Hebrews 8-11 The Voice (VOICE)
8 So let me sum up what we’ve covered so far, for there is much we have said: we have a High Priest, a perfect Priest who sits in the place of honor in the highest heavens, at the right hand of the throne of the Majestic One, 2 a Minister within the heavenly sanctuary set up by the Lord, not by human hands.
3 As I have said, it is the role of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices to God, so clearly this Priest of ours must have something to offer as well. 4 If He were on earth, then He would not be a priest at all because there are already priests who can offer gifts according to the law of Moses 5 in a sanctuary that is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary. We know this because God admonished Moses as he set up the tent for the Lord’s sanctuary: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I showed you on the mountain.”[a] 6 But now Jesus has taken on a new and improved priestly ministry; and in that respect, He has been made the Mediator of a better covenant established on better promises. 7 Remember, if the first covenant had been able to reconcile everyone to God, there would be no reason for a second covenant. 8 God found fault with the priests when He said through the prophet Jeremiah,
“Look! The time is coming,” the Eternal Lord says,
13 With the words “a new covenant,” God made the first covenant old, and what is old and no longer effective will soon fade away completely.
Jeremiah is known as the prophet of the new covenant. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Jeremiah heard the voice of God and saw what God had planned: a new day. A new law inscribed in the mind and written on the heart. A new and abiding knowledge of God. A new covenant where mercy runs deep and sins are forgiven and forgotten.
This hope of a new heart is found even in the midst of the Mosaic Covenant. Moses foretells the unfaithfulness of the people and also tells them of God’s promise to restore their hearts (Deuteronomy 30:1–10).
9 Even that first covenant had rules and regulations about how to worship and how to set up an earthly sanctuary for God. 2 In the Book of Exodus,[c] we read how the first tent was set aside for worship—we call it the holy place—how inside it they placed an oil lamp, a table, and the bread that was consecrated to God. 3 Behind a second dividing curtain, there was another tent which is called the most holy place. 4 In there they placed the golden incense altar and the golden ark of the covenant. Inside the ark were the golden urn that contained manna (the miraculous food God gave our ancestors in the desert), Aaron’s rod that budded,[d] and the tablets of the covenant that Moses brought down from the mountain. 5 Above the ark were the golden images of heavenly beings[e] of glory who shadowed the mercy seat.
I cannot go into any greater detail about this now. 6 When all is prepared as it is supposed to be, the priests go back and forth daily into the first tent to carry out the duties described in the law. 7 But once a year, the high priest goes alone into that second tent, the most holy place, with blood to offer for himself and the unwitting errors of the people. 8 As long as that first tent is standing, the Holy Spirit shows us, the way into the most holy place has not yet been revealed to us. 9 That first tent symbolizes the present time, when gifts and sacrifices can be offered; but it can’t change the heart and conscience of the worshiper. 10 These gifts and sacrifices deal only with regulations for the body—food and drink and various kinds of ritual cleansings necessary until the time comes to make things truly right.
11 When the Anointed One arrived as High Priest of the good things that are to come, He entered through a greater and more perfect sanctuary that was not part of the earthly creation or made by human hands. 12 He entered once for all time into the most holy place—entering, not with the blood of goats or calves or some other prescribed animal, but offering His own blood and thus obtaining redemption for us for all time. 13 Think about it: if the blood of bulls or of goats, or the sprinkling of ashes from a heifer, restores the defiled to bodily cleanliness and wholeness; 14 then how much more powerful is the blood of the Anointed One, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice to God, purifying your conscience from the dead things of the world to the service of the living God?
15 This is why Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant: through His death, He delivered us from the sins that we had built up under the first covenant, and His death has made it possible for all who are called to receive God’s promised inheritance. 16 For whenever there is a testament—a will—the death of the one who made it must be confirmed 17 because a will takes effect only at the death of its maker; it has no validity as long as the maker is still alive. 18 Even the first testament—the first covenant—required blood to be put into action. 19 When Moses had given all the laws of God to the people, he took the blood of calves and of goats, water, hyssop, and scarlet wool; and he sprinkled the scroll and all the people, 20 telling them, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded for us.”[f] 21 In the same way, he also sprinkled blood upon the sanctuary and upon the vessels used in worship. 22 Under the law, it’s almost the case that everything is purified in connection with blood; without the shedding of blood, sin cannot be forgiven.
In chapter 9 we are reminded that what is most real, what is most true, is the unseen reality. The writer tells us that the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, was merely a copy or shadow of another place, the heavenly temple. Whatever took place in this shadowy temple could not change the realities of alienation from God, sin, and death.
