Lecture 18: Hebrews 9:11-28
Lecture: Hebrews 9:11-28
11 But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, 12 and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. 15 And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant. 16 For where there is a will, the death of the one who made it must be proven. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it carries no force while the one who made it is alive. 18 So even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every command to all the people according to the law, 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 and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded you to keep.” 21 And both the tabernacle and all the utensils of worship he likewise sprinkled with blood. 22 Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 So it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves required better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuary – but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. 25 And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. 27 And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, 28 so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation.
A. Heavenly tabernacle vs. earthly tabernacle:
So we have 9:11-28 as a unit and then 10:1-18 as a unit. But in 9:11-28, the author talks about how Christ’s offering is superior to the old covenant offerings. So in verses 11-14, the idea of place, the blood and then the decisiveness of Christ’s sacrifice will be seen but emphasized in different places. Look at the following verses with the Greek.
11 χριστός δε (But Christ) παραγενόμενος (being come) αρχιερεύς (is chief priest) των (of the) μελλόντων (about to be) αγαθών (good things,) διά (through) της (the) μείζονος (greater) και (and) τελειοτέρας (more perfect) σκηνής (tent,) ου (not) χειροποιήτου (made by hand) -- τουτ΄ έστιν (that is to say,) ου (not) ταύτης (of this) της κτίσεως (creation,)
12 ουδέ (nor) δι΄ (through) αίματος (the blood) τράγων (of he-goats) και (and) μόσχων (calves,) διά δε (but by) του ιδίου (his own) αίματος (blood) εισήλθεν (he entered) εφάπαξ (once for all) εις (into) τα (the) άγια (holies,) αιωνίαν (2 an eternal) λύτρωσιν (3 ransoming) ευράμενος (1 having found.)
13 ει γαρ (For if) το (the) αίμα (blood) ταύρων (of bulls) και (and) τράγων (he-goats,) και (and) σποδός (ashes) δάμαλεως (of a heifer) ραντίζουσα (sprinkling) τους (the ones) κεκοινωμένους (being unclean,) αγιάζει (sanctifies) προς (for) την (the) της (2 of the) σαρκός (3 flesh) καθαρότητα (1 cleanliness,)
14 πόσω (how much) μάλλον (more το the) αίμα (blood) του (of the) χριστού (Christ,) ος (who) διά (through) πνεύματος (spirit) αιωνίου (eternal) εαυτόν προσήνεγκεν (offered himself) άμωμον (unblemished) τω θεώ (to God,) καθαριεί (shall cleanse) την συνείδησιν υμών (your conscience) από (from) νεκρών (dead) έργων (works) εις (for) το λατρεύειν (serving) θεώ ζώντι (the living God.)
So, in verse 11, he says, he enters a greater and more perfect tabernacle. So the purpose of this unit is to show how Christ’s sacrifice is superior to the Levitical sacrifice system. The process here of how he does this; he is going to focus on those three elements that is mentioned above: the place, the blood and the perpetual nature of the old covenant sacrifice over against the place of Christ’s sacrifice in heaven; the blood of Christ over against the blood of animals and then the decisiveness of Christ. So the purpose is to show how Christ’s sacrifice is superior. In 9:11, you have Christ entering the greater tabernacle as a high priest. It is the greater and more perfect, not made with hands which aren’t of this creation. The imagery here is of Christ going into the heavenly tabernacle rather than the earthly tabernacle. Part of this imagery says that since we have a priest that has passed through the heavens. This is a movement where people are moving through the wilderness and you have the priest moving in toward the presence of God. There is an idea of space and movement to the worship. Christ has come as a greater priest who has passed and gone into the heavenly tabernacle. Some see the tabernacle as a reflection as to the order of things. This movement into the presence of God is really the purpose of the whole created order. He has passed through the greater more perfect tent, not made with hands and entered once for all into the Holy of Holies, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood. He has secured eternal redemption.
