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A chapter by chapter examination of the Book of Hebrews; this book examines the ways in which God has moved towards a better covenant with man. The historical background of the Book of Hebrews as well as contextual discussions add insight and relevance to Hebrews.
Category - Bible Commentaries
We have already discussed the most basic difference between the Old and New Covenants. The Old Covenant hinges upon man’s obedience, while the New Covenant depends only upon the ability of God to change the heart of man. For this reason, the Old Covenant is said to be conditional, containing the crucial phrase “if you will obey” in Exodus 19:5. There is no such condition in the New Covenant as stated in Jeremiah 31 or in Hebrews 8.
For this reason, the New Covenant can be seen clearly in God’s statement to Moses in Num. 14:21, after Moses reminded God that the nations would question His ability to bring Israel into the Promised Land:
21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
In that situation, Israel was still attempting to receive the promises of God by virtue of their obedience. For that reason, they failed to receive the promises. However, God spoke of a day when not only Israel but the whole earth would be filled with His glory. Such a promise could only be fulfilled if it were based upon the New Covenant and God’s ability to make it happen.
Hebrews 9 and 10 portray other distinctive details concerning the difference between the two covenants in relation to the manner of worship that God requires.
1 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer [external, physical] one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. 3 And behind the second veil, there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4 having a golden altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant. 5 And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
The Ark of the Covenant was considered to be the throne of God. It is said in Num. 7:89 that God spoke to Moses “from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim.” The Ark itself contained the tablets of the law, identifying the throne with the law. When a monarch sat upon a throne, it signified that he was judging the people according to the law of the land. So it was also with God sitting upon the Ark of the Covenant.
Ruling and judging the people from that position was meant to portray the fact that God judged by His law, and yet ruled from the mercy seat, “for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136). This is one of the most important features of the Ark of the Covenant, and yet the least understood. God does not put away the law by mercy, but He knows how to apply the law with mercy. No one can truly understand the character and mind of God apart from knowing how to apply the divine law with mercy. In other words, one must understand the law through the eyes of Jesus Christ with a New Covenant understanding.
In the same manner must we understand all of the furniture in the old tabernacle. Though these were physical structures, they must be understood as types of something greater that manifests a revelation of the divine character. But Hebrews 9:5 cuts off that discussion abruptly, so as not to make the book too long.
6 Now when these things have been thus prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing the divine worship, 7 but into the second only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time.
Only the Levites were allowed to enter the physical tabernacle (or temple), and not the general citizenry of Israel. Furthermore, only the high priest was allowed to enter into the Most Holy Place—and that only once a year. Such were the limitations of the Old Covenant. Prior to the ratification of the New Covenant on the cross, “the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed.”
The point is that the Old Covenant allows the citizens of the Kingdom to have only a distant access to God from the outer court. It allows the priests of Levi to have a little closer access to God in the holy place. Even the high priest of Levi could go into the Holy of Holies only once a year, as if God only reluctantly allowed him to come close.
By contrast, of course, the New Covenant tears away the veils and gives all men direct access to God.
9 . . . Accordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10 since they relate only to food and drink and various washings [baptismos, “baptisms”], regula-tions for the body imposed until a time of reformation.
Those cleansing ceremonies characterizing the Old Covenant were only outer forms and physical rituals which could not do anything to change the heart. However, those things symbolized matters of the heart and spiritual things, and for this reason each ritual prophesied of another aspect of the New Covenant that was yet to come. The “outer” prophesied of the “inner” cleansing that could indeed take place by the blood of the High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek and by the washing of the Word itself.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
As High Priest, Jesus gave His own life and shed His own blood as the perfect and spotless Lamb of God. He then entered the heavenly tabernacle—“not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation”—to finish the work once for all. Take note that He did not enter the Holy of Holies in the outer temple in Jerusalem. That temple did not even contain the Ark of the Covenant, for this had disappeared at the time of the Babylonian captivity 600 years earlier. The Holy of Holies in the time of the New Testament was simply an empty room with a stone placed in the spot where the Ark should have been.
