The temple in Jerusalem was a great place that clearly modeled the kingdom of heaven and not only that but it also provided a great educational tool for faith to be founded upon. The advancement of Christianity clearly was a great advance in Judaism such that the prior order of the Law of Moses became the great school master that held the order until the believers would graduate by becoming justified by faith. The temple gave great elusions to things to come, and once Christ came and fulfilled those things, the temple became a much less vital part of Christian worship and thus was of a lesser concern compared to newer and greater things.
Hebrews 4-5 – The Foundation for the New Priesthood
Hebrews 3:16-19 describes the Hebrew people that came out of Egypt, and Hebrews 4:1-3 describes how these people had the gospel preached to them just like the contemporaries of the letter of the Hebrews. The problem that is however identified is that since such people did not believe, then as a result those individuals that did not believe did not combine what they had heard with faith. As a result of having no faith, many of the early Hebrews that came out of Egypt would never enter God’s rest (his Sabbath). Overall, the result was that many of such people never obtained eternal salvation but instead perished in their sins.
As Newell pointed out, Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, and when the Jewish doctors found that he was breaking the Sabbath, they tried to kill him. As Newell points out, the Sabbath day was a shadow of the good things to come, and thus for the Jews to try to kill Christ who was responsible for bringing those good things as lord, they had been not just repeating the mistake of their forefathers but had actually been doing an even greater sin. The point thus to be made is that the author of Hebrews is identifying with the problem of the Jews that sought to kill Jesus and likely had continued on to seek the destruction of the church.
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christ spoke to the disciples about the entire Law of Moses needing to be fulfilled and he pointed to his crucifixion and resurrection as the act that did this. Christ next instructs the disciples about repentance and forgiveness being preached to all nations, but that they must await power from on high before going forth with such a message as his witnesses of such things. For Christ as Lord of the Sabbath to fulfill the Sabbath through his crucifixion and resurrection, he must have brought the greater things that the Sabbath had been foreshadowing. One can thus see that when the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out on the believers in Jerusalem that it caused them to be, “clothed with power from on high.” Overall, one can thus see that through the action of Christ fulfilling the Sabbath by his death and resurrection and next bringing something greater, namely the gift of the Holy Ghost, that he actually expanded the Sabbath by making a Sabbath era for all those that would enter his rest.
In John 10:6-9 Christ describes himself as the gate, and he describes his subjects as the sheep. The message of John 10:6-9 teaches that through Christ entrance into the Sabbath era is possible, but at the same time many thieves exist that would seek to enter into the sheep pin but not through the gate. John 10:8-18 makes clear that Christ lays down his life for the sheep because he is the shepherd of the sheep, and thus the message is that Christ’s crucifixion made the gateway into the Sabbath era possible through his very own death. Guthrie thus in his commentary of Hebrews says the following,
“God does not want people who pass by but those who enter. There, in the true Holy Place, we will find the living Presence; we will find true wholeness; we will find true beauty and rightness, the true humanity for which we have longed all our lives; we will find God.”
The holy place Guthrie talks about is the Sabbath era, and that era is intended to be a rest for everyone that genuinely believes.
Hebrews 7-8 – The Better Priesthood
When Hebrews 7:4 describes Melchizedek as being greater than Abraham (because Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek), the fact that is eluded to is that Christ is superior because he came of the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews makes this point clear by describing Christ as a high priest that sat at the right hand of the Father, and this brings the author to the fact that the temple on earth was intended to be a copy and shadow of something much greater in heaven. The author of Hebrews goes on to describe the promises of the new covenant to be superior to those of the old covenant, and now that Christ has once and for all entered the most holy place with his own blood he has become the mediator of a covenant of eternal inheritance.
The eternal priesthood of Christ in the heavenly temple can be seen with the throne in heaven mentioned in Revelation 4:1, and the seven golden lamp stands that are known to be the seven-spirits of God could be seen in front of the throne as well along with the twenty-four elders. The fact is that the lamp stand (the menorah) in heaven was a picture of the lamp stand that was in the temple on earth, and in this regard one can see that the lamb looking as if it had been slain is the Lord Jesus Christ that is shown to have seven eyes and seven horns to represent the spirits of God (as like the menorah). The point is that the seven spirits of god are shown to proceed as horns from Christ and they act as his eyes in the world, and to this end Christ’s churches are being represented by the lamp stand whereas the lights represents specific angels that minister to those churches.
