Meditations in Hebrews 10: 42. The Waiting Priest-King
Heb 10:12,13 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,
The weakness of the Law again: We have already noted how this writer has been bringing argument after argument to pull down the edifice which is reliance upon the Law, and as a good teacher he repeats again and again the things he says, slightly varying them to enlarge the argument. So, yet again, he shows the futility of the old order: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (v.11) The best you could say was that they were being obedient, it was a sign of their desire to follow God, but on the other side these offerings were mere animals and as such they did nothing to satisfy justice and they did nothing to appease the sense of guilt that the giver had.
Jesus, the contrast: And then comes the contrast with Jesus: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (v.12-14) Now there is quite a lot there, so we should take it piece by piece.
Analysis: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” – ‘this priest’ refers to Jesus. He, by contrast with the Levitical priests, just offered one sacrifice, his own body but that one offering operated for all time, i.e. as long as there is time-space history Jesus work on the Cross will be there for any person to draw on; there is no second method or alternative to come. That was it. Sufficient.
“he sat down at the right hand of God” – he swaps role from priest to king.
“Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.” Since that moment he reigns over the last days – the period from his ascension to his coming again – and works through his Church to set prisoners free, overcome the works of Satan, destroy the power of sin, and remove the fear of death. His ‘enemies’ are anything and anyone who opposes love and goodness and righteousness, and victory means those three things overcoming the works of evil. What has not submitted by the time of his second coming, will then fall before his power (see Rev 19 on). Until that time comes, he waits at his Father’s side, “ruling in the midst of his enemies” (Psa 110).
“because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” – this is amazing! Do you realise that in God’s sight you have been made perfect? When God looks at those who have come to Christ, He sees first and foremost Jesus dying on the Cross for their sins. As He looks past that He sees those sins have been removed from you and put on Christ.
The Change: Remember my definition of Sin – self-centred godlessness. When you came to Christ you ceased to be self-centred to be God-centred and instead of being godless you are now godly as, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, your life is now focused on Him – to please Him, enjoy Him, respond to Him, be led by Him, blessed by Him.
Completed: Yes, you may on occasion stumble and still think, say or do something wrong, but that is an exception to the rule, for the rule is that indwelt by the Holy Spirit the power of Sin is broken and you do not HAVE to follow a pattern of sin any longer. Another word for ‘perfect’ is ‘complete’. You are complete in the sense that all of the work of Christ on the Cross as far as your salvation has been completed and you have everything you need to be His child, walking out His life on this earth.
A holy people: But did you notice the last words of that verse? “who are being made holy”. In one sense, Scripture tells us, you have been made holy, you are holy because the HOLY Spirit indwells you, but holiness is an attribute that is unique to God and when we speak of a thing, place or person as being holy, we are simply referring to God’s presence that is there. So we have been made holy and are being made holy. How can it be past and present? The apostle Paul said we “are being transformed into his likeness,” (2 Cor 3:18) and this is the work of the Spirit. So, as your life grows spiritually you will become more and more like Him. It is a gradual process; it started when you came to Christ and were ‘born again’ and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and it will continue until you see him face to face in eternity.
New Covenant changes: The writer supports all this, as he has done again and again, with references to Old Testament scriptures: “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says…” (v.15) he starts setting up two citations. First, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (v.16 citing Jer 31:33) He has used the Jeremiah quote before as he shows that the new covenant involves a new inner change to us.
But, “Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (v.17 citing Jer 31:34) Because they are new people and have been changed internally so they are no longer self-centred and godless, God has also said that, because of Christ’s work on the Cross (we might imply), He no longer sees their past sinful acts. As he said previously, in God’s sight we are perfect.
No need for the old sacrifices: To round it off, he adds a further little logical conclusion: “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (v.18) i.e. if Christ has dealt with our sin you no longer have to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice.
Life & Culture change for the Jews: I know we have said it before but it bears repeating and emphasizing, but this teaching was literally life-changing and culturally devastating for the Jews. It set them free from a world of ‘having to do’, a world where they could never be absolutely sure that they had God’s approval and so had to keep on and on with the Temple service.
Now Jesus has come and the teaching is that all of those things have been swept away by Christ’s one-off death as an eternal sacrifice for sins. There is now no need to make offerings to cover guilt. IF the Jews as a whole had received Christ as their Messiah-Saviour then temple worship would have stopped making sacrifices and simply become opportunities for praise and worship – which is what the Christian church ‘service’ is all about; it is NOT about getting God’s approval; He has given it to all who come to Him through Christ. Hallelujah!