Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
abolition of the Jewish types by their fulfillment in the Redeemer. This occupies Hebrews 9:1-10:18. Subject - Passing reference to the symbolism of the Jewish tabernacle. The importance of the tabernacle is obvious, since thirty-seven chapters are devoted to describe it and its services, and seven times it is said to have been made according to the heavenly pattern; so much so that when the writer of this Epistle has to refer to what was typical in the old economy, he does not speak of the temple, but of the original sanctuary. Moreover, but for the tabernacle and its services, much of what is most important in the New Testament would be unintelligible - the veil, mercy-seat, priest, atonement, Lamb of God, etc. The tabernacle standing in its sacred enclosure in the midst of the vast encampment, with the cloudy pillar resting upon it, was the dwelling-place of Israel's King. At Sinai God and Israel entered into solemn covenant. He was to be their King, and they a people peculiarly his own, and from that time he made his visible abode among them. But what was the purpose of the particular form this abode assumed? They were ignorant of him, and in so low a condition that abstract truth was insufficient for their teaching; they needed heavenly things in pictures. The tabernacle, therefore, was doubtless designed in its construction to meet this need. It would convey to them very plainly that God is real, one, theirs, holy, only approachable to man by sacrifice. But the New Testament throws additional light on this ancient sanctuary, by which its details are seen to be profoundly symbolic of New Testament truth, and Christians may better understand, because of it, their position in Christ. The Jewish tabernacle is the type of the Christian Church (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). The Church, founded on "the atonement money" (Scripture name for the hundred silver sockets which were the foundation of the tabernacle); the Church, habitation of God through the Spirit; the Church, witness to the world of the reality, character, and grace of God.
I. THE SYMBOLISM. IN THE JEWISH TABERNACLE. The tabernacle consisted of two apartments separated by the veil, the inner one called "the holy of holies."
1. The relation of Jehovah to the Church, as seen in the holy of holies. Described in vers. 3-5. A symbol of heaven, as in Apocalypse: "The city lieth four square, and the length," etc.; "And the city had no need of the sun, for the," etc. Most glorious place, seat and throne of the King, where celestial beings bow in his presence! Most holy place, hidden from human gaze, inaccessible save through the atonement, inaccessible yet so near; only a veil between, which a breath might almost waft aside, and which the incense of prayer can penetrate! Most blessed place, for there our great High Priest ever carries on his work on our behalf! How well is the tabernacle a type of this! There was the ark of the covenant, and nothing more, save that the walls and ceiling were draped with curtains embroidered with cherubic figures. What did this typify? That
(1) God's dealings with his people are based on Law. The tables of stone, "tables of the covenant," were the essential contents of the ark (the pot of manna and the rod were not there originally, nor were they found there when the ark was placed in the temple). God's relation to man is that of Sovereign; from his throne issue the commands concerning what man should be and do; and at his feet lie ever the requirements he makes of man.
(2) Provision has been made for covering over the broken Law from the sight of the King. The mercy-scat on the ark, the golden slab on which was sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the Day of Atonement. "Mercy-seat;" literally, "an expiatory covering." Looking down on his Law, the King sees the Sacrifice, and where he used to hear a testimony of guilt, he now hears a plea for mercy.
(3) The result of this provision is the perfection of his people in his presence. The cherubim bowing before his glory with no fear but that of reverence. The cherubim set forth the highest creature perfection - head of man, body of lion, wings of eagle, feet of ox; representing perfect intelligence, strength, flight, obedience; picture of man perfected, fallen humanity in its restored condition, eternal fellowship with God with completed powers. "We have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" that is the broken Law. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;" that is the mercy-seat. "Whom he justified, them he also glorified;" that is the cherubim.
2. The relation of the Church to Jehovah, as seen in the holy place. (Ver. 2.) The golden altar, candlestick, shewbread-table, occupied this apartment. (Note, no mention of the golden altar in the text, but in the fourth verse the word "censer" signifies anything that holds incense, and probably should be rendered "altar," as we read of no censer belonging to the holy of holies. It is not said in ver. 4 that this was within the holy of holies, but only that it belonged to it; it stood close to the veil, its incense passed through the veil, its work was within whilst its form was without.) These are also part of the type of the Church; the Church below, as the former the Church above. What do they teach about the Church on earth? Righteous mercy raising us to perfection with him. That is God's part of the covenant. What is ours?
(1) The altar, that is, the worship of the Church. Incense in Scripture a type of prayer. The altar sprinkled with atoning blood before incense could be offered; the incense rekindled daily by the holy fire; the fragrant odor passing to the mercy-seat, a sacrifice acceptable. What a type of prayer smoldering in the heart all through the day, kindled morning and evening, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(2) The candlestick, that is, the work of the Church. "Ye are the light of the world." It is the world's night. God lights his lamps, that thereby the world may see what it would see of spiritual realities if it were not night. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord."
(3) The shewbread, that is, the consecration of the Church. Bread represents life. These twelve loaves, one for each tribe, set forth the Divine demand for the dedication to him of all his people. He redeems us that we may be his. "For to this end Christ both died, and rose," etc. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father;" that is the attar. "Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord;" that is the candlestick. "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye," etc.; that is the shewbread.
II. THE CHRISTIAN LESSONS IN THE SYMBOLISM.
1. That the Church is the dwelling-place of God. The symbolism is abolished; what is left? The Christian Church, the spiritual temple, which is to be in the world what the tabernacle was in Israel. As once God dwelt in a consecrated temple, now he dwells in consecrated lives; no more worshipped by sacred forms, but by devout hearts. Symbolism has given place to spirituality.
2. That the true Church is that which embodies the teaching of the holy and most holy places. Or, in other words, the true Christian. You believe in what is done for you within the veil, the Godward aspect of Christian life; but to that do you add the manward - worship, service, consecration?
3. That the way into the Church is symbolized in the types of the old sanctuary. Between the entrance to the tabernacle and the gate of the court, stood the brazen altar on which rite sacrifices were offered, and the brazen laver. No entrance to the Church but by Christ's work and the Spirit's - the atoning blood and the laver of regeneration. - C.N.
1. The covenant had a material or worldly tabernacle which denotes approachableness. The ever-blessed God placed his tent in the midst of the tents of Israel that they might come to him, and use the ordinances of Divine service for their forgiveness, peace, and intercourse with the Father of spirits. It proclaims the truth which our Lord announced to the woman of Samaria, that God seeketh men to worship him. "He is not," said Paul," far from every one of us." This is plainly taught by the incarnation of our Lord, who is Immanuel - God with us.
2. The next thought is that of mystery, for God dwelt in the thick darkness, and once a year the solemn service of the high priest was performed with sacred awe. Within the second veil Jehovah dwelt, and taught men that, how gracious soever he was to come near, he must be had in reverence by all them that are round about him.
3. The appointment of the candlestick signifies illumination for service. It must be confessed that while there are vast and inscrutable mysteries, those things which are requisite for our salvation and growth in grace are very plainly revealed. The mystery of the inner holy place is not for us to understand; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and our children, that we may do all the words of this Law. Our Lord said to a man, probably of a serious temper, who desired to know if few were saved, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." The light of the lamp was for the service of the priest, and Scripture is given that the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works.
4. Then appears the thought of spiritual supply. The tables of shewbread were furnished every week, and the priests ate of the loaves which had stood seven days before God in his tabernacle. God blessed the provision of his house; but the arrangement foreshadowed that supply which Christ claimed to be when he called himself "the Bread of life." "My God," said Paul, "shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
5. The pot of manna and Aaron's rod presented memorials of Divine power. The one reminded worshippers of that all-sufficiency which supplied the wants of myriads with daily bread, and the other was a miraculous act which terminated all disputes about the priesthood. Believers now can look up to the throne and see more illustrious proofs of power in the glory of the Redeemer, who was proved to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead, and by the sight of the number of "spirits of just men made perfect," who have come out of tribulation, and are in the joy and felicity of heaven.
6. Then follows the acceptableness of prayer, which is denoted by the golden censer; and the odors represent the prayers of the saints. Prayers are pleasant to God from the sense of our need, and therefore humility of soul; our faith in his interest in us, and our desire to glorify his Name. The angel said to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God."
7. And, lastly, this furniture signifies mercy and adoration. There was the mercy-seat, under which, in the most sacred place, was the Divine Law. Between the Law and God came the cover of the ark, which was sprinkled with sacrificial blood, and through faith in the arrangement sins were forgiven. This is realized in the Redeemer, who is our Propitiation; through whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. Then the cherubim overshadowed the mercy-seat; for the angels desire to look into these things, and bow with reverence and love in the presence of God. The object of all revelation, all sacrifice, all the work of the Son of God, and all the sacred power of the Spirit, is to prepare believers by the experiences of earth for the adoration of heaven. - B.
