13 Jun Hebrews 14: The better blood
Hebrews 9:22-28 – 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
If you read the sermon title and thought that this is an episode of Twilight, it is not your fault. Let me start by asking a few questions. How many of you like to eat good food? How many of you like to cook good food? How many of you like to eat and cook good food? I am of the first type. I love to eat good food, but I have zero cooking skill. Unless you consider making instant noodle and rice as cooking. But I love to eat good food so much that I would go the extra mile for it. Recently, I went to Melbourne for training. I am not a big fan of Melbourne, especially Melbourne’s weather. But there is one thing that I absolutely love about Melbourne. And that is LUNE croissant. I love LUNE. So, on my last day in Melbourne, I planned to go to LUNE before making my way to the airport. I checked google and it said that the store closed at 3 PM. I had a lunch invitation at 12:30 PM. I thought I had plenty of time. But the lunch went longer than I expected, and my host, who shall remain unnamed, is a slow driver. He dropped me at the closest street, and I quickly ran toward LUNE. And by the time I got there, it was 3:04 PM. I was few minutes late. And the door was already locked. So, I knocked at the glass door and showed my pleading face. And to my surprise, they unlocked the door and let me in as their last customer. This would not happen in Sydney. In Sydney, the moment that door is locked, it remains locked until the next business day. And I thought, “I love Melbourne.” So, in my excitement, I told the lady at the counter, “How many croissants do you have left? I’ll take all of them back to Sydney.” Because I only saw few croissants left at the counter behind her. Then she kindly replied, “Oh, we have a lot of fresh batches.” And she pointed me to the right, and I saw a lot of fresh croissants. And if you do not know, LUNE croissant is expensive. So, I said, “Can I change that to just a box please?” I can’t afford to buy all those croissants. I also got another two croissants for me to eat right away. And let me tell you, it was beyond delicious. The crisp, the softness, and the taste, it was like heaven in your mouth.
But here is my point. As good as that croissant was, for me it was only a croissant. I enjoyed it but it was only a piece of bread. I did not understand the complexity of making a good croissant. In my mind, every croissant should taste like LUNE. After all, it was only a piece of bread. How hard could it be? But if you talk to a pastry chef, they will tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to make a good croissant. For people like me who have no idea how to cook, eating good food is simply enjoyment. But for those who love to cook, eating good food is more than just enjoyment. Chefs can appreciate good food more because they understand the process behind making good food.
I am not a chef, but I am a preacher. Preachers are like chefs. And let me tell you, writing a good sermon takes a lot of hard work. Despite what some might think, it doesn’t happen by simply opening the Bible on Saturday night and pray to God for inspiration. I know some well-known pastors who do that, but sorry to say, their sermons are not good. Their sermons are equivalent to instant noodle. It also doesn’t happen by simply studying the passage. Studying the passage is like preparing the ingredients. I can’t just serve you the ingredients by themselves. It would be like eating a cup of flour, a spoonful of garlic, and a raw chicken on its own. It is bizarre. I have to use the ingredients and mix them together to cook a meal for you. That is why I really appreciate people who preach a good sermon. I know all the hard work they put into making that sermon. Recently, I was talking to Nate about the process of my sermon preparation. And he said, “Wow, I did not know it was that hard to prepare a good sermon. It makes me appreciate your sermon more.” And I thought, “Ha! Maybe I should tell everyone in RSI the process of my sermon preparation so that no one would fall asleep during the sermon.” The point is, when we know not only what’s being done but also how it is done, it makes us appreciate that thing more. Isn’t that true?
And that is one of my goals through this series. Especially in Hebrews chapter 7 to 10. Some of you might be wondering, “Yos, why do I need to know all these details about Jesus’ sacrifice? What benefit do I gain from it? I am not a Bible scholar. I do not need to know all the details behind the sacrifice. That’s your job. All I need to know is that Jesus died for me. That’s enough.” In the last few weeks, we learned about the better priesthood, the better covenant, the better tabernacle, and today, the better blood. If you go to a conference on church growth, they will tell you not to do what we do. Why? Because these sermons are very theological and highly unpopular. Fun fact: Our last few sermons on Hebrews are the least streamed sermons both on YouTube and Spotify. Church growth conference says that what the people in the church need is sermons that are easy to digest and applicable. That’s the key to church growth. But the author of the book of Hebrews argues otherwise. But before I continue, let me applaud you for a bit. I consider myself extremely blessed to be your pastor. The last few sermons have been very theologically dense, but you are still here. You haven’t move church. You allow me to preach the Bible. That is very encouraging. Some of you are like, “It’s not like I have a choice.” But hey, what matters is that you are still here. And not only that, but I talked to some of you, and you are taking the book of Hebrews really well. You show eagerness and desire to learn more about the Bible. You have no idea how encouraging it is for me as your pastor to witness that. I am very blessed to be your pastor.
