What does Hebrews 8 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 8:1–6 foreshadows the idea that earthly things, such as the tabernacle, are meant to be symbols of heavenly things. In particular, Christ's role as priest is superior to the Old Testament system because it occurs in the ''true tent'' which God has arranged, rather than the earthly tent made by man. God's words to Moses prove this symbolic nature of the tabernacle. This also leads into a new reference from Jewish Scripture, proving that this was God's intention all along.
Hebrews 8:7–13 uses a quotation from Jeremiah to support an important claim. According to the author of Hebrews, God has always intended to replace the old covenant of the Levitical priests with a new covenant, centered on the work of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah's description of a covenant, explicitly different from what Israel was given during the Exodus, describes the personal, internal nature of the Holy Spirit in a saved believer. Jeremiah's words also place great emphasis on ''I will'' statements coming from God.
Chapter Summary:
Hebrews chapter 8 indicates that the temples, rituals, and objects of the old covenant were always meant to be symbolic. They were real, and valuable, but their ultimate worth was in their symbolism. Those were always intended by God to point towards a better covenant. Rather than something repetitive, earthly, and limited, God planned to offer something completed, personal, and eternal through Jesus Christ. As further proof of this, the writer of Hebrews offers yet another quotation from the Jewish Scriptures, this time from the prophet Jeremiah.
Chapter Context:
Hebrews chapter 8 builds on the points made in chapter 7. Jesus' service as High Priest is superior, since He is given a better position and serves in a better location than the priests of the Old Covenant. This chapter sets up the idea of earthly things being shadows of heavenly things, especially when it comes to the temple and sacrifices. This leads into the focus of chapter 9, which is the superiority of Christ's sacrifice compared to those of the Levitical system.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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