THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS

Lesson 10 Chapter 9

The Old and New Covenants Contrasted

 

Beloved Lord and Father,

In the Old Covenant believers were purified by the ashes of a red heifer and the sprinkling of a hyssop branch dipped in holy water, but we are cleansed and made pure by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Our cleansing is not outward purification as it was for the Old Covenant Church but our cleansing comes from within by Your grace Father, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We petition You, Father, to send Your Holy Spirit down upon our assembly and to enkindle our hearts and minds with the power of understanding Your holy Scripture as we study the fulfillment of what was Old and temporal as it was transformed into what was New and eternal.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

+ + +

 

For as in painting, so long as one only draws the outlines, it is sort of "shadow," but when one has added the bright paints and laid in the colors, then it becomes "an image."  Something of this kind also was the law.  St. John Chrysostom [344/354-407], Bishop of Constantinople, On the Epistle to the Hebrews 17.5

 

Those who lived before grace, since they were under the law, found themselves sitting under its shadow.  Those who have come after grace and the day have arrived, have been delivered from the shadow, the slavery of the law.  They have risen above the law, having climbed as it were, the ladder of the life of the Gospel.  They have been lifted up on high to share the life of the lawgiver and have themselves become lawgivers rather than keepers of the law.  Symeon the New Theologian [circa 949-1022], Discourse 28.4

 

From chapter 8:1 to 10:18 the focus of the inspired writer will be the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.  This superiority does not mean that when we study sacred Scripture that the Word of God in the Old Testament has less value than the Word of God in the New.  Quite the contrary, for we cannot expect to understand the truths revealed in the New Testament without studying it in light of the promises of God make to the patriarchs and prophets of old, nor can we understand the Old Testament unless we read and study it by the light of Jesus Christ.  The Church has always taught that the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New.  St. Augustine of Hippo [354-430] is credited with this famous quote [Quaestiones in Heptateuchum 2.73], but it is a teaching that comes from the Apostolic Age, the very earliest years of the Church, and continues to this present day. In the early 4th century Lactantius [260-330], the great Christian scholar and apologist, was dismissed from his post as a teacher of rhetoric at Nicomedia upon his conversion to Christianity but was later appointed tutor to the son of the Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor.  Concerning the Old and New Testaments he wrote: All Scripture is divided into two Testaments. What preceded the advent and passion of Christ, that is, the law and the prophets is called the Old [Testament]; but what was written after his resurrection is named the New Testament.  The Jews make use of the Old, we of the New.  Yet, they are not dissonant.  The New Testament is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both there is the same testator, even Christ who suffered death for us and made us heirs of his everlasting kingdom.  [..].  When, therefore, we who were in time past as it were blind, and as it were shut up in the prison of folly, were sitting in darkness, ignorant of God and of the truth, we have been enlightened by him, who adopted us by his testament; and having freed us from cruel chains, and brought us out to the light of wisdom, he admitted us to the inheritance of his heavenly kingdom [ Divine Institutes 4.20]. Also see CCC# 129.

 

The English Bible scholar known as the Venerable Bede wrote about the old law and the transforming power of God's grace: The law was indeed given through Moses, and there it was determined by a heavenly rule what was to be done and what was to be avoided, but what it commanded was completed only by the grace of Christ [The Venerable Bede (672/673-735), Homilies on the Gospels 1.2].  God's grace is the free and undeserved favor that God gives to man to initiate man's response to God's call to fellowship, the first response to that call is "faith".  Grace lived out in faith is a true participation in the life of God and introduces those who respond in faith to the intimacy of the mystery of the life of the Most Holy Trinity.  Through the sacrament of Baptism believers participate in the grace of Christ and become part of His Body as an adopted son or daughter of God and obtaining the right, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to call God "Father". 

 

The application of God's grace to the natural world purifies, perfects, and transforms creation.  This is also the transforming power of Jesus Christ on the Law of the Old Covenant:

  1. He purified what the Old Covenant rituals were incapable of purifying. 
  2. He perfected what the Old Covenant rituals were incapable of perfecting.
  3. He transformed what was natural sacrifice in the Old Covenant into the supernatural sacrifice in offering His flesh and blood for the salvation of mankind.

[see CCC# 1996-2000; 2005]

 

This chapter can be divided into two major sections: Hebrews 9:1-10 addresses worship under the Old Sinai Covenant while Hebrews 9:11-28 contrasts Old Covenant worship with the New Covenant worship established by Jesus Christ.

 

THE TWO COVENANTS COMPARED: THE SINAI COVENANT AND THE NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST

 

THE OLD (SINAI) COVENANT

(Hebrews 9:1-10)

THE NEW COVENANT

(Hebrews 9:11-28)

Obsolete now that Christ has come

Romans 10:4; Hebrews 8:13

CCC# 1963-64

A perfect covenant brought about by Christ

Hebrews 7:19; 8:6-7; CCC# 1965; 1967

Originated at Mt. Sinai

Galatians 4:24-25

Originated from the heavenly Jerusalem

Galatians 4:26-27

Blessings and punishments were temporal: brought judgment, death, condemnation

2 Corinthians 3:7-9

Blessings and punishments are eternal: brings eternal life

Ephesians 2:1-13: Revelation 20:11-21:4

Impossible to obey perfectly because of human weakness and slavery to sin

Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:23-24

Fulfilled perfectly by Christ

Romans 10:4; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Galatians 3:25-27; CCC# 580-81

Established in the blood of sacrifice: In animal sacrifice the blood of the animal was separated from the body and both are offered in sacrifice. Required continual daily atonement for unintentional sins.  There was no remedy for intentional sin because no animal was perfect enough to forgive mortal sin.  With the exception of the whole burnt offerings other sacrifices are eaten: Exodus 2:7; 24:5-11; 29:10-18; Leviticus 1:1-13; 6:17-22; 19:17; 7:6-7; Numbers 15:27-31; Hebrews 9:7; 10:1-4;

Established in the blood of sacrifice: In the celebration of the first Eucharist Jesus separated His Body from His Blood [Luke 22:19-20]'the sacrifice must be eaten [John 6:53-56]. Christ atoned for all sin once for all time and all humanity and His sacrifice has the power to cleanse the conscience.  The application of His sacrifice is on-going as He stands before the Father as both our High Priest and the perfect Lamb of Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:12; 10:2, 22; Revelation 5:5-6; CCC# 1364-68

Restricted access to God

Hebrews 9:7-8

Christ opened access to God for all humanity

Hebrews 9:15-16; CCC# 536; 1026

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Please read Hebrews 9:1-5: Worship Under the First Corporate Covenant

1 Now [even] the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. 

2 For a tabernacle was constructed, the outer one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering; this is called the Holy Place.  3 Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies, 4 in which were the gold altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant entirely covered with gold.  In it were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant.  5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the place of expiation.  Now is not the time to speak of these in detail.