I know these sermons are not easy to digest but it is necessary. If you remember, the author calls his argument from Hebrews chapter 7 to 10 the solid food of the Christian faith. He is not content for his audience to settle with Christian milk. He tells them that they need solid food in chapter 5. And then he spends the whole chapter 6 preparing his audience for the solid food. If it takes him one chapter to get his audience ready, it takes us three years. In God’s providence, we have three years gap between the sermon on Hebrews chapter 6 and 7. And in giving us solid food, the author not only wants us to know what Jesus has done but also how Jesus did it. Why? Listen. Knowing how Jesus accomplished our salvation increases our appreciation and awe of the gospel. We cannot be in awe of what Jesus has done for us unless we understand how he did it and what it cost him. And one of the main reasons why it is easy for us to neglect the gospel is because we never know the hard work Jesus did for our salvation. We only know the what but not the how. And in Hebrews chapter 7 to 10, the author basically opens God’s kitchen for us to see the process behind our salvation. He not only tells us what Jesus has done but also how Jesus did it. And once we see how Jesus did it, it increases our appreciation and awe of the gospel. And that’s the goal.
Remember the context of the book of Hebrews. There are many Jews who question whether it is worth it to follow Jesus or not. Because following Jesus is costly. Following Jesus costs them their lives, reputations, properties, families and communities. And many Jewish Christians consider turning their back on Jesus and return to Judaism. And to these people, the author of Hebrews is saying, “Don’t do it. Don’t go back to Judaism. What Jesus has done for you is far better and greater than all the Old Testament symbols. Everything in the Old Testament is only a shadow that points to Jesus.” That is his main argument in the book. Jesus is better. And in this passage, he shows that Jesus is better by showing how Jesus’s blood guaranteed our salvation.
I separate tonight’s passage into three parts. The will; The better blood; The second coming.
Hebrews 9:15-17 – 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
Verse 15 begins with the word, therefore. And every time we see the word, therefore, we need to ask what it is there for. And it brings us to our last few sermons, the fact that we have Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant. Jesus has purified our conscience and gives us direct access to God’s presence. We no longer have to be afraid of whether God will accept us or not. Because of Jesus, God will never reject his people. And this is what the new covenant is all about. In the new covenant, God will never forsake his people. He will be their God and they shall be his people. Everyone from the least to the greatest will know God personally. God will deal with the problem of sins once and for all. And because of it, there will be nothing that can stop God to be with his people. And the people of God will receive the promised eternal inheritance, where God will dwell among them, and they will reign with God forever. And now the author of Hebrews wants the people of God to be assured that the promise of the new covenant is theirs. How? “Since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” And to explain what he means, he gives us the analogy of a will.
We can’t see it in English translation, but the word will and covenant are the same word in Greek, “diatheke.” He is not saying that a covenant and a will are the same. They are different. But he explains that a covenant works in a similar way as a will. What is a will? A will is a legal document paper that a person writes down to say what should be done with his possession after he dies. But a will only takes effect at the death of the person who makes the will. As long as the person who makes the will is alive, his will is not in force. And whatever written in the will is unnegotiable and unchangeable. A will is decided by the one who writes the will. Let me give you an example. A few years ago, my dad wrote his will. I know what is in his will, but I am not going to tell you. But let’s say that my dad apparently has a Ferrari, a private villa and a private jet that he hides from me. And he also has a Mazda 2. And he writes in his will that the Ferrari, villa and jet will be mine once he passes away, and my sister will get the Mazda 2. That is his inheritance for us. Now, it does not matter how badly I want those things, as long as my dad is alive, those inheritances are not mine. I will only receive it once my dad die. And once my dad dies, those inheritances are legally mine. And it does not matter how much my sister wants the Ferrari, it is mine, baby. She must be content with her Mazda 2. A will is not decided by how much we want it but by the person who writes the will. Are you with me? In the same way, the author of Hebrews tells us that God’s promised eternal inheritance is legally ours because a death has occurred. And it is unchangeable. The death of Jesus Christ has guaranteed our eternal inheritance for us.