One can only speculate what the high priests had done with the blood of the goat every year on the Day of Atonement when they entered that darkened room. If they were depending upon the physical structure for their salvation, there was no possible way that they could be saved in that manner.
Take note that Jesus entered the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary in heaven “once for all.” There is no need to rebuild a physical temple in Jerusalem either now or in the future. If such a place should ever be rebuilt (and if authorized by God), such a structure would be for Levitical priests alone. Jesus would not be allowed to enter the premises today any more than He would have been allowed to enter it 2,000 years ago. For this reason, after He was raised from the dead, He did not enter that temple made with hands to sprinkle His blood in the Holy of Holies. Instead, He ascended to heaven where the true temple was located, and there He did the work that would be effective once for all.
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The ashes of the red heifer were kept on the top of the Mount of Olives so that people could purify themselves with it as they came to Jerusalem from the East. These ashes were to be kept “outside the camp” (Num. 19:9), which was defined as 2,000 cubits outside the city walls. This also happened to be the location where David made sacrifice when he was leaving Jerusalem in the revolt of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:30).
Jesus, of course, fulfilled both Moses and David when He was crucified in that precise location “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13). He was crucified next to the ashes of the red heifer along the path from Bethany to Jerusalem. He was, therefore, the true “red heifer,” and His death, applied to us as spiritual ashes, cleanses our conscience from sin.
Likewise, He fulfilled the works of David when He experienced the pain of rejection as King. The throne of David was usurped from Him, though He was the rightful Heir. He was betrayed by Judas, even as David had been betrayed by Ahithophel. Judas later hanged himself, even as Ahithophel did previously. Judas was from the town of Hebron, the place where Absalom’s revolt began. (Iscariot is the Grecianized form of Ish-Kerioth, “man of Kerioth.” Kerioth-arba was the old name for Hebron.)
The physical ashes of the red heifer were applied to the people under the Old Covenant to purify their flesh in an outer way. But such ashes, along with the blood of calves and goats, could never truly purify the heart in a way that God required. For this reason, those ceremonies had to be repeated continually, to show their ineffectiveness.
On the other hand, the blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb, the perfect Goat, the perfect Calf, and the perfect Heifer, is the only means by which the heart and conscience might be purified in the sight of God. He was the perfect Sacrifice, and all animals before Him were mere imperfect and carnal types and shadows prophesying of a greater Sacrifice yet to come.
15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of a New Covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Even as Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant (Gal. 3:19), so also Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. Jesus Christ, therefore, is the One of whom Moses spoke when he prophesied in Deut. 18:15, saying,
15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; you shall listen to Him.
Furthermore, Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:5 and 6,
5 For there is one God and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.
There are no other mediators and certainly no “mediatrix” (i.e., Mary). Only one man gave Himself as a ransom for all. Much as we might honor Mary for bringing forth Jesus—and she should be so honored—she did not die for our sins.
It required the death of the Mediator to pay for the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Only His blood was sufficient payment to ransom us from the debt which the law demanded for the sin of the world. Therefore, only His blood could purchase our aionian inheritance. That aionian inheritance is not the physical land of Canaan, but our bodies, made of the dust of the ground, redeemed, sanctified, and glorified through the fulfillment of the feasts of Israel.
16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
Here is where it is helpful to understand that a covenant also carries the meaning of a testament. A testament is a legal will that is drawn up by the living with the idea that its provisions will take force upon his death. For this reason, both the Old and New Testaments were made effective and ratified by blood. Moses made the Old Covenant effective by using the blood of calves and goats. Jesus made the New Covenant effective by His own death and blood.
In order to understand what the author of Hebrews is saying in regard to God’s will, and how it relates to the two testaments, we must pause in our study to explain how the law works in this regard. When a man dies, his “last will and testament” is read to the inheritors. A testament is not in force (activated) until the testator dies. Only then will the trustees read it to them and begin to dispense its provisions.
