By Tyson Thorne

March 28, 2018
 

Hebrews 12 Large

It starts out like an adventure novel, one rooted in ancient rites and secrets. Hebrews chapter nine lays out the priestly practices of the old covenant, describing the tabernacle that Moses knew as a tent within a tent. The outer structure was where the priests practiced their duties, and only one — the high priest — could enter the second tent to sprinkle blood on the holy artifacts, the altar and the ark of the covenant and even their own garments. It sounds grizzly and dark, death and blood working together for the covering of a nations sins.

The truth is, it was grizzly and dark as anything having to do with sin must be. In these first 10 verses we see a variety of artifacts, besides the ark, that would interest Indiana Jones. An ancient lamp stand and table, the golden altar, a golden urn, Aaron's staff and the original 10 Commandments written by the finger of God. This old tabernacle, and the two temples that came after it, served their purpose: while a shadow isn't the object one looks for it is evidence of the presence of that object. The Holy Spirit came as promised, but not until the old had been destroyed to make way for the heavenly tabernacle and its new order.

Out of all this darkness and treasure comes the light of Christ in verse 11. What the blood of goats and calves could not accomplish his own could, and so through his blood — in a single sacrifice — he secured salvation for all who would trust in him. And in all these works, both old and new, there is the matter of our conscience. In verse nine we learn that the old sacrificial system "could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper", and in in verse 14 that the work of Jesus was in part to "purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God". In all this discussion about the old and new covenants its easy to get lost in the accomplishments and superiority of Jesus and forget that we are the reason for it all. The living God, his Holy Spirit and our Savior as one desire to win us back and restore a right relationship with us. Which brings us to verse 15.

The author switches to a new metaphor. We who are called to righteousness and eternal life receive an "inheritance". Like all inheritance, this one is granted by a will and is only given after the proven death of the will's author. This is compared to the old covenant, which also depended upon death and blood to bring about a reward for the living. The final sacrifice of Jesus resulted in the forgiveness of our sins, but there is another gift yet to come, a promised inheritance, which is our salvation. As it is written in verse 28: "after Christ was offered to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation."

Hopefully this helps you understand the complex text of chapter nine, but I'd like to point out a couple other observations. Once more the author uses the term "sketch" to describe the old covenant system. I won't go into the significance of that here since we covered it in detail yesterday, but there is another phrase that is also surprising that occurs in this chapter. In verse ten the new covenant is described as the "new order". In Greek the literal translation is "until the time of setting things right" or "season of right ordering". This phrasing again goes back to first century philosophical orders. They are terms often used today in Freemasonry. I'm not suggesting any hidden code or message may exist (or AM I?), only that the style of writing in this letter is clearly not typical of the apostle Paul. Like a compass needle pointing north, these words and phrases point to a man with a more worldly and philosophical education, Apollos.

 

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