Limitation in The Earthly Sanctuary

The great attorney, orator, and statesman, Daniel Webster, was such an imposing figure in court that he once stared a witness out of the courtroom. Apparently Webster knew the man was there to deliver false testimony, so he fixed his “dark, beetle-browed” eyes on th … More

Conscience

No book in the New Testament focuses upon Christ-like the book of Hebrews does. Only two chapters in the Bible are devoted to the creation story, whereas some fifty chapters focus on the tabernacle. This ninth chapter of Hebrews describes the Tabernacle and its sacrifices and regulations in rather close detail (vv. 1-28). A description of the Tabernacle is that it was one hundred fifty feet long and seventy-five feet wide. Its single gate, on the east side, was thirty feet wide and seven and a half feet high. Just as there was only one entrance to the Tabernacle, there is only one way to God (vv. 1-10). This chapter also presents a detailed contrast between the Old Covenant sanctuary (the tabernacle) and the New Covenant (heavenly sanctuary) where Jesus Christ now ministers (vv. 11-15). This contrast makes it clear that the New Covenant sanctuary is superior.

The ceremonies associated with the tabernacle was governed by rules that pertained to the outer man, but that could not change the inner man (vv. 1-5). The Tabernacle worship, with the bread, the incense, the offerings, the altars etc. was kind of a religious play enacted to teach the people what was going on in their inner life (vv. 6-8).

The conscience of the person making the sacrifice was never freed from the feeling of guilt because the guilt itself was never removed (v. 9). These Old Testament sacrifices were never meant to cleanse from sin, but only to symbolize such cleansing (v. 10). The cleansing was entirely external. The sacrifices pictured Christ, but they could never do the work of Christ. Only Christ’s sacrifice could provide internal cleansing and bring freedom from the guilty conscience.

Application

How would I describe the state of my conscience? How can I have a clear conscience? (I John 1:9). Cleansing my conscience cannot be done by some external ceremony; it demands an internal power.

Hebrews 9:1-10 (English Standard Version)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

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