 

Question: Do we have "regulations for worship" in the New Covenant like those that existed imperfectly in the Old?  What elements of the Old Covenant worship do you still recognize in the New?  What connection can be made to the only sacrifice offered for the covenant people before the sin of the Golden Calf in Exodus 29:38-43 and our New Covenant sacrifice which Jesus, in His perfection as perfect man and God gives to us in the sacrifice of the Eucharist?

Answer: Ministering priests, an altar, incense, holy water, a congregation united in one faith, a sacrifice, established liturgy, and a central teaching authority.  As the Old Covenant liturgical worship and sacrifice was originally intended to be established before the sin of Israel in the incident of the Golden Calf, we have unleavened wheat cakes, a wine libation, a priest to offer sacrifice, and a sacrifice.  However, now God the Holy Spirit transforms our offering of unleavened wheat cakes and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus in His perfection as man-God was foreshadowed in the offering of 2 male lambs in their perfection under the Old Covenant as the Daily Sacrifice [known in Hebrew as the Tamid]. It was the only blood sacrifice that required a male lamb [even after the extended sacrifices that were instituted after the sin of the Golden Calf]. The other required sacrifices, like the Passover sacrifice, could be made by offering either a male lamb or a male goat [Exodus 12:5; see the chart "The Levitical Sacrifices of the Old Covenant"].  The table with the "bread offering" known as the "Bread of the Presence," can also be seen as a precursor of the Eucharistic "Bread of the Presence" of God.

 

In Old Covenant worship the priest washed his hands and feet in the holy water basin before entering the Holy Place of the Sanctuary [Exodus 40:30-32].  In the liturgy of the Mass, the priest washes his hands before proceeding with the consecration of the gifts.  We also still use holy water as a sign of ritual purification as a reminder when we enter the Sanctuary that we are entering the presence of God and need to confess our sins and cleanse our hearts.

 

There is a problem with Hebrews 9:3-4 in which the Altar of Incense is mentioned as being within the "veil" in the Holy of Holies in front of the Ark of the Covenant.  Exodus 30:6 and 40:26 seem to describe the incense altar as being between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies but Exodus 40:5 and Leviticus 16:12-14 seem to suggest otherwise, the question is on which side of the "second curtain" was the golden incense altar located?  The passage in Exodus could indicate either side but most plans of the Tabernacle by scholars show the Golden Incense Altar within the Holy Place.  The description in Luke 1:8-11 of the angel Gabriel standing at the right of the Altar of Incense does not help to identify its exact location.  It is possible that the placement in the Temple was on the other side of the second curtain as the inspired writer, who would have been familiar with the Temple, indicates.  The "first curtain" covered the entrance to the Holy Place, separating it from the Outer Court [Exodus 26:36-37].  Both curtains were made of blue, purple, scarlet and natural linen colored yarns representing the 4 earthly "elements" of air, water, fire and earth. 

 

In the plan of the desert Tabernacle God commanded that it was to be oriented to the East with the Holy of Holies in the West [Exodus 27:13-14].  The Tabernacle was divided into three parts, the second and third parts joined as one structure but divided by a curtain:

  1. The Outer Court with the Bronze Altar of sacrifice was the place where the covenant people approached God to offer sin sacrifices and communion sacrifices.
  2. The Holy Place, containing the Golden Lampstand/Menorah symbolized the light of God which illuminates the souls of men and the Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence to nourishment that God brings spiritually to man.  This is the place where man communes with God, communion sacrifices were eaten in this sacred space by the offerer and his family; priests and their families also ate the sin sacrifices and other offerings provided by the people.
  3. The Holy of Holies is the most sacred space where God dwells in the presence of His people above the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  The Golden Altar of Incense with its clouds of smoky incense represented the prayers of the people and shielded the view of the presence of God, thereby protecting the priests ministering at the Incense Altar twice a day.

 

 

Desert Tabernacle Outline

 

Outside the "Tent" = profane and unclean

Tent of Meeting Outer Court = sacred and clean

 

Holy Place = sacred and clean

 

Holy of Holies: = most sacred and clean

 

Notice the 3 section division in one enclosure of the Tabernacle which, from the New Covenant prospective, suggests the 3 persons of the Divine Trinity (a unity of 3 in 1) while the arrangement of the furniture forms a cruciform, foreshadowing the altar of the Cross and the site of the final and perfect sacrifice.

 

THERE WERE 7 CLASSES OF FURNITRUE IN THE HOLY TABERNACLE:

(all measurements reflect the desert Tabernacle and not the Temple)

 

"...these maintain the service only of a model or reflection of the heavenly realities; just as Moses, when he had the Tent to build, was warned by God who said: 'See that you work to the design that was shown you on the mountain.'" Hebrews 8:5

 

1.      The Ark of the Covenant: an acacia wood box approximately 3 and 1/2 feet by 2 and 1/2 feet.  It was covered inside and outside with pure gold and it will house the tablets of the Law. 

 

2.      The Mercy Seat: Moses was instructed to place the Kapporeth, on top of the Ark of the Covenant.  This lid is known as the "Mercy Seat" or "Seat of Atonement".  It is from the Mercy Seat that God will meet His people. The Hebrew word translated as "mercy seat" is pronounced kap-po-reth, and means to cover, in two ways; as a noun, meaning a lid, or a top, but also, based on the Hebrew root from which it was derived, as a verb meaning to pardon, or to atone for, as in to cover a debt. The Hebrew word kap-po-reth is used exclusively in the Scriptures for the Mercy Seat and for nothing else. The figures of two golden cherubim were mounted on the top of the lid of the mercy seat. Exodus 25:10-22; 26:34; Leviticus 16:12-15.

 

3.      The Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence: was an acacia wood table approximately 36 inches long by 18 inches wide by 27 inches high.  It was covered with pure gold and held 12 loaves of unleavened bread, representing one loaf for each tribe of Israel as well as the 12 months of the year.  Exodus 25:23-30; 37:10-16; Lev. 24:5-9.

