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Hebrews chapter 8

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What does Hebrews chapter 8 mean?

Hebrews chapter 8 continues the writer's explanation for why Jesus, and the new covenant He brings, is superior to the old covenant of Judaism. In prior chapters, the writer has explained how the Promised One could not have been an angel, but had to be human. The writer has also shown that Jesus, because of His perfect life, is in a position to be the ultimate high priest for all mankind. This especially involves the example of Melchizedek, who was both priest and king, and who was honored by Abraham (Genesis 14). In the prior chapter, this association with Melchizedek included the idea that God had always intended to replace the Levitical priesthood with something greater. This was demonstrated using various Jewish Scriptures (Psalm 110).

The chapter begins by extending a bridge from prior ideas. The end of chapter 7 included a description of a priest who was perfect and sinless. This chapter explains that Jesus is this perfect priest, and that He is currently serving in a greater place than some earthly temple. In order to demonstrate this, the writer explains that earthly objects, such as the tabernacle, are intended to be symbols of the "real" covenant with God. Since the promise of the new covenant is heavenly and eternal, it is far better than the old covenant, which fails due to the weakness of humanity (Hebrews 7:19, 23; Romans 7:12).

A major point in favor of this view is that God has predicted this eventual transition. The writer has already cited passages such as Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Now, another Jewish prophet is added, in a quote from Jeremiah 31:31–34. There, Jeremiah wrote to predict a time, in his own future, when God would create a new covenant with His people. This new covenant would be in the minds and hearts of the people, instead of something external and manmade. Since this prediction was given after the issuing of the Levitical priesthood, it must be a reference to something completely separate.

As the writer of Hebrews reasons, why would God replace the old covenant unless it was flawed (Hebrews 7:11; 8:13)? Since the old covenant was obviously flawed due to a dependence on sinful humans, a better covenant needs to be grounded on better promises. Christ's ultimate, finished, perfect work on our behalf is that very thing. This sets the stage for chapter 9, which will explore the relationship between the earthly tabernacle and the heavenly work performed by Jesus Christ.
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