Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.Hebrews 9:1. To show that the old covenant was justly laid aside, the apostle judged it necessary to enter into a particular examination of the religious services which it enjoined, and to prove that these were designed not for cleansing the consciences of the worshippers, but to prefigure the services and blessings of the new or gospel covenant: so that the latter being come, there was no longer occasion for continuing the former to prefigure them. This chapter, therefore, is an illustration of chap. Hebrews 8:5, where the apostle affirms that the priests worshipped God in the tabernacles unto the example or pattern and shadow of heavenly things. And it was proper to explain this matter copiously, because it must have had a great influence in weaning the Hebrews from the Levitical services, and in reconciling them to the abrogation of a form of worship which, though of divine appointment, was now become useless, having accomplished its end.
Then verily the first covenant — Many copies read here πρωτη σκηνη, the first tabernacle; but as that reading does not agree with Hebrews 9:2, Beza and Mill prefer the reading of the Alexandrian and other MSS. of good authority, which have πρωτη, leaving the reader to supply διαθηκη, covenant, from the preceding verse. This reading our translators likewise have adopted. Had ceremonial ordinances of outward worship, and a worldly, that is, a visible, material sanctuary, or tabernacle. The meaning of the apostle is, that the Sinai covenant had these things annexed to it when it was first made, as its privileges and glory. For in the whole discourse he has continual respect to the first making of the covenant, and the first institution of its administrations; and this was that part of divine worship about which God had so many controversies with the people of Israel, under the Old Testament. The law of this worship was a hedge that God had set about them to keep them from superstition and idolatry. And, if at any time they brake over it, or neglected it, they failed not to rush into the most abominable idolatries. On the other hand, oftentimes they placed all their trust and confidence for their acceptance with God, and reception of blessings from him, on the external observance of its institutions. And hereby they countenanced themselves, not only in a neglect of moral duties and spiritual obedience, but in a course of flagitious sins, and various wickednesses. To repress these exorbitances, with respect to both extremes, the ministry of the prophets was, in an especial manner, directed.
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.Hebrews 9:2. For there was a tabernacle made — Namely, the first part of it of which he speaks, of boards and curtains, pillars and coverings, which constituted a little apartment, as a kind of ante-chamber to the oracle; wherein was the candlestick — Of pure gold, with its seven lamps perpetually burning with pure oil, and so giving light to all holy administrations. This undoubtedly represented the fulness of spiritual light which was to be in the Messiah, and by him to be communicated to his whole church; and the table and show-bread — That is, the bread shown continually before God and his people, consisting of twelve loaves, according to the number of the tribes, and placed on this table in two rows, six upon one another in each row. As the candlestick typified the light, so the bread seems to have been an emblem of the spiritual food provided in Christ, especially in his doctrine, merits, and Spirit for the support of the spiritual life, health, and strength of believers. This is set forth at large, John 6:27-58. There was also in this first tabernacle the golden altar of incense placed at the west end of it, where the veil opened into the most holy place. On this incense was burned every morning and evening, emblematical doubtless of the prayers of God’s people, and especially of the efficacy given to them by the mediation and intercession of Christ.
And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;Hebrews 9:3. And after the second veil — That is, with respect to them who entered into the tabernacle; for they were to pass through the whole length of the first part before they came to this: nor was there any other way of entering into it. This veil divided the holy place from the most holy, as the first veil did the holy place from the courts; and they are both here called veils, because by the first, the people were hindered from entering or even looking into the first part of the tabernacle, into which the priests entered daily; and by the second, the priests who performed services in the holy place were prohibited from entering, or even looking into the most holy. The tabernacle which is called the holiest of all — “This represented heaven, not only because in it the glory of the Lord, or visible symbol of his presence, rested between the cherubim, whereby the angelical hosts, surrounding the throne of God in heaven, were typified, but because this tabernacle was hidden from the eyes of all who frequented the outward tabernacle; even as heaven, the habitation of God, is hidden by the veil of their flesh from the eyes of all who live on the earth.”