 

4.      The Golden Lampstand/Menorah: Was made of pure gold with its cups for the holy oil shaped in the form of calyxes and petals.  It had one central trunk with six branches from each side of the main branch, three branches on a side.  It was a visual representation of the burning bush of Exodus 3:2 and is also a reminder of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:9].  See Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24; Leviticus 24:2-4.  Consecrated olive oil was to be kept burning in the cups of the lamp perpetually [Exodus 27:20-21].

 

5.      The Bronze Altar of burnt offerings: Was made of acacia wood and covered with bronze.  This altar measured circa 7 and 1/2 feet wide, by 7 and 1/2 feet deep, by 4 and 1/2 feet high [Exodus 27:1-8; 38:1-7; it was twice as big in the Temple].  All animal sacrifices were to be burned in whole or in part on this altar except the sacrifices of the Feast of Atonement which were to be burned "outside" the camp [Leviticus 16:26-28].

 

6.      The Golden Altar of Incense: Was made of acacia wood covered with pure gold.  It measured approximately 18 inches square by 36 inches high.  Exodus 30:1-10 37:25-28.  Incense was burned on this altar twice daily [Exodus 30:7].  The incense burned on it was a special mixture prescribed by God [Exodus 30:34-37].

 

7.      The Bronze Basin: Was made entirely of bronze from the mirrors of the women.  It held the holy water for ritual purification before entering the Holy Place of Yahweh's dwelling.  Exodus 30:17-21; 38:8; 40:30-32.

 

 

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT and the SEAT OF ATONEMENT

"You must make me an ark of acacia wood, [...].  There I shall come to meet you; from above the mercy-seat, from between the two winged creatures which are on the ark of the Testimony, I shall give you all my orders for the Israelites." Exodus 25:10, 22

 

The Ark of the Covenant served 3 purposes:

1.      It was a receptacle to hold the 10 Commandments,

2.      It was a support for the "Seat of Atonement" as the earthly throne of Yahweh

3.      It was the most holy altar of Yahweh.

 

As the visual reminder of the presence of God with His chosen people, the Ark of the Covenant was a receptacle which held and preserved the two tablets of the Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:16].  This purpose gave the Ark its other name, the "Ark of Testimony" or the "Ark of the Covenant", recalling the Covenant which Yahweh formed with Israel at Mount Sinai [Exodus 19-31].  The tablets are called "the tablets of the Covenant" in Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 15; and the words engraved on them are called "the words of the Covenant" [Exodus 39:28].  The Ark would also come to hold a pot of the manna with which Yahweh had physically sustained Israel in her desert journey and the branch of the High Priest Aaron which had miraculously come to life and blossomed [see Hebrews 9:4].

 

The Ark served as a support for the "Seat of Atonement" or "Mercy Seat", in Hebrew the Kapporeth [Exodus 37:1-9].  The Kapporeth was placed on the top of the Ark, enclosing the tablets of the Ten Commandments within the chest of the Ark, making the tablets a treasure entrusted to Israel.  The divine testimony of God hidden in the Ark became the guarantee of the fulfillment of the promises of the Covenant made at Sinai.  But the Kapporeth was more than a lid to cover the 10 Commandments. This is evident from its name which means in Hebrew not simply "covering" but instead "seat" of atonement, which some scholars translate as "Mercy Seat". 

 

Question: The title "Mercy Seat" denotes not a physical or material covering but a spiritual covering of something.  What is it that was "covered" spiritually?  Is it the tablets of the Law which are intended to be "covered?"

Answer: What is "covered" can not be the tablets of the Law. After all it is not the Law that must be covered, the whole purpose of the Law was that it was to be revealed continuously as the voice and will of Yahweh, but the question of sin was a serious issue.  The Kapporeth instead was meant to provide a covering for the sins of Israel, the Covenant people.  Israel must come to Yahweh as the sinless Bride and therefore united with Yahweh in the covenantal union she must have recourse to atonement for sins, as Yahweh sat enthroned upon the "Seat of Atonement", the highest means of atonement in the Old Covenant.  And yet that atonement could only be offered for unintentional sin, the blood of an animal was not perfect enough to offer expiation for mortal or deadly sins [Numbers 15:22-31].  It was in that function of the atonement for sins that the Kapporeth was a foreshadow of the true act of expiation which would be offered in the fullness of time by Christ Jesus, the Bridegroom of His New Covenant Bride, the Universal Church, upon the "mercy seat" of the Cross when His pure and holy sacrifice would cleanse the sins of all mankind for all time in all the ages of man. 

 

In Exodus 40:34-35 the glory of Yahweh came down and overshadowed the Kapporeth in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle as Yahweh took His place upon His earthly throne [also see Exodus 25:22 and Numbers 7:89].  Like the angelic cherubim who surround the throne of Yahweh in the heavenly Tabernacle [Revelation 4-5], of which the earthly Tabernacle is only a copy [Exodus 25:8-9; 27:8; Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 9:23], the images of two golden cherubim were placed by Yahweh's command on top of the Kapporeth and images of cherubim were also woven into the inner curtain that hung in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies in which the Ark rested.  In the Tabernacle Yahweh was enthroned between the cherubim, ready to offer mercy and forgiveness to His covenant Bride Israel [Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalm 80:1; 1 Kings 6:23-28]. The first century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria said the cherubim were reminders of God's powers as the God of creation and the king of the cosmos [Moses 2.99].

 

The third purpose of the Ark of the Covenant was its use as Yahweh's holiest Altar of sacrifice.  The other two altars were the bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard [Exodus 27:1-8; 29:36-37], and the golden Altar of Incense [see Exodus 30:1-10; Leviticus 4:7].  But what was the means of atonement carried out upon this earthly throne of mercy known as the "Seat of Atonement" to bind Israel the Bride to Yahweh the Bridegroom?  Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement" [Leviticus chapter 16] the "mercy seat" served as the 3rd holy Altar of Yahweh when the holiest of sin-offerings was sprinkled on the Kapporeth. In the ordinary sacrifices on ordinary days and during the days of the 7 Sacred Feasts of Yahweh [see "The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant"], the blood of the sacrificed victims was sprinkled and then poured out at the corners of the great bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard of the Temple or sprinkled upon the horns of the golden Altar of Incense that stood in the Holy Place in front of the curtain woven with cherubim that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in which the Ark of the Covenant rested.

 

The Ark of the Covenant was the highest or most holy of the altars of Yahweh for 3 reasons:

1.      It covered the testimony of God contained in the two tablets of the 10 Commandments.

2.      The glory of Yahweh rested upon it between the wings of the golden cherubim that overshadowed the Ark making it the earthly throne of God.

