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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.

11. But Christ being come, etc. He now sets before us the reality of the things under the Law, that it may turn our eyes from them to itself; for he who believes that the things then shadowed forth under the Law have been really found in Christ, will no longer cleave to the shadows, but will embrace the substance and the genuine reality.

But the particulars of the comparison between Christ and the ancient high priest, ought to be carefully noticed. He had said that the high priest alone entered the sanctuary once a year with blood to expiate sins. Christ is in this life the ancient high priests for he alone possesses the dignity and the office of a high priest; but he differs from him in this respect, that he brings with him eternal blessings which secure a perpetuity to his priesthood. Secondly, there is this likeness between the ancient high priest and ours, that both entered the holy of holies through the sanctuary; but they differ in this, that Christ alone entered into heaven through the temple of his own body. That the holy of holies was once every year opened to the high priest to make the appointed expiation — this obscurely prefigured the one true sacrifice of Christ. To enter once then was common to both, but to the earthly it was every year, while it was to the heavenly forever, even to the end of the world. The offering of blood was common to both; but there was a great difference as to the blood; for Christ offered, not the blood of beasts, but his own blood. Expiation was common to both; but that according to the Law, as it was inefficacious, was repeated every year; but the expiation made by Christ is always effectual and is the cause of eternal salvation to us. Thus, there is great importance almost in every word. Some render the words, “But Christ standing by,” or asking; but the meaning of the Apostle is not thus expressed; for he intimates that when the Levitical priests had for the prefixed time performed their office, Christ came in their place, according to what we found in the seventh chapter. 147147     See commentary on Chapter 7 .

Of good things to come, etc. Take these for eternal things; for as μέλλων καιρὸς, time to come, is set in opposition to the present τῷ ἐνεστηκότι; so future blessings are to the present. The meaning is, that we are led by Christ’s priesthood into the celestial kingdom of God, and that we are made partakers of spiritual righteousness and of eternal life, so that it is not right to desire anything better. Christ alone, then, has that by which he can retain and satisfy us in himself. 148148     “Good things (or blessings) to come,” may have a reference to the blessings promised in the Old Testament as the blessings of the kingdom of Christ, included in “the eternal redemption” mentioned in the next verse. — Ed.

By a greater and more perfect tabernacle, etc. Though this passage is variously explained, yet I have no doubt but that he means the body of Christ; for as there was formerly an access for the Levitical high priest to the holy of holies through the sanctuary, so Christ through his own body entered into the glory of heaven; for as he had put on our flesh and in it suffered, he obtained for himself this privilege, that he should appear before God as a Mediator for us. In the first place, the word sanctuary is fitly and suitably applied to the body of Christ, for it is the temple in which the whole majesty of God dwells. He is further said to have made a way for us by his body to ascend into heaven, because in that body he consecrated himself to God, he became in it sanctified to be our true righteousness, he prepared himself in it to offer a sacrifice; in a word, he made himself in it of no reputation, and suffered the death of the cross; therefore, the Father highly exalted him and gave him a name above every name, that every knee should bow to him. (Philippians 2:8-10.) He then entered into heaven through his own body, because on this account it is that he now sits at the Father’s right hand; he for this reason intercedes for us in heaven, because he had put on our flesh, and consecrated it as a temple to God the Father, and in it sanctified himself to obtain for us an eternal righteousness, having made an expiation for our sins. 149149     There is no other view that is satisfactory. The idea that has been by some suggested, that the “better tabernacle” is the visible heaven through which he entered into the heaven of heavens, has no evidence in its support. Some of the Ancients, such as Ambrose, and also Doddridge and Scott consider heaven as intended, as in chapter 8:2, (but “tabernacle” in that passage means the whole structure, especially the holy of holies.) According to this view διὰ is rendered in — “in a greater and more perfect tabernacle.” But Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Beza, etc., agree with Calvin in regarding Christ’s human nature as signified by the “tabernacle;” and what confirms this exposition is what we find in chapter 10:5, 10, and 20. “Not made with hands,” and “not of this creation,” for no objection; for Christ’s body was supernaturally formed; and the contrast is with the material tabernacle, a human structure, made by men and made of earthly materials. It is, however, better to connect “tabernacle” with the preceding than with the following words, —
   But Christ, having come the high priest of the good things to come by means of a better and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, has entered once for all into the holiest, not indeed with (or by) the blood of goats and calves but (or by) his own blood, having obtained an eternal redemption.

   “Creation” here means the world; it was not made of worldy materials. See verse 1. — Ed.