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;Hebrews 9:4-5. Which had the golden censer — Used by the high-priest only on the great day of atonement. “The apostle may have learned from the priests that this censer was of gold, and that it was left by him in the inward tabernacle, so near to the veil, that when he was about to officiate next year, by putting his hand under the veil he could draw it out to fill it with burning coals, before he entered into the most holy place to burn the incense, agreeably to the direction,” Leviticus 16:12-13; where see the note. And the ark of the covenant — This, with the mercy-seat wherewith it was covered, was the most glorious and mysterious utensil of the tabernacle, and afterward of the temple, the most eminent pledge of God’s presence, and the most mysterious representation of the divine attributes in Christ. This being the heart, so to speak, of all divine services, was first formed; all other things in the Jewish worship had a relation to it, Exodus 25:10-11. Sometimes it is called the ark of the testimony, because God called the tables of the covenant lodged in it by the name of his testimony, or that which testified his will to the people, and which, by the people’s acceptance of the terms of it, was to be a perpetual witness between God and them. On the same account it is called the ark of the covenant, and lastly, it is called the ark of God, because it was the most eminent pledge of the special presence of God among the people. As to its fabric, it was παντοθεν, every way, within and without, overlaid with plates of beaten gold. This being the most sacred and glorious instrument of the sanctuary, all neglects about it, and contempt of it, were most severely punished. From the tabernacle it was carried into the temple built by Solomon, wherein it continued until the Babylonish captivity, and what became of it afterward is altogether uncertain. Wherein was the golden pot that had manna — The monument of God’s care over Israel. When the manna first fell, every one was commanded to gather an omer for his own eating, (Exodus 16:16,) and God appointed that an omer of it should be put into a pot, and kept in the tabernacle before the Lord, Exodus 16:33 : there it was miraculously preserved from putrefaction, whereas otherwise it would have putrefied in less than two days. The pot was to be made of that which was most durable, as being to be kept for a memorial throughout all generations. Because it is said, 1 Kings 8:9, there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, the words εν η, here used by the apostle, may be translated, nigh to which. Or the difficulty may be removed by supposing that the pronoun η, which, relates to σκηνη, tabernacle, in which tabernacle also was the golden pot: or because it is said, Deuteronomy 31:26, Take this book of the law and put it in the side of the ark, we may conjecture that the book was put into some repository fixed to the side of the ark, and that the pot of manna was laid up before the Lord in the same manner. Aaron’s rod that budded — The monument of a regular priesthood. The apostle affirms only that it budded, but in the sacred story concerning the trial about the priesthood, recorded Numbers 17:2-10, it is added, that it brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds, being originally cut from an almond-tree. This rod Moses took from before the testimony when he was to smite the rock and work a miracle, of which this was consecrated to be the outward sign; and the tables of the covenant — The two tables of stone on which the ten commandments were written by the finger of God; the most venerable monument of all. And over it — Over the ark; the cherubim of glory — “Cherubim being the name of an order of angels, (Genesis 3:24,) the figures called cherubim, placed on the sides of the mercy-seat, with the glory of the Lord resting between them, represented the angels who surround the manifestation of the divine presence in heaven. These figures, therefore, were fitly termed the cherubim of glory; and by this glory constantly abiding in the inward tabernacle, and by the figures of the cherubim, that tabernacle was rendered a fit image of heaven.” Shadowing — With outspread wings; the mercy-seat — And represented as looking down upon it; a posture significative of the desire of angels to look into the mysteries of man’s redemption, of which the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, being a plate of gold covering the ark, was an emblem, 1 Peter 1:12. See also notes on Exodus 25:17-22, where the making and frame both of the mercy-seat and the cherubim are described,
And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.Hebrews 9:6. Now when these things were thus ordained — Κατεσκευασμενων, prepared. Having given an account of the structure of the tabernacle in the two parts of it, and the furniture of those several parts distinctly, to complete his argument, the apostle adds the consideration of their sacred use; the priests went always — Every day; into the first tabernacle — Termed the holy place; accomplishing the service of God — Performing what was there to be done, namely, burning the incense at the morning and evening sacrifice, dressing the lamps and supplying them with oil, changing the show-bread every sabbath morning. Added to this, as the principal part of the service of this tabernacle, the priests brought into it the blood of the sin-offerings, and sprinkled it before the veil, Leviticus 4:6. At all other times they entered into it without blood, for the blood of the burnt-offerings was sprinkled about the altar, Leviticus 1:11.
