We are continuing our study of Hebrews 9. We saw that verses 1-10 talk about the sanctuary and service of the Old Covenant. Then in verses 11-14, Christ's work is contrasted with that of the Old Covenant and we see the superiority of Jesus Christ and his work. Christ, as high priest, has entered the true tabernacle, which is heaven. And verse 12 tells us he entered it by his own precious blood - his sacrificial death.
The section we want to look at this morning, verses 15-22, is somewhat of a parenthesis in which our author deals with the question of, "Why did Christ have to die?" It would not be surprising if the appeals coming to the readers from Jewish circles used the death of Christ as an argument for abandoning the Christian faith. If so, the writer turns it around - it is a reason for holding onto the faith.
Our authors purpose in this paragraph is to explain the relationship between the death of Christ and the New Covenant, and the blessings which it brings. Let's review just a moment and make sure we recall what the new covenant is, and how it is different from the "first covenant" that Paul refers to here in verses 15 and 18. The new covenant is the arrangement with his people that God promised in Jeremiah 31:31. The book of Hebrews quotes the terms of this arrangement in:
Hebrews 8:10-12 (NKJV) "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
So, in this arrangement God no longer writes his will on tablets of stone outside the heart; he moves, by his Spirit, inside and makes the will of God part of what we love. He changes us from the inside out so that we love his will. Not only that, it says that in the new covenant he is merciful to our transgressions and remembers our sins no more. In the old covenant there had been no sacrifice that could truly take away human sin. There had been animal sacrifices, but Hebrews 10:4 says plainly, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." So the new covenant promises that these sins will be taken away, which means that the foundation of the new covenant is a better sacrifice, namely, the sacrifice of God's own Son.
So the new covenant is all about how God deals with sin to make us right with him; how he deals with the guilt and condemnation of sin by sending his Son to die for sinners and bear our guilt so that there could be forgiveness and cleansing, and good consciences before God. That's the new covenant. That's Christianity. And the death of Christ, the shedding of Christ's blood, is the basis of it. By his blood-shedding he purchased our justification, and he purchased our sanctification. He took away our guilt and our corruption.
Hebrews 9:15 (NKJV) And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
"And for this reason" - because of the efficacy of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the mediator of the New Covenant. The word "mediator" is from the Greek word mesites, which means: "a go between or reconciler." Jesus, by the act of his death, became a go between from God to man. Man and God have been separated by man's sin - "the wages of sin is death"; death is separation. Because of man's sinfulness, he is separated from a Holy God. Job was aware of this separation:
Job 9:2 (NKJV) "Truly I know it is so, But how can a man be righteous before God?
Here Job asks the most important question in the universe, "How can man be right with God?"
Job 9:20 (NKJV) Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.
Job was aware of his sinfulness, and he knew that God was holy.
Job 9:30-32 (NKJV) If I wash myself with snow water, And cleanse my hands with soap, 31 Yet You will plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes will abhor me. 32 "For He is not a man, as I am, That I may answer Him, And that we should go to court together.
God is not a man, He is holy, and I am sinful. I cannot stand before Him.
Job 9:33 (NKJV) Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both.
The word "mediator" is the Hebrews word yakach, which means: "a mediator or umpire." There is no one who can lay his hand upon God and Man so that he may bring the two into fellowship.
Believers, in the New Covenant we have such a mediator, the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NKJV) For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,
There is only one God, and there is only one way to approach Him, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He cannot be approached through the Virgin Mary, or a priest, or Joseph Smith, or through baptism. Jesus Christ is the only mediator, and he is mediator because He gave himself as a ransom. The basis of Christ's mediatorship of the New Covenant is a death which has occurred.
The blessings which flow from the death by which the New Covenant has been established are here summarized by:
Redemption from the transgressions under the first covenant. That is deliverance from the guilt and condemnation which the law pronounces against all law breakers:
Romans 3:10 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
Romans 3:19-20 (NKJV) Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
We all stand guilty before God, we are all law breakers and thus under condemnation of the law:
Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by paying its penalty for us. Please notice what it is that the Gentiles (we) receive - "the promise of the Spirit". What is the promise of the Spirit? To answer that, look with me at:
Acts 2:30-33 (NKJV) "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
The promise of the Spirit is the resurrection. Look at:
Acts 2:39 (NKJV) "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
The promise that is to, "as many as the Lord our God will call" is the promise of resurrection. And resurrection is life in the presence of God. We'll talk about this promise a little later on in this message.
The efficacy of this redemption extends, not only to those who have lived since the advent of Christ, but also, retroactively, to those who trusted the promises prior to their fulfillment in his coming:
Romans 3:25 (NKJV) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
Jesus Christ has paid the sin debt of all the elect; those under the Old Covenant and those under the New Covenant.
Hebrews 9:15 goes on to say, "...those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."- Who are the "called"? The word "called" is from the Greek word kaleo. To help understand its meaning, let's look at its us in:
Romans 8:29-30 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This is often referred to as the golden chain of salvation. All whom he foreknew, he predestined to be like his son. All he predestined, he called; all he called, he justified; all he justified, he glorified. These verses teaches us that all who are called are justified. Thus, everybody is not called. This call refers to election, God's choice in salvation.
