The Once-for-All Sacrifice

A11goodfrocOne of the things that makes a mother’s job challenging is the repetition involved. Hebrews 9:15-28 points you to the repetitiveness of the work of Israel’s high priests in the tabernacle—and contrasts it with the once-for-all character of Christ’s work as your heavenly High Priest.

Christ has appeared once! Now is when Christ has appeared. Time is important to the author of Hebrews, and he tells you that now is the time that Christ has appeared. The author has been contrasting the old covenant with the new, and now, the time when Christ has come, is the beginning of the new. Now began with the coming of Christ. Hebrews contrasts it with the old covenant, with its repetition of sacrifices, with the repeated offerings and sprinkling of blood that characterized the old. Not only has Christ appeared now, but he has come once. He has offered the perfect sacrifice, and there is no room for an encore.

When is this once? This is the culmination of the ages. The appearance of Christ marks a sharp transition. The end, the conclusion, of the ages has arrived. Everything that precedes the coming of Christ has been provisional and preliminary. It has been anticipation. The ceremonies of the law, as vital as they were for the saints of their day, could never actually remove sin, because they were only anticipatory. This is when the fullness of time has come, Galatians 4:4. These are the last times in which Christ has been revealed, 1 Peter 1:20. The new age is already here. You belong to it. Yet, in a sense, the old has not fully disappeared. Appreciate the tension of the time in which you live. This new era is characterized by the powerful Holy Spirit. Christ has indeed come, but we also look forward to the time when he will “appear a second time. . . to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” Hebrews 9:28. Your salvation is already a reality, but not yet complete.  Christianity . . . marks the beginning of the future world.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 54).

Because he has appeared once, Christ has done away with your sin. Christ’s sacrifice is unique. You might say that Christ’s sacrifice resembled that of the Old Testament ceremonial system. There is truth in that, especially since you need the Old Testament system to understand what Christ’s work accomplished. But from the perspective of the author of Hebrews, the old ceremonies were only a shadow of the heavenly realities themselves, 10:1. What Christ has accomplished is the real substance, and what the priests did merely looked forward to that. This sacrifice is unique because:

  • It was offered by the only perfect priest.
  • It was the only perfect sacrifice ever offered. Christ was not only the priest, he was also the sacrificial lamb. This is the one sacrifice that really works, that really takes away sin.
  • This is the one sacrifice, after which the priest sits down at the right hand of God, 10:12.
  • The location for the priest, after this offering, is not an earthly Tabernacle, but heaven itself, v.24.Note the emphasis on “once” v.26, repeated in v.28. Christ’s sacrifice is unique. It cannot and will not be repeated. If it were not unique, Christ would have had to suffer many times, and that is unthinkable, v.26a. This contradicts any notion of a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice. The cross is empty! This does away with any notion of further effort on man’s part to remove sin.

Christ has done away with sin. His sacrifice has actually removed sin. He bore your sin, taking both its guilt and its punishment upon himself and breaking its enslaving power so that you can serve him. Christ came, not to make your salvation possible, but to do away with your sin. You have been made clean if your trust is in him, of you are waiting for him. The guilt of your sin is gone. Your conscience has no grounds to accuse you. Satan cannot bring charges against you. Yes, you do face death and the judgment, and that is a sobering reminder. But you face judgment, not in your own righteousness, but in that of Christ. As certain as his resurrection is the salvation which he is bringing you.

Are you waiting for Jesus to appear a second time? Are you looking forward to that? Have your sins been forgiven and your conscience cleansed so that you can serve the living God?

Christ, our unique High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, who appeared in the precincts of this world in order ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (v. 26), and then passed from sight into the heavenly sanctuary, where he now appears ‘in the presence of God on our behalf’ as our Intercessor and Advocate (v. 24; 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1), ‘will appear a second time’ to mankind when he comes forth from the true sanctuary to proclaim and to perform the completion of salvation ‘for those who are eagerly waiting for him’ (v. 28). Thus will dawn the morning of the eternal day when those who love his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8) will see him as he is and, being at last fully conformed to his likeness, will be satisfied (1 Jn. 3:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).” (Philip E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 389).

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.

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