An Exposition of Hebrews
by A. W. Pink
Christ Our Sin Offering
(Hebrews 13:11, 12)
In the verses at which we have now arrived the apostle once more sets before us the O.T. shadow and the N.T. substance, which emphasizes the importance and necessity of diligently comparing one portion of the Scriptures with another, and particularly those sections which record those ordinances that God gave unto Israel wherein the person, office and work of His Son were so vividly, so blessedly, and so fully foreshadowed. The study of the types, when conducted soberly and reverently, yields a rich return. Its evidential value is of great worth, for it affords an unmistakable demonstration of the Divine authorship of the Scriptures, and when the Holy Spirit is pleased to reveal bow that type and antitype fit in to each other more perfectly than hand and glove, then the hidden harmony of the different parts of the Word is unveiled to us: the minute analogies, the numerous points of agreement between the one and the other, make it manifest that one presiding Mind controlled the whole.
The comparing of type with antitype also brings out the wondrous unity of the Scriptures, showing that beneath incidental diversity there has ever been an essential oneness in God’s dealings with His people. Nothing so convincingly exposes the principal error of the Dispensationalists than this particular branch of study. The immediate design and use of the types was to exhibit unto God’s people under the old covenant those vital and fundamental elements of Truth which are common alike to all dispensations, but which have received their plainest discovery under the new covenant. By means of material symbols a fitting portrayal was made of things to come, suitably paving the way for their introduction. The ultimate spiritual realities appeared first only in prospect or existed but in embryo. Under the Levitical instructions God caused there to be shadowed forth in parabolic representation the whole work of redemption by means of a vivid appeal to the senses: "The law having a shadow of good things to come" (Heb. 10:1).
The passage just quoted warrants the assertion that a spiritual study of the O.T. types also affords a valuable aid to the interpretation of much in the N.T. Just as the doctrine expounded in the Epistles rests upon and is illustrated by the central facts recorded in the Gospels, so much in both Gospels and Epistles can only be fully appreciated in the light of the O.T. Scriptures. It is to be deplored that so many Christians find the second half of Exodus and the whole of Leviticus little more than a record of meaningless and effete ceremonial rites. If the preacher would take his "illustrations" of Gospel truths from the types, (instead of searching secular history for "suitable anecdotes"), he would not only honor the Scriptures, but stir up and direct the interest of his spiritual hearers in those portions of the Word now so generally neglected. Christ is set forth as conspicuously in Leviticus as He is in John’s Gospel, for "in the volume of the Book" it is written of Him.
The pity is that many of the more sober-minded and spiritual among God’s people have been prejudiced against the study of the types, and the valuable use of them in interpreting the N.T., by the untimely efforts of unqualified novices. The types were never designed by the Holy Spirit to provide a field in which young men might give free play to their imagination, or exercise their carnal ingenuity so as to bring out a mystical meaning to the most prosaic facts, and startle their unlearned hearers by giving to trifles a farfetched significance. The wild allegorizing of Origen in the past should serve as a lasting warning. There are essential principles and fixed rules of interpreting the types which are never to be ignored. The interpreter must concentrate his attention upon central truths and basic principles, and not occupy his thoughts with petty agreements and fanciful analogies. The central and all-important subjects exemplified in the types are sin and salvation, the purifying of the soul, and the dedication of the heart and life to God.
Again; familiarity with the types and the spiritual principles they exemplify is a great help to the right understanding of prophecy. A type necessarily possesses something of a prophetical character, for it is a symbolical promise of the ultimate thing yet to appear, and hence it is not at all surprising that in announcing things to come the prophets, to a large extent, availed themselves of the characters and events of past history, making them the images of a nobler future. In the prospective delineations which are given us in Scripture respecting the final issues of Christ’s kingdom among men, while the foundation of all lies in His own mediatorial office and work, yet it is through the personages and ordinances of the old covenant that things to come are shadowed forth. Thus, Moses spoke of the Messiah as a Prophet like unto himself (Deut. 18:18). David announced Him as Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110), while Malachi predicted His forerunner under the name of Elijah (Mal. 3:1, 4:5). Herein are valuable hints for our guidance, and if they be duly observed there will be no more excuse for interpreting "the Son of David" (Matthew 1:1) in a carnal sense, than for literalizing the "we have an altar" of Hebrews 13:10.
