As you read through the books of the Law you discover that the Israelites were introduced to a system of sacrifices. Animals were killed and offered to make restitution for something someone had done. Once each year the high priest entered the inner room of the tabernacle with blood of an animal to deal with his sin as well as the sin of the nation. The problem was that he had to do this each year. Why? Because the blood of animals, the sacrifices they made, were unable to get rid of the sin.
“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 worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” (Hebrews 9:9-10 NIV)
What was this ‘new order’? It was Jesus coming to pay the price for our sin. He didn’t do this with the blood of more animals but he came with his own blood, “so obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Finally there was a way to deal with sin once and for all. This was not just for people of his time or those who lived afterwards, but his blood took care of the sins of those who offered the sacrifices under the first covenant.
“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.” (Hebrews 9:15)
Have you thought about that? Jesus not only paid for our sins when he died on the cross, but his blood stretched back to take care of the sins of those who lived before his time. That is powerful cleansing! And he only had to do it once!
“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; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:24-28)
What is this saying to us? It tells us that Jesus’ one-time sacrifice of himself dealt with the sin of the world. He didn’t have to make an offering over and over again as the high priest did for many centuries. He did it once in order to deal with sin forever. He did this by offering himself as the sacrifice.
The forgiveness Jesus offers is available now. But we only have the present time to take advantage of this. When we die we will face judgment. When Jesus returns it will not be to deal with sin because he has already done that. If we are holding out for a ‘second chance’ this scripture tells us we must use our time here to prepare for eternity.
When Jesus comes the next time it will be “to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”. Are we ready? Are we waiting for him and looking forward to his coming?
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Readings for next week: Hebrews 7-13