For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For 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. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for 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. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so 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.– Hebrews 9:16-28 ESV
All throughout this section of his letter, the author has been attempting to establish the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. His death ushered in a new and better covenant. The shedding of His blood was necessary for that new covenant to replace the old one. The author reminds his readers that the original covenant God made with Israel was also inaugurated with blood. Moses sacrificed unblemished animals and sprinkled their blood on the book of the law, the people, as well as the tabernacle and its contents. For, as the author writes, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness os sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). In the same way, the new covenant went into effect when Jesus sacrificed His life and allowed His blood to be poured out as a spiritual offering to God on behalf of sinful mankind. As Jesus told His disciples at the last supper, “this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many” (Matthew 26:29 NLT).
The sacrifice of Jesus was better and more effective. He “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26 ESV). And His sacrifice was not offered in some tabernacle made with human hands, but it was accepted by God Himself in heaven. “For 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” (Hebrews 9:24 ESV). Jesus did something no other sacrifice had been able to do. He died and was brought back to life by the power of God’s Spirit, which signified that His sacrifice had been acceptable by God. Jesus did not cease to exist after death, but His earthly body died. It remained in the grave for three days until God, through the power of His Spirit, raised it back to life. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, they fully recognized Him because He was, in a sense, His old self. His body even carried the holes left by the nails in His hands and feet and the wound from the spear in His side. As the author makes clear, Jesus was not going to have to die again. His sacrifice was fully sufficient. “…he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began” (Hebrews 9:25-26 NLT).
Paul would have us remember the incredible nature of the power that raised Jesus back to life, because we have that same power available to us in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That power not only brought the body of Jesus back to life, but raised Him back to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. – Ephesians 1:19-21 NLT
And just as Jesus came the first time in order to die for the sins of mankind, He is coming a second time to complete what He began. We all still face the reality of death. It is inevitable and inescapable. But the author of Hebrews gives us the good news regarding the death of those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT). Jesus is coming again. And to all those who have placed their faith in His substitutionary sacrifice, He will provide victory over death. They will receive new, resurrected and redeemed bodies, free from pain, suffering and sin. Those under the old covenant who depended on the blood of animals to cleanse them from their sins, received a temporary atonement. They lived to sin again. They enjoyed forgiveness for the moment, but would eventually be required to offer another sacrifice. And they had the constant presence of their guilt before them and the fear of death facing them. But because of Jesus’ death, those of us who call Him Savior no longer live with the condemnation of sin or the fear of death. We are forgiven. We have a promise inheritance. Our future is secure. Because we have placed our hope in a better sacrifice.