Updated: Oct 1, 2021
When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 26. It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a reader on Sunday November 4, 2018. It is important because Paul connected Jesus as the high priest to his willingness to make himself a holy sacrifice. Apostles and Saints have been made possible by the high priest being resurrected in those who are also reborn through self-sacrifice.
This reading selection follows ten verses written by Paul, which focus on the physical tabernacle that was erected in the wilderness. Paul reviewed the entrance of the priests into an earthly place and the order of responsibilities that recognized the tabernacle as holy ground. This history is not a creation in the desert of the Sinai, but a recreation of the sacrifices and gifts each family performed in Egypt, in preparation for the Passover. The priests, high priest, and tabernacle are the microcosm of the overall plan for righteous living by all.
A marked by blood tabernacle, with priests inside? If death passes by, is not eternal life gained?
Once again, we have a translation that is one-dimensional, as it projects the righteousness of Jesus as singularly important, as if God would bless His own Son with the qualification of a high priest, while leaving the masses in awe of an unreachable status. That is not what the multiplicity of meaning states, as the same words written not only point to the truth of the read aloud translation but also point to the same state of holiness being made possible to all God’s servants.
To make this shown, I will present the literal translation possibilities, as made visible by the Bible Hub Interlinear page for Hebrews 9. I recommend all readers see for themselves how the following translation is found. As is my practice, I list the segments of words, which are based on the placement of punctuation marks (real or implied). Please note that capitalized words bear an importance that needs to be understood. In this four-verse selection, there are five capitalized words. Two are “Christ” and two are “God,” where importance is easily grasped. However, the capitalized “If” should be seen as the significance of a condition, such that a “big if” is the intent.
11. Christ now , having appeared as high priest all having come good in nature , by the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands , he is , not this those creation ,
12. not by blood of goats and calves , through on the other hand followers blood , he entered once for all into the sacred ones , eternal redemption having obtained .
13. If through the blood of goats , and bulls , and ashes of a heifer , sprinkling those who having been defiled , sanctify with this people flesh purification ,
14. how much more condition blood followers of Christ , those whom by the instrumentality of Spirit eternal , ourselves offered unblemished condition to God , will cleanse those conscience ourselves [ego] from dead works , towards followers to serve God living !
Verse 11 begins with the capitalized “Christos,” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” To grasp this meaning here in a vacuum [no lead in verses to aid interpretation], one has to see that Paul did not write Jesus’ name. Alone, “Christ” is that which comes from God, making one be The Anointed One. We know [we profess to know] that Jesus was so Anointed by God; but interpreting “Christ” as Jesus Christ is limiting God’s ability to Anoint any number of Apostles and Saints in the name of Jesus Christ, making them also possess the Christ Spirit.
We heard the blind beggar call out, “Son of David.” Was not David the anointed one by God, through His high priest Samuel?
In verse five, Paul named Aaron as the high priest of the first tabernacle. In verse seven, Paul told of the ritual sacrifices made in the designated area of the tabernacle, by the high priest, for himself and the people’s sins of ignorance. In verse eight, Paul stated that “the Holy Spirit had not yet been manifest into those holy places.” By realizing that lost text, one can then see that verse eleven begins by saying the tabernacle – the holy place erected for the high priest – was “now Christ.” However, the tabernacle is no longer one man-made but human, as “all having come good in nature.” It is in those tabernacles of flesh that “he is.” High priests are not “institutions” or “created beings via ordinance” [ordained holy by men not holy]. All high priests now must be Christ reborn.
Verse 12 then continues this line of thought by saying there can no longer be animal sacrifices for a priest [ordained and/or elevated in rank] or the people to have their sins of ignorance wiped clean. Instead, it is through the followers having sacrificed themselves, becoming filled with the blood of Christ [i.e.: the Holy Spirit, the “blood” relationship to Jesus Christ, as the Son of Man reborn]. Jesus is reborn [“entered into once for all”], so his presence signifies a Saint [“sacred ones”]. This is the only sacrifice that forever offers eternal redemption.
Verse 13 then begins with the capitalized “Ei,” meaning “If, For as much as, That, Whether and/or Suppose.” This is then stating a conditional scenario, which states the circumstances by which a premise is true. It acts as a statement of assumption, in order to determine if some condition is indeed fact. The ‘big If’ is then saying, “If the practices of animal sacrifice did have any effect for sanctifying, then it would only be a purification of flesh, because only flesh has been effected by animal blood being sprinkled or ashes from burned animal carcasses being smeared symbolically on flesh.
