The first exhortation “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance” (10:22) is grounded in the effectiveness of the sacrifice of Christ’s high-priestly work. It is a call to approach God Himself. “Since” Jesus is the “great priest over the house of God” (10:21), but also, “since…by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,” we now “have confidence to enter the holy places” (10:19-20). The result of Christ’s priestly, sacrificial work is the confidence that it provides to both the author of Hebrews and his readers. Jesus had entered into the presence of God by His blood (9:12, 14, 25). And now, because of what He has done, Jesus has now obtained the right of entry for His people.
The decisive character of Christ’s finished work toward His new covenant people is concisely expressed: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (10:14). By His one sacrifice at the cross, Christ “has perfected” His people “for all time.” The tense of the verb “perfected” stresses that the task has been fully accomplished in the past and yet the results continue into the present. This perfecting work by Christ speaks of how He has qualified believers to draw near to God in relationship, having provided forgiveness of sin and a purified conscience from guilt. Thus, believers are consecrated unto God for proper service before Him. This consecrated relationship is expressed by: “those who are being sanctified.” Even though believers are already qualified in their relationship with God, there still remains an ongoing operation in them. At present it is designed to continually weaken the remaining aspects of indwelling sin as well as produce fuller effects of actual likeness to Christ.
But what Israel lacked in terms of a true heartfelt devotion toward God as they practiced the prescribed sacrificial rituals, Jesus would sacrificially display, “but a body have you prepared for me” (10:5a). Jesus was acknowledging that His body was prepared as the means by which “an eternal redemption” (9:12) would be secured. To accomplish this, Jesus would not just be willing to offer a sacrifice; He would be the willing sacrifice: “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book” (10:7). These Words of the Psalm are used as Christ’s declaration of His willingness to obey. Christ discovered His duty as set out for Him in the Scriptures and He purposed to carry it out with whole-hearted obedience. Thus, as a truly acceptable worshipper, Christ offered Himself as the only satisfactory sacrifice.
Just as certain as human beings die and then face judgment, so also Christ, who died, “will appear a second time.” Christ’s return is cast as an absolute certainty. Whereas Christ’s first appearing was “to deal with sin” and so He offered Himself “to bear the sins of many,” He “will appear a second time…to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (9:28). On the Day of Atonement, the people of Israel gathered around the High Priest as he came out of the Most Holy Place. Similarly, God’s new covenant people have an eagerness for the return of Christ because of the expectancy that the richest blessings of salvation—the final rescue from judgment as well as the fullest enjoyment of the “promised eternal inheritance” (9:15) awaits. So, Lord Jesus, come!
So while, both covenants needed shed blood to place them into effect, they are still very different. Hebrews’ use of Exodus 24:8, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you” (9:20) finds it’s contrasting parallel with: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). Under the terms of the old covenant, “if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 30:17-18). The first covenant brought the curse of death upon all who broke it (and all did). But in identifying with sinners, Christ, died as a sacrificial representative for His people. In so doing, “He sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship” (9:21). In both covenants, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22). But now, in the new covenant, true forgiveness has come, unleashing the mercies, which come from the disbursement of the “will.” So now, “the promised eternal inheritance” (9:15) has been freely given. Through His death, Christ secured “the good things that have come” (9:11a).
Hebrews than draws out an important implication: “the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing” (v. 8). The Holy Spirit revealed to the author that there never was nor ever would be, real access to the presence of God during the tenure of the old covenant. The people and the ordinary priests were completely blocked from entering the Most Holy Place, which is where God manifested His presence. Even the High Priest was barred access except for once a year. The chasm between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man was never bridged in the old covenant: “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper” (v. 9). Any thought of cleansing was merely external, for the worshippers sin and guilt were never truly removed. Thus, the “regulations of the body” consisting of matters of “food and drink and various washings” (v. 10) never purified a person’s internal moral and spiritual faculties of the conscience.
Hebrews quotes the final parts of Jeremiah 31:31-34 as an explanation of the “better promises.” First, the new covenant provisions include the implantation of God’s law in His peoples’ hearts: “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (8:10). The internalization of God’s law describes a radically new obedience from the heart that characterizes new covenant people (See also Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27).
Even though Jesus would not qualify as a priest under the old covenant, “but as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old” (8:6a). Jesus’ ministry is exceedingly superior. Not only are He and His ministry superior, the effects of what He has accomplished are exceedingly superior as well. Christ, in the new covenant “mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (8:6b). The writer of Hebrews has already spoken of a “better hope” (7:19) as well as a “better covenant” (7:22). He now restates “the covenant He mediates is better.” It certainly is a better covenant because a better mediator inaugurated it in a better sanctuary; but what the writer wants to underscore is the “better promises” of this “better covenant.”
An implication of Jesus’ eternal priesthood is that “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (7:25). It has already been stated that Jesus is “able to help those who are being tempted” (2:18) as well as able to sympathize with His people’s weaknesses (4:15). What is being affirmed is Jesus’ actual power to truly save, that is, to forever and completely deliver from judgment and provide safe access into the presence of God. This salvation is through the new relationship that is in place through Jesus. Jesus is eternally engaged toward His people’s salvation. The effect of this new relationship is seen through the new responses of trust and dependence that it creates. Earlier, the writer declared Jesus as “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (5:9) and now he is announcing salvation is experienced by all “who draw near to God through Him” (7:25). A change in relationship means a changed people.
This change of law, which was introduced in verse 12, is now described much more emphatically in verse 18: “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness.” In Christ, the Mosaic covenant has been “set aside” or annulled. The Levitical system in its entirety is set aside by the coming and work of Christ. Christ has done what the Levitical system was unable to do: “(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (7:19). What the annulled “former commandment” is replaced with is not specified other than to say that it is “a better hope.” It was never the design of the Mosaic Law to perfect anyone; but it was a part of God’s design to use the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant to reveal the need for perfection—a perfection that was accomplished in Christ on behalf of all who believe (Hebrews 10:14).
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