Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (New International Version)
A healthy approach to looking at the whole of the Bible is to see it as an unfolding drama of redemption in six acts:
- Creation of the world.
- Fall of humanity.
- Israel and the law.
- The earthly ministry of Jesus.
- The Church.
- Return of Christ.
We are presently in act five, the church age. The previous four acts were all important in leading up to this act, just as the scenes in a play all build upon one another.
So, then, Israel and the law had their place in this drama of redemption. But we are no longer in that act. This is one reason why we do not hold to all the ceremonial and sacrificial stipulations of the old covenant because it has been superseded by the new covenant.
The previous act of the law had its limitations. It was never designed to completely clear the conscience of the worshiper. Its purpose was to be a reminder of sins that points forward to a better time when the sin issue would be settled once and for all. That time has come.
The person and work of Jesus has completely cleared the conscience of the worshiper because his sacrifice is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Christ’s finished work is both thoroughly pervasive and completely permanent.
Therefore, there is no longer any need to languish in guilt as though we were stuck in act three of God’s redemption drama.
We do not need to be reminded of our sins anymore. Instead, we are to be reminded of Christ’s finished work on the cross, and that his blood has washed away our sins. We are to remember rightly and have Jesus before us continually. Our redemption is not temporal, but permanent.
Taking some time each day to remind ourselves of this new reality and enjoy act five of the drama is both sage and necessary in order to live a successful Christian life. Here are some wonderful privileges to remember together of being united with Christ contained within the book of Hebrews:
- Church connects to other like-minded people who help us live for God.
Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn. (Hebrews 3:13, GW)
- Church creates a sacred space for us to relate to the divine.
So, whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. (Hebrews 4:16, CEV)
- Church enables us to reflect on gratitude.
Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28, NIV)
- Church provides opportunities to serve and give to others.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:1-3, NIV)
- Church teaches us forgiveness.
“I will forgive their sins and will no longer remember their wrongs.” (Hebrews 8:12, GNT)
- Church gives us purpose and meaning.
Because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore, he is able, once and forever, to savethose who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. (Hebrews 7:24, NLT)
Saving God, you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus, to take care of the sin issue once for all through his blood. I give you unending thanks for your grace. May your Holy Spirit press this reality of forgiveness and clarity of conscience firmly into my mind and heart so that I will always live for you in all things. Amen.