Jesus Serves in the True Tabernacle Set Up By The Lord (Hebrews 8:1-2)

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man” (Hebrews 8:1-2)

One Christmas during my youth my family received a large jigsaw puzzle which we started putting together that very afternoon. By the time News Year’s Eve rolled around we decided we wouldn’t eat dinner until the puzzle (on which we had labored all week) had been finished. Each piece revealed the puzzle in more detail and soon we had a very large montage of thousands of gumballs. It seemed like a miracle when we finally finished it.

Just as a puzzle, made up of thousands of pieces, reveals the larger image, the Levitical priesthood and all elements of the Law were a glimpse of the true system in heaven in which Jesus owns the title and position of High Priest. The earthly system helps us visualize what is currently taking place in the heavenly realm. These pieces, when put together, reveal the entire picture. Now that we have a working knowledge from the previous chapters of how everything relates, it is time to bring it all together and look at the big picture.

First, Jesus is the High Priest that God provided for us under the New Covenant. This is an amazing truth. The old system was flawed because of mankind’s inability to keep the covenant, so God made a New Covenant and based it on His ability to fulfill it (Hebrews 8:6). Then He set up Jesus as the guarantor of these promises (Hebrews 7:22).

Secondly, Jesus serves in the true heavenly tabernacle. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that tabernacle worship as illustrated and outlined in the law was fashioned after the true temple worship currently taking place in heaven. How else do you think Moses obtained the pattern for what he was instructed to build? (Exodus 25:40, Hebrews 8:5). The heavenly tabernacle was created, not by mankind, but by God which is why the earthly tabernacle only served as a type and shadow of the true one (Hebrews 10:1). The heavenly tabernacle is where Jesus poured His blood on the Mercy Seat for us (Hebrews 9:11-12). It was a perfect offering, not given according to the Law but according to the eternal priesthood that God ordained through Jesus.

Next, Jesus sat down because His work was finished and complete. Just as in the example from creation (Genesis 2:2), the rest that Jesus entered into after atonement was because everything was done. Not one thing was left unfinished.

Lastly, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father because this is the place of honor. The book of Hebrews opens with this very idea, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs“ (Hebrews 1:3-4). Jesus inherited the name above every name because God was so pleased with the redemptive work that Jesus completed. So Jesus has both the place of honor at the right hand of the Father and the name above every name (Psalm 110:1, Matthew 26:64, Acts 2:34, Philippians 2:9-10, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:4, Hebrews 12:2).

These things summarize the main point the writer is making concerning everything he has said about Jesus’ High Priesthood in the last couple of chapters. First it was Jesus who carried out the plan of redemption and acted as our High Priest chosen by God. Secondly these things took place in the true heavenly tabernacle. Next, Jesus sat down because it was finished. And lastly Jesus has the place of honor and the name above every name because the job He was given to do was done so completely and perfectly. This shows how our covenant with the Lord is completely different and far superior to the Old Covenant and why Jesus’ priesthood is one of the best gifts we’ve ever received. Knowing these things equips us for a changed life overshadowed by the goodness of the Lord.

The Gifts and Sacrifices Prescribed By the Law (Hebrews 8:3-4)

“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law” ( Hebrews 8:3-4 )

Jesus’ priesthood is unlike any other. The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to disconnect Jesus’ priesthood from the Levitical line. The picture he paints of the Levitical priesthood is a system that continually operates over and over without having permanence or resolution (Hebrews 7). In fact he mentions this very idea five times throughout the entire book, each time building on the last, making it more apparent that this system could not accomplish what Jesus could ( Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 8:3, Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:11 ).

The book of Leviticus describes the required gifts and sacrifices the priests were to make on behalf of the people. There were burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace, sin and guilt offerings, each sacrifice had specific guidelines and rituals required when making them. However, the result was the same; when the offering was made it was accepted by the Lord and became a pleasing aroma to Him. The priests were the only ones able to offer these gifts and sacrifices. It was their primary duty.

In the same way, Jesus, our High Priest, was also required to offer both gifts and sacrifices. The difference is that Jesus’ gifts and His sacrifice were far superior to the gifts offered according to the law. He did not bring animals to sacrifice as a covering for sin. He presented His body, which was prepared and given for this very purpose ( Hebrews 10:5-7 ). His sacrifice completely and utterly wiped away sin and its effects, so there was not even a record of them to accuse us ( II Corinthians 5:19, Hebrews 10:17-18, I John 2:2 ). The New Testament tells us that Jesus’ sacrifice was a fragrant and pleasing aroma to God ( Ephesians 5:2 ).

