HEBREWS 9:15-28 (2)
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.
17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”
21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.
22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,
26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
John MacArthur’s Commentary (2)
BEING VERY MUCH AWARE OF THAT THEOLOGICAL BLIND SPOT, THE WRITER OF HEBREWS PROCEEDS TO GIVE THREE REASONS IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THE MESSIAH TO DIE: A TESTAMENT DEMANDS DEATH, FORGIVENESS DEMANDS BLOOD, AND JUDGMENT DEMANDS A SUBSTITUTE.
A TESTAMENT DEMANDS DEATH.
FOR WHERE A COVENANT IS, THERE MUST OF NECESSITY BE THE DEATH OF THE ONE WHO MADE IT. FOR A COVENANT IS VALID ONLY WHEN MEN ARE DEAD, FOR IT IS NEVER IN FORCE WHILE THE ONE WHO MADE IT LIVES. (9:16-17).
A TESTAMENT, BY ITS VERY NATURE, REQUIRES THE DEATH OF THE TESTATOR. COVENANT, OR TESTAMENT, IS FROM THE GREEK DIATHEKE, THE BASIC MEANING OF WHICH CORRESPONDS CLOSELY TO THAT OF OUR PRESENT-DAY WILL. A will does not take effect until the one who made it dies. Until that time, its benefits and provisions are only promises, and necessarily future. The point being made in verses 16-17 is simple and obvious.
IN RELEVANCE TO THE OLD COVENANT, HOWEVER, WAS ANYTHING BUT OBVIOUS TO THE JEWS BEING ADDRESSED HERE, SO THE WRITER BRIEFLY EXPLAINS HOW IT APPLIES. Building on verse 15, he is saying that God gave a legacy, an eternal inheritance, to Israel in the form of a covenant, a will. As with any will, it was only a type of promissory note until the provider of the will dies. At this point, no mention is made of who the testator is or of how Christ fills that role in life and death.
FORGIVENESS DEMANDS BLOOD
THEREFORE, EVEN THE FIRST COVENANT WAS NOT INAUGURATED WITHOUT BLOOD. FOR WHEN EVERY COMMANDMENT HAD BEEN SPOKEN BY MOSES TO ALL THE PEOPLE ACCORDING TO THE LAW, HE TOOK THE BLOOD OF THE CALVES AND THE GOATS, WITH WATER AND SCARLET WOOL AND HYSSOP, AND SPRINKLED BOTH THE BOOK ITSELF AND ALL THE PEOPLE, SAYING, “THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU.” AND IN THE SAME WAY HE SPRINKLED BOTH THE TABERNACLE, AND ALL THE VESSELS OF THE MINISTRY WITH THE BLOOD. AND ACCORDING TO THE LAW, ONE MAY ALMOST SAY, ALL THINGS ARE CLEANSED WITH BLOOD, AND WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS. (9:18-22)
THE SECOND REASON FOR THE DEATH OF CHRIST WAS THAT FORGIVENESS DEMANDS BLOOD. THIS TRUTH IS DIRECTLY IN LINE WITH THE PREVIOUS POINT, BUT WITH A DIFFERENT SHADE OF MEANING. Blood is a symbol of death, and therefore follows closely the idea of a testator’s having to die in order for a will to become effective. But blood also suggests the animal sacrifices that were marks of the Old Covenant, even, in fact, of the Abrahamic covenant. In the Old Covenant, the death of animals was typical and prophetic, looking forward to the death of Christ that would ratify the second covenant. Even before the old priestly sacrifices were begun, the covenant itself was inaugurated, or ratified, with blood.
AS EXPLAINED IN VERSE 19, MOSES SPRINKLED BLOOD ON THE ALTAR AND ON THE PEOPLE (SEE Ex. 24:6-8). “LOOK AT YOUR GREAT MOSES,” THE WRITER IS SAYING. “HE HIMSELF INAUGURATED THE OLD COVENANT WITH BLOOD.” It is hard for us today to understand how bloody and messy the old sacrificial system was. But among other things, the great amount of blood was a continual reminder of the penalty of sin, death.
