With Adam and Eve making a total mess of things and bringing the curse of death upon the whole human family, how is it possible that any of that family may have an eternal inheritance of life and the blessings of glory?
The first sacrifice, yet in the garden, was an innocent animal to provide covering for the guilty pair. As time went by, more specific commands were given as to how substitutionary sacrifices were to be made. These were like credit card payments – temporary. A true and perfect payment needed to follow, and it needed to be of the same stuff as the guilty race, yet perfect. The only way it could be done is the way it was done: by the God-man Jesus Christ who was both the perfect sacrifice and the perfect priest.
The writer to the Hebrews is telling them that Christ was a priest beyond the order and function of any priest ever in Israel – beyond Moses and certainly beyond the current sinner occupying that position in Jerusalem at the time of his letter. Those guys went into an earthly tabernacle – appearing twice before the ark to sprinkle blood. They first had to atone for themselves, since they were sinners, and then a second time as representative of the people. Christ, however, made his appearance, not in some place of human construction, but before God himself. And he appeared once (since he was sinless), and he came not with animal blood, but with his own human blood as our perfect sacrifice for sin.
There is an argument made here from the lesser to the greater. It is saying that, if the old system made the worshipper ceremonially clean on the outside (and it did!), then how much more will the blood of Christ make the worshipper clean all the way through (and it does!). The writer also again reiterates that Christ did this one time – not year after year after year. Indeed, it could be summarized by his final words … IT IS FINISHED!
The middle section of the reading today might give you a bit of trouble (vss. 16-22). Let me illustrate this: I have once been the executor of a last will and testament – of my last surviving parent, my mother. Among the necessary documents for the will to be attested as true and able to be enforced was the actual certificate of death. This may seem very obvious, but, for any will or testament to go into effect, there must be the death of the one who made it. Even if we know we are written into someone’s will, we cannot go out and use those resources and claim them as our own – the person must first die. And so, for us to inherit and lay claim to the benefits of salvation, it was necessary for a death to take place … done of course by Christ, through which we become the beneficiaries – inheriting the amazing benefits of atonement, propitiation, expiation, redemption, reconciliation, etc.
It is all guaranteed. It is finished.
Hebrews 9:11 – But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 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!
15 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.
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.
23 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.