The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Applying Hebrews 9: Refusing to Let Go

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

This is a continuation of Applying Hebrews 8: Yahweh Speaks.

As we start Hebrews 9, the author of Hebrews (who we’re calling Rabbi) launches into a comparison of the earthly Tabernacle that was built under the leadership of Moses and the heavenly Tabernacle that Rabbi has invented in his mind. Before we get into his detailed description of how the earthly Tabernacle functioned, let’s look at some pictures so we can understand what he’s going to be describing.

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That first Covenant between Yahweh and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the Covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of Divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.

When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Heb. 9:1-7)

Rabbi is talking to Old Covenant Jews. They know all of this. He’s going over super obvious stuff. It only sounds strange to us because Yahweh has done away with this whole system. But now Rabbi is going to try to connect the Old Covenant to Christ. Let’s see how he does this.

By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.

This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established.

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in Heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—Christ entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. (Heb. 9:8-12)

Notice how Rabbi once again talks down about the Old Covenant—saying that all of its rituals were only a patch job until “a better system could be established.” Baloney. Yahweh could have started with Christ right off if He’d wanted to. The Old Covenant wasn’t some bummer compromise that Yahweh threw together until He could figure out a real solution to the problem of sin. Let’s remember that for thousands of years—from Adam to Moses—there was no Covenant between Yahweh and all believers. He made a personal covenant with Abraham and started the practice of circumcision, but there was no Tabernacle or system of human intercessors. Abraham did his own sacrifices—he didn’t have to have Levitical priests process them on his behalf.

Noah didn’t use a Tabernacle, either, yet he managed to stay pleasing to God even when the whole world was wallowing in evil. Enoch, Job, Joseph, Abraham—there were plenty of people who were in good relationships with Yahweh before the Tabernacle was ever invented, so clearly Yahweh doesn’t need a priest or a Temple to relate to us. Anytime we start setting limits on our Gods by suggesting that They have needs or limitations, we are just being foolish. Yahweh went thousands of years with no Tabernacle. He had it for a while, then He ditched it. Rabbi is the one who needs to believe that Christ is going through priestly motions in some heavenly Tabernacle. Yahweh is over it.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to Yahweh as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the One who mediates a New Covenant between Yahweh and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance Yahweh has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first Covenant. (Heb. 9:13-15)

It’s time to gain a more mature view of this atonement business. Yahweh does not need some earthly prop to forgive people. He chooses to forgive whenever He darn well wants to, blood or no blood. The whole point of setting up the Old Covenant sacrificial system was not to teach us all to view Yahweh as some limited Being who is utterly squeamish about being in the presence of sin. Sin was Yahweh’s idea—He’s the One who set this whole Creation up with the intention of having it turn into a fallen mess in the first place. He’s the One who came up with the idea of trapping human souls in earthsuits that would crave perversity 24/7. God is hardly threatened by sin. When He invents a bunch of rules for us to abide by, it’s to help us understand His Character and to test our submission to Him.

Ever wonder why God didn’t just start the whole human race off in Heaven and make everything simpler? This world is like a testing room and we’ve all been given the same test to work on. How we score determines which of two doors we’ll be sent through when we’re done with our test. What is the test about? Submission. How thoroughly are we going to submit to our Creators? What kind of relationship are we going to pursue with Them? When Yahweh invented the old sacrificial system, He gave people a way to express their submission to Him. Are you going to bring Yahweh the best of your herd or are you going to drag in some wheezing disease bag? Throughout the Old Testament, we read about people cutting corners with their sacrifices to Yahweh. He demanded their best, but they brought Him their garbage. What did that say about how much they respected Him? What did that say about their interest in relating to Him?

What you never get taught in church is that Yahweh set up His sacrificial system to make it easy for even the poorest of people to please Him. Animals were expensive and not everyone had an ox available to slaughter. So Yahweh came up with multiple kinds of sacrifices. Suppose you sinned on purpose and now you feel really bad about it and you want to get right with Yahweh. But you’re very poor and you don’t have a bull or a ram or a goat that you can bring. Guess what? Yahweh says one pigeon will do.

Or suppose you sinned accidentally and now you feel really bad and want to get right with Yahweh. But you’re so poor that you don’t have a goat or a lamb or even a bird. Guess what? Yahweh says two sacks of flour will do. Yahweh is incredibly gracious. He has always made it super easy for people to stay in a good place with Him, no matter what their earthly circumstances are.

Not every sacrifice in the old system was about atoning for sins. Yahweh also gave people the option of bringing offerings just to praise Him. Maybe you don’t have much but you really want to do something special for Yahweh. He makes it so easy: He says two simple flatbreads will do (see Know Your Bible Lesson 6: The Sacrificial System).