But pay attention to the role Jesus plays in giving us the promised eternal inheritance. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is not only the one who makes the will, but he is also the executor of the will. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. This is massive. No one can do this but him. Think about it. A will only come to force after the death of the person who makes the will. And a person who died, cannot be the executor of the will. They need a lawyer to execute the will. But Jesus is both. In other words, get this. Jesus is not only the one who releases God’s will for us, but he is also the one who makes sure we receive the promised eternal inheritance. How is it possible? Because Jesus does not remain dead. By his death, Jesus releases God’s will for us. But then Jesus is resurrected from the dead. And he enters God’s presence to execute God’s will for us. So, Jesus not only gives us the best inheritance ever, but he also lives to make sure that we receive it. What an incredible mediator we have in Jesus. And listen to the author’s argument on why Jesus had to die for us to live in a new covenant.
The better blood
Hebrews 9:18-22 – 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The author tells us that the importance of blood in making a covenant effective is not something new in the new covenant. He says that even the old covenant was made effective with blood. In other words, God has always worked this way. In the days of Moses, when the people of Israel first agreed to the covenant, Moses sprinkled blood on them and the book of the law. But that’s not enough. Moses also sprinkled blood on all the vessels used in worship to God. Blood would be sprinkled over the altar, inside the tabernacle, and even inside the Most Holy place where the ark of the covenant was. So, in the old covenant, we would find blood everywhere. It was extremely bloody. Why? The author writes, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
It teaches us a very important lesson. Paul tells us that the wage of sin is death. It means that every sin demands death. And God is a holy God. A holy God cannot tolerate even a speck of sin. For every sin, there must be death. That is why for God to forgive sin, blood must be shed. Because blood is what gives life. Without blood, there is no life. In other words, for God to forgive sin in the old covenant, there must be a substitutionary sacrifice. For example, think about what happened during the 10th plague in Egypt. God sent his angels of death to kill every firstborn of every family in Egypt. It is a way for God to say that every family had a debt of sin that must be paid with death. But God also gave a way out for the Israelites. Every household was to kill a spotless lamb and sprinkled the lamb’s blood on their doorpost. And when the angels of death saw the blood, they would pass over the house. So, everything in the old covenant needed to be sprinkled with blood as a way to teach that we cannot approach and have a relationship with God until sin is paid for. For God to make a covenant with his people, blood must be shed. This is true for both the old covenant and the new covenant. But the difference is that in the new covenant, we no longer need the blood of goats and bulls because the better blood was already shed for us.
Hebrews 9:23-26 – 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
This is massive. Stick with me. Remember that the earthly tabernacle is simply a copy of the heavenly tabernacle. And if the copy needed the blood of bulls and goats, the real tabernacle needs a greater sacrifice. Like in monopoly, we can buy a house using monopoly money. But in the real world, it does not matter how much monopoly money we have, we can’t buy a house with it. We need greater money. It makes sense. The heavenly things need a greater sacrifice because they represent greater realities. Now, let’s hit the pause button here. It makes sense for the earthly things to be purified because everything on earth is tainted with sin. But what about heavenly things? Why do they need to be purified? Is heaven defiled? Of course not. Do you know why heavenly things need to be purified? Listen to verse 24. Hebrews 9:24 – For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. So, when Jesus entered God’s presence, he did so on our behalf. We are there with him. In other words, we are what need cleansing. Jesus stands in the presence of God, carrying with him all our sins and failures. He is standing in the presence of the holy God to represent us. Jesus is doing the work of the high priest to represent the people of God before God.
But unlike all the high priests in the old covenant, Jesus entered God’s presence with the better blood. In the old covenant, every high priest entered the holy place with the blood of bulls and goats. And they needed to offer sacrifices and continue to do the same ritual year after year. But Jesus is different. He did not need to offer sacrifices repeatedly every year. Why? Verse 26. I absolutely love this verse. Hebrews 9:26 – for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Listen. Jesus did not need to offer sacrifice repeatedly because his sacrifice is a far better sacrifice than the sacrifice of goats and bulls. The blood Jesus offered is far better blood than the blood of goats and bulls. Jesus only needed to offer it once for all. Why? Because the sacrifice Jesus offered is none other than himself. The blood that was shed was none other than the blood of the most valuable person in the universe himself. That is why Jesus’ sacrifice is the once for all sacrifice.
