A Psalm.1Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!For He has done marvelous things;His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.2The LORD has made known His salvation;His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.3He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.4Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.5Sing to the LORD with the harp,With the harp and the sound of a psalm,6With trumpets and the sound of a horn;Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.7Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,The world and those who dwell in it;8Let the rivers clap their hands;Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,9For He is coming to judge the earth.With righteousness He shall judge the world,And the peoples with equity. [Psalm 98 – NKJV]
Last time we looked at the cross of Christ, focusing on its necessity and sufficiency for our salvation. We saw that God has used the gruesomeness of the animal sacrifices in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple along with the horror of His own sacrifice on the cross to inspire in us the same revulsion and abhorrence of sin that He Himself feels.
Hebrews 9:27-10:10 – Once, For All
The Hebrews writer now turns our attention to the finality and completeness of Jesus sacrifice on the cross.
27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
10:1For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.5Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,But a body You have prepared for Me.6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sinYou had no pleasure.7Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.'”8Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [Hebrews 9:27-10:10 – NKJV]
27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. [Hebrews 9:27-28 – NKJV]
Starting even in the early church, the idea that Jesus continually suffers on our behalf had arisen among the believers. This notion is belied, of course, by Jesus own final words from the cross
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. [John 19:30 – NKJV]
The Greek word – τελέω teléō – translated into English as “finished” in this verse is not an adjective as in most English translations, but a verb. It means to end, i.e. complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt):—accomplish, make an end, expire, fill up, finish, go over, pay, perform. In particular it is used to refer to the full accomplishment of a given command, and to attainment of a specific goal.
This is the fact that the Hebrews writer emphasizes in this passage. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was complete fulfillment of the mission He had been assigned by the Father since before the foundation of the world in order that the sin of mankind might be done away with forevermore. The writer reminds us here in this passage of the inevitability of death for all of us – death which was brought into the creation by the sin of man in the garden. All of us are acutely aware that death awaits every one of us, although many willfully deny the origin of death – mankind’s sin. But God’s Word is very clear on this point as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans.
12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. [Romans 5:12-14 – NKJV]
Notice that the universal nature of sin and death are quite independent of one’s own thoughts, words, and deeds. Our sinful nature, and the death that it brings along with it, exists apart from the law, having come into the world long before the Law was handed down by God for the purpose of making the sin that was already present in our hearts manifest in our consciences.
Furthermore, not only must everyone face death, afterward we must also face judgement. Sin, death, and judgement are all three universal – part and parcel of life itself for everyone.
11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.12And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:11-15 – NKJV]
Notice, that as sin came into our nature apart from our own deeds, just so the result of the judgement to come is independent of them. Although every person’s works will be judged by what is written in the books to be opened before the great white throne and the One who sits upon it, the judgement He will pronounce upon each individual will not be determined by what is written in those books. It will be solely determined by whether or not a person’s name is written in the Book of Life. This is the mission that Jesus accomplished in full and forever on the cross for all mankind. There at the cross, He made any possible judgement for sin based on our works completely moot. Instead, He purchased for us there on the cross an opportunity – to have our names written in His Book of Life merely by believing in our hearts that He is now risen from the grave, and confessing with our mouths that He is LORD of all – most critically LORD of our own hearts.
The Hebrews writer makes it crystal clear in verse 28 that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is unique in history. He does not suffer continually for our sin as some have proposed, but has fully accomplished the purpose for which He was sent to dwell in the flesh of a man more than two thousand years ago.
Aside – A common question is whether those who lived and died before the time of Jesus on earth may be saved. Similarly, we might also ask whether those who die in infancy, or those who never have the opportunity to hear the Gospel may receive His salvation. As we shall soon see, the writer points out in Hebrews 10:10, that Jesus offered His body “for all.” Other passages in the Word of God support the idea that salvation in Christ is universal – available for all who believe regardless of our works. Unfortunately, we can’t delve too deeply into those right now.
Regarding the eternal state of the Old Testament believers, Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 clearly lends credence to the idea that those who devoted their hearts to God even prior to Jesus’ incarnation may be saved (or condemned) based on their belief. Moses and Abraham are other examples of whom the New Testament has much to say.
But what about modern people who die (e.g. in infancy) without ever hearing the Gospel? Can they be saved as well? The Word is silent on this subject. Nevertheless, we can reassure ourselves about them, simply by contemplating the very nature of God Himself. We know and trust that our God is a perfectly loving, perfectly righteous, perfectly fair, perfectly holy, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God. We also know from reading God’s Word that mankind was made in God’s image. If the idea that an innocent infant would be condemned to eternal torture in a lake of fire is revulsive to our own hearts which were made in the image of God’s heart, how much more then would it be abhorrent to God Himself? The same would apply to those who die in adulthood without ever hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know by our own faith in the infinite goodness of God that He will treat these fairly when they come for judgement at His Great White Throne.
