Hebrews 9:1-7 Divisions within the Tabernacle of Moses and Temple of Herod
There were three main divisions in the tabernacle of Moses (the temple of Herod presumably was set up the same way). The first was an outer courtyard which contained the altar of sacrifice and the large laver for washing ordinances. This is where the Levites performed most of the animal sacrifice spoken of in the Mosaic Law. This area represented the telestial kingdom.
The second division was called the Holy Place. Both the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were contained in an enclosure within the courtyard-the two rooms being separated by an elaborate double veil. The Holy Place was a room which contained the altar of incense, the table of shewbread, and the golden candlestick. Paul refers to this room as the first tabernacle (v. 2,6). Performing ordinances in this room was common but still considered a privilege. This was the room Zacharias entered when 'his lot was to burn incense when he went unto the temple of the Lord' (Luke 1:9). This area represented the terrestrial kingdom.
The third division was the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, or 'the Holiest of all' (v. 3). Paul refers to this place as "the second tabernacle" (v. 7). It contained the ark of the covenant and the holiest relics of the Mosaic tradition (v. 4). Representing the celestial kingdom, only the high priest was allowed to enter this room-and this was only allowed once a year. None of the other Levites were allowed to enter. Hence, the symbolism of the ancient tabernacle was that neither the people nor the priests could be brought into the presence of God by the Law of Moses. Paul doesn't miss the symbolism, declaring 'that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest...Which was a figure for the time then present' (v. 8-9).
Hebrews 9:2-5 holy artifacts of the Tabernacle
"Let us briefly identify the symbolism associated with those parts of Israel's ancient temple worship referred to by Paul in Hebrews 9:
"Tabernacle: The tabernacle was a portable temple of the Lord, the place of the divine presence, and thus represents the kingdoms of heaven. The outer court represents the telestial order, the holy place the terrestrial order, and the Holy of Holies, the celestial world, the place where the throne of God is found.
"Candlestick: The seven-branched candelabrum of the tabernacle was part of the furniture of the holy place. It was not lighted by candles, but by pure olive oil in cup-shaped containers resting on the head of each of its branches. (Ex. 25:31-40.) Its light represents the light of the Holy Spirit. The seven branches or stems represent the fullness and perfection of the revelations of God and could be taken as affirmation that they would burn brightly in seven great gospel dispensations.
"Table: Paul's reference is to the table of shewbread that stood on the north or right side as one entered the holy place. It faced the candlestick and upon it were to be placed twelve loaves of bread made of fine (unleavened) flour. Paul does not identify its symbolism. Its equivalent in our day could be the sacrament table.
"Shewbread: Literally translated, the name shewbread means 'the bread of faces,' or 'the bread of the presence,' signifying that this bread was placed before the face of the Lord or in his presence. That there is a common symbolism between the Sabbath ritual in which the priests were to eat the shewbread and the ordinance of the sacrament, as introduced by Christ, seems apparent.
"Sanctuary: The sanctuary, in this text, refers to the holy place.
"Veil: Paul's reference is to the thick curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the holy place in the temple. The rending of the veil symbolizes the removal of the barrier between man and God, for man is thus enabled 'to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.' ("Heb. 10:19Heb. 10:19.) Thus, the faithful and obedient can, in the fullest and most complete sense, enter into the rest of the Lord.
"Holiest of All: By holiest of all, Paul is referring to the Holy of Holies. This, the most sacred place in the temple, is the symbolic representation of the heavenly temple where the throne of God sits.
"Golden Censer: The vessel used for the burning of incense in the holy place was known as the golden censer. (Paul seems to indicate that this was housed in the Holy of Holies. There is nothing in the Old Testament that corroborates this.) The smoke rising from the vessel is a symbol of the prayers of Israel rising to God. (Ps. 141:2.)
"Ark of the Covenant: Housed within the Holy of Holies, the ark of the covenant signifies the divine presence and as such is the most sacred symbol in ancient Israel.
"Manna: Among the sacred relics found within the temple was a golden pot containing some of the manna sent down from heaven as food for Israel during their wilderness wanderings. This bread from heaven typifies the spiritual salvation that could be had only through Christ, who is the Bread of Life.
