A STUDY IN HEBREWS
Chapter 9: 11-Chapter 10:18
I have had opportunity to speak with a number of former Muslim sheikhs living in the Middle East. Almost invariably, each will share a bit of their personal testimony. These men have been reached with the Gospel of Christ and their joy is obvious. The one thing that seems to mean so very much to them is the fact that their sins are forever forgiven. No more need to sacrifice goats! No more worrying if they have done enough to cover their sins!
There is an underlying realization in virtually all religions that sin requires a sacrifice in order to be purified. This is the subject of a wonderful passage of Scripture that we will look at in this study. We will start in Hebrews chapter 9, looking at verses 11-15:
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
It helps our understanding to recognize that the Book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish people. But, because this epistle to the Hebrews also was included as one of the 66 inspired books of the Bible, it is intended to be read and studied by all Christians, not just Jews.
It will also help our understanding to know what was happening at the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews. There was then a strong drawing to go back to the old sacrificial system along with all of its rules and regulations. There is something within the spirit of man that gives him satisfaction in making religious requirements for himself to follow so that he can feel he is earning divine attention, and maybe even some favor, which he hopes will tip the balance of good and evil in his life; indeed, maybe he can even earn forgiveness.
If we stop to think about it, every religion gives instructions on earning favor and possibly even some limited forgiveness from whatever deity they claim to worship. There is, however, never any way of really knowing if enough has been done. There is no assurance that forgiveness has actually been provided and a person does not know if they have earned a place in paradise until judgment day itself. This is one reason the teaching we find in the book of Hebrews is of such great value. We find in Hebrews chapters 9-10 that the blood sacrifice made by Jesus Christ was in fact, The Final Sacrifice. His sacrifice was the fulfillment of the promised New Covenant which the Old Covenant foreshadowed, and eliminated any need for another sacrifice or additional covenant between God and man for the rest of eternity!
The above passage from Hebrews 9 tells us that instead of a sinful high priest sprinkling the blood of a sacrificial animal on an earthly altar to cover sins, Jesus, the spotless, sinless Lamb of God, took His own blood into the Most Holy Place in the real Temple in Heaven, to not just cover sin but to cleanse from all sin. And, He did it once and for all time! This is exactly what verse 12 tells us in the 9th chapter.
But, there is more. The foundation of the sacrificial system for the Hebrews is seen in the Passover. We find that the Israelites, in preparation for being led out of pharoah’s Egypt, were instructed to pick an animal for sacrifice on the tenth day of the month and take care of it for three days. On the fourteenth day of the month, after they had cared for it for three full days, they were to do a final inspection of this animal to make sure it was in fact a spotless and perfect specimen because God would accept no less. This passage is found in Exodus 12:3-6:
On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
God made it very clear to the people that there could be no remission of sin without sacrificial blood being offered. It was also made very clear that the blood must be of a sacrifice that had been thoroughly inspected and found to be a spotless, a perfect specimen. We find a passage of Scripture in Malachi where God condemns sacrifices made that were not up to the standards He required:
“…When you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” says the LORD of hosts.
The priesthood had become guilty of bringing the sick, lame, and blind as sacrifices because they were no great loss to them to sacrifice.
It is interesting to note that Jesus went through some of the most intense examination during the last three days before He was crucified. He was examined by the Scribes and Pharisees. He was examined by the High Priest. He was examined by Pilate, and then by King Herod. He was also examined by the people. Every word, every action, every teaching, every interaction with people was scrutinized. In every way, He was found to be flawless and totally innocent. There was no sin found in Him. He was the perfect Lamb of God, the only One that could die for the sins of the entire world. Pilate, out of exasperation with Jesus’ accusers, declared: “I find no fault in Him at all.”
Below are just a few Scriptures that speak of His spotlessness and innocence.
…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:18-19
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” 1 Peter 2:21-22
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 1 John 3:5
These words can be spoken of no one but Jesus. Because He is without spot or blemish, because he committed no sin and no sin was in him, only He could by his death pay the price to set man free of sin and its penalty of spiritual death. There was no other unblemished sacrifice available in the entire human race. No other prophet, priest, or even king could pay the price. God had to intervene by interjecting Himself into humankind by taking on the form of a man and, after being tested and tried in every way possible, die the death of a criminal though He was absolutely innocent of all charges against Him. Thus, He became the only acceptable sacrifice, the perfect Lamb of God.
In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John describes a heavenly scene that depicts the gravity of what was accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fifth chapter begins with these words:
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. Verses 1-4
The entire fate and future of mankind was wrapped up in that sealed scroll and as the Almighty looked on, the search for someone able to open this scroll failed to find anyone worthy to open it. There seemed to be no hope for mankind and this brought great grief to the Apostle John as he looked on…so much so that he wept bitterly. But, as we read on, we find these words:
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Verses 5-7
As we read further in this chapter we find that all of those in attendance at this event were made aware that the Lamb of God had in fact proven Himself worthy as the perfect Lamb of God, who was slain for the sins of the entire world. Man now was not without hope because the death and resurrection of Jesus.
As we continue in Hebrews 9, let’s look at verses 16-22:
For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
In order to understand this Scripture we must see that the New Covenant is like a “Last Will and Testament”, signed and sealed in blood…the Blood of the Messiah Himself.
