19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV
There should be a proper response when considering all that Jesus accomplished on behalf of sinful humanity. For ten chapters, the author of Hebrews has labored diligently to point out all the ways in which Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension have provided not only a better way for sinful men to be made right with God, but He has made possible the only way.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:8-10 ESV
…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, this securing an eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:12 ESV
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 9:28 ESV
The all-sufficient nature of His sacrifice should produce in the believer the confidence to come into the very presence of God, with “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 ESV).
At the moment of Jesus’ death, a number of supernatural events took place that signified the momentous nature of the occasion. In the dark recesses of the Temple the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in half.
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. – Matthew 27:50-51 NLT
This elaborate tapestry served as the doorway into God’s presence and was accessible only by the high priest on one day out of the year, on the Day of Atonement. On no other occasion was it permissible for anyone to enter the Holy of Holies. To do so would result in divine judgment and certain death. For the high priest to pass through the veil into God’s presence, he had to obey all of God’s commands concerning personal purification and he had to perform every rite and ritual just as God had prescribed.
But when Jesus died, the veil was ripped in half from top to bottom, signifying that the barrier to God’s presence had been removed. That divine act symbolized what Jesus’ death had accomplished. The veil of separation between man and God had been removed – for all time. Up until that moment, only one man could gain access to God’s presence. But that all changed when Jesus died. The veil was torn, and the barrier to God was removed. It was a visible demonstration of the bold claim that Jesus had made.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” – John 10:9 ESV)
Those who place their faith in Jesus as their sin substitute can enjoy access to God. As His sheep, they can enter into His presence without fear of death or rejection. Their sins are forgiven and they bear the righteousness of Christ, making them worthy of standing before a holy God.
But this newly available access to God, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus, should create in us not only a confident assurance but a desire to live in obedience to His will. The author reminds his readers to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV). They were to continue to pursue righteousness, not in the hopes of gaining God’s approval, but in gratefulness for the fact that they were already approved in His eyes. Their hearts had already been sprinkled clean. Their bodies had been washed with pure water, which allowed them to stand before God as holy and wholly righteous.
The apostle Paul understood the remarkable nature of his new standing before God, made possible by his faith in Jesus. He confidently asserted that his acceptance by God had nothing to do with himself and everything to do with the work of Christ.
…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. – Philippians 3:8-9 ESV
His past accomplishments, Hebrew heritage, attempts at keeping the Law, and even his circumcision did nothing to earn him favor with God. It was his faith in the saving work of Jesus. Paul knew that he stood before God as righteous, based solely on what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
But this did not mean that Paul was without sin. He knew he still retained his old sin nature. He was fully aware that he still had the capacity for and propensity to sin. But his sins could no longer keep him apart from God. He had been extended forgiveness. he had been fully acquitted. Paul believed wholeheartedly what the apostle John wrote.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 ESV
Paul had access to the Holy of Holies, at all times, where he could receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He was free from condemnation and no longer had to fear death as the penalty for his sins.
The author of Hebrews wanted his Jewish audience to embrace the good news that Paul proclaimed and personally believed. That is why he told them to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).
This is the same thought he expressed back in chapter six.
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. – Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT
Earlier in that same chapter, he wrote, “Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance” (Hebrews 6:11-12 NLT).
We must keep our focus on the promise to come. Our hope is to be based on the completed work of Christ. He is coming again. That is why the author tells us, “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 9:28 ESV).
Jesus came, but our hope is based on the fact that He is coming again. And we are to hold fast to that reality. It should provide us with the motivation we need to remain faithful until the end. It should give us the encouragement we need to live obediently and not complacently. The apostle John reminds us, “And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame. Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children” (1 John 2:28-29 NLT).
It is our hope in Christ that gives us the help we need to live godly lives as we wait for His return. It is our faith in His return that provides us with the determination to remain faithful till the end. We must hold fast. We must finish strong. We must fight the good fight and finish the race set before us – “for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.