Sermon: The Work of Christ (Hebrews 9:1-14)

The Work of Christ

Hebrews 9:1-14 (ESV)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.  [2] For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place.  [3] Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place,  [4] having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.  [5] Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

[6] These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,  [7] but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.  [8] By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing

[9] (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,  [10] but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

[11] But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)  [12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  [13] For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,  [14] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

So far in our study of Hebrews we’ve learned just how Jesus Christ far exceeds all the Old Covenant.  All of it has also shown that the benefits to God’s people are also superior.  God’s people have much greater benefits in the New Covenant with the Great High Priest than we ever could in the old system.  So, we’ve learned all this from the prospective of greater things for us.  What about God?  Has the New Covenant benefited Him in any way?  This text shows us again the great benefit to us and it does also show that from God’s prospective a great benefit for Him as well.  If we are to be God-centered we must consider all aspects of the New Covenant.  Christ’s great mediatory work not only brings sinners to God but allows God to be approached by sinners.

1. Old Testament Worship Symbols and Types (Hebrews 9:1-5)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.  [2] For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place.  [3] Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place,  [4] having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.  [5] Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

The author begins by explaining the various regulations for Old Testament worship.  If God was going to meet with His people He had to make provisions to do so.  Thus the tabernacle was brought into reality.  It was that special place that God’s holiness could exist on earth.  Since the fall when sin entered the world and death through sin, God had been separated from His ultimate capstone creation.  Man, made in God’s image, could not enjoy the fellowship that once was there.  Man’s sin not only affected man’s relationship with God but also affected God’s relationship with man.

The writer lays out for us the setting of the tabernacle.  Each piece had a symbolic purpose.  I want us all to see that each piece pointed to Christ.  The tabernacle was on earth but what it pointed to was heavenly.  It was an earthly symbol of a heavenly reality.

Col. 2:17 (ESV)

These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The tabernacle was divided into two sections.  The first section was called the sanctuary or holy place.  In the sanctuary there was the lamp stand, table and the shewbread.

The lamp stand was always lit.  The oil had to be continually kept up and the wicks trimmed on a daily basis.  The light from this lamp would fill the sanctuary at all times.  This light was the symbol of Christ the true light.

John 8:12 (ESV)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Christ is the light of the world and as the lamp was filled with oil continually, believers are filled with the Holy Spirit continually.  The lamp pointed to Christ but it wasn’t Christ.

The shewbread was prepared every Sabbath by the priest.  This was similar to the manna that fell in the wilderness during this time.  The bread was displayed on a table made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  The way it was displayed looked a lot like a meal prepared in the presence of God.

John 6:32-40 (ESV)

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  [33] For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  [34] They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

[35] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  [36] But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  [37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The next piece mentioned is the altar of incense.  The incense burned night and day and represented the prayers of the priests before God.  Prayers can only be offered to God through a Mediator.  The OT priest served this purpose temporarily.  Now, we have The Mediator Jesus Christ.

Ephes. 2:18 (ESV)

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

As the OT priests kept the incense burning night and day, so Jesus offers the prayers of the saints night and day to the Father.  When we pray, we’re not alone.  In our weakness we pray and Christ makes our prayers suitable God the Father through the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit intercedes.

Romans 8:26 (ESV)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Christ intercedes.

Romans 8:31-34 (ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The next item mentioned is the Ark of the Covenant.  It’s called this because it contains the tablets of the covenant God made with Moses.  It also contained Aaron’s staff that budded to show he would be the first priest.  It also contained the manna, which we’ve already discussed.  All this points to Christ as well.  Just as the dead rod of Aaron budded or came to life, we have a great High Priest who also came to life after He was dead.  Jesus is the One who brought in the New Covenant.  He is the true bread from heaven.

2. The Ritual Duties of Old Testament Worship (Hebrews 9:6-10)

[6] These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,  [7] but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.  [8] By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing

[9] (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,  [10] but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

The writer brings all this to our attention to show us that the tabernacle pointed to a holy and glorious God whose presence had to be veiled from the people by a double curtain.  The only exception was that once a year one priest could enter into God’s glory.  This could only be accomplished because what all the rituals pointed to was Christ.  The High priest’s entrance at the Day of Atonement was a glorious symbolic of the work of Christ but it was only symbolic.  Christ had not accomplished His saving work yet.  That’s why we have this verse…[8] By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing

Because of God’s holiness and our sinfulness, there was a barrier built so that the glory of God could be present on earth.  Think of it, God created man to give Him glory.  He made man in His image, the crowning of all creation and because of sin, all this was marred.  God could not walk with man any more.  He had to separate Himself from us for our protection.  God was on one side of the veil and His people on the other.  At best all that could happen was a once-a-year encounter with God’s glory but not really with God Himself.