One needs to see how such animal sacrifices are common throughout the world, in many cultures that have been isolated from other religious practices and ceremonies. The Christian act of using oil and ashes to make the foreheads of believes on Ash Wednesday falls into this symbolism having zero effect on a spiritual transformation within a human being. Thus, Paul was stating If someone thinks a physical act of ritual has had any effect on the absolution of sins, it is akin to baptism by water, where only the flesh has been changed, for only that day … not eternally.
And the Baptizer said, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)
Verse 14 says that spiritual transformation is “so much more” than burnt offerings. The “condition” that was set up by the “If” is now turned to the “blood” of the “followers” of Jesus of Nazareth. They must sacrifice themselves, so their blood is spilled on the altar where “Christ” is the high priest officiating that service. This leads to a “thorough” cleansing [“by the instrumentality of” from “dia”] by the Holy Spirit, which is not a temporal change, but an “eternal” transformation. Rather than Jesus of Nazareth being offered in sacrifice after being found blemish free, it is “ourselves offered,” because that is the “condition of God” [from “tō Theō”]. The words translated as “ourselves” are “heauton and hēmōn,”with “hēmōn” a form of “egó,” or the “self.” Neither are limited to only translating as “himself” or “us.” The last two segments then says, “We sacrifice the dead works of mortal selves to become the living servants of God.”
As the Epistle reading selection for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one should have sacrificed one’s self-ego on the altar of one’s tabernacle body – the message is to see that the only atonement for one’s sins of ignorance is to be a willing sacrifice for a higher goal, as was Jesus of Nazareth. One does not simply change overnight; so it takes time to convince God one is not trying to pull some wool over His All-seeing Eye.
It is worthwhile to realize the changes that Paul wrote of in the first [unread] ten verses of this chapter. By seeing how Paul [who personally experienced the animal sacrifices of the Temple in Jerusalem] wrote of a significant change, from an accepted practice to one that no longer pleased God, this is not the only example found in the Bible.
In Genesis we find the sons of Adam offering burnt offerings to God. God liked Abel’s sacrifice of the firstborn of the flock, but did not recognize the offering of the first fruits by Cain. That began the ceremonial offering of animal sacrifice. When the story in Genesis gets to Abraham and Isaac the aspect of human sacrifice was introduced. An angel of the Lord stopped that slaughter, because the physical killing was not the desire of God, so a human being could be recognized as one of the lineage of high priests. Finally, the sacrifice of yearling lambs that were blemish free and the smearing of that blood on the doorways of the Israelite families, with the burnt offerings made in the home ovens was the model from which the Passover would arise, with each Israelite deemed a priest who performed such ritual sacrifices. The tabernacle and its high priests were prophetic models of Apostles that would come after Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. That was the pleasing human sacrifice God originally intended.
All within the Tabernacle of Holy Flesh
In the books of the prophets, God said he no longer was pleased by sacrifices of animals and burnt offering. Through Isaiah He said, “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” (Isaiah 1:11) In Amos was written, “Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.” (Amos 5:22) Even David sang, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” (Psalm 51:16) All of this says that God knew His Son would be the last physical sacrifice that would satisfy the desire of God.
This had to have been known to the returning Jews, as they expanded their self-cleansing with water rituals, such that dunking into river water became a rebellious admission of sins of the spirit. The ‘wildcat’ rabbis – like John the Baptizer – made that a man-made sacrifice, in hopes that God would be pleased by those acts of admission of sins. Christians today still see the washing of physical water as a magical protection of the body, where admission of Jesus as the Christ washes away all sins and seals one’s soul for Heaven. This reading from Paul says that all physical acts, even If emotionally moving and in some way believed to be a pact with God, the soul cannot be changed by symbolic rituals of physical elements.
As an accompanying Epistle reading for the Gospel selection from Mark 12, where a scribe and Jesus agreed that the foremost commandment was to love God completely, without reservation, it is that unconditional love of God that prepares one’s body of flesh to be sanctified and holy. This is a heartfelt entrance of God into one’s being, where God is absolute Spiritual. His Holy Spirit must baptize the soul, once and forevermore of sin. This makes the body and soul the holy ground of a tabernacle, in which Jesus Christ performs the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb, upon the altar that is one’s heart. The spiritual blood of Christ then fills the human brain (self-ego then dead) with the Mind of Christ. There is nothing physical that can be perceived in this transformation of one’s soul.
All human beings are born with the only assured end being physical death. The souls, being eternal, returns to another body that will die at some time. It becomes a seemingly endless cycle of birth, life, and death. It is like being on a carousel or merry-go-round, where grabbing the brass ring wins one the right to get off the circular ride of physical life and gain admittance into God’s realm.
The brass ring then symbolizes one’s devotion to loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength.
To even try to reach that goal, one has to ride the galloping steeds on the outer ring of the carousel. Sitting in the bench-seats on the interior keeps one from having a chance.