About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The High Priest Of A New
 Covenant  (ch. 8:1-13)

In Chapter 8, verses 1 and 2 the discussion concerning Jesus being our high priest continues.  The writer notes that our new high priest is sitting down at the right hand of God at this present moment.  He is serving us before God by interceding for us in the very presence of God.  The writer calls this place the true sanctuary, where God Himself exists.  Jesus is there, constantly representing us before God, and let's be honest, even as Christians we need someone to intercede on our behalf.  His nail pierced hands are enough to remind God of His sacrifice on our behalf, if God actually needs to be reminded.  One important truth to note here is that even though Jesus is Lord over all things, He remains a servant in His duties as the Most High Priest.


We should understand that, at least in my opinion, the term "right hand of God" is anthropomorphic.  It was Jewish idiom that spoke of one being in authority alongside another who is in authority.  By this I mean that when Jesus returned to His Father, they both shared universal authority over all things.


Jesus, in John 4:24, states that God is a spirit.  These questions should be asked then; does a spirit have a right hand?  Does a spirit sit on a throne?  Does a spirit dwell in a tabernacle that looks like a tent made by man?  I don't think so.  These are all anthropomorphic terms, phrases spoken in human terms for humans to understand.  

The words "true tabernacle" in verse 2 means that the tabernacle, even the temple, of the Jews that they esteemed was not the true or real tabernacle.  The Jewish tabernacle of old and the Jewish temple in Jerusalem were shadowy images, and poor ones at that, of the real temple in heaven.  Again, what the author is saying here is meant to sway these Christian Jews to not revert back to Judaism.               


Verse 3 tells us that every high priest must offer gifts and sacrifices to God.  Jesus was no exception, other than His gift and sacrifice was Himself.  The writer goes on to say in verse 4 that if Jesus were on earth He would not be able to offer sacrifices because there are already priest doing that now that are designated by the Law of Moses.  As we already know, Jesus could not participate in this ritual any longer since He was from the tribe of Judah and since He had already given the supreme sacrifice of Himself.


Verse 5 reminds us that Moses was told by God to build the tabernacle, or tent.  He had to build it with the exact specifications that God gave him because it was a picture of the true temple in heaven.  It should be noted at this point that even our Old Testament documentation of this temple is not complete.  Bible scholars tell us that if we built the tabernacle as described in the Old Testament, it would not stand up.  There had to have been more instructions given to Moses to build the tabernacle than what we read in the Bible.


The point that they author is making here is that there is a more important priesthood than what exists on earth.  There is also a more important temple than what exists on earth.  The author is trying to persuade these Jewish Christians not to revert to an old Judaism that is now obsolete, something that many Christians today need to hear.      


What I have just said in the last paragraph is made clear in verse 6.  Jesus, the Great High Priest, is superior to any priest here on earth, but, the author now goes farther.  He introduces the Old and New Covenant into the discussion.  Not only is Jesus greater than earthly priests, the heavenly temple greater than the earthly one, but the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant.  The New Covenant is the Law of Moses.  The New Covenant is Jesus Himself that was ratified by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  Why is the New Covenant better?  The author says that it has better promises.  It's not a matter of works but trust in Jesus and the reward is eternal life.  The Old Covenant had no such promises and it was a covenant of works that no one was able to keep. 


Verse 8 tells us that God found "fault with the people."  Obviously the people spoken of here are the Old Testament Jews.  For this reason, as seen in verse 9, God predicted the day when He would institute a new covenant with these Jews. 


From verse 9 through to the end of the chapter the author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31 to 34.  The first phrase of this quote is as follows.  "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel."  It is important to understand, which many don't understand today, that the new covenant was directed to Jews, not to Gentiles.  Evangelical Christians often quote this passage as if it applies to them, as if it was spoken to them.  It wasn't spoken to or about Gentile Evangelical Christians.  That being said, once this new covenant was offered to the Jews, it was then offered to Samaritans who were half Jews and half Gentiles.  See Acts 8.  Then, in Acts 10, this new covenant was offered to Gentiles.  As a Gentile believer, I have entered this new covenant that was first and foremost a Jewish covenant.  


