Hebrews 8:1-3… The main point in what we are saying 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, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that he too have something to offer.
After making his biblical argument from the OT concerning Jesus Christ being the true High Priest who intercedes on behalf of all believers in chapter 7, the author sums up his main point beginning in 8:1. The “main point” in v. 1 is literally “summary” in the Greek text. The author models a wonderful pattern for arguing truth and application in his letter. He first makes his point through the Scriptures, then he summarizes his point to make application. So what the Scriptures teach is of primary importance to the author. They have the final say in all matters.
And the summary of the author’s teaching for his immediate audience was that they would benefit naught by going back into Judaism by abandoning their faith in Christ. They were pondering a return to the priesthood in Israel (at that time the temple in Jerusalem was still functioning), but the author revealed to them that they already had a High Priest in Jesus Christ. His dwelling place, however, was not in Jerusalem but in a superior place – “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” Whereas the Jewish high priest sought God’s forgiveness on behalf of his own sins and of the sins of his people in Israel on earth in a temple made with human hands, Jesus acquired God’s forgiveness once and for all and reigns in heaven at God’s right hand. The author seemed to be asking, “Now which do you think is better?”
The temple in Jerusalem was one that was built by human hands. It was a beautiful structure by all accounts, and because its dimensions were given by God, it was perfect from a human point of view. But human hands are sinful and imperfect in God’s eyes, and any priest who serves in such a temple is also imperfect and weak. But Jesus doesn’t intercede on man’s behalf from a temple made by human hands. He intercedes and reigns as King while sitting at the right hand of “the Majesty in the heavens.” His sanctuary (holy place) is in heaven where he is a “minister” – a Greek term that means “a servant with special duties who cares for another.” Heaven is God’s dwelling made by God Himself, so unlike man-made temples God’s realm is perfect. And Jesus Christ sat down there, meaning that his work of redemption was complete.
Now as a servant of God’s people in heaven Jesus is like the Jewish high priest in some respect. Whereas the high priests offered “both gifts and sacrifices,” Jesus, as Priest, must “also have something to offer” (v. 3). Now Jesus’ sacrifice and atoning work for sin is fully complete through his perfect blood sacrifice, but since he can do no less than the Jewish high priest who always offered something, Jesus too is a ministering priest. What does he offer? Well, since he has no need to offer blood sacrifices he is only offering “gifts.” But these gifts are important for believers. Priests in Israel offered gift offerings (grain offerings) which represented loyalty, commitment, and praise to God. Christians do no less when they offer their worship to God through the sacrifice of praise, and Jesus ministers (serves) these offerings of praise to God on our behalf. This was the role of the priests, and it is the role of our Great High Priest – Jesus.
Food for Thought
There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). He is our Great High Priest who accepts our worship and mediates it before our Father. No other can do so, only Jesus, for he alone is qualified. So offer up your life as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). It is worship that is mediated by Jesus the Son then received by God the Father.
Hebrews 8:4-7… 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; 5 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.” 6 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. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
The superiority of Christ’s priesthood prevents him from mediating inferior sacrifices and gifts in the inferior temple in Jerusalem. This is why he reigns as Priest while at the right hand of God the Father. Verse 4 says, “if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all,” for Christ does not offer gifts “according to the Law” (v. 5). The Law, the priesthood, and the entire Old Covenant of Moses served merely as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” But since Jesus is the substance he is superior to the shadow. He is the Priest, not the picture of the priest as the Levitical priests typified. It’s no wonder God allowed the temple to be destroyed in AD 70. When the substance came and accomplished God’s perfect will the shadow and copy of things no longer had any use. This is why God allowed Jerusalem and its temple to be ransacked.
A shadow has no substance and cannot exist apart from the substance. It exists as evidence of the real thing. A copy can be more specific, for it fully reflects what it represents. But if it’s a contract it won’t hold up in a court of law. Only the real thing is acceptable; a copy will never do. Now the tabernacle that Moses set up in the wilderness during the 40 years of wanderings Israel endured was a shadow and a copy of the heavenly things (cf. Ex. 25). It reflected the real thing, the heavenly one where the Father dwelt and where the Son mediates as Priest. The Aaronic priests performed their priestly duties in the copy of the heavenly tabernacle on earth that God instructed Moses to make. Each item that went into the tabernacle had great significance, but they were mere shadows and copies of what Jesus fully embodied.
Verse 6 begins with good news: “But now…” This little phrase shows that the past was inferior, and the future is superior. The inferior past with shadows and copies has been done away with in favor of the substance – the real thing named Jesus Christ the Messiah. His ministry of service is “more excellent” because he is the “mediator of a better covenant… enacted on better promises.” While it was Moses who mediated the first covenant of the Law on Mt. Sinai (Gal. 3:19-20), Jesus is the mediator of the better covenant. Of course a mediator is one who stands between two people or two groups, and both Moses and Jesus did this. Both stood between God’s people and gave them something, but Jesus’ mediation is better.
The covenant being spoken of here is another quote and prediction from the OT (Jer. 31:31-34). Once again the author told the Jews to look at their own Scriptures for proof that the superior was coming. The Jews then, as now, have only to look at the inferiority of the Law to see that something better is needed. And that better covenant came with their Messiah, Jesus.
Food for Thought
The OT reflects and teaches many things. It’s about a covenant between God and Israel. They were to obey His Law and offer atonement for sins when they failed. Each intricate detail, however, served as a mere copy and shadow of what was to come. Unfortunately, Jews today continue to miss this truth. Their own Bible tells them about the new covenant, but they cling to the inferior old covenant of works. But then again, so do all other religions apart from grace.
8:1 Κεφάλαιον δὲ ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις, τοιοῦτον ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα, ὃς
Summary but on the being said (PPPtcp), such we have (PAI) high priest, who
ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θρόνου τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν τοῖς
sat (AAI) in right of the throne of Majesty in the
οὐρανοῖς, 2 τῶν ἁγίων λειτουργὸς καὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθινῆς, ἣν
heavens, of the holies servant and of the tent the true, which
ἔπηξεν ὁ κύριος, οὐκ ἄνθρωπος. 3 Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν
erected (AAI) the Lord, not man. Every for high priest into the to offer (PAIn)
δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας καθίσταται· ὅθεν ἀναγκαῖον ἔχειν τι καὶ τοῦτον ὃ
gifts both and sacrifices is appointed (PPI); from where necessary to have (PAIn) some also this what
προσενέγκῃ. 4 εἰ μὲν οὖν ἦν ἐπὶ γῆς, οὐδʼ ἂν ἦν ἱερεύς, ὄντων τῶν
he might offer (AAS).
προσφερόντων κατὰ νόμον τὰ δῶρα· 5 οἵτινες ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ
λατρεύουσιν τῶν ἐπουρανίων, καθὼς κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσῆς μέλλων
ἐπιτελεῖν τὴν σκηνήν· ὅρα γάρ φησιν, ποιήσεις πάντα κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν
δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει· 6 νυν[ὶ] δὲ διαφορωτέρας τέτυχεν λειτουργίας,
ὅσῳ καὶ κρείττονός ἐστιν διαθήκης μεσίτης, ἥτις ἐπὶ κρείττοσιν
ἐπαγγελίαις νενομοθέτηται. 7 Εἰ γὰρ ἡ πρώτη ἐκείνη ἦν ἄμεμπτος, οὐκ
ἂν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος.