"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". In what sense do "the heavenly things" need cleansing?
This statement by the writer, "
but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these", is admittedly difficult to understand in that it points out that the heavenly things need to be purified by sacrifice. First it is important to mention that we do not think that Hebrews 9.23 has any connection with the statement in Job 15.15: "the heavens are not clean in his sight". In answering the question we suggest the following.
The sanctuary of the old covenant, such as approach into the presence of God, was not without blood shedding in the tabernacle system. The cleansing of the earthly sanctuary in the tabernacle was necessary. The blood had to be shed and applied for the cleansing of that earthly sanctuary. In the tabernacle there was provided the blood of bulls and of goats, and this was sufficient to allow God to sanction the sanctuary and give access to the priest to officiate therein. This tabernacle and its furniture were, as the first half of the verse says, "patterns of things in the heavens". The point is that not only must the holy places made with hands be purified, but that the realities, i.e. the blessings of the new covenant of which the tabernacle was a type, can only be possessed by the shedding of Christs blood.
It is interesting that the plural "sacrifices" is used in the text because Christs death embraced and fulfilled all the sacrifices of the old economy. The better sacrifice which brings to the believer an eternal redemption has prepared the way for God to accept and receive pardoned worshippers. His sanctuary where He dwells must be pervaded with the savour of Christs redemption. This need the death of Christ has met. W E Vine puts it succinctly: "Just as the high priests of old entered into the Holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice, on behalf of the people as worshippers of God, so only by the cleansing blood of Christ on the cross could the very presence of God become the meeting place between God and the believer".
John J Stubbs
Are the three parables that follow the teaching of the Lord Jesus regarding His coming in glory applicable today, or are they only for tribulation believers?
It is assumed that the questioner has in mind the so-called "Olivet Discourse" in Matthew chapters 24-25. There we are told of Christs coming in public manifestation: "they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (24.30), and then of the ingathering of Israel: "his angels...shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (24.31).
There follows a digression or a parenthesis from 24.32 to 25.30 where the Lord Jesus gives six parables or illustrations - 1) The Fig Tree (24.32-35); 2) The Days of Noah (24.36-41); 3) The Thief (24.42-44); 4) The Servants (24.45-51); 5) The Ten Virgins (25.1-13); and 6) The Talents (25.14-30). 1) is clearly a parable - "learn a parable of the fig tree" (24.32); 2), 3) and 4) are illustrations. As for 5), "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins" (25.1), and 6), "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country" (25.14) these are parables.
Israel as the fig tree is Israel under judgment, set aside judicially in this present age. However, the Lord Jesus points out that the fig tree will blossom again. Verses 32 and 33 of chapter 24 are concerned with the imminence of His coming; this is evident from the resurgence of life in the fig tree; whilst verses 34 and 35 tell of the certainty of His coming - "my words shall not pass away" (v.35).
Everything in the parable of the ten virgins leads up to the final injunction, "Watch" (25.13); this is the great lesson. It is essentially a warning and exhortation for those who wait for the Son of man, a title associated with Israel and with judgment. Believers today wait for the Son of God. The parable of the talents embodies important principles of labour and reward. Like other "kingdom" parables it refers to Israels accountability. It stresses that lesser ability does not lessen personal responsibility.
While these parables do have primarily in view "tribulation" saints of a future day, there are clearly lessons within them which are valuable for believers in this present age.
David E West