Hebrews 8–10 focuses on the work of Jesus as Mediator of a new covenant. The issue with the old covenant was simply that it was only a foreshadowing of the good things that would come. Its institutions were designed to prefigure, to illustrate, the work that Jesus would do in the future. Thus, the priests prefigured Jesus, but they were mortal and sinners. They could not provide the perfection that Jesus did. And they ministered in a sanctuary that was a “copy and shadow” (Heb. 8:5, NKJV) of the heavenly sanctuary.

Jesus ministers in the true sanctuary and provides us access to God. The sacrifices of animals prefigured the death of Jesus as a sacrifice in our behalf, but their blood could not cleanse the conscience. Jesus’ death, however, purifies our conscience so that we can approach God with boldness (Heb. 10:19–22).

By appointing Jesus as our High Priest, the Father inaugurated a new covenant that will accomplish what the old covenant could only anticipate. The new covenant delivers what only a perfect, eternal, human-divine priest can. This High Priest not only explains the law of God but implants the law in our hearts. This Priest offers a sacrifice that brings forgiveness. This Priest cleanses and transforms us. He transforms our hearts from stone to flesh (Ezek. 36:26). He creates us anew (2 Cor. 5:17). This Priest blesses us in the most incredible way, by providing us access into the very presence of the Father Himself.

God designed the old covenant in order to point toward the future, to the work of Jesus. It was beautiful in its design and purpose. Yet, some misunderstood its purpose. Unwilling to leave the symbols—the shadows—and embrace the truths that the symbols were pointing to, they missed the wonderful benefits that Jesus’ ministry offered them.

Despite all the good and hopeful truths in the book of Hebrews, there is also a series of warnings that reach their climax in chapters 10–12. These sections have at least two common elements. First, they all compare the desert generation with the readers of Hebrews. Second, they exhort us to have faith.

The desert generation was the one that saw the amazing power of God unleashed in signs and wonders in their deliverance from Egypt. They also heard God speak the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. They saw the column of fire in the night and the protecting cloud during the day. They ate manna—bread from heaven. They also drank water that sprang from the rocks wherever they camped. But when they arrived at the border of the Promised Land, they were not able to trust God. They lacked faith, which is the core of what God requires. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6, NKJV).

Paul says that we, like the desert generation, are at the border of the Promised Land (Heb. 10:37–39). Our privileges and responsibilities are greater, however. We did not hear God speak at Mount Sinai, but we have seen through Scripture a greater revelation of God at Mount Zion: God in the flesh, Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:18–24). The question is: Will we have faith? The author encourages us to follow the example of a great list of characters that culminates with Jesus Himself.