κοσμικόν. The sanctuary sheltered within the tabernacle was a sanctuary of this world; but is that all the writer means by the word he uses here? Surely we must remember the antithesis between cosmos and chaos. The furniture of the sanctuary was not a collection of objects placed anywhere and anyhow. There was as much symbolism in the order and relation of these objects as in the objects themselves. All worship and holy service had to be according to Divine regulations. And as all was κοσμικὸς in the visible, symbolic, temporary sanctuary, so all must also be κοσμικὸς in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle.
I. WE MUST RECOGNIZE CHRIST'S PLACE IN THIS SANCTUARY. The new covenant has its sanctuary, even as the old, and that sanctuary is to be found wherever Christ is manifesting himself to take away sin. It is the presence of Christ that makes the holiest place we know, and there is no making of a truly holy place without him. In the old covenant, everything was gathered round the tables of the Law as a center. They expressed the will of God. And so now the center of our religious life, around which all is to be gathered in orderly relations, is to be found in Christ - at once a High Priest to enter into the true holy of holies, and One to show the Law of God in actual working, as something not too high for human attainment. We are to worship and serve God through Christ, and there is no other way whereby we may become faultless in the presence of his glory.
II. WE MUST RECOGNIZE OUR OWN PLACE IN THE SANCTUARY. What are we doing in the way of orderly, well-considered daily service? Is the lamp of our life shining forth every day? Do we help to spread a table for the varied necessities of men, remembering that whatsoever we do for them is done for Christ, and whatsoever is done for Christ is done for God? There is to be a measure of order in our own personal religious life - repentance leading to faith, and faith opening up the way to all that is holy, pure, and Christ-like. - Y.
I. THE RECOGNITION OF LAW IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "The ark of the covenant, wherein were the tables of the covenant." The two tables containing the ten commandments, in accordance with Divine directions, were deposited in the ark (Exodus 25:16, 21; Exodus 40:20). Thus Law was recognized and honored there:
1. As a sacred thing. The tables were in the most holy place and in the most venerated receptacle which that place contained. Law is a benevolent thing, a holy thing. It is at the very center of all things. In the material universe, in human history, and in Divine redemption, law is present everywhere, and operative everywhere. It is of a religions nature, of a Divine nature.
2. As a permanent thing. Ceremonial laws pass away; moral laws are abiding. The "ten words" given on Sinai in their essential characteristics are as binding now as they were under the earlier dispensation. Our Lord endorsed and enforced them. He said, "Thou shall love the Lord thy God," etc. (Matthew 22:37-40). The everlasting continuance of law is essential to the order and well-being of the universe of God. The redemption which is by Christ Jesus aims at the establishment of the Law of God in blessed and perpetual supremacy, and the inspiration and confirmation in man of the spirit and habit of cheerful conformity to that Law. There is law in heaven. The ark of the covenant is there. "And there was opened the temple of God that is heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant" (Revelation 11:19).
3. As a witness against man. Man had broken this holy Law. In his fallen and sinful condition he could not thoroughly keep it. Hence it bore witness against him. The tables of the covenant were also called "the two tables of testimony," and they testified to the transgressions and failures of men. "By the Law is the knowledge of sin." And in this way the Law witnessed to man's need of mercy and forgiveness and spiritual power.
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF GRACE IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. The ark of the covenant was covered, and the covering was called "the mercy-seat." The word which is here rendered "mercy-seat" is applied to our Savior: "Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation," etc. (Romans 3:25). There was a manifestation of grace:
1. In the mercy-seat itself. It was the lid of the chest which contained the tables of the Law. Those tables testified against man, and the mercy-seat hid, as it were, their testimony from the eyes of the Holy One who dwelt between the cherubim. The mercy-seat covered and concealed the accusing tables. Hence arose the poetical view of forgiveness as a covering of sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
2. In the symbolical atonement which was made upon the mercy-seat. The covering of the tables of testimony was not in itself sufficient to put away the guilt of the people. For this atonement also was necessary. Hence on the great Day of Atonement the high priest was required to sprinkle the blood of the sin offerings upon the mercy-seat to "make an atonement, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins" (Leviticus 16:11-16). To the mercy-seat in this aspect there is reference in several verses of the Scripture, or at least the verb used in these verses (kaphar) suggests such a reference. "Our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away" (Psalm 65:3); "He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity" (Psalm 78:38); "To make reconciliation for iniquity" (Daniel 9:24). In this the mercy-seat pointed to the Christ, the great Atonement, the true Propitiatory, "whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith by his blood" (Romans 3:24-26). Thus the manifestation of the grace of God in his redemptive relations with man was symbolized in the covering of the ark of the covenant. Moreover, grace and Law appear here as connected and harmonious. Rightly understood, Law itself is an expression of Divine grace, and Divine grace aims to establish the universal reign of Law, which is but another word for the reign of God. The mercy-seat was "God's throne of grace founded upon Law." Here "mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
III. THE ATTITUDE AND ACTION OF ANGELS IN RESPECT TO GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat." We regard the cherubim as emblems of angelic powers; and their position here suggests that they are:
1. The solemn guardians of God's holy Law. They kept constant watch over the "tables of testimony." They are deeply interested in the maintenance of moral law. They "are in Scripture evermore the attendants, and bearers up, of the throne of God." When man rebelled against the authority of that throne, they were appointed ministers for punishing the transgressors (Genesis 3:24).
2. The interested students of God's redemptive relations with men. The cherubim were represented as looking intently and constantly upon the ark of the covenant. "Toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be," etc. (Exodus 25:20, 21). "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). "Unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places is made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).
3. The willing servants in promoting the successful issue of God's redemptive relations with men. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" (see on Hebrews 1:14).
IV. THE REVELATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN HIS REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Cherubim of glory." They were so called because they appeared to bear up the visible symbol of the presence of God, which in the Old Testament is sometimes called "the glory." God promised to commune with his people "from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Exodus 25:22). "Moses heard the voice of one speaking unto him from between the two cherubim" (Numbers 7:89). God was said to "dwell between the cherubim" (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1). God sometimes manifested his presence here in a luminous cloud, which the Jews called the Shechinah, and here he was always thought of as present. Jesus Christ our Redeemer is the true Shechinah. He is "the Effulgence of the Father's glory, and the very Image of his substance." He is the truest, the highest, the fullest manifestation of God to man. And in spiritual presence God dwells with his people now. The Holy Spirit is present with every godly soul. And Christians are inspired by the mighty and blessed hope that when this life in the body ends, they will follow their Forerunner within the veil and see God "even as he is." - W.J.
I. PRELIMINARY INQUIRIES AS TO SACRIFICE IN GENERAL.
1. What was the origin of the sacrificial act? Did it originate with man or God? In favor of the former, there is the fact that it is not recorded that the first sacrifice was the result of a Divine call. But against this, we are told that the first recorded sacrifice was offered "by faith" (Hebrews 11:4), and faith implies a Divine revelation - "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing," etc. The Divine origin of the act is, therefore, implied. Moreover, the act of religious sacrifice is practically universal. Does not that imply a principle wrought into human nature by its Creator, especially when it is remembered that the act is one repugnant to human feeling? But, more than all, God's covenant with men is based on sacrifice, and it is surely incredible that Jehovah adopted for so supreme an end what man had first suggested.
2. What was the meaning the Jew attached to sacrificial rites? Whatever shades of meaning attached to different offerings, and however much or little spiritual significance to any of them, it must, at least, have been impressed on the Hebrew mind with great clearness that "without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins," that God's people only remained in covenant with him through the efficacy of a substitutionary victim. That was the basis of the Jewish system, and was before the people in various forms every day, and could hardly be missed. How far the average few regarded these as types of a perfect sacrifice to be made hereafter, or how far he trusted in them, cannot be said; but at least the pious amongst them understood that unless the physical act had a spiritual antitype it was unacceptable (Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 50:7-15; Isaiah 1:11-15; Isaiah 53; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:7-8).