The first testament’s trustees were the Aaronic priests. They were the executors of the first (or Old) Testament. As executors of the will, they failed to properly disperse the blessings and provisions of the first will. Their job was to dispense the blessings of God to all families of the earth, as revealed to Abraham in Gen. 12:3. But instead, these lawyer-executors of the will, these trustees of the will, decided to steal those blessings for themselves and for their own friends and relations, as if they were the sole inheritors.
Aaron, as high priest, was appointed as the original executor of God’s will. His powers and responsibilities are listed in the books of the law. There was a provision for succession, because Aaron’s sons were to succeed him in death as executors. It was their sacred duty to identify the inheritors correctly and dispense the inheritance accordingly. However, they ran into some problems almost from the beginning. First, Aaron made a golden calf for the people (Ex. 32:2-4). Later, two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly offered “strange fire” in burning incense (Lev. 10:1) and were killed by this.
A few centuries later, during the days of the High Priest, Eli, his sons had become so corrupt that God’s presence left that location at Shiloh. Eli was 98 years old at the time, and the glory of God did not return for another 98 years when Solomon’s Temple was built and glorified by his presence.
Yet within two centuries, the priesthood in Jerusalem had again become corrupted, and God’s presence left that temple as well (Ezekiel 10, 11). Even when the second temple was built after the Babylonian captivity, the glory of God did not return to Jerusalem, for Jeremiah had prophesied that God would leave that place as He had left Shiloh (Jer. 7:14). He never returned to Shiloh. Neither will He return to Jerusalem—that is, the old Jerusalem.
In Jesus’ day, the priests in Jerusalem failed to give Jesus His inheritance, although they knew that He was the Heir. In Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, they said (Matt. 21:38), “This is the Heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on His inheritance.”
In appropriating the inheritance for themselves, rather than acting as executors of the inheritance, they usurped authority, even as a corrupt law firm might do today with someone’s inheritance. They broke trust with God and disqualified themselves as executors of the will.
For this reason, God fired them and replaced them with a new set of executors, called the Melchizedek Order. These are the overcomers, and they are characterized by having the mind of Christ in dispensing the inheritance to the inheritors.
The beneficiaries of God’s will were to inherit the earth, each in his own portion of God’s estate. They were to be responsible to care for it with respect. Environmental issues, then, are very much part of the responsibility that should concern the inheritors. But it goes beyond that, for the land must be used in accordance with the dispositive provisions set forth in Scripture.
Dispositive provisions are the conditions or terms by which the blessings of the inheritance might be dispensed to the inheritors. Under the Old Testament, the law itself lists the dispositive provisions—the conditions that must be fulfilled before the blessings of God could be given to the people. For instance, the land was to enjoy a rest every seventh year (Lev. 25:4). Many farmers today do this through the principle of crop rotations and allowing the land to lie fallow; but for it to work best, the practice should be uniform throughout the country.
Some disagree with this, thinking that it is not practical to produce no food for an entire year. God anticipated this very question and answered it in Lev. 25:20 and 21,
20 But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 Then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years.
This requires faith, of course, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Yet even so, there is no reason why grain could not be stored a little at a time during the entire six-year period, even as Joseph did.
Another provision in the law was that there must be a Jubilee declared after seven land Sabbaths in the 50th year to allow every man to return to his inheritance (Lev. 25:13), if he should lose it or sell it for any reason during the previous 49 years.
In distributing the inheritances to the beneficiaries, it must be understood that the priests only held the inheritance in trust and were not totally free to use it or dispose of it as they pleased. Likewise, the people only owned the land on condition that they remain obedient to the legal conditions stated in the law, for God is the Creator of the whole earth. Lev. 25:23 and 24 says,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide the redemption of the land.
Land ownership in the Bible is conditional upon obedience. In writing a will, the testator has the right not only to identify his beneficiaries, but also to specify certain conditions which must be fulfilled before the beneficiary can actually receive the inheritance. Thus, in the will of the first covenant, God sets forth the conditions in Exodus 19:5,
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession [specially owned] among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.
