STUDY Hebrews 9:16-28
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In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices that these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)
Will and Covenant
The word translated "will" in verse 16, diatheke, is the same word rendered "covenant" in verse 18. In fact, according to William Barclay, this word was commonly understood to refer to a secular will. The author of Hebrews is showing that in a spiritual sense, God's covenants were forms of wills, promising his people their inheritance-fellowship with him. In either a secular or a spiritual sense, death was necessary in order for the promises contained in a diatheke to become accessible to the inheritors. The question the author addresses in this passage is this: Why was the death of Christ necessary for us to have a relationship with God?
1. What (or whose) blood (death) ratified the old covenant? (see Exodus 24:3-8)
2. Whose blood ratified the new covenant? (v. 16)
3. Where did the idea come from that there could be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, or death? (see Leviticus 17:11; Gen. 3:15; Romans 5:16-18; 6:23)
Cleansed by the Blood
When Moses ratified the old covenant and subsequently when sacrifices were brought before God, blood was sprinkled on the altar. Moses also sprinkled the people with blood when they agreed to keep the covenant.
1. What did the blood sprinkled on the altar represent? (see Lev. 1:11; 3:2, 8, 13; 5:9; Matthew 26:28)
2. What did the blood sprinkled on the people represent? (see v. 19; Hebrews 10:22; 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2)
3. Besides the people of Israel, what needed cleansing? (see Exodus 29:21; Lev. 8:15)
4. Why was Jesus' death necessary for us to have a relationship with God? (see v. 16-17; Matthew 26: 27-28; Luke 22:19-20; Romans 5:10; 20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 5:17-19; Colossians 2:13-15)
5. What two-fold effect does the death of Jesus have for us? (see v. 14; 15b; 10:19-20)
"It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."
1. What were the "copies of the heavenly things" which the levitical sacrifices cleansed? (see Hebrews 8:5; 9:1-7; Hebrews 10:1)
2. What were the "heavenly things" which the "copies" represented? (see v. 24; Hebrews 9:8-9; 11-12; 8:6; 10:11-12; 19-20)
3. What does the fact that Jesus' sacrifice purified "the heavenly things" suggest about sin and Christ's atonement?
End of the Ages
"But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."
1. What is "the end of the ages"? (see Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20)
2. Since we still experience sin, what does the author mean when he says Jesus came "to do away with sin"? (see John 3:5-8; Romans 6:6-7; 11, 14, 18; 7:5, 6; 8:10-11; 1 Peter 2:24)
3. If believers are free from the judgment of condemnation, what does v. 27 mean when it says, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment"? (see 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Romans 2: 5-8; 16)
4. What is the salvation Jesus will bring when he appears a second time? (see Matthew 16:27; 2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:13; Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2-3)
1. Have you experienced Jesus doing "away with sin" in your life by bringing you to spiritual life and giving you a new birth?
2. If yes, how is your life "new"?
3. If not, what do you fear would change if you allowed Jesus free reign in your heart and mind?
4. Does the idea that forgiveness would not have been possible without Jesus' death make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?
1. What guilt or conviction do you feel when you face the reality that Jesus suffered in his flesh and took your sin into himself for your sake?
2. What do you still control in your life, either by rationalizing, by manipulating circumstances, or by resisting love?
3. What belief or behavior do you hold about which you feel defensive?
4. What is "out of sync" in your life about which God is confronting you?
5. Risk trusting Jesus. Allow him to bring fully to your mind the thing(s) you've rationalized but about which you still feel unresolved. Ask Jesus to show you the truth about these things, and let his love reveal his will for you. Let him bring new life to your restless heart.
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised March 14, 2001.