B. Jesus' blood vs. the blood of goats and calves:
The blood and goats and calves are an allusion to Leviticus 16. The details of the Day of Atonement included the sacrifice of a goat and a young bull. You also had the scapegoat that was sent out into the wilderness. The other interesting sacrifice that he mentions is the sacrifice of the ashes of the red heifer in Numbers 19. The Israelites were commanded to bring to Moses and Aaron a perfect heifer that had never been under a yoke. The heifer was taken outside the camp and killed and its blood was sprinkled seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. Then the animal was burned with its ashes being collected for ceremonial cleansing. These ashes were to be mixed with water and sprinkled on an unclean person. So the tabernacle also had to be sprinkled when an Israelite had defiled the worship center by touching a dead body. This is all in Numbers 19:1-21. This is a kind of ready mix offering where you sprinkle it on a person and it cleanses them, is like a ready-bake version of the offering here. This is a part of the sacrificial system. He is thinking about the imagery of the Day of Atonement and the ashes of the red heifer because both of them had to do with the sprinkling that would cleanse a person from defilement and sin. But the new covenant offerings were not with the blood of animals, but with his own blood. Verse 13, how much more would the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciousness from dead works to worship and serve the Living God?
Here, the significance of blood; some of the older commentaries there may be reference to the blood as if it communicated a life. Later on, he will say that the life is in the blood. In Westcott’s commentary, he talks about the blood in some ways transferring and communicating life. More recent studies have demonstrated that this isn’t exactly the way we should think about the significance of blood. Biblically, the significance of blood is death. The significance of life in the blood; if you spill the blood, then life goes away. The person or the animal dies. So, you have the shedding of the blood being significant. The
author says, practical speaking, the blood of animals could not cleanse a person’s conscious from sin, but the blood of Christ can. So, why is the blood of Jesus better than the blood of animals? The word conscious was rare in Greek literature before 200 BC. It is found in 1 st century writers such as Plutarch
and Philo and Josephus. In AD 59 of the first century, a Roman soldier name Lucius met a procession of donkeys carrying stones and led by a slave; Lucius experienced a violent kick by one of the donkeys. The frightened slave because of his conscious ran away. So, it is used similar to what we think of as our
conscious bothering us. The term denotes a personal knowledge of something and more specifically the moral consciousness of good and evil. So, the problem with the old covenant system of sacrifice in one aspect was its’ inability to deal with the worshipers' awareness of personal guilt. Does he mean then, that Christ is able to completely cleanse our conscious? That is, we never have a problem of feeling guilty about anything anymore? No, he isn’t.
So, why is Jesus’ blood better than the blood of bulls and goats? Part of the answer will relate to the idea that Jesus’ blood has the ability to cleanse the conscious. Part of the answer may be that Jesus is deity; he is God. You have a value difference here in terms of the person we are talking about. If our cat dies, that would be really sad but that wouldn’t be nothing like one of our children’s dying, obviously. There is a different qualitative nature to the relationship there. So, it is who we are talking about here; the sacrifice of Christ is qualitatively different. In broader Judaism, if you are talking about not just the death of Christ, but a crucified Messiah then you are talking about something from a historical and theological biblical perspective. Talking about the Spirit as being eternal, offering himself up is what he has in mind. So, why is it that it is Christ’s sacrifice that is superior because the conscious can be cleansed? There is no blemish with Christ and there wasn’t supposed to be a blemish in the old covenant sacrifices either. As the high priest, who has solidarity with us as human beings that are more significant than anything else. An animal isn’t going to offer itself but with Christ there is volition where he is making a decision, being obedient all the way to the point of death on the cross. In 2:9 of Hebrews, he was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering of death. So, the foundation of this whole section on the offering of Christ is laid through the new covenant. He is going to say that the shedding of blood establishes covenant. Christ’s blood is superior to that of bulls and goats in that it establishes a different kind of covenant of which you have a transformation of the heart and the mind. This is how the law is written on the heart and mind. Another significant aspect of it; it is not only a new covenant offering but it is a Day of Atonement offering.
