Hebrews 9:15-26 – Jesus’ Necessary and Sufficient Sacrifice

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Last time, we concluded our look at the Hebrews writer’s contrast of the earthly tabernacle, built by the Israelites at God’s command given through Moses, with the eternal and perfect heavenly sanctuary not built by hands and not part of God’s creation, of which the earthly tabernacle and its associated ritual sacrifices were only a model.

Hebrews 9:15-26 – Jesus’ Necessary and Sufficient Sacrifice

The Hebrews writer now turns our attention to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, contrasting it with the animal sacrifices carried out in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple, which could not provide lasting salvation from sin, but merely foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life and blood to make eternal atonement for the sins of mankind. In the study of logic we speak of the necessity of some specific condition to bring about some result, and of the sufficiency of that condition to bring about that result. When condition A is required to bring about B, it is said that A is necessary to B. When A is all that is required for B, we say that A is sufficient to B. Applying this terminology to the cross of Christ and its relationship to mankind’s redemption from sin, we might say that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is both necessary and sufficient for our salvation.

15And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
16For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” [Exodus 24:8] 21Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
23Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—26He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. [Hebrews 9:15-26 – NKJV]

Recall from our previous study that the Hebrews writer contrasted the blood of the animal sacrifices in the Hebrews tabernacle and temple, which were powerless to fully atone for our sins, with the perfect sacrifice and new covenant in Jesus’ own blood.
13For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? [Hebrews 9:13-14 – NKJV]
The writer now continues to elaborate on that point.
15And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. [Hebrews 9:15 – NKJV]
As the writer points out here in verse 15, by shedding His own blood on the cross, Jesus establishes the new covenant between God and man for the remission of our sins, which He had foretold to His disciples at the passover meal on the night He was betrayed…
23Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.25Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” [Mark 14:23-25 – NKJV]
Most of us are confused and repelled at the idea of killing as a means to cleanse from sin. The idea of Jesus dying as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all mankind is revulsive to most, as were the animal sacrifices in the Hebrew temple and tabernacle which foreshadowed it. Some have called God the Father the “ultimate child abuser” for mandating the death of God the Son. The story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – through whose Seed God had promised that all mankind would be blessed – is both confusing to us and appalling. Even Jesus – in the garden of Gethsemane – pleaded passionately with the Father to make another way. After proclaiming the establishment of the new covenant in His blood, Jesus led His disciples out to a secluded place on the Mount of Olives across the brook Kidron from the city.
40When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
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.” 43Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. [Luke 22:40-44 – NKJV]

Aside – The name Gethsemane (Γεθσημανί) is a Greek transliteration of a compound Aramaic word meaning “olive press.” How fitting is the name of the place in which Jesus suffered under such deep emotional pressure that His sweat became blood. Some people believe that the story of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane is a poetic metaphor not to be taken literally. However, there have been cases reported in which people under extreme duress have indeed sweated blood.
 
Bloody sweating is called hematohidrosis; true hematohidrosis occur[s] in bleeding disorders. It may occur in individuals suffering from extreme levels of stress. Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form, which constrict under the pressure of great stress. Then, as the anxiety passes, the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture and [the blood] goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands produce a lot of sweat, they push the blood to the surface, which comes out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.
 
Biswas, S., Surana, T., De, A., & Nag, F. (2013). A curious case of sweating blood. Indian journal of dermatology, 58(6), 478-80.

Our common revulsion at the idea of an atoning sacrifice – particularly the sacrifice of God the Son Himself – for the remission of sin, arises from our lack of appreciation of how absolutely God abhors our sin. He wanted us to know just how deeply offensive our sins are to Him in order to bring our hearts to an attitude of true repentance. So He allowed Himself to suffer and die in a spectacular and sickening manner.
17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” [Isaiah 29:14]
20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1 Corinthians 1:17-25 – NKJV]
Nowhere in the Word of God is the totality of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf more profoundly expressed than in Isaiah’s messianic prophecy of the suffering servant.
1Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
11He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. [Isaiah 53 – NKJV]
We won’t take time from our Hebrews study to fully examine this amazing prophecy, but will instead just mention some of its main points.
 
First, the idea of substitutionary atonement for sin is clearly and repeatedly put forth in this passage.
 

