Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
As he continues in his exhortations, the Hebrews author now moves into the area of “strange teachings.” This follows from his remarks in verses 7-8 in which he told us to “remember” our leaders who “spoke the word of God to you.” Strange teachings seem to refer to teachings that are at variance with the Truth, that are at variance to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Very clearly, any teaching that re-imposes the Old Covenant Law onto the New Covenant would count as “strange” indeed. He continues by pointing out that it is better for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, rather than by eating ceremonial foods which are of “no benefit.” In trying to follow this, we might keep in mind that Jesus, the Living Word came to us “full of grace and truth.” He didn’t bring us ceremonial regulations like those contained in the Old Covenant, He brought “grace and truth.” The reality of grace and truth replaced the ceremonies, feasts and festivals; why put any reliance upon these things now that the New has come? In light of this, it always strikes me as interesting when I think of our special days, special meals and special ceremonies today…
The author underscores this with his comment about the altar that we have, that the Old Covenant priests have no access to; the real one in heaven that they cannot approach, as opposed to the “illustration” in the Temple. And now, the author has set up what comes next:
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
In this little paragraph, the author makes a comparison between the sacrifice made in the earthly Temple and the fire consuming the sacrifices outside of the earthly camp, with the New Covenant sacrifice outside the city… with our being “strangers” on earth. In order for us to fully appreciate this, recall that contrast of Covenants: The Old Covenant is an earthly exercise in every respect. It has outward laws, outward sacrifices and outward, physical promises. It has a physical Temple and a physical earthly nation. The New Covenant brings the reality of what was pictured in the physical aspects of the Old Covenant. We are no longer citizens of an earthly realm, being now citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. We no longer have human priests presenting animal sacrifices in a physical Temple, we have the superior sacrifice of Christ, and we can now present ourselves in the heavenly Temple, in the actual presence of God. With this in mind, let’s look at verses 13-14:
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
We leave the earthly city and go outside to where Jesus bore our sin and its disgrace in perfect humility, as servants. We have no city here, for we are not citizens of earth, but citizens of heaven, and we look forward to the day when we will go “home” to our true heavenly home. Think about the impact of this to his original readers, in their trial of persecution.
Now, think about what this means for us… Only our earthly circumstances are different, the Truth of these things is the same.
Hebrews 13:14 “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
This seems to me to hearken back to what the author said about Abraham in Hebrews 11:10 “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Like Abraham, we look forward to that City.