Meditations in Hebrews 8: 40. A One-off in Heaven
Heb 9:23,24 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. 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.
Another Link: We have yet another link word, four words into verse, ‘then’. i.e. it was necessary because of what we have just been saying for the following to have happened. The Old Covenant had been about external regulations (v.10) but Christ came to bring a new covenant dealing with realities. He didn’t enter into the old with blood of animals (v.11,12) like that used in the old (v.13) Blood was an important ingredient of old-time serious agreements (v.18-22) but these earthly things are merely copies of the heavenly realities. The earthly things were purified by the sacrifices (shedding of blood) but the heavenly reality knew a better sacrifice, (v.23) Christ himself.
The Heavenly Sanctuary: But, he reiterates, “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.” (v.24) Heaven was the ‘tabernacle’ reality, the place where God really resided and it was there, having died on our behalf, an eternal sacrifice, to which Christ returned to be able to speak up on our behalf as our high priest.
A One-off Offering: But here is an important point: “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.” (v.25) In this reality – heaven – Christ did not have to keep on offering himself again and again like the high priest on earth had to do with the blood of animals. Let’s see the big statement all in one go: “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. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 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.” (v.26-28) Right having seen it all in one go, let’s see it bit by bit.
“Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.” If Christ had just been a mere human then, if his blood was to be used as a sacrifice, it would need to have happened time after time after time covering every sin since the world began. But he’s not a mere human being, he is the eternal Son of God.
“But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” But, as the eternal Son, he gave himself and that was a once-and-for-all offering. The end of the ages? The end of the period of the sacrificial system in the environment that was Israel. That period was rapidly coming to an end, as we have mentioned already, when the Temple was destroyed in AD70. Because he is eternal, his death can have an eternal effect.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment….” This is the order for mankind. We will all pass through death just once and then face judgment just that once.
“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” This is the parallel emphasis. Christ’s death, as he has already said, was a one-off and the effect was seen in heaven.
“and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” But that is not the end of it, the end of the plan of God. His death was the final act in the play of redemption, but it is not in the overall play of salvation for Christ has yet to return again to wind all things up, which includes taking to be with him those who are still on the earth waiting for him.
Recap the Purpose: Because it is a long-winded argument, we can easily forget the main purpose that the writer has in mind – to encourage his readers and challenge them to hold on to their faith. He has been doing that by:
- Reminding us that at the heart of Christ’s activity which elevates him above any other being, apart from his heavenly Father, is the matter of Christ giving his life to redeem our lives.
- His activity had been prefigured by the Levitical priesthood but that was only a shadow or copy of the reality that was Christ’s work culminated in heaven.
- The earthly copy had involved a man-made tabernacle, human high priests, human regulations and the blood of animals.
- Their work had to be repeated again and again and failed to completely cleanse the conscience of the sinner.
- Christ’s activity on the Cross had heavenly impact; it was the work of the eternal Son giving his life to appease justice by, in a very real way, taking the punishment that could be claimed was due to every human sinner and only he could do that because only he was eternal.
- His activity was thus the reality of the imagery seen in the earthly human rites.
- In every way, his activity – in heaven – was so, so much superior to the Levitical sacrificial system.
- His activity resulted in justice being satisfied and human beings being transformed.
- No one else has ever conceived such a plan, let alone fulfilled it. Hallelujah!
- No one else is worthy of our worship. Our faith is well founded and is so wonderful that, when we think through these things, they should help make it ever stronger. Amen.