The Time of Reformation
article, we look at the book of Hebrews and the "time of
reformation" spoken of by the writer in chapter nine.
Theme of Hebrews
over-arching theme of the epistle to the Hebrews is the
superiority of Christ and the culmination of God's salvific
purpose in him.
Christ is better than the angels (Heb. 1:4-14); he is better and
worthy of more glory than Moses (Heb. 3:3); he has a better
priesthood (Heb. 7:11-28), and has "obtained a more excellent
ministry," and is the mediator of a "better covenant,"
established upon "better promises" (Heb. 8:6); he is high priest
of a "greater and more perfect tabernacle" (Heb. 9:11), and has
secured eternal redemption by the blood of "better sacrifices"
(Heb. 9:23), by which he has secured for us inheritance in the
"better country" (Heb. 11:15) and promise of a "better
resurrection" (Heb. 11:35).
The temple service and levitical priesthood were
temporary and provisional; they could not take away sins, or
perfect the worshipper, but stood merely as prophetic types,
imposed until God's "something better" was put in place.
That something better is the New Testament of our Lord
and Savior, Jesus Christ.
to the Hebrews bears strong evidence of having been written
shortly before the persecution under Nero. The epistle is
believed by many to have been written by Paul, whose martyrdom,
together with that of Peter, would mark the beginning of the
persecution under Nero and the beast.
The epistle is written from
describes a period of political stability in
unbelieving Jews could not put Christians to death, the epistle
makes clear that Hebrew Christians were under a time of
increasing pressure and peril.
While our Lord was still on earth, the leaders of the
Jews had declared that those confessing Christ were to be "cast
out" of the synagogue (Jn. ,
This policy did not end, but continued after our Lord's
ascension (Jn. 16:1, 2). To be cast out or excommunicated meant
the loss of all social standing and many of one's civil rights.
Jews in good standing in the synagogue were charged to shun
those who were cast out; they were to treat excommunicates as
alien sinners and Gentiles, and forbidden to have any dealings
with them (cf. Matt. ).
Moreover, leaders of the synagogues had jurisdiction over
their countrymen to impose fines, confiscations, and cause them
to be scourged with rods or whips.
Hence, even during the period when the Jews were
restrained by Roman law, Paul could say
"of the Jews five times
received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with
rods, once was I stoned" (II Cor. ,
25). In a word, the
Hebrew Christians are suffering and being pressured to return to
of the epistle suggests that much of the controversy and
persecution directed against Christians rose in connection with
the temple and its service.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the hour was coming
when worship at the
"Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build for me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is an if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear;: but they did evil before mine yes, and chose that in which I delighted not. Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hated you and cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. A voice a noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies" (Isa. 66:3-6).
surveys the whole period from the cross to Christ's second
coming and the destruction of
The Time of Reformation
to the Hebrews says that the temple service was imposed (e.g.
was to be obeyed) until the time of reformation:
"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 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; and over it the cherabims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 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: The Holy Ghost thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 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 stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation" (Heb. 9:1-10).
the whole passage is set in the
- The first covenant had ordinances (v. 1)
- There was a tabernacle made, wherein was the candlestick, etc.
- When these things were thus ordained, the priest went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God
- But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered
- The Holy Ghost thus signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest while as yet the first tabernacle had a standing
- 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
- Which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances
- Imposed on them until the time of reformation.
thrust of the whole passage is to demonstrate that temple
service belonged to another
time and to another
"The first covenant
had ordinances imposed
on them until the time of reformation."
There is no indication that the writer identifies either
himself or his readers with the Old Testament or the temple
system. For him, it
is entirely a thing of the past. He does not say it is imposed
upon us, but was imposed
on them. This
does not mean the temple service was not on-going, for indeed it
was. Unbelieving Jews continued to cling to the dead body of
Moses, supposing that in it they were justified with God. But
for Christians, the ceremonial law had no claim or demand, but
stood merely as a relic of the past with which they were not to
become entangled in again.
