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The Earthly and the Heavenly Sanctuaries


Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. 2For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place. 3Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies. 4In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

6 Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties; 7but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. 8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. 9This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. 16Where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, 20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.” 21And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Christ’s Sacrifice Takes Away Sin

23 Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 Then verily the first, etc 138138     Rather, “Yet even the first,” etc. It is connected with the last verse of the preceding chapter; as though he had said, — “Though the covenant is become antiquated, yet it had many things divinely appointed connected with it.” Μὲν οὖν mean “yet,” or however. See Art. 8:4. Macknight has “Now verily;” and Stuart, “Moreover.” — Ed After having spoken generally of the abrogation of the old covenant, he now refers specially to the ceremonies. His object is to show that there was nothing practiced then to which Christ’s coming has not put an end. He says first, that under the old covenant there was a specific form of divine worship, and that it was peculiarly adapted to that time. It will hereafter appear by the comparison what kind of things were those rituals prescribed under the Law.

Some copies read, πρώτη σκηνὴ the first tabernacle; but I suspect that there is a mistake as to the word “tabernacle;” nor do I doubt but that some unlearned reader, not finding a noun to the adjective, and in his ignorance applying to the tabernacle what had been said of the covenant, unwisely added the word σκηνὴ tabernacle. I indeed greatly wonder that the mistake had so prevailed, that it is found in the Greek copies almost universally. 139139     It has since been discovered that it is not found in many of the best MSS., and is dismissed from the text by Griesbach and all modern critics. The noun understood is evidently “covenant,” spoken of in the preceding chapter. — Ed. But necessity constrains me to follow the ancient reading. For the Apostle, as I have said, had been speaking of the old covenant; he now comes to ceremonies, which were additions, as it were, to it. He then intimates that all the rites of the Mosaic Law were a part of the old covenant, and that they partook of the same ancientness, and were therefore to perish.

Many take the word λατρείας as an accusative plural. I agree with those who connect the two words together, δικαιώματα λατρείας for institutes or rites, which the Hebrews call חוקים, and the Greeks have rendered by the word δικαιώματα ordinances. The sense is, that the whole form or manner of worshipping God was annexed to the old covenant, and that it consisted of sacrifices, ablutions, and other symbols, together with the sanctuary. And he calls it a worldly sanctuary, because there was no heavenly truth or reality in those rites; for though the sanctuary was the effigy of the original pattern which had been shown to Moses; yet an effigy or image is a different thing from the reality, and especially when they are compared, as here, as things opposed to each other. Hence the sanctuary in itself was indeed earthly, and is rightly classed among the elements of the world, it was yet heavenly as to what it signified. 140140     Many, such as Grotius, Beza, etc., consider that “ordinances” and “services” (not service) are distinct, and both in the objective case, and render the words “rituals, services, and a wordly sanctuary.” And if the sequel is duly examined, it will be found that this is the right construction. The Apostle, according to the manner of the prophet, reverses the order, and speaks distinctly of these three particulars, — first, “the wordly sanctuary” — the tabernacle in verses 2, 3, 4, and 5; secondly, “the services” in verses 6 and 7; and thirdly, “the rituals” in verse 10, where the word “ordinances” again occur. There can therefore be hardly a doubt as to the construction of the first verse. The sanctuary is called worldly in contrast with what is heavenly or divine, not made with hands: see verse 11. — Ed.

2. For there was a tabernacle, etc. As the Apostle here touches but lightly on the structure of the tabernacle, that he might not be detained beyond what his subject required; so will I also designedly abstain from any refined explanation of it. It is then sufficient for our present purpose to consider the tabernacle in its three parts, — the first was the court of the people; the middle was commonly called the sanctuary; and the last was the inner sanctuary, which they called, by way of eminence, the holy of holies. 141141     See Appendix F 2.

As to the first sanctuary, which was contiguous to the court of the people, he says that there were the candlestick and the table on which the shew­bread was set: he calls this place, in the plural number, the holies. Then, after this is mentioned, the most secret place, which they called the holy of holies, still more remote from the view of the people, and it was even hid from the priests who ministered in the first sanctuary; for as by a veil the sanctuary was closed up to the people, so another veil kept the priests from the holy of holies. There, the Apostle says, was the θυμιατήριον by which name I understand the altar of incense, or fumigation, rather than the censer; 142142     This is evidently a mistake, for the altar of incense was in the sanctuary — the first tabernacle. See Exodus 30:1-6. The word is used in the Sept., for “censer,” 2 Chronicles 26:19. There were many censors made, as it is supposed, of brass; for they were daily used in the sanctuary for incense; but this golden censor was probably used only on the day of expiation, when the chief priest entered the holiest place; and the probability is, though there is no account of this in the Old Testament, that it was laid up or deposited, as Stuart suggests, in the holy of holies. — Ed. then the ark of the covenant, with its covering, the two cherubim, the golden pot filled with manna, the rod of Aaron, and the two tables. Thus far the Apostle proceeds in describing the tabernacle.

But he says that the pot in which Moses had deposited the manna, and Aaron’s rod which had budded, were in the ark with the two tables; but this seems inconsistent with sacred history, which in 1 King s 8:9, relates that there was nothing in the ark but the two tables. But it is easy to reconcile these two passages: God had commanded the pot and Aaron’s rod to be laid up before the testimony; it is hence probable that they were deposited in the ark, together with the tables. But when the Temple was built, these things were arranged in a different order, and certain history relates it as a thing new that the ark had nothing else but the two tables. 143143     Stuart observes, “Our author is speaking of the tabernacle, and not of the temple; still less of the second temple, which must have lacked even the tables of testimony. The probability is, that the ark, during its many removals, and in particular during its captivity by the Philistines, was deprived of those sacred deposits; for we hear no more concerning them.” — Ed.

5. Of which we cannot now, etc. As nothing can satisfy, curious men, the apostle cuts off every occasion for refinements unsuitable to his present purpose, and lest a longer discussion of these things should break off the thread of his argument. If, therefore, any one should disregard the Apostle’s example, and dwell more minutely on the subject, he would be acting very unreasonably. There might be, indeed, an occasion for doing this elsewhere; but it is now better to attend to the subject of which he treats: it may further be said, that to philosophize beyond just limits, which some do, is not only useless, but also dangerous. There are some things which are not obscure and fitted for the edification of faith; but discretion and sobriety ought to be observed, lest we seek to be wise above what God has been pleased to reveal.

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