Study of Hebrews
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Hebrews 9:1-28 – The Heavenly Sanctuary

We are dealing with a very important passage in chapter nine of Hebrews. It is a chapter that has caused a lot of problems and a lot of discussion in our church.  So before we actually look at this chapter there are four things I would like you to notice:

  1. The issue whether Christ went into the Holy Place or the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary did not exist in the apostolic days in the minds of the people of that period.  You know the argument, in 31 A.D. did He go to the Most Holy Place, or the Holy Place? This is a problem today in our church, but please remember that this problem did not exist in the minds of the people of the Apostolic period.  Therefore we must not look in chapter nine for the problem or the solution, because it is not dealing with that.  We must not project our problems and views into that chapter.

  2. There are several words that I want take up right now.  The word “holiest” in verse eight and the words “holy place” in verse twelve, and the word “holy places” plural, in verse twenty-four.  There is one more, chapter ten and verse nineteen, the word “holiest.” These are different English words.  They come from the same Greek root word and they all have the same meaning and refer to the heavenly sanctuary. Sometimes people bring up these words and say, “This word means Holy Place and the other word means Most Holy Place.” Well, the issue was not existing between holy and most holy place.  I will come to that in a moment.  But these words all refer to the heavenly sanctuary.

  3. We must remember that things in and of themselves are not holy.  What makes a place or a thing most holy is the presence of God.  You remember when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush.  The bush wasn’t holy. The ground wasn’t holy.  The presence of God made the place holy.  Since God dwells in the heavenly sanctuary please remember that the heavenly sanctuary is Most Holy.

  4. What is the issue in Hebrews nine? The issue is between the earthly sanctuary which the Jews were still looking upon and the heavenly sanctuary where Christ went.  The argument of Hebrews nine is this: the heavenly sanctuary with Christ’s priestly ministry there has superseded the earthly sanctuary. In other words the earthly sanctuary is no longer valid.  The heavenly sanctuary is now what we must turn our eyes to.  That’s the whole message of Hebrews nine.

With that in mind let us now look step by step at this chapter.  The first five verses of Hebrews nine is a description of the earthly sanctuary:

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

In other words, the earthly sanctuary was something that was established by God.  The words “divine service” mean God is the One who instructed Moses to build the sanctuary.  The word “worldly” is earthly.  It is earthly in contrast to the heavenly.  In verse two:

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary [we call it the holy place]. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holiest of all [which is the Most Holy Place]...

I want you to notice verse four, “Which had the golden censor.” There is a problem here because normally we place the golden censor in the holy place.  Now this is true but in 1 Kings 6:22, the KJV is not very clear, but in the original it puts the golden censor in the Most Holy Place and obviously Paul is quoting here from that passage.  In the temple in Jerusalem the golden censor was also in the Most Holy Place.  Sometimes it was in the holy place during the exodus but in the temple in Jerusalem it was in the Most Holy Place.  So should you see this discrepancy it’s not a mistake, he’s quoting from 1 Kings 22.

...Which had the golden censor and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant [The Ten Commandments]; And over it [i.e., the mercy seat] the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

Paul in these first five verses is giving a general description of the earthly sanctuary.  And he says, “Look, the reason I’m doing this is not because I want to give you a study on this.  I’m giving you a general description.  I’m not going in detail and I’m not discussing the significance of all this.” Then why is he describing it? Well, we will see shortly.  Then in verses six and seven he describes the two services, the daily and the yearly.  Verse six is the daily:

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always [daily, morning and evening] into the first tabernacle, [the holy place] accomplishing the service of God.  But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.

So what Paul is doing here is giving a brief description of the earthly sanctuary and a brief description of the daily and the yearly service.  Then he makes this statement:

The Holy Ghost [in other words, inspiration] this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

He is saying that the earthly sanctuary and its services were functioning as long as Christ had not yet come.  But when He came and died and went back to heaven the earthly sanctuary came to an end.  The earthly sanctuary and its services was not a permanent thing.  It was something temporary.  It was to come to an end.  In verse nine he explains:

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal [worldly or earthly] ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

The reason we are reading verses nine and ten is that in verse eight there are those two words, “first tabernacle.” You have the same expression in verse six but in verse six it applies to the holy place and in verse eight it applies to the whole of the sanctuary service.  How do I know? The context makes it clear.  The context is telling us that what verse eight is describing is the earthly sanctuary with its services which was only a type, which was a “figure” says Paul in verse nine, and which did not have power to save.  Notice a very important word in verse nine the last part:

...That could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

In other words, all that the earthly service could do was give people a hope.  It did not remove guilt.  The blood of bulls and goats cannot do that.  Chapter ten will bring that out.  Now let’s turn to verse eleven, here we have the reality, but in contrast:

Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle,...