In fact, Jesus’ gifts and sacrifice did several things that the Levitical priesthood could never do and only hinted at. First, Jesus paid the debt left by sin, making our account balanced, absolving us from all guilt before God ( Romans 4:25, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:22 ). Secondly, He took our old sin nature gave us a new life fashioned after His own ( Romans 6:4, II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:24, I Peter 3:18 ). Next, He died so we could live apart from the law while obtaining the righteousness described within the law ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). This removed death’s claim on us ( I Corinthians 15:55, Ephesians 4:7-8, I Peter 3:18 ). Lastly through Jesus, not the law, we will experience the incomparable riches of His grace for all eternity ( Ephesians 2:7 ). This is why Jesus’ priesthood is unparalleled to any other.

In contrast to the Levitical line, Jesus only offered these gifts and sacrifices once. He did not do it over and over, once was all it took. In the same way that the writer of Hebrews describes the continual offerings of the earthly priesthood to show that the old system was inadequate, he points out many times how Jesus’ sacrifice worked the one and only time it was given ( Hebrews 5:9, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:24-25, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:22-23 ). This alone, shows how superior Jesus’ priesthood is. We are eternally blessed by the fact that Jesus has been appointed as our High Priest before God, making intercession for us. Faith in the saving name of Jesus alone is all it takes to secure a hope and future with Him eternally.

A Copy and a Shadow of What is In Heaven (Hebrews 8:5)

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” ( Hebrews 8:5 )

Growing up, my brother liked to build model planes. He would spend hours constructing a model patterned after a real plane. In fact, after the glue dried and the decals were applied the model looked very much like the real thing.

Old Testament temple worship was just like this. It was based on a pattern of the real thing that took place in the heavenly tabernacle. Moses was shown the entire thing when he met with God on the mountain ( Exodus 25:40 ). Then God instructed Moses to recreate this tabernacle and its practices on earth with a warning to make it exactly as he was shone.

This speaks to how detailed God is. The tabernacle, set up according to what takes place in heaven, was to serve as an illustration helping the people understand. The earthly system was a copy and a shadow of the heavenly system. It wasn’t a means in itself; it was a model or replica of the true system. It looked like it, it functioned like it, but it was merely a pattern and foreshadowing of the real thing. This is why Moses was told to make it exactly according to what he saw, because it was simply a model.

The main point the writer is making in Hebrews 8 is that Jesus, our High Priest, entered into the heavenly tabernacle to perform His priestly duties ( Hebrews 8:2, Hebrews 9:11 ). The model portrayed by the earthly priests, in the earthly tabernacle, is based on the pattern of the true tabernacle in heaven. The Levitical priesthood was given so we could visualize everything Jesus did there. Everything we learn from the Levitical priest is a foreshadowing to Jesus and His priesthood. God gave us these examples to teach us so we would have complete understanding of this true priesthood.

Just as the planes my brother built as a child helped him visualize how the real planes looked, they were never a substitute for the real thing. In the same way, we can gain a lot of understanding by looking at the earthly system as long as we understand that it is merely a copy and a shadow of the true system in heaven where Jesus resides seated at the right hand of God the Father because His work is perfect and complete.

Jesus’ Covenant Is Superior, Founded On Better Promises (Hebrews 8:6)

“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” ( Hebrews 8:6 )

Jesus is the mediator or guarantor of the Covenant of grace. This covenant is far superior in every way imaginable to the Covenant of Law. This is because it is founded on better promises and backed by an oath between God and Jesus that it will be lasting and eternal ( Hebrews 7:21 ). In fact, King David himself looked forward to this covenant and congratulated the recipients, pronouncing a blessing on them “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” ( Psalms 32:1-2, Romans 4:6-8 ).

The better promises on which  this covenant is founded rest solely in the Lord Jesus. It is superior because of this, and unlike the first, it is not based on cause and effect. In other words, God is not limited in his interaction with us based on something we do or do not do. In fact, chapter 8 defines the differences of the New Covenant. First He put his laws in our hearts and minds so that we can be familiar and intimate with His ways and precepts ( Hebrews 8:10 ). Secondly, He makes us His people, declaring that He will be our God ( Hebrews 8:10 ). Third, He reveals himself to us so that we do not need someone to tell us about God, we can experience Him for ourselves ( Hebrews 8:11 ). Lastly He has forgiven our sins and goes a step further declaring that he will also forget them entirely ( Hebrews 8:12 ). We have these amazing things as New Covenant believers, which is why our covenant is far superior than the previous one. This is what David saw and why he pronounced a blessing on us ( Psalms 32:1-2, Romans 4:6-8 ).

To highlight our wonderful covenant it is important to understand that the Old Covenant of Law was based on blessings and curses. Deuteronomy 28 lists both. The chapter starts out with these words spoken by the Lord, If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God” ( Deuteronomy 28:1-2 ). He then gives the list of blessing that were theirs by obeying Him. However it was conditional, “The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways” ( Deuteronomy 28:9 ).

