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Sabbath School Lessons on Hebrews
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 6: Sanctuary Language in Hebrews *
Introduction: "What was that all about?" Have you ever asked yourself
that question? Many years ago a church member discussed with me my
understanding of a Bible text. She wanted to convince me I had
reached the wrong conclusion about the text. She started out
describing her father and what an important man he had been in the
church. At the time, I could not grasp what the reference to her
father was all about. Her father had nothing to do with
understanding the Bible text. Later, when I reviewed the entire
conversation in my mind, I realized that her point about her father
was that he was an important man and therefore she was also
important. I should consider her opinion more valuable now that I
knew the identity of her father. The writer of Hebrews has a "what
was that all about?" question for us this week. He asks us to
contemplate the "big picture" of the sanctuary service of the Old
Testament and consider "what that was all about?" Let's dive in and
see what we can learn!
- First Covenant
- Read Hebrews 9:1. What was the "first covenant?"
- What clues are we given as to the meaning or identity
of the first covenant? (One clue is that it involved
an earthly sanctuary. The second clue is that it had
regulations for worship. This leads me to conclude
that the "first covenant," the writer of Hebrews has
in mind, is the sanctuary service system in which sin
was forgiven upon the shedding of animal blood. See
generally 2 Chronicles 2:4.)
- Is there a "second covenant?" ( Hebrews 9:15 refers to
a later covenant, a "new covenant." Hebrews wants us
to turn our attention to the first covenant.)
- Read Hebrews 9:2-5. What is being described here? (The
earthly sanctuary which was part of the first covenant.)
- Why does Hebrews describe the compartments and the
furniture of the earthly sanctuary and then say (v.5)
"but we cannot discuss these things in detail now?"
Why discuss them at all if the details are not
- I've known people who cannot tell a simple
story. Any story they tell is filled with
irrelevant details. Do you have friends who can
only tell you a story if they add a bunch of
- Have you ever told a story and provided lots of
details that did not seem to be relevant until
you got to the end of your story? At the end,
did your listeners understand the relevance of
the "irrelevant" details?
- In Hebrews 9:5 we are told that the details
about the furniture and the compartments are not
"the point" that should most concern us. If they
are not the point, what importance do you think
the compartments and the furniture have to the
story? (They must be teaching us some sort of
lesson about the heavenly sanctuary. Otherwise,
the writer of Hebrews would not go into so much
detail to remind us of the earthly sanctuary.)
- Holy Spirit's Lesson
- Read Hebrews 9:6-8. This develops the idea that the
details of the earthly sanctuary service were intended to
teach us something. Who is teaching us this lesson?
(Verse 8 tells us the Holy Spirit is using the sanctuary
and its service as a teaching device for us.)
- Think about verse 7. We are told that only the High
Priest could enter the presence of God (the Most Holy
place) and he could only do so once a year. What
strikes you as being important or unusual about that?
(The limited access to God jumps out at us. One
person had direct access to the presence of God and
that was for a very limited period of time.)
- What does verse 7 tell us is the reason for this
annual visit? (Forgiveness of sins for the High
Priest and for the people.)
- What would you say was the primary purpose of the
sanctuary and its service? (It was a system for
approaching God and obtaining the forgiveness of
- We started our discussion of this section by saying
that the Holy Spirit was teaching us something
through the sanctuary service. What do you think we
are supposed to learn from that service? (The entire
sanctuary system was a parable of Jesus' past and
present work for us. It was a prophecy of Jesus'
death on our behalf (as the sacrificial offering),
and it was a prophecy of Jesus' present work in
heaven as our High Priest. This is an amazing and
logically compelling argument for Christianity. This
is a very significant logical point when discussing
Jesus with observant Jews. The question to those who
understand the Old Testament sanctuary service is:
"What was that all about?" The answer is "It was
about Jesus." It was about the better way of
eliminating the sin in our lives.)
- Hebrews 9:8 tells us that "the way" into the Most Holy
compartment "had not been disclosed" until the temple was
destroyed? How do you explain that? (Once the temple was
destroyed, the Jews no longer had a method by which sin
could be forgiven. How could the great God of heaven allow
such a situation (the destruction of the temple) to occur?
It should have caused the average Jew to ask "What is
going on?" Asking that question should bring the answer
that the temple service on earth ended when its symbolism
was fulfilled in the death of Jesus. In that way the
destruction of the earthly sanctuary "disclosed" Jesus.)
- Now that we see that the Old Testament sanctuary
service was a prophecy about Jesus, let's go back and
briefly look at the "details" in Hebrews 9:2-5. What
do you think is the prophetic meaning or symbolism of
- The two compartments of the sanctuary? (Our new
access to the presence of God through our new
High Priest, Jesus. Instead of one man having
access one day a year, we have constant access
to and through Jesus.)
- The lamp stand and lamp? (See Revelation 21:23.)
- The bread? (See Matthew 26:26.)
- The manna? (See John 6:49-51.)
- The covering angels? (See Revelation 5:11-12.)
- The Ten Commandments? (See Matthew 5:19.)
- The incense? (See Revelation 5:8.)
- I think you can see that all of these
items are directly related to Jesus or to
His heavenly ministry.
- Read Hebrews 9:9-11. We previously discussed the main
purpose of the Old Testament sanctuary service. Verse 9
seems to lead us in a different direction. What does this
suggest was the purpose of the sanctuary system? (We had
previously discussed that the sanctuary system was a way
to separate the people from their sins. This suggests that
the only purpose of the Old Testament sanctuary service
was as an illustration of the future in Jesus.)
- Read Hebrews 9:13. Notice that this verse and verse
10 speak of "externals" -- being "outwardly clean."
What does it mean to be "outwardly clean?"
- How does that fit into our idea that the
sanctuary service on earth was essentially
symbolic? (Cleaning on the outside is just for
show, it is for others to see. Something that
is truly clean is also clean inside. Jesus will
completely separate us from sin.)
- Notice again the reference in verse 11 to the perfect
temple that is not man-made. What temple is this?
(This could only refer to the temple in heaven.
Recall that we learned in an earlier lesson that the
earthly sanctuary was patterned after a sanctuary in
heaven. This is further proof that the earthly
sanctuary service was symbolic of something much
- Together Again
- Read Hebrews 9:14. What is the purpose of this entire
system that is fulfilled through Jesus? ("That we may
serve the living God!" A gulf was opened between God and
man when Adam and Eve sinned. By cleansing us from sin,
Jesus closes that gap between God and humans who choose
Him. This allows us once again to become true servants of
- Read Hebrews 9:15. This new relationship with God is
called the "new covenant." How long will our new
relationship through the work of Jesus last? (Eternally.
It is the "promised eternal inheritance.")
- Friend, if you had any doubt that Jesus was the promised
Messiah, the prophetic symbolism of the sanctuary service
erases all reasonable doubt. The sanctuary service points
unmistakably towards Jesus who died on our behalf for the
forgiveness of our sins. The sanctuary service that was
on earth gives us an insight into the current work of
Jesus, our High Priest, in the heavenly sanctuary. Will
you accept Jesus as your Savior today? Will you invite Him
to intercede on your behalf in the heavenly sanctuary?
- Next Week: Jesus and the Covenant.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.