3. What are the particular truths symbolized in the various sacrifices? The offerings (except those which applied to special and personal matters) were of five kinds - sin, trespass, burnt, meat, and peace offerings. It must be remembered that these were the offerings of those living under the privileges of the Day of Atonement; in other words, of a people already in covenant with Jehovah. The Day of Atonement was the one day on which expiation was made for all sin, and Jehovah showed himself still their God. That day was unique, and was to the nation what that day is to the believer when, on his first faith in Christ, he is admitted into God's family. By the services of that day the people stood justified before God, in covenant relation with him. No doubt the sum of the five offerings is the Lord Jesus. He is essentially the Sacrifice in whom all these typical sacrifices are gathered, up, and they are so many different aspects of his work. But beside this, and growing out of it, they have reference to different aspects of the worshipper's position. On the Day of Atonement the sacrifices were offered for the people. The high priest did it all; but in these other offerings the people appear as actors, and there is a sense in which these were not made for them, but by them. The penitent sinner has only to receive; that is the Day of Atonement. The redeemed saint has to give; that is represented by these five offerings. The sacrifices, therefore, set forth different aspects of Christ's work, revealing different aspects of the saint's position.
II. WITH THIS IDEA OF THE MEANING OF THE SACRIFICES, GLANCE AT THEM SEPARATELY. When a complete round of sacrificial offerings was required, they were generally made in a specified order: sin, or trespass, or occasionally both; burnt; meat; peace. We may divide these into three groups.
1. Sin and trespass offerings setting forth the worshipper's need off expiation. The prominent idea in both these is expiation. Israel stood before God in a state of reconciliation, yet needing constant pardon for offences committed in that state. These offerings were to meet that need. "He that is cleansed needeth not save to," etc.; but he needs that. In the law of these offerings (Leviticus 4. and 5.) we have sin confessed, judged, requiring blood-shed-ding, atoned for, and pardoned. The peculiarity of the trespass offering was that it was for sins which admitted of some sort of restitution. The teaching of these offerings is that for the Christian's sins there is pardon through the blood of the Lamb, but the condition of which is penitence which tries to undo the wrong done. "I lay my sins on Jesus," etc.; that is the sin offering. "Lord, if I have wronged any man, I restore unto him fourfold;" that is the trespass offering. Where these are combined" it shall be forgiven him" (Leviticus 4.).
2. Burnt and meat offerings expressing the worshipper's desire for dedication. These are classed together in Scripture (Numbers 15:3, 4), and, unlike the former, they were both "sweet savor offerings unto the Lord." The law of the burnt offering is in Leviticus 1. This was the perpetual offering of God's covenant people, being offered every morning and evening. Every sabbath, every month, and at all the annual festivals, and indeed all through the night, when the altar was required for no other use, this sacrifice was slowly consuming. The idea of sin needing expiation was here, but was not the prominent one. This could hardly refer to less than that perpetual self-dedication which is the natural result of acceptance by Geol. (Heads, legs, and inwards all burnt - thoughts, walk, affections.) With this was joined the meat offering. "Meat," equivalent to "food." Man's food is symbolic of man's life. Here we have the burnt offering over again, but with this addition - part of it was bestowed on the priest. See here the Christian law of dedication - a whole life given to God, but in being given to him given to his people. Christ was both Burnt Offering and Meat Offering. "I beseech you.., present yourselves," etc.; that is the burnt offering. "To do good and to communicate," etc.; that is the meat offering.
3. The peace offering representing the worshipper's enjoyment of fellowship. (Leviticus 3.) Its peculiarity is that it was divided into three parts; one burnt as God's portion, one given to priests, and one retained by the offerer, who might invite his friends to partake of it. The idea of unworthiness was represented with the imposition of hands and sprinkled blood; but the great idea was that, notwithstanding unworthiness, peace with God was realized, verified, enjoyed in fellowship. It was the token that the offerer was admitted to a standing in God's house, a seat at his table, communion and friendship. How much is involved when a man can eat together with God and his family! This is fulfilled in Christ; in him God and man find common food; and when we partake of him we are drawn into closest nearness to the Father. This is the peace offering - "Truly our fellowship is with the Father." Expiation, dedication, fellowship, complete Christian life.
III. SUM UP ALL THIS IN THREE PRACTICAL WORDS.
1. The privileges here symbolized are to be fulfilled by the Christian Church. "See here," says God to us, "the blessings you believers may enjoy!" Do we enjoy them? Unless we do we are no better for living under the Christian dispensation, and the Jew was as rich as we.
2. These privileges were only possible at the sacrificial altar. All five offerings were made at the brazen altar used on the Day of Atonement. All our Christian privileges flow from the cross of Christ, and can only be fulfilled as we fulfill them there.
3. These privileges only belong to those for whom the Day of Atonement avails. Only for them - but for them. If we cannot offer the unpardoned sinner these, we can offer him a share in the great essential preceding atoning work. - C.N.
Hebrews 9; Hebrews 10:18), the writer comes here to dwell on the Jewish Day of Atonement. That day is the key to these and following verses, and the most forcible illustration of our Lord's high priestly work. This day was at the basis of the Jewish system; by its services, Israel's covenant relation to Jehovah was re-established and affirmed. The other offerings of the year were dependent on this, representing the various spiritual privileges of those who are at peace with the Most High. On that day, not only was atonement made for the people, but also for the priesthood, and the altar on which the other sacrifices were offered, and the tabernacle and its furniture, implying that the privileges these represented were only possible through the atonement made then. Had there been no Day of Atonement it would have involved the extinction of their peculiar privileges as the chosen people. That day was to Israel what to the believer that day is when in faith he first lays his sins on Christ, and enters the number of the redeemed. Subject - The Day of Atonement fulfilled, and its imperfect blessings perfected in Christ.
I. THE IMPERFECTION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT TYPE. (Vers. 6-10.) It is here said that the Divine Spirit was the Author of these arrangements, that they were a representation of sacred truth, and that in every part of them we have the utterance of a thought of God - so much so that there is, probably, no fundamental doctrine of the New Testament whose striking symbol we cannot find in one or other of these ancient ordinances. Describe the Day of Atonement - the penitence which was to usher it in; the services conducted entirely by the high priest; the two sets of sacrifices, the sin and burnt offerings for himself and his house, and those for the people; the slaying the sin offering for himself, and his entrance within the veil with the blood of sprinkling; the slaying the sin offering for the people, and his second entrance within the veil, sprinkling also the furniture of the holy place as he passed out; the confession of sins over the head of the scapegoat and its being sent away into the wilderness; the putting on of his gorgeous robes and presenting the burnt offerings (dedication after expiation); the closing of the ceremony with the high priestly benediction. Now, what was the use of all this?
1. It was perfect as a type. It is not possible to imagine a more perfect parallel than exists between this and New Testament truth. On the sinner's side, repentance, faith, holiness; on the Savior's side, the substitutionary offering of himself, the passing into the Father's presence to plead his sacrifice, and then "as far as the east is from the west, so far," etc.
2. It was perfect as a means of legal and ceremonial cleansing. God has in all ages but one means of atonement. The nation was not a nation of saved persons after the Day of Atonement; the fact that this was repeated annually showed that "it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." This day "sanctified unto the purifying of the flesh" (ver. 13) - "flesh" as opposed to spirit; it removed legal and ceremonial defilement, and retained the nation in its legal standing with Jehovah.
3. But it was imperfect for giving access to God. "The Holy Ghost this," etc. Conscience knows that no formalism, no human works, can atone for sin and admit to the Divine favor; that when the Day of Atonement has done its best, the spirit of man is left as far from Jehovah as it was before; that the true veil remained unrent.
II. THE PERFECTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TYPE. Vers. 11, 12, and 14 display the wonderful perfection of our Lord's sacrifice.
1. His Divine appointment. The various titles of the Savior are not used at random. Here he is called Christ, the Anointed One - he who was promised by God, and for whom the ages have been looking. The substitution of another in our stead depends for its efficacy on whether God will accept him in that capacity. But God "gave his Son;" God" made him to be a Sin Offering for us;" God "hath set him forth to be a Propitiation." "My son, God will provide himself a lamb;" twenty centuries later, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
2. His Divine nature. "Christ, who through the eternal Spirit," etc. Does this refer to the Holy Ghost? We think not. That name is given to him nowhere else, and it is not easy to see the bearing of that idea on the argument. We take it as referring to the eternal nature of Christ, as opposed to his fleshly nature. "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God according," etc.; "A Priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." According to the flesh, he is Son of man; according to his eternal spirit, he is Son of God. The efficacy of his sacrifice was due to the eternal spirit of Godhead, the most extraordinary feature in his person. He who poured out his soul unto death at the world's great altar for man's sin was God himself, making the atonement his righteousness required. Hence the infinite efficacy of that atonement.
3. His Divine sinlessness. "Without spot." He can bear our sins because he had none of his own.
III. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT BY THE PERFECT REALITY OF WHAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO THE IMPERFECT TYPE. (Vers. 13, 14.) (The word "serve" refers to religious ministration, worship.) Mark the contrast: Let the silver trumpets herald in the Day of Atonement, let its inspired solemnities be all fulfilled; and, though the nation is legally, ceremonially cleansed thereby, this has not met the needs nor silenced the fears of a single contrite soul; not one of their number is spiritually nearer to God, and the most holy place is still inaccessible. Now turn to Calvary, the reality to which these types pointed, and what is the result?
