The Blood of Christ and the Drama of Redemption ● Hebrews 9:11-28
Dr. Kevin Shrum
Introduction: Just a few weeks ago I began a series entitled ‘The Doctrine Everyone Must Know: The Doctrine of Salvation.’ That is, every person must know and understand how a person is made right with God, is reconciled to God, is ‘saved’ by God. It is too simple to just say ‘Jesus died for our sins.’ He did, but there is so much more. Why did He die? What did His death mean? And how are we saved through His death and subsequent resurrection? With heresy on the rise, we cannot afford to be ‘soteriologically [salvation] ignorant.’
I first preached on the total depravity of the sinner, the lost condition of the humanity (8.19.07). This initial message was followed by a message that further explained the nature and scope of our sinful rebellion from God and the death of our consciences before a Holy God (8.26.07/a.m. service). The next message hit the second point of salvation by addressing the issue of God’s eternal decree to save a people for Himself out of the masses of sinful humanity (8.26.07/p.m. service). We now come to third dimension of salvation – the atoning work of Christ. In essence, if we are sinners and God chooses to save a people for Himself, then how does He atone for their sins? How does God remedy our sin problem? How does the drama of divine redemption unfold?
The quick answer is that God atones for our sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. What does this mean? Let’s begin at the beginning. You will recall that soon after God had created the world and His beautiful creation, mankind ‘fell’ into sin through disobedience and rebellion (Gen. 3:1-7). Because of sin, man was separated from God and attempted to cover up his sinful deeds (Gen. 3:7). God brought judgment on His creation by pronouncing a 1) curse on the woman, 2) a curse on the man, 3) a curse on Satan and 4) even a curse on the natural order of things (Gen. 3:8-21). Because of the sin of Adam and Eve a separation between a Holy God and sinful man emerged (Gen. 3:22-24). First man/woman would no longer know the sweet, intimate fellowship they had had with God – and this is true even today for those who are outside of Christ.
We are given the first clue as to how God would cover our sin in Genesis 3:21 where God takes one of the animals He had created, kills it and makes garments to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Notice that God covered them. They had attempted to cover themselves. Genesis 3:7 notes, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Because of their sin the ‘cover up’ had begun and continues to this day. The fig leaves represent man-made religion, human wisdom and arrogance. The covering God provided for Adam and Eve with the skins of a sacrificed animal was a picture of both God’s 1) judgment and 2) grace. It is a judgment because by covering them with the skins of a sacrificed animal God was saying that their coverings were not good enough, they were inadequate (Gen. 3:7). Any attempt to cover sin with anything other than the covering provided by God will be judged as inadequate and as an extension of the consequences of sin.
But the covering provided by God for the sin of Adam and Eve is not only a picture of God’s judgment, it is also a picture of God’s grace. God covered their nakedness. This gracious act would be a sign and a symbol of things to come! God would not only judge sin, He would atone for sin through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
We now fast-forward to Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus where the simple act of sacrifice and covering is institutionalized in the Levitical priesthood and Temple sacrificial system. Exodus 11-12 tells us of the first Passover where the only way to escape death was through the blood of a sacrificed animal splattered on the doorposts of all who believed. All those covered by the blood would be ‘passed over’ by death; all those without the covering of blood experienced death.
Then, in Exodus 24:1-8 the covenant of God with His people established in the Law was sealed with the sprinkling of blood on the people of God, the priests of God and on the Book of the Law. While there were many sacrifices offered throughout the year, once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy Holies, the Most Holy Place, on the Day of Atonement and offer a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16:1ff.). This system was instituted by God and was to be followed meticulously and yearly.
But the coverings provided by God in Genesis 3 and through the priestly, Temple system were temporary until the real and eternal sacrifice would come in the person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:11-28 lays it out in clear and concise terms:
“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’ 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
This amazing passage lays out the nature and scope of our redemption that has come in the person if Jesus Christ. What began Scene 1 in the Garden of Eden as God covered the sin of His creatures and what was institutionalized Scene 2 as God established a yearly atonement through the sacrifice of a slaughtered lamb culminates in Scene 3 and the ultimate and final word from God on sacrifice and atonement. Let’s look at this passage through four words – priest, mediator, will and the real!
The Priest, vs. 11-14
When God decided to reveal the final episode of His redemptive plan He did so through His Son who would come as our High Priest. Christ came as our Priest “…of the good things that are already here…” meaning that the redemption offered in God’s previous provisions of grace would now be complete in Jesus Christ.
As the High Priest He did not enter into a man-made building or Temple, but He entered into the very presence of God with His own blood and not that of a goat, a bull or a lamb. The atonement offered in the Levitical system made God’s people ceremonially clean, but not eternally and internally clean. This is why the High Priest had to offer a yearly sacrifice to God in the Holy of Holies.
But now that Jesus Christ has come as our High Priest His blood cleanses us internally and eternally so that we are clean before God, so clean that we do not need a yearly sacrifice to atone for our sins – Jesus Christ has now offered Himself as the once-for-all atonement for sin.
The Mediator, vs. 15
As a result, Jesus Christ is our mediator: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” In Jesus Christ we are set free from sin and receive the “…promised eternal inheritance…” God has ransomed His own and set His people free from the bondage of sin.
His Will, vs. 16-22
Through the death of Christ the will of God is set in motion. Just as an earthly will is not in effect so long as the person who made the will is alive (vs. 16-18), so, too, God’s will is put into effect by the blood of Jesus Christ. Just as Moses sanctified God’s people by splattering blood on the people and the scroll of the Law as they dedicated themselves to keep the Law (Ex. 24:6-8), Christ sanctifies us by His blood. This is why “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (vs. 22) God’s will to forgive us and give us all things is enacted by the death of Jesus Christ.
The Real, vs. 23-28
Christ’s death demonstrates what is real. The entire Levitical system was a copy of the real Holy of Holies and the sacrifice needed to redeem sinners. When Jesus came to end the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, He came as a man, died on a cross, shedding His blood as the sinless Lamb of God. Christ then “…entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Jesus Christ is not only our High Priest, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of sinners. This amazing two-fold function of Jesus Christ is the core of God’s plan of redemption. The Levitical system of sacrifice required that the High Priest offer a sacrifice for the people as well as Himself Leviticus 16). But now Christ serves as both our High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb whose blood was shed to cover the sins of His people.
Because His sacrifice was perfect, He did not “…enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the High Priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.” If Jesus had to be crucified afresh each year or each time we worship He would have had to “…suffer many times since the creation of the world.” Instead, “…He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” This means that what many thought was real - the Temple system of worship and sacrifice - was simply a copy of the real thing that came in the person of Jesus Christ.
What is real is that “Just as man is destined to die once, and after this to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…” All flesh will die. And all flesh will face the judgment of God. Because of sin we will not be able to stand in judgment without something miraculous taking place. This is why the parallel states that Jesus Christ appeared once to take away that which would cause us not to be able to stand in the judgment - sin.
What is real is that Jesus “…will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Jesus came the first time to take away our sin, which is the down-payment of our salvation. When Jesus comes again He will bring the salvation we have in Him to a glorious culmination. All things will be complete and what is most real will be made clear. Jesus Christ will come not as a sacrificed Lamb, but as King of King and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:11-21; 20:11-15; 21:22).