Heb. 8:1-13 - EXEGESIS (Richison)
v. 1: Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens - Chapter 8 marks a shift from the person of the High Priest to His work. Our Lord's work is so superior to the work of the priests of the Old Testament that God did away with the whole Mosaic system. In its place we have the eternal priesthood of Christ. Vv. 1-13 show how the high priesthood of Christ supersedes the Levitical priesthood, rendering the latter obsolete.
Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: - Hebrews now transitions to the main idea of the argument about the high priesthood of Christ.
We have [present possession] such a High Priest, - "We have" indicates Christ's present ministry in heaven on our behalf. "Such" implies something transcendent or pre-eminent. "Such" harks back to Hebrews 7:26, 27. The seating of Christ at the right hand of God places Him infinitely above all other priests in one fell swoop. This High Priest represents all the glories of deity and true humanity. He has both almighty power and the capacity to sympathize with the believer. He can both sustain and support us.
who is seated at the right hand - The "right hand" of God is a place of divine authority. The "right hand" is an allusion to Psalm 110:1, where the Messiah is portrayed as king (He 1:3, 13). Jesus is then the King-Priest; He is at once both King and Priest. He is in a place of supremacy. The High Priest took a seat in heaven. His sacrifice on the cross was complete and finished. The high priest of the Old Testament never sat down because his work was never finished.
of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens - God's throne is in heaven; the location of Jesus' ministry is in heaven, not earth. The emphasis here is on the royal imagery of God by the words "throne" and "Majesty" (He 7:1). This verse declares the dignity of both of our Lord's person and position, His dignity and authority. He sits in the place of sovereign power.
v. 2: a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.
a Minister [priestly minister] of the sanctuary [holy place] - The word "Minister" means one who serves as a priest, a servant of God. He officiates as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
and of the true [genuine] tabernacle - The earthly tabernacle represented the "true" tabernacle in heaven. The Lord will serve as a priest in heaven, the antitypical or archetypical temple (He 9:24). "True" opposes what does not complete the idea, such as a type. Something "true" corresponds only to one thing. Jesus entered into the veritable presence of God.
which the Lord pitced [fixed], and not man - The "man" here is Moses, to whom God gave instructions for the erection of the tabernacle (He 8:5).
PRINCIPLE: Jesus is superior because He ministers in a superior place.
APPLICATION: Some of the last words of Jesus on the cross were "It is finished." By a final, full, and complete sacrifice, Jesus "sat down at the right hand" of God. He did in one fell swoop what all the priests of all time under the Mosaic Covenant could not do. Because of this He sat in the seat of honor. He did it with one sacrifice on the cross. There was then no longer a need for any other priest. He sits in that status for us today.
It is a blessing to know that there is in heaven right now Someone who represents us before God almighty. He
is at rest about our redemption because He did everything necessary to save our souls. Such a person represents us before the Father.
v. 3: For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.
The argument of verses 3-5 is a comparison and contrast between the Levitical priestly ministry on earth to that of Christ's heavenly ministry. The new ministry of Christ is set in opposition to the Levitical ministry.
For - "For" gives the reason Christ is the minister of the sanctuary (He 8:2).
every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts [meal offerings] and sacrifices [blood offerings] - The Old Testament high priest regularly offered gifts and sacrifices (He 5:1). A high priest must offer something.
Therefore it is necessary that this One [Jesus] also have something to offer - Since it is true previous high priests offered gifts and sacrifices, it follows that the High Priest would do so as well. Jesus offered His blood sacrifice to the Father to establish the fact He paid for the sins of the world. Jesus stands forever as the one who offered sacrifice for sin.
v. 4: Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;
For if He [Jesus] were on earth - The temple in Jerusalem may have been still standing at the point of writing. Jesus was not on earth ministering in the temple but in heaven in His resurrected body. Christ's heavenly priesthood was much superior to the earthly counterpart.
▪ The "if" here is a hypothetical but false assumption (second class condition, contrary to the fact). The argument here assumes an untruth that Jesus was ministering on earth as a priest.
He would not be a priest - Jesus could not offer sacrifices under the auspices of the Levitical priesthood because that would imply that ongoing sacrifices were still valid.
since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law - Christ could not have been a priest of the Mosaic Covenant or do their duties, one of which was to constantly offer sacrifice for sin. Christ could not make the presentation of His gift on earth since He is a priest forever.
PRINCIPLE: Our Lord did not offer propitiation for our sin in heaven but on the cross.
APPLICATION: The Lord does not offer sacrifices in heaven. Old Testament sacrifices were an ongoing affair, but Christ's was a one-time event on earth (He 9:24-28). It was an offer of Himself on the cross (He 9:13, 14). He now serves as a High Priest in heaven to personally represent us there.
v. 5: who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."
who [Levitical priests] serve the copy - The word "copy" means imitation or sketch. Old Testament sacrifices were merely sketches of the true sacrifice of Christ. Levitical priests were only depictions of Christ's priesthood, not the real thing.
and shadow of the heavenly things - Worship in the Old Testament was simply a picture of true worship. Moses' tabernacle was an earthly structure. "Shadow" suggests that structure mimics the true reality in heaven. It was an imperfect portrayal of the real thing (Co 2:17). It did not embody the reality. A shadow requires a real object to exist. Since the tabernacle was earthly, it would pass away; however, the earthly type was evidence that the Antitype was real.
as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle - God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle according to His close specifications (Ex 26:30; 27:8; Nu 8:4). Evidently, the tabernacle was a general copy of the heavenly sanctuary. Christ entered a sanctuary that was not manmade (He 9:24).
For He [God] said - The following citation is from Exodus 25:40:
"See [heed] "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN" - The word "pattern" is the Greek word type. A type shows that there is something more than a model or the type itself. There is the reality that the model represents; Jesus went into the reality of what the type represented.
God commanded Moses to follow a "pattern" in building the tabernacle. A pattern is an accurate representation of something. The human sanctuary of Moses accurately presented the blueprint God laid out for him (Acts 7:44). It represented the Antitype (i.e., a foreshadow) of heaven's sanctuary (He 9:11).
PRINCIPLE: God never confuses the shadow with the substance.
