Did Heaven need cleansing?

There is a problem in seeing in what sense things in heaven—where God is (He 9:24)—need purification. Some deny outright that they need it, regarding the expression as a way of referring to God’s people. Thus Bruce (in loc.) reminds us that the author tells us repeatedly that it is people’s consciences that need to be cleansed; and so the author can speak of God’s people as his dwelling, his house (cf. He 3:6). Others make essentially the same point and hold that it is not something material but spiritual that is seen as needing cleansing—a fact meaning that Christ’s work is effective in the spiritual life of men, not in some material sanctuary. The difficulty with such interpretations is that, while what they say is true, “the heavenly things themselves” is a strange way of referring to men and women here on earth. Other commentators see in He 9:23 a reference to Satan’s rebellion and think of that as somehow defiling heaven so that heaven itself needs cleansing. Still others think of purification in the sense in which it is used here as meaning not so much the removal of impurity as a consecratory or inaugural process. This, they feel, is not out of place with “the heavenly things” any more than with an earthly sanctuary. Akin to that is the view that the earthly sanctuary needed cleansing, not so much because it was unclean, as because it was the place where sinners were restored. So with heaven.
On the whole, it seems best to recall that in the NT there are references to “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12); the “rulers of this age” (1Cor 2:8); the “powers” like “height” and “depth” (Ro 8:3839), as well as “angels” and “demons.” Such references seem to indicate wickedness beyond this earth. And when Christ performed his atoning work, he “disarmed the powers and authorities, … triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:15). It was God’s will “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col 1:20). This strand of teaching is not prominent in Hebrews. Nevertheless, the language used here seems to accord with it better than with other views. (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishingor Pradis = computer version)



Some related Scriptures:
 In Revelation, Chapter 12, we read that Lucifer and a third of the angels were kicked out of Heaven because of rebellion against God. Rebellion is sin.


Jeremiah 2:22. Day after day there was record of confessed sin marked before God in the earthly sanctuary, thus it was being defiled by sin. So it is now with us, even though Christ has cleansed us from our confessed sin, there is still a record of our confessed sin in the heavenly sanctuary. As the earthly sanctuary was being defiled from sin so is the heavenly.

Leviticus 16:19.Blood is used as the cleansing agent. Thus it is not some physical impurity in heaven that needs to be cleansed, for blood is not able to do this. Blood cleanses from sin, (1 John 1:7) so the work of cleansing the Sanctuary is not a physical work, such as a janitor would do, but a cleansing from sin.


However, in Job, we start by seeing that Satan still has some room in heaven — at least in those times where God apparently calls together angels to give a report.


Other opinions :

Was it necessary to cleanse heavenly things? The heavenly sanctuary is not manmade and therefore is untainted by sin. It does not need to be cleansed. Before we are able to answer the question, we must understand the expression heavenly things in a spiritual sense. The true sanctuary, says the author of Hebrews, is heaven itself (9:24), and heaven is the place where God and his people dwell together. It is the place where the people of God serve him by offering themselves as living sacrifices. Then why does the author write that the heavenly things had to be cleansed? Heaven became a sanctuary for God’s people only when the blood of Christ was shed for them. Christ’s blood, then, became the basis for their entrance into heaven.
Without Christ’s blood God does not open heaven for us and does not accept our living sacrifices. We stand condemned before God in our sins, and heaven remains closed to us. However, the blood of Christ has made heaven into a sanctuary for us, so that we may live there. At the same time, it remains God’s dwelling place.
The blood of Christ provides remission of our sins but also sanctifies our presence in heaven. It makes us more delightful than angels and our service of praise more acceptable than that of the angels. We are God’s adopted sons and daughters who are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).


Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of Hebrews, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 262-63.






It has frequently been asked in what sense “the heavenly realities”151 needed to be cleansed; but our author has provided the answer in the context. What needed to be cleansed was the defiled conscience of men and women; this is a cleansing which belongs to the spiritual sphere. The argument of v. 23 might be paraphrased by saying that while ritual purification is adequate for the material order, which is but an earthly copy of the spiritual order, a better kind of sacrifice is necessary to effect purification in the spiritual order. If we envisage the heavenly dwelling-place of God in something like material terms (and, surrounded as we are by the material universe, it is difficult to avoid doing so), we shall find ourselves trying to explain the necessity for its cleansing in ways which are far from our author’s intention.152 But we have already had reason to emphasize that the people of God are the house of God, that his dwelling-place is in their midst.153 It is they who need inward cleansing, not only that their approach to God may be free from defilement, but that they may be a fit habitation for him. Just as the tabernacle in the wilderness, together with its furniture, had to be anointed and sanctified so that God might manifest his presence there among his people and they might serve him there, so the people of God themselves need to be cleansed and hallowed in order to become “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). The same essential teaching recurs in 1 Pet. 2:5, where believers in Christ are described as being “built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” But in order to be a spiritual house of this kind they must have experienced regeneration and cleansing by “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2, 9, 22f.).
If more than this is felt to be involved in our author’s language here, it may be supplied by the words of William Manson: “if we conceive our author to be writing to Jewish Christians who perhaps missed in the spiritual worship of Christianity the many holy sanctions and consecratory rites of the old religion, we shall not think it strange that he should, in effect, say to them that Christianity has its own sublime, though invisible, sanctions imparted by a greater Sacrifice. Following out this conception, we can well imagine him saying that the book of the New Covenant (the eternal gospel written in heaven …), the Christian sanctuary (the heavenly Zion, cf. 12:18–24), and the New Israel (the Christian Church, including the company of the redeemed in heaven) have all been consecrated by the blood of Christ. The stamp of the Cross is on all of them. After all, the things in heaven represent realities which have a present existence for Christians through Christ.”154


F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 228-29.

How could the heavenly sanctuary ever become defiled? We can understand how the earthly sanctuary could be defiled since it was used by sinful men. Each year, on the great Day of Atonement, the tabernacle was purified through the sprinkling of blood (Lev. 16:12–19). But how could a heavenly sanctuary ever become defiled? Certainly nothing in heaven is defiled in a literal sense, for sin cannot pollute the sanctuary of God. But, for that matter, nothing in the earthly tabernacle was literally defiled by sin. It all had to do with people’s relationships to God. The blood sprinkled on a piece of furniture did not change the nature of that piece, but it changed God’s relationship to it. God could enter into communion with people because of the sprinkled blood.
Through Jesus Christ, we who are sinners can enter into the holy of holies in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 10:19–22). Physically, of course, we are on earth; but spiritually, we are communing with God in the heavenly holy of holies. In order for God to receive us into this heavenly fellowship, the blood of Jesus Christ had to be applied. We enter into God’s presence “by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).


Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Heb 9:11.




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