No one gets to inherit unless they meet the special conditions of the will’s dispositive provision. Unfortunately, Israel violated the law and did not fulfill those provisions. Theoretically, they might have had success, if they had not been so fearful. But when they refused to draw near to hear the rest of the law (Ex. 20:19-21) and to have it written on their hearts by the spoken Word directly from God, the law was then given on external tablets of stone and imposed upon them from the outside.
But we all know that no amount of laws imposed from outside can change a rebellious heart that is motivated by fear and lack of love or faith. Such laws may regulate behavior and restrain sin, but they can never alter human nature or instill in us the mind of Christ.
And so Israel failed to meet the dispositive provision of that first covenant, and ultimately, they were disinherited. Israel was sent into the Assyrian captivity, and later Judah was sent into the Babylonian captivity.
Judah was allowed to return for a season, however, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2 that the Messiah, who was the Primary Heir, would be born in Bethlehem of Judah. But when He came, the executors of God’s will rejected Him and killed Him in order to usurp His inheritance for themselves. He who perfectly fulfilled the entire law was accused of lawlessness, blasphemy, and for violating the Sabbath.
And so in the end, Judah was also disinherited under the dispositive provisions of the law. Thus, the entire nation—all the tribes—were disinherited under the first covenant, paving the way for a New Covenant, a new testament, and a new way by which men may inherit the Kingdom.
A New Covenant was needed, because, as Heb. 8:9 says, “for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them” (NASB). In other words, they violated the conditions of the first covenant. The New Covenant did what the first covenant could not do, because God made Himself the responsible party to fulfill the conditions of the will. Heb. 8:10 says,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Whereas the people had run away under Moses, they would draw near to Jesus Christ. Under Moses the law was given on tables of stone; under Jesus the law is being written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Pentecost was to make it possible for the law to be written on our hearts, so that we would be able to receive the inheritance.
But, you say, it is by faith and not by works. I do not have to qualify by obedience in order to receive my inheritance from God. I have it now, even though I am not following the law.
That is a partial truth. Because it is based upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not upon our own righteousness, the FACT of universal reconciliation has been established at the cross. It is the FACT that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). God is now responsible for seeing to it that all men will have the law written on their hearts. Therefore, all will be heirs of God, for “all families of the earth” are named in His will as beneficiaries.
However, the WHEN question is currently being resolved—“each one in his own order” (1 Cor. 15:23). This means that not everyone gets an inheritance at the same time. They still have to conform to the original dispositive conditions of the will. The difference is that under the New Covenant, God will make that possible for all men by working internally in their hearts, instead of simply imposing the law upon them against their wills and against their carnal nature.
The full truth is that we have been given three steps to the inheritance. These are three feasts that we must experience before we may inherit. The three feasts are a summary of the three main dispositive provisions that all mankind must fulfill before they can inherit the blessings of God’s will.
With Israel under Moses, the people had to keep the Passover and leave Egypt. Justification was a prerequisite to inheriting. Secondly, they had to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost at Mount Sinai, without which they would not have the faith necessary to enter the Promised Land.
As we know, Israel ran into problems at Mount Sinai when they refused to draw near to God at Pentecost. Hence, they died in the wilderness, not having received the promised inheritance. They were still “saved,” but their inheritance was postponed by the dispositive conditions that determine WHEN the inheritance will be given.
Under the New Covenant, God has taken responsibility upon Himself to instill faith in all men, so that they will believe that Jesus Christ died for their sin. In so doing, they will have faith in the blood of the Lamb and thereby experience Passover. Some will experience this during their life time, and others at the Great White Throne when all unbelievers will be raised. At that time, “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess (or swear allegiance—NASB) that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Isaiah 45:23; Phil. 2:10, 11)
There will be no unbelievers in that day, because every man will have a personal revelation of Jesus Christ as he stands before Him. All will be justified in that day.
Those of us who have faith in Him in this life time have opportunity to begin dealing with the leaven by Pentecost, which is the second feast and the second step toward meeting the provisions of the inheritance. This involves being led by the Spirit daily, submitting to the fire of God that purifies us and writes His law upon our hearts.
