Lecture 15: Hebrews 8:1-6
Lecture: Hebrews 8:1-6
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and
sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
We want to look at the second half of this great center section of the Book of Hebrews. Let’s walk through the bigger picture. We have the introduction in 1:1-4 and then we have two main movements of Christology: Christ in relation to the angels and the Son as superior to the angels. In 1:5-14, the
superiority is shown in a lessor to greater point’; in 2:1-4 where Jesus is great than the angels. So, we need to pay even greater attention to the Word of salvation which is given through the Son than rather than the Law of the old covenant. The argument says that if a person rejected the law that was delivered to angels, how much greater punishment is deserved by those who turn away from the Word of salvation. It was spoken by the Lord; it was delivered to us by those who could confirm that word and God bore witness to the validity of the Gospel by signs and wonders. In 2:5-9, you have a transition because Psalm 8 has both elements of exhortation and incarnation. In 2:10-18, you have the Son lower than the angels. The Son had to become human in order to die and in doing so he became our high priest and a final offering. So, the first great movement of Christology is the Son in relation to the angels. Then the author goes into a string of exhortation passages in 3:1-6 showing a comparison with Moses. In 3:7-19, you have the negative example of the wilderness wanders playing off of Psalm 95 with a lack of faith because of disobedience. So, we have disobedience and unbelief tied together. Afterwards, you have the positive promise in chapter 4 that tells us there is a Sabbath rest that we can still enter into. The basis of all of this is from Psalm 95 and Genesis 2:2 as to this rest that they weren’t allowed to enter into. This rest wasn’t the promise land because the Psalms continued to talk about that for years after they had entered the promise land. I think what the author is talking about here, is a Day of Atonement rest. We saw that the Day of Atonement was a Sabbath of Sabbaths rest. This was something that was very special, a high Sabbath if you will and very unique. We cease from our own works in the Sabbath rest of the Atonement even as we are striving to make sure that we are participating in that new covenant atonement.
The author comes to the great center section in 4:14-16 with the opening of the most important inclusio of the book; since we have a great priest let us hold fast and draw near. This section also has two movements. This center section is on the Son in relation to the sacrificial system and the first main
movement is the appointment of the Son as high priest. That has an introduction in 5:1-10 which has an Old Testament institution in 7:1-10 where he talks about the superiority of Melchizedek to the Levitical priest and then the superiority of Jesus to that in 7:11-28. Then you have a digression in the middle of that in 5:11-6:20. The basic point of the digression is a confrontation in regards to the lack of maturity. In doing so, he gives them a very harsh warning in 6:4-8 and mitigates that warning by softening it through expressing confidence in them. In 6:13-20, we said that was transitional in going back to the discussion of Melchizedek. Two points here: you are priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4 says that the Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. This was an oath making up the two points. So, this great center section 7:1-28 is focusing on the appointment of Christ. We are going to have another transition in chapter 8 to the other half of the Christology in this center section.
II. Superior Offering
A. Hebrews 8:1-2.
1 κεφάλαιον δε (But the total sum) επί (upon) τοις (the things) λεγομένοις (being spoken is,) τοιούτον (such) έχομεν (we have) αρχιερέα (a chief priest,) ος (one who) εκάθισεν (sat) εν (at) δεξιά (the right) του (of the) θρόνου (throne) της (of the) μεγαλωσύνης (greatness) εν (in) τοις (the) ουρανοίς (heavens,)
2 των (of the) αγίων (holies) λειτουργός (a minister,) και (and) της (of the) σκηνής (tent) της αληθινής (true,) ην (which) έπηξεν (pitched) ο (the) κύριος (Lord,) και (and) ουκ (not) άνθρωπος (man.)