"Aaron's Rod: To affirm his call to Aaron and his tribe to labor in the priesthood in preference to the other tribes, the Lord instructed Moses to have each of the tribes bring a rod or branch with the name of their prince on it. These twelve rods were then placed before the Lord in the Holy of Holies. The following morning when Moses went to the sacred place, he found the rod of Aaron covered with buds, blossoms, and even mature almonds. The other rods remained as barren as before. (Num. 17.) As I have written elsewhere, 'The symbolism associated with this test was most deliberate: A rod, or branch, had been chosen to represent each of the twelve tribes or families of Israel; each had its name carefully placed upon it. By tradition, the rod, as a staff or sceptre, represented one's position and authority. Together, all were presented before the Lord. By making Aaron's rod bud, blossom, and put forth fruit, the Lord demonstrated once again that it was for him to choose those who will stand in his stead, be filled with his power, and bring forth his fruits.'
"Tables of the Covenant: The tables of the covenant refers to the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written.
"Cherubim: The images of two cherubim were placed over the mercy seat of the ark in the Holy of Holies. Cherubim are angels, set to guard the way before the presence of the Lord. They are to see that no unclean thing enters the divine presence.
"Mercy Seat: The mercy seat is the golden lid to the ark of the covenant: This lid, which covers the ark, is a symbolic representation of the manner in which the Atonement overarches or covers all that is sacred. The name comes from the Hebrew kapporeth, which, in turn, comes from the root kaphar, meaning to cover or expiate. It implies the making of an atonement, a cleansing or forgiving.
"Though Paul did not detail the meaning of each of these items associated with the temple, his purpose was to emphasize that each was intended as a witness of Jesus as the Christ." (Joseph F. McConkie in Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation, ed. By Robert L. Millet, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 203.)
Hebrews 9:10 meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances
Bruce R. McConkie
"Paul named various of the Mosaic ordinances and performances and said they were a 'shadow of heavenly things.' (Heb. 8:4-5.) The 'meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation,' he said, were designed as 'a figure for the time then present.' He spoke of the various formalities involved in sprinkling blood as 'patterns' of things of a much higher nature. 'The law,' he said, was 'a shadow of good things to come.' (Heb. 9:1-10, 19-23; 10:1.) But perhaps Amulek's statement is the clearest and best of them all. He said: 'This is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.' (Alma 34:14.)" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 417.)
Hebrews 9:12 by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place
Once a year, a high priest entered the holiest place. Symbolically, he was only allowed in once a year because it would only take one sacrifice of the Great High Priest to pass the impassable barrier-the veil of the temple. The Aaronic Priesthood had not the power to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God. Accordingly, none of the children of Israel or the priests were allowed past the veil. What would it take to break the barrier? How could the chosen people ever break through the veil? It would take the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. His entering into the holy place and sitting at the right hand of the Father opened the holy of holies to all who would be his disciples.
Hence, when the Great Sacrifice was complete, the veil of the temple was rent in two pieces. Was it the earthquake that tore the veil? The veil was suspended on two rods. An earthquake might have knocked it to the ground but it could not have torn it in two, 'from the top to the bottom' (Matt. 27:51). Rather, the temple veil was torn by the hand of God-symbolizing that moment when the Great High Priest had broken the great barrier, when He had spilt the blood that could actually atone for sins, when the Law of Moses and its temple ordinances had finally been fulfilled.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Deity rent the veil of the temple 'from the top to the bottom.' The Holy of Holies is now open to all, and all, through the atoning blood of the Lamb, can now enter into the highest and holiest of all places, that kingdom where eternal life is found. Paul, in expressive language (Heb. 9 and 10), shows how the ordinances performed through the veil of the ancient temple were in similitude of what Christ was to do, which he now having done, all men become eligible to pass through the veil into the presence of the Lord to inherit full exaltation." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:830.)
Hebrews 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator
Bruce R. McConkie
"In legal usage, a testator is one who leaves a valid will or testament at his death. The will or testament is the written document wherein the testator provides for the disposition of his property. As used in the gospel sense, a testament is a covenant. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant or testament, that is of the gospel which came to replace the law of Moses. (Heb. 9:15; 12:24; D. & C. 107:19.)
