posted on Mar, 10 2017 @ 05:04 PM
The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, perhaps to a specific Jewish church.
The message of the letter is that Christ has brought “completeness”.
That is, God is making available, through him, a much greater and more decisive revelation than anything they have received from him previously.
The writer spends the ninth chapter demonstrating that the priests of the old covenant cannot enter their sanctuary without making a sacrificial
Indeed, the covenant itself was instituted through a sacrificial offering, and offerings are required under the law for any ceremony which purifies
Therefore, by analogy, Christ would not have been able to enter the “heavenly sanctuary” as priest without making a sacrificial offering of his
own (ch9 v23).
But the writer now sets out to show that the new sacrifice is not just comparable to the old sacrifice, required in the same way, but better.
For one thing, the old priest enters into a sanctuary “made with hands”, which is only a symbol of that heavenly original. Christ goes direct into
the presence of God.
The old priest enters the sanctuary by offering the blood of animals- that is, blood which is not his own. Christ enters through the offering of his
And because he is offering his own life, in totality, it follows that he can only do this once.
That is another important point of difference.
We know it must be an unrepeatable event from this fact; if there had been any necessity to repeat the sacrifice in the future, then it would also
have been necessary in the past, from the foundation of the world, and that did not happen.
Instead he appeared once, at the end of all these ages, in order to die once (vv24-26).
The single death of Christ suggests another point.
It is normal that men die once, and only once, and this event is followed by the judgement.
Christ follows the same sequence; a unique death, followed by the time of judgement.
The difference is that other men know the second stage of the sequence as a time of receiving judgement on themselves.
In the case of Christ, he comes not to receive, but to bring.
He comes not to receive judgement, but to bring salvation.
He comes not to receive judgement on himself, but to bring salvation for others, namely those who are eagerly waiting for him.
That is because the event of his death had the effect of putting away sin, or carrying it away.
Therefore the second time he appears to us will be “without sin”; that factor will have been removed from the situation (vv27-28).
The removal of sin is the key.
And the uniqueness of the death of Christ is part of the evidence that sin really has been removed.
The old sacrifices, repeated year by year, are incapable of “making perfect” [TELEIOSAI] those who depend upon them. That’s proved by the very
fact that they need to be repeated.
“Perfection” would be demonstrated by the worshippers having no consciousness of sin, whereas the annual sacrifice has the contrary effect of
bringing their sin back to their memory (ch10 vv1-3).
In any case, the old sacrifice is the wrong kind of sacrifice. It does not truly match what God wants.
Psalm 40 is quoted to explain the difference.
God is not really looking for the sacrifice of animals, as burnt offerings and sin offerings.
He is looking for obedience.
The speaker in the Psalm (here identified with Christ) offers himself in obedience.
The Hebrew says “You have dug ears for me”, which the RSV translates as “You have given me an open ear”.
In other words, the speaker is one who listens in obedience to what God says.
This writer follows the Septuagint; “You have prepared a body for me”.
In that version, the body must be understood as the instrument of obedience.
Either way the conclusion is “I have come to do your will” (vv4-9).
The writer spells out the logic of what the psalmist has declared.
The effect is to abolish animal sacrifice, and establish “coming to do the will of God” in its place.
And THAT is how we have been sanctified, set apart for God.
Through the unique event in which Jesus Christ offered his life in obedience to the will of God.
To sum up, then, the argument of this letter about the work of Christ (vv11-18).
The old priests offer repeated sacrifices which can never take away sins.
But Christ offers a single sacrifice and then sits down in authority next to the Father (as described in the first chapter), showing that the
task has been completed.
He has “made perfect” [TETELEIOKEN] for all time those who have been set apart for God.
The outcome is the fulfilment of the promise in Jeremiah, as previously quoted.
Under the conditions of the new covenant, “I will remember their sins no more”.
Further offering for sin becomes unnecessary, because forgiveness for sin has already been granted.