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”. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

BLOOD IS REQUIRED - Hebrews 9 part 3

Today we continue our study of Hebrews 9.

Verse 15 established that Jesus is not only our high priest, but the mediator of the New Covenant. Verses 16 through 22 discuss of the necessity of blood to establish a covenant and how Jesus fulfilled that requirement. It is an explanation of his statement that believers receive the promised eternal inheritance. It is because a death occurred to redeem them. It is sort of a parenthetical statement, one that does not flow with the argument, but explains the basis of the writer’s point.

Verse 16 discusses the validity of a covenant. Unfortunately, almost all of the major translations do not use the word “covenant”. Instead, they use the word “will”. The thought appears to be that the writer is making an analogy between will and covenant. Only the New American Standard Bible among the modern translations translates the word as “covenant”. The old Young’s Literal Translation also uses the word “covenant”.

The word in Greek is “διαθήκη”. We transliterate it (English) as “diathēkē”. Transliterate means to use the letters of one language to express the sounds of the word in another. Since I write in English, I transliterate the Greek word with English letters to pronounce it.

Translate, in comparison, means to find a word in one language to express the word of another language. We translate διαθήκη as either covenant or will.

There are two problems with translating the word “diatheke” as “will”. First, the word is translated “covenant” in ever other instance in which it is used in Hebrews. Second, the context is a discussion or a comparison of the new covenant verses the old covenant. There is no need for an analogy to a will, since the original audience would understand the concept of covenant and the history behind it.

I think a better reading might be something along the lines of this:

For where there is a covenant, it is necessary for the death of the one who ratifies it to be brought forward, for a covenant is made legally secure on the basis of the sacrificial victims, since it is never valid while the ratifier lives. That is why not even the former covenant was confirmed without blood.

As an example, as he usually does, the writer goes to the Old Testament for proof. The old covenant (former covenant) was inaugurated with blood. Verses 19-21 describe how Moses sprinkled the tabernacle and all the furnishings and even the book of the covenant with blood.

First, God declared the law to Moses. (19) In other words, God declared the terms of the covenant into which he would enter with the Israelites. This is described in Exodus 19. God told Moses the preamble of the covenant. He said he redeemed them. “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4) Second, he told them the benefits of keeping the covenant: “you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. (19:5-6) He would have a special relationship with Israel, they would represent him to other nations, and they would live holy lives that reflected the character and glory of God.

Third, the people agreed to the covenant: “all that the Lord has spoken we will do”. (19:8) Fourth, God gave Moses the terms of the covenant (the law). (Exodus 20 and following) Notice that they agreed to enter into the covenant in order to have a relationship with God. God then set the terms. Israel did not negotiate the terms.

Fifth, and finally, Moses conducted a covenant ceremony. This is recorded in Exodus 24. Moses built an altar and offered oxen on it. He took half the blood and put it in basins and half the blood he threw against the altar. he read the covenant to the people and the agreed to keep it. Then he took the blood in the basins and threw it on the people. When he did so, he said “behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with these words.” (Exodus 24:8)

So, we see the covenant was ratified by blood.  Blood comes from death. In Psalm 50:5 God said “gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice”.

Another reason Moses sprinkled everything with blood was to sanctify them. They were made by man and had to be purified, since mankind is corrupted by sin. Verse 22 says that almost everything is purified by the application of blood.

Hebrews 9:22 affirms for us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins”. “Shedding of blood” is a term for death. The blood Moses used to sprinkle the tabernacle came from killing an animal. And we know that the penalty for sin was death, as God told Adam. (Genesis 2:17)

This truth is demonstrated by the old testament sacrifices. In order to cover their sins, the Israelites offered animal sacrifices. And, the  sacrifices also served to point Israel to Christ, who would give himself as the perfect sacrifice. But that is the exact point the disciples missed! And they missed it three times according to Matthew. The first time, recorded in Matthew 16:21, Jesus told them he had to go and be tortured and killed, but then raised. Peter told him no that could not be. Jesus rebuked him for not thinking as God thinks, but as man thinks.

Jesus taught them this truth again at the Passover dinner, what we often call the “Last Supper”. Here is Matthew’s account.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-29)

The blood of the new covenant is the blood of Christ. His body, represented by bread, was broken into death for our sins. We have to receive the benefits of his death by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. We eat and drink of this new covenant sacrifice.  Jesus said we had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. (John 6:53) What he meant by that metaphor is that we must come to him for salvation, believe he died for our sins and put our faith in him for salvation to eternal life.



Who enters into this covenant with God through Christ? Hebrews 9:15 tells us it is “those who are called”.

The idea is that believers are called into the kingdom and into a relationship with God. This is a controversial idea in some denominations in America at the moment, but it is the teaching of scripture.  Let’s look at some examples.