It may however seem strange, that he denies the body of Christ to be of this building; for doubtless he proceeded from the seed of Abraham, and was liable to sufferings and to death. To this I reply, that he speaks not here of his material body, or of what belongs to the body as such, but of the spiritual efficacy which emanates from it to us. For as far as Christ’s flesh is quickening, and is a heavenly food to nourish souls, as far as his blood is a spiritual drink and has a cleansing power, we are not to imagine anything earthly or material as being in them. And then we must remember that this is said in allusion to the ancient tabernacle, which was made of wood, brass, skins, silver, and gold, which were all dead things; but the power of God made the flesh of Christ to be a living and spiritual temple.

12. Neither by the blood of goats, etc. All these things tend to show that the things of Christ so far excel the shadows of the Law, that they justly reduce them all to nothing. For what is the value of Christ’s blood, if it be deemed no better than the blood of beasts? What sort of expiation was made by his death, if the purgations according to the Law be still retained? As soon then as Christ came forth with the efficacious influence of his death, all the typical observances must necessarily have ceased.

13. For if the blood of bulls, etc. This passage has given to many all occasion to go astray, because they did not consider that sacraments are spoken of, which had a spiritual import. The cleansing of the flesh they leave explained of what avails among men, as the heathens had their expiations to blot out the infamy of crimes. But this explanation is indeed very heathenish; for wrong is done to God’s promises, if we restrict the effect to civil matters only. Often does this declaration occur in the writings of Moses, that iniquity was expiated when a sacrifice was duly offered. This is no doubt the spiritual teaching of faith. Besides, all the sacrifices were destined for this end, that they might lead men to Christ; as the eternal salvation of the soul is through Christ, so these were true witnesses of this salvation.

What then does the Apostle mean when he speaks of the purgations of the flesh? He means what is symbolical or sacramental, as follows, — If the blood of beasts was a true symbol of purgation, so that it cleansed in a sacramental manner, how much more shall Christ who is himself the truth, not only bear witness to a purgation by an external rite, but also really perform this for consciences? The argument then is from the signs to the thing signified; for the effect by a long time preceded the reality of the signs.

14. Who through the eternal Spirit, etc. He now clearly shows how Christ’s death is to be estimated, not by the external act, but by the power of the Spirit. For Christ suffered as man; but that death becomes saving to us through the efficacious power of the Spirit; for a sacrifice, which was to be an eternal expiation, was a work more than human. And he calls the Spirit eternal for this reason, that we may know that the reconciliation, of which he is the worker or effecter, is eternal. 150150     Some as Grotius and Schleusner, take “the eternal Spirit” as meaning the same thing as “endless life” in chapter 7:16, — “who having (or in) an eternal spirit,” or life, etc.; they give the sense of “in” to διὰ. The comparison they represent to be between perishable victims and the sacrifice of Christ, who possesses a spirit or life that is eternal.
   Others, as Junius and Beza, consider Christ’s divine nature as signified by “the eternal Spirit.” Beza says, that it was the Deity united to humanity that consecrated the whole sacrifice and endued it with vivifying power. The view of Stuart can hardly be comprehended.

   But the explanation most commonly adopted is that given here by Calvin that the Holy Spirit is meant, whose aid and influence are often mentioned in connection with Christ; see Matthew 12:28; Acts 1:2; 10:38. Some MSS and fathers have “holy” instead of “eternal,” but the greatest number and the best have the last word. Dr. Owen, Doddridge and Scott take this view. Why the Spirit is called “eternal” is not very evident. It may have been for the purpose of showing that the Spirit mentioned before in verse 8 is the same Spirit, he being eternal, and thus in order to prove that the offering of Christ was according to the divine will. God is said to be eternal in Romans 16:26, where a reference is made to the past and the present dispensation, with the view, as it seems, to show that he is the author of both. But perhaps the explanation of Calvin is the most suitable. — Ed.
By saying, without spot, or unblamable, though he alludes to the victims under the Law, which were not to have a blemish or defect, he yet means, that Christ alone was the lawful victim and capable of appeasing God; for there was always in others something that might be justly deemed wanting; and hence he said before that the covenant of the Law was not ἀμεμπτον, blameless.

From dead works, etc. Understand by these either such works as produce death, or such as are the fruits or effects of death; for as the life of the soul is our union with God, so they who are alienated from him through sin may be justly deemed to be dead.

To serve the living God. This, we must observe, is the end of our purgation; for we are not washed by Christ, that we may plunge ourselves again into new filth, but that our purity may serve to glorify God. Besides, he teaches us, that nothing can proceed from us that can be pleasing to God until we are purified by the blood of Christ; for as we are all enemies to God before our reconciliation, so he regards as abominable all our works; hence the beginning of acceptable service is reconciliation. And then, as no work is so pure and so free from stains, that it can of itself please God, it is necessary that the purgation through the blood of Christ should intervene, which alone can efface all stains. And there is a striking contrast between the living God and dead works.

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