3.      As the site of the atonement of Israel on the Feast of Atonement it became Yahweh's earthly "throne of grace", establishing the institution of atonement [given in Leviticus 17:11] and serving as the foreshadow of Christ's act of atonement when He served as both the sinless victim as well as the enthroned King on the earthly Altar and "Mercy seat" of the Cross.  Upon His death the curtain which shielded the Holy of Holies  was ripped from top to bottom symbolizing the acceptance by God of Jesus perfect self-sacrifice and the way to full communion to God being "opened" to mankind.

 

Question: According to the inspired writer of Hebrews what three objects were placed in the Ark of the Covenant?  See Hebrews 9:4; Exodus 16:31-34; 25:21; 40:20; Numbers 17:25.

Answer: According to the inspired writer the Ark contained:

v     The word of God: the 10 Commandments

v     The pot of manna which was the heavenly bread that fed the children of Israel during their journey to the Promised Land

v     The High Priest Aaron's staff  of authority

In the Old Testament the priests were instructed to place the tablets of the 10 Commandments inside the Ark and a pot of manna and Aaron's staff near the Ark.  But the inspired writer of Hebrews informs us that Aaron's staff of authority and the pot of manna were later also placed inside the Ark.

 

Question: What miracle was associated with Aaron's staff?  See Numbers 16:1-17:26.

Answer: As a sign of Aaron's authority as the only legitimate high priestly line, God made Aaron's dead wooden staff come to life, to bloom and bear almonds.

 

The Greek word episkiazo ep-ee-skee-ad'-zo, a derivative of the word skia  [Hebrews 8:5; 10:1], means "over-shadowed" and is used in two related critical passages in the Bible: In Exodus 40:34 in the Greek Septuagint translation when God the Holy Spirit took possession of the Ark of the Covenant in the desert Tabernacle and in Luke 1:35 when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary [also see the use of this word in Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34; and Acts 5:15].  The Greek word kataskiazein [kat-as-kee-ad-zo] is used, however, in Hebrews 9:5, meaning to "overshade" or "cover," also a derivative of skia meaning shade or shadow. 

Question: What is the link between these two passages and how are they connected to the 3 items placed in the Ark of the Covenant?

Answer: The Fathers of the Church saw the physical Ark of the Covenant which contained the word of God, the bread from heaven, and the dead branch that came to life as a prefigurement of the Christ.  Just as the Holy Spirit "overshadowed" and took possession of the Ark of the Covenant so too did He "overshadow" and take possession of the womb of the Virgin Mary.  Mary became for the New Covenant people of God the flesh and blood Ark of the Covenant for in her womb was contained:

v     the Living Word of God

v     the Living Bread that came down from heaven and

v     the Branch that died and came to life.

"Branch" was a title for the promised Messiah in Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12.

 

THE VIRGIN MARY AS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT

 

"Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of God dwells. She is 'the dwelling of God [...] with men.'"  CCC#2676

God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark.  The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God [Exodus 40:34-35]

God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled Mary.  At that time Mary's womb became the dwelling place of the presence of God [Luke 1:35].

The Ark contained the 10 Commandments [the word of God in stone], a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that came back to life [Exodus 25:16; Deuteronomy 10:2, 5; Hebrews 9:4].

The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the living Word of God enfleshed, the living bread from heaven, "the Branch" (Messianic title) who would die but come back to life [Luke 1:35].

The Ark traveled to the hill country of Judah to rest in the house of Obed-edom [2 Samuel 6:1-11]

Mary traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of Elizabeth [Luke 1:39]

Dressed in a priestly ephod, King David approached the Ark and danced and leapt for joy [2 Samuel 6:14]

John the Baptist, son of a priest who would himself become a priest, leapt for joy in his mother's womb [Elizabeth] at the approach of Mary [Luke 1:43]

David shouted for joy in the presence of God and the holy Ark [2 Samuel 6:15]

Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry of joy in the presence God within Mary [Luke 1:42]

David asked, "How is it that the Ark of the Lord comes to me?" [2 Samuel 6:9]

Elizabeth asks, "Why is this granted unto me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" [Luke 1:43]

The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for 3 months [2 Samuel 6:11]

Mary remained in the house of her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months [Luke 1:56].

The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark [2 Samuel 6:11]

The word "blessed" is used 3 times in Luke 1:39-45 concerning Mary at Elizabeth's house.

The Ark returned to its sanctuary and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where the presence and glory of God is revealed in the newly built Temple [2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Kings 8:9-11]

Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually comes to Jerusalem, where she presents God the Son in the Temple [Luke 1:56; 2:21-22]

God made Aaron's rod (which would be kept in the Ark) return to life and budded to prove he was the legitimate High Priest [Numbers 17:8].

God would resurrect His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary's womb and born to bring salvation to all mankind, to prove He is the eternal High Priest [Hebrews 4:14].

When the Ark was outside the Holy of Holies [when it was being transported] it was to be covered with a blue veil [Numbers 4:4-6]

In Mary's appearances outside of heaven visionaries testify that she wears a blue veil.

In Revelation 11:19 John sees the Ark of the Covenant in heaven [this is the last verse of chapter 11]

In Revelation 12:1 John sees Mary in heaven.  It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in 1531'the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002, revised 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587/6BC the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant and the original desert tent and hid them in a cave on Mount Nebo [see 2 Maccabees 2:4-8].  In Jeremiah 3:14-18 the prophet warns that in the Messianic Age no one will look for the Ark of the Covenant because the earthly box will have no meaning or value.

 

Please read Hebrews 9:6-10: The Limited Access to God Under the Law and Ritual the Old Covenant

6 With these arrangements for worship, the priests, in performing their service, go into the outer tabernacle repeatedly, 7 but the high priest alone goes into the inner one once a year, not without blood that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people.  8 In this way the Holy Spirit shows that the way into the sanctuary had not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle still had its place.  9 This was a symbol of the present time, in which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper in conscience 10 but only in matters of food and drink and various ritual washings: regulations concerning the flesh, imposed until the time of the new order.