WHEN HE SAT WITH THE DISCIPLES ON THAT LAST NIGHT BEFORE HIS DEATH, Jesus PICKED UP THE CUP AND SAID, “THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE COVENANT, WHICH IS POURED OUT FOR MANY FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS” (MATT 26:28). He was to ratify the New Covenant through His own blood, just as the Old Covenant was ratified by Moses with the blood of animals.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO BECOME MORBID ABOUT CHRIST’S SACRIFICIAL DEATH AND PREOCCUPIED WITH HIS SUFFERING AND SHEDDING OF BLOOD. IT IS ESPECIALLY POSSIBLE TO BECOME UNBIBLICALLY PREOCCUPIED WITH THE PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF HIS DEATH. It was not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf, which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could be saved by blood without death, the animals would have been bled, not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus.
SINCE THE TABERNACLE WAS NOT YET BUILT WHEN MOSES RATIFIED THE COVENANT, HIS SPRINKLING THE TABERNACLE AND ALL THE VESSELS OF THE MINISTRY WITH THE BLOOD IS OBVIOUSLY MEANT TOO BE ANTICIPATORY. THE BLOOD HE SPRINKLED AT THE INITIATION OF THE COVENANT CONTINUED IN A SENSE, TO BE SPRINKLED BY THE PRIESTS IN THE TABERNACLE AND TEMPLE AS LONG AS THAT COVENANT STOOD.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BLOOD WAS TO SYMBOLIZE SACRIFICE FOR SIN, WHICH BOUGHT CLEANSING FROM SIN. THEREFORE, WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS.
AGAIN, HOWEVER, WE NEED TO KEEP IN MIND THAT THE BLOOD WAS A SYMBOL. IF CHRIST’S OWN PHYSICAL LOOD, IN ITSELF DOES NOT CLEANSE FROM SIN, HOW MUCH LESS DID THE PHYSICAL BLOOD OF ANIMALS. It is not surprising, then, that the Old Covenant allowed a symbol for a symbol, A Jew who was too poor to bring even a small animal for a sacrifice was allowed to bring one-tenth of an ephah (about two quarts) of fine flour instead (Lev. 5:11). His sins were covered just as surely as those of a person who could afford to offer a lamb or goat or turtledove or pigeon (Lev. 5:6-7). This exception is clear proof that the old cleansing was symbolic. Just as the animal blood symbolized Christ’s true atoning blood, so the ephah of flour symbolized and represented the animal blood. This nonblood offering for sin was acceptable because the old sacrifice was entirely symbolic anyway,
YET THIS WAS THE ONLY EXCEPTION. AND THE EXCEPTION REPRESENTED A BLOOD SACRIFICE. THE BASIC SYMBOL COULD NOT BE CHANGED BECAUSE WHAT IS SYMBOLIZED COULD NOT BE CHANGED. “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement” (Lev.17:11). Since the penalty for sin is death, nothing but heath, symbolized by shedding of blood, can atone for sin. We cannot enter into God’s presence by self-effort to be righteous. If we, on our own, could be good, we would not need atonement. Nor can we enter His presence by being model citizens or even by being religious. We cannot enter His presence by reading the Bible, by going to church, by giving generously to the Lord’s work, or even by praying. We cannot enter His presence by thinking good thoughts about Him. The only way we can enter into God’s presence, the only way we can participate in the New Covenant, is through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, made effective for us when we trust in Him as saving Lord.