Also, in Isaiah 53:8

He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;

we find a succinct denial of the so-called “swoon hypothesis” that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, but merely feigned His death. This theory also very neatly explains away the supernatural resurrection of Jesus, and was recently expanded into the complex conspiracy theory we find in Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code, in which Jesus is supposed to not only have survived the crucifixion, but later fathered earthly offspring by Mary Magdalene, who due to their divine paternal DNA became the “best and brightest” of European society over the subsequent two millennia. Here in this verse, Isaiah also denies that outrageous and blasphemous flight of fantasy with his question – “who will declare His generation?“Although Isaiah never explicitly answers this question, obviously no one can declare Jesus’ generation because there was none (due to His death on the cross). Of course, being God in the flesh, Jesus couldn’t have fathered children with a human mate even if He had survived the cross.

 
Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy clearly predicts the resurrection of Jesus, who despite having been “cut off from the land of the living” nevertheless “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days.”

But lest we be overwhelmed with remorse when we truly ponder the price that Jesus paid to establish the new covenant in His blood, and thereby rescue us out of death in our sins, the Hebrews writer reminds us at the end of verse 15 of the eternal inheritance in His kingdom Jesus purchased for us on the cross. In effect, Jesus made us the beneficiaries of His own last will and testament.

14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.[Romans 8:14-17 – NKJV]

Aside – We have spoken of this before, but it bears repeating. Our inheritance in Christ comes only at the cost of suffering – both of Jesus, and of those who declare themselves His followers. As Paul admonished his protege, Timothy…
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. [2 Timothy 3:12 – NKJV]
At the Passover meal on the night of His betrayal, Jesus Himself foretold of this suffering to His disciples, even as He promised the coming of His Spirit – The Helper – to be their guide, strength, and comforter through the coming suffering (John 14-16)
32Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”[John 16:32-33 – NKJV]

But in order for Jesus’ last will and testament to be enforced, Jesus Himself first had to die.
16For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.[Hebrews 9:16-17 – NKJV]

The writer now returns to the topic of blood which we also thoroughly examined in a previous study.

18Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” [Exodus 24:8]  21Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. [Hebrews 9:18-22 – NKJV]
This passage is very clear, requiring little by way of exposition. The details of the requirements for sanctification of the tabernacle, the priests, and the people by the sprinkling of blood are set forth throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
 
Recall from our study of blood that the first mention of blood in God’s Word was in connection with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Also, God first proclaimed the importance of blood to Noah immediately after the flood, thousands of years before He gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Finally, remember Jesus’ condemnation of the spilling of innocent blood in pronouncing woe upon the scribes and pharisees just days before pouring out His own blood on the cross.

 

Photo of Hyssopus officinalis growing wild
Hyssopus officinalis growing wild

Aside – The hyssop (Hebrew – אֵזוֹב ‘ezowb ) plant is found throughout God’s Word as an agent of sanctification and purification. Several plants are known colloquially as “hyssop,” and no one is certain which of these is the specific plant called hyssop in the Bible. Perhaps the most likely candidate is Hyssopus officinalis pictured here. The first mention of hyssop in the Bible is in Exodus 12:22 where it was used to sprinkle the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt so that the destroying angel would pass over those houses on the night that all the firstborn of Egypt were killed just before God led His people out of bondage in Egypt. 

In addition to the ritual sprinkling using hyssop in Exodus 24 that the Hebrews writer speaks of in Hebrews 9:20, hyssop was also used in the complex ritual cleansing for leprosy we find in Leviticus 14.
 
In his passionate cry for forgiveness and healing after his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, was revealed by Nathan the prophet, king David pleads with God…
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. [Psalm 51:7 – NKJV]
Finally, we see hyssop (Greek – ὕσσωπος hyssōpos) was used to lift the anesthetic sour wine vinegar to Jesus’ lips immediately before He died.
28After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. [John 19:28-30 – NKJV]
Hyssop may also be used as a medicine to treat various digestive and skin maladies.

23Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;[Hebrews 9:23-24 – NKJV]

The blood of the animal sacrifices in the tabernacle and temple were powerless to permanently absolve us from sin. If they had been, it would have been unnecessary for Jesus to come to die in our place to make permanent and perfect restitution for our sins. At best, the blood of the sacrificial animals provided only a temporary covering for sin, and were actually only a model pointing toward the Lamb of God – Jesus – who was to come for the salvation of mankind in accordance with the ancient prophecies. The writer also reminds us in these verses that although Jesus was indeed temporarily “made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death [Hebrews 2:9],” by His incarnation and sacrifice on the cross, He has now “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebrews 1:3],” by His resurrection through the power of His own Spirit.


