1.5 The Eucharist did not belong to the range of the author's beliefs and experience

We have the 'altar' in the same sense that 'we have' our great high priest
R. Williamson

The altar of the old covenant is to be found within the tent (9,1ff). In the new covenant too the altar is to be found within the tent, only in this case the tent is not a material sanctuary, but is (in) heaven itself, the true tent. When in 8,1ff Christ is said to have taken His seat on the throne of the Majesty “in the heavens“ He is also said to serve in the true sanctuary (9,23f). The true tabernacle is therefore a heavenly tent. The altar which the Christian possesses is, since it belongs to the true tabernacle, a heavenly altar, within the city which is to come (13,14), i.e. the city which is still, for the Christian, coming, to come, since it is situated in heaven, a destination which the Christian pilgrim will reach only in the future. We have the altar in the same sense that we have our great high priest (308).

If the Christian altar is within the heavenly sanctuary it is not necessarily associated with any kind of earthly meal. So the author can say (13,10b) that those who serve the sacred tent (i.e. Jewish priests and worshippers) have no right to eat from this altar. The Jews have no share in our sacrifice (308f).

The author of Hebrews leaves no room in the concept of the Christian believer's possession of an altar for any kind of participation in it by actual eating. He avoids any reference in 13,10 to any table in Christian worship at which Christians eat corresponding to the table of the Jewish sanctuary described in 9,1ff. It is suprising to find that the author of Hebrews, who was quick to see typological relationships between features of the Old Covenant and elements in the New, did not suggest explicitly that the table of the jewish sanctuary is a type of the Lord's Table in the Eucharist. The fact that he did not confirms the impression that the Eucharist did not belong to the range of his beliefs and experience. He does state quite explicitly that “it is good that our souls should gain strength from the grace of God“ (13,9). He does not say that those who share in the Jewish cult have no right to eat from the Table of the Lord. He says that they have no right to eat from the heavenly altar which the Christian possesses. The eating, in the case of the Christian altar, is not physical, literal eating. The verb to eat is used in 13,10 figuratively, as the participle have tasted is in 6,4. The Christian lives by grace (13,9) and this he recieves with no sacramental cult as intermediary, when he approaches boldly the throne of God (4,16) (309).

It seems that there is no evidence in Hebrews of involvement, on the part of the community of Christians to which the epistle was addressed, in eucharistic faith and practice. This is a conclusion based not merely on the epistle's silence. The argument of the epistle seems to be directed against a view of the Christian religion which regards the Eucharist as a means by which the benefits of Christ's sacrifice are communicated sacramentally to the worshipper. By faith the worshipper has direct access to the throne of grace, with no need of physical mediation of a sacramental, cultic kind. In this present life the bliss of glory is still an object of faith and hope, though by faith the throne of grace may be approached even here. But there is no suggestion anywhere in the epistle that at regular intervals, in eucharistic worship the believer anticipates on earth what will be his fully in heaven (309f)

The sacrifice of Christ was of a kind that rendered obsolet every form of cultus that placed a material means of sacramental communion between God and the worshipper. Did he not mean by his words 9,9f that when the time of reformation arrived it would mean an end of outward ordinances? His understanding of the sacrifice of Christ did lead him to the view that the only sarifices left to be offered to God are those he mentions in 13,15f. The author of Hebrews judged that the work of Christ renders an earthly cultus of any kind unnecessary. The Levitical rites are fulfilled in Christ Himself, not in the outward ordinances of his Church (319f).

For the Christian, according to Hebrews, the Gospel always comes as a promise, to be received in faith; it can never be anticipated materially in a sacramental cultus (312).