"For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make
myself a transgressor" (Gal. ).
Subject of the Reformation
Next, let us
consider the substance of the reformation.
What things had Christ come to reform?
The writer lists the following items as belonging to the
- The first covenant
- The worldly sanctuary
- The priestly service
- The appointed days and ceremonies
- The blood sacrifices
- The washings
- The dietary restrictions
- Miscellaneous carnal ordinances
epistle to the Colossians, Paul addressed the issue of the law,
saying, "let no man judge
you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of
the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of
things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:16, 17).
The ritual and observances of the law stood as shadows, looking
ahead to Christ. The
shadow ends where the body (substance) begins.
Since Paul tells Christians not to become inveigled in
the law, it is clear that he considered the shadow past, and the
body and substance of redemption as having arrived. Indeed, the
writer of Hebrews says this very thing:
"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; 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" (Heb. 9:11, 12).
Notice the verb tense in this passage:
- Christ being come (historical present, describing past events in the present voice)
- Entered by his blood (past tense)
- Having obtained eternal redemption (perfect tense, showing completed action in the past)
words, the whole substance of the law looked to the work of
Christ upon the cross, and was fulfilled in his death, burial,
Appointed days and feasts
Misc. carnal ordinances
The Shadow Ended at the Cross
Body & Substance
High Priesthood of Christ
His own Blood
at the feasts of the Jews just to make sure this point is clear
and that these all looked ahead to the death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ.
There were three major feasts of the Jews and one fast.
- Passover, which marked the beginning of the year (Ex. 12:1-17; Deut. 16:1).
- Pentecost, which fell the 50th day of the Sabbath following Passover and marked the first fruit of the wheat harvest (Lev. ; Deut. 16:9).
- Atonement, which fell the 10th day of the seventh month (Lev. ; 25:9).
- Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (booths), which fell in the time of autumn vintage of grapes, five days after the Atonement, and commemorated the Jews encampment at Succoth after the Exodus ("Soccoth" means booths, Strong's #5523), but looked ahead to the redemption we have in Christ from the slavery of sin (Ex. 12:37; 23:42-44; Deut. 16:13).
were fulfilled in Christ is apparent from the following verses:
- I Cor. 5:7 - Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb whose death redeemed the church of the firstborn.
- I Cor. - But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. The Sunday following Passover, the firstfruit of barley was offered, prefiguring Christ's resurrection. 50 days later, the wheat harvest fell and Pentecost was kept, prefiguring establishment of the church (Lev. , 15; Acts 2:1, 47). Christ is the firstfruit that sanctifies the whole harvest.
- Rom. - And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement; (cf., Heb. , 12).
- And the Word was made flesh and dwelt ("tabernacled") among us (Jn. ).
hear that the Feast of Tabernacles symbolized the general
resurrection, but I find no support for this.
Zechariah uses the Feast of Tabernacles as a symbol to
describe New Testament worship commemorating the salvation of
Christ, saying, those nations that keep not the Feast of
Tabernacles will be plagued:
"In that day thee shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness…And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain…this shall be the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zech. 13:1; 14:16, 19).
this shows that Tabernacles is a commemoration of our
deliverance from sin (the second Exodus), not a looking forward
to our resurrection.
associated with the first covenant pointed to Christ upon the
cross, and were thus cast in the past tense by the writer of
Hebrews, Christ being come the High Priest of good things to
Entering the Most Holy
to the Hebrews attaches symbolism to the tabernacle. The
tabernacle was divided into two sections: The first tabernacle
is called "Holy place."
In this section the priests went daily about their
ministry. The second tabernacle, called the Holy of Holies, was
separated from the first by a veil, into which the High Priest
alone went once a year. God's presence was within the Holy of
Holies, above the Mercy Seat between the cheribim.
The stranger that drew nigh was to be put to death (Num.
38). The point of this symbolism was to show that the way into
God's presence was not open to the worshipper under the Mosaic
system of animal sacrifices, for the blood of bulls and goats
cannot take away sins (Heb. 10: 1-4).
