A Better Covenant Based on a Better Sacrifice
Text: Hebrews 9:11-10:18
Entered the Holy of Holies with a better sacrifice
Under the New Covenant, Jesus is our High Priest of our salvation. Like the priests of the Old Covenant, he entered the true Holy of Holies (heaven) after a sacrifice of blood. However, it was not the sacrifice of animals, but the shedding of his own blood (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; I Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). Unlike the priests under Moses’ Law, Jesus does not have to continually enter into the presence of God but is able to enter once for all time (Daniel 9:24; Zechariah 3:9). Thus, he eternally redeemed mankind from their sins.
Gained forgiveness with a better sacrifice
Offerings of animals, such as goats and bulls, were made to ask God for forgiveness of sin (Leviticus 16:15-19; 4:20,26,31,35; 5:10,13,16,18; 6:7). The ashes of a heifer were used to make the waters used to purify people who had become unclean (Numbers 19:2-10). The purification rituals took care of the physical uncleanness of a man so that he might worship God. If animal blood could do this, the writer asks us to consider how much more the blood of Christ is able to do to cleanse us from sin (dead works - Ephesians 2:1) so we may serve the living God. The purification here is not from physical uncleanness but an uncleanness of the spirit (the conscience) (Mark 7:21-23; Ephesians 4:22-24; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6; I Thessalonians 5:23).
Mediated a better covenant with a better sacrifice
Because of Jesus’ superior sacrifice, he has mediated a superior covenant. Those who are called are able to receive eternal life (II Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:11-14; 3:8-12). In the terms of that covenant, Jesus' death was not just for future sins but also covered the sins committed under the prior covenant so that those forgiven then can also inherit eternal life.
However, for a will to go into effect the testator (the one who had the will made) must die. It is drafted prior to a person’s death, but the terms don’t take effect until the person dies. The New Covenant went into effect at the death of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). Even the Old Covenant went into effect with the death of animals and the shedding of their blood (Exodus 24:3-8). But notice that the blood used to inaugurate the Old Covenant was inferior to the blood of Christ, which inaugurated the New Covenant.
Purified with a better sacrifice
The blood was used for more than just sealing the covenant. It was also sprinkled on the tabernacle and the implements in order to dedicate these things to the service of God. Thus, they were rendered clean. If the copies of heavenly things in the Old Testament required blood, then the heavenly things require a greater sacrifice – Christ’s own blood (II Peter 1:18-19).
The cleansing of the tabernacle was also a shadow of the New Covenant. Christians are the temple of God (I Corinthians 3:16). We are made clean by the blood of Christ (John 17:19; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7). As a result, we are dedicated to the service of God (Romans 12:1-2). As the writer of Hebrews points out, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin (Leviticus 17:11).
His sacrifice was only needed once
The high priest under the Old Covenant entered the tabernacle – a tent made by craftsmen at God’s orders – after being cleansed. Jesus entered a greater temple – heaven itself. He stands in the very presence of God.
Because of the perfection of his sacrifice of his own blood, there is no requirement for repeated sacrifices and repeated entering of the temple. This is unlike the high priest who entered after a sacrifice of blood that was not his own. Because people are appointed to die only once, it only took the single offering of Christ to put away sin.
And because after death comes judgment, Jesus will return a second time to bring salvation to his people. In that second appearing, there will be no need for another sacrifice for sin – that was taken care of in his death at his first appearance on earth.
The Old Law could not achieve what Christ accomplished. It required repeated sacrifices, showing that it could not offer a permanent solution to the problem of sin. In fact, the continual offerings constantly reminded people of their sins.
And in reality, the blood of the lesser (animals) cannot take away the sins of the greater (humans) (Micah 6:6-7). This is why Jesus came into this world. God didn’t desire the death of animals to fulfill some need of His. But Christ was designated before the world was created to be the sacrifice for sin.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalms 40:6-8, from the Septuagint translation. It is like our current Hebrew text but one line, “My ears You have opened” is replaced with “but a body you have prepared for me.” Some commentators, such as Adam Clark, feel that the Hebrew text was accidentally corrupt at the point. In support of this, the Ethiopian and Arabic translations have both: “a body you have prepared for me, and my ears you have opened.” But the Syriac, Chaldean, and Latin translations follow the Hebrew text we currently have. Both phrases indicate being prepared for service as a slave. “My ears You have opened” alludes to the piercing of the ear to mark a person as a permanent slave (Exodus 21:6). It signified a willingness to listen (Isaiah 50:4-5). Compare this to Philippians 2:7-8.
Since the Old Law required sacrifices and, yet, God states that He does not desire them, then in doing God’s will and offering himself as a sacrifice would require that the first covenant be replaced to establish a second covenant. Notice that the writer lists a wide variety of types of offerings to show that none are adequate. By doing God’s will, Jesus’ single sacrifice sanctifies all of us. This stands in contrast to the Old Law which required multiple priests serving daily and repeatedly offering sacrifices that could never take away sin (Hebrews 9:9; 10:1,4). However, Christ offered himself once for sins and that sacrifice stands for all time. He now is at the right hand of God – a quote from Colossians 3:1. There is no need for a future sacrifice to enter again into the presence of the Father. He will remain there until all his enemies are conquered (Psalms 110:1; I Corinthians 15:25).
Thus, under the New Covenant Christ secured the means of perfecting forever those who are sanctified by his one sacrifice (Hebrews 2:11; 10:10; 10:29). This was testified by the Holy Spirit in the prophecy recorded in Jeremiah 31:33-34. A covenant would be made where God would no longer remember their sins. Since God is willing to forgive sins, the need for a sacrifice no longer remains.
- The Hebrew writer states that at Christ’s second appearing that salvation without a return to sin would be granted.
- Premillennialists state that Jesus will come to establish a kingdom on earth. Does this fit?
- Preterists claim that Jesus came in A.D. 70. Does this fit?