Vol. 10 — No. 14 April 6, 1969
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God purge your conscience from dead works to Serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgression that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
In Christ Jesus, who shed His holy, precious blood to make satisfaction for our sins, Fellow Redeemed:
Each Sunday morning hour of worship is, as far as it is possible, designed to lead you into a worship experience that revolves about an integrated theme. The hymns that are chosen are selected for the message they bring. Sometimes it is not possible to find a single, much less three hymns that will give expression to the thought of the day. But this morning is an exception.
We opened our worship by singing:
Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred Head
For such a worm as I?
The pre-sermon hymn is, if possible, to serve as a prelude to the message of the day. We have just sung:
Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the Heavenly Lamb
Takes all our sins away;
A Sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
The theme of today’s message is clearly struck by those words. Looking ahead we find that the post sermon hymn sums up our message:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
By this time you should have caught the theme of today’s worship. In a word—it’s BLOOD! That is an extremely important theme, for as the Spirit of God testifies in this same chapter of our text, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” We are alive and live spiritually only in and through and by the gift of forgiveness. We can only die in such a way as to live eternally if we possess this gift—forgiveness. But that gift has been made possible only by the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission.”
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, more than any other of the holy writers, shows the organic unity of the Old and New Testaments. But he does that by way of contrast, for his aim and purpose was to keep Jewish Christians from abandoning Christ and returning to the Old Testament sacrifices and forms of worship. We stand in no danger of doing that, but we should understand how the shadows of the Old Testament worship became body and reality in Christ. Let us consider then this morning:
In the Old Testament forms of worship blood was frequently sprinkled. But there had to he a place where this was done. The most important place was the tabernacle, and the most important time was the great Day of Atonement. Our text begins with a contrast as to the place where the blood was brought in the Old and then in the New Testament times. “But Christ being come an high priest of good tidings to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building…entered in once into the holy place.”
In the first part of this chapter the writer had described the tabernacle, whose architectural plan God had given to Moses in the wilderness. This became the pattern also for the more permanent construction of the temple. The tabernacle was a rectangular building of two rooms. The first room was called the Holy Place. This contained the seven-armed candlestick, the table for the shewbread and the altar for the burning of incense. This part of the tabernacle was in daily use. For example, Zacharias was burning incense in this part of the temple when Gabriel appeared unto him and told him that his aged wife would bear a son. The inner chamber was called the Holy of Holies. The two rooms were separated by a thick curtain. The chief article of furniture in the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, a rectangular box that contained the pot of manna, Aaron’s budding rod and the two tables of the law. On the top of the ark stood the two cherubims, with wings outstretched over the mercy-seat. It was here at the mercy-seat that the annual drama was performed when the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood of a goat on the mercy-seat for the expiation or covering of the sins of the people condemned by the two tables of the law. So it was in the Old Testament times.
The way of the New Testament was different. Christ did not carry His blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it on the mercy-seat. When He died, that thick curtain miraculously split from top to bottom, signifying that the way of the Old had been replaced by the way of the New. Access to God was now available for all, for Christ had entered the holy place of heaven, into that tabernacle not made with hands and so great and more perfect than the earthly tabernacle. He presented His blood before the Judge of all flesh as the covering for the sins of all men.
Here we see another contrast between the way of the Old as compared with the way of the New:
Christ functioned as high priest. He entered the tabernacle, as did the high priest on the Day of Atonement. But he didn’t carry the blood of animals into the heavenly tabernacle, for “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
In the way of the Old the high priest first had to take the blood of a bullock and sprinkle with his finger upon the mercy-seat for the atonement of his own sins. Then he had to take the blood of the goat and sprinkle it as an atonement for the sins of the people. So it was on that great day, and so also on every day of the year. The blood of beasts was used to expiate, to propitiate, to cover, to make atonement for the sins of the people. The truth that these daily and weekly and monthly and annual rites proclaimed is the basic truth expressed in this chapter that “without shedding of blood is no remission.” Yet every believing Israelite knew that the blood of an innocent animal in no way could remove his sin and guilt. I say—every believing Israelite knew this. There were those who imagined that just the slaying of sacrificial animals in accordance with the command of God would in some way right things with their God. There are always those who find false comfort in the mechanical performance of religious duties.
The sprinkling of the sacrificial blood pointed to the necessity of the shedding of blood as it pointed out the need of a better and more effectual blood. That blood was the blood of the Lamb of God. Our Lord Jesus shed His own blood and presented that blood in the heavenly tabernacle as the covering for our sins.
What He did, He did once. Herein lies a great difference between the way of the Old and the way of the New:
The bloody sacrifies for the atonement of sin were the heart and core of Old Testament worship. There were evening and morning sacrifices, weekly sacrifices, sacrifices of the new moon and the great annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement and the Passover. Again and again the blood of the Sacrificial animals was shed. The same individual sacrificed for himself again and again. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of sacrificial animals shed their life’s blood to point out the need for the shedding of blood to gain remission of sins and to symbolize that which was to come.
When the way of the New was unfolded on Calvary’s cross, it was revealed that blood would be shed but once. Once would be sufficient to obtain eternal redemption. This is a thought that the writer of this letter repeats again and again. We have our confirmation children memorize one of the passages which emphasizes this ONCE. It’s the passage that describes Christ as High Priest in contrast to the Old Testament high priests: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high preists, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once; when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27.
ONCE—that’s sufficient! When Christ cried out, “It is finished,” it was finished and stands complete till the end of time. When His Father raised Him on the third day, He put His stamp of approval on that one shedding of blood. It is this simple truth that lays bear the blasphemy of the Roman Catholic mass—which continues endlessly sacrificing Christ for the sins of the living and the dead, albeit in an unbloody manner.
A final contrast between the Old and the New can be seen:
The writer refers to an Old Testament custom to illustrate the greater efficacy of the New Testament blood of Christ. The custom was that of using the ashes of an heifer for the purifying of the flesh. A red heifer was burned completely, “her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung.” Then also some “cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet” were burned with it. The ashes were kept, then mixed with water and used as “a purification for sin.” If anyone touched a corpse or if a death occurred in a tent, the person and place that came into contract with the corpse would be unclean for seven days. The purification rites consisted in being sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer mixed with water. All of this seems strange to us. The rite of purifying the flesh enabled the unclean person to participate in the common worship once again. This was the purifying of the flesh.
Christ’s blood achieved much more. It purifies the conscience from dead works to serve the living God! Perhaps an illustration can make this matter clear to our minds. When Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Christ from the cross, they thereby made themselves levitically unclean, and they had to purify themselves before they could participate in the common worship. But when Peter denied his Lord three times, he made himself unclean in a graver manner. This uncleanness could not be cleansed by the ashes of a red heifer. The Lord Jesus had to absolve Him from this dead work and so purge his conscience. This was the reason for the shedding of His blood. Our Lord shed His blood to purge our consciences from dead works, which is a fitting term for all sin. That is the negative side. The positive side is that the blood of Christ becomes the enabling and motivating power to move us to serve the living God.
The final verse pictures the efficacy of Christ’s blood in that it gives the promise of an eternal inheritance. The land of Canaan was the temporal inheritance of God’s Old Testament people. Our inheritance is the Heavenly Canaan—not a temporary, but an eternal inheritance. The inhabitants of heaven are there through the power of Christ’s blood. If we want a share of that inheritance, it can and will be given us only through that same blood. That is why we pray:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
In these before my God I’ll stand
When I shall reach the heavenly land. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.