“Set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens.” Why so? Because if we have nothing more to be done, Christ has nothing more to do. (I speak not of the priestly work, but of putting away sin.) He has set down—He is resting, having nothing more to do. (Chap 10) The offering has been made, and cannot be repeated. (Chap. 8:2,3) The whole of the priesthood is carried on in heaven itself. The offering was another thing. The offerer brought the victim, the priest received the blood and carried it in. On the day of atonement there was another thing: the priest had to go through the whole thing by himself—not carrying on the work of intercession, but that of representing the people. Christ took this place. He could say, “mine iniquities,” etc.; for He bore our sins. We can never speak of bearing our sins; He, the sinless One, bore them for us. He was the victim, and at the same time the confessor, owning all the sins. Then, as priestly work, He carries in the blood, having offered Himself without spot to God (the burnt offering in that sense). He was “made sin.” He offered Himself freely up, and the sins were laid on Him, and He takes that dreadful cup, then goes and sprinkles that place. His priesthood is entirely in heaven.1 The tabernacle was upon earth; there was the court of the tabernacle, and inside the court was out of the world, and not inside heaven. He was lifted up (John 12) to draw all men unto him.
Rejected by the Jews, He was held up by God—the dead Christ, to be the attractive centre for the whole world. As coming in His service and mission on earth, He was coming among the lost sheep of the house of Israel; but when I see the crucified Christ, this is for the sinner, and then I get perfect love for the sinner and atonement for the sin—perfect grace. Then He goes by virtue of that blood through the rent veil into the holy place; and I come there in spirit into the very presence of God—not on earth Those things were the example and shadow of heavenly things, and our place now is in the holiest of all.
No place is found for the first covenant. Be it remarked, that there is often great confusion about the covenant of grace and law. The law was given at Sinai. All the promises were given without condition—unqualified. When the people came out of Egypt, it was different. The accomplishment of the promise then depended on their obedience; and there was an end of the whole thing, because they could not keep it. Why did God bring in such a principle as this? With the promise, no question was raised of righteousness; but when law was given, there was something required of man: and the effect of this question being raised was to bring out sin directly. Why did the law come in? Because we are excessively proud creatures, we think we can do a great deal.
The law was not a transcript of God, but of what man ought to be; and when applied as a test to man, it brought out the evil there. Given to a sinner to tell him what he ought to be, it was too late—he had failed already: the golden calf was made before they received the words of the law. Christ, instead of requiring righteousness from man, bears the sins and works out the righteousness. It is much more than what the law requires that we have in Christ. The law never required a man to lay down His life—much less the Son of God to lay down His life. He glorified God in the place where He had been dishonoured, not only in a righteous walk upon earth, but God was glorified in Him.
Suppose God had swept away man for sin, in righteousness, where would have been the love? If He had only passed over the sins, without judging them, where would have been righteousness? There was infinite and unspeakable love to poor sinners, and infinite righteousness towards God. The whole ground of the Sinai covenant is gone—we are dead under it: it can go no further. Law puts man under responsibility. Are you standing on your responsibility? You are lost if you are.
It is the whole question of the two trees in the garden of Edom—life and responsibility. Christ, as a man, takes that of good and evil, and dies under it. He puts Himself under the one and gives us the other, for He is life.
Thus, in Chapter 8, there is an entirely new covenant, and the new makes the first old. In the letter, it is made with the house of Israel. But, besides, there is grace. Not I do not remember them, “but their sins and iniquities will I. remember no more.” I will never remember them any more. That is our place. A covenant made with man, as man, is certain ruin, because his righteousness is required, his keeping it is called in question. But here he says, “I will put my laws into their mind,” etc. If man is under the old covenant, he is under an “if.” If under the new, there is no “if.” This covenant of the letter is made with Israel, not with us, but we get the benefit of it. “This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for many.” This was putting away the breach of all obligation by death. Israel, not accepting the blessing, God brought out the church, and the Mediator of the covenant went on high. We are associated with the Mediator. It will be made good to Israel by and by. Paul was the minister of it in the Spirit, but he could not be as to the letter. They will need no minister of it, because every one will know it, when God writes it on their hearts; the thing is done—God is their minister, (reverently,) when writing it on their hearts. We have it not in the letter, but in the spirit of it, and so have all the value of it, because the way we get it is that the Mediator of it becomes our life—we are forgiven our sins—we are associated with the Mediator. He is our life, and we have all the blessings of the new covenant within the vail. We have all the blessings, for the very reason that it is not executed with the people for whom it was made.
Now the question arises, how far are we standing on this ground? has your faith got hold of this fact that Christ has settled every question against us, and gone in because our sin is put away? The true light now shines: that could not be said while there was a vail and an earthly priesthood.
Can you stand in God’s presence without a vail, and knowing that the more the light shines upon you, the more evident that you are without a spot upon you?
1 There was then on earth, while the Spirit was unfolding the heavenly priesthood to the Hebrews, another priesthood, no longer recognized of God, but going on. Its movement was one of transition; the object was not only to show the actual heavenly privileges of the saints, but to invite them to go forth without the camp. afterwards came the fall of Jerusalem, when the events themselves spoke to the same effect. Only we can see that the Hebrew believers are treated with great address in this epistle; for the sole conclusion which yet appears is that the promise of a new covenant declares the first antiquated and ready to be done away. We know, from elsewhere, that the cross had, in principle, abolished the old covenant, and that the blood of Jesus laid the basis of the new covenant.