APPLICATION: Old Testament priests worked in the shadows but Jesus in reality. His sphere was heaven itself. God never confuses the type with the Antitype. An Old Testament type is a picture of a specific New Testament truth. The type or shadow has no substance in itself. It was a weak copy of the real thing. There is no value in it except for what it represents. The sanctuary in glory is not an enhanced tabernacle; it is the real thing or the presence of God. Jesus is a superior priest and He ministers in a superior place.
v. 6: But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. * This verse is pivotal in the book of Hebrews. It shifts from the old economy to the new and sets forth three superiorities of Christ: (1) a better ministry; (2) a better covenant; and (3) better promises
But now - "But" introduces a contrast between the Levitical priesthood and Christ's superior priesthood. Now we have a priest with a "more excellent ministry."
He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry [service of God] - Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, but Jesus mediates a "more excellent ministry" than an earthly ministry of the Levites. "Ministry" in the tabernacle references the work done there. The work there was never finished.
inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant - The "excellent ministry" of Jesus was based on Him as the Mediator of a "better covenant" than the Mosaic Covenant (He 7:22). The superiority of His priestly service rests on a superior covenant. Jesus is again mentioned as a Mediator in Hebrews 9:15; 12:24. A mediator stands between two parties and represents both. A priest is a mediator between men and God. However, the work of Jesus' mediation in Hebrews is unilateral; He intercedes in one direction from God to us. The "better covenant" is the whole Christian economy of grace. Christ is the Mediator of this covenant. All our blessings are secured by His High Priesthood.
which was established [enacted] on better promises - The "better covenant" was established on "better promises." The word "better" (occurring twice in this verse) focuses on the superiority of Christ and His ministry (He 1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24). Both the covenant and promises will be developed in Hebrews 8:7-9:15.
All covenants rest on promises, both for mankind and God's promises. Some are solely based on God's promises and others are not. In the case of Christ, the covenant was established by God, not man. It was better because of its unconditional nature.
PRINCIPLE: A superior workman produces a better product.
APPLICATION: Jesus is the Mediator of a superior covenant or contract. He Himself is the pledge for this covenant. He is the person through whom the terms are carried out. He is the meeting place between man and God. This covenant was not like the old where it was conditioned on people carrying it out. In the case of Christ, He assumes the responsibility to fulfill all the terms of the covenant. Since this is true, He will achieve His ministry without fail. This is His present ministry on our behalf. The shed blood of Christ is superior to the blood of animals. This means that His covenant is better than the Old Covenant. Our Lord's ministry is "more excellent" than what the Old Testament presented. The Old Covenant became obsolete (He 8:13) because a newer covenant took its place. Hebrews proclaims that Jesus is now the "Mediator of the new covenant" (He 9:15; 12:24), indicating that this covenant is for the church today as well as Israel. How can this be so if that covenant is for the tribes carried off in captivity, Israel and Judah (He 8:8)? The ministry of Christ is superior because it is reality, not a type or temporal. The covenant of Christ is more excellent because it is absolute and not conditional, eternal and not temporal. The promises are better because they are spiritual, not earthly. This is the world of our Mediator.
v. 7: For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
The author's intent in quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34 was to show that even during the period in which the Mosaic law operated, it was not a permanent arrangement. God served notice that the Mosaic Covenant was temporary and would be replaced by a new covenant (He 8:13). The New Covenant was not new to the readers of Hebrews but to Jeremiah's generation hundreds of years before the writing of the New Testament (6th century BC). Even the Old Testament predicted a change in the Mosaic law while the law was still in existence (He 7:12).
For if that first covenant had been faultless [without defect] - The "if" in the Greek is contrary to the fact (second class condition). This means that the argument here is not true. The Mosaic law was not without defect.The "first covenant" is the Mosaic Covenant. Some Jewish readers of Hebrews thought that the first covenant was still valid and a permanent covenant. They deemed that they were still under its provisions.
then no place would have been sought for a second - Some covenants were unilateral on God's part; the onus to fulfill them was on Him. Other covenants such the Mosaic was conditional, making that covenant dependent upon obedience. The Old was inadequate to do its job. The New Covenant (the second covenant) was new only in relation to the Old Covenant at Sinai (Mosaic Covenant).
PRINCIPLE: Christ fulfilled the salvation-from-sin aspect of the New Covenant.
APPLICATION: The background for the quotation from Jeremiah in the following verses was to show the superiority of Christ's priesthood. In the old economy, the high point of the Jewish high priest was to sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. This action was prescribed by the Mosaic law (Lev 16). This is the context against which Hebrews 8 and 9 stand. Jesus offered a better covenant founded on better promises and mediated by a better sacrifice. Our Lord operated not in an earthly tabernacle but in another place and under a new covenant (He 8:1-5). He ministers in a new tabernacle in Heaven. The basis for Jesus' high priestly work rests on His death. The character of His death was once-for-all (He 7:27; 9:12, 25-26; 10:12) and is the basis for His present ministry (He 8:3-5). His priestly offering was made once at Calvary. It is also the basis for His present ministry in Heaven. He offers no sacrifice there because He did it once on earth.
v. 8: For finding fault with them, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; - Verses 8-13 describe the "better" of Hebrews 8:6 or the unilateral New Covenant promised to Israel. The book of Hebrews references the New Covenant more than all the other New Testament books combined.
For finding fault with them [Israel] - God found fault with the nation Israel (physical descendants of Abraham) under the Mosaic Covenant. The nation did not live up to its conditions. He made the New Covenant that would have the complete remedy for the sin problem of Israel. After Solomon, the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel were divided for 200 years (931-722 BC). The timing of the quotation in Jeremiah was when the Babylonians were about to destroy Jerusalem in 586 BC and the people were led into exile. The northern kingdom (Israel) was already in exile by the Assyrians (722 BC). The prophet Jeremiah lived to see the captivity of Judah begin. God allowed this because of His "finding fault with them." They did not live up to the conditions of the Old Covenant.
He says - Verses 8-12 are a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34. The longest quote in the New Testament.
"Behold - The word "behold" calls attention to an important announcement, the proclamation of the New Covenant for Israel.
the days are coming - The days that "are coming" reference in Jeremiah 31 hark back to Jer 30:3, which is prophetical. These days are future from the writing of Jeremiah. Jer 30:7 predicts that a future tribulation period will come upon the nation Israel. The remainder of Jeremiah 30 is millennial. Other prophets regard the New Covenant as prophetic (Isa. 55:3; Ezek. 16:60, 62; 20:37; 34:25-26; Hos. 2:18-20). Isaiah related the fulfillment of the New Covenant to the return of Messiah and the forgiveness of Israel (Isa. 59:20-21).