The unbelievers, however, will have to submit to the discipline of the “lake of fire” after the Great White Throne judgment. In effect, the lake of fire is the baptism of fire—Pentecost—by which men will be put under the authority of the overcomers to learn righteousness.
As believers, we know that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). But this does not mean that we received the inheritance yet. We have no more received our inheritance than Israel did at Sinai. No, the inheritance was the Promised Land—in their case, it was the land of Canaan. Though they were heirs from the beginning, they could not receive their inheritance until the Feast of Tabernacles.
So it is also with us. Though we are heirs, there are dispositive provisions that must be fulfilled before we actually receive the inheritance specified in His will. These establish the WHEN question—WHEN will all be saved? WHEN will all families of the earth be blessed? WHEN will all receive their inheritance from God?
For this reason, we read in 2 John 8,
8 Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.
The dispositive provisions have changed form, but they are still there. We no longer have to kill a lamb for Passover, nor do we have to put blood on the lintels and door posts of our houses. Today we apply the blood of Jesus to our minds and ears and have our hearts (altars) sprinkled with His blood.
We no longer have to go to Sinai for Pentecost, for we have come to a new Mount Zion in a heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22). We no longer have to bake two loaves of bread with leaven (Lev. 23:17), but rather we offer our hearts to Him as the two tablets on which to write the law.
We no longer have to pitch booths and camp out for the Feast of Tabernacles, as they had to do under the first covenant. We might do so as a learning tool, but to truly “keep” this feast, we must be clothed with that tabernacle from above—the glorified body—that mortality might be swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:4).
In order to receive the inheritance, one must experience all three feasts, for the dispositive provisions of the New Covenant are: justification, sanctification, glorification. All the conditions of inheritance are summarized by these three things.
Keep in mind that prior to being clothed with that heavenly tabernacle from above, we are not perfected yet. Neither Passover nor Pentecost require actual perfection. These only require justifying faith and a willingness to come under the Spirit’s discipline to learn obedience respectively.
Nor does one need to be perfect to qualify for Tabernacles, for Tabernacles is the perfecter of the saints. We only need to be concerned with pressing in to the high calling of God, not assuming that we have already attained the perfection of absolute and total obedience (Phil. 3:12-14).
Nonetheless, God knows our hearts. He knows who is truly justified by faith. He knows who is a true Pentecostal and who is a lawless imitator. He who searches the hearts knows all the overcomers by name. He has instilled within them the vision of the Promised Land, and they are not satisfied with either Passover or Pentecost. Their goal is Tabernacles, and their only “fear” is to come short of the promise of entering into His rest (Heb. 4:1).
Hebrews 8:8 tells us with whom the New Covenant was made:
8 Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
This has caused some confusion, because some have taught that the Old Covenant is for the Jews, while the New Covenant is for “gentiles.” This misunderstanding has spawned a “Dual Covenant” theology, one for Jews and one for “gentiles,” as if to say that Jews are saved by the Old Covenant, and “gentiles” by the New Covenant.
But Heb. 8:8 above makes it clear that the New Covenant is with Israel and Judah. What does this mean? In my books, Who is a Jew? and Who is an Israelite? I show the legal definition of both terms, rather than the genealogical definition that most people assume. To be a “Jew” (i.e., of the house of Judah), one must be justified by faith by an inner circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:28, 29). In other words, one must experience Passover by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God.
But to be an Israelite, one must be part of the house of Joseph, to whom was given the name Israel. Joseph’s inheritance was to be “a fruitful SON,” (Heb. ben), as it says in Gen. 49:22.
A person is of the tribe of Judah if he is following the King of that tribe—Jesus Christ. He must be a believer. But a person is of Israel only when he or she comes fully into the inheritance of Sonship. This is an Israelite as it was originally defined.
The first Israelite was Jacob, who was not born Israel, but attained it as his inheritance at the age of 98 when he wrestled with the angel in Gen. 32:28. (He was young for his age.)
