Originally published 7/18/2010.
Hebrews 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
To sum up: Jesus is our High Priest, Who sits at the right Hand of God the Father in Heaven. God sits upon His Throne, therefore God the Son is also upon the Throne. Sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, simply means that God the Father has given all things to the Son.
Joseph, who rode in Pharaoh’s second chariot (he was Pharaoh’s right-hand man), was ruler over all the land of Egypt. “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:43-44). Joseph is a type of Christ and this passage in Genesis explains what Paul1 is saying in this verse in Hebrews. Christ has dominion over all creation (Matthew 28:18, Luke 10:22, John 3:35, Psalm 110:1, etc.). Only in the Throne is the Father greater.
Hebrews 8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
As our High Priest, Christ ministers in the true Holy Place, which is in the True Tabernacle, which is in Heaven. Moses built the earthly tabernacle; it was built with human hands. The True Tabernacle was not built with human hands, but is the creation of the Almighty. Of course, we as believers are stones in that True Tabernacle (1 Corinthians 3:16 , 1 Peter 2:5). All of the things that Moses fashioned for his tabernacle were mere shadows of the true things in Heaven.
Hebrews 8:3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
Earthly high priests had to offer gifts and sacrifices and because the earthly tabernacle was a shadow of that which is in heaven. Therefore our Eternal High Priest must also have something to offer. Of course He offered His Own blood, which is the blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20). Since His Own blood is the atonement, then that blood is an eternally effective atonement. Sitting at God’s right hand, He has offered, and continues to offer, atonement for us.
Hebrews 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Everything that God passed on the Moses was a shadow of things in Heaven. The utensils, the furniture, the buildings, the priestly garments, the law, the ordinances, etc., were either a shadow of things in Heaven, or a shadow of things to come, meaning they were fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Here the Apostle solely speaks of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, because he quotes Yehovah when He said, “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exodus 25:40, LXX). Moses was to fashion the things precisely as God told him to. He was to make no mistakes. This was important for it looked forward to the New Covenant. They had almost to be facsimiles of the things in Heaven. But since man is not perfect, and God is, it is impossible for men to fashion things exactly as God did. They had to match as closely as possible the things that are in heaven.
The same applies for the ministry of Christ. The Old Covenant was just a shadow of the New. The Old Covenant tried to emulate the atonement of Christ, but the blood of bulls and goats simply were not sufficient but just shadows of things seen through a glass darkly. They were copied as closely as man can copy things of perfection. But they were simply not perfect. The advent of Christ was the turning point.
Hebrews 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
The Old Covenant was not able to make eternal atonement for sins. Every year the high priest had to make a sacrifice for the entire nation. But the blood of Christ offers eternal atonement. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The Old Covenant was about the letter of the law. Break one law and you have broken them all. But the New Covenant is of the spirit of the law. The letter caused those who broke the law to be killed. The spirit of the law was that men will be blessed by the law. Yes blessed. But the law did not bless men; it were cursed them. God said that He would set a blessing and a curse before Israel. The blessing would come if the Israelites obeyed the law; the curse was for disobedience. Since they were not able to be obedient (for no man can obey the entire law all the time), the law was a curse to them. They did not keep the letter of the law and it became a curse. Through Jesus Christ, we receive His imputed righteousness, and therefore are not condemned by the law. Our belief in Christ brings His righteousness upon us, casting our sins into the depths of the sea and as far as the east is from the west. Our sins and transgressions are covered by Christ’s Own blood of atonement, rendering the letter of the law of no effect to us. Since Christ fulfilled the law, we are blessed by it through Him.
Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
But the covenant was not without fault because the men who were to keep it failed to do so. The fault is with mankind, not with God. God’s law is perfect and therefore faultless. The fault is in the sinful nature of men (our infirmity), who are not able to keep the perfect law of God. So it was not the law that was at fault, but the covenant. Two parties are required to make a covenant valid. Both sides must perform the covenant or it is void. God kept His part; men did not perform their part, making the Old Covenant a faulty one. So a New Covenant was required, the old one being void.
Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Verses 8-12 are a quotation of Jeremiah 31:31-34.
As we said in the last comment, men were at fault, and not God. Knowing that men would never be able to keep a covenant like the Old Covenant, God provided a new one that sinful man could keep. He could keep it because all of the performance was on Christ’s side of the covenant. Our side of the New Covenant requires no performance, only acceptance. We must believe that He is the Christ and that He is able to perform it. Because we believe Him, we are credited with His righteousness because of His atoning work on the cross.