The New Covenant, or New Testament, was given to us in great detail. In order for it to take effect, however, the One providing the offered inheritance, had to die first. Once Jesus fulfilled all the stipulations of the covenant in every detail, while still on the cross, He said, “It is Finished!” Then He offered His Spirit up to the Father in heaven, and He died. This sealed the covenant in blood–His own blood.
The blood of Jesus did something that no other sacrificial blood could do. In the Old Covenant, provision was made for man’s sins to be covered, but these sins were never removed. They were still only covered over. The New Covenant, through the shedding of the most valuable blood in the universe, that of God Himself taking the form of man and spilling His own Blood, removed sin completely! In fact, Psalm 103:11-14 puts it like this:
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
God did not accept blemished sacrifices, nor did He offer a flawed Sacrifice to cover the sins of the world. He was willing to bankrupt heaven in order to set man free. This is why Jesus must be taken with all gravity when He says in John 14:6:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Sin makes man a debtor; sin requires forfeiture of liberty; sin makes man subject to death. ONLY the Blood of Jesus Christ sets us free from the debt, restores liberty, and overcomes the penalty of death. If we accept that spotless sacrifice and recognize Who it is that has provided it, we are set free; we are redeemed!
We as sinful men, have no way of earning the eternal inheritance that God has made available. We can do nothing whatsoever to qualify ourselves for the grace and forgiveness of God. This can only be obtained through the Blood of Jesus Christ. Only when we recognize Jesus Christ as the one and only true Messiah and accept His Lordship in our lives, are we qualified to receive everything God has written into His “Last Will and Testament.”
We’ll now take a look at the last portion of the ninth chapter, verses 23-28.
Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another–He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. Of those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
These last verses of chapter 9 point out that when Jesus died, was resurrected, and ascended back to the Father in Heaven, he brought a blood sacrifice that was only needed one time–not as it was with the Old Covenant. In the Old Testament, the high priest had to bring the blood of another lamb year after year in order to meet the requirements God had made through the law He had given Moses. The blood of Jesus was only needed one time and it was potent enough to provide cleansing from sin for anyone in the world that would believe in Him. And, these verses also promise that this same Jesus would come a second time, this time to redeem His true followers. This leads us directly into chapter 10.
As we have seen, it was normal for the high priest to bring the blood sacrifice, sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat every single year for the sins of the people. Now that a much better sacrifice had been offered, the Levitical sacrifice system was no longer sufficient, and the apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explains why. Let’s read the first few verses of chapter 10:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Verses 1-4
Once something better has arrived, no matter how good the shadow of the good things to come seemed to be, it is important to recognize the genuine when it arrives. That is what this is all about. The provision God made through the law of Moses was necessary, but only temporary because God had something much better already planned. The problem is, mankind, even after having been provided the answer God had planned all along, still preferred to stay with the “shadow.” The shadow however becomes nothing more than mere “religion” when God’s provision of the fulfillment of His covenant has come. That fulfillment was the Messiah Himself…and there can be only one Messiah.
One of the problems with the “shadow” is that it can never make anyone perfect. If the shadow had brought perfection, would the priests not have quit offering the sacrifices? Of course! This passage is saying that if the law of Moses and the sacrificial system set up in the Old Testament had been sufficient, there would no longer have been any consciousness of sin. Yet, there was. The whole system was meant to show that no matter what, man himself could do nothing that would truly eradicate sin or the consequences of the fall in the Garden of Eden. The blood of goats, sheep, or bulls, or doves; no matter how perfect the sacrifice was, could only cover sin, not remove it.
Here is the problem that many do not see. Sin, as God sees it, is not just the individual acts of sin that man commits–the things we all recognize. We all know what it means to steal, lie, murder, commit adultery, and so on. But sin is much more than that. The fall in the Garden of Eden also brought the curse. The curse is what makes life such a struggle. Man works to survive by the sweat of his brow. He has to work hard to have food to eat and for his family to have the necessities of life. The curse has also brought sickness and disease. God never intended for man to be sick, nor did He intend for His creation to ever die. This was brought by disobedience just as God had warned.
“Sin” also includes the organized force of evil which is originates from the demonic world. Satan hates mankind and the powers of hell are arrayed against him because humans were created to walk in true fellowship with his Creator.
There is one more definition of sin though, and it is the most important of all. The fall of man in the Garden of Eden brought death to mankind, and “death” is carried genetically through the bloodline. Generation after generation was born spiritually “dead” because it was carried from the blood of the father to all of his children. This is why Jesus the Messiah had to come. This is also why Jesus had to literally be born of a virgin. He could not have the genetics of any human father within His blood. This is why the doctrine of the virgin birth cannot ever be discarded as some ancient, unsophisticated, unbelievable fable. Within this Biblical doctrine is the whole story of the Gospel. This is why there can only be one way of true salvation for the human race. It is because it took God Himself to insert Himself into the human race as a man so that He could provide the ultimate sacrifice required in order for man to be redeemed. Only God was perfect, and so He took it upon Himself to offer Himself as the one sacrifice that could not be found anywhere else. But, we will come back to this as this study on Hebrews 10 continues to unfold.
To Be Continued in Part Two
Forever In His Service,