Now our Gods are obsessed with variety. They like to keep changing things up. For about 1400 years Yahweh used the old sacrificial system to test people’s submission and devotion to Him. Then He changed the program, and we’ve been under the New Covenant for about 2000 years. Under both systems, Yahweh requires that we own up to the fact that we have sinned and fallen short of His demands for perfection. Under both systems, Yahweh demands that we go through certain steps to get into a right place with Him. Under both systems, if we just go through motions without really being sincere about what we’re doing on a soul level, our efforts to get right with God are rejected.

When the Jews dragged in hacking, limping animals to give to Yahweh, they told themselves they were doing good enough. But Yahweh rejected their sacrifices as so much garbage because He knew the people’s hearts weren’t into what they were doing (see the section “Malachi” in Know Your Bible Lesson 41: Meaningless Vows). It’s the same today. When we mouth some sinner’s prayer in church that we don’t really mean and then tell ourselves we’re saved, we’re delusional. Any fool can declare Jesus is Lord and ask to be forgiven. Simply saying the words is utterly meaningless, even when we whip up some theatrical tears to go with them. God has only ever accepted those who give Him sincere soul submission.

Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead. The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.

That is why even the first Covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of Yahweh’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of Yahweh’s Law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool. Then he said, “This blood confirms the Covenant Yahweh has made with you.” [Ex. 24:8] And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:16-22)

The sacrificial system was a messy affair. Yahweh ordered the blood of animals to be drained and sprinkled onto various things in order to make them ceremonially clean. Because Rabbi wants to see similarities between the Old and New Covenant, he makes a huge deal out of the one common element he can find: blood.

Now let’s really think about this. The Jews were the first people Yahweh introduced His New Covenant to, and they were all immersed in the sacrificial system. It’s only natural, then, for Christ to explain His death on a cross in Old Covenant terms. At the Last Supper, we find Jesus saying:

“Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:27)

This kind of language helps Old Covenant Jews grasp the significance of Jesus dying on a cross. But what you never hear about is how much Jesus’ death on a cross violated the Old Covenant requirements for an atonement sacrifice. First of all, Yahweh didn’t accept human sacrifices. He said they were a loathsome concept. Second, animals had to be killed quickly and cleanly. Jesus’ long, torturous death on a cross was a total violation of Yahweh’s requirements. Third, all sacrifices had to be without blemish and in perfect health. By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross, He was a disfigured, mangled mess. Under the Old Covenant, if you beat the tar out of your lamb and then dragged its bleeding, gasping body into the Tabernacle as an atonement sacrifice, Yahweh would have rejected it. Fourth, Yahweh demanded that all sacrifices had to be handled by authorized Jewish priests who had themselves gone through purifying rituals before handling anyone’s animals. Jesus was killed by Roman pagans. So while Rabbi wants to say that Jesus was the supreme atonement sacrifice who so neatly fulfilled Old Covenant requirements, in reality, Jesus’ sacrifice grossly violated the Old Covenant requirements in every possible way.

To even put Jesus in the same class as an Old Covenant atonement sacrifice is rather ridiculous. It is only in a symbolic, poetic sense that Jesus atoned for our sins. But nothing He did actually aligned with Yahweh’s Old Covenant requirements for a physical atonement sacrifice. It’s important to realize this because we are not supposed to be viewing the New Covenant as a strange continuation of the Old, which is what Rabbi keeps trying to get us to do with this business about Christ being our heavenly High Priest. But Yahweh wants us to see these two Covenants as very different systems. The New Covenant was a shocking departure from the Old, and it clashed with the Old in many ways.

Now any thinking Jew should have balked at the idea that the same Yahweh who spent centuries saying how much He loathed the idea of human sacrifices should suddenly find the sacrifice of Jesus to be such a fine idea. Yahweh was doing a whole lot of self-contradicting with the introduction of Christ. Suddenly there were multiple Gods when Yahweh had always said there was only one. Suddenly having a Man die for people’s sins was a great idea when Yahweh had always said human sacrifices repulsed Him. What do you do when your God starts contradicting Himself like this? You find yourself in a major theological crisis.

The better we know our Old Testament, the more shocking Christ becomes. What kind of game is Yahweh playing by suddenly flipping things around and demanding that people start doing things which He has always declared to be outrageous sins—things like worship two other Gods besides Himself? You don’t just embrace Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate individual Gods without being forced into some very uncomfortable revelations about just how unpredictable our Gods are. They go along for centuries saying one thing, then They totally turn the tables on us. Then They say that if we don’t keep up, we’re going to Hell. This is sobering stuff.

