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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Monday, June 11, 2018
Seated at the right hand of the Throne of the Majesty in the Heavens
You may recall from the first couple of sentences in Hebrews 8 that our Lord 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.

When I'm reading through this section of the epistle, I'm often inclined to be looking past these "introductory" verses which sort of separate the "this is who Jesus really is" part of this author's teaching from the, "here is why that is so significant" part of his teaching.  I become like the man who  has seen a free parking spot on the other side of a crowded lot, and training my eye on it, I make for it with all reasonable haste.

I am inclined to rush past the author's intention in these verses simply because the knowledge of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God isn't new for me.  If you're a Christian, it probably isn't new for you either. It's easy to gloss over these verses on our way to (what we expect to be) the meatier verses to come.  So to avoid missing something, I force myself to slow down and carefully examine the intent of the author in order to avoid missing something edifying as I hurry by.

Recall that the author has already shown how God appointed Jesus to a far higher, and superior priesthood than even the Levitical High Priest.  He has painstakingly carried the reader with him to this demonstrated conclusion, and now explains that the purpose for bringing the reader to this understanding is to allow the reader to appreciate the significance of the heavenly tabernacle, where this superior Priest is presently ministering.

The author has labored to seat Christ at the right hand of God in the heavenly tabernacle in order to open the reader's appreciation of just how much greater this new situation is for the believer.

No High Priest on earth ever lingered long in the Holy of Holies.  That is where the presence of the God of Israel was understood to be enthroned.  Only the High Priest of Israel ever entered into the Holy of Holies, and then only once each year:  on the Day of Atonement -Yom Kippur.  No High Priest would dare to enter into the presence of Israel's enthroned and Holy God on any other day, or for any other purpose.

Recall that even on this day, the High Priest couldn't simply enter into the Holy of Holies carrying the blood of the atoning sacrifice for Israel unless he had first made atonement for himself.  We all remember what happened to men like Nabad, Uzzah, and Abihu, or the nation of Philistine when the Ark of the Covenant was captured.  No right-minded sinner would ever dare to enter into the presence of the Holy God of Israel without something covering his or her sin.

Recalling again the outcome when Nadab and Abihu's came into God's presence and attempted to honor and worship God in a way that God did not ordain.  God personally and instantly executed on the spot for their irreverence and indifference to His commands.  Can you imagine just how suicidal it would it have been for a High Priest in Israel to presumptuously seat himself down in the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement?  How much more if he sat at the right of the mercy seat where the majesty of God was understood to be enthroned on earth?  No Levitical High Priest would ever dare to tarry in the Holy of Holies, much less to sit down at the right hand of the Mercy Seat - the mere copy of God's throne in heaven.

Imagine therefore the impact of this notion (sitting down at God's right hand in the heavenly places) to the early readers of this epistle?

For any High Priest to have lingered longer in the Holy of Holies than was absolutely necessary would have been dangerous and probably unthinkable.  You've probably heard myths about High Priests having ropes tied to them so that they could be pulled out if they died in the Holy of Holies.  But that's all bunk.  On every other day the High Priest was dressed up in ceremonial robes - but on that day he wore only the linens.  That and the sacrifice were all that he was permitted to take into the Holy of Holies.  A rope would have been just as much an innovation as strange fire.  It makes for an interesting story, but we have no record of anything like that ever happening.

Nevertheless, we understand from the accounts where men treated God as common, just how suicidal that kind of irreverence can be. When the author describes Jesus as being seated (!) at the right hand of the actual Throne of God -- not the copy in the Jewish temple that served only as an illustration of the actual throne of God in heaven, but being seated in the actual presence of the living God as He Himself is present and enthroned there in His majesty would be, to the Jewish reader - a mind blowing picture.

The author paints this picture - the picture of our reality - for the edification of the reader.  Let us not idly scoot past this gift given to us for our joy, but take a moment to appreciate what our Lord seated in the heavens means for us.  Let us take a moment and see if we are not built up in the faith for doing so.

We have a few things to consider:

  1. Christ's ministry here is not part of the Mosaic Covenant
  2. Christ's ministry here was promised from the beginning
  3. The significance of Christ being seated
  4. The significance of Christ being in the presence of God
  5. The fact that this ministry is temporary

In Hebrews 8:6 the author tells us that Christ's "more excellent ministry" fulfills better promises pertaining to a better covenant.

Christ is not a Levitical Priest, but a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Recall from Hebrews 7:12, that a change in priesthood necessarily means a change in law:
For when the priesthood is changed of necessity there takes place a change of law also.[NASB]
As I show elsewhere,  our Lord demonstrated that the Law of Moses was never going to be changed (to accommodate the Messiah, for example):
"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" - Matthew 5:18 [NASB].
But we pay close attention to the wording here too.  From the vantage of the New Covenant we conclude that our Lord was saying the the Law of Moses was never going to change or pass away until all (that the Law was intended to do) was accomplished.  When Jesus came and did what no other had done (he kept the Law of Moses perfectly) the (redemptive) purpose of the law (to act as a illustrative placeholder) was "accomplished".  When Christ cried out on the cross, "it is accomplished/finished", Christ was referring to all that God had sent him to accomplish during His incarnation. That included keeping the Law of Moses. 

