Though we may not have to leave the camp of old covenant sacrifices like the original Christians did, we must leave the past behind and cling to the cross of Christ.
“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” (Heb. 13:12–13).
- Hebrews 13:12–14
Two thousand years ago, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews found himself dealing with an audience that was not living its life in light of the Gospel. They were wavering in their faithfulness to Jesus and were considering abandoning Him. This was not the appropriate response to the One whose superiority to the angels and to Moses (Heb. 1:1–3:6) as the new covenant Mediator (7:1–10:18) necessitated a faithful life of conditioning and strengthening for the race ahead (chap. 12–13).
For this audience, remaining faithful to Christ Jesus meant that they not return to the old covenant but that they honor the faith of the saints of the old covenant by their faithfulness to Jesus (chap. 11). These old covenant saints died in faith, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.
These saints longed for the day when they would be able to eat of Christ’s altar. They looked forward to the day when they would become living heirs of the kingdom of God. As we saw yesterday, we new covenant saints live in that day. Those of us who know Jesus are privileged to eat from His altar, whereas the old covenant priests were not (13:10).
Today’s passage tells us that by faith Christians can partake of this altar because it is the altar of final atonement. On the Day of Atonement, the animals were burned outside the gate, prefiguring the day when our Savior would suffer on Golgotha, outside the boundaries of Jerusalem (vv. 11–12). Moreover, He suffered to sanctify us (v. 12). He left the holy city of Jerusalem for the unclean wilderness and, by doing so, showed us that holiness depends not on a geographic location but on receiving Him as Lord.
In light of this reality, we too must leave the camp and join Christ in the wilderness. We must leave the uncleanness of the past behind and join Christ in the wilderness, for He alone can make us new. We may not have to leave the camp of old covenant sacrifices like the original audience did. However, like them we must leave the past behind and cling to Christ. We must bear His reproach knowing that our citizenship is not in this present age, but in the city that will come when all of creation is finally renewed (v. 14).
Have you gone outside the camp to suffer reproach with Jesus? Have you left past sins behind in order to cling to the cross? Have you been a believer for some time and feel your old life of sin calling you to return? Look at your life, and see what you might need to leave behind to go outside the camp. Ask God to make you able to do so.
Passages for Further Study
- Ps. 127:1–2
- Gal. 4:21–31
- Heb. 11:13–16
- Rev. 21:9–27