Jesus has entered the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf. He has gone there as forerunner, a designation found only here in the New Testament, but which appears in a variety of athletic and military contexts of the Hellenistic world. In Hebrews, where the term is employed figuratively, the notion of precedence prevails over that of speed. As forerunner, Jesus did not simply ‘run on ahead’. Rather He is the ‘precursor’ of believers, the first in a series that follows after Him. He has opened up the way behind the curtain (Hebrews 10:19-22), which had been in place until the present time (Hebrews 9:9). He entered the heavenly sanctuary to obtain cleansing for His people (Hebrews 9:12), to represent them in the presence of God (Hebrews 9:24), and to enable them to enter into Heaven (Hebrews 10:19-22). Like the earlier title ‘pioneer’, forerunner evokes the image of the movement on the path to heavenly glory (Hebrews 2:10) that believers are called upon to tread, following in Christ’s footsteps. Accordingly, this statement in Hebrews 6:20 explains why hope is able to enter the heavenly sanctuary.
Jesus the Perfect High Priest
Further, Jesus’ entry into the heavenly sanctuary is as His people’s eternal high priest in the order of Melchizedek, an expression that provides a further basis for the assurance of hope mentioned in Hebrews 6:19. Accordingly, Christians can approach God with confidence since Jesus, the heavenly High Priest, has offered the perfect sacrifice and sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22). Thus, Christians can go where Jesus has gone—to the world to come—the Sabbath rest and the heavenly country, the ultimate hope of God’s people throughout the ages.
Apart from the passing reference ‘Christ’ in Hebrews 6:1, this is the first explicit mention of Jesus since Hebrews 5:10. It was at this point that the author of Hebrews broke off his exposition of the high priesthood ‘after the order of Melchizedek’ so as to turn again to exhortation, and thus to warn and encourage his listeners (Hebrews 5:11-6:20). In a striking but carefully crafted parallel, this paraphrase of Psalm 110:4 signals that the so-called ‘digression’ of Hebrews 5:11-6:20 is ending. The author has addressed his hearers by reproof, warning, and encouragement so that they will give their full attention to what he is about to say in chapter 7 regarding the Son as a superior High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus came into the world to become His people’s Savior, to blaze a trail through the barrier of sin by His perfect life and atoning death. He then went up into Heaven to reign as the high priest— not a temporary priest like the Levites in Israel, but a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Christ will never be replaced in His heavenly mission for His people. He will never fail and never die.
Jesus came to earth to live and die for His people, and when He returned to Heaven, it also was for the sake of His people—to affix the anchor of their hope “sure and steadfast” in the inner sanctum of Heaven itself. In the great promises of God, secured in Christ, Christians have a cable of salvation that nothing can break or destroy, so that they can be certain of arriving safely in the harbor of Heaven.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.