Hebrews 8:1-5 | True Tabernacle


True Tabernacle


Hebrews 8:1-5

Key Verse 8:1


“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”


Our Christian faith is a glorious faith because of who we worship, and because of what He whom we worship has done for us. But even more than what He’s done for us, we can never ignore or forget Who it is whom we worship. We worship the Son of God— the Christ— the God Man— the Savior— our Great High Priest in heaven. We talk about this fact because it’s a fact. We believe it by faith. But even more, we need to see it with the eyes of our hearts as clearly as we see the sun shining in the skies. Actually this is how the author begins this chapter when he says these words: “What we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest.” Of course, he will be talking in details about the three things associated with the priesthood, the offerings— the tabernacle— and the covenant. But emphatically he tells us: “We do have such a high priest.”


“Now” the apostle says, “The point of what we are saying is this.” But before we see his summary here, let’s see what had he been saying? He had just been telling us that our Lord Jesus forever lives to intercede for us who draw near to God through him. He also told us that our Lord the High Priest meets all our needs, since he is different from all the other high priests who ever came before him. He is Holy and blameless and pure and set apart from sinners and he is exalted above the heavens. And look what he’s done for us in his Person and sacrifice. He gave himself for our sins and became the source of our perfection. Who is like our Lord Jesus, the perfect God Man who alone can save us completely! There is none in heaven or on earth like him. Those who trust him and put their faith in him are forever blessed.


Now read verse 1. “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” This is the apostle’s main point, that we actually do have such a wonderful high priest. He does not say that we had such a high priest or that some day we might have one like that, but that we do actually have such a high priest presently, right now. Now, why is this so significant? Because it has to do with inner security and stability. When a child knows that his or her parents are with them, they are stable and feel secure at heart. They have no fear of anything and they are usually anxious about nothing. In fact they have peace and security, even if they are surrounded by bullies. This world is a dangerous place for the children of God. It is full of evil things and fraught with dangers and pitfalls. And our Lord Jesus told us clearly: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Who among us believes the Lord and can rest at peace, secure and without fear in a world like this? I think only those who actually believe they have such a high priest. Only those who have this kind of faith and assurance. The words: “We do have such a high priest” are not a teaching, as much as they are in fact “a living active faith”!


However, the apostle doesn’t stop with these words. He tells us what kind of high priest we have. Look at verse 1 again. “Who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” And that’s not the first time we hear these beautiful words? Hebrews 1:3 says: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. The glory and Majesty of our Lord Jesus are beyond our human comprehension. We have such a high priest who has accomplished his salvation work, who has conquered death, who has purified sinners and who has taken his place at the right hand of God as he had been promised. (1:13; Psalms 110:1) Now he reigns alongside the Sovereign God awaiting the day of his return to subdue his enemies. This is the kind of High Priest we have in heaven interceding for us, watching for us. The apostle’s point here is very clear, and we must not forget it for he tells us: “We do have such a high priest”.


Our Lord Jesus is seated in heavenly glory at the right hand of God. In other words, he reigns from heaven. Yet his reign is very distinctive. The way he rules us is special. The apostle continues to tell us how Jesus is fulfilling his role as our High Priest in heaven. Read verse 2. “And who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Now this verse is very interesting because it teaches us many things. First of all it tells us that although Jesus is seated in glory, he is not idle. Actually he is actively serving. He is serving his role as a priest. This is really remarkable. Who would imagine that in the glory and majesty of heaven, even after having served with all his earthly life without end, Jesus our Lord would still be serving! But he is! I cannot begin to imagine that I understand the nature of our Lord’s servantship in heaven beyond his intercessory role. But the incredible truth is that our Lord remains servant amazes and awes us and humbles us greatly! Actually he is the one who taught us the glory of servantship. (Matthew 18:4; Matthew 23:11) Without a heart that bears to serve, we cannot say that we really know the Lord nor really love him.


Another thing this verse tells us is where the Lord is serving. He is serving at the sanctuary in heaven. A sanctuary is a holy place, a place set apart for communion with God. As we discussed before, God is holy and no one may approach God except those who are holy. I haven’t been to heaven yet, but the sanctuary in heaven is where God is, and I can assure you it’s the holiest and purest place in all existence. No human being can ever come close to that sanctuary. Only holy angels of God are allowed into his presence. And of course the Son of God, Jesus came into his presence because he was the sinless Son of Man, who offered his blood on the altar at the sanctuary to purify humanity from sin and make us holy so that we too can come into the presence of God as well. But that’s not the point here. The point here is that Jesus serves at this sanctuary in heaven, at this holy place in heaven in the presence of God. This is where he serves. No other person in heaven or on earth earned the right to serve at the holy sanctuary except Jesus Christ our Savior— the High Priest of Heaven. He earned that right by his own sacrifice.


There’s another thing that this verse also tells us which is very interesting. It paints a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus who serves at the heavenly sanctuary. Look at the picture the apostle paints of the Lord himself. Read verse 2. “And who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” This verse carries on from verse 1, and is in reference to the Lord Jesus and not to the sanctuary itself. He calls Jesus the “true tabernacle”. Why? Mainly because the tabernacle was the place of worship where, the tent of worship where the people of God came to meet with God in his sanctuary, in his holy place. So the apostle called Jesus the true tabernacle. Why? Is it because there was a false tabernacle? Not really. The truth is before Jesus came and gave his life for our sins, and became the “true tabernacle”, there was the moving tabernacle (what the book of Hebrews calls a shadow tabernacle) which God allowed his people to have set up where he could meet with them and wash their sins so that he might commune with them. First it was set up in the desert when they came up out of Egypt, then it moved to Jerusalem when the temple was built.


