A. Hebrews 8:1-5
- Transition from a temporary ministry of redemption to Jesus having obtained eternal redemption
- Transition from an old covenant ministry to a new covenant ministry
- And most importantly (by way of the central illustration), the laws pertaining to Levitical priests to enter through the first tent continually, with the high priest only entering the second tent once a year, was symbolic (literally "a parable" in Greek) of the unsatisfactory nature of the first (or "old") covenant ministry and the eventual need for a transition into a second, truly satisfactory ministry. Jesus entered through the greater tent to obtain, once for all time, eternal redemption, which the continual offering of Levitical priests could never accomplish. Therefore, Jesus accomplished a truly satisfactory ministry, and is truly the High Priest.
The most meaningful subdivisions are those of the center, for they treat the main subject matter: the sacrificial activity itself. The author recalls the old system of ritual separations… A sacred place has been established. It consists of a holy part, the “first” tent (9:2), and a “most holy” part (9:3), thought to be the dwelling place of God or “sanctuary”. The people are not allowed to enter in either for they do not have the “holiness” needed. The priests may enter into the “first tent” (9:6) which is like the way of access to the “sanctuary”, but they may not enter in to the latter. Only the high priest is authorized to do that, by reason of his special consecration, but even he functions under severe restrictions: he must limit his entrance to once a year, and the condition for entering is a sacrificial offering (9:7). The ceremony to which the author alludes is that of the Day of Expiation (Yom Kippur, Lev. 16), the high point of the Jewish liturgy.
The question which suggests itself is the mediation value of this solemn liturgy. From this depends the judgment to be given about the system as a whole. If an authentic relation is established with God, then the system is excellent. But if the contrary is true, then it can only constitute a provisional solution, one to be set aside as soon as a better one is found.
The “first tent”, unfortunately, was unable to provide access [to the dwelling of God]… A conclusion follows: “the way of the sanctuary was still not manifest as long as the first tent existed” (9:8).5
1. Albert Vanhoye, Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews [Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico; Roma Italia, 1989]p. 33
3. He has two great books on the subject of Hebrews: Albert Vanhoye, Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews [Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico; Roma Italia, 1989] pp. 36, 63-69, 92-95; and Albert Vanhoye, A Different Priest: The Epistle to the Hebrews [Convivium Press; Miami, Fl, 2011] pp. 225-258
5. Ibid. pp. 63-64