13/11/16 Hebrews 8:1-6 “A real priestly ministry, no longer a shadow”


Hebrews 8:1Now of the things which we have spoken [this is] the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;


Now we get to where this argument has been heading for, especially in Ch 5-7.

sum – the chief or main point; the principal thing. It could also mean the whole argument now presented in a nutshell, as the saying goes, that is, a summary.

of the things which we have spoken – it is generally accepted that this is in the present tense, thus “of the things of which we are speaking”. Thus, “the summary (or the main point of) what we are saying is this”.


Ch. 5-7 have discussed in great detail the need for a change to the Aaronic priesthood (which had totally failed by this stage), and the need for a better priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Only a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek can answer the need now.

Now the need has been answered; there is, indeed, such a high priest as has been described, One who is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens (and synonymous with the One who was established as God the Son of God in Ch. 1). The writer has been establishing the reasons for the necessary change to the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, and now he identifies Jesus Christ, Son of God (established in Ch 1), through to being the Author of our salvation (Ch. 4), and now the only One who has the requirements and the authority to be our high priest after the order of Melchizedek.


Jesus has already been introduced as the high priest after the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:6 and 5:10, but at this stage of the argument the writer then declared them “dull of hearing”. They should have got the message then but they just weren’t getting the point of it all.

Hebrews 5:10-1110 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

Being Hebrews, they should have understood, but at this point the writer has determined that they need some extra remedial teaching on the state of their salvation before he can continue on with the theme of Melchizedek. He then gets back to the discussion of Melchizedek in the following:

Hebrews 6:19-2019 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, [even] Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.


Ch. 7 is then an in-depth study of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek leading toward the inescapable conclusion (according to the writer) that only Jesus Christ could fulfil the requirements of such a priesthood.

And now, in Ch. 8, we get to the point of defining the real priesthood of Christ (not merely a type as in the case of Melchizedek, and not just a shadow of things to come as was the Aaronic priesthood) – see Vs 5-6 later. Note that while we discuss the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, it is really the high priesthood that is involved here; only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies!


Hebrews 8:2A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.


That is, a priestly servant of the holy things, or of the holy place (the Holy of Holies)., The term could signify either the holy place or the most holy place, but context strongly favours the most holy place, the Holy of Holies where the high priest officiated on the Day of Atonement once each year.

minister – a servant of the temple; of a king; the officiating priest in the temple.


sanctuary – of things which on account of some connection with God possess a certain distinction and claim to reverence, as places sacred to God which are not to be profaned, Eg Holy of Holies.

This Greek word (hagion) is used in this form 11 times, all in Hebrews: “sanctuary” 4 times, “holy place” 3 times, “holiest of all” 3 times, “holiest” 1 time. However, “holiest of all” is only used twice; once (Hebrews 9:3) it uses the Greek word twice (hagion hagion), and the other time (Hebrews 9:8) it uses the Greek word once. (hagion is used 8 times alone in Hebrews Ch. 9. This emphasises the importance of the teaching on the holy place in this chapter.


Also note Hebrews 9:2-42 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein [was] the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein [was] the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;  

Thus, it could mean the sanctuary as in Hebrews 9:2, but here it clearly indicates the Holy of Holies – the most holy place. (The sanctuary was the place of service to God; the Holy of Holies was the place of God’s presence.) Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, once a year on the day of atonement with the blood of the sacrifice.


Leviticus 16:2; 13-142 And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy [place] within the vail before the mercy seat, which [is] upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that [is] upon the testimony, that he die not: 14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle [it] with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.


Vs 2 above is discussing the heavenly counterpart of the tabernacle of Moses in the desert; see the following:

Hebrews 9:12; 23-2412 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. 23 [It was] therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

Note that this sanctuary and tabernacle is built by God, not by man (note Moses Vs 5 further down).


true – that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine; opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended.  This word is used 3 times in Hebrews, generally signifying the real as opposed to the “shadow” or “imperfect” or “type”. Note:-

Hebrew 9:2424 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:


tabernacle – tent; tabernacle; a habitation; of that well known movable temple of God after the pattern of which the temple at Jerusalem was built.