The new covenant spoken of here is the covenant that Jesus ratified on the cross.  It is "not like the covenant that I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt ," the author states in verse 9.  The specific covenant spoken of here is the Mosaic Covenant, otherwise known as the Law of Moses.     


Verse 9 states that God turned away from the Jews of old because they were not faithful to the covenant they had agreed to keep.  It is important to understand that after the Law of Moses was presented to the people, they agreed to obey it as seen in Exodus 19:8 and 24:3.   Faithfulness to God is fundamental in our relationship with Him.  The law demanded obedience but the bottom line to this obedience was that the Jews did not obey their God.


Verse 10 reiterates the fact that this new covenant is with the House of Israel, which by the way has not yet been realized.  When this covenant is realized in the lives of the Jews, at that time, as this Jeremiah quote states, God will put His laws into their hearts and minds.  This can only take place after the Holy Spirit comes into the hearts and lives of the Jews, which I understand will take place after the Great Tribulation that ends this age.       


The writer continues to quote the Lord in verse 10 by saying, "I will be their God and they shall be my people."  This speaks of the day in which the remnant of Israel will be saved as Paul mentions in Romans 11:26.  If you read the last few chapters of Zechariah you will note that God will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication (Zechariah 12:10) on the House of Israel.


Verse 11 tells us when the New Covenant is finally realized in its fullness everyone will know the Lord.  We will no longer have to witness to people and preach to them that they should know the Lord.  They will know the Lord.  What a day that will be.                  


Verse 12 says that God "will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more."  In one sense of the word this has been completed because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  As Christians God has forgiven our sins because of Jesus' sacrifice, and as a result He views us as sinless.  He remembers our sins no more.  So, if we come to Him and ask forgiveness of a sin that has been forgiven and forgotten, that is a futile endeavor. 


The wording of this verse is in the future tense - future from Jeremiah's day and I believe future from our day.  I believe what is being said here is that the day will come when all of Israel's sins will be both forgiven and forgotten but that will not be until the surviving Jews of the Great Tribulation fall on their knees and the spirit of grace and supplication is poured out on them. 


For all Gentile believers there is something for us to learn and that is, if God has forgiven your sins, they are not only forgiven but forgotten in God's sight.  They are wiped out of His heavenly records.  There is absolutely no use of commiserating over past forgotten sins.  


Verse 13 tells us that the Old Covenant is obsolete, and what is obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.  This is yet another Scripture telling us that the Old Testament law, the Law of Moses, is outdated.  This question needs to be asked.  If something is outdated and obsolete, why would anyone want to use it when there is something better to use?  I used to file my income tax on paper.  It was a long tedious job.  I now file my income tax on an online site.  I no longer need to worry about adding up numbers and making a mistake.  The computer program does that for me.  I no longer need a stamp and an envelope.  The web site sends it off for me.  I will never return to the old way.  It's obsolete and outdates, just like the Law of Moses.


The next part of this verse needs some thought.  It says that what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.  The words "soon disappear" are the words needing some thought.  Does that mean the Law of Moses is still around and needs to be paid attention to?  I've always thought that was the case because parts of the Law are prophetic and have not yet been fulfilled.  In this respect the Law has not yet disappeared, but it will soon disappear.


Another way to view this is this way.  The words "that which is aging will soon disappear" is a general statement for anything that is obsolete and aging.  It's just a fact of life.  Like anything in life that is again, the Law is no exception.  It disappears, and it has.  Romans 10:4 clearly states that Christ is the end of the Law. In other words, He has replaced the Law of Moses.   Colossians 2:14 tells us that the Law of Moses has been cancelled as it was nailed to the cross with Jesus.  For this reason, I believe, that the old law, which is obsolete, has already passed away.  


If you hold to the first view above, the bottom line would be that for the purpose of salvation the Law of Moses no longer applies, but, for the purpose of prophetic history, it does apply since that prophetic nature of the law has yet to be fulfilled.           


The problem with Evangelical Christianity is that over the years churches have picked and chosen what laws out of the 613 laws from the Law of Moses to obey.  The law itself says that you cannot pick and choose.  See Galatians 2:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26.  If you disobey one, you've disobeyed them all.  Evangelical Christianity has gone wrong in this respect.  Such laws as tithing and Sunday worship must be obeyed are just not New Testament thinking.      



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