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The Sanctuary: A Sacrament of Heaven

by Michael Madere January 06, 2022 0 Comments

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Dr. Brant Pitre discusses Hebrews 9 and how God instructs Moses to build the Tabernacle so that it will be a copy of heaven. Subscribers to Dr. Pitre's Mass Readings Explained can find the full video here:


…one of the key concepts that’s necessary to understand the letter to the Hebrews — the logic of the letter to the Hebrews — is the ancient Jewish belief that there were two temples...the earthly temple that was visible and centered in Jerusalem and built by Solomon and destroyed but then later rebuilt, and the heavenly temple, the heavenly sanctuary that is in the realm where God dwells… the invisible, ineffable, supernatural heavenly temple.

Once you understand that distinction between the earthly temple and the heavenly temple, you can understand w hat’s going on in the letter to the Hebrews here. So for example, if you look back at verse 24, it says:

For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself…

Now pause there. So notice, what’s Hebrews doing? It’s drawing a distinction between the sanctuary made with hands — that’s the earthly temple — and what he calls the true temple, which is the one that is in Heaven. And notice here, it says — and this is important — that the earthly temple of Jerusalem is actually a copy of the heavenly one. The Greek word there is antitypos, or sometimes you’ll actually see in Archaic theological writing the terminology of an antitype.

Now it doesn’t mean something that’s against the other one. It means a reflection or a copy of it. So in ancient Jewish… what we might call sacramental theology or liturgical theology, the earthly temple or the earthly tabernacle, wasn’t constructed according to the arbitrary whims of the local architect hired by Moses to build the sanctuary or something like that. No, no, no, no, no. It’s not an arbitrary architectural design. It’s actually a copy of the heavenly architecture of the heavenly sanctuary.

This is not just an idea that’s present everywhere in Second Temple period. So for example, if you read the Dead Sea Scrolls, there’s a document among the Dead Sea Scrolls scholars named 11QTemple, sometimes called the Temple Scroll. And it will elaborate on this Jewish idea that the earthly temple is a copy of the heavenly temple. You’ll find it elsewhere in other writings from the time of Jesus and the time of St. Paul.

But this is a biblical idea. If you go all the way back, turn back to Exodus 25, this is the foundational account of when the Israelites got to Mount Sinai. They received the law of Moses (the Ten Commandments), they made the blood covenant with God through sacrifice in Exodus 24. And then once that is done, once the covenant is made, the first thing God does in Exodus 25 — and frankly, what He does for the rest of the book of Exodus, 25-40 — is tell them how He wants His sanctuary to be designed, how He wants His place of worship to be built, what He wants them to put in it, and how they are to offer sacrifice. In other words, the bulk of the book of Exodus (of the second half of Exodus) is about liturgy; it’s about worship. It’s about the tabernacle. It’s about sacrifices. It’s about the priesthood.

And at the very beginning of that description of how to build the tabernacle, God says this to Moses:

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8)

It’s the tabernacle, and He says:

And see that you make them…

Meaning, make it and everything that goes in the tabernacle:

… after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain. (Exodus 25:40)

In verse 9, He says:

According to all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

And the Greek word here for pattern in verse 9 and verse 40 is typos, the same word used by Hebrews. So you’re going to make the earthly tabernacle and everything that goes in it, according to the typos, according to the type that I show you on the mountain.

So what Exodus here is saying is that God is going to bring Moses up to the top of the mountain. He’s going to bring him to the top of the mountain and give him a vision of the heavenly sanctuary. Moses alone is going to get to see what the sanctuary in Heaven looks like, so to speak. And then when he comes down the mountain, he is supposed to construct the tabernacle on Earth according to its pattern or type that’s revealed to him through the vision that he has on the top of the mountain of Heaven.

So the idea here is that the earthly temple is a kind of visible outward sign of the invisible heavenly reality of the sanctuary of God. We have a term for that — an outward sign of an invisible supernatural reality. Yeah, it’s a sacrament. So there’s a very sacramental understanding of the temple in Jerusalem that we frankly, us modern Christians, we just tend to miss completely… that in a sense, for a first century Jew, when they went up to Jerusalem for the sacrifice of the Passover, and when they saw the sanctuary, they believed that they were getting a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. That to participate in the liturgy of the temple was to share in the heavenly liturgy of the angels in a visible, partial, temporary, earthly way...going all the way back to Moses at the time of the Exodus.

Okay, so with that in mind, then… let’s go back to Hebrews chapter 9...

Michael Madere
Michael Madere


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