First, look at Romans 8:28-30. It is a description of the process of salvation. The context of the passage is suffering in this present age. Paul says that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Those who love God and those who are called are the same. They refer to believers. Believers are called by God.

The following verses of Romans 8 tell us God foreknew us, he predestined us and he called us. Then he tells us that he justifies those he called. He called us into salvation.

Jesus, in John 10:27, said “my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus taught all the same things the writer of Hebrews taught. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, bringing his sheep into God’s fold, a metaphor for kingdom. He called them.

The heard and responded because God gave them to him. This is why the doctrine is often called “effectual calling”. The idea is, those who are called will respond to God’s call. And, finally, their place in the hand of Christ, his kingdom, is permanent and kept by him and his power.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


There are many truths stated in these verses. In fact, there are several truths stated in verse 15 alone. So let’s take a close look at verse 15.

Jesus mediates a new covenant

Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant. He did not come to work with the old covenant other than to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) If you want a covenant with God, you must enter into the new covenant. And you must go to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ, and no other. (John 14:6)

A mediator is one who brings two parties from separation to reconciliation. Jesus mediates the separation between God and man by making the effective sacrifice for our sins. That is what the writer says in 9:15 when he says “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant”.

Why is Jesus the mediator of the new covenant? Because he revealed the new covenant to us and he served as a priest offering the sacrifice that brought it into force. His death is the death that occurred.

So, the writer uses two terms here. First, mediation, then redemption. Christ is qualified to mediate because he redeems. He removes the barrier between the parties. The barrier is sin. He removes the barrier through redemption, paying the price of our sins. Paul said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 3:23-24)

Jesus mediates the new covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties. In the case of a powerful, greater, party making a covenant with a lesser party, the greater party imposes duties on the lesser party and offers rewards for fulfilling those duties. In the Old Covenant, God imposed the duties of the law on Israel. If they kept the law, he blessed them with land, prosperity, children, protection and a relationship. If they violated the law, he cursed them, bringing sickness, drought and ultimately expulsion from their land.

So, what about the new covenant? Well, this passage does not tell us what the duty of the covenant is, but does tell us what the reward is. The reward is the promised eternal inheritance. (15)

What is that inheritance? It is a place in the kingdom of God forever. The current Evangelical approach to eternity over emphasizes heaven and neglects the new earth. You are not going to stay in heaven forever. When God makes all things new, this earth will pass away and we will be living forever in the presence of God in the new earth.

Jesus gave John a vision of this new earth. He recorded it for us in Revelation 21. He said “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and were no more.” He then describes it in great detail.

Peter also described it in 2 Peter 3. He said the present creation will be destroyed on the day of judgment. Then, read what he said in verse 13: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. He says this is the promise we believe, just as Hebrews does.

Jesus told his disciples this as well in John 14. He said his father’s house had many rooms and he was going to prepare a place for the disciples. He said he would come again and take us to be with him. I believe the “house” here is just a metaphor for the new earth. When Jesus returns, he will resurrect believers who have died, gather the living, judge the earth, and create the new earth in which we have a permanent inheritance. It is what Hebrews called our “promised eternal inheritance”.

God does not change. He does things basically the same way, though he does not reveal all of what is going on and what he does reveal, he often reveals in stages. In the old covenant, he gave Israel a land and each individual an inheritance in it. The land was allotted by tribes, clans and families and they stayed in that allotment permanently. That is why there were laws about inheritance, and release of mortgages, and protection of widows and even the kinsman redeemer such as Boaz in the book of Ruth.

That land was the kingdom of God on earth at the time. Now, Israel broke the covenant and was cast away from their inheritance. The old covenant provided for that as a curse or result of their breach of the covenant. (Leviticus 26)

But the new covenant is better, because the covenant is eternal. Once you come into God’s kingdom, your inheritance in it is eternal and you cannot lose it. You cannot lose it because you do not keep it. God keeps it. 1 Peter 1:3 tells us this. It says “Blessed  be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused s to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”.

Your inheritance is kept by the power of God for you. And it will be revealed in the last time (when Christ returns).

Monday, July 08, 2013


The cross is the way to victory and death is the way to life, so God has ordained from the beginning," John Calvin.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

HEBREWS 9:1-14


Chapter 9 begins a comparison between the sacrifices of the old covenant and the sacrifice of Christ. Having told us in 8:13 that the new covenant made the old covenant obsolete, he compares them to show us how and why.


