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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Hebrews 10: 19,20: The torn veil

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body

 So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. The Message.

Just to recap: for centuries, only one person was allowed to go behind the curtain into the presence of God: i.e. the high priest on the Day of Atonement. But at the moment Jesus died ”the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” {Matthew 27:51). This was clearly a supernatural event, and the fact that the tear went ”from top to bottom” signifies the work of God. Hebrews now goes one step further in telling us that the most important curtain to be torn was the body of Jesus. Through Him we can now live in the presence of God. What happened in the temple on that most momentous day, is a picture of what was being brought to pass at the Cross.

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Let us (metaphorically) remove our shoes. We are on holy ground.

Hebrews 10:19: Confidence

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus

Verses 11=18 read like this in ‘The Message’:

Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel
    isn’t going to be written on paper,
    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
    carving it on the lining of their hearts.”

He concludes,

I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.

Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.

We now come into a section in which the practical implications of Christ’s ‘once for all’ sacrifice are drawn out. Here is the first in verse 19. Under the Old Covenant, only the high priest could enter ”the Most Holy Place” once a year. As we have seen, He had to first offer sacrifice for his own sins and then for the people. But no one else could enter that sacred place. If they tried, they would die. So let’s not lose sight of how revolutionary the truth of this nineteenth verse is. It’s not even that we can now all visit God once a year. It is rather that we have constant access to God’s presence. Furthermore, we can draw near to Him with ”confidence”.

‘The Message’ puts it like this:

So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. 

PRAYER: Lord God, I thank you that Jesus died for me. Help me to never take for granted the gracious privilege you have given that I can approach you, walk with you, have intimacy with you through Jesus’ precious blood.

Hebrews 10:14-18: The now and the not yet

14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Verse 14 beautifully and economically expresses the heart of our salvation experience.

First of all, we are saved because of the Cross. We are now in the era of the New Covenant, inaugurated by Jesus. He offered the one sacrifice of Himself, and it is enough; He is enough. There is no more need for that repetitive cycle of animal sacrifices dominaing the old era.

But there is the now and not yet involved in this salvation: the positional and the practical. When we come to Jesus by faith we are justified. We are ”made perfect forever”. This is the positional aspect. Now, in God’s sight, we are perfect: clothed in the perfection of His Son. He completely forgives our sins. It isn’t simply that He forgets them. Rather, He refuses to remember them.

But not only are we ”made perfect forever” when we come to trust in Christ; we also enter into a process in which we are ”being made holy”. We are justified now. We are being sanctified now. But we are not yet everything we are going to be at journey’s end.

Justification makes us perfect positionally; sanctification enables us to become who we are practically. We are being made holy.

So I can say, ‘I’m not what I want to be; and I’m not what I’m going to be; but, praise God, I’m not what I was.’

“The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work (Prov 4:18). It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for (Rom 8:27).” John Owen

Hebrews 10: 5-14: Once for all

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

‘Jesus was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.’ Timothy Keller.

As we saw yesterday, the Old Testament sacrifices had to be offered (see verse 8b), but they were imperfect. They could only be a temporary measure, preparatory to the coming of Christ Himself.

Their imperfection is seen in their repetition. Listen to the language used regarding these offerings: ”Day after day…again and again…” (Note also the word ”endlessly” in verse 1, and the expression ”year after year”).

The Old Testament priest stood to perform his duties. His work was never completed (11). Contrast this with Jesus who offered the ”one” sacrifice of Himself ”once for all” (10, 12, 14) and ”sat down”. In a very real sense, His Work here was done, and we will take a little time tomorrow to consider the wonderful implications of verse 14.

Hebrews 10:1-4: Perfection

 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Verse 4 underlines the imperfection of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Here is the author of Hebrews’ verdict on it:

”It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”

Those sacrifices were required. They had to be offered. They were prescribed. But they were ”only a shadow of the good things that are coming…” Jesus is the substance however. As we are going to see as we work through this chapter, Jesus can and does bring in perfection for those who put their trust in Him.

Hebrews 9:23-28: Two appearings

 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. 24 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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 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.

This paragraph, at the culmination of chapter 9, speaks of two appearings of Christ:

  • He appeared the first time to make salvation possible;
  • He will appear a second time to complete it.

With regard to the former, Hebrews has been repeating and reinforcing the message that the Old Covenant sacrificial system was only a temporary measure, preparing for the coming of Christ who has now offered Himself as the final, perfect sacrifice. He came the first time to bring in the era of salvation. He will come a second time to put the finishing touches to it. However much we may be enjoying salvation today, we can be sure there’s much more ahead:

 ‘…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.‘ (Philippians 1:6).

Francis Schaeffer spelled out something of what the finished work of Christ means in practical terms:

“When my conscience under the Holy Spirit makes me aware of a specific sin I should at once call that sin sin and bring it consciously under the blood of Christ. Now it is covered and it is not honoring to the finished work of Jesus Christ to worry about it, as far as my relationship to God is concerned. Indeed, to worry about it is to do spite to the infinite value of the death of the Son of God. My fellowship with God is restored.” Francis Schaeffer.

Hebrews 9:16-22: The ‘nail scarred footprint’

16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.’21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

The last ten words in the above paragraph (highlighted in bold print) articulate a central Biblical principle: “Atonement by the blood of Jesus is not an arm of Christian truth; it is the heart of it.” Charles Spurgeon

Some people respond to this truth with revulsion; others are horrified at the thought of this ‘religion of blood’. A famous preacher once said that Old Testament religion resembled an abattoir as much as anything. But the truth is that those imperfect animal sacrifices were preparing the way for the final unblemished sacrifice of Jesus. The need for ”the shedding of blood” points to ‘the exceeding sinfulness of sin’, and this is not something people like to think about today- generally speaking.

“The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.” Oswald Chambers.

This is such a holy mystery that I almost feel reticent to say anything for fear of saying too much, But I recognise that it is because of the blood of Jesus that we may approach (with boldness) the Holy of holies, and make our dwelling there.

“On the back of Satan’s neck is a nail scarred footprint.” C. S. Lewis

Hebrews 9:16,17: Mentioned in the will

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 

When my mum’s Aunt died some years ago now, she left her a small amount of money in her will. My mum looked forward to buying a new sofa with the money, because she and my dad, while never living in poverty, didn’t have very much, comparatively speaking. Money was habitually tight. But on the cold January day mum travelled to the Scottish borders for her Auntie’s funeral, she was already unwell, and was soon to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. When she received that news, she said it put everything else into perspective. Material possessions meant nothing in comparison with having health.

But believers are the beneficiaries of a will that brings riches both in life and beyond death. It is because Christ died to bring it into effect – then rose from the dead, and now appears for us in God’s presence.

What it is to be ‘mentioned’ in this will! It is no small inheritance we come into. As an old song says, ‘I’m richer than a millionaire…’

Hebrews 9:15: The gospel changes everything

 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.

Apparently, Tim Keller, the well known preacher and author who died recently, would repeatedly remind his team that it is the gospel that truly changes everything.

‘My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought;

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul.

It is well with my soul…’

…and it is all because of Jesus.

Note that verse 15 begins with the words: ‘For this reason…’ It causes us to look back. In the previous verses (11-14) the writer has described the perfection of Christ’s offering of Himself – of His own blood; He has spoken about its superiority to all that came before in the Jewish system. His sacrifice can bring cleansing to the inside of a person, and not just the outside. This is good news for all who come to Jesus for eternal redemption (v.12).

This gospel really does change everything.

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