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Hebrews 9:23-28: Once for All

Jesus was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests,
and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God

This past Sunday, we had the opportunity to worship with our Anglican friends at the beach, and then to tune in to our home church via Youtube. I’m grateful for technology that allows the body of Christ to connect across many miles! Our pastor at home is preaching through Hebrews – such a great study – and perfect to go along with the reading of the Old Testament! In this post I’m processing my sermon notes.

In Hebrews 9:23 – 28, the author makes three comparisons. The first of these is the sanctuary.

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 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. 

Hebrews 9:23 – 24


  • “Copies” of the heavenly things had to be purified. Under the old covenant, the priests would purify the tabernacle and temple itself with the blood of bulls and goats to consecrate it from the impurities of the Israelites.
  • “But the heavenly things themselves” had to be purified. What in heaven could possibly need to be made pure? The heavenly sanctuary had to be made pure by the blood of Christ so that God’s people could have access to God. Jesus tells us in John 14:3 – “And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.” The only way we can enter the holy place – to be with Jesus – is if first our sin has been atoned, the penalty paid.
  • Christ “appears for us in God’s presence.” When the priest entered the Most Holy Place the cloud of incense covered the atonement lid so that the priest would not die (Lev 16:13). Not so with Christ. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, advocating on our behalf, directly in God’s presence, in the face of God.

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.

Hebrews 9:25 – 26

The next comparison is the sacrifice. Note these things:

  • Two elements of comparison
    • “Again and again”
    • “With blood that is not his own”
  • The high priest had to perform the sacrificial rituals over and over. Hundreds, thousands of animals slaughtered, blood sprinkled, over and over. Imagine the gruesome routine of it all, the bloody mess, and none of it belonging to the priest himself, only involuntary animals.
  • In contrast, Jesus died once for all; His sacrifice was perfect, complete, no other needed. And with His sacrifice, our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west! We can now enter God’s presence, much like a little child running to her dad, freely, without hesitation, even boldly.
  • From “the creation of the world” to “the culmination of the ages” – Christ’s sacrifice, because of its superior quality, is able to reach back to the time of creation and forward to the time of consummation of the ages, fully cleansing the people of God.

These atoning sacrifices were the means in which God would deal with the Israelites’ sin and provide a reliable system the Israelites could use to maintain their right relationship with God when they did sin. This substitute, so to speak, is not offered by humans hoping to appease a volatile and angry deity. It’s precisely the opposite! In Leviticus, this substitute is provided by God himself. The symbolism of animal sacrifice in the Bible is a concrete expression of God’s justice and grace at the same time. It reminded the Israelites of the serious nature of sin, its consequences for the individuals involved, and for the community at large.

Animal Sacrifice, The Bible Project

Last, the author of Hebrews compares the destinies of those in Christ, and those without Him.

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 9:27-28
  • We are destined to die, and to face judgment. We will either be judged on our own works, or the work of Christ on our behalf.
  • When we stand before His absolute holiness, we will not be able to say anything in our own defense. Two pictures of meeting before the Lord …
    • “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty (Isaiah 6:5).”
    • Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2 -3).
  • Christ has borne our sin – when He returns, He comes as the conquering victor!

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. … He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11 – 16

And we eagerly await His return! Our future reality should define us … we are chosen, made new everyday, redeemed, adopted sons and daughters, children of the King, co-heirs with Christ, His ambassadors, agents of reconciliation!

To God be the glory, great things he hath done:
so loved he the world that he gave us his son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life gate that all may go in.

Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God.
The vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. 

Great things he hath taught us, great things he hath done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son,
but purer, and higher, and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he hath done.

Fanny Crosby, 1875
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