So, the first half of the center section discussed the appointment. The second half is on the superior offering of the appointed high priest. The very first word (κεφάλαιον δε) is translated the main point or head of what we have been saying. This is that we have such a high priest who has sat at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. What we are dealing with here in 8:1 – 2 is the purpose; it is a transition between these two main blocks on the appointment and the superior offering of Jesus as high priest. When he talks about this high priest, he has another allusion to Psalm 110:1. He started with this psalm in the introduction in chapter 1:3; he quotes it at 1:13 and now he is alluding to it again at this critical center point of this Christology of high priesthood. Psalm 110:1 functions in his moving of the discussion back to the heavenly realm. He already begins foreshadowing this at the end of chapter 7 or moving in this direction by mentioning the heavenly ministry of Christ. Here, he is transitioning and using this psalm to move back to the heavenly sphere. We have been focusing on the incarnation back at the end of chapter 2 and one of the main points about the appointment is that a high priest is taken among human beings and appointed. The focus is still on the incarnation to an extent, however now, it is moving back to the heavenly realm. One of his main points says that Jesus’ offering was superior in part because of where he ended being in the heavenly holy of holies. It is an offering that he takes into heaven itself into the very presence of God. We will see this in these first verses of chapter 8. The author is looking back in regards to this main point, in that we have such a high priest. Verse 2 describes him as a minister in the true tabernacle, the heavenly tabernacle that is the eternal tabernacle; the one that will always last. So, the main thing here in these two verses; they are a transitional unit that is making a transition from the appointment of the Son to the ministry of the Son and his offering.
B. Hebrews 8:3-6
3 πας γαρ (For every) αρχιερεύς (chief priest) εις (for) το (the) προσφέρειν (offering) δώρά τε (both gifts) και (and) θυσίας (sacrifices) καθίσταται (is ordained.) όθεν (Whereupon) αναγκαίον (it is important) έχειν (to have) τι (something) και (even) τούτον (this one) ο (which) προσενέγκη (he should offer.)
4 ει μεν γαρ (For if indeed) ην (he was) επί (upon) γης (the earth,) ουδ΄ αν ην (not even would he be) ιερεύς (a priest,) όντων (there being) των (the) ιερέων (priests) των (of the ones) προσφερόντων (offering) κατά (according to) τον (the) νόμον (law) τα (the) δώρα (gifts;)
5 οίτινες (the ones who) υποδείγματι (the example) και (and) σκιά (shadow) λατρεύουσι (serve) των (of the) επουρανίων (heavenly things,) καθώς (as) κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσης (Moses was divinely instructed,) μέλλων (being about) επιτελείν (to complete) την (the) σκηνήν (tent.) όρα γαρ (For see,) φησι (says he,) ποιήσεις (you shall make) πάντα (all things) κατά (according to) τον (the) τύπον (model) τον δειχθέντα (having been shown) σοι (to you) εν (on) τω (the) όρει (mountain.)
6 νυνί δε (But now) διαφορωτέρας (a more diverse) τέτευχε (2 he has attained) λειτουργίας (ministration,) όσω (in as much as) και (also) κρείττονός (of a better) εστι (he is) διαθήκης (covenant) μεσίτης (mediator,) ήτις (which) επί (upon) κρείττοσιν (better) επαγγελίαις (promises) νενομοθέτηται (is established.)
This passage is an introduction to this span on the uniqueness on the ministry of Jesus. We are not moving to a focus on the ministry on Christ. The purpose and process of this passage includes the introduction to this section from 8:3 to 10:18 on the superior offering of our high priest. It is the offering of Christ that is the underscore here. We saw that 8:3 is parallel with chapter 5:1. It is almost the same statement. He repeats the same thing that said in chapter 5:1 when he was introducing the appointment of his Son as the high priest. Now, he introduces the superior offering of that appointed high priest; he again says that every high priest is appointed and this one also had to have something to offer. If you are going to be a high priest, the point of your ministry ultimately is to bring sacrifice on behave of the people of God. This is what the high priest did; they were the intercessor that facilitated this relationship between God and people by working out the sacrificial system. It was by living that out, being a minister who was constantly going into the tabernacle. Think about what the tabernacle and the sacrificial system say to us about God’s desire for relationship with us. We will have this played out over the next few passages which we are going to look at. So, what are some things this tells us about God and God’s desire for a relationship with us? Well, he wants a relationship with us but it must be on his terms. The tabernacle established a way for one to enter the presence of God. So, one aspect of the sacrificial system with the high priesthood, God wants us to have a relationship with him. This in itself is incredible where the God of the universe who spoke into existence the literal universe with all of the galaxies and stars and planets and the expanse of it is unthinkable to imagine and relate to. This is the God of the universe with all of his power; he wants to know you and me, face to face. This is something we just can’t comprehend. So, God is inviting us into his presence.