But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:Hebrews 9:7. But into the second — The holy of holies; went the high-priest alone — And no other person; and he was to be so alone as that none were to attend in order to assist him in any part of the service; yea, no one was allowed to be in the other part of the sanctuary where he might so much as see the veil opened, but all the priests, as well as the people, were kept without the sanctuary, Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:17; Leviticus 16:32. Hence it was always provided, in case of the sickness or occasional pollutions of the actual high-priest, the next in succession should perform this office, who was therefore called the second priest. From whence, in times of disorder and confusion, they had two high-priests at once. This entrance was a type, both of the entrance of Christ into heaven, and of our entrance by him to the throne of grace, Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-20. And this was the veil which, in the temple, was rent from top to bottom upon the death of our Lord. For by his death the way was laid open to the most holy place, and the gracious presence of God discovered to all that come to God by him. Once every year — That is, on one day only, namely, the day of expiation, Leviticus 16:2; but on that day he went in several times: not without blood — To signify that there is no entrance into God’s gracious presence but by the blood of Christ. After the high-priest had filled the holy place with a cloud of incense, he returned to the altar of burnt-offerings without the tabernacle, where the sacrifice had been newly slain; and while the blood of the beasts was fresh, and, as it were, living, he took of it in his hand, and entering again into the most holy place, sprinkled it seven times with his finger toward the mercy-seat. Which he offered — Where or when he offered it is not expressed: in the holy place there was no use of blood but for the sprinkling of it, but the sprinkling of blood was always consequential to the offering properly so called. Probably by the word προσφερει, here used, he intends only bringing, and not properly offering. For himself and the errors of the people — The apostle refers to the distinct sacrifices that were to be offered on that day, the first of which was of a bullock and a ram, which were offered for the high-priest himself; such being the imperfection of their state, that they could have no priests to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, but he must first offer for himself. By the errors of the people, are meant their sins of ignorance, to which only, and not to sins presumptuously committed, those atonements extended. They were offered for the whole nation, to make atonement for the sins which they had ignorantly committed during the preceding year, and to open the tabernacle for their acts of worship during the succeeding year. And to show this, the high-priest carried the blood of these sacrifices into the inward tabernacle, and sprinkled it before the symbol of the divine presence.
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:Hebrews 9:8-10. The Holy Ghost — By whom the Mosaic ritual was prescribed; signifying — By this difficulty of entrance, and the necessity of the incense-cloud and the atoning blood; that the way into the holiest of all — Namely, into heaven, the place of God’s immediate presence, represented by the inward tabernacle; was not yet made manifest — Not so clearly and fully revealed; while the first tabernacle, and its service, was yet standing — Retained its station and use: or, in other words, while the Jewish economy lasted. This lasted, according to the mind of God, until the death of Christ, and no longer: until which time both Christ himself, and all his disciples, continued to observe all its services, for he was made under the law of it. So long it continued by divine appointment. Its abolition, however, was, properly speaking, not declared until the day of pentecost, when, by the extraordinary effusion of the Holy Ghost, the foundation of the gospel church, with its state, order, and worship, was solemnly laid; and a new way of worship being established, the abrogation of the old was shown. But through the patience of God, the Jewish worship, though no longer acceptable to him, continued until the destruction of the temple, city, and people, some years after. Which tabernacle, with all its furniture and services, was a figure — Παραβολη, a parable, that is, a parabolical or emblematical instruction; for the time then present — During the continuance of that service and way of worship. Or, as the original may be interpreted, Which figure (or parabolical instruction) continues till this present time, namely, in the like service performed in the temple; according to which, namely, time, or during which, gifts and sacrifices, προσφερονται, are offered, μη δυναμεναι, which cannot make him who does the service, τον λατρευοντα, the worshipper, whether the priest, or him who brings the offering, perfect — As to his conscience, so that he should be no longer conscious of being under the guilt or power of sin, or should have a full assurance that his sins are forgiven. Doddridge understands the verse in a rather different sense, thus: “Which, far from being the grand and ultimate scheme, is only a kind of allegorical figure and parable, referring to the glorious displays of the present time: in which, nevertheless, there is hitherto a continuance of the temple-service; so that gifts and sacrifices are still offered, which yet in the nature of things, are not able to make the person who performs the service perfect, with respect to the conscience; as they refer not to the real expiation of guilt, but only to averting some temporal evils which the law denounces on transgressors.” This, he adds, I take to be of the greatest importance for understanding the Mosaic sacrifices, namely, “that they were never intended to expiate offences to such a degree as to deliver the sinner from the final judgment of God in another world; but merely to make his peace with the government under which he then was, and furnish him with a pardon pleadable against any prosecution which might be commenced against him in their courts of justice, or any exclusion from the privilege of drawing near to God, as one eternally at peace with him, in the solemnities of his temple worship.” Which service stood, or consisted, only, or chiefly, in meats and drinks — Or in divers ceremonious observances concerning these things; in the distinction between different kinds of meats, clean or unclean, and drinks, some of which were allowed, and others denied, to priests in some circumstances, and to Nazarites in others; and divers washings — Either of the whole body, or of a part of it, in water, as different occasions demanded; and carnal ordinances — Various injunctions relating to the purification of the flesh, imposed on them as necessary to be observed; until the time of reformation — Namely, of the worship of God by Christ, who was to abolish the Levitical services, and to introduce a worship in spirit and in truth, which might be performed in every place.