1. Our conscience is satisfied - satisfied because it knows God is satisfied. The atonement, then, meets every requirement of the Divine Law; not even Divine righteousness could demand a greater. In it every claim of our conscience is intelligently and abundantly met.
2. The way into the Divine presence is opened. Sin separates between God and us; but, with a conscience satisfied that sin is put away, we can look into God's face, venture to his side, bow at his feet, confide in his welcome. The veil of the temple fell to as before, and God was still hidden from man, after the great Jewish day; but when the true atonement had been made, the veil was rent in twain, the way into the holiest was made manifest. To the question, "How much more?" the utmost thought of man can give no answer. - C.N.
"The smoke of thine atonement here
I. THE REALITY OF GOD'S DWELLING WITH MEN. Each Israelite family had its tent, and Jehovah's tent was in the midst of all, a center of unity, protection, and glory. Jehovah was the Companion of his people in all their pilgrimage and vicissitudes. It is only as we recollect this that we get at the full significance of John's expression concerning the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The glory that belonged to the tabernacle was thus a parable of the Incarnation glory.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF SATISFACTORY INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. It was dangerous for a man to meddle in Divine things according to his own inclination and his own wisdom. Yet he could not stand aside and neglect Divine things altogether. Such a course was equally dangerous with the other. But if he would only submit to the way of Jehovah's appointment, attending to every detail, and striving to comprehend the undoubted purpose in it, then he-was assuredly in the way of safety. He was doing what God wanted him to do with the resources then within his reach. And though an obedience of this kind, an obedience in certain external rites, could not take away all trouble of conscience, yet when a man comprehended that Jehovah had even this in view, he would feel that what he enjoyed not now he would enjoy hereafter. Though the blood of bulls and goats could not put away sin and wash out the heart's deep defilement, yet the blood-shedding was not in vain, if it intimated the coming of something that would take away sin.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF REAL SERVICE. In itself, the elaborate ritual of the tabernacle was nothing. Save as it was parabolic and provocative of hope and aspiration, it could not be called other than a waste of time. "What mean ye by this service?" was a question which might well be put to every Levitical person every day. But when the service of the high priest looked forward to the sacrificial cleansing service of Christ in perpetuity, and when the service of all the subordinate attendants looked forward to the daily obedience of Christians, faithful in little things, then assuredly the service of the tabernacle gets lifted above a mechanical routine. Under the old covenant, a whole tribe, separated for ritual observance, serving Jehovah in formal religious ordinances, was thereby serving, not only a nation, but all mankind. Serving God in appearance, the Levite served men in reality. Now, under the new covenant, we serve God in serving men. The Christian, because he is a Christian, has most power of all men to serve his brother man. - Y.
I. IN THE TEMPLE IN WHICH HE MINISTERS.
1. The temple in which he ministers is itself pre-eminent. He has "entered in once for all into the holy place." He ministers in the true holy of holies, of which the Jewish one was only a figure. He is not in the symbolized, but in the veritable and immediate presence of God. "A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." "Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us."
2. The access to this temple is pre-eminent. The Jewish high priest entered the holy of holies through the holy place. Our Lord passed into the true holy of holies "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands." It seems to us that "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" cannot mean either
(1) our Lord's human body or his human nature; or
(2) his holy life, "his perfect inward fulfillment of the Law;" or
(3) his glorified body; or
(4) the Church on earth.
No interpretation of this part of our text is without its difficulties; but that which seems to us to be the true one is, that he passed through the visible heavens as through an outer sanctuary into the inner sanctuary of "heaven itself." Our "great High Priest hath passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14), and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The outer sanctuary of the Jewish temple was "made with hands," small and imperfect; but the heavens which Christ passed through were created by the Divine fiat, and they are immeasurably vast and unspeakably glorious.
II. IN THE ATONEMENT WHICH HE MADE. "Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered in once for all into the holy place." The entering in through blood refers to the blood which the high priests took into the holy of holies to" make an atonement" (cf. Leviticus 16:14-16). Christ is represented as entering the heavenly sanctuary through blood. Not literally, but figuratively, must we accept this. He complied with the condition of entrance into the perfect sanctuary as our great High Priest. He made atonement for sin previous to his appearing "before the face of God for us." But, unlike the Aaronic high priests, he needed not to make atonement for himself. For us and for all men he made the pre-eminent atonement - the perfect atonement. How?
1. By the sacrifice of the highest life. Not animal, but human life. Not a sinful or imperfect human life, but a pure, holy, perfect one. He gave his own life - the undefiled, the highest, the sublimest, the supremely beautiful life - as an atonement for the sin of the world.
2. By the voluntary sacrifice of the highest life. Christ did not die as an unwilling Victim. He freely gave himself for us. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," etc. (John 10:17, 18). "Through his own blood," which was willingly shed for us, he effected human redemption, and then ascended to his mediatorial throne.
III. IN THE BLESSINGS WHICH HE OBTAINED FOR MAN.
1. He has obtained eternal redemption for us. Man was in bondage. Wicked powers had enslaved him. He was the thrall of corrupt passions and sinful habits; "sold under sin;" "the slave of sin;" the "bond-servant of corruption." Christ redeemed man from this bondage. He paid our ransom-price. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, with silver or gold; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." He is the great Emancipator. He "proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to the bound." He delivers from the condemnation, from the guilt, from the defilement, and from the sovereignty of sin. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And this redemption is eternal. Its benefits endure forever. It introduces man into everlasting liberty and light, and starts him upon a career of endless progress and blessedness.
2. He is "a High Priest of the good things to come. These good things are the blessings of the gospel age, the privileges which Christians now enjoy. Under the former covenant they were in the future; now they are a present possession. They who lived during that dispensation had the figures of gospel blessings; we have the very blessings themselves. But there is more than that here. Christ is a High Priest of good things yet to come. There are blessings which we hope for in the future, and shall obtain through his glorious priesthood. We look forward to the time when we shall enter upon the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled," etc. (1 Peter 1:4, 5). The blessings which flow to man from his priesthood are inexhaustible and infinite. Through him there will ever be "good things to come" for those who by faith are interested in his gracious and blessed mediation. - W.J.
I. This appears IN THE FUTURE AND ENDURING EFFECTS OF HIS SACRIFICE. All his office relates chiefly to eternity, whereas the work of the Levitical priesthood had to do with annual atonement, purity of person, and temporal blessings. Our Lord directs our thoughts and hopes to the immeasurable future in which are to be found spiritual life, holy peace, perfection of worship, and the everlasting presence of God. These blessings will always be good things to come; for with God is the Fountain of life, and in his light shall believers always see light.
II. THE EXALTED SPHERE OF HIS MINISTRY. The old tabernacle was made with hands. The genius of Aholiab and Bezaleel, the work of carpenter, spinner, and weaver, were applied to make the holy tent. It was a narrow and perishable fabric. Our Lord is now in heaven, which is not made with hands and by the assistance of men or angels. It is the direct creation of the infinite and all-sufficient power of Jehovah, where his holy angels and archangels dwell and worship. The place is suitable for the matchless dignity of the priest. The earthly tabernacle is fit for the weakness and sin of the earthly minister, but heaven with its brightness and purity is the proper tabernacle for the Son of God.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS ATONING BLOOD. The victims whose blood was shed were unconscious of any purpose in their death. There was no willingness and no sympathy with the object of the sacrifice, and there was consequently nothing more than subjection to physical force, which deprived the death of moral value. Our Lord offered himself a willing Sacrifice, and his voluntary surrender to death has imparted to his work of suffering an inconceivable value and power. He is "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." He is now in the holy place as the one, all-sufficient High Priest, whose one sacrificial act has a vital and indestructible force in the government of God and the system of Divine grace.
IV. THE FINALITY AND ISSUES OF HIS SACRIFICE. He entered once, and is therefore unlike the Jewish priest, who went in to the holiest of all year after year. It is the glory of Christ to do this thing once, and there needs no more sacrifice for sin. The redemption is not from year to year, but it has eternal issues which, beginning by faith in him, now advances in constant acts of redemption through life, by which believers are redeemed from evil in its various forms, from the penal stroke of death, and from all the effects, traces, and influences of evil for evermore. - B.
