For the last couple of days, we’ve been talking about shadows and copies.
And essentially what we’ve been saying is that shadows and copies can show us pictures of reality. A shadow can give us a general idea of what a person looks like. A toy train which is modeled after the real thing can show us what a train can do.
But ultimately, they can’t do all that the real thing does. A shadow of a person cannot talk, listen, or touch anything. A toy train cannot transport live people from one place to another.
And so the writer of Hebrews tells us that while the tabernacle, gifts, and offerings were pictures of our relationship with God and what needed to happen in order for us to draw near to him, ultimately, they could not actually bring us into his presence.
In particular, the sacrifices and gifts offered to God could not clear our consciences before him. They were just temporary regulations that were put in place until the reality came (9:9-10).
What is the reality? Christ.
Christ came to this earth, and after dying on the cross for our sins, he entered the true tabernacle in heaven. But unlike the earthly priests, he didn’t offer the blood of goats and calves, but his own blood. And while the blood of goats and bulls could make things ceremonially clean, Christ’s blood can actually cleanse our consciences themselves and set us free from the penalty of sin. (9:11-15)
And because his blood shed on the cross was sufficient to do this, he only had to do it once, and after that he sat down at the right hand of God, his work of salvation complete.
The earthly priests, on the other hand, never really could rest from their work. Rather, they had to bring sacrifices endlessly year after year because the sacrifices of bulls and goats they brought were not sufficient to clear our consciences. All the sacrifices did was remind us of our sin and our need for forgiveness, the need for an ultimate sacrifice that would truly take away our sins (10:1-4)
But of Jesus’ sacrifice, the writer of Hebrews says,
He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (10:14)
And so though all the Old Testament sacrifices were at one time required as a picture of Jesus and his work on the cross to come, once Jesus came, saying, “Here I am…I have come to do your will, O God” (10:7), the old, imperfect sacrifices were set aside to make room for the one perfect sacrifice that could truly make us holy.
Now because of what Jesus has done, we have hope. The writer of Hebrews tells us,
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (9:15)
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (9:27-28)
Shadows and copies cannot give us the hope of eternal life. But in Jesus we have that hope. More, we have the hope that he will indeed return someday and bring our salvation to completion.
No, our hope is not in shadows and copies. Our hope is grounded in the reality that is Christ. So whenever we feel discouraged or without hope, let us always return our eyes to him, knowing that those who do will never be put to shame. (I Peter 2:6)