Hebrews 9 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Hebrews 9)

Verse 1

[1] Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

The first covenant had ordinances of outward worship, and a worldly - a visible, material sanctuary, or tabernacle. Of this sanctuary he treats, Hebrews 9:2-5. Of those ordinances, Hebrews 9:6-10.

Verse 2

[2] For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

The first — The outward tabernacle.

In which was the candlestick, and the table — The shewbread, shown continually before God and all the people, consisting of twelve loaves, according to the number of the tribes, was placed on this table in two rows, six upon one another in each row. This candlestick and bread seem to have typified the light and life which are more largely dispensed under the gospel by Him who is the Light of the world, and the Bread of life.

Verse 3

[3] And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

The second veil divided the holy place from the most holy, as the first veil did the holy place from the courts.

Verse 4

[4] Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

Having the golden censer — Used by the high priest only, on the great day of atonement. And the ark, or chest, of the covenant - So called from the tables of the covenant contained therein.

Wherein was the manna — The monument of God's care over Israel.

And Aaron's rod — The monument of the regular priesthood.

And the tables of the covenant — The two tables of stone, on which the ten commandments were written by the finger of God the most venerable monument of all.

Verse 5

[5] And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

And over it were the cherubim of glory — Over which the glory of God used to appear. Some suppose each of these had four faces, and so represented the Three-One God, with the manhood assumed by the Second Person. With out-spread wings shadowing the mercy-seat - Which was a lid or plate of gold, covering the ark.

Verse 6

[6] Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

Always — Every day.

Accomplishing their services — Lighting the lamps, changing the shewbread, burning incense, and sprinkling the blood of the sin offerings.

Verse 7

[7] But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

Errors — That is, sins of ignorance, to which only those atonements extended.

Verse 8

[8] The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

The Holy Ghost evidently showing — By this token.

That the way into the holiest — Into heaven.

Was not made manifest — Not so clearly revealed. While the first tabernacle, and its service, were still subsisting - And remaining in force.

Verse 9

[9] Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

Which — Tabernacle, with all its furniture and services.

Is a figure — Or type, of good things to come Which cannot perfect the worshipper - Neither the priest nor him who brought the offering.

As to his conscience — So that he should be no longer conscious of the guilt or power of sin. Observe, the temple was as yet standing.

Verse 10

[10] Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

They could not so perfect him, with all their train of precepts relating to meats and drinks, and carnal, gross, external ordinances; and were therefore imposed only till the time of reformation - Till Christ came.

Verse 11

[11] But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

An high priest of good things to come — Described, Hebrews 9:15. Entered through a greater, that is, a more noble, and perfect tabernacle - Namely, his own body.

Not of this creation — Not framed by man, as that tabernacle was.

Verse 12

[12] Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

The holy place — Heaven.

For us — All that believe.

Verse 13

[13] For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

If the ashes of an heifer — Consumed by fire as a sin-offering, being sprinkled on them who were legally unclean.

Purified the flesh — Removed that legal uncleanness, and re-admitted them to the temple and the congregation. Numbers 19:17,18,19.

Verse 14

[14] How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

How much more shall the blood of Christ. — The merit of all his sufferings.

Who through the eternal Spirit — The work of redemption being the work of the whole Trinity. Neither is the Second Person alone concerned even in the amazing condescension that was needful to complete it. The Father delivers up the kingdom to the Son; and the Holy Ghost becomes the gift of the Messiah, being, as it were, sent according to his good pleasure.

Offered himself — Infinitely more precious than any created victim, and that without spot to God.

Purge our conscience — Our inmost soul.

From dead works — From all the inward and outward works of the devil, which spring from spiritual death in the soul, and lead to death everlasting.

To serve the living God — In the life of faith, in perfect love and spotless holiness.

Verse 15

[15] And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

And for this end he is the Mediator of a new covenant, that they who are called — To the engagements and benefits thereof. Might receive the eternal inheritance promised to Abraham: not by means of legal sacrifices, but of his meritorious death.

For the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant — That is, for the redemption of transgressors from the guilt and punishment of those sins which were committed in the time of the old covenant. The article of his death properly divides the old covenant from the new.

Verse 16

[16] For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

I say by means of death; for where such a covenant is, there must be the death of him by whom it is confirmed - Seeing it is by his death that the benefits of it are purchased. It seems beneath the dignity of the apostle to play upon the ambiguity of the Greek word, as the common translation supposes him to do.

Verse 17

[17] For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

After he is dead — Neither this, nor after men are dead is a literal translation of the words. It is a very perplexed passage.

Verse 18

[18] Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.

Whence neither was the first — The Jewish covenant, originally transacted without the blood of an appointed sacrifice.

Verse 19

[19] For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,

He took the blood of calves — Or heifers.

And of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop — All these circumstances are not particularly mentioned in that chapter of Exodus, but are supposed to be already known from other passages of Moses.

And the book itself — Which contained all he had said.

And sprinkled all the people — Who were near him. The blood was mixed with water to prevent its growing too stiff for sprinkling; perhaps also to typify that blood and water, John 19:34. Exodus 24:7,8

Verse 20

[20] Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

Saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined me to deliver unto you - By this it is established. Exodus 24:8.

Verse 21

[21] Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

And in like manner he ordered the tabernacle - When it was made, and all its vessels, to be sprinkled with blood once a year.

Verse 22

[22] And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

And almost all things — For some were purified by water or fire.

Are according to the law purified with blood — Offered or sprinkled. And according to the law, there is no forgiveness of sins without shedding of blood - All this pointed to the blood of Christ effectually cleansing from all sin, and intimated, there can be no purification from it by any other means.

Verse 23

[23] It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Therefore — That is, it plainly appears from what has been said.

It was necessary — According to the appointment of God. That the tabernacle and all its utensils, which were patterns, shadowy representations, of things in heaven, should be purified by these - Sacrifices and sprinklings.

But the heavenly things themselves — Our heaven-born spirits: what more this may mean we know not yet.

By better sacrifices than these — That is, by a better sacrifice, which is here opposed to all the legal sacrifices, and is expressed plurally, because it includes the signification of them all, and is of so much more eminent virtue.

Verse 24

[24] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

For Christ did not enter into the holy place made with hands — He never went into the holy of holies at Jerusalem, the figure of the true tabernacle in heaven, Hebrews 8:2.

But into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us — As our glorious high priest and powerful intercessor.

Verse 26

[26] For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

For then he must often have suffered from the foundation of the world — This supposes, 1. That by suffering once he atoned for all the sins which had been committed from the foundation of the world. 2. That he could not have atoned for them without suffering.

At the consummation of the ages — The sacrifice of Christ divides the whole age or duration of the world into two parts, and extends its virtue backward and forward, from this middle point wherein they meet to abolish both the guilt and power of sin.

Verse 27

[27] And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

After this, the judgment — Of the great day. At the moment of death every man's final state is determined. But there is not a word in scripture of a particular judgment immediately after death.

Verse 28

[28] So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Christ having once died to bear the sins — The punishment due to them.

Of many — Even as many as are born into the world.

Will appear the second time — When he comes to judgment.

Without sin — Not as he did before, bearing on himself the sins of many, but to bestow everlasting salvation.