I. A REDEMPTION WHICH IS NOT ETERNAL. This idea of redemption and ransom happily an unfamiliar one to us. But there was a time when people perfectly comprehended the continual risk to themselves and their property from the attacks of strong robber-tribes, who would take a man away and keep him in captivity till his friends provided a ransom. And that ransom did only for the special occasion; there might come another captivity which would need its own ransom. So it was with the services of the old covenant. At no time was Israel allowed to think that enough of beasts had been slain on the altar. No sooner was one accumulation of defilement cleansed away than another began to appear. And thus, also, no sooner did the priest wipe away the blood of one beast than he began to make ready for shedding the blood of another. The task was endless, and no satisfaction or peace came out of it, save the satisfaction of knowing that if this redemption had not been attended to, things would have been infinitely worse.
II. THE REDEMPTION WHICH IS ETERNAL. Christ entered once for all into the holy place, and there he remains in perpetual and profoundly fruitful mediation between God and man. How different from the Jewish priest, slaying his victim, and then before long asking for another! The whole conditions of sacrifice and obedience are altered. Under the old covenant the people themselves had to provide the sacrifices; but now Jesus comes, providing the sacrifice himself, not asking us to do anything save to accept, humbly and gratefully, the completeness of his own service. We cannot provide an eternal redemption for ourselves. All we can do is to escape for the time, and to-morrow we must face to-morrow's dangers. What a grand thing to understand in our very hearts that Jesus is emphatically, the Redeemer! We are not ungrateful for the temporary redemptions of life, and the minor redeemers; but we must ever take care lest, in our natural solicitude for these matters, we neglect the eternal redemption and the eternal Redeemer. If we are safe in vital union with him, then what are all other captivities and all other losses? - Y.
I. THE HUMAN NEED OF CLEANSING. By implication our text teaches the moral defilement of man. Both under the Mosaic and under the Christian dispensation the impurity was moral. But in the earlier dispensation the external and ceremonial uncleanness was made most conspicuous. A very small thing led to this defilement. If a man unwittingly walked over a grave, or touched a dead human body, he was accounted unclean seven days (cf. Numbers 19:11-22). This was designed as a parable of spiritual uncleanness. It was intended to lead men to feel the contamination of sin. So in the Christian economy it is the internal and moral impurity that is exhibited, and the need of spiritual cleansing that is insisted upon. Sin is the corrupting, defiling, separating thing. The great need is a clean heart and a right spirit.
II. THE DIVINE METHODS OF CLEANSING. Our text brings before us two methods, that of the Mosaic economy and that of the Christian, the ceremonial and the spiritual.
(1) Both were of Divine origin.
(2) Both involved sacrifice as an essential element.
But in other respects these methods were widely different. Let us notice the method:
1. In the earlier dispensation.
(1) The sacrifices were of animal life. "The blood of goats and of bulls, and the ashes of a heifer."
(2) The application of the sacrifices was external or corporeal. The use of the blood of goats and bulls was external and visible (Leviticus 16.). The use of the ashes of the red heifer was external and corporeal (Numbers 19.). Both the sacrifices themselves and the application of them came within the region of the senses.
2. In the Christian dispensation.
(1) As to the sacrifice.
(a) It was the sacrifice of a human life. "The blood of Christ, who... offered himself."
(c) It was the sacrifice of the holy human life of a Divine Person. "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God." By "the eternal Spirit" we understand, "not the Spirit of the Father dwelling in Christ, nor the Holy Spirit given without measure to Christ, but the Divine Spirit of the Godhead which Christ himself had, and was in his inner personality" (Alford, in loco). Our Lord's Divine nature acquiesced in the redemptive plan and purpose, and contributed to its fulfillment. "It was 'the blood of Christ; 'of the whole and undivided Christ," as Richard Watson observes, "who was both God and man. For though a Divine nature could not bleed and die, a Divine person could. This distinction is to be kept in mind: for, the person being one, the acts and sufferings of each nature are the acts and sufferings of the same person, and are spoken of interchangeably." "His blood, though not the blood of God, yet was the blood of him that was God." The chief value of our Savior's sacrifice was not in the physical life which was offered, although that was perfect, but in the spirit in which it was offered, he shed his blood for us in the spirit of uttermost and perfect obedience to the Divine Father, and of willing sacrifice for the accomplishment of human salvation. And this spirit of obedience and self-sacrificing love was eternal; not a transient mood or a temporary feeling, but his eternal disposition. "The sacrifice of Christ," says Ebrard, "could only be offered in the power of eternal spirit. Only the eternal spirit of absolute love, holiness, wisdom, and compassion was capable of enduring that sacrificial death."
(2) The application of this sacrifice is spiritual. Its efficacy can be realized only by faith. Not literally has the Christ carried his blood into the true holy of holies. Not literally is it sprinkled upon the consciences of men for their purification. The redemptive power of the death of Christ is a spiritual force, and must be spiritually appropriated. We realize it by the exercise of faith in him (Romans 3:24-26).
III. THE EFFICACY OF THESE METHODS OF CLEANSING.
1. The sacrifices of the Jewish ritual were efficacious in producing ritualistic purity. Doubtless there were persons who, regarding these sacrifices as types of a far higher sacrifice, and these cleansings as figures of a spiritual cleansing, derived spiritual and saving benefits through them. To these benefits the text does not refer, but to the national and ceremonial use of these institutions. They "sanctified unto the cleanness of the flesh." By means of them ceremonial impurity was removed, the separation consequent upon that impurity was brought to an end, and the cleansed person was restored to the congregation of Israel.
2. The sacrifice of Christ is far more efficacious in producing spiritual purity. "How much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse your conscience?" etc. By "conscience" in this place we do not understand any one faculty of our spiritual nature, but our entire moral consciousness in relation to God, our religious soul. "Dead works" are those which are regarded as meritorious in themselves, and apart from the disposition and motive which prompted them. They do not proceed from a heart alive by faith and love. No living spiritual sentiment breathes through them. And their influence on the soul is not inspiring, but depressing. They have no fitness for quickening spiritual affections and powers, but for crushing and killing them. They, moreover, tend to defile man's religious nature. As the touching of a corpse, or the bone of a dead body, or treading upon a grave, defiled a man under the Mosaic Law, so the contact of these dead works with man's soul contaminates it. The moral influence of the blood of Christ cleanses away this contamination (cf. 1 John 1:6-9). The holy and infinite love of God manifested in the death of Christ for us, when it is realized by us, burns up base passions and impure human affections and unholy desires. It acts within us as a fervent and purifying fire. And it inspires the soul for true spiritual service. It "cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God." The word used to express this service indicates its religiousness. It "denotes in the New Testament the priestly consecration and offering up of the whole man to the service of God. . . the willing priestly offering of one's self to God." It does not signify service which is limited to religious duties, but the performance of every duty and all duties in a religious spirit. The whole life is consecrated to the living God, and all its occupations become exalted into a Divine service (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). "How much more," then, "shall the blood of Christ?" etc. In the ceremonial cleansings the connection between the means and the end was merely symbolical and arbitrary; but in the redemptive influences of the gospel there is a beautiful and sublime fitness for the accomplishment of their end. The infinite righteousness and love manifested in the great self-sacrifice of the Savior are eminently adapted to redeem and purify man's soul from sin, and to inspire and invigorate him for the willing service of the living God. Our text corrects two errors concerning the sacrifice of Christ.
1. It corrects the error of those who make the essence of that sacrifice to consist in the physical sufferings and death of our Lord. God has no delight in mere pain, or blood-shedding, or death. In themselves these things cannot be pleasing to God. It was the spirit in which Christ suffered and died that made his death a Divine sacrifice and a mighty power of spiritual redemption.
2. It corrects the error of those who depreciate the expression of the Divine spirit of self-sacrifice in the life and death of our Lord. It was morally necessary that he should give himself as a sacrifice for us, in order that the mighty influence of the Divine righteousness and love might be brought to bear upon us and redeem us. "Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things?" "Thus it behooved the Christ to suffer," etc. (Luke 24:26, 46, 47). - W.J.
I. THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR CEREMONIAL PURIFICATION. A red heifer - the color of red signifying the inflaming nature of sin - was to be slain by a priest; but not the high priest, who was to abstain from all contact with death. And the body and the blood were to be burnt outside the camp. Some of the blood was sprinkled towards the tabernacle, and during the process of burning, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were thrown into the fire. The ashes were laid up for use by those who had become ceremonially unclean by touching the dead, and for the purification of the house, furniture, and utensils where a death had occurred. Being mixed with water and sprinkled upon such persons and homes, on the third and seventh day the defilement was removed. This was the Divine arrangement for the purity of Israel, and those who complied with the will of God enjoyed liberty of approach to his courts, and a share in the blessings of the tabernacle and priesthood.
