23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
Two features of the Day of Atonement were (1) sacrifice for sin and (2) entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies. Both represented the death of Christ for our sins and His entrance into the presence of God. What He did carried efficacy with God.
“Therefore” brings a conclusion to Hebrews 9:15-22.
it was necessary
The emphatic word order in the Greek shows that the necessity is grounded in God’s purpose.
that the copies of the things in the heavens
“Copies” refers to the earthly tabernacle. These “copies” were sketches of real things. “Things in the heavens” means nothing will be defiled in God’s presence because of the work of Christ on the cross. The “things in the heavens” is not heaven itself but means the realities in association with Christ’s priesthood.
should be purified with these [animal sacrifices],
The tabernacle on earth required sacrifices, but “things in the heavens” require better sacrifices. “Things in the heavens” refers to priestly arrangement designed for eternal focus.
but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices [generic plural] than these [animal sacrifices].
Christ’s High Priesthood and sacrifice were “better” than Old Testament sacrifices. His sacrifice satisfied God’s righteous demands completely. It was a real sacrifice rather than an illustration of the reality.
What is true for the copy is also true for the reality of heaven (He 8:5). Otherwise, there would be no need for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His substitutionary work was far “better” than the copy. The antitype of the earthly sanctuary equates with the heavenly sanctuary.
The plural “sacrifices” is a figure of speech known as “enallage”; that is, the plural is put for the singular for emphasis. Christ’s final sacrifice was the fulfillment of all other sacrifices. His sacrifice superseded all other sacrifices.
This verse gives the reason why no one can enter God’s presence with the inferior blood of animals.
Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands,
Christ the Messiah never entered the earthly tabernacle to sacrifice for sins (He 9:12).
which are copies [antitype] of the true,
Tabernacle-repeated sacrifices were mere copies of Christ’s authentic sacrifice (He 8:5). The earthly corresponds to heaven as a copy corresponds to the copied reality. The word “true” means that heaven is copied by the earthly antitype. The antitype, in this case, is not heaven but a copy that foreshadows the reality. The antitype is a close fulfillment of the type.
The usage of antitype here is unusual. Normally we view Christ as the Antitype and Old Testament sacrifices as the type, for example. Here, however, the point is that the earthly corresponds to the heavenly as a copy corresponds to the copied reality. The true sanctuary is copied by the earthly antitype (sanctuary) here.
The word “but” is a strong contrast in the Greek. The focus is on Christ’s entrance into heaven.
into heaven itself,
“Heaven” here is the immediate presence of God. Jesus did not go into an earthly Holy of Holies but into the immediate presence of God on our behalf. Christ’s entrance into heaven made His sacrifice clear to the one whose presence demanded absolute purity.
The word “now” emphasizes Christ’s appearance into the presence of God. He is there right now interceding on our behalf.
to appear in the presence of God
Different words for “appear” occur three times in this verse and in verses 26 and 28:
(1) the Lord is presently appearing in the presence of God on our behalf, v. 24;
(2) He previously appeared to put away sin by His death on the cross, v. 26;
(3) He will one day wrap the issues of life into final salvation, v. 28.
The three different words for appearing in the Greek carry different ideas. Here the word “appear” is the idea of presentation of Christ in God’s presence with the acceptance of His person and work; that is, to appear openly (emphanizo)—He came to advocate for us. In verse 26 the word “appear” means to bring to view what is hidden (phaneroo)—He came to abolish the penalty of sin. The third word use of the word “appear,” in verse 28, means that when He comes, He will actually be seen in His true humanity (horao)—He is coming to administer His kingdom.
The word “for” means on our behalf. Our Lord represents us personally in God’s presence as our Intercessor (He 7:25; Ro 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1).
God is not satisfied with the sinner but with the Savior.
Jesus satisfied the sin issue for God. God is not satisfied with the sinner but with the Savior. We can offer nothing worthwhile to Him. Our acceptance to God is our identity with Christ. God sees us in Him; He sees His payment for our sin. God looks on us with complete favor because of Christ.