The work of Jesus is superior to the work done by Levitical priests. This is set forth in three chapters (Hebrews 8-10). In this writing, we will consider Hebrews chapter ten.
1. Shadow v. Very Image
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year” (Hebrews 10:1-3).
Two words are contrasted: (1) The law (of Moses) is described as a “shadow” of the good things to come. Vine’s says of the word “shadow” (skia): “a shadow caused by the interception of light… of the image or outline cast by an object.” “The good things to come” refers to Christ’s ministry as High Priest (the New Covenant System), and what would be accomplished through Him (cf. Hebrews 2:5-ff; 9:11-ff). (2) The very image is Christ and His New Covenant ministry. Vine’s says of the word “image” (eikon): “Hebrews 10:1, negatively of the Law… i.e. not the essential and substantial form… the contrast has been likened to the difference between a statue and the shadow cast by it.”
The annual sacrifices never ceased according to the law (cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16; Leviticus 23:27,29; Numbers 29:7,11). There was no once for all sacrifice. Tom Wacaster comments, “Ere the blood was poured out on the ground the Jew would know that this innocent animal would not be the last” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews). They were reminded year by year that man had a sin problem that never seemed to go away.
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin” (Hebrews 10:4).
God required animal sacrifices. They were a condition for forgiveness under the Law of Moses. However, the writer states that animal sacrifices were not the basis for forgiveness. The basis in His plan was Christ. Kevin Rhodes comments, “These sacrifices fulfilled their purpose but only as they fit into God’s overall purpose. Standing alone, they could never have provided for the cleansing of sin’ therefore, they offered forgiveness that was prospective, looking toward the time in which someone could offer a sacrifice that they fulfilled what they themselves could do” (ed. Devin Dean, Studies in Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary Series).
2. God’s Will
“Previously saying, ‘sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in their (which are offered according to the law)” (Hebrews 10:8).
This is a quotation from Psalm 40:6. It is a Messianic Psalm. Adam Clarke comments on the Psalm, “It is remarkable that all the offerings and sacrifices which were considered to be of cleansing nature, offered under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the apostle to show that none of them, nor all of them could take away sin” (Vol. 3, p. 350).
“Then He said, ‘Behold I have come to do Your will O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10).
Verse nine continues quoting the same Psalm. This time Psalm 40:7-8. Jesus came to do the will of the Father (cf. Matthew 26:39; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). In doing the will of the Father two things are stated as being accomplished: (1) The covenant was changed. The first covenant (the Law of Moses) was taken away (cf. Colossians 2:14). The second covenant (the New Covenant) was established (cf. Hebrews 9:15-22). (2) Christians had been sanctified (cf. Hebrews 2:11; 9:13-14; 10:10; 10:14; 10:28-29; 13:10-12; John 17:17; Ephesians 5:25-26). His offering is once for all (cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 9:24-26; 10:11-12).
3. Daily v. Once
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. But this Man after He offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
Like the annual sacrifices, mentioned earlier (Hebrews 10:1-4), the daily sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11) never ceased. Christ sacrifice was superior to any sacrifices under the… Old Covenant. It was (is) once for all.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus… through the veil, that is, His flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkling from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
We have access into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19 cf. 4:16). It is through Christ that this is possible (cf. John 14:6).
Those who draw near are to: (1) Have a sincere faith. Notice: “With a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (2) Have their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. “Sprinkling” in the book of Hebrews refers to the sprinkling of blood (cf. Hebrews 9:13-14; 9:19-22; 11:28; 12:24). The blood of Christ must be applied. (3) Have their bodies washed. This refers to baptism (cf. Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26). Why is it referred to as pure water? Here are two suggestions. Some think it is so called because of the water’s purifying effect. Others have suggested it means unmixed. The waters of purification under the law was mixed with the ashes of animals (Numbers 19:1-22).