Once the Law was fulfilled by Christ, it became obsolete - having succeeded in doing all that God had sent it out to do.  Paul writes in Romans 8 that the Law (that Christ kept) could not do away with sin in the flesh - meaning the Law had no power to make any sinner righteous.  God did not send the Law out to do that.  He sent it out to demonstrate our need for salvation (by having the law condemn us) and to point to the source of our salvation - Jesus, since he was the only person able to keep the law.  It identified us as in need of salvation, and it identified our savior. 

Let me put it this way.  The Law of Moses is part of a Covenant that has now been kept.  Like the law of an inheritance or the law of marriage - the law is only in effect as long as the inheritor hasn't taken up his inheritance, or only binding upon a married person if their spouse is alive.  When Christ, through His obedience kept all that was required of Israel, it obligated God to fulfill His covenant promise to Jesus and only to Jesus, since only Jesus kept the covenant. 

The Mosaic covenant needed to be kept in order obligate God to keep His promises to whomever kept the covenant.  Only one person (Jesus) was able to keep (and did keep) the Mosaic covenant.  That obligated God to bless Jesus with all the blessings associated with the covenant.  But only Jesus.

By keeping the Old Covenant, Jesus was able to inaugurate a new one.  A covenant that would not depend upon having perfectly kept the old covenant (in order to receive the promises of that covenant), but rather which depended upon a living union with the one person (Jesus) who did receive the right to be blessed under the old covenant.

There was no way for the New Covenant to come into being until the Old Covenant had been fulfilled.  Once the old covenant was fulfilled, it had served it's purpose: to make Christ a suitable vessel as God's redemptive agent - He alone merited the right to all that God had promised Israel, and so all that God had promised Israel could only be given to anyone else through Christ.

This is a foundational truth underpinning the New Covenant.  It is the reason the Old Covenant ended, and the New Covenant could come into being.  God hung the New Covenant on two requirements repentance towards God and faith in God's deliverance (affected through Jesus Christ).

Christ's ministry required Him to fulfill for Israel all that was required of Israel under the Old Covenant in that having inherited the promises associated with the Old Covenant Christ to make those promises available to all who came to God through a New Covenant.

Christ's ministry changed the moment the Old Covenant was fulfilled by His obedience and subsequent death.  From that moment onward Christ went from keeping the old covenant (and proclaiming the New Covenant to come) to fulfilling his role as a High Priest under a new and better covenant.

The Old Covenant had to be fulfilled in order to bring in the New Covenant into being - but once it arrived, it because obvious that everyone who was saved under the Old Covenant, was really being saved under the New Covenant through the Old Covenant - saved by the same grace through faith as saved under the New Covenant.  It was never the blood of bulls and goats that propitiated God, but always the blood of Christ. The Old Covenant pictured God's redemptive plan in Christ - it had no power to save in an of itself, but only insofar as it pointed (however veiled) to the coming ministry of Christ.

In this way, it can be said that all of God's promises are fulfilled in Christ - both in the Old and New Covenants. 

But let us return to our Lord seated at the right hand of God in the heavens where He rules over the church - our King - and where He mediates between us and God, above all power and authority within creation which God has placed beneath His feet.

Christ is seated, not because his ministry has ended - but rather because He isn't going anywhere.  He resides in God's presence so that He is able to mediate between God and all those who through faith are in Christ.

But this is a ministry that will one day come to and end.  Jesus is going to come back in the same manner in which he left - and the only reason he will be able to do that is because the last person whom Christ will have waited to save, will have been saved.

This all becomes evident and even obvious as you begin to understand the New Covenant.  I think a great many Christians give very little attention to the New Covenant - they are content to be "saved" and find that life gets in the way of any sort of deeper thought than that.  C'est la vie.  As it is today, so it was in the day this epistle was penned.

Back then many Jews who came to Christ through the apostolic teachings believed that faith in Christ was a new but necessary component of their Jewish faith under the Mosaic covenant.  They were saved, but didn't feel any deep need to understand anything more than what was absolutely necessary to be saved.  We have Jesus, we don't need theology anymore. 

We see this most clearly in groups such as the Judaizers who after commending their lives to Christ, misconstrued Christianity as a kind of Judaism, such that they imagined that in order for a Gentile to become a Christian, he or she had to first become a Jew under the Mosaic covenant (hence circumcision for men) etc..

We want to so understand what is being taught in this epistle that we can avoid falling into (or remaining in) similar avenues of confusion.

Christianity was not, and could never be [1] an addendum to the Mosaic system.  Likewise it was not [2] an alternative to the Mosaic system.  Said another way, it was [3] not just another form of Judaism.  The Judaizers, for example, wanted Gentile converts to Christ to be circumcised because they (wrongly) regarded Christianity as a Messianic form of Judaism.  To be a Christian, a Gentile had to first become a Jew.

The author here begins at this point in the epistle to address this common error among the Jewish converts - they didn't understand that Christ was not there as a new minister in an old covenant - but that his ministry represented a new and better covenant - one that made the old covenant obsolete.

posted by Daniel @ 9:10 AM  
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