CHRIST AS MINISTER OVER THE TRUE TABERNACLE
One of the things that Hebrews makes abundantly clear is that the Old Covenant cultus was “a shadow of good things about to come” (Hebrews 10:1-3). That means that the Old Covenant world itself, epitomized by the Temple, priesthood, sacrifices, etc. was only typical, anticipatory, and a shadow of the ultimate realities that Messiah was to bring. This singular fact is a major Achilles Heel of the modern dispensational world.
Millennialism insists that Israel was and remains God’s determinative purpose. This is patently contradictory to the message of Hebrews. Notice Hebrews 8:1-2: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” Notice also Hebrews 9: 23-24: “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
The writer’s emphasis on Christ’s service as High Priest, in the heavenly realm, as taking place in the “true tabernacle” and his statement that the Mosaic institutes were mere “copies of the things in the heavens” has incredible significance. For brevity, we can only list a few of the more significant implications of the writer’s emphasis on Christ’s heavenly service as “true.”
1.) The contrast is not between true and false, but between shadow versus reality. It is the contrast between mere anticipatory prophecy and fulfilled prophecy!
2.) Christ’s spiritual and heavenly service was what was anticipated, i.e. foretold, by the foreshadowing of the Old Covenant. Now, if Christ’s service in the heavenly, true tabernacle is the fulfillment of what the old system foreshadowed, it is clearly false to claim, as do the millennialists, that the church, as the temple of God, was no where predicted in the O. T.! And if Christ was serving in the true temple in the first century, how could any other temple be the true temple? Be sure to read my two articles on Acts 4 and the Messianic Temple. The writer of Hebrews knew nothing of a “truer, more perfect temple” beyond the one in which Jesus was already serving as priest!
3.) The writer’s emphasis on Christ sitting “at the right hand of the majesty on high” echoes Psalms 110, one of the most cited Messianic kingdom prophecies. Messiah was to serve as king and priest seated at the right hand! So, for the writer of Hebrews to claim that Jesus was seated at the right hand of the majesty, this meant he was on the throne, as promised, and he was serving as priest. But, he was not serving as priest over some interim, unknown, un-anticipated, un-predicted second rate temple! He was, and is, serving as priest in the true tabernacle! He was serving in “the true tabernacle” and this can only mean that he was serving in the temple foretold, and anticipated by the prophets of old. Well did Paul say “the end of the ages has come upon us” (1 Corinthians 10:11), meaning literally “the goal of the previous ages has arrived!”
4.) Zechariah 6:12-13 said that the Messiah king would rule as both king and priest on his throne. Hebrews 8:1-2, in asserting that Jesus was already at the right hand of the majesty on high, and serving as priest, brings the three key constituent elements of Zechariah together in one verse! This tells us that since Jesus’ service as king and priest was a present reality, in the true tabernacle, in other words the predicted Messianic temple, that the kingdom was very much present–thought admittedly awaiting its consummate victory (Hebrews 12:25-28), when Hebrews was written!
5.) The writer’s emphasis on the “true tabernacle,” and statement that the old temple was only a shadow, falsifies any idea of a restored literal temple! If the earthly Solomonic temple, with all of its resplendent glory was a mere shadow and copy of the true temple in which Jesus was then serving, how could it ever be argued that any other physical, earthly temple could surpass the true, heavenly tabernacle? Jesus himself– as Zechariah said Messiah would– was constructing the spiritual temple over which he was ministering (John 14– “I go away to prepare a place…”), and that “place” was the spiritual world and spiritual temple that spanned heaven and earth (cf. Ephesians 3:14f). When completed, the New Jerusalem, as the completed and perfected New Temple, would come down from heaven, and the cry would go forth, “the tabernacle of God is with man” (Revelation 21:1-4).
The bottom line is that Hebrews 8:1f posits Christ’s priestly function outside the realm of an earthly, physical liturgy and cultus. His service, though for the church on earth, was not an earthly priesthood, nor could it be. His service was true, not a foreshadowing. It was spiritual, in the true tabernacle that God pitched, and not man. In this new world Jesus could fulfill the Old Covenant prophecies that he could not fulfill in “the days of his flesh” or in the flesh. These prophecies included those about the revelation and glorification of Christ in his New World. More to come!