Jesus Christ has a more
excellent ministry because He is the Mediator of a
better covenant based on better promises.
Our great High Priest is
the Son of God perfect forever. He is "holy,
innocent, undefiled, and separated from sinners,
exalted above the heavens." He was tempted, but
never yielded to sin.
Jesus Christ is the
mediator of a much better priestly ministry because
He has a better covenant in a superior sanctuary. He
is the one priest who can make us right with God.
The Tabernacle in the
wilderness gave a glimpse, a shadow patterned after
the glorious reality in heaven. When the real object
came the shadows passed away. The fulfillment in the
person and work of Jesus Christ put an end to the
old covenant and its system. Christ was the reality
that replaced all the shadows.
Hebrews chapter eight is
the crowning point in the homily. It is the highest
and central point to which the author is climbing.
We have a High Priest who is seated on the right
hand of the throne of the Majesty on High in heaven.
He is in the very presence of God.
We are now at the center
of the doctrinal section of Hebrews which focuses on
Christ as our High Priest. With Hebrews 8 and 9 the
author takes us to the central task of interpreting
the saving work of Christ on the cross and His
If you have read a lot of
books on Hebrews you are aware that there are a lot
of fanciful interpretations. Wild speculative
imaginations turn into religious fads and heresy.
There is no compelling reason to insist upon some
kind of structure in heaven conforming to the Mosaic
tabernacle in the wilderness. Hebrews 9:24 likens
the holy of holies with heaven and the presence of
God. The writer points to spiritual realities. He
moves from the pictures, types, sacrifices to the
spiritual reality and the wonder of God is spirit
and those who worship Him worship Him in spirit and
The author takes us into
the holy of holies, where God abides, and Jesus
serves as our High Priest. There are no other
priests serving under Christ as High Priest. He is
the one and only priest. The high priest on the Day
of Atonement could only foreshadow what Christ
achieved on the cross. We have a great High Priest,
Jesus Christ; the Son of God who lived a sinless
life, and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for
the sins of His people and rose from the dead and
now it seated in heaven with God the Father making
intercession for us.
Jesus Christ has a
Better Ministry (8:1-5)
Can you imagine having a
king who serves? Jesus Christ is the king who rules
and serves his people as a high priest.
Jesus is the seated
priest who has finished His work of offering the
final sacrifice for sins. There will never be a need
for another sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice is once
and for all. He is an enthroned priest who is seated
at the right hand of the Majesty on high, God the
Father. Jesus now ministers in the true heavenly
sanctuary, heaven itself. Jesus did not come to work
His way into the old sacrificial system of the Old
Testament priests, but to fulfill then and thus
bring them to an end.
Jesus Christ is the
reality of all the shadows we encounter in the Old
Testament types and prophecies. The priests were a
copy and a shadow of the great High Priest who would
enter into heaven and serve. The tabernacle and
later the temple were shadows of that reality that
was to come. The animal sacrifices and the Day of
Atonement were a shadow of the great sacrifice of
the Lamb of God. Jesus Christ is the reality to
which all of these shadows and types pointed. He is
our great High Priest, Mediator, and Intercessor at
the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is our
perfect sacrifice that cleanses us of all sins and
paid our sin debt. He is our Passover and our daily
spiritual food. It is Christ my righteousness.
Christ my sanctification. Christ my propitiation.
Christ my only hope. Christ my savior. He fulfills
all of the shadows and types. He is their glorious
A. T. Robertson says the
writer of Hebrews summarizes with five points of
superiority of Jesus as High Priest. Jesus is a
better priest than Aaron (Heb. 8:1). The writer is
demonstrating this from 4:16 to 7:28). Jesus works
in a better sanctuary (8:2, 5). He offers a better
sacrifice (8:3ff). Jesus is mediator of a better
covenant (8;6). His priestly work rests on better
promises (8:6). Jesus has obtained a better ministry
as a whole (8:6). The writer of Hebrews will
continue with his presentation of the priestly work
of Jesus including His better covenant (8:7-13), the
better sanctuary (9:1-12), better sacrifice
(9:13-10:180 and better promises (10:19-12:3).
(Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol.
v, p. 388).
The Heavenly Sanctuary
"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, a minister
in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which
the Lord pitched, not man" (Hebrews 8:1-2). All
Scripture references unless otherwise noted are from
the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.