"Paul mixed these legal and gospel definitions to teach a basic doctrine. Speaking of Christ's death, and the gifts in effect willed to men in and through that death, he said: 'For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.' (Heb. 9:16-17.) In other words, Christ had to die to bring salvation. The testament or covenant of salvation came in force because of the atonement worked out in connection with that death. Christ is the Testator. His gift, as would be true of any testator, cannot be inherited until his death. Christ died that salvation might come; without his death, he could not have willed either immortality or eternal life to men." (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 785.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"[Joseph Smith] had to die. Why? Because we read in the scriptures that the testimony is not of force without the death of the testator-that is, in his particular case, and in the case of Christ. It was just as necessary that Hyrum Smith lay down his life a martyr for this cause as a witness for God as it was for Joseph Smith, so the Lord permitted them both to be taken in that way and both sealed their testimony with their blood." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 221.)
Joseph F. Smith
"What does the martyrdom teach us? The great lesson that 'where a testament is there must also of necessity be the death of the testator' (Heb. 9:16) to make it of force. Moreover, that the blood of martyrs is indeed the seed of the Church. The Lord permitted the sacrifice, that the testimony of those virtuous and righteous men should stand as a witness against a perverse and unrighteous world. Then, again, they were examples of the wonderful love of which the Redeemer speaks: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15:13)...
"This martyrdom has always been an inspiration to the people of the Lord. It has helped them in their individual trials; has given them courage to pursue a course in righteousness and to know and to live the truth, and must ever be held in sacred memory by the Latter-day Saints who have learned the great truths that God revealed through his servant Joseph Smith." (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 51, June, 1916, p. 381)
Hebrews 9:17 a testament is of force after men are dead
"Like his Master, Joseph Smith also shed his blood in order that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect (see Heb. 9:16). Just prior to his death, the Prophet Joseph was reported to have remarked:
'I am tired, I have been mobbed, I have suffered so much. Some of the brethren think they can carry this work out better than I can, far better. I have asked the Lord to take me out of this world. I have stood all I can. I have to seal my testimony to this generation with my blood. I have to do it, for this work will never progress until I am gone, for the testimony is of no force until the testator is dead. People little know who I am when they talk about me, and they never will know until they see me weighed in the balance in the kingdom of God. Then they will know who I am, see me as I am. I dare not tell them, and they do not know me' (Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, in They Knew the Prophet, comp. Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974, pp. 26-27)."
(Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith among the Prophets," Ensign, June 1994, 22)
Hebrews 9:22 without shedding of blood is no remission
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Here is a clear statement that the remission of sins cannot come except by the shedding of blood. In ancient times sacrifices were made by the shedding of the blood of clean animals. This shedding of blood was twofold in its application. It pointed forward to the great sacrifice that was to be made by our Redeemer, and it also became a purifying agency which helped to remind Israel of sins and how to overcome them.
"Since it was by the creation of blood that mortality came, it is by the sacrifice of blood that the redemption from death was accomplished, and all creatures freed from Satan's grasp. In no other way could the sacrifice for redemption of the world from death be accomplished. Blood being the agent of mortality, it had to be returned to Satan and to death, whence it came. Have we ever stopped to think of the deplorable condition this mortal world was in due to the partaking of the fruit by Adam?...
"No doubt Satan felt that he had accomplished his purpose in bringing death, and therefore the entire posterity of Adam would become subject unto him. The Beloved Son of God was chosen before the foundation of the world to redeem mankind. It had to be a redemption by the shedding of blood; also it had to be by a God, who had power over death, one who could lay down his body by the shedding of his blood, and then take his body up again by the inherent power which was in him. Jesus obtained his blood from his mother Mary; he obtained his power over death from his Father. Therefore he could and did voluntarily surrender himself to his enemies who crucified him by the shedding of his blood. When he arose from the tomb, he was free from blood, and his body had become subject to eternal law henceforth and forever." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 3: 109.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"CLEANSING POWER OF BLOOD OF CHRIST. The Latter-day Saints believe in the efficacy of the blood of Christ. They believe that through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel they obtain a remission of sins; but this could not be if Christ had not died for them... Blood Atonementa-Smith, Joseph FieldingTPAre you aware that there are certain sins that man may commit for which the atoning blood of Christ does not avail? Do you not know, too, that this doctrine is taught in the Book of Mormon? (Alma 39:6)...