II. THE SUPERIOR GLORY AND EFFECT OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. The writer had previously noticed the inferior nature and limited effect of animal sacrifices; and here he rises from the blood of slain beasts, and the bodily cleansing they secured, to the Divine nature of our Lord, which gives an untold importance to his death, and ensures the highest spiritual results in the purification of the conscience. By the "eternal Spirit" is commonly understood that glory which is described in the commencement of the Gospel of John. It is probable that the writer looked back to the passage in which he declares that Jesus is "the Brightness of the Father's glory, and express Image of his person." It reminds us of his transfiguration, and the glimpses of his superhuman dignity and power which lighted up his earthly ministry. It is a thought before which we stand in silent and essential wonder, and feel that it lifts the sacrifice of our Lord to a height of glory which transcends our clearest vision. This sacrifice cleanses the conscience from "dead works." Death in the Old Testament always suggests pollution. The conscience which is defiled by dead works sheds a clear and penetrating light on the disqualifying nature of sin, and the exclusion from the service of God which it produces. The precious blood of Christ, which cleanses the conscience, makes it full of the life of love, gratitude, and filial service. The fruit which comes from life is holiness now, and hereafter it is everlasting fire. It opens the prospect of fellowship with God, who is the "living God," and communes with his people from off the mercy-seat. The life of those who are forgiven turns to God, and the living God holds fellowship with them, which is the high privilege of believers now, and the pledge of its continuance in the world to come. - B.
I. AN ARGUMENT FROM THE LESS TO THE GREATER. The writer reminds his readers of a kind of cleansing already practiced by them, and believed to be efficacious for its purpose. From their point of view, they had no difficulty in believing that something was really done when defiled people were sprinkled with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer. Whatever had communicated the defilement was thus removed - in a mysterious way, it is true, and so that there might be no visible sign; but still there was the feeling and the faith that things were really made different. If, then, it was so easy to believe that the sacrifice of brute-life produced such results, what profound and permanent results might not be expected to flow from the cleansing application of the blood of Christ? For in the one, case it was the blood of a brute beast poured out and then done with for ever, available for only one occasion, and needing for the next occasion that another beast should be slain. But here is the shedding of the blood of Christ, the continuous and accurate presentation of the Christ's own life by Christ himself. Surely the writer here is thinking of something more than the shedding of the blood of Christ's natural life on the cross. He is thinking of what Christ is doing behind the veil, on the eternal, invisible scene. The work, whatever it is, is the work done by Christ through an eternal Spirit. He is continually pouring forth his life to cleanse the consciences of believers. Christ's death was a passing into the holy of holies, to go on with the deep realities of which the holiest offerings of the old covenant were only feeble symbols. The writer of the Epistle, therefore, wanted his readers to appropriate the ineffably great results of what Christ was doing.
II. THE MEANS OF APPROPROATION. Clearly the appropriation was by faith. Indeed, all the good that could come through any cleansing ceremony of the old covenant came by faith - often superstitious enough, no doubt, and having little or no result in the improvement of character; but still it was faith. Faith was the element keeping these ceremonials in existence from generation to generation. If nothing more, there was at least the faith that something dreadful would happen if the ceremonials were discontinued. If, then, men will only labor to keep themselves in living connection with the ever-loving Christ, whose life is all the more fruitful since he vanished from the eye of sense, what great things they may expect! Belief in Christ is Christ's own instrument for cleansing the heart, so that there may not any more go out of it the things that defile a man. What wonder that before he closes his Epistle the writer should be so copious in extolling the triumphs of faith, and enforcing the need of it in all the relations of Christian life! - Y.
I. THE TWOFOLD EFFECT OF THE DEATH OF OUR LORD. The free surrender of his life was the means of removing, in the case of believers, the burden of those sins which the Mosaic Law could not take away. The sins committed under the first covenant were not forgiven by acts of sacrifice and the aid of priestly service, which, though ordained by Jehovah, were unequal to produce peace and purity of conscience. It may be that there is a retrospective effect of the death of Christ which furnished the ground of the dispensation of mercy before the mystery of his atonement was revealed. Considering the stress which is laid upon the value of forgiveness in the Scripture, the glory of Jesus Christ shines in the fact that he is the cause, by his death and mediatorial office, of its safe and secure enjoyment. The next effect is to be traced in the vocation of believers to an eternal inheritance, which is to stand in sublime contrast to Canaan, respecting which the Jews say (Isaiah 63:18), "The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while." That inheritance was defiled by idolatry, desolated by heathen invaders, and ruled over by the pagan power of Rome; but that to which our Lord calls his followers is an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth net away." There is a sublime harmony here between the death and mediation of our Lord, and the everlasting effects which they produce and secure.
II. THE VITAL FORCE OF THE COVENANT ARISES FROM THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Here the writer passes over to the idea of a testament or will which is of force when the testator dies. The covenant is a Divine arrangement which includes two parties, for a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is One, and his people are those who, through his condescending mercy, stand on the other side as those who accept and rejoice in the arrangement. The mention of the inheritance suggests the thought of a testament, by which, as soon as the testator dies, the heir enters upon the enjoyment of the inheritance. This is an auxiliary illustration which aids us to understand the mighty love of the Son of God, who was ready to endure the woe and agony of the cross, to bequeath to us the blessing of forgiveness now, and the enjoyment of the imperishable inheritance of heaven in the future life.
III. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE NEW COVENANT ILLUSTRATED BY HISTORICAL FACTS. The allusion in vers. 18-22 is to the original establishment of the covenant with Israel at Sinai. There are several deviations from the Mosaic narrative in this section. In the account in Exodus there is no mention of goats, hyssop, scarlet wool, the book, the tabernacle and its vessels, and therefore there may be here a traditional account; or the writer combined several subsequent acts of Levitical services which had the same signification and object. The essential truth contained in this solemn transaction was the application of blood to ratify the covenant which was made between God and his people at Sinai. It was the Divine will that such should be the method, according to which the old tabernacle, the chosen nation, and the first covenant should be consecrated, and should foretell and typify future events of the highest importance for the world. "Without shedding of blood there was no remission." This voice was heard century after century in the services of the Jewish Law; and now that Christ has become "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," the truth has received a more solemn confirmation. If he is rejected, "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins." If he is received and trusted in, there is peace with God, and hope of eternal life. The phrase which Moses used, "This is the blood of the covenant," recalls the sacred words of Jesus, who said when he took the cup at the Passover feast, and looked forward to the covenant of grace, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins." - B.
I. CONSIDER THE TEMPORAL INHERITANCE. The land of Canaan, which was connected with the old covenant. This land could only be called an inheritance in a typical sense, for the satisfactions which Israel was taught to expect did not come in reality. For as the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, so neither could any mere terrestrial possession ever satisfy a human spirit. This land was but the standing-ground for a time, the place of discipline and revelation. It is always necessary to show by a sufficient experience and consideration the inadequacy of earthly things for those whose proper kinship is with heaven; and the more clearly this inadequacy appears, the more clearly will it appear that somewhere there must be something entirely satisfying. The earthly inheritance proved to Israel a constant scene of struggle, temptation, and loss; and if, by some happy period of lull, an Israelite had something that might not untruly be called satisfaction out of his inheritance, yet the day came when he had to leave it. The inheritance was a more abiding thing than the possessor. Thus, in any message of comfort from God to his people, it could not fail to be pointed out that the best of earthly possessions fall far short of what a loving God intends for his separated and obedient people.
II. THE ATTAINMENT OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE, This inheritance may well be considered in a twofold aspect. It may be considered as something within us, and also as something without. The Israelite possession of the land of Canaan would have deserved something nearer the name of reality if only the Israelite had been first of all in possession of himself. But he was at the mercy of his lusts and selfish inclinations. Real self-possession means heart-submission to God. If we would enter on the real and satisfying inheritance, God must first of all enter upon his proper inheritance in us. Self-control, which suggests something like the caging of a wild beast, must be exchanged for self-surrender. And all this is to come through the searching redemption and cleansing effected by Christ. Then are we ready for that eternal inheritance, which is also external. Christ only can redeem us from present limitations and corruptions, and how great those limitations and corruptions are we have as yet no sufficient perception. It is noteworthy how the λύτρωσις of ver. 12 is strengthened into the ἀπολύτρωσις of ver. 15. We shall enter on an eternal inheritance, suited to the spirit of man - an infinite, inexhaustible possession; where every one will have exceeding abundance, from which he can never be parted, and of which he will never grow tired. In comparison with that reality, the most real things of this world will thin away into dreams. In comparison with its everlastingness, the everlasting hills will be as dissolving clouds. - Y.