▪ Jeremiah's prediction referred it to Israel's restoration to the land (Jer. 32:37, 40-41). The point is that Israel as a nation will be regathered and restored to its land and then experience its blessings. The complete fulfillment of the New Covenant requires Israel regathering as a nation under God at the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, the New Covenant is not fulfilled in the church but in the Millennium.
▪ Heb. 8 does not quote Jer. 31 to show that the New Covenant was now completely operative, but that the Mosaic Covenant was temporary and ineffectual. The New Covenant is not fully in operation in the church.
says the Lord - Jeremiah used this phrase two times to indicate that it was God who made the New Covenant.
when I will make [conclude] a new [new in character] covenant - Note that the focus of the New Covenant is God's "I will." The onus of keeping the covenant is upon God. The covenant depends on God's faithfulness to keep His Word. The words "I will" occur six times in verses 8-12. God will personally carry out the terms of the New Covenant; it will not be a two-party contract. The word "new" means new in character. Since the New Covenant was new in nature, it was qualitatively different from the Old. This covenant will bring a permanent solution to the sin problem that the Mosaic Covenant did not. It was a covenant with Israel first.
▪ The "new covenant" was a formal and unilateral covenant where the administration depended entirely on God (He 8:13; 9:15; 12:24). It is called the "eternal covenant" in Hebrews 13:20.
▪ God established the New Covenant when Jerusalem and the temple were about to be destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians, when the people were led into captivity.
▪ This covenant assured that the nation Israel would be restored in the future. Jeremiah ministered before the nation's two main captivities by other nations. At Jeremiah's writing, their future seemed bleak, which was the reason for giving the covenant. Christ fulfilled the payment-for-sin aspect of it during the first century, but it will ultimately be fulfilled in the nation Israel in the Millennium.
with the house of Israel [northern kingdom] and with the house of Judah [southern kingdom]-The New Covenant of Jeremiah was made with two populations of Israel, not with the church. This covenant will be fulfilled with those to whom it was made, the physical descendants of Abraham. One day the nation will be restored and reunited under the Messiah. The church is not spiritual Israel, because both the northern and southern kingdoms are named in this promise. The original readers of Jeremiah would have understood that the covenant would be fulfilled literally.
PRINCIPLE: God gives promises even in times of desperate despair.
APPLICATION: The prophecy of Jeremiah 8 predicted the end of the Mosaic Covenant. God made that covenant obsolete (He 8:13). The old became old even before the time of Christ. The purpose of bringing in the New Covenant was not that the church would fulfill it because it was made with "Israel" and "Judah." The full specifics of the New Covenant will be fulfilled in the future Millennium beyond the church age. The church does enter some of the blessings of this covenant, however. The time when God will save Israel is yet in the future (Isa 59:20-21; Ro 11:26-27). Hebrews applies an aspect of the New Covenant to the church (salvation), but this does not deny its primary application to the nation of Israel. In Hebrews 8:6 Jesus was Mediator of a "better covenant." Verses 8 and following show that since the New Covenant was prophesied, the first covenant was flawed, so believers in the church benefit from the blessings of the New Covenant. Christ as High Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant enables believers to "draw near" to God (He 7:25); we benefit from Christ's priesthood and the covenant to which it was tied (He 8:1; 7:25-27).
v. 9: NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD *Verse 9 is a strong declaration that the New Covenant will differ from the Mosaic Covenant of the law.
NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT - The "covenant" that God made with Israel when they exited Egypt was the Mosaic Covenant.
FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT-he law of the Mosaic Covenant after they came out of Egypt. Blessings of the Mosaic Covenant were conditioned on Israel's obedience to the law. It was a qualified covenant determined by obedience. "Continue" means to persevere, hold fast; Israel was to persevere in obedience.
AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD The Mosaic Covenant was displaced by the New Covenant. God eventually sent both Israel and Judah into captivity for their failure to keep the Mosaic Covenant.
PRINCIPLE: The New Covenant is wholly of God's grace.
APPLICATION: Although God's grace brings freedom from the law, it does not free the believer to disobey God. God never compromises His character. He went to great extent that Christ would fulfill "the righteousness of the Law." (Ro 8:1-4). The law is useful for the believer today (1 Ti 1:8-11). The New Covenant rests on the faith-grace principle. The person who tries to keep the law to please God must rest on what he does rather than what God does (Ga 3:13). The emphasis of grace is on what God did, not what we do (Ro 11:6).
v. 10-11: FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. "AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
Verses 10-12 describe the superior promises and accomplishments of the New Covenant: (1) an inclination to apply what God said; (2) a firm relationship with God; (3) knowledge of God; and (4) forgiveness of sins.
v. 10: FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD-This verse begins to describe the New Covenant with the nation Israel.
I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS- The Mosaic Covenant was written on stone but the second or New Covenant will be written on "hearts." The inauguration of the New Covenant was entirely the initiative of God, making it distinct from the first covenant. This covenant will not rest on the performance of people but on God Himself working on the hearts of believers.
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. - Israel's God will be personal with His people.
v. 11: AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, - In the Millennium there will be no need for the believer to teach believer because all will know Him in the age where Christ will be King Jesus. The Greek in these words is emphatic negation; this will definitely not happen.
saying, This refers to Jeremiah 31:34 specifically.
'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM- In the future Millennium, the entire nation will know God because they will not have any need of any intermediation on their behalf. They will possess direct relationship with God. It will not be necessary to share the gospel because everyone will be a believer. In that age knowledge will not be the exclusive possession of priests but for the general population as well.
PRINCIPLE: Not only are Christians saved by grace, but we are sustained by grace.
APPLICATION: The New Covenant gives people desire to fellowship with God and the power to do His will. The New Covenant functions under an internal principle, not external laws. Under the new, the dynamics are relational. Under this new capacity, people will both desire and have the capacity to do God's will (Php 2:12, 13). The law defined God's character and standards, but it did not give the power to fulfill the law. The law was external, but the principle of grace is internal (2 Co 3:1-3; 18). Grace transforms the heart. We are not only saved by grace, but we are also sustained by grace.
v. 12: "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE."
For - The word "for" expresses the grounds (based upon) of what has been said to this point in the quotation.
I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, - God is a God of mercy.
and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." - Not remembering is equivalent to forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins is a prerequisite to participate in personal relationship to and fellowship with God. The words in this phrase are repeated in Hebrews 10:17. It is clear from chapters 9 and 10 that Jesus' sacrifice for sin fulfilled this promise (He 9:15).
