Unit: Hebrews (Part 2)
Theme: High Priest
Lesson Text: Hebrews 9:11-28
Supplemental Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Revelation 5:9-13
Aim: Anticipate the coming of Jesus, which will “bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
_ _ _
Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Oct31_2021.
Send an email to email@example.com to receive PDFs of the lesson material each month.
_ _ _
By Mark Scott
The Bible is a bloody book—from beginning (Genesis 3:21; 4:10) to end (Revelation 5:9). One could argue that a bloodless Bible is no Bible at all. “Blood” is mentioned 11 times in the New International Version of our lesson text. (Of all things—to speak of blood on Halloween!) While the Bible uses the word blood in a literal way (Leviticus 17:14), most of the time it is a figure of speech for sacrifice and death.
Under the Old Covenant, priests would bring animals to the tabernacle and sacrifice them. The priest administered the sacrifice, but he was not the sacrifice himself. By contrast, the Messiah not only administers the sacrifice, he is the sacrifice. This is the value of double imagery.
Blood and Priest
When Christ came to earth, he got his feet dirty with the sand in the land of Israel and taught in the physical temple in Jerusalem. But for the writer of Hebrews, Jesus’ mission while on earth was spiritual in nature. While the physical and spiritual are inextricably linked, the writer pictures Jesus entering a tabernacle that is greater and more perfect. It was not humanly engineered and not part of this creation as the tabernacle had been.
When Jesus died on Skull Hill, he was, spiritually speaking, entering the equivalent of the holy of holies and securing eternal redemption for people. His sacrifice was not that of animal blood but of human blood. The fruit of this salvific act was effectual from the inside out. It dealt with the conscience (a sort of moral umpire). This liberated the worshipper to serve the living God.
Blood and Will
Christ could mediate this New Covenant which resulted in a ransom because he actually died. The writer used the human illustration of a will to drive home his point. A will was not put in place until the death of the person who had it drawn up. In the case of the Old Testament, the animal died. That allowed the sacrifice to be effectual.
The writer reminded the people that Moses sprinkled blood on the Ten Commandments as well as the people themselves to ratify the Law of the covenant (Exodus 24:3-8). That act symbolized their cleansing as well as the cleansing of the tabernacle. Everything got a blood bath. Then the writer offered an aside about blood. He wrote, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” If that is a Scripture-wide principle, then the priest of the New Covenant would have to use blood as well—and he did.
Blood and Heaven
The writer returned to something emphasized earlier. The veil between heaven and earth is thin but real. What was on earth and used in the Old Covenant had corresponding spiritual significance to what Jesus did in the New Covenant. He offered a better sacrifice—not an animal sacrifice. He did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands. That sanctuary was simply a copy of the sanctuary in heaven. Jesus came to earth, but he operated “heavenly.” By dying on Calvary’s cross, he brought heaven’s sanctuary to earth.
Unlike the priests who had to offer sacrifices again and again, Jesus offered himself once for all. In Judaism, the high priest would enter the holy of holies once each year (in the fall) with the blood of an animal. He would sprinkle that blood on the mercy seat, which sat on top of the ark of the covenant. It was a dark and somewhat foreboding place. The act was repeated each year at the same time. If Jesus had followed this same rhythm, he would have had to be crucified yearly. This would mean, spiritually speaking, that Jesus would have had to suffer many times since the creation (foundation or “handing down”) of the world.
But, of course, that was not necessary. Jesus appeared (became known or manifested) once for all at the culmination (end purpose) of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. The deal was sealed. The deal that remains concerns the believer. All humans are terminal. Once they die, they are judged. Once Christ died, sin was atoned for. But Jesus is coming back a second time. (This is the closest the New Testament gets to using the language of “second coming.”) And when he returns, Christ won’t have to deal with sin anymore. Rather, he will bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.