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;Hebrews 9:11-12. But Christ being come — As if he had said, Though the types and legal ceremonies could not make the worshippers perfect, yet Christ, the antitype and truth, can. Here he comes to interpret and show the end of the typical services he had spoke of; a high-priest of good things to come — Described Hebrews 9:15; that is, a dispenser of those benefits and advantages which were prefigured by the Mosaic institutions, but could only be obtained for us, and bestowed upon us, by the Messiah. By a greater and more perfect tabernacle — That is, not by the service of the Jewish tabernacle, (Hebrews 9:23,) but by a service performed in a greater and more perfect tabernacle above; not made with hands, that is, not of this building — Namely, the building of this worldly sanctuary, or not making any part of this lower creation. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, &c., did he procure a right to enter and minister in that tabernacle, but by his own blood — By the merit of his death; he entered in once into the holy place above — That is, once for all: not once, or one day every year, as the Jewish high-priest into the holy place of the emblematical tabernacle: having obtained — By his one perfect sacrifice; eternal redemption and salvation for us — Of which all the remissions, and all the benefits procured by the ministration of the Aaronical priesthood, were but very imperfect figures. Beza, Pierce, and many others, by the greater and more perfect tabernacle, understand our Lord’s human nature. In support of which notion Beza says, that his human nature may as properly be called a tabernacle as his flesh is called a veil, Hebrews 10:24. “But, not to dispute about the propriety of the figure, it appears an absurdity to say that Christ entered into the holy place through his own human nature, as through a tabernacle. He entered into heaven clothed with his human nature, and not through it, as through a place: for, on that supposition, he did not carry his human nature with him into heaven.” — Macknight.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:Hebrews 9:13-14. For, &c. — The truth intended to be confirmed in these verses, is that which the apostle had asserted in the two preceding, namely, That Christ by his blood hath obtained for us eternal redemption. And his words contain both an argument and a comparison, to this effect: “If that which is less can do that which is less, then that which is greater can do that which is greater; provided also that less, in what it did, was a type of what was greater in that greater thing which it was to effect. The apostle takes for granted, what he had proved before, namely, 1st, That the Levitical services and ordinances were in themselves carnal, and had only an obscure representation of things spiritual and eternal; and that the office and sacrifice of Christ were spiritual, and had their effects in eternal things. 2d, That those other carnal earthly things were divinely-appointed types and resemblances of those which were spiritual and eternal. From these suppositions the argument is firm: as the ordinances of old, being carnal, had an efficacy to their proper end, to purify the unclean as to the flesh; so the sacrifice of Christ hath a certain efficacy to its proper end, the purging of our consciences, &c. The force of the inference depends on the relation that was between them in the appointment of God. Nay, there was evidently a greater efficacy in the sacrifice of Christ, with respect to its proper end, than there was in those sacrifices, with respect to their proper end: the reason is, because all their efficacy depended on a mere arbitrary institution, having in their own nature neither worth nor efficacy; but in the sacrifice of Christ there is an innate glorious worth and efficacy, which, suitably to the rules of eternal reason and righteousness, will procure and accomplish its effects.” — Owen. Therefore the apostle says, How much more shall the blood of Christ, &c. These things being observed, the explication of the apostle’s words will not be difficult. As if the apostle had said, That Jesus, by his death, should procure an eternal pardon and deliverance from all the consequences of sin for us, is reasonable; for if the blood of bulls and of goats, of which I have just been speaking, when presented to God, with the appointed circumstances, on the day of general expiation by the high-priest, and, in cases of personal pollution, the ashes of a heifer, (namely, the red heifer, of which see Numbers 19:17-19,) consumed by fire, as a sin-offering, being sprinkled on them who were legally unclean, did sanctify to the purifying of the flesh — Had so much efficacy in consequence of the divine institution, as to reconcile God to the whole Jewish people, in the former instance, and in the other to introduce persons legally unclean to the liberty of approaching him in his sanctuary, which would otherwise have been denied them; how much more reasonable is it to think that the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit — Supporting the infirmities of his human nature, and animating him to the exercise of all those graces which shed such a lustre round all the infamy of his cross; offered himself voluntarily, without spot, a most acceptable sacrifice, to God — How much more, I say, shall that blood of his avail to purge our consciences from dead works, (of which see on Hebrews 6:1,) that is, from the pollutions we have contracted by works of sin and death; to serve — That is, that we may freely approach, and acceptably worship and serve the living God? — How surely shall it appease that consciousness of guilt, which might otherwise be very distressing and discouraging to us, and introduce us to present our prayers, praises, and other services in the divine presence, with assurance of acceptance and regard. It is justly observed by Macknight here, that “the ceremonial institutions mentioned, sanctified the bodies of the polluted, not by any natural efficacy, (for they rather defiled them,) but by the appointment of God, who, considering them as acts of obedience, was pleased, on their account, to remit the punishment, which, as their political ruler, he had a right to inflict on the polluted; but the shedding of the blood of Christ, both by the appointment of God, and by its own efficacy, availeth to the procuring an eternal pardon for penitent sinners. The sanctification effected by the legal rites being the sanctification of nothing but the body, it was, in a religious light, of little use, unless it was a representation and pledge of some real expiation. Now, what real expiation of sin is there in the whole universe, if the sacrifice of Christ is excluded? We must therefore acknowledge that the Levitical rites, which sanctified the flesh, derived their whole virtue from their being, as the apostle affirms, figurative representations of the real atonement which Christ [made upon the cross and] was to make in heaven, [by presenting his crucified body there,] for sanctifying the soul of the sinner. Christ is said to have offered himself through the eternal Spirit, because he was raised from the dead by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18,) consequently he was enabled by the Spirit to offer himself to God.”