The point to thus be made regarding the eternal priesthood of Christ as high priest is not only that he is a mediator of a new and everlasting covenant, but also that he has a hierarchy of priests that serve under him. In fact a person can see the twenty-four elders to be the twelve apostles and the twelve patriarchs, and this concept is indeed confirmed when the New Jerusalem is seen to have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes and twelve foundations with the names of the twelve apostles. The point is that the twenty four had/have the ability to welcome people into eternal dwellings, (the apostles even sit on twelve thrones) and scripture even attests to unbelieving Jews that are loved on behalf of the patriarchs.
One of the great consequences thus of the eternality of Christ’s heavenly priesthood is not only that he intercedes for the believer as high priest but also that others under his lordship intercede as well in a large hierarchy. The scripture in fact is intended to be understood this way because the following is said about Christ and the Day of Atonement when sin would be taken from the land in one day,
“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”
The fact of the matter is that when the High Priest Joshua was seen to represent the seven eyed stone, he is in the quart in heaven such that the devil was making charges against him. Since Christ now has an eternal priesthood that Joshua was symbolic of, the devil can have absolutely no sway over Christ’s work of mediation and thus the same holds true for those that mediate under him.
Hebrews 9-10 – The work of Christ and Decline of the Temple
Although many people would view the change of priesthood from the Law of Moses to that of Christ to be a complete invalidation of the Mosaic Law in favor of the new covenant, the fact of the matter is that such a view is completely false. Jesus Christ notes that every teacher of the law that has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is a very rich man that brings out both new treasures and old treasures. Jesus illustrates the difference between the Old Covenant and the new with the example of how a man should not put an old patch on a new garment, Christ also informs his listeners that no one that has had old wine wants the new wine. The great point to be made is that the Old Covenant and the New Covenant should not be intermingled, but like a man that would dress with an old garment underneath a new garment the benefit of both covenants can clearly be realized.
Hebrews 9:1-10 describes the main elements in the order of worship in the old temple. Hebrews 9:2 describes the tabernacle, and this was the part of the temple that represented the tent of meeting that Moses used to meet with God to talk about administration and revelation with God. The scripture goes on in the same verse to describe the Holy Place as having the consecrated bread and table, and what is noteworthy is that Proverbs 9:2 describes wisdom as having prepared her meat, mixed her wine, and set her table. Christ is understood to be the wisdom of God and the fact that the previous chapter of Probers in Proverbs 8:22 is the only clear reference to life that is brought forth from eternity greatly foreshows the eternally begotten nature of Christ thus making clear that the personification of the wisdom of Proverbs is clearly a messianic expectation of Christ. The table thus that wisdom prepares and sets before her children thus is the Lord’s Supper that is founded on Passover, and clearly the Israelites knew the Passover meal before the bread of the presence in the temple was ever a requirement. Overall, the bread of the presences thus was likely a application and adaptation of the concept of Passover for priests that had to serve before God, and the fact that Christ fulfilled the elements of Passover with his own blood and flesh being offered shows that through the Lord’s Supper those that serve Christ in his kingdom of priests are given some of this bread (or hidden manna) as an element so that death would Passover.
Hebrews 9:4 next describes the curtain that makes a separation between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and this is understood in scripture to be the body of Christ. The idea thus is that although even Judas may partake of the Lord’s Supper, not everyone (like Judas) will enter into the body of Christ into the chamber that atonement for sins had been finalized forever in. In fact the apostles knew clearly and even stated in Acts 1:20 that Psalm 109:8 applied to Judas, and from the context of Psalm 109 what can be discovered is that the Psalm under this application would present Judas as being someone that never thought of doing a kindness, hounded the poor to death, loved to pronounce a curse, and in this way he had just the opposite character as what a person would expect a priest to have. Overall, what thus becomes clear is that although people like Judas may share in the Lord’s Supper, not all will enter into his rest and have their sins atoned for.
The golden alter of incense of Hebrews 9:4 is also shown in Revelation to be the very prayers of the saints. An angel is seen to be delivering these prayers to God through offering incense before his throne, and so the scripture thus shows that angel to have priesthood in his service of God. Overall, the incense in the old temple would have covered the smell of decaying animal flesh, and so what is implied is that the prayers of the saints combined with the priestly service of the angel that delivers those prayers to God is what covers over the offence of the memory of Christ’s death on the cross.