Every year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would don his priestly garb and enter the most holy place in the temple. His task was profound, his duty dangerous: he must appear before God carrying the sins of his people. All the sins of Israel were concentrated in him as he carried the blood of the sacrifice into the divine presence. But there was another day, a Day of Atonement unlike any other, when Jesus concentrated in Himself the sins of the world, hanging on a cross not far from the temple’s holiest chamber. Indeed, for a time, He became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). But unlike the high priest, the crucified and risen Jesus entered the true temple of heaven and was ushered into the divine presence. At that moment, everything changed.
23 Since what was given in the old covenant was the earthly sketch of the heavenly reality, this was sufficient to cleanse the earthly sanctuary; but in heaven, a more perfect sacrifice was needed. 24 The Anointed One did not enter into handcrafted sacred spaces—imperfect copies of heavenly originals—but into heaven itself, where He stands in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 There He does not offer Himself over and over as a sacrifice (as the high priest on earth does when he enters the most holy place each year with blood other than his own) 26 because that would require His repeated suffering since the beginning of the world. No, He has appeared once now, at the end of the age, to put away sin forever by offering Himself as a sacrifice.
27 Just as mortals are appointed to die once and then to experience a judgment, 28 so the Anointed One, our Liberating King, was offered once in death to bear the sins of many and will appear a second time, not to deal again with sin, but to rescue those who eagerly await His return.
He who embodied the sins of the world carries His own blood into the holy presence.
10 We have seen how the law is simply a shadow of the good things to come. Since it is not the perfect form of these ultimate realities, the offering year after year of these imperfect sacrifices cannot bring perfection to those who come forward to worship. 2 If they had served this purpose, wouldn’t the repetition of these sacrifices have become unnecessary? If they had worked—and cleansed the worshipers—then one sacrifice would have taken away their consciousness of sin. 3 But these sacrifices actually remind us that we sin again and again, year after year. 4 In the end, the blood of bulls and of goats is powerless to take away sins. 5 So when Jesus came into the world, He said,
Sacrifices and offerings were not what You wanted,
8 Now when it says that God doesn’t want and takes no real pleasure in sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings (even though the law calls for them), 9 and follows this with “See, I have come to do Your will,”[h] He effectively takes away the first—animal sacrifice—in order to establish the second, more perfect sacrifice. 10 By God’s will, we are made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus the Anointed once and for all time.
11 In the first covenant, every day every officiating priest stands at his post serving, offering over and over those same sacrifices that can never take away sin. 12 But after He stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for sins for all time, He sat down in the position of honor at the right hand of God. 13 Since then, He has been waiting for the day when He rests His feet on His enemies’ backs,[i] as the psalm says. 14 With one perfect offering, Jesus has perfected forever those who are being made holy, 15 as the Holy Spirit keeps testifying to us through the prophet Jeremiah. After he says,
16 “But when those days are over,” says the Eternal One, “I will make
then He adds,
17 I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory
18 When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make an offering for sin.
19 So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. 20 He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. 21 Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.
The word translated “church” in English Bibles means literally “assembly of the called”; it implies that members have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives. We assemble because we are called into being by God Himself. Some people, for reasons only they know, choose to live their Christian faiths in isolation. When they do, they cut themselves off from the gifts, encouragement, and vitality of others. And perhaps, just as tragically, they deprive the church of the grace and life God has invested in them.
26 Now if we willfully persist in sin after receiving such knowledge of the truth, then there is no sacrifice left for those sins— 27 only the fearful prospect of judgment and a fierce fire that will consume God’s adversaries. 28 Remember that those who depart from the law of Moses are put to death without mercy based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.[l] 29 Just think how much more severe the punishment will be for those who have turned their backs on the Son of God, trampled on the blood of the covenant by which He made them holy, and outraged the Spirit of grace with their contempt. 30 For we know the God who said, “Vengeance belongs to Me—I will repay,”[m] also said, “The Eternal One will judge His people.”[n] 31 It is truly a frightening thing to be on the wrong side of the living God.
32 Instead, think back to the days after you were first enlightened and understood who Jesus was: when you endured all sorts of suffering in the name of the Lord, 33 when people held you up for public scorn and ridicule, or when they abused your partners and companions in the faith. 34 Remember how you had compassion for those in prison and how you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession. 35 Remember this, and do not abandon your confidence, which will lead to rich rewards. 36 Simply endure, for when you have done as God requires of you, you will receive the promise. 37 As the prophet Habakkuk said,
In a little while, only a little longer,
39 My friends, we are not those who give up hope and so are lost; but we are of the company who live by faith and so are saved.
11 Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. 2 It was by faith that our forebears were approved. 3 Through faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God; everything we now see was fashioned from that which is invisible.
