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 (1)
AND FOR THIS REASON HE IS THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW COVENANT, IN ORDER THAT SINCE A DEATH HAS TAKEN PLACE FOR THE REDEMPTION OF THE TRANSGRESSIONS THAT WERE COMMITTED UNDER THE FIRST COVENANT, THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN CALLED MAY RECEIVE THE PROMISE OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE. 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 deaths, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. 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.
THEREFORE, IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THE COPIES OF THE THINGS IN THE HEAVENS TO BE CLEANSED WITH THESE, BUT THE HEAVENLY THINGS THEMSELVES WITH BETTER SACRIFICES THAN THESE. FOR CHRIST DID NOT ENTER A HOLY PLACE MADE WITH HANDS, A MERE COPY OF THE TRUE ONE, BUT INTO HEAVEN ITSELF, NOW TO APPEAR IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOR US; NOR WAS IT THAT HE SHOULD OFFER HIMSELF OFTEN, AS THE HIGH PRIEST ENTERS THE HOLY PLACE YEAR BY YEAR WITH BLOOD NOT HIS OWN. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (9:15-28)
AND FOR THIS REASON, REFERS BACK TO WHAT HAS JUST BEEN SAID – NAMELY THAT CHRIST, BECAUSE OF HIS SACRIFICIAL DEATH HAD BECOME THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW AND BETTER COVENANT. BY GOD’S STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE, THE SOUL THAT SINS JUST DIE (EZEK. 18:4). The only way a person could come to God was to have the penalty of his sin paid. This payment Jesus has provided for everyone who trusts in Him. In so doing He became the bridge, the mediator – the only mediator – between God and man. He accomplished in one act what the work of the old priests only symbolized in many repeated acts. Jesus’ supreme act of mediation was His own death on the cross.
PEOPLE OFTEN WONDER HOW OLD TESTAMENT BELIEVERS WERE SAVED, SINCE SALVATION IS ONLY THROUGH JESUS CHRIST (ACTS 4:12). THEY WERE SAVED ON THE SAME BASIS AS BELIEVERS TODAY ARE SAVED – BY THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST. Part of Christ’s work as mediator of the New Covenant was the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant. One of the first accomplishments of Jesus’ death was to redeem all those who had believed in god under the old covenant. After Christ died, they saw what had only before been a promise. it was a certain promise, a guaranteed promise, but until the Messiah’s atoning death, it was an unfulfilled promise. The point being made here to the writer’s original readers – who were Jews, both saved and unsaved – is that Christ’s atoning death was retroactive. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) also pictured symbolically what Christ’s atonement did actually. It, too, was retroactive. When the high priest sprinkled and blood on the mercy seat, the unintentional sins of the people were covered for the previous year.
PAUL PRESENTS THIS SAME TRUTH IN ROMANS 3. HE TEACHES THAT WE ARE “JUSTIFIED AS A GIFT BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS; WHOM GOD DISPLAYED PUBLICLY AS A PROPITIATION IN THE BLOOD THROUGH FAITH. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed” (Rom 3:24-25). God is satisfied when a man puts his faith in the shed blood of Christ. Because His blood was not shed until hundreds or even thousands of years after many Old Testament believers died, that salvation was, so to speak, on credit. By their obedient faith in God they were credited with what Jesus Christ, their promised Messiah, would one day do on their behalf and on the behalf of all sinners who have even lived and who will ever live. Knowing this, God was forbearing and patient, and, until the true sacrifice was made, when He saw a true heart of faith, He passed over their sins. In a deeper sense, the sacrifice had already been made in God’s mind long before it was made in human history, because Christ’s “works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (Heb. 4:3 cf. 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). From the human perspective, however, the Old Testament saints could only look forward to salvation.
SO THE OLD TESTAMENT SACRIFICES WERE NOT MEANS OF SALVATION, BUT MARKS OF FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE AND SYMBOLS OF THE ONE PERFECT SACRIFICE THAT WOULD BE THE MEANS OF SALVATION.
THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS COULD NOT RECEIVE WITHOUT CHRIST’S DEATH WAS SALVATION, THE TOTAL FORGIVENESS THAT ALONE COULD BRING TOTAL ACCESS TO GOD. THE NEW COVENANT WAS RATIFIED BY THE DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST AND PROVIDED THE FULL SALVATION THAT ISRAEL HAD BEEN HOPING FOR SINCE THE VERY BEGINNING.
THE TRUTH INTRODUCES THE SUBJECT OF THE DEATH OF THE CHRIST, THE MESSIAH, THE IDEA OF WHICH HAD ALWAYS BEEN A STUMBLING BLOCK TO JEWS (1 COR. 1:23). Despite the predictions of His death in their own Scriptures (see Ps. and Isa. 53), it was a truth that they preferred to ignore, if not actually deny. they had constructed their own ideas about the Messiah. Many of the ideas were scriptural, some were partly scriptural, and some were unscriptural altogether. They could not be faulted, of course, for having a limited understanding of the Messiah, for God had only given limited revelation. The problem was that they had ignored some messianic truth and had tried to “fill in the blanks” on their own, and a dying Messiah simply did not fit into their theology. – MacArthur
Professor Thomas A. Rohm