A study of the Book of Hebrews is as intricate a study as Astrophysics. Astrophysics is the branch of science that deals with the physics of stellar phenomena. It is the study of things so mysterious and so far away there are new discoveries almost every day. But much of Astrophysics is nothing more than one tiny fact, here or there, and then a big theory about it. Eventually that theory is proved or disproved, but in the mean time there are a dozen more theories developed out of it.
The Book of Hebrews is fascinating and interesting, first because it deals with the heart of Heaven itself – more than many other books of the Bible. It takes Biblical history and uses aspects of that history as windows into the throne room of Jehovah. And it was written to people with a Hebrew heritage and mind-set, meaning that we Gentiles sometimes jump to improper conclusions and applications, because we don’t apply that fact. This book is challenging in that it deals with some of the allegorical types of the Old Testament. Types and allegories are difficult by their very nature, taking different students in different directions. What are the lessons behind the burnt offering or the clothing of the High Priest? Hebrews bridges the gap between the faith and life of the Old Testament saints and those of the New. Hebrews provides commentary on some really difficult Old Testament scriptures. But THEN scattered throughout the complexity and challenge are statements so plain, so wonderful, and so universal that they are among the most blessed in the Bible.
And our scripture from chapter 9 is an illustration of all of this. These six verses contain some of the richest ore ever mined from the Word of God. Some of it is buried and hidden, while some of it lays on the surface, ready to be easily picked. I’m not a great miner, but I think that together we can glean a golden nugget or two. Look at verse 23 as an example: “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” As Paul looks back over the first eight chapters of Hebrews, he takes note of several features of the Old Testament – things like the tabernacle, the priests, their duties and their sacrifices. They were merely patterns of Heavenly things, and they needed to be purified with the sacrificial blood which he had been describing earlier in this chapter. And then he says that “the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these.” Does that mean that things in Heaven are defiled and need sacrificial blood in order to be cleansed? No, that is nonsense, and yet there is some debate as to what exactly it does mean.
Some of the choicest verses in this book are surrounded by astrologically deep stuff. But then again, as I just said, some statements here are blatantly obvious. This morning, I would like you to see from this scripture the three-fold appearance of Lord Jesus Christ.
First, Christ Jesus appeared once TO PUT AWAY SIN – verse 26.
“Now once in the end of the world hath (Christ) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” I wonder if Paul himself were here to read this scripture how he would have emphasized these words? Would he say, “CHRIST appeared once to put away sin.” Or would it be, “Christ APPEARED ONCE to put away sin.” Or would it be, “Christ appeared once to PUT AWAY SIN.” Each inflection could be developed into its own sermon. But I personally think Paul was stressing the singleness of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin.
Throughout the history of Israel, tens of thousands of blood offerings were made at the command of the Lord. Ie., there were evening and morning sacrifices every day, plus sin, peace and trespass offerings. There were multiplied hundreds of sacrifices at the dedication of the temple and tabernacle. Thousands of lambs were sacrifices each Passover, and there was the yearly Atonement sacrifices. All in all there may have been millions of animals slain in sacrifice to the Lord throughout the centuries.
But there was only ONE sacrifice of Christ, and that special offering put an end to all the others. Few things are perfect, and as a result never need repeating; Christ’s sacrifice was one of them. As a result, the Bible in no way invites a weekly or daily sacrifice of Christ today, as in the Catholic mass. In fact, it directly teaches against it: “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin ONCE: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” – Romans 6:9-10. “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” – Hebrews 9:12.
Some man-made religions argue the necessity of spiritually re-sacrificing Christ for the sake of those Christians who have lost their salvation through sin. In response to that we say, there is no second sacrifice of Christ of any kind, period. And second, no true Christian will ever loose his salvation, because it is not his in the first place – it is Christ’s salvation from beginning to end, and we are merely recipients of that great blessing. It is impossible for a saint of God to sin, or die himself out, of eternal life. The terms “death” and “eternal life” don’t really belong in the same sentence. There has been, is, and will only be one, true and sufficient sacrifice for sin – the death of the Lord Jesus.
And Christ Jesus came into this world for that specific purpose. He was virgin born in order to become an acceptable sacrifice to God the Father. As a child, Jesus was worshiped by men and by angels – but He didn’t come for that purpose. He was cared for by fallen men and women – but “He came not to be ministered, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” He was tempted of the Devil, but God used that temptation to prove His victory over sin. He came as the Great Physician; He healed blinded eyes and other diseases, but He came not merely to give signs of His deity. He taught the Word of God, but he came not simply to teach moralistic truths. He gave the Holy Spirit to men, but that was not His first purpose. He established the first church during his earthly ministry, but that was not His primary goal either. Jesus Himself said, “I am come that ye might have LIFE and that ye might have it more abundantly.” How? “And ye know that he was MANIFESTED to take away our sins” – I John 3:5. I Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Have you ever planned on doing something and then gotten side-tracked, and so it didn’t get done? That is the nature of life, it happens all the time. But Christ came into the world to make an atonement for the sins of His elect, and that is what He did. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” – I Peter 2:24-25. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” – I Peter 3:18
Isaiah 53:1-6 – “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Scripture after Scripture could be given to illustrate this obvious truth. Christ Jesus paid it all.
