Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Perfect Sacrifice & What Happens When You Die Heb.9:24-28

The Sacrifice of Christ

This passage continues the comparison of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It focuses on the sacrifice of Christ, which is better than the Old Testament Sacrifice.

Behind the comparison is the allusion to the inauguration of the Old Covenant, where Moses purified all of the items used in worship. He did this by sprinkling blood on them. Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant in the same way. The heavenly things in the presence of God had to be purified as had the copies of them in the tabernacle. The sin of mankind ruined its relationship with God. Purification must occur to bring mankind into God’s presence. But a greater sacrifice was needed than that of animals. So, Christ’s blood is the sacrifice that purifies the heavenly items of worship.

There is also an unspoken allusion to the Old Covenant Day of Atonement. On that day, the Jewish high priest entered the most holy place and offered a sacrifice for the whole nation, to atone for their sin. He sprinkled blood on the mercy seat where the presence of God dwelt. All of the nation was gathered there at the tabernacle or temple when it occurred. (Leviticus 16)

Hebrews 9:24 tells us then that when Christ died, he did not enter the earthly temple (holy places made with hands) with this sacrifice as the earthly high priest did. Instead, he entered into heaven and appeared in the presence of the Father for us. This is a repeat of verse 11.  

To inaugurate the New Covenant, Jesus shed his blood. He purified the items in the heavenly temple. He removed all sin and corruption that separated believers from God.

The old temple and the old sacrifices were no longer effective or useful. Jesus appeared in the real temple. The real temple is heaven where the Father lives. After Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins, he appeared before the presence of God in heaven as our high priest to offer himself for us. He is both our New Covenant high priest and our sacrifice. 

Only Once

The earthly high priest entered the tabernacle or temple every year the temple was standing and offered a sacrifice for the atonement of sins of the Day of Atonement. But Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. Therefore, he offered himself only once. (25) He appeared “once for all” at the end of the ages to put away sin. 

The end of the ages meant the end of the Old Covenant time and the beginning of the new age, the church age or kingdom of Christ. 

The Fate of Men and Women

Death and judgment are the fate of men and women. It says “it is appointed”. You could say “God appoints man to die once and after that comes the judgment”. God set the rules. He imposed death as a penalty of sin. 

Every man and woman will die a physical death one time. There is no reincarnation. The “second death” referred to in Revelation means, not physical death, but separation from God for eternity in hell. Revelation 20:14 says “This is the second death, the lake of fire.” 

After death, the next event of note is the judgment. This is described in Revelation 20:11-15. There is no second chance to believe after death.  2 Corinthians 5:10 says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”   

So, what happens when you die. The body goes into the ground until the resurrection. The spirit goes to heaven. Ecclesiates 12:7 says “The dust returns to the earth as it was and the spirit returns to God who gave it”. The allusion there is to the creation of Adam. God made his body from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him, giving him a spirit. (Genesis 2:7) When Adam sinned, God said he would work until he returned to the ground, for out if it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5 that you are either home in the body or home with the Lord. This rules out the concept of “soul sleep”. That is the idea that you go to sleep or cease to exist until the resurrection, then you wake up and live again. Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 both refer to souls alive in heaven.

What about unbelievers?  They cannot go to heaven because they rejected Christ’s sacrifice for them. Jesus told some Pharisees: I am going away and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 8:21) They go to a place of torment. It is sometimes called Hades. At the final judgment, Revelation says “Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them...” (20:14). The parable of rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) says the rich man is in torment in Hades. He refers to a flame. So, it appears to be what we call Hell. But it is evidently not the same as the lake of fire which is their final and horrible destination. 

Jesus Will Come Again

Jesus came once to die for sins. But, he will return. This time he will not come to die for sins. He will come this second time to save believers. This is the consummation of our salvation. We are saved when we believe. At the moment we place our faith in Christ, he forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. But, when he returns, we see this eternal life realized in full.

1 Corinthians 15:23 and following describes the second coming. There will be a trumpet sound. (v. 52) The dead are raised imperishable, meaning their decayed bodies are changed into immortal bodies. Those who belong to Christ are raised at his coming. We receive “the image of the man of heaven”. (48) We are given immortal, glorified bodies like the body of Christ.  Philippians 3:21 says Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”. He often said of believers “I will raise him up on the last day”. (John 6:44)

Notice that Hebrews 9:28 refers to us as those “who are eagerly waiting for him”. 2 Timothy 4: 8 refers to believers as those “who have longed for his appearing”. Believers should anticipate the return of Jesus eagerly. If you say I want to Jesus to come but not yet, you do not have a full appreciation for what is to come and a full realization of how bad this earth is. Romans 8:23 says “we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”. 

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