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The Inferior Old Covenant Sanctuary
Heb. 9:1-10


This chapter talks about the Earthly Tabernacle and the Eternal Tabernacle. The Apostle Paul lists the areas and the various things inside the earthly tabernacle. It has been said that we will never understand the Book of Hebrews until we first understand the Book of Leviticus. The description of the tabernacle provides the historical setting we need in order to see the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.

Illustration 1/Application: Is It a Sacrifice?
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life—these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.
David Livingstone

I. Description of the Earthly Tabernacle built by Moses (Heb. 9:1-5).
A. The tabernacle consisted of the outer court and the tabernacle. The outer court was entered from the East in which were the altar of burnt offering (Ex. 27:1-8) and the bronze laver (Ex. 30:17-21). The tabernacle stood within the court (Ex. 26:1 ff). It was divided into two main divisions: the holy place and the holy of holies which were separated by a veil (Ex. 26:31 ff), the same veil that was torn from top to bottom at the crucifixion of Jesus (Matt. 27:51). It is this veil that represented the barrier separating sinful man from a holy God (Heb. 9:8), its destruction signified the free access sinners have to God through the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19 ff). The tabernacle was a place of sacrifice. Note that the tabernacle is described as “worldly” (Heb. 9:1), because it involves worship on this earth in contrast to the heavenly tabernacle which it typifies.
1. The first compartment is called “the sanctuary” in Hebrews (called “the holy place” in Ex. 26:33). This compartment contained the following:
a. The lampstand. It was made of solid gold, all in one piece, with six branches, three on each side of the main stem for a total of seven lights. Seven is the biblical number for perfection. Since there were no windows in the Tabernacle the lampstand provided light.
The nation of Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). Jesus Christ is the “Light of the world” (Jn. 8:12), and believers are to shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:14-15).
b. There was also a table in the holy place with twelve loaves of bread on it. It was called the table of shewbread (Ex. 25:23-30; 37:10-16; Lev. 24:5-9). Each Sabbath, the priests would remove the old loaves and put fresh loaves on the table; and the old loaves would be eaten. Only the priests could eat this bread, and they were required to eat it in the sanctuary. It reminded the twelve tribes of God’s presence that sustained them. It also speaks to us today of Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life” given to the whole world (Jn. 6).
c. The golden altar stood in the holy place just in front of the veil that divided the two parts of the tabernacle. The golden censer was only brought into the holiest place on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:12-15), burning incense with coals from the altar, so that the cloud of incense would cover the mercy seat where the sacrificial blood was to be sprinkled. These three pieces of furniture typifies Christ as our light, our bread and our intercessor.
B. The Holy of Holies is called the Holiest of all; (Heb. 9:3). Note that this is separated from the Holy place with a veil that was rent from top to bottom when Christ died. This second room was off limits to the Priests. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and that only once a year, on the day of Atonement.
1. The holy of holies contained only the ark of the covenant, a wooden chest three feet, nine inches long, two feet, three inches wide; and two feet, three inches high. On the top of this chest was a beautiful “mercy seat” made of gold, with a cherub at each end. This was the throne of God in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:10-22; Ps. 80:1; 99:1). On the Day of Atonement, the blood was sprinkled on this mercy seat to cover the tables of Law within the ark. This typifies the atonement of Christ which satisfies the demands of God’s holy law so that the believing sinner can approach Him without judgment. “It was an eminent type of Christ, and of his perfect righteousness, more than enough to satisfy the law of God, and cover all our transgressions”. Christ is our “mercy seat” (“propitiation” in 1 John 2:2; Rom. 3:25). His blood does not only cover sin; it takes away sin. The ark of the covenant contained:
a. The golden pot that had the manna (Ex. 16:32-34).
b. Aaron’s rod that budded (Num. 17:1-11)
c. The tablets of the covenant (Deut. 10:1-5)
2. Note that these disappeared by the time that Solomon’s Temple was dedicated (1 Kings 8:6-9). It is possible that they were removed at Beth Shemesh (1 Sam. 6:19).
As written by the Apostle Paul, of these things” we cannot now speak particularly” (discuss everything in detail at that time). Also, all of this was symbolism and not the spiritual reality. It was this fact that made the tabernacle of the Old Covenant inferior.
3. The tabernacle was the structure ordered built by God so that He might dwell among His people (Ex. 25:8). It was to be mobile and constructed to exacting specifications. It is referred to in Ex. 25-27, 30-31, 35-40; Num. 3:25ff; 4:4 ff.; 7:1ff. In all of scripture more space is devoted to the tabernacle than any other topic.
Many books have been written on the spiritual significance of the tabernacle, how it represented Christ, and how it foretold the gospel.