Like many Christian teachers today, Rabbi is scrambling to take some of the shock out of Yahweh’s wild behavior by hanging on to as many Old Covenant elements as he can. Yahweh has always said that a Tabernacle and priests are required to stay on good terms with Him. Rabbi doesn’t want to let this go, so he invents this ridiculous notion that there has always been a Tabernacle in Heaven. This is just his way of trying to get out of having to accept all of the drastic changes Yahweh is throwing at him.

Today we Christians are playing similar games. We’ve invented the concept of a Trinity to pretend that Yahweh never lied about being the only God in existence. We refuse to acknowledge that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are separate Deities. Instead, we just say They are mysterious “expressions” of a single God. How do you think Yahweh feels about such games? Do you think He smiles on our attempts to downplay His wildness so that we don’t feel so vulnerable and insecure? Not hardly. It is a rebellious attitude which drives our refusal to face God’s wildness. When we go around saying ridiculous things like “God would never lie or change His mind or go against His written Word”, we are just expressing our refusal to accept who God really is. We don’t want a God we can’t predict. We don’t want a God who will suddenly change all the rules of the game without checking with us first and getting our approval. We don’t want a God who is, well, GOD. Instead, we want a kind of superhuman who we can control and manipulate.  How do you think our Gods feel about this attitude of ours?

That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in Heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in Heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in Heaven. He entered into Heaven itself to appear now before Yahweh on our behalf. And He did not enter Heaven to offer Himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, He has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him. (Heb. 9:23-28)

Rabbi keeps insisting that all of the elements Yahweh set up under the Old Covenant were just copies of things existing in Heaven. This is total rot, but it’s what Old Covenant Jews want to believe.

At the end of the New Testament, Jesus is going to give a series of visions to Jewish John. He’ll start off by presenting Yahweh’s throne room as some heavenly version of the Holy Place. Heaven will have the same furnishings as the earthly Tabernacle did—an incense altar, a menorah, etc. Why do you think Jesus did this? Because that’s what John wanted to believe. That’s how John pictured Heaven. But it isn’t how Heaven will actually be, so after keeping up the Tabernacle imagery for most of Revelation, Jesus suddenly changes gears on John and He throws the whole thing out. He shows John a Heaven that has no Temple in it. He shows the fictitious Jewish underworld of Hades being thrown into the real Hell. In Revelation, Jesus finally does away with several Jewish superstitions about how things work in eternity, and we find a surprised John saying:

I saw no temple in Heaven, for the Lord Yahweh the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Rev. 21:22)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t rush to correct all of our misconceptions about our Gods the moment we get saved. He takes His time. When we’re being stubborn and rebellious and closing our minds to His illumination, He intentionally leaves us in the dark. Today the Church is clinging to many delusions about who our Gods are and how They operate.  When we aren’t really seeking God’s wisdom in these matters, we just keep recycling the same old lies, and we end up drifting farther and farther away from truth. How then do we react when our Gods throw another shocking change at us, such as the end times? When we’re not living in alignment with the Holy Spirit, seeking Him in all things and keeping open minds about what God might do next, are we going to keep up when God makes a sudden change of course? No, we’re going to resist. We’re going to cling to the old, familiar ways, and refuse to change when God changes. This is what the followers of Judaism are doing today. They’re still trying to operate under the Old Covenant. Countless Jews during the New Testament made the same choice: they rejected Christ and refused to wrestle with all of the troubling issues that He stirred up for them. What was their reward for refusing to keep in alignment with Yahweh? They ended up in Hell. The followers of Judaism today are heading to the same place.

Christians today who are promoting the delusions of teachers like Rabbi over and above the wisdom of the Holy Spirit are also playing a dangerous game. Yahweh and Jesus both warned us that there are grave consequences for willfully defying our Gods. Christians are not going to get away with denying God’s right to do whatever He wants whenever He wants. Christians who insist on treating God like a limited, predictable Being who they can boss around with the Bible are going to be paying for their rebellion in eternity. We have to submit. We have to keep up. There’s no room for creatures like us to be telling their Creators what They can and can’t do. Our Gods are big on revenge, and They don’t take our mockery lightly. You need to seriously think about these things and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you His unadulterated truth. You don’t want to get bogged down with another man’s foolishness. Rabbi is driving us way off course with all this rot about Christ being our eternal high priest. The sacrificial system is gone. All forms of intercession are gone. We need to let go of Old Covenant principles and fully embrace the tenants of this New Covenant through Christ—one in which we are all invited to have direct communication with all three of our glorious Gods.

UP NEXT: Applying Hebrews 10: Old vs. New

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