Please notice that the contrast is between the earthly tabernacle which was a figure, a type, of the heavenly sanctuary which is the reality.

...not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.

We have now two buildings.  One made by human hands on earth and one made by God in heaven.  It is very clear from this passage that there is a heavenly sanctuary.  Verse eleven refers to the heavenly sanctuary:

And neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.

If you have the KJV it will add “for us.” Please notice that is supplied.  The original does not say that.  The original really implies that He obtained eternal redemption for every human being.  Whether you take advantage of it is a different matter.  Christ obtained salvation and redemption for all man.  This is through His blood with which He entered into the Holy Place meaning the heavenly sanctuary, having obtained eternal redemption. Go to verse thirteen:

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh;

That is a contrast.  The earthly could not cleanse the conscience.  It only cleanses the flesh.  In other words, the act, the services gave the people a hope.  It actually did not remove guilt.  Verse fourteen continues:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge [or cleanse] your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

He refers to the services of the earthly sanctuary as “dead works.” Why dead works? What makes it dead? There is no salvation.  That is one way of putting it.  Did the Jews look at the earthly sanctuary as a symbol or were they practising the earthly sanctuary as a means of salvation? Had they perverted the sanctuary service? Yes.  So the expression “dead works” also means legalism — doing something to attain to salvation. He calls it dead works because by the works of the law can no flesh be justified. The fact that they offered sacrifices could not remove sin.  It was only a type.

So what Paul is doing is trying to turn the minds of these Christian Jews, who were still looking at the temple and its services.  He says “Look, folks, that service with all its ministry and sacrifices cannot remove sin. It cannot cleanse your conscience.  It is only a type.  If you rely on it, it’s dead works.  Let us turn from that to the true sanctuary which purges our conscience that we may serve the living God.” This is very important because God is not concerned so much as to what you do but why you do it.  In other words, unless your conscience has been cleansed from guilt you can never serve God out of love.  You will serve Him out of fear. That’s what he is saying.  Turn to Romans chapter seven for another similar concept in different words.  Rom.  7:6:

But now we are delivered from the law [the law here means the Torah, the five books of Moses and to be delivered from the law means to be delivered from it’s authority], that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve [serve who?...God] in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

In other words, legalism serves God not out of love for Him but because we want a reward or because we are scared of the judgment.  What Paul is saying in Heb.  9:14 is that once we realize that Christ has cleansed our conscience by His blood we can now serve the living God with a right motive. That is why it is important that we understand justification.  If we don’t, the fruit which is holiness of living, will never be correct, at least motivation-wise. Continuing with verse fifteen:

And for this cause [that is, because He has cleansed us] He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

So the first testament was the promise and the new testament is the reality. Verse sixteen continues:

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Paul is playing with two words here.  What does the word “testament” mean here? A will.  In the Greek there are two words for “testament.” One word is “soonthaykay” and the other is “deeathaykay.” ”Soonthaykay” means a contract and “deeathaykay” means a will.  What is the difference between a contract and a will? In a contract there are always two parties.  The Old Covenant was a contract.  God gave the law and the people said, “We will do it.” That was the deal. God said, “This is my standard of righteousness.” And they said, “All that you say, we will do.” That was the contract.  Did they break it? Yes.  Therefore God could not take them to heaven under the old covenant.  It could not save them.

Now a will is not a contract.  A will is made up by one person for the benefit of the others.  So the New Testament is not a contract but a will. Who made the will? God made the will.  What was the will? That He would offer salvation to all men.  That’s what we call, “the eternal inheritance.” When does a will become effective? At death.  When Christ died the will became effective.  Nobody can change that will after the death of the testator. That’s what Paul is saying.

So why are you doubting your salvation? God promised it and now He fulfils it.  Nothing can change that.  In Heb.9:18-20, Paul is going back to the old covenant and he says:

Even the contract was also sealed by blood.  For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water and scarlet wool, and hyssop and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God has joined unto you.

This is the contract.  And they promised, “We will do it.” Now he goes back to the law in verse twenty-two:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood...