Faith begins as hope and indeed is unseen; so many doubt that it is real. What follows is the proof that faith is a reality that can be trusted.
4 By faith Abel presented to God a sacrifice more acceptable than his brother Cain’s. By faith Abel learned he was righteous, as God Himself testified by approving his offering. And by faith he still speaks, although his voice was silenced by death.
5 By faith Enoch was carried up into heaven so that he did not see death; no one could find him because God had taken him. Before he was taken up, it was said of him that he had pleased God. 6 Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking.
7 By faith Noah respected God’s warning regarding the flood—the likes of which no one had ever seen—and built an ark that saved his family. In this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham heard God’s call to travel to a place he would one day receive as an inheritance; and he obeyed, not knowing where God’s call would take him. 9 By faith he journeyed to the land of the promise as a foreigner; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, his fellow heirs to the promise 10 because Abraham looked ahead to a city with foundations, a city laid out and built by God.
11 By faith Abraham’s wife Sarah became fertile long after menopause because she believed God would be faithful to His promise. 12 So from this man, who was almost at death’s door, God brought forth descendants, as many as the stars in the sky and as impossible to count as the sands of the shore.
13 All these I have mentioned died in faith without receiving the full promises, although they saw the fulfillment as though from a distance. These people accepted and confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on this earth 14 because people who speak like this make it plain that they are still seeking a homeland. 15 If this was only a bit of nostalgia for a time and place they left behind, then certainly they might have turned around and returned. 16 But such saints as these look forward to a far better place, a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God because He has prepared a heavenly city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when he endured God’s testing, offered his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. The one who had received God’s promise was willing to offer his only son; 18 God had told him, “It is through Isaac that your descendants will bear your name,”[p] 19 and he concluded that God was capable of raising him from the dead, which, figuratively, is indeed what happened.
20 By faith Isaac spoke blessings upon his sons, Jacob and Esau, concerning things yet to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed the sons of his son Joseph, bowing in worship as he leaned upon his staff.[q]
22 By faith Joseph, at his life’s end, predicted that the children of Israel would make an exodus from Egypt; and he gave instructions that his bones be buried in the land they would someday reach.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw that he was handsome; and they did not fear Pharaoh’s directive that all male Hebrew children were to be slain.
24 By faith Moses, when he was grown, refused to be identified solely as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose instead to share the sufferings of the people of God, not just living in sin and ease for a time. 26 He considered the abuse that he and the people of God had suffered in anticipation of the Anointed One more valuable than all the riches of Egypt because he looked ahead to the coming reward.
27 By faith Moses left Egypt, unafraid of Pharaoh’s wrath and moving forward as though he could see the invisible God. 28 Through faith, he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of blood on the doorposts among the Hebrews so that the destroyer of the firstborn would pass over their homes without harming them. 29 By faith the people crossed through the Red Sea as if they were walking on dry land, although the pursuing Egyptian soldiers were drowned when they tried to follow.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho toppled after the people had circled them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab welcomed the Hebrew spies into her home so that she did not perish with the unbelievers.
32 I could speak more of faith; I could talk until time itself ran out. If I continued, I could speak of the examples of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, of David and Samuel and all the prophets. 33 I could give accounts of people alive with faith who conquered kingdoms, brought justice, obtained promises, and closed the mouths of hungry lions. 34 I could tell you how people of faith doused raging fires, escaped the edge of the sword, made the weak strong, and—stoking great valor among the champions of God—sent opposing armies into panicked flight.
35 I could speak of faith bringing women their loved ones back from death and how the faithful accepted torture instead of earthly deliverance because they believed they would obtain a better life in the resurrection. 36 Others suffered mockery and whippings; they were placed in chains and in prisons. 37 The faithful were stoned, sawn in two,[r] killed by the sword, clothed only in sheepskins and goatskins; they were penniless, afflicted, and tormented. 38 The world was not worthy of these saints. They wandered across deserts, crossed mountains, and lived in the caves, cracks, and crevasses of the earth.
Stories of faith and faithfulness are central to the First Testament. The writer of Hebrews recalls some of the most memorable examples of how people of faith lived their lives. But what is faith? Faith is more than belief; it is trust, assurance, and firm conviction. Ironically most of those who lived by faith never fully realized the promises God had made. Like us they journeyed as strangers and exiles, longing for another country. We should remember their patient faith when we face prolonged hardships and allow the trials we face to strengthen our faith rather than destroy it. If we are comfortable here and don’t face suffering for our faith, perhaps we aren’t fully living by faith and looking forward to a future hope.
39 These, though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. 40 That promise has awaited us, who receive the better thing that God has provided in these last days, so that with us, our forebears might finally see the promise completed.
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