 

The Levitical ministers and high priests continually ministered in the outer court and the Holy Place but because of the collective fall from grace in the sin of the Golden Calf, access to the presence of God was limited.  The High Priest was the only person who could enter the Holy of Holies and only once a year [Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:1-2, 29, 34] to make atonement for his own sins, for the sins of his family members, and atonement for the covenant people as a whole.  He first entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the sacrificed bull's blood on the Ark for his sins and the sins of his family [Leviticus 16:12-13].  He entered the Holy of Holies a second time with the goat's blood for the sins of the covenant people [Leviticus 16:15].  According to Philo in Gaius 307 and the Mishnah Yoma 5:1-7; 7:4 the High Priest may have entered this sacred space more than twice, everything associated with the sacrifices of the Feast of Atonement were accomplished on that single day and the Holy of Holies could not be entered for a year until the next Feast of Atonement.  This was the only time the Ark of the Covenant functioned as an altar of sacrifice when the blood of the sacrificial victims of the Feast of Atonement was sprinkled on the eastern side of the Mercy Seat and sprinkled seven times in front of the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant [Leviticus 16:14-16].  The Altar of Incense also functioned as a sacrificial altar at this feast [Exodus 30:10-11].

 

Question: What did the High Priest's "once" a year only access to the Holy of Holies to atone for the sins of the people signify as a foreshadow of Christ's mission? [Leviticus 16:2].

Answer: Jesus' self-sacrificial death was a "once" only event which atoned for the sins of mankind [Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:10].

 

Yahweh promised in Exodus 20:24 that whenever sacrifice was offered He would come to Israel at the moment of sacrifice and He would bless Israel.  At the Bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard of the Tabernacle/Temple the cloud of smoke that rose from the burning sacrificial victim was the visible sign that God had come and had received the offerings of the Covenant people both individually and collectively, recompensing them by His blessings: An altar of earth you shall make for me, and upon it you shall sacrifice your holocausts and peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen.  In whatever place I choose for the remembrance of my name I will come to you and bless you.  God's promise was that once the rite of expiation had been given, the people would be forgiven: ...and once the priest has performed the rite of expiation for the people, they will be forgiven [Leviticus 4:20; also Leviticus 4:31 and Numbers 15:25].  A great pillar of cloud would rise from the burning of the sacrificial victim, aided by salting the sacrifice, and would be visibly proof for the people of God's acceptance of the their sacrifice. 

 

However, for the most important atonement sacrifice for the people offered on the Day of Atonement on the Altar of the "Seat of Atonement/ Mercy Seat" God did not come in the form of the visible rising cloud.  Instead He came invisibly in a manner that could not be seen in the natural world but in a manner that required the obedient faith of the Covenant believers. 

Question: What connection can you see between the belief of the people of the Old Covenant that God had accepted the sacrifice and that atonement and reconciliation had been accomplished on the Feast of Atonement and our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

Answer: The invisible presence of God on the Feast of Atonement in the Holy of Holies is the same way God comes to us today in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.  He comes invisibly to transform what we have offered Him into a visible reality through the miracle of transubstantiation. He offers His perfect sacrifice sacramentaly in an unbloody sacrifice in atonement for the sins of the world upon every altar of every Catholic Sanctuary. What was bread and wine becomes the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  It is His invisible presence that comes to us on the altar as he manifests Himself through the power of God the Holy Spirit becoming present in what only appears to be bread and wine.  Just as in the Feast of Atonement blood sacrifice in ancient times, this invisible miracle of atonement today requires belief in the miracle of His coming just as belief in what was invisible was require of the Old Covenant faithful during this feast of atonement and reconciliation in ancient times.

 

Hebrews 9:8-9:  8 In this way the Holy Spirit shows that the way into the sanctuary had not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle still had its place.  9 This was a symbol of the present time... 

The use of the present tense in verse 9 suggests that the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing.  The "present time" is the time this address is being given.  The covenant people's limited access to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies through the ministry of the High Priest once a year at the Temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of "the present time" in the transition period between the end of the Old Covenant worship and the establishment that was on-going in the New.  From the time of Jesus Ascension in 30AD to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman Army in 70AD was a 40 year transition period to allow the Old Covenant people time to accept the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.  As long as "the old tent stood" the way into the "sanctuary" of the heavenly Holy of Holies was not complete, the Temple would have to fall.  This is the prophecy Jesus made in Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-4; and Luke 21:5-7, that the Temple would be destroyed and not one stone would be left upon another.  This prophecy was fulfilled in 70AD when, during the Roman army's assault on Jerusalem, the Temple was set afire.  The gold from the roof of the Temple melted in the heat of the fire and flowed into the cracks of the stones.  After the fire subsided the Roman soldiers poured water over the hot stones to break them apart and secure the gold.  Not one stone was left standing upon another:  He said to them in reply, 'You see all these? In truth I tell you, not a single stone here will be left on another; everything will be pulled down' [Matthew 24:2]. 

 

The Temple and the imperfect sacrifices offered there were the symbols of the Old order.  The inspired writer announces: it is time for the new order to replace the old! 9 This was a symbol of the present time, in which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper in conscience 10 but only in matters of food and drink and various ritual washings: regulations concerning the flesh, imposed until the time of the new order.

Under the Old Covenant the limited access to God revealed the imperfection of the Old Covenant sacrifices.  All the rituals and purification rites were visible outward signs of the change that was supposed to take place within the heart of the believer but with the new order, what was only external in the past becomes internal through the power of God the Holy Spirit.

 

Please read Hebrews 9:11-14: God Abolishes the First in Order to Establish the Second in the Atoning Death of Jesus Christ

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, 12 he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifers ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

 

Hebrews 9:11-12 is one long complex sentence in the Greek text and is the most powerful and significant statement in the entire text of the address.  Jesus' arrival as the High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary is the central point of the discourse, emphasizing His election by God's sworn oath.  Jesus was called by God; He did not presume to aspire to His priestly prerogatives [Hebrews 5:4-5] but He entered the heavenly Sanctuary with the acceptable sacrifice of Himself as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world [John 1:29]. 

 

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifers ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

The Old Covenant sacrifices only offered outward, fleshly cleansing but the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the necessary internal supernatural cleansing that all animal sacrifice was incapable of accomplishing.  Jesus gives the internal cleansing that the psalmist cried out to God to give him in Psalm 51: "True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me. Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.  Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow.  [..].  For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.  My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. Psalm 51:7-9, 18-19.  Notice the reference to original sin in Psalm 51:7 [see CCC#389; 396-406].

 

The five kinds of animals that could be offered in sacrifice were established in Genesis chapter 15 when Abram's act of worship through animal sacrifice is first recorded.  The sacrifice was limited to: cattle, sheep, goats, turtle doves and pigeons.  The reference to the heifer's ashes and scarlet wool in Hebrews 9:13 refers to purification rites found in the Sinai Covenant recorded in Numbers 19:1-22.  The "red" heifer and the "red" wool signifying man's impurity and sinfulness [Numbers 19:9, 17]'sin that can be purified: Come now, let us set things right says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool [Isaiah 1:18]. The ancient red dye was a permanent dye and nearly impossible to remove, but for God nothing is impossible and though your sins be as deep red as red dyed wool, the purifying waters of the red heifer were to remind the faithful that He can purify His people.  Jesus is our red heifer.