This sacrificial setup also tells of his blood sacrifice on the cross with an underscoring of God’s holiness. The sacrificial idea is that sin always has a price. In Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God; it says that our sins are costly. So, biblically, we have God bringing this together to make the point that relationship is affected by sin and so it has to be dealt with for a relationship to be what it should be. God has set up a way for the sin to be paid for rather than us trying to pay for it in different ways. In the structure of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system, you have God inviting us into his presence. It also has a keep out sign because entering into his presence is on his terms. In this passage and introduction, notice the emphasis beginning in verse 4; there is the shift where the focus is on the heavenly realm. One of the things here that set Jesus apart in his priesthood, his priestly ministry is not being played out on earth but instead it is being played out in the heavenly realm. He is picking up on some of those themes that he has already mentioned in chapter 7. In going back to that allusion in 8:1 to Psalm 110:1, he is doing his priesthood in heaven because of his sitting down at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realm. That is the location of his priesthood. One of the distinctions that he will make between the earthly priests and the heavenly priests; his ministry is a heavenly ministry. In verse 5, he says that the place where these people serve on earth is not the ultimately thing that God had in mind. He says that the tabernacle on earth was simply a sketch. He is using language and terminology of a sketch and shadow, both Greek terms are used in the Platonism of this era.
Some scholars think that Hebrews is oriented toward more of a Platonic understanding of things. I don’t think that this is the best read on this. Ronald Williams back in the 60s did a monograph on the Platonic lack of language that you find in Hebrews. There is supposedly a lot of vocabulary that is built up between Philo and Hebrews but Hebrews uses a different terminology with a different world view. Lincoln Hurst says that there is language that is used in terms of apocalyptic Judaism which had the same kind of idea or distinction between heaven and earth. In apocalyptic Judaism you have heaven breaking into earth; it isn’t just about what happens at the end of the age. Recently, studies have shown that apocalyptic ideas have to do with breaking of heaven into earth in different ways. So, for example, Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration is an apocalyptic dynamic. You have the bright light and people falling to the ground and being afraid; you have the heavenly voice which includes all aspects of apocalyptic dynamics. Another such event was Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. The main thing that distinguishes apocalyptic Judaism from Platonism, not only is there a vertical movement between heaven and earth; you also have horizontal movement from past, present and future. In other words, history is going somewhere in it going to combinate in what God has ultimately intending to do in and with this world. In apocalyptic Judaism you had the heavenly temple and the heavenly sanctuary which is a reality and dynamic in the heavenly realm which is moving along. This involves the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation in chapter 21:1-22:5. At the end of the age, you have the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to earth and the dwelling place of God will be among people. It is like as if history is moving along and then at the end of the age, you have the heavenly Jerusalem. We are not going to need the sun’s light and we will know God face to face. By the way, I think the primary theme of the Bible is the presence of God; this certainly includes the holiness of God and the story is about getting back into the presence of God.
So, you have this heavenly Jerusalem that is coming down and in Galatians 4:26 Paul talks about the Jerusalem that is above. The passage here focusses on Moses in verse 5 that is being quoted here; the focus is on an Old Testament context. He says that Moses was looking into the heavenly realm and that
the tabernacle on earth is patterned after what Moses saw in the heavenly realm. The translation of the NET Bible says that the earthly tabernacle was just a sketch; a blueprint of the greater reality which is in the heavenly realm. So, the earthly had it place for a time until God would accomplish something that
would be more eternal and more lasting. That greater reality would be something that is made by the hands of God, not by the hands of human beings. In verse 6, Jesus has attained a superior ministry because he is mediating a covenant that is based on better promises; that is they will last being eternal.