The gold covered Ark of the Covenant represents the enthronement of God, and the ark containing the jar of manna represented Christ’s ministry, the staff that had budded even through it was dead wood represents the ministry of the Holy Ghost (by being cut off in this world or ‘crucified’ but still producing fruit), and the stone tablets represent the ministry of the Father since he has a ministry of justice. The two cherubim above the ark that are spoken about in Hebrews 9:5 can be seen to be the ministering spirits that empowered Elijah and Moses, and the reason why this can be intuited is because Elijah and Moses appeared at the Transfiguration before Christ was crucified, they appear as having the powers of Elijah and Moses as the two great witnesses that stand before the lord, and these two figures are described in more detail in Zechariah 4. Overall, the New Testament shows that John the Baptist would go in the spirit of Elijah, and clearly Christ taught that these two great spirits that minister over the earth are instrumental in God’s atonement process because Christ himself said in regard to John the Baptist, “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
According to Hebrews 9:8 the continual sacrifice of the old temple and the fact that it stood was the work of the Holy Ghost to show that the way into the most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed, and when Christ offered the sacrifice of High Priest, then he did it once and for all in a way that obtained eternal redemption. In this regard Christ is said to have entered heaven itself and to have made atonement for even the heavenly things that needed better sacrifices than what the temple could provide. Overall, the author of Hebrews is very clear that Christ’s sacrifice was a once and for all kind of sacrifice and that if it was not this way, then Christ would have to suffer from the creation of the world.
The fact of the matter is that the Lamb of God is said in scripture to have been slain since the creation of the world and to be the keeper of the Lamb’s book of life, and this shows evidence that atonement through blood not only existed with Adam but also that Christ does suffer at least in some regard as a result of sin in his people. Unfortunately however scholars like Bruce argue that a great misconception exists regarding the sacrifice of Christ, and Bruce actually argues that the Latin Vulgate uses a inadequate verb to translate Hebrews 10:12 and in his view this has caused the Western church to see the need for a continual sacrifice. The fact however remains that Hebrews 10:1-18 drives home the point that no need would appear to exist for continual animal sacrifice since Christ’s work is complete, but the section ends with the concept that no need exists for sacrifice where sins and lawless acts have already been forgiven. Overall, regardless of the fact that no need for blood exists when sins have been forgiven, Hebrews 10:19 beings with an encouragement that the readers should have confidence to enter into the most holy place through the blood of Jesus and by the way opened through the curtain since we have a great priest over us.
Wright makes the point very clear that Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary and continues to have a purpose because he explicitly states that the purpose of Christ’s work now is to make intercession. The fact that Christ is a great priest and that people are actually welcomed to enter into the most holy place (the place that the High Priest would go) tells readers that God expects many of them to become priests and to be partaker’s in the benefits of Christ’s blood. Overall, the fact that God wants priests cannot be understated because the rest of the chapter is devoted to talking about problems in the church that need addressed by someone that would make intercession for the people and cause the body of Christ to function again, and this leads to the continual suffering of the body of Christ that continually works and makes sacrifices through the administration of Christ’s blood.
Hebrews 11 – The New Perspective (by faith)
Philo who was a contemporary with Christ that wrote some very similar ideas as what the letter to the Hebrews records. The big difference however between Philo and Hebrews is over the language that is used to refer to faith. Williamson shows through language study that the term for faith in Hebrews 11 is used to refer to a sort of confidence or fortitude to venture out into the unknown (ideally for holy purposes) whereas the term faith as seen in Philo has its underpinning with the moral qualities of the Greek conception of virtue. Clearly one can see that Hebrews 11 makes a very contrasting discovery compared to what many other contemporaries would have been teaching because faith in Hebrews was very much about acquiring dominion of God’s kingdom over the earth through fortitude.
Hebrews 11 is thus devoted to describing faith as seen in verse one, and the rest of the chapter gives examples all throughout the Old Testament about how faith could be seen to have existed all throughout the lives and actions of the ancestors. Hebrews 11 ends by saying that although the ancestors had been commended for their faith, God has planned something better for the Christian and that the ancestors will be made perfect together with the Christian. Overall, the point to be made is that faith has become the new perspective of the New Covenant, and this is clear because although many actions of faith had existed in the Old Covenant, the work of Hebrews 11 brought the subject to light in an extensive way such that it was made clear through multiple examples.
Clearly, the reader is expected to interact with the heavenly temple by faith, and thus it was by no mistake that Hebrews 10 promoted priesthood and the entering of the Most Holy Place and that Hebrews 9 promoted the blood of Christ for atonement. The fact of the matter is that the reader is being carried along through a plan of action for transforming the reader into someone that will make intercession for one another and fix the problems of the church. Isolating Hebrews 11 from Hebrews 9 and 10 would be a big mistake because they are tied together in a larger theme that actually promotes priesthood.
Hebrews 12-13 – The New Legal Order
The larger theme is carried through Hebrews 12 when discipline is discussed in Hebrews 12:1-13 and warnings against people refusing God are mentioned in Hebrews 12:14-29. The author of Hebrews has made a continual progression in writing for the purpose of transforming people to take dominion as priests of God, to enter into the Most Holy place, and to fix the problems in the church. Now Hebrews 12 has come to a discussion about the administration of justice likely because a lot of backlash and problems would exist once people took the initiative as priests to solve problems. Clearly many of the people that stopped associating with Christians and many of the people that had opposed Christianity needed to be dealt with by priests that could work with them and take them and help them to get out of demonic strongholds and out of the devil’s snare, and thus these priests needed to understand in Hebrews 12 how God’s justice works.
