Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
The author of Hebrews has thus far been showing how Jesus is superior to the angels, to Moses, and the Levitical priests. Now he continues his argument to show that the ministry of Jesus is superior to that of the Old Testament ministers, whose work in the earthly temple is far surpassed by the ministry of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary. There is a ″true tabernacle″ in heaven ″set up by the Lord″ himself (Hebrews 8:2), in the very presence of God on His throne. Jesus serves as our High Priest in this heavenly tabernacle and what He does there has substantial and eternal consequences for us. He sits at the right hand of the Father, a position of the highest honour, authority, and power (v. 1).
What then about the earthly tabernacle where the Levitical priests went about their ministry? Made according to God's instructions (Exodus 25:9, 40), the earthly tabernacle (and temple) was a ″copy and shadow of what is in heaven″ (Hebrews 8:5). One is a shadow while the other is the substance; the difference between, say, a photograph and the actual person. The ministry of Jesus in the heavenly tabernacle is superior to that of the priests in the earthly tabernacle. One is based on the new covenant (with ″better promises″, v. 6). The other has already been made redundant. The author's argument is that if there was nothing wrong (or inadequate) with the old covenant, then there would be no need for a new and better one (v. 7). The implication is clear. Who Jesus is (the Son of God), where He is ministering (in the heavenly tabernacle), and what He has done for us (He offered himself as a once for all sacrifice that need not be repeated because of its absolute efficacy) show that there is no one like Jesus-He is our one and only High Priest, in whom God's promises have found full expression.
Normally, outside the Bible, the Greek word sunthēkē is used for the idea of covenant-an agreement between two parties, whether it is in a marriage or a pact between two countries. But here a different word is used-diathēkē-meaning not an agreement but a will.36 The new covenant God makes with us in Christ is not an agreement between equals (indeed, neither was the old covenant between God and Abraham), but one made solely by the testator (the author of the will). The other party has no right to change the will, only to accept or reject it. We approach God through Christ on God's terms, never our own.
36Barclay, ″The Letter to the Hebrews″, 91.
The writer of Hebrews says that the temple was merely a pale reflection of the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 8:5). How would this have persuaded his readers to stay with Christ? How does this persuade you about the ministry of Jesus?
We approach God through Christ on God's terms, never our own. What implications does this have for you?