Cherubim of Glory Overshadowing the Atonement Cover (Hebrews 9:1-5)

Hebrews 9:1-5“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now” ( Hebrews 9:1-5 )

Worship as directed under the first covenant was very detailed. Everything was laid out according to the pattern Moses was shone on the mountain. Everything included in the temple worship had special meanings and significance. Even the items themselves which were placed within the Most Holy Place represented God’s supernatural ability to care for and lead the Israelites.

Behind the second curtain was the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt with the people. Inside the Ark was the gold jar of manna, a reminder of the bread that fed the Israelites for years while wandering through the desert in disobedience, Aaron’s staff, which God used after a rebellion to show that Aaron and the Levites were His chosen priests ( Numbers 17 ). And lastly, the Ark contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments to remind the Israelites of their Covenant.

Guarding the ark and the Most Holy Place were cherubim of glory. The Israelites could not enter because these creatures protected this area. In fact, only the High Priest could enter this room, and only once a year with blood which He poured on the mercy seat making atonement for the sins of the people. The priest made this offering directly before God. We know this from Moses’ account inside the tent, “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him” ( Numbers 7:89 ).

The writer of Hebrews is drawing attention to all of these details, but notice the last statement in verse 5 declaring that these things cannot be discussed any longer. Why? Because the creatures guarding the way into the Most Holy Place where God dwelt among His people are no longer there. This is an amazing truth! After Jesus entered into the more perfect tabernacle in heaven to make perfect atonement for us, there was no longer a need for warrior angels to protect the way to God. Jesus opened this up so that we could have direct access to God the Father ( Hebrews 10:19-22 ). In fact, we are now to approach the throne of grace in confidence ( Hebrews 4:16 ) in a way the Israelites never could.

This makes perfect sense considering the last verse of chapter 8, “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” ( Hebrews 8:13 ). Jesus brought with Him a new way of approaching God. We can approach Him in faith washed clean by the body of Christ, unafraid of anything standing in our way because anything that could condemn or harm us has been removed by the blood of Jesus. Our covenant of grace is vastly superior and Jesus is the one who will forever protect and guarantee the way into the presence of the Father Himself.

The Most Holy Place Was Not Open While the First Tabernacle Was Standing (Hebrews 9:6-8)

Hebrews 9:6-8“When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.  The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing” ( Hebrews 9:6-8 )

To understand everything that Jesus completed for us as our High Priest we have examples from the earthly Levitical priesthood to guide us in our understanding. Hebrews 9 uses examples from this system to show us how Jesus performed the very same acts on our behalf in the presence of God the Father in the heavenly tabernacle. We can glean so much wonderful truth from these passages of Scripture.

The writer is showing how entrance to the Holy of Holies was not accessible under the Old Covenant. The priests were able to enter into the outer portion of the tabernacle to carry out their daily duties. However, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and he could only enter once a year. In fact, the High Priest wore bells around his ephod so that the sound of bells could be heard when entering before the presence of the Lord.

“The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die” ( Exodus 28:34-35 ). Bells were worn to give off sounds so everyone in the outer portions would know the High Priest’s status when ministering. The Cherubim of Glory circled around the atonement cover protecting the entrance to the Most Holy Place ( Exodus 25:22, Hebrews 9:5 ). So many guidelines were to be met before the Priest could even enter, so the confidence level was extremely low when entering.

The High Priest also had to enter with blood from animal sacrifices which he offered for both himself, and Israel. It was offered for all sins, even the ones committed in ignorance and thoughtlessness. It was a covering for a time period but these sacrifices were to continually be made. There was no permanence to this covering.

This system was an illustration looking forward to the time of Christ. As long as this system was in place the new system was not enacted. In the same way, when Christ came, He fulfilled everything that the Levitical priesthood foreshadowed. In other words, when Jesus came and took the role as High Priest, there was no longer a need for the previous institution. Because the way into the Most Holy Place was thrown wide open by Jesus ( Hebrews 10:19-20 ).

The amazing truth in all of this is that Jesus has made it possible to enter into the presence of God the Father. This was never the case while the first tabernacle was standing. However Jesus’ blood has completely cleansed us so that we are able to enter in to the throne room through the veil which is His body and boldly come before the Father ( Hebrews 10:21-22 ). As believers, we are included in a wonderful heritage. Peter tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” ( I Peter 2:9 ). What was limited to a few because of a family line, has now been thrown wide open and offered to everyone who puts trust in Jesus.

The Sacrifices Offered Could Not Clear the Conscience (Hebrews 9:9-10)

Hebrews 9:9-10“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” ( Hebrews 9:9-10 )

On this side of the cross we celebrate certain things to remind ourselves of everything Jesus accomplished on the cross. Communion is a great example of this. As we symbolically partake in the body and blood of Christ Jesus we remind ourselves of the sacrifice God the Father and his son Jesus made on our behalf. We remind ourselves that His body was broken so that we may be whole. We remind ourselves that His blood was shed so that we can be forgiven. We do this to remember.

