For not into holy places made with hands did Christ enter, which are figures ( ἀντίτυπα , antitypes ) of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of (literally, before the face of ) God for us. This verse confirms the view that "the heavenly things" of Hebrews 9:23 denoted the heavenly regions into which Christ is entered. ἅγια at the beginning of the verse may be better translated "holy place" (as at Hebrews 9:12 and Hebrews 9:25 ) rather than "places," since here the heavenly counterpart of the holy of holies, as distinguished from the" first tabernacle," appears to be in view, viz. "heaven itself," the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence or "face" of God, the "throne of the Majesty on high," to which Christ passed through the intermediate heavens. There he now (the perpetual now of the new era of accomplished redemption), in his humanity, in behalf of and representing all humanity, beholds for ever the very face of the eternal God, which Moses could not see and live, and of which the typical high priest saw from year to year but the emblem, in transitory glimpses, through intervening clouds of incense. The word ἀντίπυπα , like ὑποδείγματα in Hebrews 9:23 , expresses the idea of the earthly sanctuary being a visible representation answering to a heavenly reality. The original τύπος ( type ) was shown to Moses in the mount ( Hebrews 8:5 ); what was constructed by him on the earth below was the antitype to it. The words τύπος and ἀντίτυπος are elsewhere used to express respectively a prophetic figure of a fulfillment to come and the fulfillment itself (as in Romans 5:14 and 1 Peter 3:21 , baptism in the latter text being regarded as the ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge), but still with the same idea of the type being prior to the antitype , the latter answering to the former.
Perfection of Christ's atonement.
In these verses the writer contrasts the incompleteness of the Mosaic sacrifices with the finality which attaches to the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus.
I. THREE GREAT CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES . These rest respectively upon three facts, viz. the death and the ascension of Christ, which are matters of history; and the second advent, which is still future.
1. Christ died as a Sacrifice for sin. ( Hebrews 9:28 ) His death was a stupendous event—being that of a Divine Person. It did not occur as the result of disease, or of natural decay. It was not an accidental death. It was judicially inflicted. Sentence was pronounced upon Jesus, not merely in the high priest's palace and in Pilate's judgment-hall, but in the court of heaven. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; 'The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.'"
2. He ascended to heaven as our Priest. ( Hebrews 9:24 ) Of the three offices which Jesus executes, the prophetical occupied the most prominent place while he was on earth; his priestly office has seemed to come into the foreground now that he has gone to heaven; and his kingly functions will appear to be most fully discharged after the second advent. Why was it necessary that he should enter heaven as our Priest?
3. He shall come again to consummate the salvation of his people. ( Hebrews 9:28 ) On the Day of Atonement, after Aaron had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood, he came forth from the holy of holies, reclothed himself in his splendid vestments of blue and red and purple, trimmed with pomegranates and golden bells, and appeared outside to bless the waiting multitudes. So our High Priest, although he still tarries in the heavenly tabernacle, filling it with the fragrant incense of his intercession, shall appear at the end of the ages, wearing the robes of his immortal glory, to say to his expectant people, "Come, ye blessed of my Father." He shall appear "apart from sin." When he came the first time, he was "made to be sin on our behalf," although he "knew no sin;" but at his second advent he shall not again assume the dreadful burden. He shall appear "unto salvation," i.e. to complete the redemption of his people. By his first coming he saved their souls; at his second coming, he shall save their bodies. Or, rather, at his first coming he paid down the ransom-price of our redemption; while at his second coining he shall receive the final installment of his purchased possession.
II. THE DOCTRINAL FOCUS OF THE PASSAGE . The chief point of thought for the sake of which these three doctrines are adduced is marked by the repetition of the word "once" in Hebrews 9:26-28 ; and by the contrast between this "once" and the "often" or "year by year" of Hebrews 9:25 . Christ died only once; he ascended only once; he shall come again only once. Why is it that, while Aaron entered the Hebrew holy of holies every year, Jesus Christ has gone into the heavenly sanctuary "once for all"? Two reasons are assigned: the one, that to repeat his sacrifice would be unnatural ; and the other, that to do so is unnecessary.
1. It would be unnatural. ( Hebrews 9:27 , Hebrews 9:28 ) Jesus Christ is the Son of man, and in all things he has been "made like unto his brethren." Now, it is a human thing to die once; and the death of every child of Adam will be followed by his appearance at the general judgment. So "it was in harmony with the law of mortality in this world that Christ should die but once. There would have been something unnatural in his dying and rising, and dying and rising, again and again without end" (Dr. Lindsay). The Lord's death and his second advent are parallel arrangements to what is the common lot of man.