"What has been said"
takes us back to the summary statement of Christ's
high priesthood in 7:26-28. His "main point" is
Jesus is our High Priest who sat down at the right
hand of God and He serves in the true tabernacle.
Jesus is the King-Priest.
The earthly tabernacle
was a prototype of the heavenly one (Exod. 25:40).
The Levitical temple and priesthood operated in a
historical situation in the past and was succeeded
in time by Christ. The Levitical priests did not
enter into the real, heavenly presence of God. Only
Jesus Christ entered into the eternal presence of
God. The holy of holies and the Ark of the Covenant
only symbolized the presence of God with His people.
operates in the heavenly realm. The "sanctuary" and
"the true tabernacle" is heaven (Heb. 9:24; 10:19).
Aaron served in the tabernacle in the wilderness,
Jesus serves in the true tabernacle. There is no
distinction here between the holy place and the holy
of holies. The wilderness tabernacle was the symbol,
a mere copy of the genuine.
The fact that Christ "has
taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of
Majesty in the heavens" is evidence that He has
fully accomplished His great sacrificial work on the
cross. God the Father has accepted it. The
sacrificial ministry of our Lord was performed and
completed when He died on the cross. It was a once
and for all sacrifice. It was finished, completed,
done when He cried out "It is finished!"
This King-Priest sits on
a throne. He has kingly power and dominion as a High
Priest. He sits on a throne even though He ministers
in the sanctuary. This was unheard of in the
Levitical system. A person could one or the other,
but never a priest and king combination.
Jesus the Mediator
Since the sacrifice was
completed on the cross our great High Priest now
intercedes for the believer before the throne of the
Father. Our Lord fulfilled the Levitical priesthood
by offering up Himself on the cross. Now He fulfills
the Melchizedek royal priesthood as our Mediator.
Jesus is the High
Priest (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" (Hebrews 8:3).
As a true priest Jesus
has something to offer. He is an active priest. That
which He offered up was Himself. The author of
Hebrews is uses the aorist to stress a single
finished act of offering. It is not a continuously
or repeated offering. Jesus has finished the
sacrificial aspect of His ministry. The sacrifice
has been offered once for all. This is a strong
contrast with the Levitical priests and their
continual offerings. Jesus offered one sacrifice,
and by His sacrificial death fulfilled the demands
of the old covenant. As a result of that sacrifice
He made the old covenant obsolete.
John Calvin said, "He
died on earth, but the virtue and efficacy of His
death proceeded from heaven."
Service of Jesus as
the Priest (8:4-5)
"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 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 8:4-5).
Jesus could never serve
in the earthly Tabernacle because He was of the
tribe of Judah, not Levi.
Many scholars think there
is evidence that the Temple is still in existence
and the Levitical priests are offering up
sacrifices, and the letter should be dated before
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.
70. Or it could be seen as the use of the present
tense as timeless and a vivid picture of what had
been done in the Temple as though it was still going
on. I think the homily was written in the early A.D.
The author is quoting
Exodus 25:40 in verse five. The tabernacle was a
made according to the pattern after the heavenly
model. The idea of the Palestinian Jews that there
was in heaven a literal counterpart of the earthly
tabernacle is not an accurate interpretation. They
had developed some fanciful extremely literal ideas.
The superiority of Jesus
ministry is that He ratified the new covenant with
His own blood. The old Mosaic covenant was
terminated when Christ died. The veil of the temple
was torn from top to bottom. A new covenant forms
the basis of the superior ministry that Jesus
performs in heaven. Had the first covenant been
adequate God would not have instituted a new
The new covenant removed
the barrier between a holy God and sinful man. The
apostle Peter wrote of this new covenant: "knowing
that you were not redeemed with perishable things
like silver or gold from your futile way of life
inherited from your forefathers, but with precious
blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the
blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). The apostle Paul
said, "In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the
riches of His grace. . . . who is given as a pledge
of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of
God's own possession, to the praise of His glory"
(Ephesians 1:7, 14).
Jesus Ministers with a
Better Covenants (8:6-13)
The author now stresses
the superiority of Christ's ministry in the
sanctuary. Just as the new covenant is better than
the old, Christ's ministry is "more excellent" than
the Levitical. The new covenant is better because it
is established through a better mediator. The new
covenant is based on better promises because the Son
of God is the security that these promises will be
"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. For if that first
covenant had been faultless, there would have been
no occasion sought for a second. 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'"
God says, "I will make
a new covenant."
