This article first appeared at Servants of Grace on February 3, 2021, as part of the Hebrews devotional series. Others written by the author in this series: The Cross, Our Hope and The Beauty of Affliction.
Let me tell you why I love Hebrews and why you should, too.
This epistle confirms for us that the pictures and shadows of the Old Testament point to the superiority of Christ, his sacrifice of obedience in life and death, and the new covenant. Hebrew believers were urged not to turn back to the insufficiency of the old covenant and exhorted to faithfully embrace a transformed, redeemed life in him. A life that fully incorporates the teaching of chapters 1-9 will also fully practice the exhortations to godly conduct, such as those laid out from Hebrews 10:19 to the end of the sermon. We continue our study today in chapter 13, where we see a summary of the sermon laid out in just three verses.
So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:12–14)
In the verses immediately preceding this passage, the author established that anyone who continues to put any trust in the service of the tabernacle will not have access to the benefits of the new altar, which is Christ (verse 10), then our attention is drawn to a location that stands in stark contrast to the tabernacle: “outside the camp” where the bodies of the sacrificial animals are burned (verse 11).
In the wilderness and upon arrival in Canaan, the people of God were instructed to situate themselves within the bounds of the camp around the tabernacle, where God resided. There they received the full benefit of God’s power and presence. The pillar of fire rested at the entrance of the tabernacle, and everything outside the camp was outside the presence of God. The people outside the camp were not his people. Guy Richard writes: “When I say that God was not covenantally present outside the camp, I mean that the promise, ‘I will be your God, and you shall be my people’ was applied only inside the camp (Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 7:23). God was not the covenantal God of those who were outside the camp, and they were not His people.” (1) To the Jew performing the services of the tabernacle, outside meant danger, uncleanness, and without the rudder of the old covenant system.
Many centuries later on a hill outside of Jerusalem, outside the gate, our Savior was crucified, the crushing weight of the sin of his people bearing down on him. He went to the outer darkness, his life extinguished. As the bodies of the animals were consumed by fire outside the camp, so on the cross Jesus, who was in the firestorm of the pillar, was consumed by God’s wrath. The offense was so great and the offended One so holy and righteous that no other sacrifice would bring sufficient propitiation. And it was all done outside the gate.
Thanks to Hebrews, the reversal of blessing this means for the people on the outside becomes clear.