None of us are born Israelites either. The genealogical Israelites were disinherited and can only come into their inheritance the same way as everyone else. Then will Hosea 1:10 be fulfilled,
10 And it will come about that in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”
Will all genealogical Israelites be “Sons” on the basis of their genealogy? Or will all Sons be Israelites on the basis of their character and faith? I believe the latter to be true, for only these fulfill the dispositive provisions and conditions of God’s last will and testament.
Getting back to Hebrews 9:16, 17, we read (again),
16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
Jesus Christ was the Yahweh of the Old Testament, and the Lawgiver. When He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, He had a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. Thus, when He died on the cross, it was the death of the Testator, and this event made it possible for the provisions of the will to be dispensed among the inheritors. All men were inheritors, but not all men would fulfill the dispositive provisions at the same time. Hence, there is more than one resurrection, and “all will be made alive, but each in his own order” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23).
Ultimately, the dispositive provisions are outlined by the three feast days of Israel. One must be justified through Passover, sanctified through Pentecost, and finally glorified through the feast of Tabernacles. All men will, indeed, experience these three feasts, but only a few will do so in their life time. The majority will be raised at the Great White Throne, where they will bow their knees to Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord. There they will be justified by faith in Him, and then they will live in a new earth without experiencing death (Rev. 20:14), so that they might learn His ways as they are governed by His “fiery law” in the so-called “lake of fire.” Isaiah 26:9 says, “for when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.”
As I said, all of this was made possible only by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the Testator. For this reason, even the first testament mediated by Moses was not without blood, as Heb. 9:18-20 tells us,
18 Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.
Both the book of the covenant, the vessels of the tabernacle, and even the people were sprinkled with blood. The reference above is to Exodus 24:6-8, saying,
6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will be obedient!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Notice how the people agreed to fulfill the dispositive provisions in order to receive the blessings of their inheritance. Obviously, they were doomed to fail, because the law was not yet written on their hearts. No matter how well intentioned they were, it was only a matter of time before the carnal tendencies of their hearts conflicted with their vow of obedience to the will of God.
It is the same even today. Men may go to the altar, give their hearts to Christ, and swear obedience to His will—and this is a good start—but the law has yet to be written in their hearts. When they are justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb, they become citizens of the Kingdom, but then they must go the second step called Pentecost, where the law is written on their hearts as they are led by the Spirit. If one is faithful in Pentecost, then one becomes eligible to receive the inheritance of the feast of Tabernacles that is the full inheritance of God’s will and testament.
Those who are faithful, like Caleb and Joshua, are the overcomers who will receive their inheritance in the first resurrection. If not, they will have to wait for the general resurrection, where, after a short judgment by “fire,” they will be given their reward. The rest of the unbelievers, of course, will have to await the Creation Jubilee at the end of time.
The blood that Moses sprinkled upon the people validated the first testament. The blood that Jesus sprinkled upon our hearts (Heb. 10:22) has validated the second testament, which we call the New Covenant.
22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
This is the basic principle of biblical law on which the whole of God’s plan rests. There are many religions that honor Jesus as a great Teacher, a great Prophet, or a great Example of good works. But they miss the whole point of His life and purpose if they do not recognize that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This principle is the core of true Christianity and will determine a person’s relationship with God. Jesus did many virtuous things during His ministry, but those things did not save us or obtain forgiveness of sins on our behalf. His teachings and His prophecies did not cover our sin. It was His death on the cross as a Sacrifice for sin—the fulfillment of all the animal sacrifices instituted beforehand—that obtained forgiveness by satisfying the law’s judgments for sin.
Therefore, anyone who comes in the name of Jesus, honoring Him in every way, but denying that He paid the penalty for the sin of the world, is antichrist, a counterfeit that is not true Christianity at all. Other religions hate true Christianity because none of their founders died for the sin of the world. Their founders may have been great men, and they claimed to be prophets living virtuous lives, but none were willing or capable of giving their lives to pay for the sin of others. This is what sets Jesus apart from all others.
