A New Covenant - Part IV
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)
The new covenant, however, emphasizes spiritual worship and the inner man. A church building is not an issue. The only true worship that exists today takes place within the body of a believer. Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore worship is not limited to one building or place.
The writer illustrated that the Mosaic Law provided external cleansing, but the physical sacrifices that were offered could not make the worshipper perfect in the spiritual realm. He said the Law 'which is a symbol for the time then present, according to which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshipper perfect in conscience.' But the work of Jesus Christ cleanses our conscience from 'dead works to serve the living God' (vs 14).
And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were (committed) under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid (only) when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first (covenant) was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the 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 which God commanded you. 'And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, (one may) almost (say), all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a (mere) copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this (comes) judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without (reference to) sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Verses 15-28 stress the importance and significance of the death of Jesus Christ. We will see that this event is foundational for forgiveness under both the old and new covenants.
The writer continues his thought from verse 14 in verse 15. He says, 'And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.' It is the death of Jesus Christ that is the foundation for the new covenant. Remember, the new covenant was made with Israel, and will not see it's fulfillment until the beginning of the Millennium, but it is the death of Christ that establishes the new covenant.
Christ is the mediator of the new covenant '...in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions... .' What is the basis of the new covenant and provides redemption for sin? The death of Jesus Christ. One cannot have redemption, forgiveness, and the elimination of sin if there is not a death. What about good works? Can they provide redemption? No. According to the Word of God, only the death of a Savior can provide redemption.
One will note that Christ's death provided redemption for sins '...that were committed under the first covenant... .' As we have already learned, the physical sacrifices that were offered in the Old Testament could not provide eternal salvation. Hebrews 10:4 illustrates this truth; 'For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.' As we will see, this truth is emphasized again and again in the following verses in the book of Hebrews. If this is true, how were the Old Testament saints saved? Simple, they were saved on the basis of the work of Christ when they believed in the revelation that God had given of Himself. In the plan of God, when Moses and Abraham, and all the other saints trusted God's revelation, God saved them based on what Christ would do in the future.
The truth is, if Jesus Christ had not died, every person who lived in Old Testament times would not have been saved, no matter how many sacrifices were offered on their behalf. We are saved the same way today. When we believe in the revelation that God has given concerning Himself, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are saved. And if we reject that revelation, we are doomed to an eternity in hell, separated from God for all time.
The writer identifies those who are going to experience salvation as '...those who have been called...' Salvation is a result of God's choosing and calling. When someone is called, they receive 'eternal inheritance.' God has made a promise to those who trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Salvation is 'eternal.' When those who have been saved come into the presence of God they will never again suffer pain or illness, they will never again live in sin, and they will never again be separated from God.
In verse 16 the writer turns his attention to the subject of the covenant. He says, 'For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.' The Greek word for covenant is 'Hakinadeitheka.' This is where we get 'Testament,' or 'Will.' The word 'covenant' means an 'agreement' in which God promises to do something.
Many of us have a Last Will and Testament. In our Wills, we have prescribed what should happen to our possessions when we die. Is our Will in force while we are still living? No, of course not. The Will goes into force when we die. This is the principle in verses 16 and 17.
The writer continues in verse 18; 'Therefore, even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.' Again, even the Mosaic Covenant could not go into effect until a death had occurred.
It was the death of Christ that made the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and all other covenants operative. In the Mosaic Covenant, it was the death of animals that symbolized the death of the Son of God. The writer says, 'For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the 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 which God commanded you'' (see Exodus 24).
The writer continues with his emphasis on the shedding of blood. He declares, 'And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with blood.' A death is needed to establish a covenant. In the Mosaic Covenant, the animals were slain, and the book, the people, the furniture, and the tabernacle were all sprinkled with blood to signify that it is blood through death that provides cleansing from sin.
