Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Once For All, Nothing More Need Be Done - November 8, 2015 - Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) - Text: Hebrews 9:24-28
Our text for this morning answers so many questions and corrects so much misunderstanding and confusion of Law and Gospel. Most certainly our text points us to Jesus and as you have heard me say time and again, we know we get it right when we point to Jesus. This morning we clear the air with the facts of Christ’s first coming, to usher in the end times by living, suffering, dying and rising. We clear the air with the fact that Jesus’ suffering and dying was enough to pay the price for all sins, for all people, for all ages, once and for all. And we clear the air with the fact that when Jesus returns it will not be to rule on earth, but to save those who believe in Him by taking us to heaven to be with Him. So, let us get to our text.
Our text begins by distinguishing between the Holy Place and its copy, verse twenty-four, “24For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (v. 24). The holy place made with hands is a reference to the temple built in Jerusalem. This temple was built as God’s presence among His people in Israel. This temple was not built as if God could be contained in any one particular place, but was built as a reminder to God’s people of His presence among them. As we read of all the warts of God’s people in Israel, so too we read of their rejection of God and His covenant and how that very temple, which was only a copy of the true Temple in heaven, was destroyed. We also read of God removing His presence from His people. And we read how this man made temple was built not as a permanent temple, but as one pointing to the greater temple, the one true Temple for all God’s people, all believers, the Temple in heaven.
And so, Christ’s appearance in heaven itself was to offer Himself, the sacrifice of Himself, the shedding of His blood for us on the cross and to present His sacrifice, once for all before the throne of God the Father in Heaven on our behalf. His appearance and offering of Himself, His life for our life is what brings us forgiveness and life, even eternal life.
Which brings us to get a better understanding of the repeated sacrifices. Picking up at verse twenty-five, “25Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (v. 25-26). Very often we get confused when we hear such statements that say that Jesus fulfilled the law so we are no longer under the law. That statement is only partially true for you see there are three laws going on. There is the civil law, which is the law of the land and while Jesus did fully obey all the civil law He did not do away with the civil law and we know this is true because we are still today under the civil laws of our country. Next there is the moral law and that is the Ten Commandments and here again, while Jesus did fully obey all the commandments He has not taken them away so that today we are still to follow and obey the Ten Commandments.
Finally, there is the ceremonial law and the sacrifices. All the ceremonial laws were given to point to the promised Savior, the Messiah, indeed Jesus. The price for sin that was set in the Garden of Eden was death, physical death, and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. The price for sin was that blood had to be shed. Thus, for the children of Israel, the ceremonial law of the sacrificial system was set up so that animals were sacrificed, their blood was shed, not that the shedding of the blood of an animal accomplished or paid any price for the sin of the one offering the sacrifice, but reminding them of their sin, the price for their sin and pointing them to the one who would ultimately pay the price with His life. And as the one offered the sacrifice, depending on the sacrifice, they would often participate in that sacrifice by eating a portion of the sacrifice. The problem with these sacrifices, since they did nothing to earn or pay for sins is that they had to be repeated over and over again as a constant reminder of sin and its cost, death and the shedding of blood.
Because these sacrifices had to be repeated and were intended to point to Jesus, when Jesus came, He came to offer His own blood. All the sacrifices that were offered were to be ones without spot or blemish. Jesus was born as true God in human flesh, thus He was born without sin, without spot or blemish. Jesus was truly human so He could be our substitute, so He could do for us what we are unable to do, namely live a perfect life. Jesus fulfilled what was pointed to, that is He fulfilled all the law; civil, moral, and ceremonial, and all the prophets, perfectly.
Jesus then took our sins, all our sins and the sins of all people from Genesis to Revelation upon Himself. He suffered the punishment of our sins, eternal spiritual death. He shed His own blood on the cross. The difference between Jesus sacrifice of Himself and all the sacrifices that pointed to Him is that His blood need only be shed once, for all. Thus no longer are any sacrifices needed.
Which brings us to the appointment of death, verse twenty-seven, “27And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (v. 27-28). In the beginning God created a perfect world. He created a perfect man and a perfect woman and placed them into His perfect world. Then we get to Genesis Three, wherein we move from God’s creation and work, God’s acting and doing to the actions and doings of the man and his wife and at that point we see how they brought sin and death, physical death, and eternal spiritual death into the world through their disobedience and sin.