2. It is unnecessary. This reason is still more satisfying, and it receives great prominence in the verses before us. It was not needful that Christ should die and ascend and come again oftener than once; for:
"For Christ entered … into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Our text teaches—
I. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS A LOCALITY . It is spoken of here as a place into which Christ entered. In his glorified body he entered there, and we cannot conceive of the existence of a body apart from space and place. Body cannot exist apart from place. Our Lord said to his disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." Doubtless the blessedness of heaven is chiefly a thing of moral condition, not of circumstances; of character, not of locality. If a person's soul be impure, sinful, and possessed by wicked passions, no place could afford him joy. To such a one "heaven itself" would be a place of intolerable misery. Heaven as a state is in the holy soul; but there is also heaven as a place in which the holy dwell. We know not where this place is. We know it is not in the visible, stellar heavens; for Christ passed through them ( Hebrews 4:14 ) into heaven itself. But where it is situated we know not. We know not its aspects or the character of its scenery. But we are convinced that it must be supremely beautiful. There are scenes of exquisite beauty and glorious grandeur and awful sublimity in this world. And we cannot but believe that in this respect heaven will, at least, be not less beautiful, or grand, or sublime. Rather, does not every consideration encourage the belief that it will present scenes that for beauty and sublimity, grandeur and glory, will immeasurably surpass everything that we know at present?
II. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE SCENE OF THE SUPREME MANIFESTATION OF GOD . "The presence of God" is manifested there. "The face of God" is seen there. Moses said unto Jehovah, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" and he was answered, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live Thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen" ( Exodus 33:18-23 ). It must, we conceive, in one sense remain forever true that no man shall see the unveiled face of God, and live. "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see" ( 1 Timothy 6:16 ). But it is also true that in the future there will be granted unto his people a spiritual vision of God of much greater clearness and fullness than any which they have in this present state. Their "future life will be spent in God's presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life." For this the intensely religious soul of David yearned. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness," etc. ( Psalms 17:15 ). With ardent desire St. Paul anticipated that he should see him "face to face" ( 1 Corinthians 13:12 ). And St. John was thrilled with the sublime and sanctifying hope that he should "see him as he is" ( 1 John 3:2 ). At present we see him through his works. Creation is a revelation of his might and majesty, his wisdom and goodness. But a nearer and clearer vision of him awaits us in the future. In that future our perceptions will doubtless be more quick and true, more comprehensive and strong, than they are at present. Here and now some men discern signs of the Divine presence and catch sounds of the Divine voice, where others recognize nothing Divine.
"Cleon sees no charms in nature—in a daisy, I
Cleon hears no anthem ringing in the sea and sky:
Nature sings to me for ever—earnest listener, I."
But the perceptions of even the spiritual and thoughtful man here are dim to what they will be hereafter. Then we shall see him, not through the veil of flesh, not through the clouds which our doubts and sins interpose between us and him, but with the clarified vision of the pure heart ( Matthew 5:8 ). This vision is promised unto his servants. "His servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face "( Revelation 22:3 , Revelation 22:4 ; see also Revelations Revelation 7:15 ; Revelation 21:3 ). This vision of God is:
1. Enrapturing. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
2. Transforming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after forty days' communion with God, "the skin of his face shone." He had caught something of the glory of the august and awful Being with whom he had been in communication. How much more will the saints in heaven receive of his glory! For
3. Abiding. In heaven itself the manifestation of God will not be occasional or intermittent, but regular and constant. "He will dwell with them," etc. ( Revelation 21:3 ).
III. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE ABODE OF THE CHRIST AND THE SCENE OF HIS PRESENT MINISTRY . "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there in his mediatorial glory ( Hebrews 1:3 ; Hebrews 8:1 ).
1. He is there as the Representative of man. The expression, "to appear in the presence of God for us," suggests that he is in heaven as our Representative or Advocate (cf. Hebrews 7:25 ; Romans 8:34 ). As the Aaronic high priest, on the great Day of Atonement, went into the holy of holies as the representative of the people; so our Savior, "when he had made purification of sins," "entered into heaven itself," etc.
2. He is there continuously as the Representative of man. The meaning of the "now" is, "from the point of time when he entered heaven as our High Priest, onward indefinitely." It implies the continuance of his appearance before the face of God for us.
3. He is there as the Forerunner of man. (Cf. Hebrews 6:20 ; John 14:2 , John 14:3 )
CONCLUSION. Let us seek for heaven in the soul, or we can never be admitted into heaven itself. "Blessed are the pure in heart," etc. ( Matthew 5:8 ). "Follow after holiness," etc. ( Hebrews 12:14 ).—W.J.