What are we talking about here? We’re talking about history. When God liberated his people Israel from slavery in Egypt, they were still most sinful, rebellious, wicked, immoral, unholy. God wanted to have a relationship with them but there was no way to do so because he is a holy God and they were sinners. So, that’s where the tabernacle and the sacrificial system came in.


Read verses 3-5. “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” What we read here is very basic and limited. But it will have to suffice. What the author is doing here is contrasting the earthly priests and their services at the earthly sanctuary with the heavenly priest Jesus and his services at the heavenly sanctuary. His point is that Jesus is superior, since he serves at the heavenly sanctuary. But I will take this opportunity to explain to you the difference between the “true tabernacle” set up in heaven by the hands of God versus the shadow tabernacle set up on earth by the hands of men.


[Verse 5 is critical to our understanding of this whole reality. It looks like when God wanted Moses to build a tabernacle on earth for the Israelites to commune with him, God gave him a pattern of the original in heaven, a copy or picture of the sanctuary in heaven where God dwells. It’s hard to imagine how this might be. But we cannot question something like this. God himself told Moses to copy what he saw exactly and Moses did as the Lord commanded him. And this— (See illustration*) It’s what came out after it was constructed. This is the earthly tabernacle which is what the author of Hebrews calls a shadow of the real thing in heaven. This is what the author tells us is only a copy of the “true tabernacle” who is Jesus himself. I’ll try to explain what this means shortly. But we might say that Moses, in seeing the sanctuary in heaven, saw a type of Christ. Again it’s hard to explain. This — (illustration*) is the earthly tabernacle though. The tabernacle in its beautiful simplicity reflects a type of Christ. The tabernacle was also called also a tent of meeting. It was divided into two compartments or rooms. The first compartment was called the holy place. And you’ll find in it three furnishings — The Golden Lamp stand (a type of Christ who is the Light of the World) — The Bread of the presence (a type of Christ who is the Bread of Life) and — The Golden Altar where the priests offered incense (reflecting Christ our Great Intercessor).


Then on the great Day of Atonement the high priest passed through the veil that separates the two compartments, the holy place from the most holy place, where you find within the Ark of the Covenant, a box made of wood and covered with gold inside and out. Within it you find the 2 tablets inscribed with the 10 commandments (reflecting Christ who fulfilled the laws of God in their fullness in perfection) — a pot of manna (reflecting Christ who is the bread of our life till this very day and every day)— and Aaron’s rod that’s budded (reflecting the resurrection of Christ). Covering the ark was the mercy seat, crowned with two cherubim of beaten gold. Once a year the high priest put blood on the mercy seat, symbolizing God’s dwelling place, the place where God met with the people of Israel and showed them mercy.]


Around the tabernacle was a court surrounded by a linen fence. In that outer court were two items of furniture, one was an altar where sacrifices were made for the sins of the people and the other was a bowl for cleansing for the priests to purify themselves since even priests are sinners. This is where the priests served and worshipped.


Nowadays we worship differently. We worship in spirit and in truth. We worship through prayer and the word of God, through repentance and the abundance of grace and mercy flowing from the throne of God who calls us to draw near to him boldly through the love of his Son. We worship through the Lord who loves us and who has shed his blood to make it possible for us to worship anytime and anywhere.


No one but the high priest was allowed to enter the most holy place behind the curtain and that only once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. But when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was torn in two meaning that the way to God was flung wide open for anyone washed in his blood to enter into God’s presence. The Lord is there in his heavenly sanctuary interceding for us. And there’s much more to know about him that we need to know. But we have to open the eyes of our hearts to see him that we may worship him.


If we had been in the wilderness desert with the people of Israel we would have seen the tabernacle in all its glory in the heart of the community of tribes surrounded by the thousands upon thousands of tents, gleaming in the sun, brilliant in its golden color, simple in its design. Yet we would be awed that the Lord God was right there in our midst. We would have seen the priests bustling here and there sacrificing praying offering in obedience to the Lord. We would have seen the pillar of smoke in the day and the pillar of fire at night, and we would have trembled. But in all that, glorious as it was, it was nothing but a tabernacle made by human hands, and a copy, only a shadow of what was real. The reality itself was in heaven. And the reality of things was and is and will always be the Christ.


What are we saying? We are saying that Jesus himself is the reality. Jesus is the one who said: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) He is the temple of God in which and through which we can worship God or even come close to God. He is the true tabernacle. The apostle tells us that the Lord of glory is the true tabernacle, the heavenly sanctuary in whom and by whom and through whom we worship God. He is our worship. He is the one in whom and through whom we are able to come into the presence of God. If we lose sight of this, we lose sight of what we are doing. How many people know this? How many Christians actually understand this? Many don’t. They say they worship Christ Jesus. But they do not live in his presence. Those who worship him live in his presence at all times. They see him on his throne in his sanctuary, and as they see him with the eyes of their hearts they also honor him every moment in their lives. Those who see him on his throne, who know they have such a high priest who has ascended the heavens, and who sits in glory at the sanctuary in heaven, honor him with their lives. They do not dishonor him when no one is looking. They do not behave in ways contrary to the gospel. They see the lord of glory and worship him night and day because the Lord is the true tabernacle. We are not perfect. We must take heart however, our Lord ministers for us at the sanctuary in heaven. He has made the throne of God a throne of grace and invites us to come with confidence because he is there. Yes we believe, even though our unbelief is great. So we need to pray “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) We need to come to the Lord by faith because “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) And you and I need to understand and substantiate that truth of the Lord’s presence as the true tabernacle in heaven and in our hearts and in our lives right here and now which only faith can do.

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