Before we move on to look at the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we need to remind ourselves that His redemption of mankind from sin by sacrificing His own life in our place wasn’t God’s “Plan-B” to restore His perfect creation after mankind’s fall in the Garden of Eden. The cross was part of the plan all along since before the foundation of the world. Peter makes this clear in his first epistle.

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. 20He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. [1 Peter 1:17-21 – NKJV]

Peter also vehemently expressed this point in his familiar sermon to the crowd that gathered on the day of Pentecost when God’s Spirit was first poured out on the disciples just as Jesus had promised them before He ascended to Heaven.

22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.[Acts 2:22-24 – NKJV]

How very humbling it is to consider the depth of God’s love demonstrated in that when Jesus spoke the universe into being by the power of His Word in Genesis 1:3, He did so with the full knowledge that His act of creation brought with it the inevitability that He would one day suffer and die on the cross to redeem the very creatures He was about to bring into being from the consequences of our own personal choice to turn away from Him in disobedience and enmity.


Having considered the necessity of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross with all the gruesomeness it entails, let us now consider its sufficiency for the perfect and eternal redemption of mankind from sin, death, and hell.

25not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—26He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. [Hebrews 9:25-26 – NKJV]

In the perversion of our sin, we are suspicious when someone offers us something that we haven’t earned. As the saying goes, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” When we encounter genuine altruism, we find ourselves searching frantically for the strings attached. Scarcely had the dust settled after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven before His followers began tacking on various requirements for salvation it was said we must follow in addition to simple faith in Jesus’ Gospel and confession of that belief with our mouths. One of the earliest of these was the so-called “Judaizer” heresy which proclaimed that in addition to simple faith, Christian believers had to follow all the Judaic laws and traditions (most importantly circumcision) in order to be saved. This idea gained so much traction in the early church (which was made up mostly of Jewish believers) that a special council of elders was called in Jerusalem to decide the matter (Acts 15). In fact Paul’s letter to the Galatians is entirely devoted to this subject.

Of course, we need not delve into ancient history to find legalism within the Church. Most believers have met someone who proclaimed that we must accomplish some task or adopt some behavior apart from simple faith in the Gospel in order to truly be saved. One common example is the insistence that one must speak in tongues in order to be saved. Sadly, this sometimes results in the babbling of “fake tongues” in order that the proselyte might gain acceptance into the group, all the while suffering remorse and doubt due to knowing in the depths of the heart that the manifestation of this “gift of the spirit” was entirely for show due to the need to fit into the group.

Often, we say that we must give up something – e.g. drinking, smoking, swearing, gambling, dancing, etc. – in order to be saved, or that we must adopt some approved mode of dress or some specific behavior (tithing and regular church attendance being very popular examples). Tragically, almost every Christian has fallen into this trap of legalism at one time or another. 

Please don’t misunderstand me. Certainly, our salvation in Christ will guide us into certain behaviors, attitudes, and principles while leading us away from others. In fact, Paul tells us that…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. [2 Corinthians 5:17 – NKJV]

But altered behavior is the result of our salvation in Christ – not its cause. Our salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus’ Gospel alone not from any works of our own. The Word of God is very clear about the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His subsequent resurrection to save us.

6For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. [Romans 5:6-11 – NKJV]

20I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”[Galatians 2:20-21 – NKJV]

Jesus Himself said it most succinctly in the passage we looked at earlier.

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]

Finally, we need to refute the idea that Jesus’ suffering on our behalf is eternal and continuous. One of the things that really bothers me is seeing crucifixes in churches or around people’s necks depicting Jesus still hanging on the cross. First of all, if we’re going to have such depictions, let’s make them real so that we can truly appreciate the gruesomeness of what Jesus suffered on our behalf. Recall that prior to His crucifixion, the Bible tells us that Jesus was beaten so severely He couldn’t even be recognized as being a man. Put that kind of representation up on the back wall of the church, and people will sit up and take notice.

Apart from that though, the depiction of Jesus still hanging on the cross diminishes the Truth that He is alive, and has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high. Our salvation derives not only from the incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but perhaps most importantly from His ascension to Glory – the Glory that He had with the Father from the foundation of the world. Only masochistic narcissists could possibly experience joy in the LORD believing Jesus continually suffers for us. No. Christ suffered and died for us, but is now glorified, just as we also will one day be.

5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:5-11 – NKJV]

Looking Ahead

Coming up, we will see that Hebrews will build up and up into a tremendous crescendo, culminating in the amazing so-called Hall of Faith.

 

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