Jesus Christ the Abolisher of Sin

April 22, 2018 Series: Hebrews Scripture: Hebrews 9:23-29 by Chris Strevel

      Between Christ’s first and second comings, faith lives upon what he has done for us and his unseen workings for us in heaven. The Holy Spirit reveals his heavenly workings so that we may learn how secure we are in the Lord Jesus. The storms of life will blow, but our hope is anchored in the Rock of Ages. He rules over all things for the sake of his Bride, and he appears in heaven to secure us for himself forever, to sanctify and make us fruitful, and to strengthen us against all the attacks of sin and Satan. Yet, if the glory of his royal priesthood in heaven and his second coming lose their hold upon our mind and affections, we shall fall prey to fear and frustration at best, for there are many evils at work in this world. At worst, we shall be tempted to turn from Christ, as these Hebrews were, but where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. This is the reason that the apostle leads us carefully through the treasure rooms of the gospel. In our earthly pilgrimage, we must always be admiring and studying Christ’s gospel rooms, seeing him in his great labors for us and finding our complete security and happiness in his mediation for us at God’s right hand. This is the way we are strengthened to be faithful in our families and work and communities – by seeing the glory of Christ, growing in understanding of his love and power, and then seeking to be renewed unto holiness by the Spirit.

By Purging the Heavenly Things (v. 23)

Heaven: The Church’s New Covenant Perfection

“Perfection” is an idea that runs throughout the letter (2:10; 5:9; 6:1; 7:11,19; 9:9,11; 10:1). In each instance, the word is a form of telos, which means end, goal, completeness, or perfection. The idea seems to be that whereas the old covenant could never bring the worshipper to a state of perfection as to his conscience (10:1), the “heavenly things” do. “Heavenly” is parallel to the old covenant and refers to the church’s new covenant state of perfection or completion. These are the “heavenly things” in contrast to the “earthly things,” for our priest, Jesus Christ, ministers in no temple made with hands but in the heavenly temple of God’s own presence. He has thus brought the kingdom of heaven down to us, the state of blessed peace with God through his mediation and sacrifice and intercession. The old covenant system – priests, tabernacle, and sacrifice – prepared the way and pointed the faithful to perfection, but it could not give this perfection.

By perfection the apostle does not mean a state of moral perfection or sinlessness. The entire letter becomes a mockery if this is what he means, for there is nothing in Scripture, our soul, or our experience that bears witness to the possibility of moral perfection in this life. Rather, in contrasting the old to the new covenant, the priesthoods of Levi and Christ, and the earthly to the heavenly tabernacle, we are taught that the church’s state now is comparably better to her past. We are not disconnected from the believers then (11:40). Their sense of peace with God and fellowship with him, the indwelling Spirit, a purged conscience, and heavenly access was much less than ours, but God’s word and covenant pointed them to it. They lived and died looking for the perfection to which we have now come in Jesus Christ. And if they endured so many obstacles and sufferings and even death to obtain the promise of life and salvation in Christ, how much more faithful and diligent must we be since we have him and all his blessings! Can we possibly exaggerate the privilege of free access to God through the shed blood of the Son of God, that he has gone into heaven for us, or that he has given us the outpouring of his Spirit to bear witness to these truths? The church in the new covenant has reached what may be called “the kingdom of heaven,” “perfection,” “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” The blessings stretch the limits of language and of faith, and we must allow nothing to lead us away from Jesus Christ. He is our very life (Col. 3:4). If we turn from him, it were better never to have believed than to have started out believing and then to be proven false branches. They shall be cut down and cast into the fire (John 15:2).

Purged: Christ’s Better Sacrifice

At the heart of this paragraph is the powerful idea that Jesus Christ has abolished sin. The ways and even the location of his abolishment are made known. He abolished sin definitively by his death on the cross; he abolishes it progressively by appearing in heaven for us; he will abolish it finally at his second coming. His works and epochs are all part of the “heavenly” state of things to which we have been brought. “Heavenly,” therefore, does not refer to heaven proper or the final order of life with God forever, for it is difficult to understand how heaven needs purging. It is not at all difficult to see that the new covenant kingdom and blessing are secured through the better sacrifice of Christ and purged or made clean through his blood. All things in the old covenant were purged by blood, and the new covenant has a better sacrifice. This is said for two main reasons. First, the basis of our entrance and enjoyment of the heavenly new covenant – peace with God, forgiveness, indwelling Spirit of adoption and power, completed Word, confident access to heaven – is nothing less than the better sacrifice of Christ. He has secured all these blessings for us. The guilt of our sin must be covered and its pollution cleansed before we can enter the kingdom of heaven.