Why is the doctrine of election so despised? Because it ultimately says that you cannot get to heaven by yourself. You have to be chosen. What if I want to trust Jesus Christ, but I'm not chosen? It won't happen; apart from God's election, nobody will want to come to Christ:
John 6:44 (NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
If you have any desire for Jesus Christ it's only because God has called you. Arthur Pink said:
God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing. And loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Merit mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently they who are the most bitter in denouncing election by the sovereign pleasure of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man.
Man, in his fallenness, wants a part because he wants to exercise his pride. He wants to assume some responsibility even if it's a small responsibility, for having believed, he wants some credit for having made the right choice.
The idea of God choosing people is a recurrent theme in Scripture. Look at what God says to Israel:
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (KJV) "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you..."
Why did God choose Israel? Because he loved them. He wasn't sitting in heaven saying, "I hope some nation will believe in me and choose me." God chose them! Why did God choose Abraham? Because he was searching for God? No, he was a pagan moon worshiper. The idea that man has some personal integrity and freedom that God dare not violate is the reverse of what the Bible teaches.
Psalms 65:4 (NKJV) Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.
The nature of our election rests in God's sovereign choice.
Acts 13:46-48 (NKJV) "Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 "For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'" 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
We could translate this, "And as many as had been called to eternal life believed.
Notice that it is the "called" who "...receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." "Promise" is a key word in Hebrews and is inseparably related to the authors concept of inheritance (9:15 and 4:1). Rest equals inheritance, and Hebrews constantly uses the idea of inheritance of something yet unrealized (to the first century believers). What is the promised inheritance? It is the New Covenant, the New Jerusalem. The inheritance of the land in the Old Covenant was temporary, it was but a type and picture of the believer's inheritance in the new age. So, the blessings which flow from the death of Christ are redemption and an eternal inheritance.
Hebrews 9:16-17 (NKJV) For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
The mention of the promised inheritance, which is received on the basis of the redeeming death of Christ, suggests the analogy from everyday life of the principle of inheritance.
The word "testament" is the Greek word diatheke, which is usually translated "covenant", a relationship which God graciously establishes between himself and mankind.
In verses 16-17, the author uses the same Greek word but not in the sense of "covenant" but of "testament - or will". Diatheke has a double sense and can be translated: "covenant or will". The context must determine its use. Here it is clearly "will" and not "covenant". Verse 16 is not true of a covenant, but it is of a will.
So, the writer makes the comparison between this new covenant and a "last will and testament." Now, you all know what that is. A "last will and testament" is a very important and very official, legal paper that a person writes down to say what should be done with his possessions after he dies. That's a "last will and testament." Every adult should have one. That's the comparison with the new covenant that the writer makes
You might think that God would be more careful in the kinds of comparisons and analogies he uses to explain his work. He is pretty daring in the way he uses human language and images. For example, he said that the coming of Jesus would be like a thief in the night; and so he dares to link his perfect Son with a thief. And there are other comparisons like that in the Bible. In one place he compares his wrath to a man being raised from a drunken stupor. Why does God do this? Why does he use comparisons that could be misleading? The answer is that every comparison could be misleading when the work of God is being compared to the work of man. God is unique. There is no human experience that perfectly fits the way he acts or the way he is. But if God wants to communicate with us, which he does, he has no other language to use but a language we can understand, a human language that has been built around human experience.
All comparisons between the way God relates to us and the way we relate to each other are like that. You have to ask what part of this comparison or analogy leads into the deep truth God wants to reveal about himself, and what part of it leads down a dead end road to misunderstanding?
Well, in this text the writer introduces the comparison between the "new covenant" and a last will and testament. And so, we need to be careful here to make sure we see what parts of this comparison are helpful, and what parts of it might be misleading.
Why does this writer make this comparison between the New Covenant and a "last will and testament"? Let me give you a few reasons:
1. The basis of the new covenant is the death of Christ. A death had to take place to give force and validity to the new covenant. So it is like a last will and testament. A will doesn't come into effect until the testator dies. As long as he is alive, he can change his will, he can write in and out beneficiaries (if you're in someone's will, you better stay on their good side). Nobody will receive anything until he dies. It is to that universally accepted truth and practice that our author appeals to in verse 16-17. In order to indicate to us that if we are to receive the promised inheritance that Lord Jesus Christ, as the testator, had to die. Jesus said the same thing in:
Matthew 26:28 (NKJV) "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Unless I die, the promised blessing of the forgiveness of sins cannot become yours. Death is necessary for forgiveness, and forgiveness is necessary for us to receive our inheritance.
2. The second reason the writer treats the new covenant as a "last will and testament" is that in verse 15 he has just referred to an "eternal inheritance." You see that: "Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that . . . those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." And we can all see that if there is an inheritance, there must be some kind of last will and testament that tells who the heirs are and what inheritance they get. That is what he says the new covenant does.