Jesus’ first appearance; His incarnation as a man; He came to satisfy the wrath and the justice of God. He came into the world to bear the weight and punishment of the sins of His elect. He came into the world to save sinners.
Christ’s SECOND APPEARANCE is now taking place in Heaven on behalf of the believer – verse 24.
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
The first duty of God’s first priesthood was to administer blood sacrifices to God. Earlier in Hebrews Paul spent considerable time examining that purpose and work of the Israelite priests. And he especially dealt with the High Priests: the descendants of Aaron. This Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first priest of the nation of Israel. He had special responsibilities which no other priest was permitted to perform. But Paul pointed out that Aaron and his descendants were sinners just like all the rest of us. The high priests needed blood sacrifices for themselves just like other men. And in some ways they needed even more because of their priestly responsibilities.
But there was also another priestly man who lived further back in time – back in the Book of Genesis. His name was Melchizedek, and despite being a priest, he was not related to Aaron at all. In fact we have no record of anyone to whom he was related. Paul spends considerable ink in Hebrews teaching that Jesus is a priest of the order of Melchizedek. The Aaronic priests were sinners, needing sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer a sacrifice on behalf of another man. But Jesus is an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, needing no sacrifice for Himself. He made one sacrifice for sin upon the altar that we call Calvary, and it wasn’t for Himself, but for others. “He made peace for us through the blood of His cross” – Colossians 1:20.
The second duty of the High Priest was to PRESENT the blood of a very special sacrifice at God’s especially ordained Mercy Seat. Aaron, Eleazar, Abiathar and Zadok – all High priests – ministered in the Tabernacle and the first Temple. But look at Hebrews 9:11-12: “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.” In this we see the importance of adding Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to His sacrificial death. “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” – Romans 4:25.
The third duty of the priest was to intercede in prayer for his people. And that is what Christ Jesus is doing for His chosen people at this very moment – appearing for us. I Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” – I John 2:1.
I know that we all do it, but the Christian really doesn’t have an excuse to be despondent or in despair. Romans 8 says – “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The key to our joy and hope in the midst of the difficulties of life is the never-ending intercession of the Lord Jesus. When the Christian sins, there He is pleading His own sacrificial blood on our behalf. When the Devil tempts us, or our flesh gets too strong against us, we should think of our Great High Priest and the strength which is available through Him. Hebrews 4:15 – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” When all the world gets dark, we should remember that He is the light of the world. “And He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us” – Hebrews. 13:5. Go ahead and cast “all your care upon Him for He careth or you” – I Peter 5:7.
That Christ is in Heaven appearing before the Father on our behalf is a part of the guarantee of our salvation. Praise God that He holds every part of our redemption firmly in His hand.
The Lord JESUS’ THIRD appearance is YET TO COME – verse 28.
“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The Creator is not through with His creation. It has been a battlefield of Devilish proportions, but that won’t continue for much longer. To the whole creation, Christ promised deliverance from the curse of sin. To Israel, He has promised a kingdom of peace and rest. That country has been the tail of the nations for centuries, but soon it shall be the head of them all. God promised that the Messiah would one day rule from the throne of David. That could come in as little as seven years from now. To the Christian, God’s promise is that we shall escape the wrath which will poured out upon the Christ-denying world.
Christ is coming again, and the first phase of that coming will be to catch away his people. I Thessalonians says – “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Comfort one another? Yes, we will.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” – I Corinthians 15.
Elsewhere Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in Heaven from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Every well-taught child of God is looking for “the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13. That rapturous event is probably, although I can’t be absolutely sure of this, is not very far off.
But the only way to be blessed by this third appearance of Christ, is to have been blessed by the first coming. Only the truly born person again will be caught away at the translation of the saints. A lot of fathers are going to be left behind by their wives and children. A lot of mothers will leave their husbands and children behind. A lot of church-goers will be left behind to the judgment of the wicked, because their names were written on church roles without being entered in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Are you ready for the return of the Lord Jesus? He will come “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” – II Thessalonians 1:8. Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? Please, repent before God and put your trust in the living Lord Jesus Christ before it is eternally too late.