Thus this is the real tabernacle or dwelling place of God, and not just a type or shadow of things to come as was the tabernacle in the desert.

pitched – fastened together; built by fastening together

Hebrews 3:1-41 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses [was faithful] in all his house. 3 For this [man] was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some [man]; but he that built all things [is] God.


The true tabernacle, the real one, is built by God, not by human hands.

Acts 7:47-5047 But Solomon built him an house. 48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven [is] my throne, and earth [is] my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what [is] the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things?

Acts 17:24-2524 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;


Hebrews 8:3For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore [it is] of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.


For if every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices, then it is necessary that for Christ to be ordained high priest, he should also have gifts and sacrifices to offer, in this case, Himself. A priest is one who offers sacrifices, usually on behalf of others. Thus one who doesn’t offer sacrifice shouldn’t be called priest.


Barnes makes an interesting point, but one I don’t agree with – If this idea that a priest must offer sacrifice be correct, then it follows that the name priest should not be given to any one who is not appointed to offer sacrifice. It should not therefore be given to the ministers of the gospel, for it is no part of their work to offer sacrifice - the great sacrifice for sin having been once offered by the Lord Jesus, and not being again to be repeated. Accordingly the writers in the New Testament are perfectly uniform and consistent on this point. The name priest is never once given to the ministers of the gospel there. They are called ministers, ambassadors, pastors, bishops, overseers, etc., but never priests. Nor should they be so called in the Christian church.

However, note 1 Peter 2:5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

This declares Christians as a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices. We are also required to offer the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) and to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).


The sacrifice offered by Christ is through His blood, a theme much dwelt-upon in Hebrews 9 (“blood” is mentioned 12 times) & Hebrews 10 (“blood” mentioned 3 times).

Hebrews 9:12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us].

Hebrews 13:20Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,


Hebrews 8:4For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:


If Christ were on earth, He would be bound to offer gifts (and sacrifices) according to the requirements of the law, and limited in scope by that very same law which was weak because of our mortality. The Levitical law required mortal men to be ordained priests in order to offer up the gifts and sacrifices required by the law, yet now the once-for-all sacrifice had been offered and there was no further sacrifice that would ever need to be made. This was a sacrifice that no mortal man nor any mortal priesthood could ever offer, the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Christ.

Romans 8:2-42 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


In particular, this refers specifically to the blood of the atonement.

Exodus 29:35-3735 And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all [things] which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them. 36 And thou shalt offer every day a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it. 37 Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.

Exodus 30:10And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it [is] most holy unto the Lord.


atonement – to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch; to pacify, propitiate;  to atone for sin, make atonement for; to cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites. In particular, it was used of the pitch covering on the ark. It was the blood that covered over the sins of Israel each year, covered but never removed, for it was impossible for the blood of animals to take away their sins.

Hebrews 10:4For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.


Now the final, perfect sacrifice had been offered for all sins for all time, once for all; this sacrifice, the covenant in Christ’s blood.

Luke 22:20Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup [is] the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.


Hebrews 8:5Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, [that] thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.


The mortal Levitical priesthood served the type and the shadow of things to come. But once the real replaced the shadow, the Levitical priesthood was no longer required. (Thus, Levi being returned to the list of 12 tribes in Revelation 7.)


example – a sign suggestive of anything; delineation of a thing; representation; figure; copy; example; pattern; imitation.

shadow – an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object; outline. It is like looking at a shadow without any details filled in.

pattern – in the technical sense, the pattern in conformity to which a thing must be made; an example to be imitated. The pattern of the earthly tabernacle was based upon the heavenly pattern. Thus the earthly tabernacle is a “type” of the real.


admonished of God – to give a response to those consulting an oracle; to give a divine command or admonition; to teach from heaven; to be divinely commanded, admonished, instructed; to be the mouthpiece of divine revelations; to promulgate the commands of God. It can have a variety of meanings, including “called” (Acts 11:26bAnd the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.), and “revealed” (Luke 2:26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.)

Thus “admonished” can simply mean to have been given instructions on what to do or how to do it.