This passage briefly describes the arrangement of the old covenant tabernacle. Remember that God gave Moses very specific instructions on how to build it and furnish it. God told Israel, through Moses, how to worship him and where to approach him.
The tabernacle had two parts: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only priests entered the Tabernacle. There was a curtain, or veil, at the entrance woven of blue, purple and scarlet yarns woman with fine linen. (Exodus 26:36-37) 

Inside the first section, or the Holy Place, were the lampstand, table and bread of the Presence. 
The lampstand was made of gold. It had six branches, three on each side of the center lamp, so that there were seven lamps burning to light the tent. (Exodus 25:31-39)

The table was made of wood and overlaid with gold. (Exodus 25:23-30) The bread on the Presence was placed there before God. 
The second section was called the Most Holy Place. A second curtain, or vail, separated  the two sections. It was like the first vail, but also had cherubim on it. (9:3)
Inside the Most Holy Place were the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant. The cover of the ark was gold, including two cherubim whose wings arched over the mercy seat. God’s presence dwelt above the mercy seat. 

When the priest burned incense on the altar of incense, the smoke drifted up to and covered the mercy seat, where the presence of God dwelled. Incense usually symbolizes prayers. For example, Revelation 5:8 says those bowing down before Jesus held golden bowls of incense “which are the prayers of the saints”. 

Revelation 8:3 tells of an angel standing before an altar burning incense with the prayers of the saints. 
Inside the ark were the tablets of the covenant, the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. The “tablets of the covenant” are the two stone tablets with the ten commandments written on them by God. 
On top of the ark was the mercy seat, which had the two cherubim covering it. 

This section tells us the priests went regularly into the first section to perform their duties. (6) But only the high priest went into the second section and only once per year. (7) Even then he had to take blood to offer sacrifice for himself and for the people. This was the manner of worship commanded by God. 

In verse 8, the writer interprets for us what this means. Notice he attributes this to the Holy Spirit. It means that the way into the presence of God was not open as long as the place of sacrifice still existed. In other words, as long as the first covenant was in place with its rules and regulations, the ordinary person could not enter into the presence of God. Only his representative, the high priest, could do it and even he only once per year.

The veils represented the separation between God and man caused by the sin of man. God thrusted Adam and Even from his presence in the Garden when they sinned. He continued the separation in the building of the tabernacle. But then he demonstrated that the separation was ended by Christ, when at Christ’s death, Mark 15:38 says “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 

The writer also points out for us, in verses 9-10, that all of these sacrifices and ceremonies could not cleanse the conscience of the worshiper. They just met God’s requirements until the “time of reformation”. (NIV=”time of the new order”) Again we see that the Old Covenant was not meant to be permanent. It was to keep God’s people until the time of the New Covenant. Paul echoes this truth in Galatians 3:19.


In contrast to the imperfect sacrifice of animals in a temporary covenant, Christ made a perfect sacrifice that brought about a permanent covenant and redemption.

These verses tell us that Jesus, as the high priest of the new covenant, entered into God’s presence in heaven and offered his blood as a sacrifice, obtaining permanent redemption for believers. In addition, he cleansed our consciences from our dead works to serve our living God.

The “greater and more perfect tent” refers to the area surrounding God’s throne in heaven. It is not made by man and not of this creation, meaning it is not of earth but heaven. 

Jesus entered the greater tent as our high priest. The image he means to convey is Jesus coming into God’s presence in heaven for our Day of Atonement. He entered the tent and sacrificed himself to make atonement for our sins. 

Verse 12 tells us he entered once for all. The old covenant high priest entered once per year and offered a sacrifice of blood. Jesus entered the heavenly holy place (where God dwells) one time and accomplished permanent atonement for the sins of all who will believe in him.  

The sacrifice of the old covenant priests was the blood of animals, but the sacrifice of Jesus was his own blood. Ephesians 1:7 says “In him we have redemption through his blood...”.  Redemption is the payment of a purchase price or ransom. His blood pays the price of our sin. The price of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) 

While the sacrifice of animals brought temporary sanctification to the old covenant believers, the sacrifice of Christ, the perfect sacrifice, purifies us completely.

Notice the Trinitarian aspect here. The Son, through the Spirit, offered himself to the Father. 

Also notice the fulfillment of the promise of Jeremiah 31, which the writer quoted in Chapter 8. God said he would put his laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. Here he says, in verse 14, Christ purified our conscience from dead works to serve a living God.

The believer quits working for salvation, realizing he cannot meet the requirements of the law. But when he places his trust in Christ, he is changed so that he wants to serve a living God. He wants to please God by conforming himself as much as possible to the character of God. God’s law is written on his heart. 

We are called to serve the living God when we are called into salvation. The idea that you can say some words and receive a “get out of hell free” card and then get on with your life is not Biblical. 

Salvation involves coming into the service of the King of Kings, in believe, in self denial, in serving others, in separation from the world and in worship.