I. A SAD FACT. Implied in the text and in the whole of the present section of the Epistle is the sad fact that men are sinners, needing forgiveness of sin and cleansing of soul. Men endeavor by various methods to get rid of this fact of sin. Some attribute what the Bible calls sin to defective social arrangements. Men, say they, are parts of a very imperfect and faulty organization, and their errors are to be charged against the organization, not against the individuals composing it. Others denominate sin "misdirection" or mistake, thus eliminating the element of will and moral responsibility. Others speak of it as "imperfect development." Others charge all personal wrongdoing upon the force of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances, ignoring the fact that solicitation is not compulsion. With these theories, how are we to account for the self-reproaches which men heap upon themselves after wrong-doing - for the fact that men do blame themselves for wrong-doing? We feel that we have sinned, that we are morally free and responsible individually, that we have broken a holy law, that we deserve punishment. The penitent heart cries, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," etc.; "God be merciful to me the sinner." It is a terrible fact that sin is in the world, that we individually are sinners.
II. A GREAT WANT. Remission of sins - forgiveness. Man everywhere is consciously guilty before God; everywhere his heart cries out for reconciliation with him, and forgiveness from him. Altars, sacrifices, pilgrimages, penances, all witness to this. Evidences of this deep need are in our personal experience. The guilt, the consciousness that we have offended God, the dread of the stroke of his just wrath, the aching want of his forgiveness, - these things we have felt. Who shall roll away the burden of our guilt? Who will give us peace? etc. Oh, very deep is this need, and wide as the world!
III. A DIVINE CONDITION. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." Under the Mosaic economy atonement for sin was made and ceremonial cleansing obtained by the shedding and the sprinkling of blood. And the text teaches that forgiveness of sin is attainable, but only through the shedding of blood. What is the reason for this condition? The sacred Scriptures assert that "the blood is the life" (Deuteronomy 12:23). "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11). Now, life is our most precious possession. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." Thus the "shedding of blood' is equivalent to the giving of the life. And to say that we are "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ" is to express the truth that we are redeemed by the sacrifice of his pure and precious and perfect life. But why should forgiveness of sin rest upon this condition of sacrifice? How the atonement of the death of Christ is related to the Divine Being and government we know not. But in relation to man and the forgiveness of sin we may without presumption offer one or two observations. Forgiveness cannot be granted at the sacrifice of law and moral order. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Man must be brought to recognize this, or to pardon him would be to license wrong-doing. A forgiveness which did not respect and honor the law and order of God would sap the foundations of his government, blight his universe, and prove an injury to man himself. How shall the Law be maintained and honored and man be forgiven? God has supplied the answer. He gave his only begotten Son to shed his blood and give up his life for us sinners, as a grand declaration that Law is holy and righteous and good, and must be maintained, and that the Lawgiver is the righteous and loving Father, who is willing to forgive all men who turn from sin and trust the Savior. Through the death of Christ God proclaims the wickedness of sin, the goodness, beauty, and majesty of Law, and his own infinite righteousness and love. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." This is not an arbitrarily imposed condition of forgiveness of sin. The necessities of the case demand it. It is gracious on the part of God so clearly to declare it. And he who declares it has himself provided for its fulfillment. "Herein is love," etc. (1 John 4:9, 10); "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc. (Romans 5:8). "Forgiveness of sin through the shedding of blood, the salvation of the sinner through the sacrifice of the Savior, is the Divine and the only true method. The atonement of the cross is a comprehensive force in the actual redemption of the world from evil."
IV. A GLORIOUS FACT. Forgiveness is attainable unto all men. The blood has been shed, Jesus the Christ has offered up his most precious life as a sacrifice for sin, the Divine condition of forgiveness is fulfilled, and forgiveness is now within the reach of every man. It is freely offered to all men, and upon conditions which render it available unto every man. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," etc. (Isaiah 55:6, 7). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "If we confess our sins," etc. (1 John 1:9).
1. There is no forgiveness for us apart from Jesus Christ. Our works cannot merit it. Presumptuous trust in the mercy of God, as though he were regardless of law and order, will not meet with it. Future obedience as an atonement for past sins cannot secure it. Apart from Christ we cannot obtain it.
2. Accept heartily the forgiveness which is offered to us through him. - W.J.
Genesis 15. There Abram is represented as dividing a heifer, a goat, and a ram, and when darkness came a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces. Then follows the significant statement that in the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram. The idea in the English version of a testament and a testator is not so much misleading as meaningless, for there is no reason at all why a testament should be referred to, but every reason why the writer should go on expounding and illustrating the new covenant as compared with the old. To us, of course, the custom here mentioned is hardly intelligible, but the mention of it would throw a great deal of light on the subject at the time the reference was made. The custom may even have been still in vogue, and human customs have ever been subordinated to Divine ends. Hence we have here a special aspect of the death of Christ. It is presented as - THE SEAL OF A SOLEMN COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, The very existence of Christ is a covenant between the Divine and the human. The glorious things that were in Christ because of the Divine Spirit dwelling in him are promised to us by their very presence in Christ. All the good things coming to Christ because of his humanity are equally offered to us because of our humanity; and all that Christ did in his humanity makes us responsible for doing the same. The promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. We may also add that the obligations of man are defined and settled in Christ Jesus. Thus there is a covenant, and we may well look on the death of Christ as giving that covenant shape in a formal transaction. For there God gave his well-beloved Son to death, the pledge of all that he is willing to give. And Jesus surrendered himself to death, giving the greatest proof of obedience and devotion which a human being can give. Christ's death becomes our death, the pledge of an individual covenant on our part, if only we choose to enter into it. The death of Christ points out a solemn duty and a large expectation. And if the death of Christ is a seal of the covenant, how much is the significance of that seal added to by the resurrection and the ascension into glory! - Y.
I. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS A LOCALITY. It is spoken of here as a place into which Christ entered. In his glorified body he entered there, and we cannot conceive of the existence of a body apart from space and place. Body cannot exist apart from place. Our Lord said to his disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." Doubtless the blessedness of heaven is chiefly a thing of moral condition, not of circumstances; of character, not of locality. If a person's soul be impure, sinful, and possessed by wicked passions, no place could afford him joy. To such a one "heaven itself" would be a place of intolerable misery. Heaven as a state is in the holy soul; but there is also heaven as a place in which the holy dwell. We know not where this place is. We know it is not in the visible, stellar heavens; for Christ passed through them (Hebrews 4:14) into heaven itself. But where it is situated we know not. We know not its aspects or the character of its scenery. But we are convinced that it must be supremely beautiful. There are scenes of exquisite beauty and glorious grandeur and awful sublimity in this world. And we cannot but believe that in this respect heaven will, at least, be not less beautiful, or grand, or sublime. Rather, does not every consideration encourage the belief that it will present scenes that for beauty and sublimity, grandeur and glory, will immeasurably surpass everything that we know at present?
II. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE SCENE OF THE SUPREME MANIFESTATION OF GOD. "The presence of God" is manifested there. "The face of God" is seen there. Moses said unto Jehovah, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" and he was answered, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live Thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen" (Exodus 33:18-23). It must, we conceive, in one sense remain forever true that no man shall see the unveiled face of God, and live. "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). But it is also true that in the future there will be granted unto his people a spiritual vision of God of much greater clearness and fullness than any which they have in this present state. Their "future life will be spent in God's presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life." For this the intensely religious soul of David yearned. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness," etc. (Psalm 17:15). With ardent desire St. Paul anticipated that he should see him "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). And St. John was thrilled with the sublime and sanctifying hope that he should "see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). At present we see him through his works. Creation is a revelation of his might and majesty, his wisdom and goodness. But a nearer and clearer vision of him awaits us in the future. In that future our perceptions will doubtless be more quick and true, more comprehensive and strong, than they are at present. Here and now some men discern signs of the Divine presence and catch sounds of the Divine voice, where others recognize nothing Divine.
"Cleon sees no charms in nature - in a daisy, I; 1. Enrapturing. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." 2. Transforming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after forty days' communion with God, "the skin of his face shone." He had caught something of the glory of the august and awful Being with whom he had been in communication. How much more will the saints in heaven receive of his glory! For (1) Moses saw only his "back parts," but "they shall see his face" (2) Moses saw him and caught of his glory in his fleshly and mortal body, but they shall see him in their spiritual and immortal bodies. (3) Moses was with him but for forty days, but they shall be with him forever. For this vision is: 3. Abiding. In heaven itself the manifestation of God will not be occasional or intermittent, but regular and constant. "He will dwell with them," etc. (Revelation 21:3). III. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE ABODE OF THE CHRIST AND THE SCENE OF HIS PRESENT MINISTRY. "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there in his mediatorial glory (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1). 1. He is there as the Representative of man. The expression, "to appear in the presence of God for us," suggests that he is in heaven as our Representative or Advocate (cf. Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). As the Aaronic high priest, on the great Day of Atonement, went into the holy of holies as the representative of the people; so our Savior, "when he had made purification of sins," "entered into heaven itself," etc. 2. He is there continuously as the Representative of man. The meaning of the "now" is, "from the point of time when he entered heaven as our High Priest, onward indefinitely." It implies the continuance of his appearance before the face of God for us. CONCLUSION. Let us seek for heaven in the soul, or we can never be admitted into heaven itself. "Blessed are the pure in heart," etc. (Matthew 5:8). "Follow after holiness," etc. (Hebrews 12:14). - W.J.