▪ The thrust of God's not remembering is that He will not penalize us for our sins. God can never lose His memory; this is an idiom for not holding our sins against us. He deals with us in mercy and grace. God will never bring our sins before Himself because Christ fully paid for them.
PRINCIPLE: The capstone of the New Covenant is forgiveness.
APPLICATION: The New Covenant removed the barrier between an absolutely holy God and sinful men. Although the New Covenant was specifically given to the nation Israel, it is apparent that the salvation benefits listed in verses 10-12 belong to the regenerate of the present age (Lu 22:20; 1 Co 11:25; 2 Co 3:6). The New Covenant was God's vehicle for delivering the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant to Gentiles as well as Jews. The covenantal nation Israel and the church remain distinct except for the blessings of the New Covenant. The law could not deal with sin in the fullest sense. It was only through the sacrifice of Christ that full and final forgiveness was possible (He 10:1-3, 18).
v. 13: When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
When he said - Having finished the quotation from Jeremiah 31, the author of Hebrews made a summary comment on that passage. He was looking at this quotation from the standpoint of the period from Jeremiah to the New Testament.
"A new covenant" - The quotation of Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the longest quote in the New Testament, yet Hebrews gives a short commentary of it in this verse. The focus in this verse is on the word "new." It is new in the sense that Christ shed His blood once (He 9:12, 14; 10:19, 29; 12:24; 13:12, 20). Thus, the purpose of the quotation is theological to show the superiority of Christ's sacrifice over the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
▪ The word "new" in Greek means new in quality, not new in time. The dynamics of this quality is that there will be another covenant of a different character than the Mosaic Covenant. This covenant was of a different nature than the Mosaic Covenant; it will never fade or grow old and is eternal in nature (He 5:9; 9:12). An aspect of the New Covenant was inaugurated when Christ shed His blood on the cross (Lu 22:20;); however, this covenant will not be completely fulfilled until God restores Israel as a nation (Ro 11:25-27).
He [God] has made the first obsolete - The word "first" refers to the Mosaic Covenant. That covenant was rendered obsolete by the New Covenant given to Israel in Jeremiah. There is no longer any need for priests, blood sacrifices in the temple, and all rituals under the law.
Now what is becoming obsolete - The Old Covenant was "becoming obsolete" at the writing of Jeremiah. It must have been a shock to the Jewish readers of Hebrews that the Mosaic Covenant was temporary and would be terminated. The author made no attempt to show that believers today replace Israel in God's economy. The implication, however, is that the old economy of Moses is not binding on believers in the church age.
and growing old is ready to disappear - The Old Covenant of Moses would soon stop its Levitical ceremonies (Mt 24:1-2), shortly after the writing of Hebrews. God did not intend the Old and the New Covenants to coexist; the New Covenant replaced the first.
PRINCIPLE: What the Old Covenant did repeatedly, Jesus did in one fell swoop.
APPLICATION: What the Old Covenant had to do repeatedly and could never complete, Jesus did once and for all. His death was the necessary basis for the establishment of the New Covenant. He brought in better promises than Israel had ever had in Judaism. The New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah was made with Israel, ratified at the cross, and implemented to replace the Mosaic Covenant. Presently, it is the basis on which we relate to and fellowship with God. The church was not a formal partner of the New Covenant but participates in its blessings with Israel. The church, therefore, does not fulfill the New Covenant. That will happen when Israel as a nation returns to God at the end of the Tribulation.
Heb. 8:1-13 - T. CONSTABLE EXPOSITION
CONTEXT: Hebrews 8:1-13 centers on The Superior Ministry of Jesus: The New Testament tells us that Jesus is our intercessor, our mediator, our Savior and King. But only the book of Hebrews tells us that he is our priest. This unique concept is the central message of Hebrews, the main idea from which the others flow. Hebrews 8:1-6 foreshadows the idea that earthly things, such as the tabernacle, are meant to be symbols of heavenly things. In particular, Christ's role as priest is superior to the Old Testament system because it occurs in the ''true tent'' which God has arranged, rather than the earthly tent made by man. God's words to Moses prove this symbolic nature of the tabernacle. This also leads into a new reference from Jewish Scripture, proving that this was God's intention all along. Hebrews 8:7-13 uses a quotation from Jeremiah to support an important claim. According to the author of Hebrews, God has always intended to replace the old covenant of the Levitical priests with a new covenant, centered on the work of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah's description of a covenant, explicitly different from what Israel was given during the Exodus, describes the personal, internal nature of the Holy Spirit in a saved believer. Jeremiah's words also place great emphasis on ''I will'' statements coming from God.
NOTE: In Hebrews 7:11-28 the writer drew attention to certain deficiencies in the Levitical arrangement. Among these were the mortality of the ministering priests (Hebrews 7:23) and the necessity of repeating sacrifices for sins, both of the priests and the people (Hebrews 7:27). Two further weaknesses of the Levitical arrangement are demonstrated on the basis of Scripture in Hebrews 8:1-13. First, the contrast between the heavenly and earthly tabernacle is introduced to supplement the distinction between the new and the old. Levitical priests serve only a shadowy suggestion of the heavenly sanctuary in which Christ exercises his ministry. To the degree that the earthly sanctuary with its ministry only imperfectly corresponds to the ministry conducted in the presence of God, it is marked by deficiency. Secondly, the covenant under which the Levitical arrangement was instituted has been treated by God as obsolete. The mediation of the new covenant demonstrates the eschatological superiority of Christ's ministry and the divine intention to replace the old arrangement with another that is eschatologically new."
Christ's better ministry 8:1-5: In this section the writer first stated (Hebrews 8:1-2) and then explained (Hebrews 8:3-5) Jesus Christ's better ministry. It is superior in three respects. He serves as a seated priest, having finished His work of offering a final sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 8:1). He is an enthroned priest, having taken His place at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 8:1). And He is a heavenly priest, having entered the true sanctuary where He now ministers (Hebrews 8:1-2).
v. 1: Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, - "What has been said" to chapter 7. This is a transitional statement. The writer now moved on to explain Jesus Christ's ministry more fully. Chapter 7 was in a sense introductory and foundational to what follows. The writer again referred to the "heavens" where God abides and where Jesus Christ now serves as the real tabernacle, the only one that does not imitate something better than itself. In particular, the holy of holies is in view. These verses summarize what follows in chapter 8.
v. 2: a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. - The throne He occupies and from which He ministers is not David's throne, which He will one day occupy here on earth as the promised Messiah (Matthew 25:31). Rather, He was identified with the throne of 'the Majesty in the heavens.' The authority assigned to the One so enthroned was to be 'a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle' (Hebrews 8:2). Thus He was not appointed to be a king in an earthly domain, but rather He was appointed to function as a High priest in a new sanctuary. And the appointment as High Priest, according
to Psalms 110:4, follows the enthronement of Christ at His Father's right hand."
