The first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place to conduct that worship here on earth.
There were two rooms in the tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand and consecrated loaves of bread upon a table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then came a curtain, and behind the curtain was a second room called the Most Holy Place. Here were a golden altar for incense and the ark of the covenant, which overlaid with gold. Inside the ark were a golden jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, whose wings stretched out over the place of atonement – but we can’t discuss such things in detail at this moment.
When all these things were in place, the priests entered the first room on a regular basis as they went about their duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and that was only once a year. When he entered, he had to take blood to offer as a sacrifice for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed through ignorance. The Holy Spirit thus shows us that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not open as long as the tabernacle was still in use. This is an illustration for the present time, showing that the gifts and the sacrifices which the priests offered weren’t able to cleanse the consciences of the people who brought them. They were merely a matter of food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies – external regulations which only applied until the new order was established.
When Christ came as high priest of all the good things that have come, he has entered that greater, more perfect tabernacle which wasn’t made by human hands and isn’t part of this created world. He didn’t enter with the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the Most Holy Place with his own blood – once and for all – to secure our eternal redemption!
The blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer, were sprinkled on people to cleanse their bodies from ceremonial impurity. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts which lead to death, so we can serve the living God!
Because of this, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, so that who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. For Christ died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
When someone leaves a will, it’s necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, for a will is only put into effect after the person has died. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect. So that is why even the first covenant wasn’t put into effect without the blood of animals. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll of the law, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God commands you to keep.”
In the same way, he sprinkled blood on the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, under the law, nearly everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
That’s why the tabernacle and everything in it – which were merely copies of things which are in heaven – had to be purified by the sacrifice of animals, but the real things themselves had to be purified with better sacrifices. For Christ didn’t enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. No, he entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he didn’t enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of animals, for, if that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again since the creation of the world. But now, once and for all, he has appeared at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once to take away the sins of many. And he will come a second time, not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation to all those who are waiting for him.