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.Hebrews 9:15. And for this cause — Δια τουτο, on this account, that Christ’s blood is so efficacious; or for this end, that he might die and thereby procure redemption, and an eternal inheritance for us; he is the mediator — Between God and man, making peace between them; of the new testament — Or covenant rather, as the word διαθηκη is generally rendered in the New Testament, answering to the Hebrew word berith, which all the translators of the Jewish Scriptures have understood to signify a covenant. It is, however, such a covenant, as, having been procured for us, and confirmed by his death, is thereby become a testament. For through it we receive the blessings which Christ, by his will, designed for, and declared should be conferred upon believers through faith in his blood. “Thus when he said, for their sakes I sanctify myself, John 17:19; that is, I offer up myself as a piacular victim, that they might be sanctified, or truly purged from their sins; he adds, as his last will and testament, Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am. So here he is become a high-priest of good things to come, purchasing eternal redemption for us by his blood: and the mediator of that new covenant, in which God promises to be merciful to our transgressions, and to remember our sins no more, Hebrews 8:12; procuring the remission of them by the intervention of his death, that they who believe in him might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance — Which he died to entitle them to, and confer upon them; whence it is styled the purchased possession, Ephesians 1:14. This therefore was his will and testament, that they, for whom he died, should live through him. And this testament could not be confirmed but by his death: he, therefore, was at once the mediator in whom the new covenant, promising to us remission of sins, was made, and the testator by whose death the testament, that they who believed in him should have eternal life, was ratified.” So Dr. Whitby, who, however, observes, that the paragraph, to the end of Hebrews 9:20, will admit of a fair interpretation without supposing that any thing is said in it either of a testament or testator. See on the next verse. That by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions — That is, for the redemption of transgressors from the guilt and punishment of those sins which were committed under the first covenant. In other words, He suffered for this end, that he might procure deliverance, not only from the condemnation due to the sins which have been committed since his death, but from that due to those which were committed during the former dispensation and state of the church, which could not be fully expiated by any of those sacrifices which belonged to the first covenant. They which are called — And obey the call, or are made partakers of the grace of the gospel; might receive the promise of eternal inheritance — The things promised in the new covenant, namely, not a temporary, earthly inheritance, such as the land of Canaan, promised in the first covenant, but that eternal glory which is promised in the new covenant.