Having said that though, we need to point out that those reading this article, and those hearing this teaching in person or listening to the audio recording don’t fall into these categories.
The Gospel of Jesus is simple. In the beginning God (who has always been, is now, and evermore shall be) created our universe and ourselves. He created us in His image for fellowship with Him. He desires that we would choose to love Him, but knows that in order for us to choose to love and worship Him, He had to give us the freedom to choose not to love Him or worship Him. Since He also knows all things, He knew even before He created us that we would turn away from Him in sin. Being perfectly holy Himself, He is unable to abide our sin in His presence, so before the foundation of the world He devised a plan through which we might be reconciled into eternal fellowship with Him despite our sin. He came to earth Himself in the flesh and form of the man Jesus of Nazareth. He lived the perfectly sinless life that we cannot, and although He Himself was completely sinless He gave His own life on the cross in our place, taking upon Himself the rightful punishment – death – for our sins. But because He was God – come to earth in the flesh – Jesus could not be bound by death. He rose from the grave on the third day, was seen by and spoke with many after rising from the grave, and has now ascended to His former rightful place in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father. Through His resurrection, and the power of His indwelling Spirit, He offers to everyone the opportunity to join in His resurrection to eternal life in His presence, simply by believing this Gospel in our hearts and confessing with our mouths His lordship over our hearts forevermore.
Now having just read or heard that simple declaration of the Gospel dearly beloved, you are no longer as the infant who dies in infancy or the unfortunate one who dies without ever having had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of salvation. Having now heard it, you are faced with the choice – to accept and confess it as true, leading to salvation and eternal life in Him, or to reject it and continue in a life of sin apart from Him, and to eventually face the universal judgement the Hebrews writer speaks of in this passage ending with eternal torture in the lake of fire.
Before we move on to chapter 10, let’s look briefly at the promise of Jesus’ return at the end of Hebrews 9:28 – To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. This verse echoes Jesus’ own words at the Passover meal on the night of His betrayal.
1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. [John 14:1-3 – NKJV]
In Hebrews 9:28 the writer once again emphasizes the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for salvation in that when Jesus comes again, He will come “apart from sin, for salvation.” So we see that this return of Jesus for which believers so anxiously wait is closely tied to the final judgement we have just examined. The exact timing and sequence of events pertaining to Jesus’ coming again are not precisely clear from God’s Word. Therefore they have been the subject of much debate since Jesus ascended. But exactly when and how Jesus returns are really quite unimportant.
The key point is that when Jesus returns He will come bringing judgement as foretold in Psalm 98:9 and with it rewards and resurrection for those who believe in His Gospel.
9For He is coming to judge the earth.With righteousness He shall judge the world,And the peoples with equity. [Psalm 98 – NKJV]
Jesus Himself affirmed this prophecy to His disciples.
24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. [Matthew 16:24-27 – NKJV]
Paul also wrote of this coming judgement in his first letter to the church in Corinth.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. [1 Corinthians 4:5 – NKJV]
We have already seen that He will judge all people at His great white throne based solely upon whether or not a person’s name is written in His Book of Life. As believers we trust that our salvation is solely based upon faith in the Gospel apart from our works so that we rest assured that our names are written in His book. But believers will also stand before God in judgement for our works to determine our eternal rewards in Him. Paul writes of this in his second letter to the Corinthian church.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 – NKJV]
As we await His coming, we must be diligent to live our lives in a manner fitting to our salvation in Christ who will judge all people when He comes again.
23And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. [Colossians 3:23-24 – NKJV]
17And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. [1Peter1:17-19 – NKJV]
1For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. [Hebrews 10:1-4 – NKJV]
Just as the tabernacle and temple were mere models of the heavenly sanctuary (as we saw in two of our a previous studies), so the Law of the Mosaic covenant was merely a shadow of the eternal covenant in Jesus’ blood. The new covenant which Jesus established on the cross accomplished forever what the animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law could not – permanent atonement for the sins of mankind, reconciling us all with God eternally. By contrast, the sacrifices made under the Law could provide at best temporary covering for sin. Indeed, the Law itself was never given as a means of salvation. When God gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He knew that people would never be able to fulfill it perfectly. Even the slightest transgression of the Law breaks the Mosaic covenant and renders it powerless to save. God makes no differentiation between the so-called “deadly” sins defined by the Catholic church, and any other sin. With God, there is no such thing as an “innocent,” harmless lie. All sin bears the same penalty – death. James declares this concept quite succinctly.
