MORNING MESSAGE – John Cline (read by Richard Wallman and Keith Harcus)
“Christ’s Sacrifice Once For All”
Hebrews 9:1 – 10:18
Three strong and unpopular truths arising out of Hebrews 9 and 10 will be made today. First, Jesus’ shed blood, though a disgusting, disturbing, and distasteful teaching to many, is what allows us into God’s presence and saves us. Second, while access to God and eternal salvation that Jesus’ death on the cross and his shed blood has been made possible for everyone, not all will experience it. What will be experienced by everyone is judgment of our lives by God. Third, while Jesus’ return will be the conclusion of everyone’s life story, it won’t be a victory celebration for everyone. His return will be the ultimate concluding act of the salvation he provided for at the cross when he shed his blood there. It is up to us whether or not we gain from it.
Let’s start. Strong and unpopular truth #1. Jesus’ shed blood, though a disgusting, disturbing, and distasteful teaching to many, is what allows us into God’s presence and saves us. This truth has been opposed by many over the centuries. The 18th century French philosopher Francois-Marie Voltaire famously wrote, “Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world.” Two decades after Voltaire’s wrote that, American President John Adams declared as “absurd” blood sacrifices in the Bible, particularly the teaching that the bloody death of Jesus was the event in which God was satisfied that the sins of the world had been dealt with. In the late 19th century, during Dwight L. Moody’s early preaching ministry, he received a letter stating, “If you are going to be effective, you are going to have to leave out the blood stuff.” D.L. Moody determined then and there to preach more about the blood – and his ministry flourished. Evangelist Billy Graham had a professor in the 1940’s advise him that if wanted to be successful, “Leave out the blood. It’s out of date. An intelligent man won’t listen to it.” Billy Graham didn’t listen, and God blessed his ministry. As a boy, I remember hearing my pastor dad mock the necessity of the blood of Jesus. My dad later changed his mind after being converted and becoming a believer and follower of Jesus but that was after he had been a church pastor for 23 years. His thinking about the blood changed radically, as a result. As an adult, I have had non-Christian friends tell me – because I am a church pastor – that though they kind of admire the teachings of Jesus, they really find Christianity’s obsession with the blood of Jesus to be troubling. But God and His truths will always ultimately prevail. Consider that professor who advised Billy Graham. Do any of us know his name? Nope, but we sure know about Billy Graham. And, as for Voltaire, that fierce critic of Christianity who ended every letter to his friends with the words, “Ecrasez l’infame” (“crush the infamy – the Christian religion”), he boldly proclaimed the demise of “that bloody religion known as Christianity” and that, “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.” In response, the devout Roman Catholic king of France, Louis XV, kicked him out of France and so Voltaire relocated to Geneva, Switzerland. After his death, one of his devotes who had later become a Christian, bought his house and turned it over to the Evangelical Society of Geneva for their use. In Voltaire’s house, that Bible Society stored Bibles and Gospel tracts, while the printing presses and even the paper Voltaire had used to print his irreverent works were instead used in the printing of Bibles. Despite Voltaire’s attempts, the first strong truth from Hebrews 9 and 10 today is still accepted and taught by Christians: Jesus’ shed blood, though a disgusting, disturbing, and distasteful teaching to many, is what allows us into God’s presence and saves us. Continuing on with the themes we have already read through in chapters 6,7,8 after the Old Covenant and the sacrifices in the temporary tabernacle and later in the permanent temple in Jerusalem, we hear again how Jesus has dismantled and replaced that Old Covenant system with his New Covenant, a covenant made in the sacrifice of his body and blood.
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:1-7)
Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the people could enter into God’s presence, however, not them actually but a representative proxy, the High Priest, who would go into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place and plead God’s forgiveness for them.
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings — external regulations applying until the time of the new order. But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (9:8-14)
Through Christ, people can have unfettered access to God. That access came at the expense of Jesus’ life. We read in Matthew 27,
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50,51a)
That curtain in the temple had served as the symbol of sinful humans not being welcomed into the presence of our holy, sinless God. Jesus’ death, though, dealt with that decisively as the temple curtain split in two. As a result, there is no barrier separating humans from God – other than unbelief and sin. Through Christ’s righteousness given to us, we can now come into God’s presence, freely and fully.
For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle, and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:15-22)
Access into God’s presence had been very limited for humans but Jesus’ shed blood on the cross changed everything, as disgusting, disturbing, and distasteful as that teaching on the blood may be. Ok, that was the first strong truth from Hebrews 9 and 10. Now, to another strong and unpopular truth. #2: while access to God and eternal salvation that Jesus’ death on the cross and his shed blood has been made possible for everyone, not all will experience it. What will be experienced by everyone is judgment of our lives by God.