Now, think about what it means for Jesus to be the once for all sacrifice. Don’t rush over it. This is absolutely stunning. It means that unlike sacrifices in the old covenant, there is no need for repeated sacrifice in the new covenant. Jesus’ sacrifice is completely effective. It cannot happen more than once because Jesus’ sacrifice has completely paid the debt of sin. God’s justice will not allow extra payments. It also means that Jesus’ sacrifice deal with the problem of sin decisively. The death of Jesus paid the penalty of sin, broke the power of sin, and will one day remove the presence of sin. It also means that Jesus’ sacrifice covers every believer in the past, present and future. So, listen to what is ours because of Jesus. In Jesus, we have the forgiveness that covers our past, present and future sins; We have a mediator who stands on our behalf in the presence of God; We have the promised eternal inheritance. And all of these are ours not because we work hard to earn it but because of Jesus’ once for all sacrifice.
Let me tell you what it means for us. Two things. First, we can have the confidence to enter God’s presence. It means that it doesn’t matter who we are, it does not matter what we have done, it does not matter what kind of sins we are struggling with right now, if we put our faith in Jesus, when God looks at us, he does not look our sins, but he sees the once for all sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus stands in the presence of God on our behalf. So, in all our weaknesses and sins, what God sees in us is Jesus’s perfect righteousness. That is why God will never ever reject us. We are always welcomed into God’s presence because the blood of Jesus has put away our sins. We do not represent ourselves, but Jesus represents us perfectly before God. So, there is an invitation for us to enter the presence of God. A lot of time we feel like we have to clean ourselves before we come to God. But that’s the problem. We cannot clean ourselves. And the enemy is trying to lie to us. He tries to convince us, “You are not good enough to be in God’s presence. Do I need to remind you of the thoughts you had, the words you said, and the things you did? Do you think God will accept you? God is disgusted with you. He cannot stand your presence. Stay away from him.” But the good news is that Jesus has come to cleanse us from our sins. And he is right now in the presence of God, mediating for us with his finished work at the cross. So, we can always enter the presence of God and he will never reject us. God does not see the guilt of what we did last night. He does not see what we did last week or even 10 years from now. He does not see us in our sins. He sees the blood of Jesus over us. He sees Jesus’ righteousness over us. We can come boldly into his presence.
Second, we can have the assurance of salvation. I don’t know about you but there was a time in my life that I continually raised my hand whenever the pastor gave an altar call to give our lives to God. I think I got saved over 100 times. Why? Because I was never assured of my salvation. I assumed that once I gave my life to God, then I won’t have to deal with sin anymore. I would no longer have lust issue as I did before. But the next morning when I woke up, I was still the same old sinner struggling with the same old sin. And I questioned whether I was truly saved or not. Does anyone know what I am talking about? That’s why I kept responding to the invitation to get saved. I relied on my own ability to get saved. But the good news of the gospel is that we are not saved by our ability but by Jesus’ once for all sacrifice. When Jesus saved us, he saved us once for all. Jesus has completed his work and he has appeared before God on our behalf. The question is not whether we are good enough in front of God. Because the answer is always no does not matter how hard we try. The question is whether Jesus’ sacrifice is good enough for God. And the answer is always yes. And because of Jesus once for all sacrifice, God’s love for us is forever. There is nothing good we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing bad we can do to make God love us less. God will never disinherit us. We can be secured in our salvation. And I understand the objection that you might have. You are asking right now, “If that’s true, won’t people live however they like and abuse the grace of God?” I am not going to fully answer it today. The author will answer it for us when we get to chapter 10. But he does give us a hint of the answer. Let’s look at the next point.
The second coming
Hebrews 9:27-28 – 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
First, there is bad news. The bad news is that all of us will die. And our death is no accident. We might die through an accident, sickness, or disaster, but it is not an accident in front of God. Nothing catches God by surprise. All our days are written in his book. And God has arranged our death. He appointed it. All of us have a date with death. And unlike a blind date, we cannot bail out on this date. The last time I checked, the death rate of humankind is 100%. Everyone will die. And we only get to die once. It means that there is no such thing as reincarnation. We will not be reborn as the next Bill Gates if we do good in life and will not be reborn as a cat if we do bad in life. We only get to die once, and after that comes judgement. It means that death is not the end of our existence. So here is another bad news. All of us will face judgement. Without exception.