 

Under those rites of purification in Numbers 19 the instructions include that a perfect red heifer must be selected for sacrifice and must be burned entirely outside the camp.  When the Tabernacle of God was established in Jerusalem, the red heifer was burned outside the walls of the city with the High Priest officiating.  In Numbers 19:9 the instructions state: The heifer will then be burnt while he looks on; its hide, flesh, blood and offal will be burnt.  The priest will then take some cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet material and throw them on the fire where the heifer is burning.  He will then wash his clothes and bathe himself; after which he will go back to the camp, through he will remain unclean until evening [New Jerusalem translation]The red heifer's ashes were then mixed with holy water and used for the ritual cleansing of the covenant people who had become ritually defiled through contact with blood or a dead body [see Numbers 19:14-21]: Anyone in the open country who touches a murder victim, a corpse, human bones or a grave will be unclean for seven days [Numbers 19:16, New Jerusalem translation]. 

 

According to Numbers 19:13 anyone who is ritually defiled by the dead is himself "dead" to the covenant community and excluded from coming to God in liturgical worship until he can be purified by the ashes of the red heifer.  Death is the greatest of defilements because death is the final result of sin.  When the ritually defiled person was symbolically cleansed by the purification rite he was restored to his covenant community and was restored to God in communal worship. 

Question: Under the Old Covenant what is required to become ritually purified from contact with death?  See Numbers 19:17-20.

Answer: The purification process must be performed in the third and seventh day.

 

Question: How has Jesus Christ perfected this symbolic purification of the red heifer and this double resurrection that was part of the purification rite for one who had been "dead" to his community? What do you see in the rites of the red heifer that prefigured Christ's Passion, death, and Resurrection?

Answer: Jesus arose from the dead on the third day. Three is the number of the Trinity in the New Covenant as well as the number of fullness, completion and importance in the Old Covenant.  Seven has always been considered the number of perfection.  It is the number of the Holy Spirit and of spiritual perfection.  The connection is to Christ's atoning death and to Christian rebirth in the purifying waters of the Sacrament of Baptism.

 

The red heifer was sacrificed "outside the camp" [Numbers 19:3] just as Jesus was sacrificed outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem [John 19:20] which was considered the "camp of God".  Because of the sin of Adam, we of the human family have been "dead" in our sins.  Christ's sacrificial death, by the shedding of His precious Blood purifies and sanctifies all who claim the Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Through Christian baptism we die with Christ and are resurrected to new life. This "purifying" by water and the Spirit is called by Christians the "first resurrection" [CCC# 1002-4; 1214-15].  We also have the promise of a second resurrection at the end of the age when Christ comes again when the dead will be raised [686; 990; 1015; 1017].  Like those who experienced purification in the rites of the red heifer, we too who believe in Jesus Christ are promised two resurrections.

 

Please read Hebrews 9:15-22: Jesus Christ, Mediator of the New Covenant

15 For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  16 Now where there is a will, the death of the testator must be established.  17 For a will takes effect only at death; it has no force while the testator is alive.  18 Thus not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  19 When every commandment has been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves [and goats], together with water and crimson wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is 'the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined upon you.'"  21 In the same way, he sprinkled also the tabernacle and all the vessels of worship with blood22 According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

 

As already mentioned the Greek word for covenant, diatheke, also has the meaning "last will and testament" and this is the way the inspired writer is using diatheke in Hebrews 9:16-17.  However, in 9:15 and verses 18-20 he is using the word in the sense of "covenant," making a play on the double meaning of the word.  The double meaning allows the inspired writer to argue that a covenant suggests the death of the one who initiated the covenant as the death of a testator results in his "last will and testament." The inspired writer links Jesus' deliverance of mankind from the ravages of sin and death by comparing His gift of salvation to the inheritance one leaves to one's family and friends upon one's death.  In order for the "testament" or will to take effect, it must be proved that the testator is indeed dead.  It was necessary, therefore, for Jesus to die in order that the inheritance promised under the New Covenant could be delivered to those of Jesus' family, His brothers and sisters reborn into the family of God through the sacrament of Baptism. Therefore, Christ had to die to establish the New Covenant and the promises it contained as the inheritance of His heirs.

 

Unlike the Old Covenant high priests whose ministry was limited after age 50 and whose service completed ended upon their death, Jesus' priestly service begins with His self-sacrificial death and His Ascension to the heavenly Sanctuary to being His service as Priest-King and mediator of the New Covenant people of God [see Hebrews 8:6]. 

Question: According to Hebrews 9:15 what was the purpose of Jesus' death?

Answer: His sacrificial death as the one perfect sacrifice has effected man's deliverance from bondage to sin, deliverance the first covenant, meaning the Sinai Covenant, was incapable of offering.  Because of the deliverance effected by Jesus Christ's death, "all who are called" may receive the promise of eternal life.  The point being, one must in faith answer the call to grace in order to be delivered.

 

Hebrews 9:18:  Thus not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 

Not just the first covenant, but every covenant was inaugurated with the shedding of blood.  In Leviticus 17:11-12 Yahweh instructed His covenant people: Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.  That is why I have told the Israelites: No one among you, not even a resident alien, may partake of blood.  This prohibition is repeated six times in Scripture: Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:11-12; Deuteronomy 12:16 & 23

Question: According to this prohibition, what was the penalty for ignoring the restriction concerning drinking blood and eating raw flesh? See Leviticus 7:27

Answer: Excommunication from the people of the covenant.

 

Question: Knowing the seriousness of breaking this covenant restriction, since the time of Noah, how did Jesus' statement in John 6:53-58 affect the Jews who heard Him in what is called "The Bread of Life Discourse" in John chapter 6?

Answer: They were scandalized that He was telling them they must break this very sacred prohibition in order to have what He promised, eternal life.

 

Question: How do we know that the Jews were scandalized and did they believe He was speaking literally and not symbolically?  See John 6:59-66.

Answer: They called Jesus' speech "intolerable language" [New Jerusalem] and asked "who can accept it?"  As a result of the people believing that Jesus literally meant what He said, many, including His disciples, walked away "and no longer accompanied him."

 

Question: In telling the people that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life was it Jesus' intention to separate them from the Old Covenant? 