In the same way, the Israelites experienced and celebrated certain rituals that were aimed at looking forward to the time of Christ Jesus. They were by no means an end unto themselves; they served as an illustration of the new order, or the institution of Jesus’ eternal High Priesthood.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, theses ceremonies were carried out. If this system could have worked, then the repetition would not have been needed, in other words, they would not have offered the same gifts and sacrifices over and over. Understanding this, we see why the entire system served as an illustration. The sacrifices made never cleared the conscience of the worshipper. What was offered was never able to renew the inner man because it only dealt with external rules and regulations for the body. This is why a new order was needed, one that dealt with the heart of mankind.

The sacrificial system was meant to point the worshipper to the coming Messiah. Just as we look back to the cross, the Israelites entire system of worship looked forward to the Cross. In both cases, Jesus plays the lead role. Since He has come, there is no longer a need for this illustration because we have the real thing. Hebrews 10:1 sums up this very thought, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” ( Hebrews 10:1 ). The shadow is inconsequential when the real thing is present. Unlike the illustration, Jesus is able to wash clean and clear the conscience of those who come to him. This shows how vastly different and far superior the New Covenant is over the Old. I am thankful that we are on this side of the cross looking back in remembrance to Jesus’ sacrifice, with no need for an illustration because what we have is the real thing.

Jesus Obtained Eternal Redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Hebrews 9:11-12“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” ( Hebrews 9:11-12 )

One of the most amazing truths throughout the entire Bible and a marvelous theme in the book of Hebrews is that our sins are completely paid for, eternally forgiven, forgotten and removed from all records. In fact, the writer of Hebrews mentions this idea so many times in chapters 8, 9 and 10 that it is impossible to miss. Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for those who put saving faith in Him.

If we have been redeemed, it is important for us to understand what it is. In the Old Testament redemption was the process of buying something back For instance if a person sold a piece of property to another, by law, the seller or a family member could redeem their land so that no family would be without their inheritance ( Leviticus 25:23-25 ). If they didn’t have the means to for redemption then everything was returned to them in the Year of Jubilee ( Leviticus 25:28 ). This principle applied to land, people and possessions.  The Law made it possible for the next of kin, also known as “kinsman redeemer” to rescue a person or property ( Leviticus 25:47-55 ). Redemption was a family matter.

Mankind was sold into slavery in the Garden of Eden. Adam, God’s representative for mankind, had been given full authority and possession of the earth ( Genesis 1:28-30 ). Everything belonged to him. He transferred this birthright to Satan when he ate from the tree that God instructed him not to ( Genesis 2:16-17 ). According to the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer only a relative could redeem or purchase back that which was lost or sold. In other words, mankind was the only one who could provide this redemption. This is why Jesus came in the flesh, fully God and fully man ( Isaiah 59:16, John 1:14 ). Jesus became our brother so Adam and all mankind could be redeemed ( Hebrews 2:11 )

Jesus has been called the second Adam because He was able to undo everything that the first Adam did. As God’s second representative for mankind, He came and restored mankind’s birthright through the redemption process. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” ( Romans 5:18 ). Jesus acted as our Kinsman Redeemer and purchased back everything that mankind lost in the garden.

Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer, this is an amazing truth! He did not enter into the man-made tabernacle but into the Most Holy Place in the heavenly tabernacle in the very presence of God the Father to redeem us. His blood was the entrance fee to intercede on our behalf before God in Heaven ( Hebrews 9:12 ). His blood was poured on the Mercy Seat to atone and cleanse us from our sin ( Hebrews 9:14 ). He is the mediator guaranteeing our eternal inheritance because He died as a ransom to set free, rescue and deliver us from all transgressions under the first covenant ( Hebrews 9:15 ). He has done away with sin once for all by his perfect sacrifice ( Hebrews 9:26 ). And lastly He has restored the relationship between God and mankind eternally ( Hebrews 10:19-22 ).

All of this was accomplished by the law of the Kinsman Redeemer. And because Jesus is the second Adam, He was able to eternally secure our redemption. His blood was the purchase price which paid for an everlasting release from sin, death and judgment. This makes Jesus the pinnacle of history, the most significant person in all of humanity. He is the eternal God and the Savior of the world. Jesus is the reason we have life and the reason we have eternally been redeemed!

The Blood of Christ Cleanses Our Conscience (Hebrews 9:13-14)

Hebrews 9:13-14“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” ( Hebrews 9:13-14 )

Jesus came to give life. This is an amazing truth. We once were dead, but Christ came to give us life and the life He gives is abundant.

If the blood of bulls and goats sanctified the Israelites for the purification of the body just think how much more surely the blood of Christ cleanses us. The Israelites only experienced a momentary cleansing and this was only for the outside of the body. However, Jesus’ blood works from the inside out. It purifies the heart of man, eliminating the eternal effects of sin and purging the conscience of the guilt and shame that results from sin.

This was possible because Jesus’ blood was unblemished by sin. He was perfect and sinless. He fulfilled the letter of the Law which qualified Him for being the perfect sacrifice. He became our sin so that we could have His righteousness ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). This is the best trade ever recorded in history!

The result for us is that we are able to serve the living God. We have been cleansed and our consciences have been purified from dead works. We stand before the Lord holy, righteous and completely justified. We are not like the Israelites who serve at an altar and continually adhere to lifeless observances and rituals. We come before the Most High God, changed and accepted. Cleansed and purified from within.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” ( Hebrews 10:19-23 ).

Juli Camarin

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