Significant discontinuities exist between OT and NT worship, and it is important to note that each of these cases of discontinuity stems from the author of Hebrews’ primary discontinuity, that of the physical vs. the metaphysical. Human prophets, a mediator, priests, animal sacrifices, and a Temple each represent physical realties that Hebrew worshipers could see, smell, and touch. Yet they all stand in stark contrast to the supreme metaphysical reality that replaces them all—Jesus Christ. He is the prophet, the mediator, the priest, the sacrifice, and the Temple. It is he who stands as the subject, source, and means of true worship. The OT rituals of worship were indeed shadows of the metaphysical realities, but they fell short since they could not actually bring someone into the presence of God. Wells explains,
We may think of the Levitical system as a means to get into God’s presence symbolically. The people were barred from that presence. They could come only near the entrance of the tabernacle. The priests themselves were barred from entering the tabernacle, except on rarest occasions (cf. Luke 1:8–9). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place where the symbol of God’s presence resided, and that only once a year when he brought blood for his own sins and the sins of the people (7:27).1
With the coming of Christ, however, believers are actually raised up into the very presence of God, not yet physically, but metaphysically. This discontinuity reveals the ultimate supremacy of worship in and through Christ over the physical worship of the OT.
- Tom Wells, “The Epistle To The Hebrews And Worship,” Reformation and Revival 9 (2000): 121. [↩]