▪ We not only have a high priest who has taken His seat at the Father's right hand (Hebrews 8:1), but we have one who now ministers as a priest in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:2; cf. Psalms 110:1).
▪ There are other sons beside the Son (Heb 2:10), but no other priests subordinated to Christ as high priest."
v. 3-5: For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."
▪ Hebrews 8:3 sounds as though the Jewish priests were presenting offerings in Herod's Temple when the writer wrote. This understanding of the text has led some students of the book to date its writing before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However it is more likely that we should take these present tenses as timeless. [Note: See Lane, p. lxiii.] The writer was describing what had been done in Judaism as though it was still going on, for the sake of vividness (cf. Heb 7:27-28; 9:25; 10:1-3; 10:8; 13:10-11). Nevertheless it seems likely that the epistle does indeed date from before A.D. 70.
▪ God had explained the fact that the tabernacle was a prototype of another temple, the heavenly one, to Moses when God gave him the directions for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:40; cf. Revelation 4:5-6; Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 8:3-5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 21:22). Moses may have received a vision of God's heavenly dwelling place then (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:19).
▪ Probably the conception of the tabhanith, the 'model' (Exodus 25:9), also goes back ultimately to the idea that the earthly sanctuary is the counterpart of the heavenly dwelling of a deity [in ancient Near Eastern thought]." [Note: Frank M. Cross, "The Tabernacle," Biblical Archaeologist 10:3 (September 1947):62. Cf. G. Ernest Wright, "The Significance of the Temple in the Ancient Near East. Part III: The Temple in Palestine-Syria," Biblical Archaeologist 7:4 (December 1944):66.]
▪ The writer's point was that Jesus' priesthood was not an earthly priesthood but one that operated in the realm of heaven. Jesus could have functioned as a priest on earth after the order of Melchizedek, but His real priestly ministry of sacrifice and intercession began when He entered heaven. Jesus interceded for others during His earthly ministry (e.g., Luke 22:32; John 17), but His ministry as our king-priest began with His ascension.
▪ The contrast developed is not simply between an earthly copy and a heavenly archetype but between a historical situation in the past and one that superceded it in time. During the former situation, marked by the ministry of the Levitical priests, there was no entrance into the real, heavenly presence of God; full entrance into the eternal presence of God was made possible only with the life and redemptive accomplishment of Jesus." [Note: Lane, p. 207.]
▪ In Hebrews 8:1-5 the primitive Christian confession of Jesus as the one who has taken his seat at God's right hand is reinterpreted in the light of the theme of heavenly sanctuary and liturgy. The development of this theme, which dominates the argument in Hebrews 8:1 to Hebrews 9:28, is clearly the central and most distinctive aspect of the writer's interpretation of the saving work of Christ. . . . By means of a typological interpretation of the OT, the writer asserts that Christ has achieved what the sacrificial action of the high priest on the great Day of Atonement only foreshadowed. His entrance into the heavenly sanctuary, which is the true tabernacle where he has unrestricted access to the eternal presence of God, demonstrates the eschatological superiority of his priestly service to the ministry of the Levitical high priests. The priestly ministry of Christ in the celestial sanctuary is of capital importance in the thought of Hebrews.
The better covenant 8:6-13: The writer proceeded to explain the superiority of the New Covenant that Jesus Christ ratified with His blood (death) that is better than the Old Mosaic Covenant that He terminated when He died. He first explained the reason for the change in covenants (Heb 8:6-9), then he quoted the four superior promises of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12), and finally he underlined the certainty of the change (Heb 8:13).
v. 6: But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. - The superiority of Jesus' ministry as our High Priest rests also on the superiority of the covenant that forms the basis of that ministry. That covenant in turn rests on superior promises compared with the Mosaic Covenant promises and on a superior mediator, namely, Jesus Christ, compared with the angels and Moses (Galatians 3:19).
v. 7: For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.- As with the priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12), so it is with the covenant and its promises. Had the first been adequate God would not have promised a second. Add "and its promises" after "covenant," which the translators have supplied, in this verse since "them" in Hebrews 8:8 is plural.
v. 8-12: 8 For finding fault with them, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, [F]WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; 9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. 10 "FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 11 "AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. 12 "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE." - God gave the promise of a new covenant because the people of Israel had failed Him. He also did so because the Old Mosaic Covenant did not have the power to enable them to remain faithful to God. The New Covenant has the power whereby God's people may remain faithful, namely, the presence of God living within the believer (i.e., the Holy Spirit). This is one way in which it differs from the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:9).
▪ God promised that the New Covenant would enable the Israelites to do four things. They would know and desire to do God's will (Hebrews 8:10 b), enjoy a privileged, unique relationship with God (Hebrews 8:10 c), know God directly (Hebrews 8:11), and experience permanent forgiveness of their sins (Hebrews 8:12). These are the "better [i.e., unconditional] promises" the writer referred to earlier (Hebrews 8:6).
▪ New covenant promises are not yet fully realized. The promises in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel describe a people who have the law written in their hearts, who walk in the way of the Lord, fully under the control of the Holy Spirit. These same promises look to a people who are raised from the dead [cf. Ezekiel 37], enjoying the blessings of an eternal inheritance with God dwelling with them and in them forever."
Heb. 8:1-13 - BibleRef
v. 1: Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, - The first few verses of chapter 8 are a bridge between two ideas. The point just made, through the end of chapter 7, is that Jesus is given a greater priesthood than any other man. This included references to Melchizedek, whose priesthood embodied the traits which make Jesus a better, more perfect representative for mankind. The upcoming statement is that the Old Testament system was meant as a symbol-a "type"-of God's ultimate plan. Hebrews 7:22-28 is used as a springboard to introduce ideas which will be more clearly stated starting in verse 7.
• This verse begins to condense the writer's description of Jesus into a few core ideas. Jesus is morally perfect, so His service as a priest is perfect-this is the meaning of Jesus being "such a high priest." Jesus is superior because His role is superior, in the same way that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham (He 7:1-10).