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.Hebrews 9:16-17. For where a testament is — That is, where there is a covenant, which is also a testament; there must of necessity be the death of the testator — As if he had said, The reason why there was a necessity that Christ should die, is taken from the nature of the covenant whereof he is Mediator, which covenant is also a testament, and therefore could not be of force but by his death. For a testament is of force — Has validity; after men are dead — When, and not before, the legatees may claim their legacies. Otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth — And therefore hath power to alter his will at pleasure. But it is not necessary that the expression του διαθεμενου, at the end of Hebrews 9:16, should signify a testator, properly so called: it may mean only a promiser, and one that confirms his promise with his own blood. For διατιθημι, according to Phavorinus, is, I promise, I covenant; and διατιθεσθαι διαθηκην is very commonly in profane authors, to enter into covenant; and in the same sense the phrase is used in the Old Testament; and therefore the participle διαθεμενος, derived from the same verb, must probably have the same signification here, in which it is continually used by the LXX., and which it always bears in the New Testament. Thus, Acts 3:25, Ye are the children, διαθηκης ης διεθετο, of the covenant which God made with our fathers; Luke 22:29; καγω διατιθεμαι υμιν, and I appoint to you a kingdom, καθως διεθετο, as my Father hath appointed to me. So in this epistle, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16, αυτη η διαθηκη ην διαθησομαι, This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel. And because covenants were usually made victimas cædendo, by sacrifices, as the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin expressions used in the making of covenants show; accordingly, the new covenant was established in the blood of Jesus. Hence the apostle speaks thus of this covenant, and the appointed disposer or maker of it. This sense of the passage is defended at large by Dr. Macknight, in a note too long to be here quoted. His paraphrase on it is as follows: “And for this reason, that the death of Christ is so efficacious, [namely, as is set forth in Hebrews 9:13-14,] of the new covenant he is the Mediator, or High-Priest, by whom its blessings are dispensed; and also the sacrifice by which it is procured and ratified; that his death being accomplished for obtaining the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant, believers of all ages and nations, as the called seed of Abraham, (Romans 8:28,) may receive the promised eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is made by sacrifice, there is a necessity that the death of the appointed sacrifice be produced. For — According to the practice of God and man; a covenant is made firm over dead sacrifices, seeing it never hath force while the goat, calf, or bullock, appointed as the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. Because from the beginning God ratified his covenant by sacrifice, to preserve among men the expectation of the sacrifice of his Son; hence not even the covenant of Sinai was made without sacrifice.”
For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.Hebrews 9:18-20. Whereupon — On which principle we may observe; neither was the first — Covenant, of which we have been speaking, I mean that of Moses; dedicated without blood — Namely, that of an appointed sacrifice. “In the original, the word covenant is wanting; and our translators, by supplying the word testament, have made the Sinai covenant or law of Moses, of which the apostle is speaking, a testament, than which,” says Macknight, “nothing can be more incongruous. The word to be supplied is not testament, but covenant. For when Moses had spoken every precept — The precepts of the law which Moses read to the people on this occasion, were chiefly those contained in Exo 20:-23., as is evident from Exodus 24:5. See the margin. To all the people according to the law —
The will, appointment, or express order of God; he took the blood of calves, &c., with water. The blood was mixed with water, to prevent its growing too stiff for sprinkling, perhaps also to typify the blood and water which should issue out of Christ’s side, signifying the expiating and cleansing virtue of his sufferings. And scarlet wool and hyssop — All these circumstances are not particularly mentioned in that chapter of Exodus, but are supposed to be already known from other passages of Moses; and sprinkled both the book — Which contained all he had said; and all the people — Who were near him. The book was sprinkled to show, 1st, That the law itself was not able to reconcile them to God, and give life without the blood of Christ added to it. 2d, That atonement was to be made by blood for sins committed against the law. 3d, That every thing is unclean to us that is not sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Saying, (Exodus 24:8,) This is the blood of the covenant, &c. — This sprinkling of the blood is a ceremony instituted by God to signify the mutual consent of both parties to the terms of the covenant; or, this is the blood whereby the covenant is ratified on both sides; which God hath enjoined unto you — Hath required me to deliver unto you or, hath commanded with respect to you, as ης ενετειλατο προς υμας literally signifies, requiring you to declare your consent to the terms of it.