Illustration 2/Application: Allusions to Sacrifices
The N.T. is full of allusions to sacrifices, sacrifices that we perform in the cathedral of our bodies instead of at a temple. The totality of our being is to be presented as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1). We also sacrifice with words of praise from our lips and sharing of our resources with others. “By Him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Heb. 13:15-16). Giving our money to the Lord’s work is pictured as a “fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 2:17). We now, as the temples of God, are required to present sacrifices to Him, not the sacrifice for sin because Christ already accomplished that on the cross, but sacrifices of worship and thanksgiving.
Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 74

II. The ministry in the Tabernacle (Heb. 9:6-10)
A. It was inaccessible to the people (vv. 6-7). We must not get the idea that the Jews assembled in the tabernacle for worship. The priests and Levites were permitted into the tabernacle ground, but not the people from the other tribes. Furthermore, though the priests ministered in the holy place day after day, only the high priest entered the holy of holies, and that only once a year. When he did, he had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins as well as for the sins of the people. In contrast, the heavenly tabernacle is open to all of the people of God, and at all times! (Heb. 10:19-25)
B. It was temporary (v. 8). The fact that the outer court (“first tabernacle,” Heb. 9:6) was standing was proof that God’s work of salvation for man had not yet been completed. The outer court stood between the people and the holy of holies! As long as the priests were ministering in the holy place, the way had not yet been opened into the presence of God. But when Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51) and the way was opened into the holy of holies. There was no longer any more need for either the holy place or the holy of holies, for now believing sinners could come into the presence of God.
C. Its ministry was external, not internal (vv. 9-10). The sacrifices offered and the blood applied to the mercy seat could never change the heart or the conscience of a worshiper. All of the ceremonies associated with the tabernacle had to do with ceremonial purity, not moral purity. They were “carnal ordinances” that pertained to the outer man but that could not change the inner man. (The Bible Exposition Commentary)

III. The insufficiency of the first tabernacle system (Heb. 9:8-10).
A. The first covenant signified that the way to God was not yet made manifest (Heb. 9:8). The way was not opened until Christ died and the veil was torn in the temple (Mat. 27:51).
B. The first covenant could not make the conscience perfect (Heb. 9:9). Compare Heb. 10:1-4. “They could not expiate guilt; they could not make the soul pure; they could not of themselves impart peace to the soul by reconciling it to God. They could not
fully accomplish what the conscience needed to have done in order to give it peace.
Nothing will do this but the blood of the Redeemer” (Barnes).
C. The first covenant was an imposition (Heb. 9:10). (Acts 15:10)
D. The first covenant was temporary (“imposed on them until the time of reformation,” Heb. 9:10). (Acts 3:19-21).
1. “Carnal ordinances” — The word “carnal” here does not mean sinful but of the earth as opposed to the heavenly things of the New Covenant. The sacrifices of the first covenant were only able to “purify the flesh” (Heb. 9:13). They pertained only to the external and could not purify the spirit and the conscience.
2. “Meats and drinks” — This refers to the meat and drink offerings as well as to the various dietary restrictions (Lev. 11:2-47).
3. “Divers washings” — See Ex. 29:4; 30:19-21; 40:12; Lev. 14:8; 16:4; 17:15; 21:6; Deut. 23:11. (D. Cloud)

Illustration 3/Application: Atonement Verses in Bible
In the New Testament there are 290 references to the love of God, 290 times when God had declared His love for man. But in the same chapters and the same verses there are more than 1,300 references to the atonement, 1300 assurances that salvation can be had through the blood of Christ. —G. Franklin Allee

IV. Conclusion:
The Old Testament tabernacle which was built by Moses is inferior compared to the heavenly tabernacle though it served God’s purpose during that time. It showed us the importance of shedding of the blood. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the whole world. He died for you and me. My friend if you want to go to heaven, repent from your sins now and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour.

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