1. Enrapturing. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
2. Transforming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after forty days' communion with God, "the skin of his face shone." He had caught something of the glory of the august and awful Being with whom he had been in communication. How much more will the saints in heaven receive of his glory! For
(1) Moses saw only his "back parts," but "they shall see his face"
(2) Moses saw him and caught of his glory in his fleshly and mortal body, but they shall see him in their spiritual and immortal bodies.
(3) Moses was with him but for forty days, but they shall be with him forever. For this vision is:
3. Abiding. In heaven itself the manifestation of God will not be occasional or intermittent, but regular and constant. "He will dwell with them," etc. (Revelation 21:3).
III. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE ABODE OF THE CHRIST AND THE SCENE OF HIS PRESENT MINISTRY. "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there in his mediatorial glory (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1).
1. He is there as the Representative of man. The expression, "to appear in the presence of God for us," suggests that he is in heaven as our Representative or Advocate (cf. Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). As the Aaronic high priest, on the great Day of Atonement, went into the holy of holies as the representative of the people; so our Savior, "when he had made purification of sins," "entered into heaven itself," etc.
2. He is there continuously as the Representative of man. The meaning of the "now" is, "from the point of time when he entered heaven as our High Priest, onward indefinitely." It implies the continuance of his appearance before the face of God for us.
CONCLUSION. Let us seek for heaven in the soul, or we can never be admitted into heaven itself. "Blessed are the pure in heart," etc. (Matthew 5:8). "Follow after holiness," etc. (Hebrews 12:14). - W.J.
I. THE TWO DEATHS. The death of man, and the death of the Christ. They are mentioned together here to bring out the fact that Christ's offering of himself will not be repeated. Notice these two deaths in the order in which they are here mentioned.
1. The death of man.
(1) The event itself. Seneca asks, "What is death, but a ceasing to be what we were before? We were kindled and put out; we die daily." "The cessation of the vital activities is death, which is simply another name for discontinuance," says Grindon. And Longfellow, "Tis the cessation of our breath." It is dissolution, the separation of the soul and body. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was," etc. (Ecclesiastes 12:7). It leads to great and momentous changes in the mode and conditions of our life.
(2) The certainty of the event. "It is appointed unto men," etc. It is the lot assigned to us by the great Sovereign of being. God, says Gurnall, "to prevent all escape, hath sown the seeds of death in our very constitution and nature, so that we can as soon run from ourselves as run from death. We need no feller to come with a hand of violence and hew us down; there is in the tree a worm, which grows out of its own substance, that will destroy it; so in us, those infirmities of nature that will bring us down to the dust." "No man hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit," etc. (Ecclesiastes 8:8; cf. Psalm 49:6-10).
(3) The solitariness of the event. "It is appointed unto men once to die." This death occurs but once. It is an event which can never be repeated. In this fact we have a reason why we should pre- pare for it. Many actions are done often in a lifetime, and if their earliest performance be not satisfactory, we may do them better afterwards. Some of our experiences occur often, and if at first we were not prepared for them, and passed through them without advantage, or with disadvantage, we may prepare for their recurrence, and then pass through them with decided benefit. But death is an experience which never recurs; let us, then, prepare for it. It is a journey which we shall travel only once - " the way whence we shall not return;" therefore let us be in readiness for it.
2. The death of the Christ. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."
(1) He died as a Sacrifice for sin. "Offered to bear the sins." He bore our sins in his feeling. In his heart he had such a deep sense of the wickedness of human sin as was possible only to a Being of perfect holiness. He mourned over sin with deepest sorrow; he condemned it as utterly wicked; and he sought to deliver men from it. He also bore our sins in his sufferings and in his death upon the cross. Here he was offered to bear the sins of many. "His own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc. (Isaiah 53:5, 6, 12).
(2) He died as a Sacrifice for the sins of all men. "To bear the sins of many." The "many" signifies men in general; all men, as in Hebrews 2:9: "By the grace of God he should taste death for every man." So also teaches St. Paul: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." "And he died for all." "Who gave himself a Ransom for all." So also St. John (1 John 2:2). And our Lord himself (John 3:15, 16; John 12:32).
(3) He died as a Sacrifice which is never to be repeated.
(a) Its repetition is impossible. As man can die only once, so the Christ can only be offered in death once.
(b) Its repetition is unnecessary. His offering was perfect in itself and in its efficacy; its efficacy, moreover, is perpetual, so that it need not be repeated. Heaven asks no more. Man needs no more.
"His precious blood
II. THE TWO APPEARINGS AFTER DEATH.
1. The appearing of man after death. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this, judgment." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:10). The fact of human responsibility to God suggests the coming of a great day of account. The Divine government of the world, and the inequalities between the characters and conditions and circumstances of men, which are so many and remarkable at present, point to the necessity of such a day. The holy Bible declares it as a certainty (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10-12). How unutterably solemn the consideration that all the myriads of the dead shall appear again in the great day, and before the awful and holy tribunal of the Son of God and Son of man.
2. The appearing of the Christ after death. "The Christ, also, having been offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time," etc.
(1) He will appear again. "The Christ shall appear a second time." "This Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner," etc. (Acts 1:11). He promised his disciples, "I will come again," etc. (John 14:3; and cf. Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 1:7).
(2) He will appear again "apart from sin. His first coming was distinctly related to sin. Him who knew no sin, God made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:21). That relation and character is completed, fulfilled. "Having been once offered to bear the sin of many," his personal connection with it is ended. He has done with it. His next coming will be apart from sin, and in great glory. "The Son of man shall come in his glory," etc. (Matthew 25:31). "Looking for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
(3) He will appear to perfect the salvation of his people. "Unto salvation." Here are two points:
(a) The attitude of his people in relation to his coming. "Them that wait for him" This implies:
(α) Faith in his coming. "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. (Philippians 3:20, 21). (β) Desire for his coming. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
(γ) Expectation of his coming. They "wait for God's Son from heaven," etc. (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
(b) The object of his coming in relation to his people. "Unto salvation." To perfect their salvation. He will raise their bodies, reunite body and soul, receive them into his glory. He will say unto them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father," etc. They shall enter into the joy of their Lord. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things," etc. (2 Peter 3:14). - W.J.
I. THE FIRST ADVENT. Here Christ shares the common lot of men; he dies, and dies once for all. There is no dying and rising and dying again. He is offered as a Sacrifice once for all, to bear the sins of many. And here, of course, the death of Christ must be taken as representing the whole of his life in the flesh. His life in every hour and every faculty was vicarious. He was ever striving to show that he could neutralize the consequence of sins committed, and prevent the commission of sins to come. His great aim was, in every sense of the expression, to take away sin. And from his place of power and glory on high this is his aim still. No matter how laden the conscience may be with guilt and the remembrance of folly, no matter how full of weakness the life, Christ has all fullness of power and steadiness of disposition to restore strength, rectitude, and purity. Let it be remembered that this is Christ's present work. Christ is in his Church continually, that his Church may have success in setting him forth as taking away the sin of the world. Whenever we come across sin, in ourselves or in others, we should ever view it in relation to Christ. Then we shall be filled with a sense both of responsibility and hope. Sin is not a burden to be sullenly endured, but to be removed by faith in Christ.
II. THE SECOND ADVENT. In Christ's first coming everything is connected with sin. He is lifted up to draw sinners to him. All the energy of the Spirit and all the agencies of the gospel are employed to persuade sinners to accept the sin-bearing, sin-removing work of Christ. But he is coming a second time, altogether apart from sin - coming to deliver into everlasting security those who have believed in him. The completeness of salvation is always looked upon in the New Testament as a thing yet to come. The promise is of immediate safety, as far as it can be given in our present surroundings. It is our own fault if we are not safe from backsliding, temptation, and doctrinal error. But in the fullest sense of the word salvation, we are saved, as Paul says, by hope. We are hoping for full possession of every good, full security from every evil. When Christ has taken away the sin of the world, he will take away the peril, the insecurity, of the world. - Y.