Answer: Yes, for as the inspired writer of Hebrews tells us When he speaks of a 'new' covenant, he declares the first one obsolete.  And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing [Hebrews 8:13].  Of course, we now understand in light of the Resurrection that Jesus was not speaking of His earthly flesh and blood but His resurrected, glorified flesh and blood which we literally—NOT SYMBOLICALLY—consume, if in a state of grace, at every Eucharistic celebration.

 

Question: How does St. Paul affirm the necessity of the literal understanding of consuming Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28?

Answer: If we did not literally believe we were receiving Christ in the Eucharist but only symbolically then there could be no danger of receiving the Eucharist without believing Christ was physically present or receiving what appears to be bread and wine in a state of sin, but Paul clearly states that anyone who eats and drinks [Christ's Body and Blood] without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking to his own judgment upon himself! [see CCC# 136567; 1374-77; 1381; 1385; 1393].  He also adds that many have become sick and have died because they ate and drank of Christ unworthily [in a state of sin].

 

Question: Consult the chart on Yahweh's 8 Covenants. How many covenants were maintained with the shedding of blood?  You will find the chart in the charts section of Agape Bible Study and in Hebrews Lesson 8.

Answer: Prior to the fall of our first parents there was no need for blood sacrifice, there was no death.  After the fall, blood sacrifice for the expiation of sin was established:

 

Hebrews 9:19-21: 19 When every commandment has been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves [and goats], together with water and crimson wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is 'the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined upon you.'"  21 In the same way, he sprinkled also the tabernacle and all the vessels of worship with blood.  According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Question: Why is it that God's forgiveness has always required the shedding of blood and why is it still a requirement now in the Last Age of Man in the New Covenant?

Answer: There is no greater symbol of life than the blood which flows through the veins of men and women, nourishing every cell in the human body.  We can live without limbs and eyes but we cannot live without blood.  The requirement of blood sacrifice is not an arbitrary demand of a vengeful and blood thirsty God, but it is the blood flowing through the human body that sustains the gift of life.  Jesus' blood shed for us in sacrifice does for us what no animal could, His blood gives life and gives it more perfectly than any substitute, even human sacrifice.  As true God as well as true man He is the author of life and He knows exactly what we need to sustain life, not just physically but spiritually.  It is His blood that offers the kind of life for which we were intended: as immortal sinless human beings in full communion with God.  It is His blood that pays the penalty for sins and restores us to new life in Christ through His resurrection with which we are united in Christian baptism.

 

Question: What is the significance of the mention of animal blood, water, crimson wool and hyssop in Hebrews 9:19?  See Exodus 24:5-8; Leviticus 14:3-7; Numbers 19:6-18; Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24.

Answer: The inspired writer of Hebrews is combining more that one ritual event.  He is referencing the ratification of the covenant at Sinai, purification rites, and the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. His intent is to show that all the rituals of the Sinai Covenant form animal sacrifice to purification rites find their fulfillment in the establishment of the New Covenant which began with Jesus' walk to the Cross in the Upper Room the night of the Last Supper. 

 

Question: Hyssop was a plant with soft, furry leaves that could hold water.  It was used in the sprinkling rites for purification including the rite associated with death defilement when the ashes of the red heifer were mixed with holy water. How was a hyssop branch used during the crucifixion of Christ?  How is this event prefigured in the purification rites of the Old Covenant?  See Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52; Numbers 19:6, 18; Psalm 51:7; John 19:29-30.

Answer: The inspired writer in referring to the sprinkling with "water, crimson wool and hyssop" is identifying these rites as a type of prefigured cleansing of the soul of man from sin through the Passion and death of Christ, it was a hyssop branch, St. John tells us, that the Roman soldier used to give Christ His last sip of wine just before He willingly gave up His life on the Cross.  It is significant that the Eucharistic cup of the Last Supper was the third cup of wine, called the Cup of Blessing or Redemption [see 1 Corinthians 10:16].  Two of the four cups of the ritual meal of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are mentioned in Scripture in Luke 22:14-20.  The first cup mentioned in Luke 22:17 is probably the second cup: the Cup of Forgiveness, also called the Cup of Judgment, depending on the condition of one's soul.  It is after taking this cup that Jesus proclaims: for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes [Luke 22:18].  The following verses tell of the institution of the Eucharist. There is no mention of the 4th cup, the Cup of Acceptance, which closed the meal with the host's declaration: "It is finished [fulfilled]."  It is on the Cross after receiving the wine dipped hyssop branch that Jesus drinks the wine'something He had sworn He would not do until He came into His kingdom: When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished."  And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit  [John 19:30].  It was also a hyssop branch that was used to smear the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the lintel and door posts of the house during the first Passover in Egypt.

 

Question: During the night of the first Passover, the children of Israel were commanded to pour the blood of the sacrificed lamb or goat into the ditch of the threshold of the house and then, using a hyssop branch to smear the blood above the door and on each side [see Exodus 12: 22; "basin" is the word zap in Hebrew which refers to the threshold of the door].  It was under the protection this "sign" [Exodus 12:13] that the people were saved.  What is the sign if you connect the smears of blood from above and side to side and below the door?

Answer: It is the sign of the Cross.  It was the blood of sacrifice that saved the firstborn on the night of the first Passover, it was the blood of sacrifice that united the children of Israel into one family in God and it is the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the Altar of the Cross that both "saves" and "purifies" us, uniting us into one Covenant family and promising us continual purification of any sins committed after the Sacrament of Baptism through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

Hebrews 9:22: According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Question: Was this statement true in the ages of the past covenants?  Today in the New Covenant?  See Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 12:7; 24:5-8; Luke 22:20; Romans 2:25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14, 20; 1 Peter 1:2, 18-19; 1 John 1:7.

Answer: Yes.  Yes.

 

Please read Hebrews 9:23-28: Jesus, Our One Perfect Sacrifice:

23 Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these.  24 For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.  25 Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood this is not his own; 26 if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world.  But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.  27 Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, 28 so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

 

Hebrews 9:23-25: 23 Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these.  24 For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.  25 Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood this is not his own;

Earthly things are not in themselves holy, they must be purified which made the Old Covenant purification rites necessary.  Heavenly things, however, are already pure.  From the time of the Fall of Adam the sacrificial blood of animals accompanied by confession and contrition became a cleansing and atoning symbol which foreshadowed Christ's one perfect sacrifice: Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement [Leviticus 17:11].  But unlike the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, Jesus, our High Priest, did not offer blood that was not His own, He offered the one perfect sacrifice that would have the power to forgive sins, His own flesh and His own blood, fulfilling what had only been a symbol in past ages.