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 sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 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. Otherwise, Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many. (Hebrews 9:23-27)
I know that reincarnation is a popular belief for people, though, for the life of me I can’t understand why. I am all for second chances as God is the God of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances, and on and on, but those kind of second, third, fourth and the like chances are about repentance and returning to Him after sin. Forgiveness is then granted. It is not about a second chance to live after you have died. If it were, then what would have been the point of Jesus’ dying and shedding his blood on the cross? If reincarnation was a reality, then Jesus would have to die, over and over again. The strong and unpopular truth found in Hebrews 9 and 10 is that you, me, each of us, are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment in God’s heavenly courtroom. You simply must believe in this unpopular and strong truth, in order to appropriate it for yourself. The writers of the NT are clear on this:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18,19)
He has freed us from our sins by his blood. (Revelation 1:5)
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
The apostle John had a vision of believers in heaven:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
John the Baptist, as he saw Jesus walking, said to his disciples:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:30b)
The other aspect of this second strong and unpopular teaching is that it is the combination of Jesus blood and our faith in him that defeats the evil. Those first believers paid with their lives for doing so but they believed the right things.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
Death is certain. Eternal separation from God is not. How we respond to Jesus’ sacrifice and spilt blood on the cross determines our eternal destiny. his is the second strong and unpopular truth from Hebrews 9 and 10. Here is the third one: While Jesus’ return will be the conclusion of everyone’s life story, it won’t be a victory celebration for everyone. His return will be the ultimate concluding act of the salvation he provided for when he shed his blood, but it is his Second Coming that seals the deal. How do we respond to it? The third truth from chapters 9 and 10 of Hebrews sets the stage for his victory celebration. But will we be part of that victory celebration? The author of Hebrews asks that question.
And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 9:28-10:4)
Just as there is no place for a repeated offering of Christ on the cross there us no place for reincarnation or for a second life after we die, Jesus will not come back to earth to do the same things he did the in his first coming: being born, living, and dying for our sins. His second coming will be the seal, the proof, of all he has done. There are biblical examples of people being raised back from the dead, such as Lazarus but those miracles were for the purpose of bringing God glory and the people who were raised back to life all died at a later date. There were faithful people whose deaths were not recorded in the bible: Enoch and Elijah being the most prominent examples. They are the exceptions to the rule, but there are no exceptions concerning God’s judgment of each and every one of us. Let’s face it: judgment is either a crisis or a victory celebration. To “judge” means separating, a division, a decision regarding the future of the one being judged.
Sarah Winchester’s husband had acquired a fortune by manufacturing and selling rifles. After he died of influenza in 1918, she moved to San Jose, California. Because of her grief and her long-time interest in spiritism, Sarah sought out a medium to contact her dead husband. The medium told her, “As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death.” Sarah believed the medium, so she bought an unfinished 17-room mansion and started to expand it. The project continued until she died at the age of 85. It cost 5 million dollars at a time when workmen earned 50 cents a day. The mansion had 150 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, and 10,000 windows. And Mrs. Winchester left enough materials so that they could have continued building for another 80 years. Today that house stands as more than a tourist attraction as it is a silent witness to the dread of death that holds millions of people in bondage.
Comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) could make audiences roar with laughter, yet he himself was chronically unhappy. Religion apparently played no part in his life. But it’s been said that as he faced the possibility of dying, he started to devote time to reading the Bible. When he was asked about his new interest in Scripture, Fields, always the comedian, replied, “I’m looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” But there are no loopholes. Don’t plan to repent at the 11th hour—you may die at 10:30. We all know we are going to die so let us prepare to meet our God. King Solomon wisely observed,
“For the living know that they will die.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5)
There’s only one way to prepare for eternity — trusting Christ as Savior. Those who come to God through Him will enter heaven when they have drawn their last breath. But for unbelievers…? Are you ready for the inevitable? Jesus said,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Unlike his first appearing which was witnessed by just a few people, Jesus’ second appearing will have “every eye seeing him.” Christ’s Second Coming will not be with reference to sin since that issue was completely resolved in His first coming. Rather, He will a second time to grant salvation to those who eagerly await Him. As the apostle Paul faced martyrdom, he wrote about this about his future,
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8).
This is not a popular truth, but it is a strong one.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7; Psalm 40:6-8)
First, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” — though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 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. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First, he says: “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.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:8-17; Jeremiah 31:33,34) And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:18)
Do you eagerly await the coming of our Lord? If you do, and because Jesus Christ is your Saviour, God will greet you into His presence with a positive judgment in which He states that you are forgiven. That’s the end of our life story that we should all be clinging to and believing in. Amen.