From what has been pointed out above on the manifold value of the types—which might be indefinitely amplified, especially the last point—it should be quite evident that they greatly err who look upon the types as a mere kindergarten, designed only for the infancy of the Church. The very fact that the Holy Spirit has preserved a record of them in the imperishable Word of Truth, is clear intimation that they possess far more than a local use and temporary purpose. The mind of God and the circumstances of the fallen creature are substantially the same in all ages, while the spiritual needs of the saints are the same now as they were four thousand years ago, and were the same then as they are today. If, then, the wisdom of God placed His people of old under a course of instruction through the types, it is our folly and loss if we despise the same today. A mathematician still has use for the elementary principles of arithmetic, as a trained musician scorns not the rudimentary scales.
The basic principles underlying the types were made use of by Christ at the dawn of the N.T. era, thus intimating that the fundamental methods employed by God are the same in all generations. Every miracle the Lord Jesus performed was a type in history, for on the outward and visible plane of Nature He displayed the Divine power and work which He came here to accomplish in the higher realm of Grace. In every act of healing men’s bodily diseases, there was an adumbration to the eye of sense of that salvation which He would provide for the healing of the soul. In the demands which He made upon those whom He healed, a revelation was given of the principles by which His salvation may be procured by us. The facts of the Gospels are the key to the truths of the Epistles, and the types of the O.T. are the key to the facts of the Gospel. Thus, one part of Scripture is made dependent on the other, just as no member of our body is independent of its fellow-members.
"For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin. are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate" (verses 11, 12). In these verses the apostle supplies a striking illustration and confirmation of what he had just previously affirmed. In the preceding verse he had declared that Christ is the altar of His people—the antitype of all that had been shadowed out by the typical altars of O.T. times—which, as we showed, signifies not only that Christ is their atoning sacrifice unto God, but that He is also the sustenance, the food, for His people. Then followed the solemn statement that those who stubbornly and unbelievingly continued to adhere unto Judaism, deprived themselves of the blessings enjoyed by Christians.
As we have so often pointed out, the Hebrew saints were being urged to return unto the Divinely-instituted religion of their fathers. In verse 9 the apostle presents to them two further dissausives. First, he assured them they now possess the Antitype of all the types of Judaism: why, then, be tempted by the shadows when they possessed the Substance! Second, he solemnly affirms that those who still clung to Judaism cut themselves off from the Christian privileges: they had "no right," no Divine title to "eat" or partake of them. The application of this principle to us today is obvious. The same two-fold argument should suffice to draw off our hearts from doting upon ritualistic rites and performances: possessing Christ as our great High Priest, having access to the Throne of Grace, such things as bowing to the east, elevating the offering (collection), candles, incense, pictures, images, are needless and worthless, and if the heart be set on them and a saving value be ascribed to them, they effectually exclude us from an interest in Christ’s salvation.
In the preceding article we showed how strikingly and blessedly the O.T. types pointed to Christ as the nourishment of His people: only parts of the sacrifices were burnt upon the altar, other portions thereof being allotted to the priests or the offerer and his family. But there was a notable exception to this, unto which the apostle now directs our attention. "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp." The reference is unto the sin offerings. These were slain on the altar in the outer court, but their blood was carried inside the tabernacle and sprinkled before or upon the throne of Jehovah, while their carcasses were utterly consumed outside the camp. This was, of course, while Israel were sojourners in the wilderness and lived in tents but the same order was observed after they entered Canaan and the temple was built in Jerusalem—the bodies of the sin offerings being carried out beyond the walls of the city to be consumed there.
The apostle was referring to such passages as Leviticus 4:1-12, where provision was made for an atonement when a priest had unwittingly sinned against any of the commandments of the Lord. He was to bring a bullock unto the door of the tabernacle for a sin offering, lay his hand upon its head (as an act of identification, to denote that the doom awaiting it was what he deserved), and kill it before the Lord. Its blood was then to be brought into the tabernacle and sprinkled seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary, and upon the horns of the incense altar, and the remainder thereof poured out at the base of the brazen altar. The richest portions of the animal were then burned upon the altar, but the remainder of it was carried forth "without the camp," and there utterly consumed by fire. The same order was followed when the whole congregation sinned through ignorance (Lev. 4:12-21), the account closing with "He shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering." The reader may also compare Numbers 19:3, 9.
But there is no doubt that the apostle was alluding more particularly unto the chief sin offering which was offered on the annual day of atonement, when propitiation was made for all the sins of Israel once a year, described at length in Leviticus 16. Concerning the blood of this sacrifice we read, "And he (the high priest) shall take of the blood of the bullock and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercyseat eastward, and before the mercyseat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times" (verse 14). Regarding the bodies of those beasts used on this occasion we are told, "and the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp: and they shall burn in the fire their skins and their flesh, and their dung" (verse 27). These passages, then, make it quite clear to which particular class of sacrifices the apostle was referring in Hebrews 13:10, 11.