Now why does he use the word “almost”? If you were very poor and couldn’t even get a dove in the old covenant you could bring just a little bit of flour and that would take care of it.  It was because of poverty that God made this provision.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Now please remember, blood in the Bible meant “life.” Keep this in mind.  Blood symbolized life.  Let me give you a couple of texts, first of all turn to Leviticus 17:11:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood [that is, the shed blood] that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Deuteronomy 12:23 makes it very clear that the life of the flesh is in the blood. On the cross Jesus laid down His life for us.  He met the promise, “I will die for your sins.” On the cross He died.  So here we have in verse twenty-two the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Going back to Hebrews 9:23, a very important verse:

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

I want to pause and explain what Paul is saying here.  Look back at the earthly sanctuary.  The sinner would bring a lamb or the priest would do it on behalf of the sinner.  The sinner or the priest would put his hands on the animal and confess all his sins or if it was the priest the sins of the people.  Now what did this imply? It implied that the sins were transferred from the sinner to the animal.  Then the priest killed the animal which paid the price for those sins.  Then he took the blood into the sanctuary.  Did the blood contain sin in it or was the blood purified of sin when it was taken into the sanctuary? Symbolically, it contained sin.

Here is the problem and we must face the issue.  Did not Christ do away with sin on the cross? Look at verse twenty-two.  Does the shedding of the blood solve the sin problem? Yes or no? Did Christ take care of sin on the cross? Did He pay the penalty for sin of the past or even what’s happening today and tomorrow until Christ comes? All of it.  Then He took care of it even though it is happening.  The reason I’m bringing this out is that we have come under fire on this issue.  He paid the price.  Let us say that I have stolen some money and I’m caught and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.  I go to the penitentiary and spend ten years.  When I come out of the penitentiary that sin has been taken care of.  The police can’t touch me.

I’m simply putting myself in the shoes of our evangelical brothers so that you are aware of the problem.  When Christ took His blood to the sanctuary in heaven, does the sanctuary in heaven become defiled? That’s the issue.  Did the earthly sanctuary become defiled by the blood? Look at verse twenty-three.

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these.

So did the earthly sanctuary need purification? Does the text say so? Yes.  Then he says that if the earthly was the pattern of the things of heaven, and the earthly was purified.

But the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

What is Paul saying in this second half of verse twenty-three? He is saying that the blood of bulls and goats cannot cleanse the heavenly sanctuary. He is saying the heavenly sanctuary does need cleaning, but it cannot be done by goat blood.  It has to have a better sacrifice.  So verse twenty-three makes it very clear that the sanctuary on earth and the sanctuary in heaven have to be cleansed.  When was the earthly sanctuary cleansed? On the day of atonement.  In case we have forgotten what we were taught, please turn your Bibles to Lev.16.  You can read verses 29-34 on your own but I want to point you to one verse here, verse thirty-three.  This is talking about the Day of Atonement:

And he [that is, the high priest] shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.

Notice that the earlier verses used the word “cleansed” there. So the earthly sanctuary was cleansed on the day of atonement.  In Heb.  9:23 it says clearly that the heavenly and the earthly sanctuary both need to be cleansed.  Let’s see what the New International Version says (verse 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.

Okay, in other words, the heavenly sanctuary has to be purified, that’s the word the Bible uses, with “better sacrifices.” So what do we do? How do we defend our teaching? Number one, this verse already deals with the fact that both the earthly and the heavenly sanctuaries need cleansing. What defiled it? Sin.  But the sins were taken care of.  When the price of sin is paid is it not taken care of? The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.  What is the blood of Christ? The cross! Why should the heavenly sanctuary be cleansed if the blood of Christ has already done it? Now please don’t expect an answer today.  I want you to wrestle with this.  When you witness to others you will face this problem.  The problem is not only with non-Adventists but it has come inside the church now.

You see the issue is that some say the Day of Atonement took place in 31 A.D.  If it did take place in 31 A.D.  then we have to throw 1844 out of the window.  We have been taught that the Day of Atonement began in 1844 A.D.  The Christian Church says, “No, the Day of Atonement was fulfilled in 31 A.D.” And now that teaching has crept into our church.  Ford teaches it, and there are many who are within our church who will not preach it but in their hearts they believe that 31 A.D.  took care of everything; that the heavenly, the earthly, that the people were all cleansed in 31 A.D. What do we do?

Look at Rom.  5:11 and look at the grammar, the verb.  This is not talking about 1844 A.D., it is talking about the cross.  The context is clear:

We rejoice because we have now received the atonement.

I’m not saying that.  The Bible is saying that.  We have an answer but I want you to wrestle with this problem.