As the case now stands,
Jesus is the High Priest in heaven. "A more
excellent ministry" applies to all five of the
points of superiority over the Levitical priesthood.
The word "better" is the keynote of Hebrews. In
every point Christianity is better than Judaism is
the stress of the letter. The installation of the
new covenant was proof that the first could not
remove sin. It did not deal with man's most basic
problem's. It could not justify the sinner.
The "Holy of holies"
symbolized the place where God meets man on the Ark
of the Covenant. Our great High Priest has passed
through the greater and more perfect tabernacle into
the very presence of God. It is not just symbolized
in His ministry, but the reality.
"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" (Hebrews
8:9). The Israelites broke the covenant, and
God annulled it.
What will the new
covenant effect? Based upon the better promises
there will be the forgiveness of sins and the inward
power will be overcome. The new covenant with its
new principles works in the spiritual life of the
believer. He affects the change in the heart.
"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" (Hebrews 8:10).
This new covenant will be
spiritual and inward. God changes the heart. Kardia
is the seat of man's personal life. It involves the
whole of man's inward nature. The old covenant could
not change the heart. The new covenant does. It is
personal because the Holy Spirit who is a person
enables the believer to overcome the power of sin
When a sinner accepts
God's terms of the new covenant he experiences God.
This knowledge of God is common to all believers.
"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" (Hebrews
Under the old covenant
only the educated scribes cold understand the minute
details of the law, however under the new covenant
everyone will be taught by the inner illumination of
the Holy Spirit.
"As for you, the
anointing which you received from Him abides in you,
and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as
His anointing teaches you about all things, and is
true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught
you, you abide in Him" (1 John 2:27).
"For I will be merciful
to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins
no more" (Hebrews 8:12).
reconciliation, peace with God is the foundation of
this new covenant. The basis of this forgiveness is
the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Matt. 26:28; Mk.
14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). The new covenant
is sealed with His blood. God rich in mercy and
grace forgives based on the sacrifice of Jesus on
the cross. This new covenant is the guarantee and
assurance that God will remember our sins no more.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who
are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Because there is
no condemnation there is peace with God through
faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2).
Moreover, when we do sin
there is forgiveness. "But if we walk in the Light
as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship
with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son
cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no
sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not
in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and
righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not
sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in
us" (1 John 1:7-10). This is part of this wonderful
new covenant we have with God. When we confess our
sins to Him, He forgives, and will never remember
our sins again. God has a good forgetter. The whole
basis of His forgetfulness is the perfect sacrifice
for all our sins.
"When He said, 'A new
covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But
whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is
ready to disappear" (Hebrews 8:13).
"The author writes as if
the Old Testament legal and ceremonial system were
about to vanish before the new covenant of grace. If
he wrote after A.D. 70, would he not have written
'has vanished away'?" observes A. T. Robertson.
With this contrast
between the old covenant and new covenant the old is
now obsolete. It disappeared in A.D. 70 with the
destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. However,
that termination did not eliminate the promises God
made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).
The church enters into
the blessings of the new covenant which all
believers enjoy because Jesus died and rose from the
dead (Isa. 19:24-25; 42:6; Rom. 15:9-12). Moreover
when Christ returns the Jewish people will fully
experience all the blessings promised in the new
covenant (Rom. 11:25-32). Turn on the evening news
and the most astonishing fact is that God has
preserved the Jewish people to this day. God has a
glorious future for these precious people in Christ.
He is not through with His people. The people of the
old covenant will become the people of the new
The death of Christ is
the foundation for the fulfillment of the promises
contained in the new covenant. Everything in the new
covenant rests upon the death of Christ.
From Galatians 3:13-29 we
understand that Christians are the spiritual seed of
Abraham; however that is not the same as saying the
church is the spiritual Israel. We must be extremely
careful how we take the words "Israel" and "Judah"
when we interpret the Scriptures. Each must be
considered within its context.
We must reach a balance
in our interpretation because Jeremiah spoke of a
new covenant with Israel that will find fulfillment
when Christ returns. He also speaks of believers
receiving their blessings of the new covenant based
upon the blood of Jesus. The passage speaks to both
Israel and the Christians.