• Jesus is described as "seated," which is often used in ancient literature as a symbol of completed work. A major point of the next chapters is that Christ's work is entirely done and does not need to be repeated as do the Levitical sacrifices. This seat is said to be at the "right hand" of God, which symbolizes power, authority, and acceptance. Further, this position is said to be "in heaven," which implies that Jesus is as exalted as possible.
v. 2: a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord set up, not man. - The early verses of chapter 8 connect the idea of Jesus' superior priesthood to the superiority of the covenant He offers to humankind. Verse 1 indicated that Jesus was seated, implying finished work, that He was at the right hand of God, implying power and authority, and that Jesus was in heaven, implying unmatched praise.
• Here, the author of Hebrews first introduces the idea that Jesus' ministry is the actual, eternal plan of God, while what came before was meant to be a symbol. In the book of Exodus, God describes the construction of a temporary building, where Israel was to worship Him (Exodus 25:8-9). This "tent," or tabernacle, was the appointed place for sacrifices (Exodus 30:10). Jesus, as later verses will show, offers His sacrifice in a more perfect place: heaven, an eternal place constructed by God, instead of a temporary place built by men (Hebrews 9:24).
• As this passage continues, these ideas will be used to support the claim the Jesus' covenant is better than what is offered under the old covenant. And, that this new covenant has always been God's ultimate plan for the redemption of mankind.
v. 3: For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. - Earlier passages referred to Jesus' role as a priest, offering sacrifice on behalf of mankind (Hebrews 6:19-20). This was part of an explanation of how Jesus' priesthood, symbolized by Melchizedek, is superior to that of the Levitical priests. Here, in chapter 8, the idea is being applied to the new covenant, as opposed to the old covenant of the Levitical priesthood. Interestingly, the sacrifices of the existing Levitical priests are described as plural: "gifts and sacrifices." As a priest, Jesus must have "something"-translated "somewhat" in the KJV-to offer God. This word, however, is singular. This implies a difference between the two, namely that Jesus' sacrifice for sin is a once-and-for-all action. This is a distinction the writer of Hebrews will make again, later in the letter (Hebrews 9:24-26; 10:12).
• Along those same lines, the action Jesus takes is described using the word prosenenkē. This is in a Greek tense which implies a past, once-for-all, completed action. The reference to Levitical priests, earlier in the verse, uses the same root word, but with a different tense. That word is prospherein, which is an active, present action. • Putting these two ideas together makes the intent of the original Greek wording that much clearer. Levitical priests "are offering" repeated sacrifices, while Jesus "has offered" a single sacrifice. This passage will continue by providing more details as to why Jesus' sacrifice, and His covenant, are therefore better than the system of Old Testament Law.
v. 4: Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; - In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is connecting the unique priesthood of Jesus to the superiority of the new covenant. In order to do that, prior verses pointed out that Jesus' service occurs in a superior place: a God-created heaven, rather than a man-made tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2). This points to the idea that the rituals and objects of the Old Testament were intended to be symbols of God's ultimate plan, not the ultimate plan themselves.
• Here, the writer of Hebrews again alludes to Jesus' descent from the tribe of Judah. This is the tribe of kings, but not of priests. So, if Jesus were serving on earth, under the old covenant, He could not be a priest at all. And yet, as the writer has already mentioned, God has promised to bring a figure who is both king and priest (Psalm 110:4), part of a priesthood greater than that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:11-19). • This verse also uses a present-tense description of the Jewish priests bringing offerings according to the law. In the prior verse, this seems to be contrasted to Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Here, however, it serves as part of a prophecy. According to this statement, the temple sacrifices were ongoing. Later in this chapter, the Old Testament system is said to be "passing away." In AD 70, after this letter was written, the temple was destroyed and the ability to offer gifts and sacrifices under the old covenant was lost (Hosea 3:4).
v. 5: who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, 'SEE,' He says, 'THAT YOU MAKE all things BY THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN TO YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.' - A major point made in the book of Hebrews is that God's plan to save mankind through Jesus Christ is not a "change" in His will; rather, this has been the intent of God all along. As support for that idea, the writer has already pointed out places in the OT where God made promises which foretell the replacement of the Levitical law with a better covenant. Prior verses hinted at the idea of God using the laws given to Moses as symbols of what was to come. This verse makes that claim directly.
• The writer cites Exodus 25:40, which is similar to Exodus 25:9, where Moses is told that he is to follow the "pattern" given to him by God. This is a theme often explored in the Bible, that God will use events and objects in order to symbolize His plan of salvation. Those patterns, often called "types," become useful as explanations of God's will. Two potent examples come from Israel's own history. One is the events of the first Passover, which symbolized mankind's salvation through faith in the sacrifice of Christ (Exodus 12:1-28). Another is the incident with the bronze serpent, which again symbolized salvation rooted in faith, as well as providing a shadowy reference to Jesus' crucifixion (Numbers 21:4-9).
• In the book of Hebrews, the writer argues that all of the Old Covenant rituals and objects are meant to be shadows of the "real" plan of God. That plan is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
v. 6: But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. - This verse summarizes the next section of Hebrews, and could be considered a synopsis of the entire letter. Earlier passages explained why Jesus' priesthood and service are superior to that of the Levitical priests. Further, this "better" covenant is said to have been God's plan all along. Numerous Old Testament references were given to show that God, both before and during the era of the Levitical priesthood, had promised exactly what He delivered through Christ.
• To this point, most of the book of Hebrews has focused on the unique characteristics of Jesus, in contrast to Levitical priests or spiritual beings such as angels. Some mention has been made, however, of the fact that the same God who created the old covenant had predicted something "better" in the future. Verse 7 re-states this logic in plain terms. Why would God replace the old covenant if it was the best He had to offer? This will be followed by a quotation from the prophet Jeremiah, which shows how God's plan, even then, was to bring people to salvation through Christ.
• This verse is the first of three times where the writer of Hebrews will refer to Jesus using the Greek term mesitēs, which means "one who intervenes, or an arbitrator," and is often translated as mediator.
v. 7: For if that first covenant had been free of fault, no circumstances would have been sought for a second. - Earlier passages in the book of Hebrews pointed out that God's promises clearly point to something better than the Levitical priesthood. References to passages such as Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 were used to prove that God had a purpose in mind which went beyond the Old Testament law. Those rituals and objects were meant as symbols of the truth, not the truth itself. Here, that same idea is stated in clear language: the old covenant, by itself, is flawed. If that system had been perfect, there would have been no reason for God to promise something better. Therefore, if God Himself made the promise of a "new covenant," we cannot claim that the old covenant is His ultimate plan.