In verse 22, the writer summarizes his lesson; 'And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' Not everything is cleansed with blood-there are some exceptions. For example, some things could be cleansed with water in ceremonial cleansing, and a person who was too poor to obtain an animal for the sacrifice of sin could use flour and oil (Leviticus 5: 1 1-13). But even that sacrifice had to be offered on top of an animal that was being sacrificed by a priest.
The important point of verse 22 is '...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' Some things can be cleansed without blood, but when it comes to the forgiveness of sins, without bloodshed, one cannot be forgiven. No one can go to heaven by being a good person. No one can go to heaven by attending church. No one can go to heaven because they were baptized. Why? Because '...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.'
The writer uses verse 23 to apply verse 22. He says, 'Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.' Remember, in verse 15 he gave the principle: the death of Jesus Christ provides forgiveness for sins. But the Hebrews were in danger of wanting to go back to the old covenant. They did not understand that one was saved under the old covenant by virtue of what Christ would do in the future. Now Christ's atoning work is completed. Why would they go back to another system that had been looking forward to what Christ had done?
The Old Testament system (animal sacrifices, the tabernacle, etc.) was only a copy of what was to come, patterned after what God had given to Moses. But the 'heavenly things' need a better sacrifice than animal blood, and that one sacrifice that is better than all others is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
The writer continues to examine the cleansing of heavenly things in verse 24; 'For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.' Does this mean that Christ cleansed heaven? How can heaven, the place where God manifests His perfect, holy presence, be cleansed? I believe the answer is that the cleansing being referred to is in regard to the people being cleansed in connection with the death of Christ, not a literal cleansing of furniture...etc. As verses 23 and 24 illustrated, the physical cleansing that took place in the Mosaic Covenant was only symbolic of the true spiritual cleansing that occurs in those who believe and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christ has entered heaven and is in God's presence. What is He doing there? He is there to '...appear in the presence of God for us.' As one will recall, we have examined this truth before; 'Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them' (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Christ is continually serving in the presence of God on our behalf. He is the satisfaction for our sins, and His presence in front of God is the guarantee that our sins will indeed be forgiven.
The writer again stresses the point that Christ's sacrifice happened once and for all time. He says, 'Nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own.' Remember, there are two ways one can view the Old Testament system, and the work of Jesus Christ: 1. Differences 2. Similarities. Verse 25 illustrates two of the differences. First, The old covenant high priests entered the holy place year after year, on the Day of Atonement, offering sacrifices for their sins, and the sins of the people. But Christ died only once-a once for all sacrifice.
Secondly, the high priest entered the holy place with 'blood not his own.' An Old Testament high priest offered the blood from bulls and goats for the sacrifice. Christ not only offered the sacrifice, but He was the sacrifice-He spilled His own blood.
Verse 26 stresses the fact that Christ only had to die one time on our behalf. The writer says, 'Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.' If the sacrifice of Christ had not been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sin of mankind once for all, He would have been sacrificed over and over again since the beginning of the world.
That is the point of Hebrews 9. Christ died 'once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.' Today in the church, there are many so called theologians who, in one way or another, sacrifice Christ again and again. The issue, however, is not what those people say. It is 'What does the Word of God say?' The Word of God says that Christ died 'once' for the sins of mankind, and His work was perfect and complete.
When did Christ die? He died at the 'consummation' of the ages. The picture is of all the ages of time preceding Christ leading up to that moment that He was crucified. In fact, one cannot understand ancient history unless one understands the death of Christ. For instance, in order to understand the history of Greece, Persia, and Rome, one must understand that God sovereignly chronicled their existence and used them in bringing His Son to earth in order to be executed to pay the penalty for our sins.
The writer says that Christ was '...manifested to put away sin.' How was this accomplished? Because Christ lived a sinless life. There are still people today who think that the way to get to heaven is to live a life like Christ's. It is true that Christ's life qualified Him to be a sacrifice for sin, but patterning our life after Christ's will not bring us any closer to God. Why? Because '...without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.'
