I'm of the opinion that "To the Hebrews" would benefit from a warning/disclaimer in the preface that says something to the effect of:
NOTICE: In order to understand this essay it is necessary to have a
firm grasp of the rituals of Yom Kippur found in Leviticus 16.
This is, I think subtly suggested in the title (which is found since the oldest manuscripts) of "To the Hebrews". All throughout the book the author is alluding to the Torah, comparing and contrasting:
- the Melchizedechian priesthood of Jesus with the Aaronic priesthood
- Jesus as chief priest vs the Aaronic priests
- the preparations made on Yom Kippur vs the preparation of Jesus
- the earthly temple vs the sky temple
- the sacrifices of Aaron vs the sacrifice of Jesus
- the Sinai covenant vs the new testament
I strongly urge anyone hoping to understand this essay to first memorize the rituals of Leviticus 16.
Notice how Hebrews 9 sets up a contrast of the covenants and temples:
Heb 9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and
an earthly place of holiness.
He describes the earthly temple and its furnishings:
Heb 9:2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the
lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called
the Holy Place. Heb 9:3 Behind the second curtain was a second
section called the Most Holy Place, Heb 9:4 having the golden altar
of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold,
in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that
budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Heb 9:5 Above it were the
cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we
cannot now speak in detail.
He describes the first ritual of Yom Kippur that the priest performs which is make an atonement (an expression of remorse and appeal for forgiveness) in order to establish a basis for proceeding into the holy place:
Heb 9:6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go
regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, Heb
9:7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a
year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and
for the unintentional sins of the people.
He interprets the presence of the outer court as a barrier to the holy places!:
Heb 9:8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy
places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still
standing Heb 9:9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According
to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot
perfect the conscience of the worshiper, Heb 9:10 but deal only with
food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed
until the time of reformation.
He says that the sacrificial apparatus indicated that the path to God's presence was blocked off by the outer court and that as long as the outer court remained in place there could be no public access to God. The ritual of the preparation of the priest would repeat year after year, never perfecting the priest or cleansing the conscience of the worshiper.
Now the author compares and contrasts that arrangement with the access to God that Jesus provided, both for himself and for the people:
YLT Heb 9:11 And Christ being come, chief priest of the coming good
things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with
hands--that is, not of this creation-- Heb 9:12 neither through
blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, did enter in
once into the holy places, age-during redemption having obtained;
In the Jesus scenario Jesus did not approach God on the basis of the blood of animals but instead his own blood was shed to ratify the new testament and in so doing establish a new and living approach to God because he himself was forever released from sin and death. He "obtained everlasting freedom".
Heb 9:13 for if the blood of bulls, and goats, and ashes of an
heifer, sprinkling those defiled [Levitic purification], doth sanctify
to the purifying of the flesh, Heb 9:14 how much more shall the
blood of the Christ (who through the age-during Spirit [breath, as
synecdoche of "life"] did offer [present for priestly service] himself
unblemished to God) purify your conscience from dead works to serve
the living God?
So Jesus "takes away the first" (the Levitic system which required sacrifices) to establish the second (Melchizedecian system which was based on an endless life) by becoming the "death introduced" to ratify the new testament:
Heb 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,
since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Heb 9:16 For where a will is
involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. Heb
9:17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force
as long as the one who made it is alive. Heb 9:18 Therefore not
even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. Heb 9:19
For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to
all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and
scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all
the people, Heb 9:20 saying, "This is the blood of [that ratifies]
the covenant that God commanded for you." Heb 9:21 And in the same
way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used
in worship. Heb 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is
purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no
forgiveness of sins. Heb 9:23 Thus it was necessary for the copies
of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the
heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Heb
9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands,
which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to
appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Heb 9:25 Nor was it
to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places
every year with blood not his own, Heb 9:26 for then he would have
had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it
is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away
sin [offerings] by the sacrifice of himself. Heb 9:27 And just as
it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Heb 9:28 so Christ, having been offered [to God for priestly service]
once to bear the sins of many [like the scapegoat], will appear a
second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly
waiting for him.
So in summary, Christ appeared before God in the sky temple, never into the Aaronic system (since he was not a Levite).