And since our Lord and Savior has done this for us through his sacrifice, we are led to the pressing necessity to hold fast to him, to love and adore him, and to trust that he will always do right by us. How could these Hebrew believers have seriously thought of turning from Christ? The wonder of his love, the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the power of his intercession were pushed to the margins of their faith and life by the troubles they were facing. Is it not the same for us? The apostle’s antidote for drifting, lethargic Christians is to return to the gospel foundation. We must remember Christ’s great love for us, and remembering, be humbled and broken over our sins and amazed at his goodness. We must think that our only cleansing is in his blood, and that if we turn from him, there is no possibility of forgiveness. And all the gifts he has given us – his word and Spirit, his comfort and presence and help – are they worth losing to gain a few more years of life, or wealth, or fleeting pleasures? Shall we give up peace of conscience to save our earthly lives? Whenever we are in trouble, threatened, or feel ourselves besieged by the world and the devil, we must return to the gospel foundations and come before the Christ of love. His blood alone will cleanse us and secure heaven for us. He loved us to the end, and by his strength, we shall know his love and be satisfied with him.

 

 

By Appearing in Heaven for Us (v. 24)

The problems we face in this life are very real. Our earthly experience can hardly if ever be called “perfection.” Nevertheless, the Spirit calls us to look to Jesus Christ as the destroyer of sin. Our personal ills and our public conflicts alike trace back to sin, and Jesus Christ the abolisher of it. It is not suggested here that these spiritual truths will make our troubles go away, as if circumstances are even the real problem. I know that most people think, “Well, if only this would change,” all would be well. The Spirit’s light and resolutions are very different. He usually leaves our circumstances unchanged but changes us in the midst of them. And there is nothing more certain to change us, to reshape our expectations, feelings, and priorities, as clearer views of who Jesus Christ is and what he is doing for us. Rather, then, than spinning our wheels and wasting our time chasing the impossible dream of perfect circumstances, let us instead focus upon our perfect Savior.

Our blessed Savior has not entered into any holy place made by men, like the Levitical priests under the old covenant. They were figures of the true; they were patterns of the perfect, the heavenly things (v. 23). Jesus Christ has entered the reality. He has entered heaven for us; he appears in the presence of God for us. Let this truth once begin to exert control of our thinking and responses, and we shall be changed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). First, who is appearing? Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, the Mediator of the covenant. He was crucified in weakness on earth, but he is now in heaven. In his raised and glorified body, he is in heaven as our Forerunner, Advocate, Head, and Intercessor. Before we can ever appreciate what he is doing, we must stand in awe of who is doing this. The Creator-God who made the world, formed the angels, joined with his Father in devising the covenants of redemption and of grace, the Christ of the old covenant typified and the Christ born in the womb of the Virgin. He who was before all things and in whom all things consist, he who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens” is now appearing for us in heaven.

 Let our heart strings resonate with joy and praise! For he appears for us in heaven. What is in heaven? God himself, at least in a fuller manifestation of his glory, the throne room of the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God who dwells between the cherubim in unapproachable light. There is our Savior, the Son of God and the lowly Servant of the Lord clothed in our flesh. He appears in heaven as our Savior who has brought in everlasting righteousness by his sacrifice and obedience. He appears in heaven as our Forerunner who has gone before to prepare a place for us. In heaven, before the throne of grace, he advocates for us, securing our forgiveness when we sin by his very presence as the conqueror and abolisher of sin who “poured out his soul unto death and was numbered among the transgressors.” And he also appears as our Head and Husband, our life and our love, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is able to subdue all things to himself, and he is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by him (Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:25).

When a believer knows that Jesus Christ, the glorious God-Man is doing this for him, everything changes. He may be in a bad place, struggling against sin or even being temporarily overcome by it. He may be persecuted for the name of Christ, or be suffering for not joining along with the evil of his times. His family may be a huge burden to him, his finances a mess, and his marriage on the rocks, but then he remembers that Jesus Christ appears in the presence of heaven for him. His heart breathes again, and calling upon his Savior, he receives fresh supplies of grace to be faithful, to trust, and to persevere. Child of God, look to this One praying and appearing and preparing a place for you! Ask him, make direct appeal to him now to help you, to secure you, to deliver you from temptation and evil, and to confirm his work in you by the witness and aid of the Holy Spirit. You see, these believers were facing worse danger than we can imagine, but far worse was that they forgot what Jesus was doing for them and where he was doing it. They lost hold of him in their thoughts, and hopelessness took over. The apostle now reminds them that Jesus Christ cannot lose hold of his sheep. Look to him, and be saved. Look to him and be forgiven, assisted, and born up on eagles’ wings so that whatever is happening to us, God will turn it to good if we turn to him in faith and hold fast to our blessed Savior.