The high priest, who entered annually into the Holy of
Holies, depicted Christ, who would carry his blood into God's
presence by his death on
debated a friend who labored under the idea that "entering the
"The holy place represents the period of Mosaism, that intermediate stage of revelation and law, when many a type and symbol foreshadowed the better tings to come, and the exceptional entrance of the high priest once a year within the veil signified that 'the way of the holies was not yet made manifest' (Heb. 9:8).
The Holy of Holies represents the Messianic aeon, when the Christian believer, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus (Heb. ), is conceived to 'have come to
Jameson, Brown, and Faucett says the same:
"The Old Testament economy is represented by the holy place, the New Testament economy by the Holy of Holies.Redemption, by Christ, has opened the Holy of Holies (access to heaven by faith now, Hbr 4:16, 7:19, 25, 22; by sight hereafter).” Jameson, Brown, and Faucett in loc.)
facts represented and symbolized by the two sections of the
tabernacle may be portrayed thus:
The Tabernacle and the Two Covenants
now received the atonement” - Rom.
Holy Place – Old Testamento:p>
Most Holy Place – New Testament
“Time Then Present”
“Time of Reformation”
Heavenly Sanctuary /
Way to Holiest Closed
Holiest Opened by Jesus’ Death
Could Not Perfect (save)
Hath Perfected Forever (Heb. ))
During the Old Testament period, the
worshipper remained in a condition of legal estrangement,
banishment, and exile from God, unable to enter his presence
because of sin. The
New Testament marks the time when reconciliation has been made,
the veil of separation “rent in twain,” and man can come into
God’s presence free from the taint of sin.
Christians could not legally and covenantally enter the
The Coming of Christ to Save his People
prophesy, above, about the Jews' clinging to the priestly
service, while rejecting Christ and persecuting Christians, held
out the promise of Christ's coming to save his people and
destroy the city and temple.
"Your brethren that hated you and cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. A voice a noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies" (Isa. 66:5, 6).
promise is repeated several times to the Hebrew Christians.
"'Thou hast put all things under his feet.' For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was make e a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." (Heb. 2:8, 9).
implies that although Christ has not yet put his enemies beneath
his feet, he soon will.
Meanwhile, having made the atonement, he is coregent with
God, seated at his right hand.
"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" (Heb. 9:28).
teaches the same as above: Christ died for man's sins and has so
entered heaven, but will shortly appear to save his people from
"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:38).
Here we see
that the persecution of the end time - the mystery of iniquity -
was already evincing itself. Hebrew Christians needed patience
to endure their suffering and plight until Christ's coming to
"Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Heb.12:26-28).
This is a
quote from the prophet Haggai, who makes clear that shaking of
heaven and earth would not only overthrow the Jews, but the
thrones and kingdoms of the heathen (Hag. 2:6, 7, 21, 22).
"Heaven and earth" here thus clearly signify, not the
Jewish temple and economy, but the political powers of the
"new heavens and earth" would follow the overthrow of the
persecutors, heralding the kingdom and dominion of Christ, who
rules the nations with a rod of iron.
The "time of reformation" describes the New Testament gospel of Christ.span style="mso-spacerun:yes"> The Old Testament was done away at the Cross and the New assumed its place.
 Peter and Paul both foretold their martyrdom (II Tim. 4:6; II Pet. ; cf. Jn. , 19) and are best understood as the "two witnesses" whose deaths would mark the beginning of the persecution under Nero (Rev. 11:3-10).
 "This was granted in order to gratify Poppea, Nero's wife, who was a religious woman, and had requested these favors of Nero." Josephus, Ant. XX, viii, 11.
 It is probable that this is at least part of the meaning of the "mark of the beast" in Rev. 13:16-18, by which the "false prophet" caused men to receive a mark without which no man might buy or sell: viz., a test imposed by rulers of the synagogue requiring men to renounce Christ and profess obedience to the law
 Milton Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Hunt & Eason, 1890), p. 275
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