The Latter Epistles -Hebrews 9

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.  A tabernacle was set up.  In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant.  This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.  Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.  But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.  The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.  This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.  This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.  When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.  He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”  In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.  In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

  • Hebrews 9:1-28

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Hebrews 9:11 ‘the high priest of the good things we have’: “Even a casual student of Scripture notes the connection between blood and mercy.  As far back as the son of Adam, worshipers knew ‘sins cannot be forgiven without blood’ (Hebrews 9:22).
“With a field as his temple and the ground as his altar, Abel became the first to do what millions would imitate.  He offered a blood sacrifice for sins.
“Those who followed suit form a long line: Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samson, Saul, David … They knew the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins.  Jacob knew it too; hence, the stones were stacked for the altar …
“But the line ended at the Cross.  What Abel sought to accomplish in the field, God achieved with his Son.  What Abel began, Christ completed.  After Christ’s sacrifice there would be no more need to shed blood.”

  • Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails

Hebrews 9:12 ‘by his own blood’: “The sacrifice presented by our Lord was unique.  He offered his own blood – blood from the veins of a man.  But what a man!  He was without spot.  In his birth he received no taint of original sin.  He was pure and holy.  Therefore he was able to bear the sin of others since he had none of his own.  The sacrifice of our Lord was, in the highest sense, substitutionary.  Sin necessitates death.  Jesus died.  The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to earth to make reconciliation by the holiness of his life, or by the earnestness of his teaching, but by his death.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 9:14 ‘we can serve the living God’: “To serve the living God is necessary to the happiness of human beings.  For this end we were made.  If a fish were on dry land, supposing it possible that it could live, it would lead an unhappy life.  It would scarcely be a fish at all.  It is not until you put it into the stream that the fish becomes really a fish and enjoys its existence.  It is just so with human beings; they do not live without God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Hebrews 9:15-22 ‘a legal contract’: “I. The gospel is here considered as a testament.  A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties about things that are in their own power; this agreement takes effect at such time and in such manner as therein declared.  A testament is a voluntary act and deed of a single person, bestowing legacies on such legatees as are described by the testator, and which can only take effect upon his death.  Christ is the mediator of the New Testament (v. 15), to redeem persons from their transgressions committed against the law or first testament; to qualify all those that are effectually called to receive the promise of an eternal inheritance.
“II. To make this New Testament effectual, it was necessary that Christ should die.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

Hebrews 9:23-28 ‘consecrated by better sacrifice’: “I. The necessity of purifying the patterns of the things in heaven, v. 23.  The sanctuary of God on earth is a pattern of heaven, and communion with God in his sanctuary is to hos people a heaven upon earth.
“II. The things themselves are better than the patterns, and must therefore be consecrated with better sacrifices.  These heavenly things are the privileges of the gospel state, begun in grace, perfected in glory. …
“III.  The apostle illustrates the argument from the appointment of God concerning men (v. 27, 28).  1. The appointment of God concerning man contains in it two things.  They must once die.  This is matter of comfort to the godly, that they shall die well and die but once; but it is a matter of terror to the wicked, who die in their sin.  After death they shall come to judgment.  This is the unalterable decree of God concerning men – they must die, and they must be judged.  2. The appointment of God concerning Christ.  He must be once offered to bear the sins of many.  He was not offered for any sin of his own; he was wounded for our transgressions.  Christ shall appear the second time without sin, to the salvation of those who look for him.  He appeared in the form of sinful flesh; but his second appearance will be without any such charge upon him.  This will be the second salvation of all who look for him; he will then perfect their holiness, their happiness.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

My Thoughts

I thought we were about to have a chapter in Hebrews without an Old Testament quote until Exodus 24:8 is quoted in Hebrews 9:20.

This entire chapter seems to focus on one thing – blood.

The Max Lucado quote above talks of Abel being the first to offer a blood sacrifice, stating that it all started with Abel, but I think after the fall, God required the sacrifice of Adam.  The first blood shed, at least on record, was by God Himself.  In Genesis 3:21, God made clothing from animal skin for Adam and Eve to wear.  I have read theologians in the past who surmise that in that sacrifice to make clothing, God also patterned to Adam the process of atonement for his sin.  Before Adam and Eve’s sin, there was no death.  There was a lot that Adam and Eve would have to learn.  They would have to learn how to kill for food and kill for animal hides.  They would have to learn how to preserve meats and cook the food.  Yet, the first sacrifice recorded in Scripture was that of Abel.

Yet, as was discussed last week, the atonement sacrifice made by the priests was only good for a short while to cover the sins, expiation.  Yet, Jesus died once for all those who believe.  Jesus does not need to repeat the sacrifice for future sin.  Jesus’ sacrifice was the expiation, a washing away, of the sins of many.

And near the end of this chapter those words are use “take away the sins of many.”

A friend, who sadly is no longer with us, had an argument with me.  In a way, it seemed a matter of semantics.  He was not of the camp that believes that all are saved regardless of belief or lack of belief.  He was firmly convinced that we must have the saving knowledge of Jesus within our hearts, but he also strongly was convinced that Jesus died for all.

I pointed out Matthew 20:28 where Jesus Himself says that He is a ransom for many, not all.  If Jesus died for everyone, and anyone rejected the message, then that person would go to Hell and Christ’s blood shed for that person would be wasted and Christ’s mission would be a failure.

My friend agreed to disagree, with a wink and a smile.  About a week after our discussion, I got a letter in the mail, a single sheet of Scripture that talked about salvation being available for all.  But he never brought up the topic again.

Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, but He died for many, as Hebrews 9:28 states.  There is a Heaven for those, like me, who believe and trust in Jesus.  We do not deserve Heaven, but we accept Jesus into our hearts and accept God’s Holy Plan for salvation, redemption, and sanctification.  Yet, there are those who will reject God’s message.  They will not be saved.  And it is such a pity, because Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient, if they had only repented and come to Him.

And as a pastor with a Christian television network often says, God is pursuing us.  To find God, all we must do is turn around and fall into His arms.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. Does ‘church’ ever feel like a labyrinth to you? Why?
”2. When you feel guilty, how do you try to clear your conscience?
“1. The author used OT analogies to explain the meaning of Christ’s death to religious Jews.  What analogies might clarify this with non-religious people today?
“2. In telling others that Christ died to take away their sins, what responses do you get: Lazy indifference?  Sincere gratitude?  Zealous devotion?  What would help your message to have more impact?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

This chapter was split into two sections in the “Group Study” guide.  The last question, the second question 2, assumes that you actually do tell others about how Jesus died for them.  If you do not evangelize, which of the answers is part of your excuse for not doing so?  And consider that this Bible study was written during the 80s.  Consider how things have changed since then and how people’s responses would change based on the secular culture of today.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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