C. Day of Atonement Offering:
This Day of Atonement offering is made once for all time so that all of our sins are dealt with and we can boldly go into the presence of God. I think Hebrews is saying that we are not guilty before God; we do not bear guilt anymore, but I appropriately have grieved the Spirit by doing things that I shouldn’t do. So, when he says that we no longer have a conscious of sin, he isn’t saying that this is inappropriate. We no longer have a sense of sin making us guilty in a way that separates us from God and keeps us outside of God’s presence. The reason why Jesus’ blood is better than that of bulls and goats; as a new covenant offering and a Day of Atonement once for all offering has permanently made it possible for us to be able to step into the presence of God. There is no curtain there anymore that separates us from entering into that Holy of Hollies, the present of God. There is no separation between us and God. The blood of bulls and goats could not get us into the presence of God because ultimately we were guilty. The whole of the tabernacle and practice of the old covenant sacrifices were symbolic of the fact that you and I couldn’t enter into the presence of the Holy God. Jesus’ sacrifice is better because it didn’t have to be made over and over again whereas the old covenant sacrifices having to be done over and over again, shows that they were not accomplishing a decisive type of forgiveness.
D. Mediator of a New Covenant:
16 όπου γαρ (For where) διαθήκη (there is a will,) θάνατον (for the death) ανάγκη (it is necessary) φέρεσθαι (to come to bear) του (of the) διαθεμένου (one ordaining the will.)
17 διαθήκη γαρ (For a will) επί (with) νεκροίς (the dead) βεβαία (is firm;) επεί (since) μήποτε (not at any time) ισχύει (does it prevail) ότε (when) ζη (3 lives) ο (1 the one) διαθέμενος (2 ordaining the will.)
18 όθεν (Whereupon) ουδ΄ (neither) η (the) πρώτη (first covenant) χωρίς (separate from) αίματος (3 blood) εγκεκαίνισται (has been dedicated.)
19 λαληθείσης (having been spoken) γαρ (1 For) πάσης (every) εντολής (3 commandment) κατά (according to) τον (the) νόμον (law) υπό (by) Μωϋσέως (Moses) παντί (to all) τω (the) λαώ (people,) λαβών (having taken) το (the) αίμα (blood) των (of the) μόσχων (calves) και (and) τράγων (he-goats) μετά (with) ύδατος (water) και (and) ερίου (2 wool) κοκκίνου (1 scarlet) και (and) υσσώπου (hyssop,) αυτό τε (both itself) το (the) βιβλίον (scroll) και (and) πάντα (all) τον (the) λαόν (people) ερράντισε (he sprinkled,)
In verse 15 we see that he is the mediator of a new covenant and for those who are called will received the eternal inheritance that is promised. He died to set them free of the violations of the first covenant. In verse 16, there is an interesting translation question. In the NIV, it says in the case of a will, it is
necessary to prove the death. The NET Bible says where there is a will; the death of the one who made it must be proven. So, what do the first three words of the Greek say here in this verse? Διαθήκη actually refers to covenant which is the whole context here. It is possible here that he is doing a play on words
and now talking about a human will but I don’t think that the translation is correct. The translation should read covenant instead of will. The KJV says covenant. In verse 17, the covenant is made firm with the idea being establishment. The last part of this verse 17 is somewhat convoluted; it is made on the basis of someone dying. I don’t think he is using an analogy of a human will, saying that a way of a human will works is where somebody dies and they pass on their stuff; they leave it to somebody. Two arguments here for why, includes one, a covenant is only established when you have a death. The way you have an initiation of a covenant, the cutting of a covenant, someone must put it into motion or action. So, it isn’t true that in the ancient world someone always had to die for an inheritance and will to be put into force. A biblical example of this would be the prodigal son. There were times in the ancient world where an inheritance was passed on before the death of a person. The more important reason is because everything about the context here says that what he is interested in is and that is the death of a sacrifice establishing the covenant.
In the following verses, starting in verse 18 using a transitional nature saying that the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. So, it is clear that he is talking about the inauguration of a covenant. When Moses had sprinkled the blood and people acknowledged that this was the blood of the covenant. He sprinkles both the tabernacle and the book with blood. Almost everything was purified with blood according to the Law for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. So, the way the old covenant was established and inaugurated was by death. He had the shedding of the blood of animals. Now he draws a parallel in verse 23; so, it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices. However, the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these. Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands; the representation of the true sanctuary into heaven itself. He now appears in the presence of God for us. I think the whole context here is clearly talking about the inauguration of covenant. Someone has to die for this to take place because it is all about the sprinkling of blood. The heavenly things themselves are purified with better sacrifices. In other words, the sacrifice of Christ worked to cleanse the heavenly tabernacle. Why would they need to be cleansed? It isn’t primarily the problem with the tabernacle; it was the problem with the people who were unclean. If you look at Leviticus 16:15; in this way he will make atonement for the most holy place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites. Whatever their sins, he has to do the same for the tent of meetings which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one is to be in the Tent of Meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the most holy place until he comes out. Having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel, then he shall come out to the altar before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar. He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.
