Since 8:1 the Hebrew writer has been involved in a detailed discussion of the priestly work of Jesus. In discussing the subject he developed three major ideas: tabernacle, covenant and sacrifice. The tabernacle was the place of the priests' work and the place where man had access to God, the covenant set forth the terms by which people could be acceptable to God and the sacrifices provided the means whereby people could approach God. The superior tabernacle and covenant of Jesus was discussed in chapter 8. The writer brings to a close in 10:1-18 the discussion of the superior sacrifice of Jesus which was begun in 9:1.
The Mosaic law and everything it prescribed was merely "a shadow of the good things to come." A shadow of something bears the rough image of the real thing. Many things of the old system were mere shadows of the real things found in Christ. The law of Moses shadowed the gospel of Christ. Aaron's high priesthood shadowed the high priesthood of Jesus. Levitcal sacrifices shadowed the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Purification in the Old Testament pictured complete redemption in Christ. Earthly Canaan rest shadowed the heavenly rest. The tabernacle pictured the church. [See 8:1- 6a and 9:23-26 on shadows]. The shadow/reality on the mind of our author is the Law of Moses (shadow) and the "good things to come" (reality). What was the "good things to come"? Jesus became "a high priest of the good things to come" (9:11). He is a high priest in the new and better covenant prophesied through Jeremiah (8:6; Jer.31:31-34). The "good things to come" was the new order of things under Christ. The things of the old system were mere shadows of the real things of the new system.
On the Day of Atonement lambs were slain for the high priest and for the people (cf.Lev.23). Every year more lambs would have to be slain, going through the same process all over again. This was necessary because those sacrifices could not make them spiritually perfect (cf.9:8-10,13,14). When they committed sin their conscience would say, "You've committed sin and you must pay the price for sin." Since "the blood of bulls and goats" doesn't take away sin, when they made their offering for sin their conscience would continue to say, "You've committed sin and you must pay the price for sin." Their conscience was not made clean since the sin remained. The annual atonement was a reminder to the Jew that God had not forgotten their sin or its penalty.
Since the sacrifices under the Law of Moses did not remove sin but served as a reminder that God remembered their sins and the penalty they would have to pay for those sins, it is clear these sacrifices were inadequate. Sinful man needed a sacrifice which would do much more than these.
In 10:5-7 the writer of Hebrews attributes the words of Psalms 40:6-8 to Jesus. There are three things we want to briefly note from this passage in Psalms. First, God finds no pleasure in "whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin". God never desired His people to offer animal sacrifices for the sake of the sacrifice. The sacrifices were intended to be a tangible expression of a devoted and obedient heart. It meant a man was taking something dear to him and giving it to God to show his love. The idea degenerated till the sacrifice was thought to be the way of buying God's forgiveness. God wants us to sacrifice our will for His will. He finds no pleasure in the sacrifices themselves. Next note that a body was prepared for Jesus. "The Word became flesh" (Jn.1:14). In Philippians 2:5- 8 Paul makes the same point when he says Jesus took "the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; ...found in fashion as a man." The body which was prepared for Jesus by God was given back to God as a "living sacrifice". And finally, note Jesus said, "I am come...to do thy will, O God." Jesus, in the body prepared for Him, busied Himself with doing the will of His Father who had sent Him. We remember the words of the Father when Jesus was baptized of John, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father was well pleased with His Son because His Son was not just making sacrifice of animals as the law dictated, but He was making a sacrifice of a different sort. He was making the sacrifice of wholehearted obedience to His Father's will.
In these words of the Psalmist our author sees the first covenant being taken away so a second covenant could be established in its place (10:8,9). By being what the sacrifices of the old system foreshadowed, Jesus was able to fulfill the Law of Moses (cf.Mt.5:17), thereby taking it away, and establish a new, superior, covenant which had been prophesied about by Jeremiah. Without the old covenant first being taken out of the way the new covenant of Christ could not have been established.
To show the adequacy, and, therefore, superiority, of the sacrifice of Jesus the author of Hebrews points out that the priest of the old system had to continually go through the same process of offering sacrifices for sins (see again 9:23-28). Their work of making offerings for sin continued daily in the temple. This process was never ending because those sacrifices could "never take away sins" (10:11). Our author is emphasizing that since the sacrifices of old could not take away sins, they continually had to be repeated. As they completed one sacrifice they had to begin preparing for the next. Since it was never ending, the priest of the old system never sat down in the presence of God.
In contrast to this repetition of sacrifices Jesus offered Himself "once for all" having "perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (10:10,14). He "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (10:12). We do not need repetitious sacrifices since the one sacrifice of Jesus has taken care of the problem of sin. Since the one sacrifice of Jesus was able to take away sins, He "sat down on the right hand of God" (10:12). The priest of the old order continually stood to offer never ending sacrifices because their sacrifices could NOT remove sin. The sacrifice Jesus made of Himself DOES remove sin. He is, therefore, able to be seated at the right hand of God.
Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant which would provide what animal sacrifices could not provide. It was prophesied, "their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (8:8-13; 10:16,17; Jer.31:31-34). This is in direct contrast to animal sacrifices. "In those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year" (10:3). By the offering of animal sacrifices no sin was ever forgotten. Since the sacrifice of Jesus is able to remove sin, they are remembered no more.
"Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (10:18). There is no need for sin offerings to continue to be made since remission has already been found in the one sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifice of the new covenant is certainly adequate to remove sin.
Why would any Christian who has Jesus as their high priest seated at the right hand of God want to turn back to the inadequate and inferior Mosaic system?
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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.