Online Bible Commentary
The Superiority of Christ’s Heavenly Realities
Hebrews 9:23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)
In this passage, the writer of the book of Hebrews continues to proclaim the superiority of Christ. Here, he writes of the superiority of Christ’s heavenly realities to earthly symbols.
The writer describes the earthly symbols of the Old Covenant as “copies” (v. 23a). These earthly symbols were expressed in the law, handed down to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. They consisted of the tabernacle, the rules on food and drink, and the system of animal sacrifice, among other rules. Because they were copies, or examples, they were inferior and therefore required “purifying” (v. 23b). They were merely copies of the real thing, the “heavenly things” (v. 23c), and required purifying by the sacrifice of Christ.
The tabernacle was a “man made sanctuary” (v. 24a). Christ, as high priest, never entered the earthly tabernacle. Instead, he entered the “true” (v. 24b) sanctuary, “Heaven itself” (v. 24c). He is there now and mediates as our high priest “in God’s presence” (v. 24d). He was superior to the earthly high priest because, unlike the earthly high priest, He did not need “to offer himself again and again” (v. 25). The earthly high priest entered the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, over and over, once a year on the Day of Atonement, with the sacrifice of animal blood.
Verse twenty–six gives us four reasons why the heavenly realities of Christ’s New Covenant, of His blood, are superior to the earthly symbols of the Old Covenant. The heavenly realities of Christ’s sacrifice can best be remembered as four P’s: permanent; propitious; perfect; and personal.
(1) Permanent - Christ’s sacrifice was “once for all” (v. 26a). The Old Covenant sacrifice was temporary. It needed to be repeated every year. Christ’s sacrifice was permanent, once was all that was needed.
(2) Propitious – Christ’s timing was perfect. His sacrifice came “at the end of the ages” (v. 26b), the end of the Old Covenant. It came after the Old Covenant had proven itself to be inadequate.
(3) Perfect – Christ’s sacrifice was not just to cover sin, but was to “do away with sin” (v. 26c). His sacrifice removed the sin and the guilt from sin. The Old Covenant sacrifice only covered sin, in order to allow worship. It did not remove sin and it did not cleanse the conscience of guilt.
(4) Personal – Christ’s sacrifice was “of Himself” (v. 26c). The Old Covenant sacrifice was of the blood of animals. Christ personally shed His blood, enduring the punishment for sin that we all deserve.
Man is “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (v. 27). In the same way, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (v. 28a), all those who accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Christ first appeared on the scene to bear our sin and offer salvation. He “will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation” (v. 28b).
Heavenly realities far outweigh earthly symbols. The Old Covenant only provided for earthly symbols. In contrast, the New Covenant of Christ provided for heavenly realities. Unlike the Israelites of the Old Testament, we are living under heavenly realities. We are living in a privileged time in history. The church age we live in is the last age. It is followed by the return of Christ as King. These are all heavenly realities. The good times are here, but the best is yet to come!