Something was about to change.  Something the world and Satan would never expect. 

3. New Testament Worship Spirit and Truth (Hebrews 9:11-14)

[11] But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)  [12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  [13] For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,  [14] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In verses 11-12 we witness the key to our redemption.  Christ literally passed through the true holy of holies into the very presence of Almighty God.  He didn’t enter the earthly tabernacle but the heavenly one.  Jesus didn’t go based on the blood of an animal sacrifice but based on His own shed blood.

When did all this happen?  If we are to remain Christ-centered we must think things through biblically.

Just as the priest would make a sacrifice for the people, Christ made a sacrifice for His people.  The OT priest was not sacrificing the animals for say the Philistines or some other group but for the Israelites.  In the Book of Exodus during the Passover, the father was commanded to sacrifice a lamb and to paint the blood on the doorpost of the home.  That lamb’s blood was only meant for that particular household.  It wasn’t intended to cover the neighbor’s house.  If the neighbor didn’t also do what was commanded the death angel entered and took the life of the firstborn.  When a sacrifice was made it was applied directly to a certain person or group.

When Jesus made His sacrifice, it was sufficient to save everyone in the world.  But it was efficient to save those who are His.  At the moment Jesus died on the cross He yelled with every fiber of His being, It is finished…!

John 19:30 (ESV)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

What did Jesus mean?  When He said these words, He was declaring that salvation for His people was accomplished.  Their sins were now paid in full.  Jesus paid our sin debt for us.  Also, at that moment some strange events took place around Jerusalem.

-Sun went dark…

Amos 8:9 (ESV)

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God,

“I will make the sun go down at noon

and darken the earth in broad daylight.

For three hours, from 12 noon till 3pm there was darkness.  This was no eclipse. Passover is always held during a full moon.  It’s scientifically impossible to have an eclipse during a full moon.

Luke 23:44-45 (ESV)

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,  [45] while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

When Jesus cried out My God My God why have You forsaken Me…He called out to the darkness.  God had so turned His back on sin that everything went black.

-The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom…

The split second divine payment was made for the particular sins of God’s people; He ripped the veil that for so many centuries had kept Him from His people.  God must have always hated that veil.  Now His people could have access through the Son.  Jesus would win souls to God.

Could you image if you were one of the priests at the moment the curtain was ripped?

-There was an earthquake…

Amos 8:8 (ESV)

Shall not the land tremble on this account,

and everyone mourn who dwells in it,

and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

Matthew 27:51 (ESV)

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Here we are told about the anger of God, another sign of the wrath that was poured out on Jesus for our sins.  When the rocks were broken the New Covenant was beginning and the hard rock of the human heart began to break as well.

Matthew 3:9 (ESV)

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

-Graves were opened…

Matthew 27:52-54 (ESV)

The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,  [53] and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  [54] When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Our Great High Priest in an instant would render the complete Mosaic System obsolete.  He would conquer death and the grave.

Isaiah 26:19 (ESV)

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.

You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

For your dew is a dew of light,

and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Jesus’ death conquered death for us.  As a sign of the resurrection to follow the graves of the saints burst opened and the dead walked.

-The greatest miracle of all…

Sin was atoned for and immediately it meant forgiveness for the elect of God.  There was one of God’s people who had to be saved from death so he could be saved from sin.  That day, God’s grace was seen in a miraculous way.  There was a sinner who could not do anything meriting salvation hanging next to King Jesus.

Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  [40] But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  [41] And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  [42] And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  [43] And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

How badly did God want sin removed?  So badly that the second it happened forgiveness was the result.

It’s as if God had angels ready and watching for His signal.  One was at the temple, one was ready to cover the sun, one ready to shake the earth, one ready to break open the tombs of the saints and Jesus ready to pronounce eternal forgiveness for a repentant thief.

What a Great High Priest we love and serve.

Do you know this Priestly King as Lord and Savior?  God has made provision to save sinners like us.  Come to Christ today and serve Him with all your heart because He is worthy.

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