3. Finally, he compares the new covenant with a "last will and testament" because a "will" is not something the heirs negotiate about. It comes unilaterally from the one who wrote it down and the heirs take it or leave it as it is. They can't change the decisions of the one who wrote the will. The new covenant is drawn up by God without consulting the heirs, or anyone else. It is a sovereign expression of God's will, not a negotiated agreement.
In a sense, verse 16-17 serve as an analogy, but analogies have their limitations, and so does this one. Upon his death, a person leaves his possessions to his heirs; these heirs, themselves, face death and in time die. Christ, however, dies but rose from the dead thus receiving an inheritance which he shares eternally with those who are his.
Hebrews 2:5-9 (NKJV) For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7 You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
Jesus Christ experienced death for all who place their trust in Him. But he has also been given dominion over the world, and he shares this dominion with his partners.
Hebrews 2:10 (NKJV) For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
The glory is that of verse 7, the glory of dominion.
Notice that verse 17 says, "For a covenant [= will] is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives." That would seem to say: "No, the forgiveness of the new covenant was not available in the Old Testament times before Christ died." If this is true, how did David and Moses and all the saints get forgiveness for sins?
In the old covenant Christ had not yet died, but all the blood-shedding of animals was meant to point forward to the day when a death would occur that would indeed purchase once for all the forgiveness of God. And if those saints put their faith not in animals, but in the grace of God, they had the promise of forgiveness, eternal life, the inheritance. Without the death of Christ there would be no forgiveness of the Old Testament saints. Those saints had to wait thousands of years to experience the forgiveness that the death bought for them.
Notice what Jesus said the believers would receive in the age to come, meaning the New Covenant age:
Mark 10:29-30 (NKJV) So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 "who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the AGE TO COME, ETERNAL LIFE.
If eternal life was a condition of the "age to come," (the New Covenant age) then does this mean that those who lived prior to the consummation of the New Covenant did not yet have eternal life? Or we could ask the question this way, "When did believers receive eternal life?" To answer that question, we must know what "eternal life" is. Eternal life is life in God's presence. Prior to Jesus' messianic work, no one went to Heaven.
John 3:13 (NKJV) "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
If prior to Jesus' messianic work, no one went to Heaven - where did people go when they died? They went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is "Sheol". In the New Testament, the Greek word is "Hades". What this place amounted to was a waiting area for disembodied spirits.
God had promised to redeem His people from the grave:
Hosea 13:14 (NKJV) "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.
Psalms 49:15 (NKJV) But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Selah
These verses express the hope that God will provide salvation beyond the grave, one of the few Old Testament references to life after death. This verse anticipates the clear New Testament teaching of life after death, and eternal life, and salvation from God.
It was necessary for Christ to die to pay our sin debt and acquire the inheritance of eternal life.
Hebrews 9:18 (NKJV) Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.
Unless anyone finds fault with the New Covenant requiring the death of Jesus Christ, the author immediately points out that even the first covenant was not ratified or inaugurated without blood.
Hebrews 9:19-22 (NKJV) For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
At the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant which is recorded in Exodus 24, burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen were sacrificed to the Lord by specially appointed young men. Moses then took half of the blood from these offerings and threw it against the alter which he had erected at the foot of Mt. Sinai. This was followed by his reading of the book of the covenant, in which he had written the divine precepts to the assembled Israelites, who responded: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." The remainder of the sacrificial blood was then sprinkled over the people by Moses as he spoke these words, "Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has make with you in accordance with all these words."
Our author's summary of the procedure of this inaugural occasion does not coincide at every point with the account given in Exodus 24. The Holy Spirit is not here limiting our view to Exodus 24 but gathers up what is found in various places of the law.
A striking scene is described here, I don't think we can really understand how bloody and messy this whole economy really was. There was blood all over everywhere! This was God's way by sign and symbol of showing the wages of sin is death. It was meant to impress on them that sin cannot be set aside, even by a loving God, without death occurring. The people must realize that sin is serious, since only death can relieve it.
Hebrews 9:22 (NKJV) And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
This is his summation. The climax is found in the point that even the Old Covenant knew no forgiveness apart from blood. His aim is to show that the law itself foreshadowed the necessity of the death of Christ.
Exodus 11:4-6 (NKJV) Then Moses said, "Thus says the LORD: 'About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 'and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. 6 'Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again.
That was a cry that I thank God never reached my ears. I can't imagine a more horrifying experience than to have been present on that night as the angel of death went through the land of Egypt. There were some houses into which the death angel had no access. Why? It wasn't their social standing or their individual goodness. The answer is found in:
Exodus 12:13 (NKJV) 'Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
It was the blood of a sacrificial lamb that made the difference. It was, as we know from reading the New Testament, the precious blood of Jesus.
Believers, forgiveness is a costly, costly thing. As we consider the cost to God of our forgiveness, may our hearts well up with a deep sense of gratitude that causes us to pour our lives out in service to Him.
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