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1THE first covenant had its ordinances governing divine service and its sanctuary, but it was an earthly sanctuary.

2An outer tent, called the Holy Place, was set up to contain the lampstand, the table, and the Bread of the Presence.

3Beyond the second curtain was the tent called the Most Holy Place.

4Here were a gold incense-altar and the Ark of the Covenant plated all over with gold, in which were kept a gold jar containing the manna, and Aaron's staff which once budded, and the tablets of the covenant;

5and above the Ark were the cherubim of God's glory, overshadowing the place of expiation. These we need not discuss in detail now.

6Under this arrangement, the priests are continually entering the first tent in the performance of their duties;

7but the second tent is entered by the high priest alone, and that only once a year. He takes with him the blood which he offers for himself and for the people's inadvertent sins.

8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that so long as the outer tent still stands, the way into the sanctuary has not been opened up.

9All this is symbolic, pointing to the present time. It means that the prescribed offerings and sacrifices cannot give the worshipper a clear conscience and so bring him to perfection;

10they are concerned only with food and drink and various rites of cleansing -- external ordinances in force until the coming of the new order.

11But now Christ has come, high priest of good things already in being. The tent of his priesthood is a greater and more perfect one, not made by human hands, that is, not belonging to this created world;

12the blood of his sacrifice is his own blood, not the blood of goats and calves; and thus he has entered the sanctuary once for all and secured an eternal liberation.

13If sprinkling the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer consecrates those who have been defiled and restores their ritual purity,

14how much greater is the power of the blood of Christ; through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without blemish to God. His blood will cleanse our conscience from the deadness of our former ways to serve the living God.

15That is why the new covenant or testament of which he is mediator took effect once a death had occurred, to bring liberation from sins committed under the former covenant; its purpose is to enable those whom God has called to receive the eternal inheritance he has promised them.

16Now where there is a testament it is necessary for the death of the testator to be established;

17for a testament takes effect only when a death has occurred: it has no force while the testator is still alive.

18Even the former covenant itself was not inaugurated without blood,

19for when Moses had told the assembled people all the commandments as set forth in the law, he took the blood of calves, with water, scarlet wool, and marjoram, and sprinkled the law book itself and all the people,

20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you to keep.”

21In the same way he sprinkled the blood over the tent and all the vessels of divine service.

22Indeed, under the law, it might almost be said that everything is cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Jesus, the final sacrifice

23IF, then, the symbols of heavenly things required those sacrifices to cleanse them, the heavenly things themselves required still better sacrifices;

24for Christ has not entered a sanctuary made by human hands which is only a pointer to the reality; he has entered heaven itself, to appear now before God on our behalf.

25It was not his purpose to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood not his own;

26for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the world was created. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the climax of history to abolish sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27Just as it is our human lot to die once, with judgement to follow,

28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of mankind, and will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

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