“Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Jesus was not dealing with a physical, symbolic copy. He was not working with external rituals. Rather, he was dealing with the real spiritual problem, and he did his work in heaven. It was a better place, and a better sacrifice.
Humans are both matter and spirit; Christ’s work was both physical and spiritual. He became fully human, mortal and physical, in order to redeem humans. But his redemption had to be on the spiritual level as well: a conscience untainted by sin, a life willingly offered on behalf of others, a person worthy of entering heaven itself to intercede for humans. He offered himself, both body and spirit.
Jesus is now in heaven to help us (9:24). He is the God-man who eliminates the distance between God and humans. His work is fully effective — for all time. “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.” Once was enough, unlike the work of the Levitical priests, who had to repeat the same rituals over and over. The fact that the rituals had to be repeated showed that their work was not effective. True cleansing was possible only through a better sacrifice, a better priest, a better covenant.
The decisive sacrifice (verses 26-28)
Jesus did not go to heaven to perform endless rituals. He is not copying the old covenant, because the old covenant had only temporary substitutes. Jesus does not have to suffer forever to rescue us from sin. He gave himself once, and that was enough.
“He has appeared once for all.” When? “At the end of the ages.” Why? “To do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Even in the first century, believers were living in the “end of the ages” — “in these last days” (1:2). The old era had ended; a new age had begun with Jesus Christ. The spiritual world was radically different. The sacrifice of all time had been given.
But the story is not yet done. Just as ordinary humans appear once, and then will appear again in the judgment, so also with Christ. “Just as people are 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.”
Each person dies for his or her own sins, but Jesus died for others. Each person will face the judgment for his or her sins, but Jesus will be the judge. His death took away their sins, and when he appears again, he will not be bringing their sins against them. Rather, he will be bringing eternal salvation for all who trust in him.
Author: Michael Morrison