Study Notes

Hebrews 8:1-13


Last Sunday morning, we learned that there is a priesthood far superior to that of the Levites - the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek.

It is superior because it is based on a better covenant, it was made eternal by an oath of God, and it only requires one sacrifice for everyone. Plus, the High Priest in this priesthood has never sinned, He will never die, and He will always intercede for us.

The author now continues this thought in chapter eight.

8:1-2 The Main Point

So far in the book of Hebrews, the main point that the author has been trying to make is simply that Jesus is superior to all of the religious systems that these Christian Jews were being tempted to go back to. Superior to angels, to Moses, to Joshua, and to the Levitical priesthood. He is so far above these. Angels weren't entrusted with the world to come. Moses wasn't counted worthy of as much glory, Joshua didn't give the people rest, and the Levites were sinners who died.

A Priest In The True Tabernacle

"We've got a great High Priest, guys," he is telling them. "This is a High Priest who serves in the real temple, not the one that Moses made, not the one that Solomon built, but the one that God constructed Himself!"

Remember that when Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai, the Lord didn't just give him the Ten Commandments. He also gave him detailed instructions for a tabernacle. This was a portable tent that was used as their house of worship. Later, when the tent was falling apart after years of use, David decided to build the Lord a real temple. But God said, "No David, you can't build my temple. But I will allow your son Solomon to make it." And Solomon did. But God did not live in either the tabernacle or the temple. Stephen said,

Acts 7:48-49 "...the Most High does not dwell in {houses} made by {human} hands; as the prophet says: ‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?' says the Lord...

The Lord dwells in heaven. The true tabernacle is up there. And that is where Jesus is serving as High Priest - in the heavenly tabernacle.

8:3-5 Something To Offer

On earth, the high priest's job was to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. Jesus' job description also has that requirement. But since He offered Himself as a sacrifice, once for all, all that remains for Him to do is bring gifts to God. Our worship, our praise, our thanksgiving, and our adoration are gifts given to God through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.

He Would Not Be A Priest

But notice this: if Jesus were on earth, He would not be a priest at all. It is really interesting to me to think about the fact that Jesus never walked indoors at the temple in Jerusalem.

Of course we know that Jesus entered the temple grounds. In the gospel of Luke, we see...

Luke 19:45-20:2 And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling, saying to them, "It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,' but you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN." And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging upon His words. And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted {Him,} and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?"

Jesus cast out the sellers in the temple. He sat and taught in the temple. He preached the gospel in the temple. He had the authority to do all of these things. But He never walked into the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies, as the Levitical high priest did. He never sought to be part of this priesthood. Why not? Because they were only serving a shadow, a copy, of heaven.

The Pattern Which Was Shown You

In Exodus 25, we read that the Lord said to Moses,

Exod. 25:8-9 "And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, {as} the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct {it.}

When Moses was commissioned by the Lord to build the tabernacle, he was following the pattern that he had been shown. The Lord had revealed a vision of heaven to him, and he was to make a model of it here on earth.

1) Moses was shown the throne of God, with the cherubim surrounding God, worshipping Him. Thus, ark was constructed with a lid of solid gold, which a cherub on either side of it.

2) The Lord showed Moses a table in heaven - a table that has been waiting for us. Remember, Jesus said,

Luke 22:28-30 "And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom..."

Thus, Moses constructed a table in the tabernacle.

3) When Moses saw heaven, he saw what John saw in the Revelation:

Rev. 4:5 ...And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God

So he constructed a seven-branched lampstand.

4) In heaven, Moses also saw an altar with incense burning on it. John also saw this, writing,

Rev. 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

The prayers of God's people are incense burning before the Lord on this altar. When Moses was making the model, he also had an altar of incense made.

The Lord showed Moses all of these things, and said,

Exod. 25:40 "And see that you make {them} after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.

Now, if you think this through with me, you will see something. Jesus had been in heaven, and was going there again. He'd seen the real throne, the real table, the real lampstand, and the real altar. Why would He want to serve a copy, or a shadow of them?

When Judy and I were in Colorado Springs early this week, we toured Miramont Castle. Inside the castle were many impressive sights, but one that I was completely unimpressed with was their miniatures museum. The entire bottom floor of the castle is stuffed full of these dollhouse-sized models of buildings, with little people inside, sitting on little furniture, atop little rugs. I had no interest in this attraction whatsoever. Why not? Because they are just copies. No matter how much work goes into making a miniature person or building, you know that it is a far cry from the real thing.

And this is the same reason that Jesus had no interest in entering the Holy Place on earth. He'd seen the real thing, and no matter how much money Solomon had spent making the copies, they were still only copies.

8:6-12 A New Covenant

Jesus was not a Levite priest. But today He is a High Priest after Melchizedek. This is a more excellent ministry, as the author proved in chapter seven.

As priests do, Jesus stands as a mediator between us and God. Fortunately, the covenant we are under is the new covenant, a better covenant, consisting of better promises.

In the old covenant, God's commands were written in stone. Under this new covenant, God has written them in our hearts and minds.

In the old covenant, God was forever having to remind the people to maintain a relationship with Him. Under this new covenant, God's people seek after Him and have a loving relationship with Him.

In the old covenant, sins were covered by many sacrifices. Under this new covenant, God sacrificed His Son once for all, completely erasing our sins.

8:13 Ready To Disappear

Soon after the new covenant was initiated, God removed the old one. Remember, this was written somewhere around the year 67 to 69 AD.

In the year 70 AD, the Roman Titus Vespasian laid siege to Jerusalem. The last holdouts were the Jews who were hiding inside the temple, attempting to protect it. Titus gave orders for battering rams to bring down a wall, but after six days, it wouldn't budge. They then decided to get ladders and climb over the top. You can imagine how that went - the Romans were being killed as they climbed up, and some of the ladders were pushed over backwards.

Finally, Titus gave orders to set the temple gates on fire. Once the gates were burned, he ordered that the fire be extinguished. But, as Josephus writes,

...One of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window... (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.249)

This action brought down the house - the entire temple burned. To retrieve the priceless amount of gold and silver which had melted down into the cracks and crevices, they pulled down every stone. Less than 40 years earlier, Jesus had walked out of this temple.

Mark 13:1-2 And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down."

The old covenant disappeared in 70 AD. Although the Jews have tried to maintain their religion through their language, prayers, and adherence to the kosher dietary laws, there are no longer sacrifices being offered for sins - there hasn't been a sacrifice for 1,931 years.

But don't be discouraged. Jesus said,

Matt. 12:6 "...I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here."

The new covenant in Jesus is better than the old covenant in the temple. Today, under the new covenant,

1Cor. 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and {that} the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Rejoice that God lives in you!

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