So, the problem with the tabernacle wasn’t inherent in the tabernacle, it was the sacrifice to cleanse the people to make their interaction with the tabernacle possible. When the author says that the heavenly things had to be cleansed; he is using the imagery from this passage and the language in Leviticus 16. What he is simply saying is that Christ’s sacrifice had to cleanse us, to make us fit to go into the presence of God. Technically, it wasn’t the tabernacle that was defiled; it is we who defile the tabernacle because of our sins. I think the spiritual truth and reality is that you and I could not get into the presence of God because of our sins. The whole thing of the sprinkling of the tabernacle in Leviticus 16 is to facilitate the worship of God by the people. What the sacrifice of Christ has done, he has facilitated our ability to go into the very presence of God. So, we have the cleansing of the heavenly things.
E. Once for all Sacrifice:
The emphasis in verses 25-28, there is an idea of spatial movement. He didn’t enter in to offer himself again and again in the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with the blood that isn’t his own. For he would have to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world; but now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. Just as people are appointed to die once and then to face judgement; so, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many to those who eagerly await him. He will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation. So, here we have the emphasis on the once for all nature of Christ’s sacrifice. His sacrifice was not perpetual, over and over again, like the sacrifices of the old covenant priests; it was once for all time. Verse 26; if he had been like the old covenant priest, he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now, he has appeared once for all in the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. What does he mean that if Christ’s sacrifice had to be made over and over again, he would have had to suffer over and over again from the foundation of the world? Are there any theological implications of this? Did Christ’s sacrifice just affect everything from that point on in time? It seems like what the author is saying; actually the sacrifice of Christ is outside the bounds of time. It actually reaches back to the beginning of the world and reaches forward to the end of the world. It covers all sins. It is theologically possible that this means why Abraham was considered righteous by his faith. It may be because even though he did not know Christ, he knew the Lord and Christ’s sacrifice dealt backward to people who were faithful. There are some problems with this idea, but it does speak to the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is not temporally bound. The significance for us is that this sacrifice has already decisively dealt with all of the sins we have committed and will commit. Our sins no longer appear before the throne. We are no longer seen sinning in God’s sight. We have become permanently righteous.
You do have the question of what aspects of continuity are we dealing with and what aspects of discontinuity in relation to the practice of Judaism under the old covenant. I don’t think the earliest Christians saw themselves as starting a new religion. I think they saw themselves as being the fulfilment
of what God intended all along for Judaism. The struggle is with what the aspects of appropriate continuity are and what are the aspects of absolute discontinuity? So when you get into the Judaizers and the issues of the Law, this is where that struggle clearly is. Acts 21:22 we see when Paul comes back to Jerusalem, you have a lot of people who are not only Christ followers but also profoundly committed to the Law. You have all these sort of dynamics going on. From Hebrews standpoint, one of the differences in transition to the new covenant is that our sins have been decisively dealt with. If you ever grasp this, it will change you; that you are not guilty before God, your sins have already been decisively dealt with. I think that it also affects us in a way where you do not want to be cavalier about sinning. When you understand the magnificence and magnanimity of God; the amazing grace that God has accomplished in decisively forgiving us for our sins. It took God in the person of Jesus Christ to do this, so you don’t want to take sin lightly. But then it raises the question in how do I relate to my sin and relate to God in terms of asking forgiveness as we go along. Practically, I think that when I sin, I am already decisively forgiven. So, I need to embrace the fact that I am not guilty before God, even though I may feel that way sometimes emotionally because I grieve the Spirit and because I have done something that does need to be worked out in terms of reconciliation with other brothers and sisters. But I have looked; there is not a place in the New Testament that says that we are guilty as Christians. But the other side of this is, we are temporal beings; we are living temporally and linearly here.