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.Hebrews 9:21-22. Moreover — To prefigure the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ to render our acts of worship acceptable; he sprinkled with blood the tabernacle — The altar, and mercy-seat; and all the vessels of the ministry — All that were used in the tabernacle service. See the margin. And almost all the things — Pertaining to the tabernacle and service of God, (the apostle says almost all things, because some were cleansed with water, and some with fire, Numbers 31:23, and some with the ashes of the red heifer, Numbers 19:2-10,) are by the law purged from any ceremonial defilement with blood — Offered or sprinkled; and without shedding of blood — According to the law; is no remission — Of sins, neither typical nor real. Or he means, no remission was granted on the day of atonement without blood. All this pointed to the blood of Christ, effectually cleansing from all sin, and intimated that there can be no purification from it by any other means. Because some fancy that a real pardon of sin was obtained by the atonements of the Mosaic law, and especially by those made on the tenth of the seventh month, concerning which it is said, (Leviticus 16:30,) on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you that you may be clean from all your sins: it may be proper to observe here, that “this cleansing of the people from all their sins could not possibly have any reference to the punishments of the life to come, because the atonement was made for all the people indiscriminately, whether penitent or not, consequently it could not be a cleansing of their consciences, but of their bodies; redeeming them from those civil penalties which God, in the character of their chief magistrate, would have inflicted on them for breaking the laws of the state, unless these atonements had been made. A remission of that kind all the people of the congregation might receive, and it was the only remission which, in a body, they could receive through the sacrifices mentioned. And from the inefficacy of the annual atonements, made on the day above mentioned, to procure for the people the eternal pardon of their sins, it follows that the daily atonements, made by the ordinary priests, had no greater efficacy in procuring their pardon.” — Macknight. See notes on Hebrews 9:8-10; chap. Hebrews 10:4.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.Hebrews 9:23. It was, therefore, &c. — That is, it plainly appears from what has been said, it was necessary — According to the appointment of God; that the patterns of things in the heavens — Termed the figures of the true, (Hebrews 9:24,) namely, the covenant, the book, the tabernacle, with all the vessels of its ministry, which were shadowy representations of heavenly things — That is, of the things of the gospel, whether belonging to the church militant or the church triumphant; should be purified with these — Should be procured for, or opened and sanctified to the enjoyment of the priests and people, by these oblations and sprinklings with blood, and those other things which were appointed by the law to be all used for their purification. He says purified, or cleansed, not because the tabernacle and its utensils, the book of the law, &c., were unclean in themselves, but because through the uncleanness of the people they would have been considered as polluted if not thus purified. But the heavenly things themselves — That is, the things whereof the others were patterns, — the redemption, worship, salvation, and eternal glory of the church; by better sacrifices than these — Namely, by the one sacrifice of Christ, expressed in the plural number, because it included the signification of all other sacrifices, exceeded them indignity, and was of more use and efficacy than they all. For by this alone could spiritual and eternal blessings, the privileges of God’s church on earth and in heaven, be laid open to the enjoyment of guilty and polluted sinners. In other words, and especially as the Jewish tabernacle, including the holy and the most holy place, could not be entered by the priests, and opened to the prayers and other acts of religious worship of them and of the people, nor the utensils and ceremonies of the tabernacle service be sanctified to them, without the sacrifices and atonements appointed in the law; so the heavenly holy places represented by them, could not be opened for the reception of the prayers and praises of God’s people while they are here, nor of their persons hereafter, except through the sacrifice and intercession of Christ. Or, as Mr. Scott paraphrases the passage, “It was then necessary by the appointment of the law for the exemplars or types of heavenly things to be purified by the sacrifice of innocent animals, and by the application of their blood, or they could not be acceptably used in the worship of God; but it was necessary, for more durable and immutable reasons, that the heavenly things themselves should be purified by an atonement of superior excellence, even by the one sacrifice of the death of Christ. In order to his efficaciously interceding for sinners in heaven, and opening for them the way to the mercy-seat, it was necessary that Christ should on earth, in our nature, shed his blood, and die a sacrifice on the cross; that he might have the infinite merit of that sacrifice to plead before the throne, in behalf of all who should come unto God by him; otherwise mercy, shown to sinners, would dishonour the justice and holiness of God, and their admission into heaven would, as it were, defile that holy place.”
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:Hebrews 9:24-26. For Christ is, or, hath, not entered — With the sacrifice of his crucified body; into the holy places made with hands — He never went into the holy of holies of the temple at Jerusalem; the figures of the true tabernacle in heaven; Greek, αντιτυπα, the antitypes. “In the mount Moses had τυπος, the type, or model of the tabernacles, and of the services to be performed in them, showed to him. Hence the tabernacles, with their services, which he formed according to that model, are called antitypes, or images of that model; consequently images of heaven itself, and of the services to be performed by Christ as the High-Priest of the heavenly holy places, of all which the model showed to Moses in the mount was a shadow or dark representation.” But unto heaven itself, now to appear — As our glorious High-Priest and powerful Intercessor; in the presence of God for us — That is, before the manifestation of the divine presence, to officiate on our account. Nor yet — Was it needful that he should offer himself often — The atonement made by Christ being founded on the sovereign pleasure of God, it was to be made according to the appointment of God. Wherefore Christ having made that atonement only once, it follows that no more atonement was required by God in order to his pardoning believers in all nations and ages. As the high-priest entereth into the earthly holy place every year — On the day of atonement; with the blood of others — Of another kind of creatures, that is, of bullocks and goats. For then must he (Christ) often have suffered since the foundation of the world — “This reasoning,” says Macknight, “merits the reader’s particular attention, because it supposes two facts which are of great importance. The first is, that from the fall of Adam to the end of the world, no man will be pardoned but through Christ’s offering himself to God a sacrifice for sin. The second is, that although Christ offered himself only once, that one offering is in itself so meritorious, and of such efficacy in procuring pardon for the penitent, that its influence reacheth backward to the beginning of the world, and forward to the end of time; on which account Christ is with great propriety termed, (Revelation 13:8,) the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;” or from the time of man’s fall, for the necessity of Christ’s offering himself a sacrifice for sin did not take place immediately at the creation, but at the fall. But now once in the end of the world — At the conclusion of the Mosaic dispensation, and the entrance of gospel times, which are the last season of God’s grace to the church. The apostle’s expression, συντελεια των αιωνων, may be properly rendered, the consummation, or conclusion, of the ages, or divine dispensations, termed the dispensation of the fulness of times, Ephesians 1:10. See also Galatians 4:4. The sacrifice of Christ divides the whole age or duration of the world into two parts, and extends its virtue backward and forward. He hath appeared — Πεφανερωται, been manifested; to put away sin — Or, for the abolition of sin, as the original expression signifies; that is, to remove both its guilt and power, (and not merely, or chiefly, to abolish the Levitical sin-offerings, as Macknight strangely interprets the clauses) by the sacrifice of himself — Which at once purchases the pardon of it for us, and grace to subdue it, and effectually teaches us to mortify it, when we see such a ransom paid for our forfeited lives.