Furthermore, anyone who denies the blood of Christ in this way is not a true believer in Christ. They may believe in Him as a great Teacher or Prophet, but if they do not believe in Him as the Sacrifice for sin that obtains forgiveness, then their faith is vain and they are not justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb. This is the core of our faith that defines a true Christian and separates him from all counterfeits.
23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
Moses used blood to validate the Old Covenant in his day. But that tabernacle with its vessels was only a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven not made with hands. This point was made earlier in Heb. 8:5, where we read,
5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”
On the mountain, God revealed to Moses the true tabernacle in heaven, the spiritual structure, and Moses was then instructed to copy the spiritual in earthly forms. The earthly tabernacle, then, was the earthly translation of spiritual things. It expressed spiritual truths in the language of men. But in the final analysis, that which Moses constructed was only a COPY, not the real deal.
Yet for the copy to truly be a copy, it had to be sprinkled with blood, for even the blood of calves and goats was a copy of the blood of Christ that was to be sprinkled upon the people at the appointed time. For this reason Christ did not enter the Holy of Holies made with hands on earth, but instead entered the true Sanctuary in heaven.
25 Nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was effective “once for all,” and because it was a perfect sacrifice, it did not need to be repeated each year, as was the case with the Levitical Order under the Old Covenant.
27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
The first thing that might be said about verse 27 is that it is an absolute refutation of the idea of reincarnation. Men do not live multiple lives, living and dying in the bodies of various men and animals, in their attempt to attain perfection by spiritual evolution. Perfection cannot be attained in that manner. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ that any man may attain forgiveness for sin.
All other religions base their salvation upon one’s ability to stop sinning. This is what they mean by perfection. But even if a man were to stop sinning today, his current perfection would not cancel out the sins he committed in the past. If self-improvement is the basis of salvation and attaining perfection, it will simply never happen! It is for this reason that God reached down and intervened in the history of mankind to make the way. Not only did He make it possible to become good servants in submission to God, but He also went far beyond this in making it possible to become the sons of God (John 1:12).
Yet the fact that judgment comes after one’s death does not say that a person cannot be saved after he has died. Death is not the end for salvation. If that were so, then it would not be possible for every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 3:10, 11). Nor would it be possible for God to be the savior of all men, especially those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Nor would it be true, as we read in Heb. 2:8, that all of creation will come into subjection to Christ.
In fact, the imposition of death at the beginning was God’s way of showing mercy to mankind. He would not allow us to remain in a sinful state and yet be immortal, for that in itself would be an everlasting curse. God in His mercy limited the time in which we labor under the taskmaster of sin. He expressed this mercy in the law of Jubilee, where all debt-bondage was limited to a maximum of fifty years.
When all are raised to stand before the Great White Throne, then will all men know the truth. Some of them will weep because they will see that they rejected Jesus Christ during their previous life. Others, however, will rejoice to see the One that they never knew or even heard of. All will be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13) and according to their level of knowledge and responsibility.
But this judgment will not be implemented by torture, for there is no torture in the divine law. Men will be required to pay restitution for their sin. Yet since there will be no way that any man could ever pay the penalty for his own sin, he will be “sold” (Ex. 22:3) and placed under the authority of the overcomers. The overcomers will teach him the ways of God, not through oppression or torture, but by manifesting the love of Christ as a benevolent master-priest. Finally, at the great Creation Jubilee, all of creation will be set free into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). Their freedom will not be based upon their ability to work off their debt to sin. It will be based upon the pure mercy and grace of God which is the foundation of the Jubilee.
Heb. 9:28 tells us that this entire process of judgment begins with the second coming of Christ, when “those who eagerly await Him” (the overcomers) will be the first fruits of creation to receive the glorified body. Because the first fruits sanctify the rest of the harvest, all of creation is anxiously awaiting that moment when the first fruits are offered to God. Creation has a stake in this manifestation of the sons of God, for it knows that this is the primary sign confirming its own redemption in the end of time.