• The upcoming quotation is from the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote about the impending defeat and exile of Israel, many centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. Even then, God was pointing to a relationship with mankind beyond rituals and repetitive sacrifices. The description provided by Jeremiah exactly matches the pattern fulfilled by Jesus, and preached by the apostles who followed Him.
v. 8: For in finding fault with the people, He says, 'BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL BRING ABOUT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND THE HOUSE OF JUDAH, - This begins a quotation from another Old Testament prophet, found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is used to support the writer's claim that God promised a "better" covenant than the Old Testament system of priests and sacrifices. Earlier in this letter, the writer of Hebrews offered passages such as Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 to show this promise. Here, he introduces yet another place in Jewish Scripture where God explicitly says He will one day replace the Levitical priesthood with something superior.
• The language used by Jeremiah is very clear: this is a "new covenant," something meant to replace the "old covenant." Further, Jeremiah's statement is forward-looking. This is a promise God made which was meant to be fulfilled at some later date. Jeremiah was not looking into the past, at some decree God had made long ago. This was, at the time, a new statement from God. The reference to the people of Israel, as well as the house of Judah, emphasizes that this is part of God's plan for His chosen people, one which would be extended to the rest of the world through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20; 5:12).
v. 9: NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO BRING THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE ABOUT THEM, SAYS THE LORD - This passage comes from Jeremiah 31:31-34, where that Old Testament prophet records God's promise to create a "new covenant" with the people of Israel. The language of this passage is extremely clear: God's intent is to provide something new, something different from the existing Levitical priesthood. This quotation is used to support the main assertion of the author of Hebrews: that God has always intended for salvation to come through Christ, and not through the Old Testament Law.
This passage repeats the idea that this promised covenant is something new. This is not the same arrangement which God made with the "fathers" of Israel, meaning the people who left Egypt during the Exodus. As earlier verses pointed out, if God is planning to make something new in the future, it necessarily means that God does not consider the "old" system to be perfect. And, in fact, it is not. This quotation from Jeremiah explains how the new covenant, fulfilled in Christ, is superior.
• One of the flaws noted in the old covenant-the primary flaw, in fact-is the lack of obedience from God's people. Even though Scripture indicates that the new covenant is superior, all of the drawbacks of the old covenant are rooted in human flaws (Hebrews 8:8; Romans 3:20). Priesthood is inherited (Hebrews 7:20), priests die (Hebrews 7:23), priests sin (Hebrews 7:27). Here, the fact that the people disobey and defy the covenant is mentioned. This, for Israel, came with the very consequences promised them by God (Deut 30:15-19). The new covenant is superior, primarily, because it is grounded in the work of Jesus Christ, rather than in fallible human efforts (Galatians 2:16).
v. 10: FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT WHICH I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, DECLARES THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. - This verse continues a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34. The writer of Hebrews is pointing out that God Himself promised to give the people a "new covenant." Logically, then, this means that the old covenant is inferior to whatever God has planned for the future. If it was not, why would He change it? This is part of the argument that God's intent was always for salvation to come through Jesus Christ, not through the Old Testament Law. Prior verses proved that this promised covenant was new, not merely a re-use of the old, and that the primary weakness of the old covenant was its reliance on human efforts.
• In this verse, Jeremiah describes a new covenant between God and man which perfectly describes the ministry of Jesus Christ. In particular, this verse points out the difference between a covenant based on external, legalistic rules and one based on internal, personal experience with God. This drive for obedience, from the inside out, is the work of the Holy Spirit in those who are saved (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). Jeremiah was not the only prophet to make such a claim; the idea is also seen in places such as Ezekiel 36:26-27.
v. 11: AND THEY WILL NOT TEACH, EACH ONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EACH ONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR THEY WILL ALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. - The writer of Hebrews is using a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34 to make an important point. God, even while the Old Testament Law was in effect, was already promising to give His people a "new covenant." The nature of this promise is explained in Jeremiah's words, with a special emphasis on the new agreement being some-thing "inside" of the people, rather than something "outside." This is the ultimate distinction between the old and new covenants. Levitical priesthood requires a reliance on laws, obedience, rituals, and ongoing, im-perfect sacrifices for sins. Jesus Christ offers a personal, internal, eternal, and completed forgiveness for sins.
• As part of this, those who are "brothers" in Christ will "know the Lord." This also speaks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as a guide and teacher for those who are saved (John 16:7-11). The focus of the old covenant was on adherence to rules and laws, taught and interpreted by others. The new covenant focuses on a personal relationship and response to God, through Christ.
v. 12: FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TOWARD THEIR WRONGDOINGS, AND THEIR SINS I WILL NO LONGER REMEMBER.' - This verse completes a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is cited by the writer of Hebrews to prove that God always intended to replace the flawed "old covenant" of the Levitical priesthood with a perfect "new covenant" centered on Jesus Christ. The flaws of the old covenant were all rooted in their dependence on human beings. Part of this dependence was the need for constant sacrifice. Priests themselves were sinful (Hebrews 7:27), and died (Hebrews 7:23), and so their sacrifices could only temporarily serve to atone for sin. Jesus, on the other hand, is described as one who offers a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12), eternally interceding for us in heaven (Hebrews 7:24-25).
• In that context, this statement about God being merciful and forgiving sins is meant to be distinguished from the work of the old covenant. Earlier statements from God, through Jeremiah, made it clear that the promised covenant was something different from what was given to Israel after leaving Egypt. God's approach to mercy and sin, here, is tied directly to this new covenant, in contrast to the old. In other words, only the new covenant can truly save us from our sins; the old covenant was never meant to.
• In poetic terms, a person "forgets" or "remembers no more" when they choose to act as if something has not happened. It does not imply literal amnesia. God is not erasing our sin from His consciousness or His awareness. However, for those who accept Christ, God is able to "forget" their sins.
v. 13: When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is about to disappear. - Verses 8 through 12 contained a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34. This was offered as proof that God's intent was never to use the old covenant-the Levitical priesthood-to obtain the ultimate salvation of mankind. Rather, those rituals and laws were meant to point towards the eventual Messiah (Hebrews 8:5). Even the tabernacle was intended as an earthly symbol, or a "pattern," of the real altar in heaven (Hebrews 8:1-2).