What does God mean by a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah? Just what He said. If Israel and Judah will believe, they will receive the New Covenant. But what about the rest of us? Paul has made abundantly clear in Romans 11:30 that those who are Gentiles have obtained mercy through the unbelief of Israel and Judah. In that same chapter of Romans, Paul tells us that the Gentiles who believe are grafted into the rootstock that is Israel (Romans 11:17). In Galations 3:14, Paul tells the blessing of Abraham has come upon the Gentiles through Christ. Earlier in Galations 3:7 he tells us that all believers in Christ are the children of Abraham. So, believers are the children of God, adopted sons, the children of Abraham, and engrafted into the root of Israel.
I realize that this is not what most evangelicals teach today, but, nonetheless, it is a Biblical teaching. Most teach Dispensationalism, which maintains that Israel and church are forever distinct. But Dispensationalism is a doctrine manufactured to sanction the teaching of the pre-trib Rapture doctrine. (One day I will prove that statement in a study—I have already proved it to myself). Without Dispensationalism, the pre-trib rapture adherents have no supporting arguments. If the church is engrafted into the root of Israel, and Christians are the children of Abraham, and the adopted sons of God (Ephesians 1:5), then the doctrine of the eternal separation of Israel and the church cannot be true. See 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Hebrews 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
As we already discussed, men were not able to keep the Old Covenant because of their sinful nature. When they did not keep their part of the covenant (which was to obey the entire law all the time), God stopped taking care of them. He neglected them. He stopped attending to them and left them on their own.
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
The written law will no longer be the instrument of indictment and death. Those who are God’s people, that is, those who believe on Christ will have God’s law written on their hearts. They will know instinctively when they do wrong or right because the Holy Spirit resides in them. And they will know in their hearts that Yehovah is their God and they are His people. Though rendered ‘Lord’ here in the New Testament, in the original quote in Jeremiah 31:33 , it is rendered ‘LORD’, meaning Yehovah.
Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
The Septuagint uses politen from polites (πολίτης, G4177) in Jeremiah 31:34, from which this verse is quoted, where the KJV renders it ‘neighbor’, from plesion (πλησίον, G4139). Polites means citizen and plesion means neighbor. The Masoretic text uses rea’ (ריע, H7453), which can mean fellow citizen or neighbor or intimate friend. Aleph and B both use politen here in Hebrews. So how do we resolve this difficulty? First, I have some questions about Aleph and B and would prefer not to use either as an authoritative source. Therefore we must see how rea’ is rendered in other places in the KJV. It is rendered ‘neighbour’ or ‘neighbour’s’ (sic), 101 times and friend, 52 times. The closest it comes to fellow citizen is ‘fellow, fellows, or fellow’s’, and is thus rendered 3 times, one instance each. Here is the complete breakdown of how it is rendered in the KJV: neighbour, 74, friend, 28, neighbours, 26, another, 21, friends, 14, fellow, 8, companion, 3, anothers, 2, neighbours, 2, other, 2, brother, 1, companions, 1, companions, 1, fellows, 1, fellows, 1, lovers, 1, neighbours, 1.
Robertson follows the western texts with ‘fellow-citizen’, as do Vincent, and several rationalist commentators like Griesbach, and Rosemueller.
The Vulgate literally says ‘near man’ (vir proximum). This phrase is properly rendered ‘neighbor’. The Douay-Rheims, which is an English translation of the Vulgate, renders it ‘neighbor’.
Though I usually go with what the Septuagint says, this time I am going with ‘neighbor’. This is purely my opinion. I feel like neighbor is correct because of the things I have listed and because of the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus explained with the parable. A neighbor is someone that shows mercy on another (Luke10:36-37).
So everyone who was merciful to another in Israel would surely try to teach him about the law of God. But after the Advent, that is no longer necessary since God has written His law on the hearts of His people. Once a person becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit enters him and the person instinctively knows God and his precepts. From the greatest evangelist to the babe in Christ, all will know Him personally.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
A similar expression can be found in 1 John 2:12, “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” Jesus Christ is the propitiation that God has set forth for the forgiveness of our sins. If we believe on Him and in His shed blood, we have remission of our sins. When we are saved, God remembers our sins no more. They are gone absolutely and forever. Because of Christ, He has been merciful to our unrighteousness and He has forgiven our sins and remembers them no more.
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
The reason God calls it a New Covenant is that the Old Covenant, the covenant of obedience to the law, has lost its effectiveness. The covenant is no longer valid. It has passed away. Only the New Covenant exists in its place. The old sacrificial system had not yet passed away in Paul’s day. That happened in 70 AD when Jerusalem fell and was destroyed. That is why he said it was “ready to vanish away.” Since it has now passed away, the New Covenant has replaced it. We no longer need the old system as atonement for our sins. Now, when we believe in Christ, our sins are washed away and we are new creatures in Christ. Like Jesus told Nicodemus:
John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
- The reason I use “Paul” instead of “the writer of Hebrews” is explained in the preface to Chapter 1. If you disagree that Paul is the writer, please continue to read for I have no argument with you. As a scholar once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, love” (attributed to Augustine). ↩