Hebrews 12:1 describes being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and throwing off everything that causes sin, and soon enough Hebrews 12:3-4 reminds readers of Christ’s sacrifice and of the fact that they have not yet resisted to the point of blood. The section of Hebrews 12:1-13 ends with a commission by directing the reader to make the path for the reader’s feet level, in order that the lame would no longer be disabled but instead healed. Overall, clearly the section promotes not just intersession, but it promotes actual healing to be administered through the readers asserting their dominion over the forces of evil.
Hebrews 12:14-29 begins with the need to be holly and to strive for peace with all people, but the section continues by warning against immorality and godlessness. Hebrews 12:25-27 also makes the case that warnings to repent should not be overlooked. Overall, the reader is lastly reminded in Hebrews 12:28-29 that the kingdom of God cannot be shaken and that God is a consuming fire.
Clearly the act of completely rejecting God in favor of indulging in sins would have unspeakable consequences, and that was certainly an issue because the cost of being a Christian was so extreme. Moving away from the temple was not a rejection of God and his law as some would perhaps surmise, but instead the Christian just simply lost interest in the temple because not only had the heavenly things been greater but also the Christian could interact much more deeply with those things than would have been common in Judaism. Overall, Christianity clearly was not a rejection of Judaism, but instead it was a continuation and a deepening of faith that occurred as the Sabbath era become the age of the great expansion of God’s kingdom on earth.
Clearly, without the earthly temple having existed for hundreds of years, people would not have a visual insight into God’s government. People would not have realized the full reality of God’s throne existing on earth, and the Law of Moses would have perhaps just been seen as a cultural law that represented some strange ideas. The temple however made the fact very visible that God was indeed a great king, and the processes of the temple made clear how God administered his government on earth. Skarsaune even shows reference for how the Sanhedrin as the highest quart of Jewish justice would gather at the temple, and this quart would be a worthy subject of future research into regarding the decline of the temple because it marked the move of the seat of justice. When Christ came however, then the world not only received God in the flesh, but it also became the immediate dominion of Christ through the resurrection and through the apostles becoming ambassadors of god’s government through the great commission. Overall, the heavenly temple was discovered to be so much greater than the earthly temple and the very seat of God’s justice, and so the temple on earth lost much of the support of the Christian because people generally must have found it to be a great museum at best.
Bruce, F. The Epistle to the Hebrews, revised. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990.
Guthrie, George. Hebrews: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998.
Newell, William. Hebrews: Verse-By-Verse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1975.
Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Williamson, Ronald. Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1970.
Wright, N.T. Hebrews for Everyone. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
 Note Galatians 3:24
 Newell, William. Hebrews: Verse-By-Verse (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1975), 240.
 Ibid, 238
 Note Luke 24:44-46
 Note Luke 24:47-49
 Note Luke 24:49
 Guthrie, George. Hebrews: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 307.
 Hebrews 7:17
 Hebrews 8:5
 Hebrews 8:6
 Hebrews 9:12
 Hebrews 9:15
 Revelation 4:4-5
 Revelation 5:6
 Revelation 1:20
 Revelation 21:12-14
 Note Luke 16:9
 Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30
 Romans 11:28
 Zechariah 3:8-9 (NIV)
 Zechariah 3:1-5
 Note Matthew 13:52
 Luke 5:36-39
 1 Corinthians 1:24
 John 6:55-57
 Exodus 19:6, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10
 Revelation 2:17, John 6:58
 Hebrews 10:20
 Psalm 109:16-17
 Revelation 5:8, Revelation 8:3-4
 Note Psalm 80:1, Psalm 99:1, Isaiah 37:16
 Note John 6:57-58
 Note Galatians 5:22-25
 John 15:1-3
 Matthew 17:2-3
 Revelation 11:3-6
 Luke 1:17
 Matthew 11:14 (NIV)
 Hebrews 9:12
 Hebrews 9:23-24
 Hebrews 9:26
 Revelation 13:8 (NIV)
 Bruce, F. The Epistle to the Hebrews, revised. Edited by Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 245.
 Hebrews 10:19-20
 Wright, N.T. Hebrews for Everyone (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 111. Williamson, Ronald. Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1970), 335-336.
 Hebrews 11:39-40
 Hebrews 12:13
 Hebrews 12:14-15
 Hebrews 12:15-17
 Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 93.