Death of a testator

Hebrews 9:1-10:18, our study passage, reflects on a very important event Jesus’ death and its meaning to be seen in the imagery of the Old Testament. The author spins from the description of the earthly tabernacle into the idea of shedding of blood as a requirement for sin and declares the Blood of Christ was sealed proof of our eternal salvation.

Rules, Robes, and Rituals

The author describes the Earthly Tabernacle and its structure, its workers (priests) and their practices to lead his audience into an understanding of its limitations. The occasional visit to the “Holy of Holies” (Devir), the innermost and most sacred area of the ancient Tabernacle, showed only that the way to this place of relationship with God was “not yet disclosed.” The author shows that these were “only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” 9:10.

The Blood of Christ

Just as the first covenant was established by the blood of animals, this new covenant is established by the blood of Christ. The author is using a legal language to show how a will is executed and becomes active only when the testator has died. In the same way the new covenant is established by the death of Christ. This covenant is superior in many ways because of the precious blood of Christ but also because “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.” Christ’s death is also a single permanent act that requires no repetition.

The physical death of Christ was also an essential doctrine, that the early Church emphasized as a significant event. Christ himself was determined to face death (Luke 9:51) and explained his death as a pathway to the Holy Spirit’s coming (John 16:7). There is also a martyr’s aspect to Christ death he was like the grain of wheat that falls down so it will not remain alone (John 12:24) . As Kierkegaard has said “The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Christ’s ministry lead to this culmination point of his ministry in restoring mankind to God.

We also discussed the Heb 9:28 which states “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.” – as representing the Second Coming. This basically means His Second Coming, which is yet in the future, will not result in an additional atonement. The author is trying to emphasize the “once-for-all” nature of Christ’s death. There is nothing more needed either from us or from anyone else (even in the future) to restore us to God.

The Great Exchange

In Hebrews 10, Hebrew’s author (proficient in Greek) takes on this a poetic segment in Psalms to talk about the great exchange. The idea comes from Psalms 40:6-8, where he illustrates the Great Exchange done by Christ’s death. The exchange between the “sacrifice and offering” – that are not pleasing to God – to a “body God has prepared” – one that will restore to man to God by writing his law into our hearts. The idea that sacrifice and offering are not pleasing to God are found in multiple scripture passages 1 Sam 15:22, Ps 50:8-10, Ps 51:16.

The author is trying to point his Hebrew audience that they should not be surprised that our “sacrifice and offering” cannot please God. But God himself has prepared a “body” for our salvation. Christ death and the sacrifice of his flesh (body) restores us to God to have the mind of Christ written in our minds and our hearts as seen in Jer 31:33 and the result of such as relationship is “their sins I will remember no more” Jer 31:34. The Psalmist “sets aside the first to establish the second” – the first being the old covenant using sacrifices, the second being renewal of our mind through the death of Christ. As stated in Heb 9:14 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”