If you think about the Lord’s Prayer, I think we need to take it seriously. When Jesus gave that to us, it was a time before the advent of the new covenant. Is it inappropriate for me to ask the Father to forgive me? No, I don’t think that is inappropriate as long as I understand that I am asking something that hasn’t already been given. That forgiveness has already been given if you are indeed a person of the new covenant. One thing that we have talked about is that Hebrews ethnologically is very oriented into a framework that we refer to as inaugurated eschatology. In other words, the eternal realities are already put into motion in this world. You have a now and not yet and live in a time of tension between the Cross and the second coming where the realities that we are experiencing now will be consummated at the end of the age. Yet, we do participate in and experience those realities now even though it is a dynamic of tension that we live in.
27 και (And) καθ΄ όσον (for as much as) απόκειται (it has been reserved) τοις (to) ανθρώποις (men) άπαξ (once) αποθανείν (to die,) μετά δε (but after) τούτο (this) κρίσις (the judgment;)
28 ούτω (so) και (also) ο (the) χριστός (Christ) άπαξ (once) προσενεχθείς (having been offered) εις (for) το πολλών (3 of many) ανενεγκείν (bearing) αμαρτίας (2 the sins,) εκ (that of) δευτέρου (a second time) χωρίς (separate from) αμαρτίας (sin) οφθήσεται (he shall appear) τοις (to the ones) αυτόν απεκδεχομένοις (awaiting him) εις (for) σωτηρίαν (deliverance.)
Look at what he says here in verse 27-28 saying that people die once; Jesus just died one time which is normal human existence. So, Jesus also died being offered one time to bear the sins of many to those who await him anticipating his second coming, not to bear sin but to bring salvation. There are some who would say that the language we have here in the Greek Text; a second time apart from sin. This is the language that is used in 4:15 without sin. Jesus was without sin. Some would say that Christ will come a second time as a sinless person. The language I think would be better: he would come a second time, not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation at the end of the age. So, 9:28 has salvation as a future reality. Salvation has a past, present and future; this is a focus on the future reality. In 9:11, when Christ came and now Christ will come again to consummate things, to finish things up.
So, we have a focus on the sacrifice of Christ and we celebrate the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. In my commentary I wrote that the Cross of Christ once respected if not reverenced as a significant religious symbol has under gone a transmutation. For example, on the holy week cover of the New Yorker
magazine, there is a bunny rabbit with its arms out, head bowed and legs together in a obvious character related image of the crucifixion portrayed theology of a tax cut. Such adaptations of the Cross to make a political statement or to define the perverted quasi-religious image of pop-stars obscure the significance of the crucifixion. In the mind of the general public, the Cross amounts to mere jewellery that can be had with or without the little man on it. There are at least two reasons for the metamorphous of the Cross. We face this in the ministry that we do today. With vast segments of the population, the Christian religion as popularly perceived has become an empty fixture of the culture. With the passage of time, images related to Christianity such as the church building, the minister, the Cross; images that represented significant reference have vaporized into echoes of their real counterpart: true bodies of believers, committed men of God, a symbol of ultimate atoning sacrifice. The concept of sacrifice, especially blood sacrifice, has been deemed a primitive idea as to be completely incomprehensible to modern thinking. So, in thinking about how we communicate these realities, we have to help people make connections that may not be as natural for them to make as it used to be. For instance, one of the things that I describe here, people in our modern culture may have a hard time understanding sacrifice. They tend to understand and grasp the idea of sacrifice in the sense of heroism or volunteerism; somebody that puts themselves in harm’s way for another person is celebrated. Even in the school killings that took place, the teacher got her kids back in a closet and she confronted the gunman and died for it. She was celebrated as a hero. People can understand the idea of substitution; they can understand the idea of someone who is giving themselves on behalf of someone else.
So, we need to think about how we communicate these ideas. What are the beginning places that can serve as a conceptional bridge to get to the idea of Christ’s sacrifices of atonement? I am not saying that we should change the theology of atonement. I believe that is foundational and also non-negotiable, but the way that we talk about these concepts and ideas is important in communicating with secular modern people.