The proof of this is that Christ did not provide salvation through His life on earth. Nor does He offer Himself to be sacrificed continually in the presence of the Father. 1 Peter 2:24 says, 'and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.' Where was He sacrificed? He was sacrificed 'on the cross.' How are we cleansed of our sin? We are 'healed' of our sins 'by His wounds... ' The period of time that Christ was on the cross was the one period of time that 'He bore our sins in His body' (1 Peter 2:24). This is the reason that Christ said 'It is finished' (John 19:30) right before He died. The sacrifice that Christ made on the cross was sufficient to cleanse everyone, past, present, and future, of their sin, and bring those who trust in Him into an eternal relationship with Himself.
The writer ties Christ's one, perfect sacrifice, to the pattern of man's life. He says, 'And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment.' This may seem confusing because Revelation 20 reveals that unsaved men will endure a 'second death' (vs 14). How can men who are appointed to 'die once' encounter a 'second death'? The answer is that they are two entirely different occasions. Hebrews 9:27 refers to the one physical death that everyone encounters, while Revelation 20 refers to the eternal separation of unbelievers from the presence God.
Of course, there are believers who will never have to encounter physical death (those alive at the Rapture of the church), and there have been those in the past who have never died Enoch, Elijah). There are even those who died twice (Lazarus, others raised from the dead during the ministry of Christ and the apostles). But the general principle is that a man can only die one time.
What happens after death? Everyone goes to heaven, and we all have a great time, right? The end of verse 27 says, '... after this (death) comes judgment.' In the same way that death is a sure reality for all men, judgment is a sure reality. You may encounter someone who says, 'I do not believe in life after death, so do not start talking to me about judgment.' That is fine for that person to convince himself of that, but the reality is that everyone dies, and everyone is judged.
Our Lord came the first time to save the world. He is coming a second time to judge the world. This is the point of verse 28; 'so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, not to bear sin, to those who eagerly await Him for salvation.' Again we see that truth that Christ only had to die 'once' for the 'sins of many' (see Isaiah 53:12).
But we learn something new in the second half of verse 28. The writer says that Christ 'shall appear a second time.' We know that the first time Christ appeared was the consummation of the ages. But now everything since that point in time is moving toward another consummation-the second coming of Jesus Christ.
What will happen when He returns? He returns '..for salvation.' One will note that this is salvation without reference to sin. How can it be possible that there can be salvation without sin being involved? The salvation referred to in verse 28 is ultimate salvation. When Christ returns, He is not going to be sacrificed again for sin, rather He is coming to bring glorification to the earthly bodies of those 'who eagerly await Him.' The occasion of Christ's second coming is the rapture of the church. He is coming to take every believer on earth and bring them into His presence. What is the mark of a true believer? They 'eagerly await Him.' (see also I Corinthians 1:7, II Timothy 4:8).
The believer is to be continually looking forward to the coming of the Lord. This characteristic makes us totally different from the rest of the world. The unbeliever does not look forward to the coming of Christ. In fact, he does not even know He is coming. The tragedy is that often, we as believers show no more eagerness than the rest of the world for the coming of our Lord and Savior.
There are three types of appearance by Jesus Christ in Hebrews 9:15-28. First, He was 'manifested' (vs 26). This is the past appearance of Christ, when He came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins.
Secondly, He appears 'in the presence of God for us' (vs 24). This is His present ministry in heaven as our high priest in the presence of God the Father.
Finally, He 'shall appear a second time' (vs 28). This is the future coming of Christ when the church will be caught up to be with Him in glory.
It is imperative that we understand all three of these appearances. Have you recognized that, in the past, Christ came to earth and paid the penalty for your sins? Have you trusted Him alone as your Lord and Savior? If you have, do you understand that you now have a representative in heaven (Jesus Christ) who intercedes for you, every moment of every day, guaranteeing that you are secure as a child of God? And finally, do you recognize that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be living in light of the fact that He is coming again? Are you eagerly awaiting His coming? I pray that we as believers are serving the living God (Hebrews 9:14), while we eagerly wait for Him to bring us into His presence.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Sermons and Other Articles Collection" by:
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Our websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Online since 1986