In the same way, curses would befall the people when they were disobedient. “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” ( Deuteronomy 28:15 ). The list of the curses is immense and disastrous. This is why the New Covenant is so wonderful, because He placed His laws and precepts inside us and gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us to follow and obey ( I John 2:20, 27 ). This was not the case under the law of the Old Testament, they were subjected to the whims of the flesh. The Law strengthened sin against them arousing the desire for disobedience and the curses it brought ( Romans 7:10 , I Corinthians 15:56 ).

In the New Covenant, Jesus became a curse for us so we could have all of the blessings described in Deuteronomy 28 with none of the curses, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” ( Galatians 3:13-14 ). You can see how our Covenant is superior in every way. We receive all of the blessings and none of the curses. all because Jesus became the curse for us to redeems us from the Law.

In the same way our mediator is also far superior. Jesus is the Mediator of this Covenant just as Moses was the mediator of the Covenant of the Law. However Jesus has acquired a better ministry because he resides over it as a son not a servant. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast” ( Hebrews 3:5-6 ). Not only do we have a better and more advantageous Covenant based on nobler and higher promises, but we have a Mediator that is far superior in both title and position than that which was previously given. This is why the Old Testament Patriarchs looked forward to the time we enjoy because God has done a work through Jesus Christ that is unparalleled to anything they experienced. This is why God enacted the New Covenant making the first one obsolete ( Hebrews 8:13 ) so that we could be the people of God enjoying all of the blessings He bestows on us.

God Found Fault with the People Who Did Not Remain Faithful to His Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-9)

“For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord” ( Hebrews 8:7-9 )

I’ve struggled in the past while reading these verses because what stands out to me is the last statement saying, “they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord” (vs. 9). The Amplified puts it this way, “for they did not abide in My agreement with them, and so I withdrew My favor and disregarded them, says the Lord” (vs. 9 AMP). These statements seem so foreign to the God I know. It is hard to imagine Him ever saying these things. Setting out to reconcile this idea in my heart has brought wonderful revelation of what this passage is truly saying.

The key lies in the idea that the first covenant was flawed because of mankind’s inability to keep it, not because of God. This is why he found fault with the first covenant and brought about a new one. The first covenant was based on blessings and curses ( Deuteronomy 28 ). It was not like the covenant that God made Abraham and it is certainly not like the covenant that God made with us through Jesus. It was behavioral based. If they kept the commandments they received the blessings listed in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. If they disobeyed the commandments they received the curses listed. It was all spelled out, the Israelites were well aware of the terms when they agreed to it ( Exodus 24:3 ).

Of course mankind, being one hundred percent flesh at that time, couldn’t live up to it’s rigorous guidelines. In fact the Israelites are the ones who turned away from their part of the agreement first. This released God from His part, although He always remained faithful to it. This passage in Hebrews is a quote from Jeremiah 31, with a slight difference near the end, “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” declares the LORD” ( Jeremiah 31:31-32 ).

The relationship that Israel and God had, was akin to the marital relationship. The covenant agreement was a marriage agreement. Israel continually prostituted themselves with other gods even though the Lord was a husband to them. This led the Lord to give them a certificate of divorce ( Jeremiah 3:8 ). This did not annul God’s relationship with them, it merely made an allotment for Him to usher in a new covenant to include those outside the nation of Israel. Even though He divorced them, he told them to return. so He could establish a New Covenant with them still declaring himself as their husband. “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” ( Jeremiah 3:14-15 ).

He did in fact give us this Shepherd, who is the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being ( Hebrews 1:3 ). Jesus brought with him an understanding and revelation of God that was previously unknown ( John 1:14, II Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-3 ). In the first covenant, it was the Israelites themselves who caused all their suffering. God wanted to protect us from that because we could never live in the weakness of the flesh, which is why he sent Jesus to usher in a new covenant and give us the Holy Spirit so we could be born again not fashioned after the flesh but after the Spirit of God himself ( II Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:24 ).

The entire point is this; the first covenant had not been without defect. The weakness of the covenant was the people themselves. It wasn’t that God just disregarded them withdrawing His favor on a whim. God found fault with the people because their behavior showed how they choose everything else before God. The people broke the covenant agreement, not God. He is stressing in verse 9 that the New Covenant He ushered in will not be like the previous covenant. In other words, it will not be left to mankind to keep it, the covenant will entirely be dependent on God himself to bring it to pass, to ratify it and to uphold it for all eternity. Mankind can freely enter into it, but our behavior does not affect the terms or the outcome. This is why God found fault with the first in order to usher the second. Then He based the entire thing on His character and His ability to keep it. This is an amazing truth!

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Juli Camarin

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