Tabernacle were five important pieces of furniture, each one symbolic of relationship with God. The Lamp-stand shedding its light, was symbolic of the work of the Spirit illuminating the Word, and was of God. The show bread speaks of Jesus as the bread of life, the incense altar is a picture of the prayers of the saints, and the Ark and mercy-seat, of the intimacy of relationship with God.
It can be helpful to use the Tabernacle as a roadmap, reminding us of our relationship with God that we now have because of the work of Christ. The High Priest, who alone entered in behind the veil once a year, speaks to us of the access we now have daily, to the very presence of God. Let’s take advantage and spend time with Jesus today.
Questions for Hebrews 9
Again, the larger theme of Hebrews is that “Jesus is better”. In this chapter the author is continuing an idea begun in chapter 5 that Jesus is a better High Priest than the high priest from the old system.
1. In verses 1-5 the author brings up some of the details of the old priesthood, but says that he cannot go into detail. If you would like a little better understanding, read Exodus 25.
2. Read verses 6-8. The innermost part of the tabernacle was called the “Holy Place”, the “Holy of Holies”, or the “Holiest of All”. God’s presence was in this place over the Mercy seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. How often could the High priest enter here? What did he need to do first? Could anyone else?
3. As we consider the old tabernacle and priesthood, note the first three words of verse 9. What does this tell us about them? Also see verse 23-24 later in the chapter.
4. In verse 11, what do we learn about the tabernacle that Jesus minister in?
5. Note verse 12. Who brings the greater sacrifice to God?
6. Note the word conscience in verse 9 and 14, and note verse 22. What does Jesus blood have the power to do that no other sacrifice can?
7. Read verses 24-28. How often does Jesus have to die for sin? Read John 19:30.