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. [James 2:10 – NKJV]
Indeed, the very purpose of the Mosaic covenant – as Paul points out – was to demonstrate to us our universal need of a Savior who would provide salvation for us Himself – totally apart from our own works.
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [Romans 2:20 – NKJV]19What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.21Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. [Romans 3:19-22 – NKJV]
As the writer also points out in this passage, if the sacrificial offerings under the Law had power to provide lasting salvation from sin, it stands to reason that having accomplished that purpose, they would have been abolished forever. But just as the Law itself was given to convict us of our need for a Savior, so the sacrifices were a continual reminder of our sinful state, repeated day-by-day, at every new moon, and at the times of the commanded festivals, particularly the annual Day of Atonement – יוֹם כִּפֻּר yowm kippur. Since the blood of the animal sacrifices was powerless to provide the eternal, complete restitution for sin that only Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross could do, they were thus repeated continually as a reminder of our sin and need for the salvation that could only come by His grace through faith.
5Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,But a body You have prepared for Me.6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sinYou had no pleasure.7Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.'” [Hebrews 10:5-7 – NKJV]
6Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;My ears You have opened.Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.7Then I said, “Behold, I come;In the scroll of the book it is written of me.8I delight to do Your will, O my God,And Your law is within my heart.” [Psalm 40:6-8 – NKJV]
Although similar, the passage from the psalm differs significantly from the “quotation” in Hebrews 10:5-7. What are we to make of the discrepancy? It would seem that the psalm verses were not considered messianic by those who translated the text into English, because they did not choose to capitalize the words “me” and “my” in verses 7 and 8 in any of the English language translations I had available for this study. Yet the Hebrews writer clearly considers the text of Hebrews 10:5-7 to be spoken by God Himself about Himself. So did those who translated the Greek text into English, since we find the personal pronouns in this “quotation” capitalized. So if the Hebrews writer isn’t misquoting Psalm 40:6-8, he may be quoting another source which we don’t have available to us. Perhaps he is quoting Jesus’ own words spoken during His ministry on earth. Unfortunately, we really have no way of telling. Since we can’t get to the bottom of exactly where the words of Hebrews 10:5-7 came from, we are left simply to consider exactly what they say, trusting that they were given by God to the Hebrews writer in the way most pleasing to Him for the edification of all of us who study the passage.
The writer continues here to expound the theme of this chapter – contrasting the sufficiency and permanence of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross with the inadequacy and transience of the animal sacrifices under the Law. The words of verse 5 are reminiscent of King David’s passionate prayer of repentance.
16For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;You do not delight in burnt offering.17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.[Psalm 51:16-17 – NKJV]
Once again we see that it was never God’s intent to provide salvation through the animal sacrifices, but rather to use them to point out to us our need for a Savior, so that we might indeed have the broken and contrite hearts King David speaks of in this psalm, and thus to prepare our hearts to receive the salvation God did provide through the sacrifice of His own Son. In order to make that atoning sacrifice possible, God took on the body of the man Jesus.
6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.[Philippians 2:6-8 – NKJV]
Speaking of interpreting the Word of God, Martin Luther said, “If you want to interpret well and confidently, set Christ before you, for He is the man to whom it all applies, every bit of it.” This is the same point we find in Hebrews 10:7.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.'” [Hebrews 10:7 – NKJV]
In this verse, the writer may be referring to Jesus’ own words in pronouncing His seven woes upon the scribes and pharisees after he had driven the merchants and money changers from the temple.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. [John 5:39 – NKJV]
Pondering this truth, we are reminded of the story of the risen Jesus’ witness to His disciples on the road to Emmaus after they had told Him of the tragic events culminating with His death on the cross.
25Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. [Luke 24:25-27 – NKJV]
Hebrews 10:7 reminds us that Jesus – in His incarnation was obedient to the will of His Father even in dying on the cross for the sin of mankind, as we saw above in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. Jesus’ own prayer in the garden springs immediately to mind.
41And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,42saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.“ [Luke 22:41-42 – NKJV]
Yet as the Hebrews writer makes clear here in Hebrews 10:7, Jesus bowed Himself to the will of the Father willingly and even joyfully. Jesus confirmed this in His own words to His disciples.
17“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” [John 10:17-18 – NKJV]
The writer concludes the famous “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 with a reiteration of Jesus’ joyful devotion to the will of the Father in one of the best-known passages of God’s Word.
1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.[Hebrews 12:1-2 – NKJV]
Next time, we will continue to look at the permanence of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which abolished forever the need for animal sacrifices or any other work of man for salvation from sin as the Hebrews writer builds the letter up to a great crescendo prior to giving us a brief review of the history of Israel in chapter 11.