A Bible Lesson on Hebrews 9:11-28 and 10:11-18

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

F.F. Bruce titles these passages “Christ’s Eternal Redemption” (9:11-14), “The Mediator of the New Covenant” (9:15-22), “The Perfect Sacrifice” (9:23-28), and “The Enthroned High Priest” (10:11-18).

As we begin in Hebrews 9:11, the writer has been telling about the Jewish tabernacle, the holy place and the most holy place, the second being where only the high priest could go, and then only once per year, taking with him the blood of a sacrifice. The writer turns then to make comparison to Jesus.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

There is a lovely phrase here. Christ has appeared as a high priest, not of “good things to come,” but as the high priest of “the good things that have come.” The Old Testament types have been fulfilled. Humanity is no longer waiting in anticipation of an eternal high priest and an eternal redemption, it is here in Jesus!

12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Christ entered once for all the presence of the Father “by means of” or “by virtue of” His own blood. He entered by virtue of His gracious sacrifice on our behalf. His work is both permanent and perfect in nature and also eternal in effect.

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,

14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

If we would think this one through, it only makes sense. If all there was was a system of animal sacrifices, how could it possibly accomplish anything? It would be silly on the face of it (if that was all there was)! How could the Creator of all be satisfied with the death of animals as a means of rolling back the just punishment of man’s sin? But the Old Testament revelation is that this is what God required and honored. Why? Because it meant something in and of itself? Hardly! It was because it was a teacher and pointer to the reality, the once for all sacrifice of Christ! That is, there was reality in the Old Testament sacrifices, because they look ahead to Jesus. The effect of the Old Testament sacrifices was of necessity temporary, not really permanently clearing human conscience. The work of Jesus is to really clear the slate and make us able to in reality serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

For the balance of this chapter, the author is going to talk about “covenants” and “wills”/”testaments.” We find it hard to follow. That’s because our English word changes and we have two fairly distinct concepts. Apparently in Greek, there is only one word that has the comprehensive meaning of “settlement” being used here, both for what English translators typically render as “covenant” and for what they render as “will” or “testament.” The argument here is then basically “Jesus who has died on our behalf is the mediator of a new ‘settlement’ and there is one particular kind of ‘settlement’ that serves to illustrate this aspect of His ministry. That is the ‘will’ or ‘testament’ type of ‘settlement’ that requires the death of the maker in order to be effective.”

“therefore” he is the mediator. This refers to the fact that Christ offered Himself. It is His self-sacrifice that makes Him the mediator.

16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.

17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

A will or testament type of settlement is only in effect as the one who made it is dead. The effectiveness of the New Covenant in Jesus depends wholly on His death. That shouldn’t catch us completely off guard, since that was already pictured in the Old Testament type. Even it required death in its inauguration.

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.

19 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,

20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”

And it wasn’t only at the institution of the first covenant that there was blood. There was blood at the dedication of the tabernacle.

21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.

There was blood at all the sacrifices for sin.

22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Nearly everything in the Old Testament religion involved blood. And the OT picture is entirely right. Forgiveness is serious business. It comes at the highest price. Without death there is none. Only the death of Christ brings forgiveness of our sin. Again, the Old Testament law required sacrifice, but it could only be effective as it looked ahead to Jesus the perfect sacrifice that it stood for. It’s not that somehow the animal sacrifices set the standard and Jesus (being of more value than a dumb animal) filled up the quota, but rather that Jesus is the reality that the OT system pointed to, and what gave those sacrifices their meaning.

23 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.

Clearly, animal sacrifices aren’t going to cut it in any real sense for eternity. Again, that would be absurd on the face of it. Ultimate reality doesn’t hang on the sacrifice of dumb animals, but on the work of Christ. If there is going to be real dealing with human sin, the cure has to be more than animal sacrifice, and it has to be more universal than what goes on in an earthly temple or tabernacle. It simply must be of cosmic proportions. And indeed it is. It’s no frail human yearly entering a special room of the temple, it’s instead the eternal Christ in the very presence of the God of all.

24 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.

“Christ has entered.” The tense is aorist, that indicates a completed and historic event. The reference is presumably to the ascension. “Which are copies of true things …” We are earthbound creatures. Our default is to think that stuff of this present world is what is “real” (and the stuff of heaven is somehow unreal). But that is backwards. The genuinely true things are those that endure forever. And those are not the things of this life. The stuff of this life is but a shadow of the eternal.

25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,

What Jesus has done was done once, not repeatedly. The Romans are horribly, horribly wrong on this point. They think they are repeatedly sacrificing Christ at Mass. What He did, He did once for all.

The Jewish priests came to the temple repeatedly with the blood of animals. Jesus came once to the very presence of the Father with the sacrifice of Himself. It would be absurd to think of Him dying over and over and over in the style of a repeated animal sacrifice. Human beings die bodily only once. Christ, fully divine but also fully human, could die only once.

26 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.

27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

The writer rightly considers any thought of Christ being repeatedly sacrificed to be obviously absurd.

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.

Every ordinary human dies once and then faces judgment. Christ died once, and His work complete, brings salvation to those who love Him.

Jump now to verse 11 of Chapter 10. The writer continues to emphasize the unrepeatable nature of Christ’s sacrifice for us. In this, he appeals to the wording of Psalm 110. In Chapter 7 he has referred to this Psalm in regard to Christ as of the line of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Hebrews 10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

The Aaronic priests never sat down in the temple. They were always on their feet and their work was never done. It’s as if they were manning the pumps on a sinking ship. There had to be someone always offering the next sacrifice. Not so with Christ. F.F. Bruce put it this way, “A seated priest is the evidence of a finished work and an accepted sacrifice.” And He sits at God’s right hand, at the place of highest honor and dignity.

14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The writer has said several times that the Old Testament law brought no one to perfection. It couldn’t permanently set us right with God. The repeated nature of the OT sacrifices is clear testimony to that fact. But what Christ has done is different. The writer refers to the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The point is that if indeed the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled in Christ, there is no more need for continual sacrifices. Real forgiveness has come once for all.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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