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Lesson 5: Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary *

Introduction: In my youth I was taught the entire Bible, not just the New Testament. The Old Testament was about keeping the law, the New Testament was about Jesus. My impression was that the two testaments were much different. The Old emphasized salvation by works and the New emphasized salvation through Jesus. It was only later in life that I started seriously considering the Old Testament method for eliminating sin. It was not a series of works. You did not need to suffer in some way to make up for (atone for) your sins. Rather, an animal was killed to take away your sins. The Old Testament, like the New, taught the forgiveness of sins by a substitute death. This week our study is about what Jesus, following the Old Testament symbolism, is presently doing on our behalf to remove our sins. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible!

  1. The Melchizedeck Model

    1. Read Hebrews 7:1-3. What job positions did Melchizedek hold? (He was both a king and a priest of the true God.)

      1. Based on your knowledge of the Bible, how common is this? (It never happened among God's people. They were led by prophets until they demanded a king. Thereafter, the king was never a priest. In this way, God separated "church and state" among His people.)

      2. What do we know about this priest-king named Melchizedek? (Almost nothing outside his interaction with Abraham.)

      3. Do you think that Melchizedek literally, like Jesus, remains a priest forever? If so, we have two eternal priests, Jesus and Melchizedek! (Commentators believe, and I agree, that the writer of Hebrews merely means that, unlike the typical Levitical priesthood, we know virtually nothing about Melchizedek. We don't know his genealogy, when he was born or when he died. If this is not written symbolically then we have a new deity of some sort to which Abraham gave his allegiance!- never created and without end. That is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.)

    2. Read Hebrews 7:11-16. Why do you think the writer of Hebrews highlights Melchizedek? (The point is not to make Melchizedek a God, but rather to point out Biblical precedent for a "king-priest" who was not born out of the tribe of Levi. Although much of the comparison between Melchizedek and Jesus is symbolic, the writer's point is that Jesus is our King and our High Priest even though He was not descended from Levi.)

  2. Jesus Our High Priest

    1. Read Hebrews 7:26-28. What is the advantage over the Levitical High Priests of Jesus being our High Priest? (Jesus is not a sinful man. Jesus only needed to make one sacrifice on our behalf, the sacrifice of Himself.)

    2. Read Hebrews 8:1-2. What is Jesus doing right now? (He is serving as our High Priest.)

      1. Where is He doing this? (In heaven!)

    3. Read Hebrews 8:3-5. What do we learn about the design of the sanctuary in heaven? (It is like the sanctuary that God directed Moses to make.)

      1. How much are the two alike? (What we had on earth was a "shadow," but nevertheless a copy, of the sanctuary in heaven.)

        1. How long has a sanctuary been in heaven? (This suggests that it was in heaven when Moses was alive.)

          1. Why? The logical problem is timing: this is before Jesus died on our behalf. (The logical answer must be that the sanctuary in heaven serves more than the single purpose of Jesus' present work dealing with our sin problem. Exodus 25:8-9 gives us a hint about that. It tells us that God directed the creation of the sanctuary on earth so that God could dwell with us. Heaven's original may also be God's dwelling place.)

    4. Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How much better is Jesus' present work on our behalf? (Jesus offers Himself on our behalf, which will "cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the Living God.")

      1. What stands out to you in that section I just quoted? (I like that my conscience is now clear - it has been cleansed. My path is no longer the one leading to death. This allows me to serve God.)

  3. Covenant Work

    1. Read Hebrews 9:15. This refers to Jesus dying for our sins under the "first covenant," but says that He is the Mediator "of a new covenant." A covenant is a contract, do we have a new contract? If so, what terms have changed?

    2. Let's examine this new covenant a bit more. Read Hebrews 8:10-12. What is the timing for this? (Verse 10 simply says, "after that time." It refers back to the time of the first covenant. Because Hebrews tells us that Jesus is currently mediating the new covenant, it must also include now.)

      1. We are told that God will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. We are also told that we don't need people like me - teachers! What does this mean? (Primarily, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power fulfills this role. See, John 16:7-13. If this time period has no end, then it may also refer to heaven, where God makes us new so that we no longer have a sinful fallen nature.)

    3. Read Hebrews 10:1-4. Do you recall that we read (Hebrews 8:5) that the sanctuary on earth was merely a "shadow" of the sanctuary in heaven? What other shadow do we find here? (The law is a "shadow" of the good things to come.)

      1. What is that "good thing?" (Our current covenant - Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary offering Himself for our sins.)

      2. Study carefully what these verses say the law could not do, but which it suggests our new contract can. Does the new arraignment make us "cleansed once for all [time]?"

    4. Read Hebrews 10:11-14. My mental picture about Jesus' work has been that He is in the sanctuary every day mediating for us. What do these verses make clear? (Jesus' work is not like that of the human priests. Jesus made "one sacrifice for sins" and then "He sat down at the right hand of God." He now "waits for His enemies to be made His footstool." The One who created the universe by speaking has finished His work on our behalf.)

      1. Several times in this study I've referred to Jesus being in heaven and mediating on our behalf. Is this wrong, since these verses tell us that Jesus offered "one sacrifice" and now is sitting down waiting? Should we say that Jesus is currently "waiting," not mediating on our behalf in heaven? (A couple of points are clear. Jesus' one sacrifice is sufficient. I know that I keep sinning and I'm not the only one. The application of Jesus mediating work continues in some way.)

    5. Re-read Hebrews 10:14. What does "made perfect forever" mean? Does it mean that our current and future sins are forgiven, and Jesus is truly waiting rather than mediating? Isn't that sense reflected in Hebrews 10:2? (Two things: First, the focus in these texts is on the character of the High Priest and the nature of the sacrifice. It is not on the nature of the humans seeking atonement for their sins. However, the second consideration is that the text plainly says that sinners are being made "perfect forever." On balance, I think the "perfect forever" refers mainly to the lasting power and perfection of what Jesus has done. Otherwise, the line from the Lord's Prayer "forgive us our sins" ( Luke 11:2) would make no sense as a regular prayer. It would only need to be said once.)

      1. Why does Hebrews 10:14 go on to refer to us "being made holy?" (Jesus saved us by His life, death, resurrection and heavenly High Priest work. It is righteousness by faith alone. Righteousness by faith makes us perfect for salvation because God considers Jesus' righteousness, not ours. However, the Holy Spirit works with us every day to move us forward on the road to holiness. Our lives are deemed perfect, but they need improvement.)

  4. Confidence

    1. Read Hebrews 10:19-22. How many illusions to the earthly Day of Atonement do you see? (One of the most important is that we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place. Leviticus 16:2 tells us that if the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place (behind the curtain) whenever he wanted, that he would die. We do not need to fear death.)

    2. Read Hebrews 10:23-25. How should this confidence in your salvation affect your life? Should you decide that it does not matter how you live? (It should spur us "on toward love and good deeds.")

      1. Does that make sense to you? If you are "made perfect" isn't the natural result to care less about your actions? (Read Hebrews 10:26-29. When we consider the terrible sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, we will be motivated to reject sin.)

    3. Friend, Jesus paid a terrible penalty for your sins. His sacrifice and His work in the heavenly sanctuary give you eternal life. Show respect and gratitude for what Jesus has done. Decide right now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to live a life in accord with God's will.

  5. Next week: The "Change" of the Law.
* Copr. 2018, 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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