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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

July 11, 2012

Hebrews 9:16-28

  1. Verses 16-22. The last time we met, we discussed how Jesus was a better high priest, who offered a better sacrifice, in a better sanctuary. This better ministry initiated a better covenant. The author is going to show that death is required in everyday life. With rare exceptions, a will does not go into effect until after the death of the one who made it (the testator). Just as our author has stated, a death certificate is required before any will is executed. Death is a prerequisite for the execution of a will. The author begins by using an illustration from the legal customs of the day. He uses the example of a will, because the Greek word for covenant could also mean will or testament. For a testament or will is in force after men are dead: A testament (in the sense of a “last will and testament”) only takes effect when the person making the testament dies. Therefore Jesus had to die for the testament - the covenant - to take effect. Just as death is required to implement a will, death was also required to implement the Mosaic Covenant. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood: Clearly, death was necessary to the Old Covenant. Virtually every part of the sacrificial system under the Law of Moses was touched by blood in some way or another. Before anything was done under the law of Moses concerning sin, something had to die. The writer wants the reader to make the connection between death under the old covenant and the death of Christ under the new. Jesus' death was actually symbolized by all the animal deaths under the old covenant. The blood of the animals was symbolic of the blood of Christ. The blood of animals had to be shed many times, but the blood of Christ only had to be shed once. An important principle is stated: Without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sin]. Modern people think that sin is remitted (forgiven) by time, by our good works, by our decent lives, or by simply death. But there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, and there is no perfect forgiveness without a perfect sacrifice. Obviously, drops of blood do not make anything physically clean. What the Israelites needed was a spiritual cleansing — an elimination of spiritual defilement, imperfection, sin, guilt and anything that separated them from God. They needed forgiveness. Physical blood cannot change spiritual realities, and animal sacrifices cannot eliminate sin, but the old covenant nevertheless prescribed animal sacrifices for forgiveness (9:22). Just as the tabernacle itself pictured a heavenly reality, these animal sacrifices symbolized a death that would be effective in removing sin.

  2. Verses 23-28. The earthly tabernacle (the copy, the imperfect) had to be ritually purified by animal sacrifices (only copies, imperfect), but the heavenly holy place required a far better sacrifice . The spiritual barrier between God and humans required a spiritual sacrifice — someone with a perfect conscience, totally without sin. Jesus was not dealing with a physical, symbolic copy of a sanctuary or altar (9:24). He was not working with external or physical rituals. Rather, he was dealing with the real spiritual problem with the real spiritual prescription, and he did his work in heaven. It was a better place, and a better sacrifice. Humans are both matter and spirit; Christ's work was both physical and spiritual. He became fully human, mortal and physical, in order to redeem humans. But his redemption had to be on the spiritual level as well: a conscience untainted by sin, a life willingly offered on behalf of others, a being worthy of entering heaven itself to intercede for humans. He offered himself, both body and spirit. Jesus Christ now appears for us in heaven to help us (9:24). He is the God-man who bridges the gap between God and humans. His work is fully effective — for all time. Once was enough, unlike the work of the Levitical priests, who had to repeat the same rituals over and over again (9:25). By this the Holy Spirit was showing that their work was not effective. True cleansing was possible only through a better sacrifice, a better priest, in a better sanctuary, and initiating a better covenant. Jesus did not go to heaven to perform endless rituals. He is not copying the old covenant, because the old covenant had only temporary substitutes (9:25). Jesus does not have to suffer forever to rescue us from sin (9:26). He gave himself once, and that was enough. "He has appeared once for all." When? "At the end of the ages." Why? "To do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" (9:26). Even 1,950 years ago, believers were living in the "end of the ages" — "in these last days" (1:2). The old era was fading away; a new age had begun with Jesus Christ. The spiritual world was radically different. The sacrifice of all time had been given. Just as ordinary humans appear once, and then will appear again in the judgment, so also with Christ. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (9:27-28). Each person dies for his or her own sins, but Jesus died for others. Each person will face the judgment for his or her sins, but Jesus will be the judge. His death took away the sins of all who believe in him, and when he appears again, he will not be bringing their sins against them. Rather, he will be bringing eternal salvation for all who trust in him.

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