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By The Blood

Hebrews 9:12 (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, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

Some things must not change. The Christian faith cannot be written afresh to match the moods of every culture and age, nor must it ever forget its roots in the Old Testament. So the words of Hebrews 9:22 remain unalterable truth—there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. All the temple sacrifices proclaimed this loud, clear, and consistently. The cross of Calvary announced the perfect fulfilment of these, and the one common factor among all who enter heaven is that they have been cleansed through the blood of Christ (see Rev. 7:14).

For our generation the message is largely unacceptable, even repulsive. That is why Mel Gibson’s explicit film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ caused such a stir, not least among liberal theologians. To the first readers of this letter the problem was different. Blood and sacrifice were common realities. Yet they needed to know that the transient sacrifices were now finished because the unique sacrifice had been made with eternal consequences.

The adjective ‘eternal’ has a double appearance here. It is linked in 9:12 with redemption (‘He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption’) and in 9:15 with inheritance (‘For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance’). It means much more than ‘for ever and ever’, although that is a glorious prospect in a world of change and apparent chance. Its primary note is of a new quality beyond all our earthly dreams. Yet it depends on a great event in the here and now, the death of Jesus outside Jerusalem’s walls. Just as the beneficiaries of a will cannot inherit until a death occurs, so with the believer (9:16–17). What a death that was, and what great benefits we enjoy as a consequence![1]

[1] Hacking, P. H. (2006). Opening up Hebrews (pp. 54–55). Leominster: Day One Publications.

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