Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.
A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.
Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,
which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.
But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.
This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.
They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
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.
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it,
because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.
When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.
He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep."
In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.
Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
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.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.' "
First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made).
Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second.
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,
because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.