Now in that first covenant between God and Israel, there were regulations for worship and a sacred tent here on earth.
There were two rooms in this tent. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and loaves of holy bread on the table. This was called the Holy Place.
Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place.
In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing some manna, Aaron's staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant with the Ten Commandments written on them.
The glorious cherubim were above the Ark. Their wings were stretched out over the Ark's cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain all of these things now.
When these things were all in place, the priests went in and out of the first room a regularly as they performed their religious duties.
But only the high priest goes into the Most Holy Place, and only once a year, and always with blood, which he offers to God to cover his own sins and the sins the people have committed in ignorance.
By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the Most Holy Place was not open to the people as long as the first room and the entire system it represents were still in use.
This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them.
For that old system deals only with food and drink and ritual washing -- external regulations that are in effect only until their limitations can be corrected.
So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world.
Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever.
Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement.
Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
That is why he is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.
Now when someone dies and leaves a will, no one gets anything until it is proved that the person who wrote the will b is dead. c17
The will goes into effect only after the death of the person who wrote it. While the person is still alive, no one can use the will to get any of the things promised to them.
That is why blood was required under the first covenant as a proof of death.
For after Moses had given the people all of God's laws, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God's laws and all the people, using branches of hyssop bushes and scarlet wool.
Then he said, "This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you." d21
And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the sacred tent and on everything used for worship.
In fact, we can say that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified by sprinkling with blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.
That is why the earthly tent and everything in it -- which were copies of things in heaven -- had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.
For Christ has entered into heaven itself to appear now before God as our Advocate. e He did not go into the earthly place of worship, for that was merely a copy of the real Temple in heaven.
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the earthly high priest who enters the Most Holy Place year after year to offer the blood of an animal.
If that had been necessary, he would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But no! He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us.
And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment,
so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)