The question now arises, Wherein lies the relevancy of this allusion to these passages in Leviticus in our present text? What was the apostle’s particular design in referring to the sin offerings? It was twofold. First, to substantiate his assertion that they who served the tabernacle had "no right to eat" of the Christian’s altar—i.e., had no title to partake of the benefits of Christ, who has, as our next verse shows, died as a sin offering. There was a Divine prohibition which expressly forbade any feeding upon the same: "And no sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire" (Lev. 6:30). Those, then, who clung to Judaism were cut off from the Antitype’s sin offering. Second, to exhibit the superiority of Christianity: those who trust in Christ eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:54-56).
But let us dwell for a moment on the spiritual significance of this particular detail in the type. It presents to us that feature in the sufferings of Christ which is the most solemn of all to contemplate, namely, His being made sin for His people and enduring the penal wrath of God. "Outside the camp" was the place where the leper was compelled to dwell (Lev. 13:46), it was the place where criminals were condemned and slain (Lev. 24:14 and cf. Joshua 7:25, 1 Kings 21:13, Acts 7:58), it was the place where the defiled were put (Num. 5:3), it was the place where filth was deposited (Deut. 23:12-14). And that was the place, dear Christian reader, that the incarnate Son, the Holy One of God, entered for you and for me! O the unspeakable humiliation when He suffered Himself to be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isa. 53:12). O the unutterable mystery of the Blessed One "being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). O the unspeakable anguish when the sword of Divine justice smote Him (Zech. 13:7), and God forsook Him (Matthew 27:46).
Yet let it be emphatically insisted upon that Christ remained, personally and essentially, the Untainted One, even when the fearful load of the sins of His people was laid upon Him. This very point was carefully guarded by God—ever jealous of the honor of His son—in the types, yea, in the sin offerings themselves. First, the blood of the sin offering was carried within the sanctuary itself and sprinkled before the Lord (Lev. 4:6), which was not done with any other offering. Second, "the fat that covereth the inwards" of the animal was burned upon the altar (Lev. 4:8-10), yea, "for a sweet savor unto the Lord," intimating that God still beheld that in His Son with which He was well pleased even while He was bearing the sins of His people. Third, it was expressly enjoined that the carcase of the bullock should be carried forth "without the camp unto a clean place" (Lev. 4:12), signifying it was still holy unto the Lord, and not a polluted thing.
Christ was "as pure, as holy, and as precious in the sight of God whilst groaning under the infliction of damnatory wrath on the accursed tree, as when He was in the bosom of the Father before all worlds—the very same moment in which He was ‘bruised’ and ‘made a curse’ for us, being also that in which He offered Himself for us ‘an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.’ Never was the character of Jesus exhibited in more transcendent excellency; never were His relations to God and to man maintained in greater perfectness than during the time that He suffered for us on the Tree. Never did the Father more delight in and appreciate the excellency of the Son of His love; never did the Son more love and honor and delight in the Father than when He uttered that bitter cry ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ The very circumstances which placed Jesus, outwardly, in the extreme of distance from Heaven and from God, only proved that there was an essential nearness—an everlasting moral nearness, which not even the fact of His being the Bearer of damnatory wrath could for one moment alter" (B.W. Newton).
The immediate reason why none of the Israelites, not even the high priest, was allowed to eat any portion of the sin offering, and why its carcass was burnt outside the camp rather than upon the altar, seems to lie in the distinctive nature and special design of this offering. Had the priest eaten of any portion thereof, that had given it the character of a peace offering, and had the whole been consumed upon the altar it had too closely resembled the burnt offering. But, as we have pointed out before, the ultimate reason and deeper design was to denote that Judaism had to be abandoned before one could "eat" or derive benefit from the Christian’s "altar." Herein lies the superiority of Christianity, that we are permitted to feed upon a Sacrifice of the highest and holiest kind, receiving therefrom those blessings and benefits which Christ has procured for His people by the shedding of His precious blood.
The apostle, then, has furnished clear proof of what he had asserted in vv. 9, 10, and that from the O.T. Scriptures themselves. There he had said, "it is good that the heart be established with grace," which means for the mind to have such a fixed persuasion of the Truth as to enjoy peace with God, without which there can be no real and solid tranquility. Then the apostle had said, "Not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein," which must be understood in the light of the previous clause: the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical law were altogether inadequate for justification and peace with God. Moreover, that sacrifice which made atonement for sin provided no food for those who offered it, and the heart cannot be established before God where sins are not remitted.
"Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." Here is the Christian’s altar, here is the all-sufficient sacrifice offered once for all upon it, and here is the blessed effect thereof, his sanctification. The opening "wherefore" of this verse called for the line of thought developed in the opening paragraphs of this article. It intimated that it was for the express purpose of meeting the requirements of the O.T. types that the Lord Jesus was "lead as a lamb to the slaughter" and suffered the horrible ignominy of being cast out of the holy city and put to death in the place where the worst of criminals were executed. What honor did the Substance now place upon the shadows! A wide field of study is here suggested to us, and a reverent and patient survey of it will well repay our efforts.
How frequently in the four Gospels has the Holy Spirit assigned as the reason for what Christ did "that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." That expression is not to be restricted to Christ’s design in accomplishing the terms of Messianic prophecy—though, of course, that is included—for it also and often has reference to His so acting in order that the types which foreshadowed Him might be realized. The will of God concerning the Mediator had been intimated in the legal institutions, for in them a prefiguration was made of what Christ should do and suffer, and His perfect obedience to the Father moved Him unto a compliance therewith. Consequently, the fuller be our knowledge of the types, the more shall we be able to understand the recorded details of our Savior’s earthly life (particularly of His last week), and the more can we appreciate the motive which actuated Him—complete subjection to the will of the One who had sent Him. That particular which the Holy Spirit notes in our text is but one illustration from many, if we take the trouble to search them out.
"The complete answering and fulfilling of all types in the person and office of Christ, testifieth the sameness and immutability of the counsel of God in the whole work of the redemption and salvation of the Church, notwithstanding all the outward changes that have been in the institutions of Divine worship" (John Owen). But it did something else too: it left the unbelieving Jews without excuse: Christ’s implicit compliance with the types, His complete and perfect production of all that had been foreshadowed of Him, furnished the most indubitable demonstration that He was the promised Messiah, and therefore His rejection by the Nation at large sealed their doom, and was the reason why, a little later, God destroyed their sanctuary, city, and heritage.
"Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." Christ Himself is the all-sufficient sin-offering of His people. Just as all the iniquities, transgressions and sins of natural Israel were, in a figure, transferred to the typical offering (Lev. 16:21), so all the iniquities, transgressions and sins of the spiritual Israel were imputed to their Surety (Isa. 53:6, 7, 11, 12). Just as the goat bearing the iniquities of natural Israel was sent away "into a land not inhabited" (Lev. 16:22), so "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath Christ removed our transgression from us" (Ps. 103:12). And just as "on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30), so "The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Observe that in strict keeping with the fact that the Redeemer is here contemplated as the antitypical Sin-offering, He is referred to simply as "Jesus," and not "Jesus Christ" as in verses 8, 21, still less "our Lord Jesus" as in 5:20. He is not alluded to in these different ways at random, nor for the mere purpose of variation. Not so does the Holy Spirit order His speech: there is nothing haphazard in His language. The various designations accorded the Savior in the Word are selected with Divine propriety, and nothing affords a more striking evidence of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures than the unerring precision with which they are used. "Jesus" is His personal name as man (Matthew 1:21); "Christ" is His official title, as the One anointed of God (Matthew 16:16, 20); while "The Lord Jesus" points to His exalted status and authority (John 13:13, Acts 2:36). When "Jesus" is used alone, it is either for the special purpose of identification (as in Acts 1:11), or to emphasize the infinite depths of humiliation into which the Son of God descended.
"Wherefore (in fulfillment of the types which had defined the path He should tread), Jesus also (the Antitype, the Just who had entered the place of the unjust, the infinitely Glorious One who had descended into such unfathomable depths of degradation), that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." This was the particular feature made most prominent in the type, for the sin-offering was not only slain, and its carcass taken outside the camp, but there is was utterly consumed. It spoke of Christ as the Sin-bearer enduring the fiery indignation of a sin-hating God, suffering His penal wrath. It spoke of Christ offering Himself to God as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, to make atonement for them, for His blood was shed, and blood was never employed under the types except to make atonement (Lev. 17:11). It is, then, by the voluntary and vicarious blood-shedding of their Covenant-head, and by that alone, believers are sanctified.
"That He might sanctify the people." Ponder carefully, my reader, the definiteness of the language here used. Scripture knows nothing of a vague, general, undeterminable and futile shedding of the precious blood of the Lamb. No indeed: it had a predestined, specific, and invincible end in view. That blood was not shed for the whole human race at large (a considerable portion of which was already in Hell when Christ died!), but for "the people," each of whom are sanctified by it. It was for "the sheep" He laid down His life (John 10:11). It was to gather together in one "the children of God that were scattered abroad" that He was slain (John 11:51, 52). It was for "His friends" He endured the cross (John 15:13). It was for the Church He gave Himself (Eph. 5:25).