Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The statement made in this week’s Bible Reflection is very true. Forgiveness of sins cannot take place without the shedding of blood. It is for this reason that the Savior of mankind, Jesus the Christ, died on Calvary’s cross.
Having just established that Christ’s new covenant went into effect and thus replaced Moses’ old covenant upon the death of Christ (Hebrews 9:17), God now inspired the Hebrew writer to show that a death was required even to establish the old covenant. He wrote, “Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.’ And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship” (9:18-21). The Old Testament records Moses and the Levitical priests doing all of these things (Exodus 24:3-8; 29:12ff; Leviticus 8:15-19; 16:14-16; cf. 2 Chronicles 29:22). Indeed, under the law of Moses “almost everything is purified with blood.” Blood was required to be shed if sins were to be forgiven (9:22).
Now God inspired the Hebrew author to discuss further the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice on Golgotha by pointing out how these Old Testament sacrificial rites of blood foreshadowed what Jesus had to do on the cross. He wrote, “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (9:23). The connection between blood and the induction of the Law of Moses as well as everything pertaining to the sacrifices and rites of worship under that law were all “copies” – i.e., foreshadowed – what Christ would do at Calvary (the “better sacrifices than these”) to bring about his New Testament and the ultimate forgiveness of sins.
The Hebrew writer than delves further into the comparison between the two: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 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” (9:24-28).
Just as the Old Testament high priests entered into the tabernacle (“holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things”), Christ entered into heaven itself as the Christian’s high priest, appearing “in the presence of God on our behalf.” Unlike the repeated annual sacrifices required of the Old Testament high priests, Christ only had to offer himself on that cross once. Otherwise, he would have had to have been continually offered as a sacrifice since the time of Adam and Eve. As it is, he only had to offer himself “once for all at the end of the ages.” The terminology “end of the ages” refers to these “last days” spoken of repeatedly throughout the New Testament in reference to the final age of mankind, the Christian age which has been in place since Christ’s death on the cross (cf. Hebrews 1:2; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
It is “appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Lord willing, next week’s column will study that phrase a bit more closely. But for now, note that the point being made is just as man dies only once before being judged by God, Christ only needed to make that sacrifice once “to bear the sins of many” before appearing “a second time” on the day of judgment. Only this time, he will becoming not to “deal with sin” as he had done before, but instead “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Are you ready for that day to come?