GOD HAS SET THE RULES. THE SOUL THAT SINS WILL DIE. THE SOUL THAT IS SAVED WILL BE SAVED THROUGH THE SACRIFICE OF GOD’S SON. FOR THIS SACRIFICE THERE IS NO EXCEPTION, NO SUBSTITUTE, FOR THIS IS THE REAL THING. BECAUSE THEY ARE SYMBOLS, GOD PROVIDED A LIMITED AND STRICTLY QUALIFIED EXCEPTION (FLOUR) TO THE OLD SACRIFICES. BUT THERE CAN BE NO EXCEPTION FOR THE REAL SACRIFICE, BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD. FORGIVENESS IS A COSTLY, COSTLY THING. BUT I OFTEN THINK TO MYSELF HOW LIGHTLY WE CAN TAKE THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD. I HAVE COME TO THE END OF A DAY AND PUT MY HEAD ON THE PILLOW TO SSAY, “GOD, DID THIS AND THIS TODAY,” LISTING OFF THE THINGS I HAD DONE THAT I KNEW WERE NOT PLEASING TO HIM. I know He knows about them, so there is no use trying to hide them. I also know He forgives them, because He has promised to forgive them, and I thank Him. I fall off to sleep in a few minutes, accepting but not fully appreciating the marvelous grace that made such assurance and peach so easily available to me.
AT OTHER TIMES, AS I STUDY THE WORD OF GOD, AND LOOK MORE CLOSELY AT THE GREAT COST THAT WAS PAID FOR MY SALVATION, IT AM OVERWHELMED. When I meditate on the infinite cost to God to forgive my sins, I realize how often I abuse my loving Father’s grace.
PAUL TELLS US THAT “WHERE SIN INCREASED, GRACE ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE” (Rom. 5:20). THEN, ANTICIPATING HOW SOME MIGHT DISTORT THIS TRUTH, HE GOES ON TO SAY, “WHT SHALL WE SAY THEN? ARE WE TO CONTINUE IN SIN THAT GRACE MIGHT INCREASE? MAY IT NEVER BE! HOW SHALL WE WHO DIED TO SIN STILL LIVE IN IT?” (6:1). To realize and rejoice in God’s boundless grace is one thing; to presume on it by willfully sinning is quite another. How can we, as forgiven sinners, take lightly or presumptuously, the price paid for our forgiveness? We become so used to grace that we abuse it. In fact, we are so accustomed to grace that when God brings down just punishment we may think it unjust.
GOD DOES NOT FORGIVE SIN BY LOOKING DOWN AND SAYING, “IT’S ALL RIGHT. SINCE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, I’LL OVERLOOK YOUR SIN.” GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS WILL NOT ALLOW HIM TO OVERLOOK SIN. SIN DEMANDS PAYMENT BY DEATH. And only death great enough to pay for all of mankind’s sins is the death of His Son. God’s great love for us will not lead Him to overlook our sin, but it has led Him to provide the payment for our sin, as John3:16 so beautifully reminds us. God cannot ignore our sin; but He will forgive our sin if we trust in the death of His Son for that forgiveness.
THEREFORE IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THE COPIES OF THE THINGS IN THE HEAVENS TO BE CLEANSED WITH THOSE, BUT THE HEAVENLY THINGS THEMSELVES WITH BETTER SACRIFICES THAN THESE (9:23)
THE COPIES OF THE THINGS IN THE HEAVENS WERE THE THINGS OF THE OLD ECONOMY. THEY WERE BUT SKETCHES, OR OUTLINES, OF THE REALITIES OF HEAVEN. It was necessary for these copies to have sacrifices. It was therefore necessary for the better covenant, the better economy, to have better sacrifices. All the blood of the Old Covenant was just a copy, a faint picture, of the shed blood of Jesus.
GOD WAS SO SATISFIED WITH WHAT JESUS DID THAT HE “HIGHLY EXALTED HIM, AND BESTOWED ON HIM THE NAME WHICH IS ABOVE EVERY NAME, THAT AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, OF THOSE WHO ARE IN HEAVEN, AND ON EARTH, AND UNDER THE EARTH, AND THAT EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER” (PHIL 2:9-11). – MacArthur
PROFESSOR THOMAS A. ROHM