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:Hebrews 9:27-28. And as it is appointed, &c. — Inasmuch as this is the constitution of God, that sinful men shall die once, and but once; (see the margin;) and after this the judgment — Of the great day, between which and death nothing shall interpose to make any alteration in the state or condition of any one, for at death every man’s final state is determined; but we do not find a word in the Scriptures of any particular judgment taking place immediately after death. So Christ, &c. — In correspondence to that state of things, and for a remedy against it; and the relief (O wonderful effect of infinite wisdom!) is eminently proportionate to the evil, the remedy to the disease. Christ was once offered to bear the sins, Matthew 26:28; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21; the guilt and punishment due to them; of many — Even of as many as are born into the world; or the expression, ανενεγκειν αμαρτιας, may be rendered, to carry away sins; in allusion, perhaps, to the scapegoat, which bare all the iniquities of the congregation into a land not inhabited. The meaning, however, if the word be so rendered, will be the same in effect, namely, that Christ was once offered to make atonement for the sins of many. And unto them that look for him — Which all true believers do; see Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:12. Shall he appear the second time — Οφθησεται, he shall be seen, by every eye, Revelation 1:7; there shall be a public sight of him in the heavens, when he comes to raise the dead and judge mankind; without sin — Not bearing men’s sins as formerly, or without any thing that wears the marks of humiliation and abasement, or resembles the form in which he came to make an atonement for sin; unto salvation — To bestow complete happiness of soul and body upon us. Thus Archbishop Tillotson; “What is the meaning of this opposition, that at his first coming he bare our sins, but at his second coming he shall appear without sin unto salvation? These words can have no other imaginable sense but this, that at his first coming he sustained the person of a sinner, and suffered instead of us, but his second coming shall be on another account, and he shall appear, not as a Sacrifice, but as a Judge.” Thus the Jewish high-priest, after entering into the holy of holies in the plain dress of an ordinary priest, in linen garments, making atonement for the people, came out thence arrayed in his magnificent robes to bless the people, who waited for him in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. To this transaction, as Limborch and many others have supposed, there evidently seems to be an allusion here. And as the trumpet of jubilee, each fiftieth year, sounded at that time to proclaim the commencement of that happy period, there is not, says Doddridge, perhaps, an image that can enter into the mind of man more suitable to express the grand idea which the apostle intended to convey, than this would be to a Jew, who well knew the grand solemnity to which it referred. “But there will be this difference between the return of Christ to bless his people, and the return of the high-priest to bless the congregation. The latter, after coming out of the most holy place, made a new atonement in his pontifical robes for himself and for the people, Leviticus 16:24; which showed that the former atonement was not real, but only typical. Whereas Jesus, after having made atonement, with his own blood, will not return to the earth for the purpose of making himself a sacrifice a second time; but having procured an eternal redemption for his people by the sacrifice of himself once offered, he will return for the purpose of publicly absolving them, and bestowing on them the great blessing of eternal life, which absolution and reward he, being surrounded with the glory of his Father, Matthew 16:27, will give them in the presence of the assembled universe, both as their king and their priest. And this is the great salvation which Christ himself began to preach, and which was confirmed to the world by them who heard him, Hebrews 2:3.” — Macknight.
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.