In our last study in Hebrews 9:1-5, the writer of Hebrews was continuing to build a case for the superiority of Messiah’s priestly ministry over the Levitical priesthood. Beginning in verse six of chapter nine, he concludes this part of his argument by making the statement that the Levitical priests were ministering in the outer tabernacle only and not allowed to go into the inner tabernacle at all. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the inner tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, and only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He concludes this portion by stating that “The Holy Spirit is signifying” that the restricted access into the Holy of Holies was demonstrating that true entrance into God’s presence, represented by the Holy of Holies beyond the veil, “had not yet been disclosed.” In other words, the Levitical system was intended to show that the true way to God was not accomplished through it. Therefore, it was always intended to be temporary, “until a time of reformation.” The Greek word for “reformation” is used only here in the New Testament and means “to make straight, to make right, to rectify a situation.” It was pointing to the time that Messiah’s sacrifice would make things right between man and God.
That brings us to the conclusion of this argument beginning in verse eleven. “But when Christ, Jesus the Messiah, appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle.” When Jesus died on that Roman cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, He entered the Heavenly Tabernacle, not made with human hands, “not of this creation.” He did so “not through the blood of goats and calves,” but through His own blood. What that accomplished is what the writer of Hebrews calls “eternal redemption.” The intent here is to compare the temporary nature of the Levitical system with the permanent nature of the Messiah’s sacrifice, which was “once for all.” Unlike the Levitical sacrifices, even on Yom Kippur, which were temporary and repetitive, Messiah’s sacrifice, once for all, accomplished eternal redemption.
The objective of the writer of Hebrews was to show the superiority of Messiah’s priestly ministry over the Levitical sacrifices and priesthood. Ultimately, the purpose of the sacrificial system was to point people to the Messiah and what would be the final sacrifice. Messiah’s priesthood was shown to be superior to the Levitical priesthood in three distinct ways:
First, a superior tabernacle: Messiah,
as our great High Priest, sits at the right hand of God in the Heavenly Tabernacle, not of this creation, superior to the earthly tabernacle made with human hands. The Levitical High Priest could only enter once a year, on Yom Kippur, beyond the veil, into the Holy of Holies. Messiah entered the Heavenly Tabernacle once for all, and in the process, the veil of the earthly tabernacle, representing restriction from God, was torn from top to bottom.
Second, a superior blood offering: The Levitical High Priest entered the earthly tabernacle, into the Holy of Holies, once a year with the blood of bulls and goats. Messiah entered the Heavenly Tabernacle, once for all, through, not with, His own shed blood.
Third, a superior sanctification: The Levitical sacrifices ceremonially cleansed the external part of the person, the flesh, what people could see, but was never able to cleanse the internal, what people could not see, here referred to as the “conscience.” But the blood of Messiah is able to cleanse a believer’s conscience “from dead works to serve the living God.” Those “dead works” in this context seem to refer to the Levitical rituals that, in contrast with the work of Christ, can never impart spiritual life. The ultimate goal of Messiah’s death is for every believer in Him to serve the living God.