God brought down His judgement of death and cursed the world. And yet, at the same time He promised to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve. He promised to send a Savior for all people of all places of all times. He promised Jesus and His promise was that all who believe in Jesus will be saved, but those who do not will be condemned. Indeed, this was the very beginning of the Christian Church. So that, as we are now reminded, those who fail to believe in Jesus, that is the unbelievers are judged to eternal spiritual death. And those who do believe in Jesus, we Christians, the believers are judged to eternal life in heaven. There is no in between. There is no working off sin in order to get to heaven. There is simply to die once and then the judgement.
So, we are reminded that Jesus appeared once, at His birth. This first appearance was to usher in the end times. Indeed, we are living in the last days and have been living in the last days since Jesus’ birth. We are not waiting for any arrival of Jesus to rule in any way here on this earth. We are waiting for Jesus return and His return, His second appearance will be on the last day and it will be to judge the world.
What does this mean? This morning we are reminded once again, as we should be reminded and need to be reminded each and every Sunday that we are sinners and that it is our sin that brings death, indeed it is our sin that brought the death of Jesus. Yes, we are responsible for Jesus’ suffering and death. Last week I shared one of my frustrations as a pastor and that was the refusal and rejection of God’s gifts by so many each and every Sunday. This morning let me share a second frustration and that is that I believe there is this mass refusal and rejection because we do not take God and His Word seriously. We have either been convinced, as the Pharisees, that we are pretty good people and that our goodness would never allow God to condemn us, or we have been convince by our society that good is good enough. Or perhaps we simply do not believe we are in any danger of the Lord’s eminent return or our quick passing. The Law is still and remains the Law. We are lost and condemned persons. We are guilty and we stand condemned. Indeed, we need Jesus, not just now and again, but we need Him and His gifts each and every week, yes, each and every day.
Thanks be to God for His promised Savior. Thanks be to God that back in Genesis, when there was only Adam and Eve, neither Jew nor Greek, that God promised a Savior so that His promise was a promise of a Savior to all people, to all the children of Adam and Eve, and yet, even more specific, to all who believe.
The whole Old Testament pointed to the Savior. All the genealogies, all the prophecies, all the ceremonial laws, all the sacrifices, all the wars, chastening and discipline, all the narratives and history of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus. Indeed, all of history points to Jesus.
Jesus is truly God. He was God in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His, using His divine attributes to their fullest, and yet He gave up His glory in order to take on human flesh and blood. Jesus had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection and He was. In His perfection He took on in human flesh and blood, being born of a human woman, the virgin Mary. Jesus had to be truly human in order to be our substitute, in order to trade His life, His suffering, His death and His resurrection for us.
Jesus lived for us, perfectly as is God’s demand. Jesus was the perfect, spotless lamb of God who took our sins, all our sins, our sins of omission, not doing what we should, our sins of commission, doing what we should not, our sins of thought, word and deed, not only our sins, but the sins of all people of all places of all times. He took all sin upon Himself and suffered and died once for all. Nothing more needs to be done. And as we know the rest of history, death and the grave had no power over Him for He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. And now He gives to us what He earned and paid for, He gives us His life, even eternal life.
Indeed, as the one who offered the sacrifice and participated in that sacrifice by eating of the sacrifice so our Lord offers to us to participate in His life, death and resurrection by offering us His body to eat and His blood do drink in His Holy Supper so that His life, suffering, death and resurrection are our life, suffering death and resurrection. Indeed, then we are to die once and then we are judged with no waiting in any holding area while payment is made for us to get to heaven.
This morning as we hear God’s Word we have confidence in our eternal salvation. Just as the Old Testament pointed to Jesus and it was faith in the coming Christ that made them Christians and saved them, so too in the New Testament. The New Testament points us back to Jesus so that it is faith in Jesus as the Christ which makes us Christians and saves us.
And now we wait. We wait not in fear and trembling, not in fearful anxiety, but we wait in eager anticipation. Indeed, the victory is ours, won for us by Christ on the cross. And so we wait in eager anticipation for our Lord’s return, which is why we eagerly desire to be given the gifts that God has to give and to be given those gifts each and every week, indeed each and every day. What a great God we have. What a gift giving God we have. We rejoice and give thanks and praise as we eagerly await His return. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.