By His Perfect Sacrifice (vv. 25-26)

Offered Once at the End of the Ages

Since we are in such a great fight of faith, and each one us will feel the arrows and sword thrusts of sin and the evil one, we must regularly remember that our great enemies of sin and Satan have already been abolished. This is the reason Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, appeared “once in the end of the ages” (Gal. 4:4). The old age of the world, from the Flood to the Cross, was marked by the dominion of sin and the deceitful hold of the devil upon the world. But Christ has appeared, the long promised Messiah, Zecharias’ “Dayspring from on high,” Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” Daniel’s “exalted Son of Man,” Moses’ “Seed of the woman” and Prophet, David’s Priest-King. He came to “abolish sin by the sacrifice of himself.” This means that we are living in a new age, the age of his power (Ps. 110:1-3; Matt. 28:18; 2 Cor. 13:4). Having humbled himself and become obedient unto death, Jesus Christ is now “exalted, extolled and very high.” He is so high that we cannot conceive of his absolute triumph over sin and death and Satan (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8; Rev. 1:18). In a very real sense, no one else has any power but Jesus Christ. This is the reason that all the rebellious world systems, nations, and institutions fail and eventually come to nothing. Nothing can now prosper or survive unless it brings its gift to the feet of the enthroned King of kings and Savior of the nations. This is his age, and he will be crowned and kissed and confessed, or he will destroy, crush, and make war (Rev. 19:11-15).

Offered Himself to Abolish Sin

Before we can expect sin’s power and desire to be abolished in us progressively, which the Spirit calls sanctification or “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2 Cor. 7:1), we must understand that Christ Jesus has permanently broken its power or abolished it by his appearing in heaven. He offered himself but once. The Levitical priests offered an endless round of sacrifices that could not take away sin (v. 25). Christ Jesus appeared (perfect tense) to abolish, annul, put away sin. He only had to offer himself once. His blood was so pure, worthy, and powerful that “by one offering, he has perfected forever those that are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14). His one sacrifice has world changing and soul saving power. We cannot fathom such an offering. Isaiah spoke about seven centuries before Jesus came, and he was martyred for it. Do not tell us about Jesus, the kings and leaders of the Jews told him; tell us how we can get out of this mess. There is only one way, he told them. You must kiss the Prince of Peace. You must embrace the righteousness of the Servant of the Lord and seek cleansing by his propitiatory stripes. You cannot save or cleanse yourselves, and as long as you persist in your belief, the judgments will continue with increasing horror.

The same is true for us. All our hope of victory in this life or at least perseverance to the end is to be found solely in the Abolisher of sin, Jesus Christ. It is in his blood that we must bathe, his righteousness in which we must be clothed, and his intercession that we must trust as our life and salvation. When we see the power of his once for all sacrifice to abolish sin, our hearts rejoice and feel incredible relief and freedom before God. We also feel an incredible fearlessness of men, for what can they do to us, since we are washed in the blood of Christ and clothed in his righteous robes? But we easily lose sight of this. When we struggle with sin, we focus upon our inward state and circumstances and guilt. It is almost the last thing we think of to make direct and immediate appeal to Christ, even though he is the only One who can help us at all. Or, we call upon him halfheartedly, almost as if to prove that we prayed and nothing happened. See, this justifies my feelings of hopelessness and excuses my sins.

Come once, however, and cast yourself upon the Abolisher of sin, the One who carried away its guilt and drowned it in the ocean of his precious blood, the One who satisfied God’s justice by plunging its sword into his sinless breast, and you will be changed. If he has not saved you, you have not looked to him truly, believed upon his name broken over your sins, or you have come wanting to hold on to your sins. And even for true believers, as we assume these Hebrews were (Heb. 6:9), their troubles led them to create monsters out of their fears. This danger cannot be avoided; this evil cannot be overcome. These men and their threats are too much for us. We cannot go through persecution again. Once you mount the merry-go-round of fear, it will always cast you into the pit of despair. The only way to get off is to remember and believe the gospel. Ah, Jesus Christ has abolished sin, and these wicked, threatening, scheming men are nothing but sinners. Their lies and threats and swords can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. If they kill me, they do me a favor, for they send me to heaven. Sin has no power. It is broken. The devil has the cross sticking out of his skull, and the God of peace will crush him under our feet when we trust and obey (Rom. 16:20).