"Blood Atonementa-Smith, Joseph FieldingTPTRUE DOCTRINE OF BLOOD ATONEMENT. Just a word or two now, on the subject of blood atonement. What is that doctrine? Unadulterated, if you please, laying aside the pernicious insinuations and lying charges that have so often been made, it is simply this: Through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel... Blood Atonementa-Smith, Joseph FieldingTPBut man may commit certain grievous sins-according to his light and knowledge-that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone-so far as in his power lies-for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail...
"LAW OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. In pursuance of and in harmony with this scriptural doctrine, which has been the righteous law from the days of Adam to the present time, the founders of Utah incorporated in the laws of the Territory provisions for the capital punishment of those who wilfully shed the blood of their fellow men. This law, which is now the law of the State, granted unto the condemned murderer the privilege of choosing for himself whether he die by hanging, or whether he be shot, and thus have his blood shed in harmony with the law of God; and thus atone, so far as it is in his power to atone, for the death of his victim." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 134-136.)
Hebrews 9:25 the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others
"...once a year on Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement...[the high priest] would make sacrifices for himself and his brother priests so as to make them symbolically worthy to perform their sacred functions. Then he would lay aside his priestly robes, don a simple white tunic in preparation for the sacrifice itself, and return to the outer court. Taking two pure and unblemished male goats, he would dedicate one to Jehovah and one to the evil one, Azazel, or the devil. The goat dedicated to Jehovah was then sacrificed in the outer court. Its blood was taken into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before the ark of the covenant. This symbolized that Israel's sins were atoned for by sacrifice." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 390)
Hebrews 9:27 it is appointed unto men once to die
Thomas S. Monson
"...to each life comes the experience known as death. None is exempt. All must pass its portals. Death claims the aged, the weary and worn. It visits the youth in the bloom of hope and glory of expectation. Nor are the little children kept beyond its grasp. In the words of the apostle Paul: '. . . it is, appointed unto men once to die. . . ' (Heb. 9:27.)
"To most, there is something sinister and mysterious about this unwelcome visitor called death. Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown that causes many to dread his coming.
"Arthur Patton died quickly. Others linger. Not long ago I held the thin hand of a youth as he approached the brink of eternity. 'I know I am dying,' he said touchingly. 'What follows death?' 11595I turned to the scriptures and read to him: '11595Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.' (Eccl. 12:7.) '11595'. . . there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection11595. . .concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection-Behold . . . the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body . . . are taken home to that God who gave them life.' (Al. 40:9, 11.)
"To me, the lad said, 'Thank you.' To my Heavenly Father I said silently, 'Thank thee, oh God, for truth.'" (Conference Report, April 1969, Third Day-Morning Meeting 128.)
Hebrews 9:28 Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many
"As the pure sacrificial offering, Christ was beyond sin; thus, he gave for sin what sin could not rightfully claim. As the perfect high priest, he gave himself as the perfect offering. He was 'holy, innocent, spotless, set apart from sinners' (Heb. 7:26, literal trans.). He took on himself our blame, though 'without spot'-or literally 'blameless' (Heb. 9:14). Thus, his culminating sacrifice superseded the daily sacrifices. That is the point of Paul's long arguments-repeated altar slayings were no longer necessary, for Christ died 'once' for sins to bring forgiveness to all. That thought and number is restated over a half-dozen times in about three chapters, revealing Paul's core message. Christ 'offered one sacrifice for sins for ever' (Heb. 10:12)." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 217 - 218.)
"The incompleteness of the priestly sacrifices, being offered annually, stands in contrast to the 'infinite and eternal sacrifice' (Alma 34:10) of Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest (see Heb. 3:1), and is further illustrated by the fact that Israel's priests stood while offering sacrifice, whereas Jesus 'offered one sacrifice for sins for ever' and thereafter 'sat down on the right hand of God' (Heb. 10:12)." ("The Law of Sacrifice," Ensign, June 1998, 29)