This raises a very
important question: what is the relationship of the
church to Israel?
Four views on the new
There are basically four
views regarding the church and the new covenant.
Some Bible believing
scholars take the view the church has replaced
Israel. Amillennialists and the covenant theologians
see the nation of Israel as permanently displaced
and the blessings promised in the new covenant are
now fulfilled only by the church. They teach
basically the church has replaced Israel. The basis
of this interpretation is "the house of Israel and
the house of Judah" is the Christian church in the
present age. However, one must differentiate between
the Scripture references to the church and those
referring to the promises to Israel.
Other scholars teach the
new covenant is only with the national Israel. They
interpret the words of Jeremiah literally and do not
see any reason to include the New Testament church
in the new covenant. J. N. Darby said, "The new
covenant will be established formally with Israel in
Another group views this
"new covenant" as two new covenants, one with Israel
and one with the New Testament Church. It tries to
balance the passage in Jeremiah with passages in the
New Testament that teach the churches participation
in the new covenant. There is the future fulfillment
with Israel, and the current work in the church. In
relationship to the church we enjoy the privileges
of a new covenant made in the blood of Christ, while
Israel awaits the new covenant in its future
I understand the "new
covenant" as pointing to a future fulfillment with
Israel, and at the same time the foundation for the
Christian's salvation today. It involves both Israel
in the future and the Church today. It is one "new
covenant" with two fulfillments; Israel will
experience this new covenant in the future, and the
church celebrates it today. But in both cases it is
the one new covenant paid for in full by the death
The death of Christ
provides the only basis of believers receiving
forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. At
the same time there are clear promises God made with
Israel. We enjoy the benefits of the atoning
sacrifice of Christ for our sins. "If you belong to
Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs
according to the promise," wrote the apostle Paul
(Gal. 3:29). It is in Christ that Gentiles,
non-Jews, have received the blessings of the promise
to Abraham. The promises were spoken to Abraham and
his seed, but we have also received blessings from
Jesus celebrated the
ordinance connected to the new covenant on the night
before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:26-30). "This is
My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on
behalf of many for forgiveness of sins" (v. 28). The
writer of Hebrews says in 9:20: "This is the blood
of the covenant which God commanded you" (Hebrews
9:20). Both are referring to one covenant which is
the new covenant made by Jesus Christ. The apostle
Paul declared, "In the same way He took the cup also
after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant
in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in
remembrance of Me'" (1 Corinthians 11:25).
I find it hard to see two
covenants with the same name "new covenant." Hebrews
speaks of "the new covenant" and simply the word
"covenant" alone. Let's be careful not to read
something into a passage that is not there. The
apostle Paul said he and other servants of Christ
are "ministers of the new covenant" (2 Cor. 3:6).
The book of Hebrews was
written to Hebrew Christians. Yes, there are
applications to both groups, but the stated purpose
is to believers in Christ. He is warning them not to
turn coat and go back to the Temple sacrifices. He
wants them to remain faithful to Christ. He
addresses "to the general assembly and church of the
firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God,
the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the
righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator
of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which
speaks better than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews
12:23-24). Both are related to the new covenant, not
two covenants. The contrast in this great chapter is
between the old Mosaic covenant and the new covenant
God made in Christ.
I think the apostle Paul
has the solution in Romans 11:24-25. "For if you
were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive
tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a
cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who
are the natural branches be grafted into their own
olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be
uninformed of this mystery so that you will not be
wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening
has happened to Israel until the fullness of the
Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:24-25). I am
convinced God's new covenant finds its fulfillment
in both the church and Israel. We enjoy the benefits
now, and Israel will in the millennium.
Judaism was a show and
tell; Christianity is a go and tell.
We can have an intimate
personal relationship with God. He brings about an
inner transformation by the Holy Spirit. God
accomplishes all the transformation in us through
faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The new covenant was
purchased by the blood of Christ. It is effected by
the Holy Spirit and appropriated by faith in Jesus
Christ. Jesus is the Mediator of this wonderful work
of sovereign grace. He will write this new covenant
on your heart. Indeed, He will crush the heart of
stone and make it soft as flesh and white as snow.
The new covenant is personal and intimate.
Believe on Jesus Christ
today and be saved for all eternity.