By His Second Coming without Sin (vv. 27-28)

Man Dies Once, then Judgment

This final parallel fleshes out what it means for Jesus to be the Abolisher of sin. If we look only at the world, we shall doubt that he has really abolished sin. The same can be said when the believer looks at his own sins and the sins of God’s people. It does not look much like sin is abolished. Here and there, trophies to Christ’s grace exist, and perhaps certain spaces of time are notable for great works of God. But abolished? Has Jesus really put an end to sin? The Spirit tells us to take a wider view. With respect to man, he dies once, then judgment. This is true of men individually and as a group. Death is certain because of sin; judgment is inevitable after death. This is appointed. Judgment is waiting for us. If men truly believed this, they would live differently. They do believe it, but they are dead in sin and do all they can to forget it or to deny it. Certain death and judgment remain, however, the greatest motivations to repent and believe in Jesus, the sin abolisher. I must die for my sins, and unless I die in Christ so that the sting of death is removed because the justice of God is satisfied, I must perish in hell forever. When I die, I shall stand before the righteous Judge, who will instantly penetrate my façade of excuses and see me as I really am. I will know that he knows me, and this will be my doom, for I am an unclean thing. My only hope is that Jesus Christ will come forward and profess to know me and to confess before his Father, “I have born this man’s judgment; he is mine, Father, for you gave him to me before the world began.”

Christ Offered Once, to Bear our Sins

Just as men die once, so Jesus Christ died once. His death, however, was different. He did not die for his own sins. No one every convicted him of even one sin, for he was sinless (John 8:46). And this is the reason that he saves us and abolished sin by his death. He bore our sins as God’s appointed substitute. “He bore the sins of many” indicates that he did not bear the sins of all, else all would be saved. Yet, “many” leaves ample room for masses to come to him for life, for whosoever will believe and come to the cleansing fountain to be purged and forgiven. All our hope of pardon and of heaven depends upon Jesus Christ having born our sins and being made a curse for us. Nothing else in all the world religions, in your philosophy books, in our brains or in our experience can find a way to get rid of the monster of sin, death, and judgment that stalks every man. Jesus our Savior killed sin by becoming sin; he abolished it by taking its full penalty upon himself; he delivers us by imputing his righteousness to us and obtaining our pardon and right standing before the holy God.

Christ Second Coming unto Salvation

Christ’s sin abolishing work began at the cross; it continues with power and effect because he appears in the presence of God for us. It will be perfected in all who look to him. Expectant watching for Christ, waiting for Christ, longing for Christ is a mark of his true disciples. His second appearing will not be a “faith event.” He will be seen by all men. His second appearing will be visible, bodily, history ending, eternity commencing, delusion smashing, and judgment summoning (Acts 1:11). The wicked and unbelieving will beg for the earth to open and swallow them and for the rocks to fall upon them. Death by crushing will be preferable to the penetrating, inescapable gaze of the Lamb of God. For the wise virgins with oil in their lamps, the faithful servants who watched for the coming of their Lord, he will appear without sin unto salvation. He will be admired and adored (2 Thess. 1:10). Seeing him will be seeing our salvation. Each one of us will have a Simeon-in-the-temple moment: “Lord, I can depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30). Ah, seeing him, I am changed into his likeness and done with sin forever (1 John 3:2). It shall not trouble me again. There goes my Beloved, casting sin, Satan, and death into the lake of fire that burns forever. There is my Savior. He has abolished sin for me. He only is my Rock and my Deliverer.

Many will think this is spiritual hocus-pocus. Yes, give up earth, whether its duties, pleasures, or revolutions, and go sit on a mountain watching the clouds for Jesus’ return. Only those who do not really expect it would ever say this. True believers who anticipate seeing Jesus watch expectantly, and their watching leads to earthly faithfulness (1 Cor. 15:58). The Second Coming of Jesus Christ also reminds us that history and the universe are not what the technologists and scientists and utopians say it is. Only unbelievers and wicked men mock, “Where is the promise of his coming” (2 Pet. 3:4)? If we believe God’s promise and watch for our Savior, if faith’s beating heart is, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” then strength arises in dark places to face and overcome fear, to speak the truth in love, to forgive and bless one’s enemies, and to endure hardship. Christ is coming. Deliver me more and more from my sins, Lord. Make me more and more faithful, more and more fruitful. I want many crowns to cast at your feet. I would not offer to you what costs me little. My salvation cost you everything. I love you because you love me. Help me to trust and obey, love and serve, believe and endure to the end – all because you are the Abolisher of sin. Abolish mine. Come quickly and cast it in hell forever. “Lo,” he says, “I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me” (Rev. 22:12).