Sunday, 9 December 2018
…a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. Hebrews 8:2
Here we have words which are debated among scholars. Further, translations are just as confusing concerning the proper rendering of certain words. First, the thought in this verse is connected to the previous verse, so they should be seen together –
“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”
We see now that Christ is “a Minister.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is often used when speaking of an officiating priest. Corresponding to that, Christ is our High Priest. It is He who officiates on our behalf. Next, it says that this ministry is “of the sanctuary.” The Greek word is a plural noun. It can speak of either a place, meaning the Most Holy Place, or it can speak of the holy things of the tabernacle. In the case of the Most Holy Place, the plural is given as a majestic plural, so some translations say “the Holy of Holies.” It is a title of eminence.
It is the Most Holy Place which is being spoken of here, rather than the holy things. In the Old Testament, there was a mishkan, or tabernacle, which was then covered by the Tent of Meeting. The two are not synonymous. Christ is a minister of the tabernacle where the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place are located. And that is where the “true tabernacle” is. Again, there is a missing of the true intent. It should say, “the true Tent.” The Greek word is skéné. It signifies a tent. Translations of the Old Testament are often not consistent in the translations of these two things, and so there is a confusion when coming into New Testament terminology. Remembering that the Tent covers the Tabernacle will help one understand the symbolism. One can think of the Oval Office in the White House as the tabernacle, and the White House itself as the tent. One is inside the other.
What is seen in the Old is a representation of what was coining in Christ. It pictures His two natures; humanity and deity. The tabernacle was hidden from sight, enclosed in the tent. Christ’s deity was hidden, enclosed in His humanity. At times, such as in Numbers 14, the radiance of His deity would shine forth –
“And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting unto all the children of Israel.” Numbers 14:10 (ERV)
This is akin to the glory of the Lord radiating out from Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. And so what we are seeing here is the ministry of Christ, in the heavenly realms. He is the minister within the Godhead (His deity) which is in His Tent (meaning His glorified body) “which the Lord erected, and not man.” Though Christ’s humanity came through Man, what He now ministers in is glorified and not an earthly body. This is what is also promised to those who follow after Him as is noted by Paul –
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
There, Paul uses the term skénos, a tent. Our house shall be a tent which is, like Jesus, not made with hands, but is provided for by God. It will be an eternal dwelling where we can fellowship with God, because of Christ, forever.
All of this symbolism is derived from shadows and pictures in the Old Testament concerning what was coming in Christ in the New. We can only speculate on the nature of the meeting which took place in the Most Holy Place between Moses and the Lord when he went in to receive the law. However, we can know certain things. In Exodus 25, the Lord told Moses –
“And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:22
Then, in Numbers 7 we read –
“And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the mercy-seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim: and he spake unto him.” Numbers 7:89 (ERV)
Also in Exodus, we read this –
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34, 35 (ERV)
God really did manifest Himself between the cherubim which overshadowed the ark. There He spoke with Moses directly. Later, His presence really was manifest in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle – so much so that Moses could not enter the tent at all. God’s presence was manifest at only a small point above the ark, and yet His glory radiated so much that it made Moses’ face shine, and it also actually overwhelmed the priests who ministered in the temple in Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 8:10, 11). Imagine the glory which radiates from the heavenly tabernacle where Christ Jesus now ministers on our behalf.
Life application: Understanding theology properly is hard work. It is mentally tiring at times, but it is necessary to understand what is being said. Very particular words are used in books like Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. They are words which are often mistranslated. They are also left unread and unstudied by many people, and so we then have misunderstandings of what is going on in the New when explanations about Christ are given. But those explanations, as we see, bear directly on what we will also be like when we receive our glorified bodies. Too often, people run ahead with their notions about our future state, and they miss the finer points which are actually discussed in type and shadow in the Old Testament. Be studious, pay attention to even the hard books of Scripture, and your doctrine will be far better off because of it.
How absolutely awesome You are, O God of eternity! We truly praise You for Jesus – He alone is able to stand and minister in Your glorious presence, interceding for us. On our own, we would simply perish at the sight of Your Majesty. Surely, You are worthy of praise for the giving of Christ Jesus so that we could have Your glory revealed to us through Him, while He ministers to You for us! Hallelujah and Amen.