Christ is a Better Sacrifice
Part 2: A Better Testament
We are leading up to the very heart of the book of Hebrews.
Recall the theme for this book is better, that the Christian system is better than anything the Jewish system had offer.
While this is a comparative, comparing two things, we can also take from this that it is a superlative, compare one thing against the rest.
Christ is not just better, but the best!
He is better than the angels, though made a little lower than the angels.
He is better than Moses and even offers a better rest in Him.
He is a better High Priest on the order of a better priesthood.
He brought about a better covenant established on better promises.
Now we find that He is a better sacrifice, with a better tabernacle, a better testament, and a better offering.
Today’s focus is on Heb. 9:15-28.
We will discover that Christ has inaugurated a better testament, which is that better covenant discussed in Ch. 8.
We will also see the finality of His sacrifice and its culmination in Christ’s return.
The New Covenant.
The Final Sacrifice.
The New Covenant (9:15-22).
Its Mediator (9:15).
This verse starts off by stating that what follows is for a particular reason.
That reason, we see, is the aforementioned death of Christ.
His blood was shed, and He had taken it up to that new tabernacle, not made with hands.
Last week we said that new tabernacle was in heaven, and this is confirmed later in 9:24.
He is now the Mediator of that new covenant because He died.
This Greek word for Mediator, according to Thayer, is “one who intervenes between the two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or to form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant: a medium of communication, arbitrator, mediator” (G3316).
Jesus is the One who did all of those things for us when He inaugurated that new covenant.
Of course that new covenant is a reference to what the writer referred to in the last chapter quoting from Jeremiah 31.
He even called it a better covenant, recall, established on better promises.
This word for covenant, in the KJV, is translated as “testament.”
This is the New Testament that we have today, made of 27 books and letters.
We then see another reason for Christ doing what He did: “for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant.”
As we have noted, and as the writer will state later, the blood of bulls and goats could not really forgive sins (9:13-14; 10:4).
True forgiveness is only granted in the new covenant (8:12).
So without Christ’s death on the cross, no one’s sins would have ever been forgiven, not even a little.
Christ didn’t just die for your sin and mine, but He died for David’s sin, for Moses’, for Abraham’s, and even for Adam’s.
While Abraham and Adam were not under that first covenant, the writer here is focused only on that Law of Moses.
There is no reason to think this didn’t include the righteous who lived prior to it.
God wanted these righteous saints to “receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
As the writer had established in Ch. 6, God keeps His promises.
And the “eternal inheritance” is another way of expressing the heavenly reward that we all eagerly await (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
Its Inauguration (9:16-22).
The word for “testament” is that same word for covenant we see above.
Other translations use the word “will,” and that’s exactly what this new covenant is: it is the Last Will & Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The writer looks at this in the general sense, that one’s will does not go into effect until the person who wrote it, the testator, has died.
It’s really just a piece of paper while the individual lives, it has no legal force until he has died.
This is an illustration we can all understand, and then the writer discusses that old covenant again, how it was dedicated with blood.
While the animals who were sacrificed did not write that first covenant, such covenants were inaugurated with the shedding of blood.
We find that event in Exodus 24:3-8.
Moses had spoken every precept to the people up to that point, though it’s not inconceivable that the whole Law had been given to Moses there and was placed throughout the five books of Law.
This OT Law was inaugurated with the blood of these animals, sprinkling it on the book, the people, the tabernacle, and all the instruments in the tabernacle.
This ritually purified them and made them holy, setting them apart for the special purpose of serving God.
We are told then that the Law states that nearly all things are purified with blood.
There were a few exceptions, such as the extremely poor in the sin offering who could give an offering of fine flour (Lev. 5:11-13).
But generally speaking this was true, and reminds me of one of the central passages of Leviticus, maybe of all of Scripture (Lev. 17:11).
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.
Since the blood makes atonement for the soul, it brings us closer to God, reconciles our sinful selves to His holiness.
So the Hebrews writer reiterates that by telling us that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (forgiveness of sins).
His death inaugurated the new covenant, putting into effect His Last Will & Testament.
This is why Christ had to die for us, that final sacrifice.
The Final Sacrifice (9:23-28).
Copies and the True (9:23-24).
The writer reiterates here what he had been talking about this whole chapter.
These copies were the things that were here on this earth: the tabernacle and its contents (9:1-10).
These things were mere copies and shadows (cf. 8:5), and so had to be purified for the heavenly service.
They were purified with animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things (the original) had to be purified with something far better—the blood of Christ.
Recall, on the Day of Atonement when all the sins of Israel were taken away, the high priest went into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon the mercy seat atop the ark of the covenant.
Christ as our High Priest today has gone into that Most Holy Place, not in an earthly tabernacle, but in heaven itself.
He is in the actual presence of God, serving on our behalf, cleansing us with His precious blood, truly forgiving our sins.
This Day of Atonement isn’t just once a year, but every day until He returns.
The finality (9:25-26).
The writer clarifies that Jesus didn’t have to offer Himself often.
There was a similarity with the Day of Atonement in that Christ entered the presence of God, but a major difference is that He only did it once.
Not that He should do it more often, but that He only had to do it once.
He sacrifice is so much better that no other had to be given!
This was it! No more!
The writer notes that if He had to suffer and die more frequently, then He would have had to die every year (at least) since the inception of sin into the world.
We note the absurdity of it, because if that were the case, His sacrifice would not have been better, and it would not have truly forgiven sins.
Later (10:1-3) the writer will note the fact that the Day of Atonement of itself could not forgive sins, but merely rolled them back.
So if Christ had to die more often, then our sins would not truly be forgiven.
He uses the phrase “now, once at the end of the ages” to describe when He did this.
Some might think this is a reference to the end of time, but we see this is in the present tense; it had happened “now.”
In the next line, we see “He has appeared,” past tense.
So the end of the ages is the end of the Jewish age, when Christ had appeared on this earth, putting away our sins when He died on the cross for us!
On top of that, the high priest on that Day only brought the blood of some other animal, but Christ our High Priest brought His own blood.
He sacrificed Himself, something more blessed and selfless than we could possibly imagine.
He will reappear! (9:27-28).
The writer brings an aside here, talking about what happens to all of us.
We all die, and this will happen once.
Sure there were some exceptions, such as those who were brought back to life, like Lazarus and Tabitha.
But generally speaking, barring some miracle, we all die once, and after we die, there is the judgment.
Similar to this, Christ died once, and only had to die once, not to be judged, but to save, bearing the sins of many.
Of course, we recognize who the many are: all those who have obeyed the His gospel.
Next we see an interesting phrase: “To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
This is not unlike the Israelites eagerly waiting for the High Priest to emerge from the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement.
When he came out, it was an assurance that their sins had been taken care of that year.
When the Lord returns to the earth, while we eagerly await Him, it would be as if we are waiting for Him to emerge from the Most Holy Place.
While we are assured of our salvation through His promises, the culmination will happen when He returns in the clouds, saving us from this earth below, vindicating us—praise God!
This evening, we Christians have a better hope in Christ!
That hope is for the forgiveness of our sins.
Not just pushing it back, but true forgiveness!
This has been promised with a new covenant, a better covenant.
In any covenant, there are things we need to follow and obey.
God has already done His part of the covenant, and we must do ours.
This is not an earning of our salvation, but a meeting of His conditions.
When that happens, we can eagerly await His appearance, too.
We can have that vindication and confirmation of His promises.
I am ready? Are you?
Here’s how you can be ready …