• This verse returns to the point being made by the writer of Hebrews: God is the one replacing the old covenant with the new covenant, since the old system was flawed and imperfect (Hebrews 7:11). This new covenant is superior because it is not based on physical, earthly things (Hebrews 5:9; 9:12). As pointed out earlier by the writer of Hebrews, this prediction of a replacement for the Levitical priesthood is not rare or unique in the Jewish Scriptures (Psalm 110:4; Ezekiel 36:26-27).
• At the same time, this comment is prophetic. Earlier in this chapter, the sacrifices of the priests were described using a present-tense verb. In other words, at the time the book of Hebrews was written, the temple was still being used for ritual sacrifice. This verse, however, indicates that the now-obsolete old covenant is "ready to vanish away." Not long after these words were written, the Jewish temple was obliterated by the Romans. As predicted here and elsewhere (Hosea 3:4; Luke 21:6), this ended Israel's ability to offer official sacrifices, a state which has persisted even until now.
A. Jesus, our heavenly priest.
1. (8:1-2) A summary of points previously made regarding Jesus as our High Priest.
1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord set up, not man.
a. This is the main point of the things we are saying: The writer of Hebrews brings together the main point of the previous chapter. We have a High Priest - Jesus Christ - who serves us from a position of all authority in heaven (seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty).
b. Who is seated at the right hand of the throne: Additionally, Jesus is seated in heaven, in contrast to the continual service of the priesthood under the Law of Moses.
i. The tabernacle and the temple of the Old Covenant had beautiful furnishings, but no place for the priests to sit down because their work was never finished. The work of Jesus is finished, therefore He is seated in heaven.
c. A Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle: Jesus doesn't serve as a priest in an earthly tabernacle or temple. He serves in the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, the original made by God. The tabernacle of Moses was a copy of this original, and it was made by man (Exodus 25:8-9).
i. Some suppose the true tabernacle is the Church or Jesus' earthly body. But it is best to understand it as the heavenly reality that the earthly tabernacle imitated.
2. (8:3) Jesus' priesthood had a sacrifice - and a better sacrifice.
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.
a. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices: Sacrifice for sin is essential to the concept of priesthood. Jesus represented a superior priesthood and offered a superior sacrifice. He laid down His own life to atone for sin.
b. It is necessary that this One also have something to offer: Though Jesus never offered a sacrifice according to the Law of Moses He did offer a better sacrifice - the sacrifice of Himself.
3. (8:4-5) Jesus' priesthood had a temple - and a better temple.
4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things BY THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN TO YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN."
a. If He were on earth, He would not be a priest: Jesus was not qualified to serve in the inferior earthly priesthood. There are priests - plenty of them - who were qualified to serve in the priesthood according to the Law of Moses.
b. Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things: There were plenty of priests who could serve in the copy and shadow on earth. Yet Jesus is the only One qualified to serve in the superior heavenly priesthood. The earthly service, though it was glorious in the eyes of man, was really only a copy and shadow of the superior heavenly service.
c. Copy and shadow of the heavenly things: Exodus 25:40 tells us that Moses' tabernacle built on earth was made according to a pattern that existed in heaven. This was the pattern which was shown to you [Moses] on the mountain (Exodus 25:40). Therefore, there is a heavenly temple that served as a pattern for the earthly tabernacle and temple. Jesus' ministry as our High Priest takes place in this heavenly temple, not in the copy and shadow built on earth.
i. First century Jews took tremendous pride in the temple and did so for good reason: it was a spectacular architectural achievement. However glorious the Jerusalem temple was, it was of man (and mostly built by Herod the Great, a corrupt and ungodly man). Therefore it was nothing compared to the glory of the heavenly temple that Jesus served in.
4. (8:6) The result: Jesus presides over a superior priesthood with a better covenant and better promises.
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
a. He has obtained a more excellent ministry: No earthly priest could take away sin the way Jesus did. Therefore Jesus' ministry is far better than the ministry of the priesthood under the Law of Moses.
b. Mediator of a better covenant: Jesus has mediated for us a better covenant, a covenant of grace and not of works, guaranteed for us by a cosigner (Hebrews 7:22). It is a covenant marked by believing and receiving instead of by earning and deserving.
i. Jesus is our Mediator for this greater covenant. Mediator is the ancient Greek word mesites, which means "one who stands in the middle between two people and brings them together." (Barclay)
ii. Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant because he "brought the two parties together." Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant, a better covenant, bringing us to God the Father.
iii. Jesus' covenant is a better covenant, better than any of the previous covenants God made with men. The covenant of Jesus fulfills the other covenants described in the Bible.
c. Which was established on better promises: Jesus has better promises for us. These are promises to see us through the most desperate and dark times. These are promises that become alive to us through the Spirit of God. These are promises of blessing and undeserved favor instead of promises to curse and judge.
B. The superiority of the New Covenant.
1. (8:7) The fact that God mentions another covenant is proves that there is something lacking in the Old Covenant.
7 For if that first covenant had been free of fault, no circumstances would have been sought for a second.
a. If the first covenant had been faultless: It is in the nature of man to come up with things that are "new" but not needed. God isn't like that. If God established a New Covenant, it means that there was something lacking in the Old Covenant.
2. (8:8) The New Covenant as it is presented in the Hebrew Scriptures (quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34).
8 For in finding fault with the people, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL BRING ABOUT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND THE HOUSE OF JUDAH,
a. Finding fault: In this passage from Jeremiah 31, God shows that something was lacking in the Old Covenant - because a New Covenant was promised. In the days of Jeremiah the New Covenant was still in the future, because he wrote "Behold the days are coming."
i. In its context, Jeremiah's prophecy probably comes from the days of Josiah's renewal of the covenant after finding the law (2 Kings 23:3). This renewal was good, but it wasn't enough because Jeremiah looked forward to a new covenant.
b. I will make: The Lord made it clear that this covenant would originate with God, and not with man. At Sinai under the Old Covenant the key words were if you (Exodus 19:5), but in the New Covenant, the key words are I will.
c. A new covenant: This covenant is truly new, not merely "new and improved" in the way things are marketed to us today. Today, products are said to be "new and improved" when there is no substantial difference in the product. But when God says "new," He means new.
i. There are two ancient Greek words that describe the concept of "new." Neos described newness in regard to time. Something may be a copy of something old but if it recently made, it can be called neos. The ancient Greek word kainos (the word used here) described something that is not only new in reference to time, but is truly new in its quality. It isn't simply a new reproduction of something old.
d. With the house of Israel and the house of Judah: The New Covenant definitely began with Israel but it was never intended to end with Israel (Matthew 15:24 and Acts 1:8).