I know this is not popular in our culture, but I need to say it. My friend, hell is real. For those who do not put their faith in Jesus, your future is certain. You will be judged. What is waiting for you after death is not heaven but hell. If you continue to live in sin and refuse to trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you will go to hell. And let me tell you something about hell. It is eternal. It knows no end. You will be burned for eternity without a moment of rest. We can argue that whether the fire of hell is literal or not, but the point remains the same. Hell is a place of eternal torment. Let me put it this way. A few years ago, I dislocated my knee, and I went to see a physio to strengthen my knee. One of the exercises that he gave me to train my knee was to squat at a 90-degree angle and stayed there for 45 seconds. It was extremely painful. But knowing that I only needed to hold that painful position for 45 seconds helped me to go through the exercise. Basically, in the last 10 seconds, I started counting down toward the moment I would not be in pain anymore. But hell is eternal. There is no countdown. There won’t be a single second of rest in your pain and suffering. You might think that hell is not real. You might think that your life is filled with joy right now. But unless you put your faith in Jesus, a day is coming when that joy will run out and you will be judged.
But for those who put their faith in Jesus, there is good news. Yes, we will be judged. But on that judgement day, we will rejoice. Because we will be found not in our own righteousness but Jesus’ perfect righteousness. On that day, we will hear the voice of our Master, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter to the joy of my kingdom.” And that is why today we eagerly wait for Jesus’ second coming. Here is what happened. In the old covenant, when the high priest entered God’s presence once a year, the Israelites were eagerly waiting for him to return. Because if the high priest returned safely, it means that his sacrifices were accepted by God. And the Israelites could breathe for another year before the process had to be repeated all over. So, while the high priest entered God’s presence, the people were eagerly waiting for him to return. And the author uses the same image to describe Jesus and us.
Jesus has entered God’s presence once for all. Jesus has offered himself as the once for all sacrifice. And God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. A day is coming where Jesus will return to us. And we eagerly wait for his return. He will appear to us a second time. But he will not appear a second time to deal with sin. Oh no. The problem of sin was dealt with in his first coming. He is not coming back to repeat his sacrifice. It is done. But Jesus will return to save us from judgement. Jesus will return to bring us to him and usher us into a new era where there will be no more sin, pain and suffering. He will appear a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. It means that if we put our faith in Jesus, right now we are eagerly waiting for his return. We eagerly wait for the day that we shall see him face to face. Heaven is not a place for those who are afraid of hell. Heaven is a place for those who loves Jesus and longs for his return.
Now, here is my concern and I am done. There are many of us who do not long for Jesus’ second coming. In fact, some of us are afraid of it. Am I right? There were times that I used to be afraid that Jesus might return the next day. I thought of Jesus’ second coming as a catastrophe. Especially when the preacher told me that on judgement day, God would play a hidden tape that record every single sin I have ever committed in my life in front of everyone. That terrified me. And maybe that’s how some of us think about judgement day. No wonder we are terrified of it. While the truth is, what’s waiting for us at judgement day is not terror but joy. Jesus has paid the penalty of all our sins once for all and we are completely covered in his blood. If we put our faith in Jesus, what is waiting for us on judgement day is not eternal punishment but eternal inheritance; Not condemnation but everlasting love. That is what God has in store for us at Jesus’ second coming. That is why we eagerly wait for his return.
So, if you say you are a Christian, but you are not eagerly waiting for his return, I have a deep concern for you. Because there is this phony kind of Christianity that offers you your best life now and makes you satisfied with this world. And you bought into their lies. And because of it, you try to live your best life now and you do not want Jesus to return. Maybe you are so consumed in the affairs of daily life now that you are not captivated by what lies ahead of you. You no longer long for Jesus’ return because you are in love with this world. You are so comfortable with what you have today that you don’t look forward to your eternal inheritance. You find pleasure in living in sin that you do not think much of Jesus’ sacrifice for you. You have no eager expectation of Jesus’ return. If that’s you, let me be straight with you. Maybe you are not saved. Maybe you have yet to put your faith in Jesus. You might be in church, but church attendance does not make you a Christian. If that is you, I urge you to turn from the world and turn to Jesus. Receive Jesus not just as your out of hell card, but as your eternal bridegroom and Lord. Receive him as the treasure that you cannot live without. Receive him in a way that makes you long for his return.
Friends, we may not know when Jesus will return. But because of what Jesus has already done, we can look forward to that day with eager longing. Jesus has dealt with sin once for all and he will return to bring us to himself. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, come. Let’s pray.
- Why is it important for us to know not only the result but also the process? Give some examples.
- Explain the similarities and differences between “will” and “new covenant.”
- Why do the heavenly things need to be purified?
- Think about what it means for Jesus to be the once for all sacrifice (Forgiveness of our past, present and future sins; Mediator on our behalf; Promised eternal inheritance). Which one stuck out the most for you and why?
- What comes to your mind when you think of Jesus’ second coming? Is it in line with what the author of Hebrews tells us?
- How can we cultivate the desire to long for Jesus’ return? Give specific applications.