Please turn to Romans 8 and verse 34.  I am giving you answers that you will get back from our fellow Christians.  I will not answer the question here.  I just want to expose you.  We have a problem that we have to deal honestly with.  Romans 8:34 says that He died for us and is at the right hand of God making intercession.  That is applying His blood — before the Day of Atonement.

By the way, the goat which was sacrificed on the Day of Atonement which cleansed the Sanctuary also points to the cross.  Because Christ did not die again in 1844.

The first time we came under fire was from the Danish theologian by the name of Kirkegaard.  He came up with one of our Danish ministers.  Because, you see, the Christian Church takes the position that both the goats on the Day of Atonement represent Christ.  We take the position that only the Lord’s goat represents Christ.  On the Day of Atonement, what is placed on Azazel? The sins of the believers or the unbelievers.  The believers. This is what Kirkegaard says, “If ultimately Satan bears the sins of the believers then ultimately we are making Satan our sin bearer, therefore we are making him our saviour.”

What do we do with that? I want you folks to read and study.  I have no problem.  I have wrestled with this for a long time but we have to face this issue.

They say to us, “Can’t you understand that Satan is not our sin-bearer?” Whichever way you look at it there are problems.  Because if you say that the scapegoat is Satan, then you have to face their charge, “Can’t you see that you are making Satan the saviour of the believers?” And if you say, “No,” they will say, “Boy, you need your head examined.” We have to be honest.  The only thing that I want to make clear to you is verse twenty-three of Hebrews nine.  When you read Heb.9:23 does it seem clear to you that both the earthly and the heavenly sanctuaries need cleansing? Is it clear to you? At least we have one text that backs us up.

But Paul doesn’t explain why it needs cleansing because Hebrews doesn’t deal with that.  The Jews did not have a problem.  The Jews believed that the sanctuary had to be cleansed.  In fact the cleansing of the sanctuary was the most important feast day for the Jews, even today, Yom Kippur.  So it is not a Jewish problem.  It is our problem.  Is that clear? So we don’t find the answer in Hebrews.  All we find in Hebrews is that it does say that both the earthly and the heavenly sanctuary need cleansing.

The only difference is that you cannot use the blood of bulls and goats to cleanse the heavenly sanctuary because the blood of bulls and goats doesn’t have the power to cleanse.  That blood is only a type or a shadow.

We must use verse 23 as a statement of fact.  Even though it doesn’t explain why and how, it does make it clear that, just like the earthly sanctuary was cleansed, the heavenly sanctuary had to be cleansed. Did the sacrifices of the earthly sanctuary cleanse the earthly sanctuary? Did they really cleanse the sanctuary? Symbolically, yes, but really, no. That is why Paul says it had to be done again and again.  If they had cleansed it you would not have to repeat it.  Now going to verse 24 we read:

For Christ is not entered into the holy places [that is the earthly sanctuary] made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; [that is of animals] For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The word “world” here means the “age.” Please remember that here the word “world” is not the best translation.  Because to Adventists the end of the world is the end of the physical world when it will be destroyed.  Whereas when Paul uses the word “age,” it means “the period.”

When did God give the promise of salvation? When did He give it to the human race the first time? It was to Adam and Eve.  Then He repeated it to Noah.  He repeated it to Abraham and so on.  When was that promise fulfilled? At the cross.  That is the end of the age.  The promise came to an end.

But now once [the word “once” means only one sacrifice] in the end of the age hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Did the cross put away sin? The text says so.  If there is any doubt the last part makes it clear.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;

When did He bear our sins? On the cross.

And unto them that look for Him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

What did he mean by the phrase, “without sin”? He will not deal with the sin problem any more when he comes the second time.  He will come the second time to bring salvation.

If you omit verse twenty-three it is very hard to prove from the book of Hebrews the cleansing of the sanctuary.  But verse twenty-three makes it clear that there is a cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary that has to take place.  The basis of atonement is always the cross.  The Lord’s goat, which was sacrificed on the Day of Atonement, points to the cross.

“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster.  In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, [including the Day of Atonement] from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.” Gospel Workers, p.  315.

Then what is taking place after 1844? What has to be cleansed if sin has already been taken care of? You wrestle with that folks, because this is an area where we have to try and find a solution.  One of the reasons that many Adventists are scared to witness is because they will be bombarded with questions that they cannot answer.  And I want to give you an answer. But first I want you to wrestle with the issue.  I want you to put yourself in the shoes of our Evangelical Christians and see how they look at this.

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