The ceremonies and sacrifices of the tabernacle did not destroy the effects of sin.
The first covenant provided both regulations for worship and a place for worship. The place for worship was an earthly sanctuary. Earthly did not suggest any feature displeasing to God. It pointed out that the tabernacle was material, imperfect, and temporary.
If the old sacrifices could not bring common people to God, what good were they? These gifts and sacrifices were imperfect and temporary. They were imperfect because they were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. Some Old Testament saints had clear consciences, but they did not get them through the sacrificial system.
The sacrifices were temporary because they applied only until the time of the new order. Even though the sacrifices could not cleanse the conscience or produce spiritual life, they pointed to Christ who could. The regulations under the old covenant were only regulations for the body. They provided ceremonial purity. The food, drink, and washings had beneficial effects for the body, but they could not bring liberty to the spirit. Only Christ can do this.
Jesus offered a remedy for sin which cleansed the conscience, offered forgiveness, and never needed repetition.
Why did Christ have to die? The author answers with two illustrations. The first is from secular law. A person’s will becomes effective only when he dies. Christ died to put his will or testament, the new covenant, into effect (vv. 16–17). The second illustration is from divine law (vv. 18–23). A blood sacrifice of a higher order was necessary to seal the new covenant. Christ made that sacrifice with his own blood.