Hebrews 8:6But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.


obtained – to reach; attain; obtain; get; become master of. Can mean “to hit the mark” as with a javelin or arrow, thus an opposite of “sin” which means to miss the mark with an arrow.

more excellent – different; varying in kind; excellent; surpassing. That is, the emphasis is upon it being different on account of its excellence. It is excellent, thus implying that the other ministry was different in that it was not excellent. It not only is more excellent, but this is reason to establish it as significantly different from the former ministry as discussed in Vs 5. The word “better” actually translates closer to the meaning of “more excellent”.

better – more useful; more serviceable; more advantageous; more excellent.

mediator – one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant.


ministry – from same root word as “minister” in Vs 2 above, thus a comparison may be made between the old and the new priestly covenants. A minister was the officiating priest in the temple, and his ministry was to carry out the priestly duties. This new priesthood (ministry) is a more excellent one, that is, it stands out as different from the old priesthood in that it is so much better (a word used twice in the 2nd half of this verse). Thus, the new priestly covenant is better because it is established upon better promises that can only be made because it no longer is limited by being just a shadow of what was to come.

It’s a bit like computer software: a trial copy usually has limits imposed simply because it is not the real thing. The limits can include a time limit, or a reduction of capabilities (that is, some features are not enabled), limits which can usually be removed by paying for the software. The trial software is merely a shadow of what you should get once you pay for it.


It’s interesting to note just exactly what a promise is or indicates. A promise is a commitment by someone to do or perform something. The strength of the promise is the level of commitment the one promising is prepared to demonstrate in order to give the promise value. A promise is usually only as good as the word of the one making the promise, whereas we have learned that if something stronger than a promise is required, then it must be sworn by an oath (something that acts somewhat as a guarantee of the promise). So the promise of a person who regularly lied would be relatively useless because you would need to trust the person making the promise in order to trust his/her promise. If you cannot trust the truthfulness of the one making the promise, then you cannot trust his/her promise.


The value of the promise, then, lies in the value of your trust in the one making the promise. If you trust that person, then you will trust his/her promises. Thus, in the case of God’s promises, our acceptance of His promises will depend upon our acceptance of His faithfulness in delivering such promises. Note 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Will God forgive us our sins if we confess them? If He is truly faithful to His promises, then He will forgive us our sins if we confess them.


What of Calvin’s “teaching” that God gives to some a temporary faith, an inferior operation of the Spirit (Calvin’s words!)? According to Calvin, such people may act the same as the elect, may even believe that they are indeed of the elect, and others of the elect believe that they are truly one with them. That is, they are indistinguishable from the real thing! For a temporary time they believe that God has indeed forgiven them their sins and thus they are saved; they believe they are one of those whom Jesus died for (according to the calvinist heresy of limited atonement). They believe that if they confess their sins, God is faithful to forgive them their sins. That is, until God “pulls the plug” on their “salvation”; they were never one of the elect in the first place and thus could never be saved to eternal life!


What then of God’s faithfulness? Is He faithful to forgive them of their sins only for a temporary time, only to withdraw His faithfulness when it suits Him, even if they continue to confess their sins? Or does He prevent such from being able to confess their sins once they have been removed from their temporary faith? (Calvinists believe also that God has pre-ordained all things including our free-will choices, from before the start of time. Does He then pre-ordain that they will cease desiring to confess their sins, after having pre-ordained that they should beforehand desire to confess their sins?)


If God were to even dilute just one of His promises such as the calvinists must believe, then He would be less than perfectly faithful. Because God is perfectly faithful, then He will never change one of His promises, ever. Thus the calvinist teaching of temporary faith is of a god who is less than perfectly faithful, thus not the God of the Bible. We may trust God’s promises as much as we trust Him. Our level of trust (= faith) in His promises indicates our level of trust in God Himself. And, this trust (= faith) is our personal response to the character of God. To lack such personal response would be to turn our trust (= faith) into a charade, a mockery of having faith in a God who, if He dictated our responses to His promises, could never be the sovereign God of the Bible. The strength of the promises of the calvinist god then is directly related to the strength of the trust (= faith) he engenders in his people for his promises. Their god sets the level of trust (= faith) like the volume on an amplifier. Thus, he can reduce the faith of many (the unelect) and increase the faith of others (the elect). Such a god is once again not the God of the Bible, who has arranged a better covenant which was established upon better promises!


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