Dear Father, You alone could have made a way for me to be forgiven. I praise You for Your amazing plan of salvation, for the sacrifice of Christ. Help me draw near to You today in full assurance of my faith, knowing Christ has made a way for me to come into Your presence. Strengthen me to hold fast to my hope, because I know You are faithful. In Jesus’ name.
Read Hebrews 9-10
Hebrews 9:1–10 The author continues to make his case for the superiority of Christ’s ministry as high priest of the new covenant over the old. The old covenant had a specific location for worship, the tabernacle, which was set up according to regulations. These laws determined who could enter where, when, and under what circumstances. The whole point of these restrictions, the author says, was to illustrate that something better was needed. Old covenant worship was external and ceremonial and thus could not “clear the conscience of the worshiper.” It could not save sinners.
Hebrews 9:11–28 In contrast to the temporary earthly tabernacle and its repeatable, imperfect sacrifices, Jesus Christ entered the heavenly presence of God, and there offered Himself as a perfect and eternal sacrifice. Unlike the “blood of goats and bulls,” His blood is effective to “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death.”
NEW COVENANT VS OLD COVENANT
One way to think about the two covenants is this:
The old covenant said, “Do this and live!” The new covenant says, “Now that you live (in Christ), do this!
The old covenant was never designed to save sinners; Jesus was the only person who was ever able to actually do what the old covenant required and so was worthy to live forever. Yet, He died in the place of sinners, to bring new life to those who turn and believe.
Because of this unique sacrifice, Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. On the one hand, His death ratified the new covenant, just as the blood of calves ratified the old. On the other hand, His blood purified the members of the covenant, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (9:22).
Ultimately, God’s people are the “heavenly things” that are cleansed by His better sacrifice. So perfect was Jesus’ sacrificial death that it needed to happen only once in order to completely “take away the sins of many people” (9:28). So, this new covenant “worked” to save sinners, whereas the old covenant only pointed to the need for a Savior.
The author refers to Christ appearing three times in this chapter: in the past, to obtain our eternal redemption (9:11–12); in the present, as our mediator before God (9:24); and in the future, to consummate the salvation of all “who are waiting for Him” and persevering in faith (9:28). We don’t simply look back to what Christ did. We also depend upon Him now and look forward to His return. Faith in Christ brings both present strength and future hope based on Christ’s past work.
Hebrews 10 The long argument for the superiority of Christ’s ministry now reaches its climax. All that came before in the old covenant was simply a shadow of the better things that have arrived in Christ. Rather than mere burnt offerings of animals, Jesus offered His fully obedient life. Rather than priests who stood repeatedly to offer sacrifices, Jesus offered Himself once and then sat down at the right of God, since He had “made perfect forever” His people. Rather than ineffective sacrifices, Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished forgiveness and so brought sacrifices to an end. It worked to save sinners!
In light of this glorious and superior ministry, the author returns again to exhort us to persevere in our faith in Christ, knowing there is no other sacrifice for sin to which we can turn. He wants us to draw near to God, hold fast to our hope, and spur one another on in love and good deeds.
This encouragement to draw near is a call to live in the assurance that Christ’s work was effective. The exhortation to hold fast is a call to keep our eyes on the promised reward, even in the face of persecution. And the invitation to spur one another on is a plea to love one another in the corporate context of a local church. Lone rangers need to return to the fellowship for faith-building encouragement and challenge. For those who don’t heed this warning, there is no other hope of salvation. But the author is hopeful that “we are not of those who turn back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
- Faith is not a box we check to get a ticket to heaven. While we look back to what Christ accomplished, our faith depends on Christ who “appears for us in God’s presence.” We look forward to His return and our promised reward. That perspective changes the way we interact with God and each other. Our faith has a past, present, and future aspect. This is reflected in the Lord’s Supper when we remember (past) and proclaim Christ’s death (present) until He comes again (future).
- Ask a fellow Christian what spurs them on to greater faithfulness. Tell them what spurs you on and then go ahead and practice spurring one another on in the weeks to come. For some people, it’s spoken words of challenge or encouragement; for others, it’s a note or a Scripture passage. Prayerfully discern how you’re wired and what encourages you.