Hebrews Chapter Eight Study Guide

Chapter seven concluded with a summary describing Jesus’ permanent surpassing of the Levitical priesthood.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28)

Jesus: A More Excellent Ministry

This chapter continues with the confirmation.

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. (Hebrews 8:1-3)

Jesus wasn’t just another contender for authority or attention. He did what no one else could. He carried His own blood into the true Tabernacle. There, God the Father, sitting on His throne, accepted it as the total payment for all of mankind’s rebellious ways. Then Jesus sat down next to Him, on the true Mercy Seat, because atonement (reconciliation) was completed once and for all. It was finished!

Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things,

just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, See, He says, that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:4-6)

What was the pattern of the heavenly things that Moses saw while he was on the mountain? Did he see a sketch, a model, or possibly the real thing? We don’t know. However, you might want to read what John wrote in Revelation chapter 21. There he explains that the magnificent city constructed of gold and precious stones is not the heaven that we think. Rather, it’s the New Jerusalem that will someday descend from heaven to the new earth. He goes on to say that the city is the Lamb’s bride –and that she (Hebrew and Gentile believers) is the Tabernacle where God the Father and His Son will dwell (Revelation 21:9-10).

In chapter seven we saw that the Law specified how their ministry conveyed God’s message of salvation. It laid out a system in which people made earthly offerings using earthly utensils within an earthly tabernacle. Here we read that those things weren’t the reality –they were only a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.

We also saw in that chapter that God promised the role of priests to the Hebrews if they would obey His voice and keep His covenant. The details of that promise –the Old Covenant, recorded in Exodus chapters 19 through 23– set the conditions for them to be His kingdom of priests. Over the years their stubborn self-righteousness overtook their desire to serve. Jesus repeatedly showed the religious leaders that they, and their predecessors, blatantly disregarded the role of ministry.

That covenant failed because it relied on human desires and tenacity. Now let’s look at the better covenant enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

The New Covenant with the Hebrews

This last half of Hebrews chapter eight contrasts the Old Covenant with another one that was prophesied about 600 years earlier in Jeremiah chapters 30 and 31. In fact, the passage below quotes it (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says,

Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand To lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.

And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me, From the least to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:7-12)

Too often we errantly presume that we modern-day believers are the targeted audience of Bible passages. This is one of those errant cases. It’s specifically addressed to the Hebrews. Not only does it begin with Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, but it continues with For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days. The intended audience is unmistakably Israel. (We’ll see another version in chapter ten that encompasses today’s believers.)

From their beginning as a kingdom of priests they were to teach the Law (including the covenant) to their children, brothers and neighbors throughout the generations so that people would know the Lord (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:1-3). Conversely, here they’re told they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me, From the least to the greatest of them.

Their New Beginning

The reason for not teaching is found in that Jeremiah passage. It identifies the time frame of their new priesthood as being when all of Israel’s enemies will receive their deserved punishment. It’s during the Great Tribulation. In addition, the passage describes the restoration of Israel as a nation reunited in the land. So of course they won’t need to teach about Jesus then. He will be a universal and hotly debated topic.

The book of Revelation explains more about After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Here’s what it says will happen after the great battle –but before the plagues are released.

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.

And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. (Revelation 14:1-3)

The Hebrew priests of this New Covenant are the 144,000 –with 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes. It’s a one-sided covenant that’s solely dependent upon God, not the priests’ faithfulness nor their dutiful obedience. Behaviors won’t be a condition because iniquities and sins were fully atoned –reconciled.

The Law that specifies their ministry is explicit. There will be no more living by rituals or rules or pictures handed down from one generation to the next. Instead, God will plant it directly within them.

They will understand the relationship between God the Father (Jehovah) and His Son (Jehovah’s Salvation –noted in chapter four). Their names will be written on their foreheads –or as it says here in Hebrews, put into their minds.

The words they will speak are called a new song. It’s one that only they can learn. That song will be their message of salvation and it will come from within –He will write it on their hearts. They will be witnessing about Jesus –the One that they will know.

When He said, A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)

When will the transition to this priesthood take place? Only God knows the start date for the Tribulation. But at that time these Hebrews will be ambassadors for Christ –they will tell the world that Jesus is who He said He was.