 

if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world.   But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.  What Jesus offers is one perfect but on-going sacrifice.  He was selected before the foundation of the earth, according to St. Peter, to offer Himself in atonement for our sins [1 Peter 1:20-21].

 

In these passages from Hebrews 9:26-27 the inspired writer is again referring to the yearly sacrifices on the Feast of Atonement, known in Hebrew as Yom Kippur, "Day of Covering" referring to the sins of the covenant people being "covered" in a communal reconciliation sacrifice.  Sirach 50:5-24 describes the dramatic events of the High Priest offering sacrifice for the atonement of sins for the people on the Feast of Atonement: How splendid he was as he appeared from the tent, as he came from within the veil!  Like a star shining among the clouds, like the full moon at the holyday season; like the sun shining upon the temple, like the rainbow appearing in the cloudy sky; like the blossoms on the branches in springtime, like a lily on the banks of a stream; like the trees of Lebanon in summer, like the fire of incense at the sacrifice; like a vessel of beaten gold, studded with precious stones; lie a luxuriant olive tree thick with fruit, like cypress standing against the clouds; vested in his magnificent robes, and wearing his garments of splendor, as he ascended the glorious altar and lent majesty to the court of the sanctuary [Sirach 50:5-11].  This expression of the thankfulness of the people for the ministry of the High Priest whose service brings the covenant people atonement and restoration of communion with God should pale in comparison with our expressions thankfulness for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in His ministry as our High Priest offering atonement for our sins in the heavenly Sanctuary!

 

In Hebrews 9:26: "At the end of the ages" is an expression signifying the Second Advent of Christ, the end of the world as we know it and the de-creation and regeneration that will occur at that eschatological event [see Matthew 24:37-44; Luke 17:26-27; 34-35; 1Corinthians 15:23-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20:11- 21:2;CCC# 1001-2]. 

 

 

Hebrews 9:27-28: 27 Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, 28 so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

 

After death there is individual judgment [see CCC# 1021- 22].  This completely eliminates any discussion of the theory of reincarnation for Christians [CCC# 1013].  For human life on earth death is the one time, unrepeatable act except in the case of Lazarus and others who were miraculously raised from death or in certain unique cases through the intervention of medical science [with the ascent of God] to live and die again [these exceptions, however are resuscitations not resurrections].  The Preface of Christian Death I in the Roman Missal reads: Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.  When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

 

As death comes to most mortals as an unrepeatable act, so too Jesus' bloody death was an unrepeatable sacrifice that was offered once and for all time achieving atonement and redemption for mankind as a whole.  All subsequent offering of His one unique sacrifice are therefore unbloody, as in the sacrifice of the Mass [see CCC# 1330 and the document "Is the Eucharist a True Sacrifice?"

 

In Hebrews 9:28 to take away the sins of many is a quote from Isaiah 53:12Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses..  The Greek verb anaphero [an-af-er'-o] used in this phrase can mean either to "take away," "take up", or "to bear."  The inspired writer is making use of the double meaning of this verb to convey that by His atoning death on the Cross Jesus both bore our sins and took them away.  There is a similar word play used by St. John in the Gospel of John 1:29

 

The word "many" in 9:28 has the Semitic meaning of "all" in the inclusive sense.  It is used in the same sense in Mark 14:24 in Jesus words at the Last Supper: He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many [all]."  The inspired writer is using the vision of the High Priest disappearing into the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice for the people on the Day of Atonement and then reappearing after the sacrifice has been accepted by God by comparing the events to Jesus' Ascension to the Father as the perfect sacrifice in the cloud as He enters the Holy of Holies of heaven, as the Apostles and disciples saw Him leave the earth to enter the heavenly Sanctuary in Acts 1:9, and His promised return in the Second Advent when He will reappear.  For the prophet Daniel's vision of Jesus entering the heavenly Sanctuary see Daniel 7:9 -14.  It is the vision of what happened after Jesus left the sight of the disciples on the Mount of Olives in Acts 1:9.

 

The New Testament is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both there is the same testator, even Christ who suffered death for us and made us heirs of his everlasting kingdom.

 

Question for group discussion:

Question: What events will take place at the Second Advent of Christ, when the King returns to judge his earthly kingdom?  In Matthew chapters 24-25 Jesus links the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to the prophecies of His Second Advent.  How does the event of the judgment on Judea for rejecting the Messiah and the destruction of the Temple in 70AD serve as a foreshadow of the events leading up to the Second Advent just as the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587/6BC became the pattern for what transpired in 70AD?  See Matthew 24:37-44; Luke 17:26-27; 34-35; 1Corinthians 15:23-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20:11- 21:2; CCC# 1001-2. 

 

Question: The First Advent of Christ concerned the redemption of sinners and the defeat of sin and death [Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21].  Since this work is accomplished, what will be Christ's mission in the Second Advent?  What events will immediately transpire after His return?  See 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Revelation 20:11-21:2; CCC# 1038; 1042-44.

 

Catechism References for Hebrews chapter 9 [* indicates Scripture quoted in citation]

9:5

433*

9:14

614*

9:7

433*

9:15

522; 579*; 580; 592*

9:11-18

1476*; 1564*

9:24

519; 662; 2741*

9:11

586*; 662

9:25

662

9:12

1085

9:26

571

9:13-14

2100

9:27

1013; 1021*

 

Resources used in this Lesson:

  1. The Documents of Vatican II
  2. The Documents of Trent and Vatican I
  3. The Navarre Bible: Hebrews, Four Courts Press, 1991.
  4. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine's Press, South Bend, Indiana 2006
  5. Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, first series, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  6. Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Scott Hahn
  7. The Anchor Bible Commentary: To the Hebrews, George Wesley Buchanan, Doubleday, New York, 1972.
  8. The Anchor Bible Commentary: Hebrews, Craig R. Koester, Doubleday, New York, 2001.
  9. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Hebrews, [from the Panarion by Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis; on Melchizedek, pages 98-100], InterVarsity Press
  10. The Jewish Tanach
  11. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
  12. Catholic Dictionary
  13. Church History, Father Laux
  14. The Faith of the Early Fathers, William Judgens, volume I
  15. The Jewish Book of Why, volume I, Alfred J. Kolatch
  16. The Great High Priest, Margaret Barker
  17. Our Priest is Christ: The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Fr. Alfred Vanhoye
  18. The Works of Josephus, Flavius Josephus

Feast of Faith, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

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