Hebrews 9 is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible that explains and applies the meaning of Christ’s death. It is filled with contrasts—the earthly with the heavenly, the temporal with the eternal, the old with the new, and many more. The Day of Atonement provides the backdrop in which the author explains how Christ’s death is better in every way. Let’s learn more about the work of our great High Priest with these notes from the CSB Life Connections Study Bible.

The Earthly Tabernacle

OPEN: Growing up, what was off-limits in your house?

2 For a tabernacle was set up, and in the first room, which is called the holy place, were the lampstand, the table, and the presentation loaves.

Hebrews 9:2

The tabernacle, a flat-roofed tent about fifteen by forty-five feet, had two curtains forming separate rooms (Ex 26). Priests entering the tabernacle through the first curtain came into the “holy place” where they carried out their daily functions. THE LAMPSTAND. A seven-branched lampstand (Ex 25:31-40) provided the only light in the otherwise dark tent. THE TABLE . . . PRESENTATION LOAVES. Twelve loaves of fresh bread were placed daily upon this table (Ex 25:23-30; Lv 24:5-9).

The Furniture

3 Behind the second curtain was a tent called the most holy place. 4 It had the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 The cherubim of glory were above the ark overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.

Hebrews 9:3-5

THE MOST HOLY PLACE. Behind the second curtain was a small (about nine by fifteen feet), dark, mysterious place reserved for God and, at special times, the high priest. Here God said he would meet Moses (Ex 25:22).

THE GOLD ALTAR OF INCENSE. This appears to have actually stood outside of the most holy place, but there is some ambiguity about it (Ex 30:1-10; 40:5; 1Kg 6:22). ARK OF THE COVENANT. A box in which were: (1) the jar of manna—a reminder of God’s care for the people during their time in the wilderness, (2) Aaron’s staff—a reminder of God’s election of his sons as priests, and (3) the stone tablets (the Ten Commandments)—a reminder of Israel’s covenant responsibilities.

THE CHERUBIM. Two winged statues, representative of the angelic protection of God’s honor, stood over the ark (Ex 25:18). GLORY. A reverent way of referring to God (1:3). THE MERCY SEAT. The top of the ark (Ex 25:17-22) upon which the high priest sprinkled blood on the Day of Atonement.

DIG DEEPER (vv. 1-5): Read Exodus 25:1-40 to learn about the original design for these different articles within the tabernacle and the temple. What were those articles intended to communicate about God? About the place where his name dwelt?

The Day of Atonement

7 But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing.

Hebrews 9:7-8

THE WAY . . . HAD NOT YET BEEN DISCLOSED. The entire setup of the tabernacle reinforced this point. The altar for sacrifice, where the people brought their sacrifices, was outside the tabernacle; directly in line with that, but inside the first curtain of the tabernacle, was the altar where only priests could go; behind that was the most holy place into which only the high priest could enter only on the Day of Atonement and only if he first offered a sacrifice for himself (Lv 16).

CONSIDER (vv. 1-10): What was the significance of “the second room”—the most holy place?

A Greater and More Perfect Tabernacle

11 But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:11-12

THE GREATER . . . TABERNACLE. In contrast to the temple worship, Jesus entered a “tabernacle” that is not a part of the sin-infected creation.

ONCE FOR ALL. The finality of Christ’s ministry stands in marked contrast with the ongoing cycle of sacrifices represented in the old covenant: Christ was sacrificed once for all (v. 26); he brought the blood of this sacrifice into God’s presence once for all (v. 21); his sacrifice secures the forgiveness of sins of his people once for all (10:10). ETERNAL REDEMPTION. The Day of Atonement brought freedom from ceremonial uncleanness, but, as time wore on, the people were again defiled and needed another act of redemption the following year. The liberation from sin that Christ has secured is, by contrast, spiritual and permanent.

An Outer Cleansing

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh.

Hebrews 9:13

THE BLOOD OF GOATS AND BULLS. A reference to the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement (Lv 16). ASHES OF A YOUNG COW. Israelites who were ceremonially defiled through contact with a dead body were cleansed by being sprinkled with water mixed with the ashes of a burned young cow. Without this cleansing, they could not worship at the tabernacle (Nm 19). PURIFICATION. Literally, “cleanness of the flesh,” set in opposition to the cleanness of the spirit (v. 14).

A Better Sacrifice

14 How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:14

HOW MUCH MORE. If the sacrifice of an animal could effect some change in a person’s standing with God, obviously the sacrifice of the royal Son of God would be far more effective. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Blood represents sacrifice and death. THE ETERNAL SPIRIT. Literally, “an eternal spirit.” This does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to Christ’s eternal nature (7:16). Because Christ himself is eternal in nature, the redemption he secured is likewise everlasting (9:12).

The phrase also contrasts the spiritual nature of Christ’s sacrifice to the fleshly nature of the old (v. 13). While they only ceremonially cleansed, the body, the new sacrifice, actually cleanses the conscience. WITHOUT BLEMISH. Sacrificial animals had to be of the best quality. What was true of them physically was true of Jesus morally. The old sacrifices cleansed a person defiled by contact with a dead body; the new sacrifice cleanses a person from a life of sin which leads to death.

CONSIDER (vv. 11-14): What point do these verses drive home? Why were these verses especially significant to Jewish Christians in the ancient world?

Mediator of a Better Covenant

19 For when every command had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you. 21 In the same way, he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the articles of worship with blood. 22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Hebrews 9:19-22

BLOOD OF CALVES AND GOATS. Several accounts in which blood is associated with covenant-making or cleansing are combined (Gn 15:9; Ex 24:1-8; Lv 14:6-7).

THIS IS THE BLOOD. This paraphrase of Exodus 24:8 would remind the readers of Jesus’s words as he instituted the new covenant (Mt 26:28).

WITHOUT THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD. This is the main point of the argument. Just as there is no inheritance from a will without a death, so the covenant promises cannot be fulfilled without a sacrifice. God accepts the death of the sacrifice in place of the deserved death of the sinner (Lv 17:11).

CONSIDER (vv. 15-22): What are the key images in these verses, and what do those images communicate? What are some possible reasons why blood is a necessary element in the forgiveness of sins?

FOR GROUPS (vv. 15-22): As an object lesson, bring a sealed package of raw meat to your group—be certain it is not leaking in any way. Pass the package around the group and encourage volunteers to share their reactions to seeing and holding flesh and blood.

Purification in the Presence of God

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us.

26 Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:24, 26-28

INTO HEAVEN ITSELF. Paul saw the ascension as the exaltation of Jesus (Php 2:9-10). This author, in keeping with the priestly theme, sees it as Jesus’s entry into the heavenly most holy place.

THE REMOVAL OF SIN. Literally, “to effect an annulment.” Christ not only brings forgiveness of sin but breaks its power.

APPEAR A SECOND TIME. Unlike the old high priests, Christ will not have to come again to bear sin yet another year. Instead, he will come to usher in the fullness of salvation.

CONSIDER (vv. 23-28): Why is Christ’s sacrifice superior to the sacrifices of the old covenant?

APPLY: How do you typically try to clear your conscience when you’ve done wrong? How will Christ’s sacrifice affect your life this week?

Connect the Bible to Your Life with the Life Connections Study Bible

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