Reading through the Bible together
By this time the author of Hebrews has shown that Jesus is superior to the greatest figures of the Old Testament. Jesus is greater than the angels who were thought to rule the nations (Heb 1). As a ruler, he is the greatest because he defeated the devil that had the power of death and set us free (Heb 2). Jesus is also more faithful than Moses (Heb 3), leads us into a better rest than Joshua (Heb 4), and has a better priesthood than the Levitical priests (Heb 5–7). The most important argument of the letter, however, is that Jesus is a greater mediator than Moses because he has mediated a better covenant (Heb 8–10).
A covenant is a legal means through which the benefits of family apply to those who are not family. So, through Jesus, God has inaugurated a new covenant that succeeded in bringing us back into a family relationship with Him. The New Covenant is superior because of two things: it is based on a superior sacrifice and ministered in the real sanctuary, the heavenly one. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice provides us real forgiveness (vv. 8–12) and provides access to God’s own house, the heavenly sanctuary!
A word is necessary about the Old Covenant. It was ineffective, not because the covenant was faulty, but because the people were at fault (v. 8). The problem was that people were not able to see beyond the ceremonies of the sanctuary to the ministry of Jesus who would provide real forgiveness. They embraced the symbol and forgot the reality, like the kid that prefers the box over the toy!
This means that even the new covenant may be ineffective for us. There are ceremonies and practices in the new covenant (Baptism, and the Lord’s supper, etc.). They too would be ineffective if we miss their purpose. Prayer, for example, is useless if we don’t understand (or forget) that it is simply the awesome privilege of entering the house of our Father --the heavenly sanctuary--to speak with Him!
Felix H. Cortez
Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary