Hebrews 9:23-28 • Jeff Crotts • Identifying the "one thing" that makes you ready for heaven.
I confess that I have a naturally optimistic personality. People range in terms of their optimism.
- I can be optimistic to a fault, I assume.
- Sometimes I push ideas and dreams too far.
- Some people tip more to nostalgia, memories, and sacred heirlooms etc.
- Some live right in the moment not worried about the past or concerned with the future but truly the now.
- Then, there are those like me who really do not dwell on the past nor what is happening in the present but always looking down the road.
- There are virtues and vices to each of these temperaments and we need all of us!
- In the home, workplace, and in the church.
- Still, there is a category that we all must be as Christians.
- Called people are called to look forward to Christ’s return.
To be positioned appropriately within our Christian walk, we should be looking forward to Christ’s return.
- A healthy dissatisfaction with this world.
- The world that lets us down.
- The world that cannot fulfill.
- The world that brings joy but not enough joy.
- The world that sucks people dry.
- The world that when trusted in leads to depressive states of despair.
“Do you think about your end?” “When do you expect to die?”
I heard a popular comedian being interviewed who said,
- Goes to church now.
- New father and older.
- Going to maybe become a better person.
- “I don’t believe any of it.”
- Plans to “check out at 80” due to overpopulation.
“What is the point of this life?” Push this further and ask, “Is there more?”
- The Christian’s heart shouts, “There must be more!”
- Being an image-bearer requires there to be more!
- “He has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:11).
Verse 28, closing our chapter positions Christians with assurance as those who are “eagerly waiting for him” (v. 28).
The word [apekdexomevois] captures “eagerly waiting” in a single word.
This pictures “leaning in!” A child pressing his nose against the glass wanting his prize in the store window!
ESV Romans 8:19-25 For the creation waits with eager longing for athe revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation awas subjected to futility, not willingly, but bbecause of him who subjected it, in hope
21 that athe creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that athe whole creation bhas been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have athe firstfruits of the Spirit, bgroan inwardly as cwe wait eagerly for adoption as sons, dthe redemption of our bodies.24 For ain this hope we were saved. Now bhope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
ESV Philippians 3:20 But aour citizenship is in heaven, and bfrom it we cawait a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
ESV 2 Peter 3:11-13 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, awhat sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 awaiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and bthe heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!13 But according to his promise we are waiting for anew heavens and a new earth bin which righteousness dwells.
Turning to our passage in Hebrews the picture of “eagerly waiting” harks back to the Old Covenant sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.
The force of Christ’s return is compared to the scene of congregation of Israel watching on the other side of the great temple veil separating them from the Holy of Holies.
- Hebrews marks this event
- The selected High Priest risking death venturing into the inner sanctum of God’s presence.
- The congregation observing his entrance with a basin of sacrificial blood.
- Listening breathlessly for the bells woven into his priestly garment.
- According to an historian (Deutero-canonical record), the High Priest from 200 B.C. Simon II, the Just performed this sacrifice on Yom Kippor.
- When he emerged, the congregation’s response:
How glorious he was…like the morning star among the clouds, like the moon when it is full; like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High!
- This was less about the priest and more about the sacrifice!
- His offering was accepted on their behalf by Holy God!
- They knew they were good! At least for another year!
“Why don’t we eagerly anticipate heaven?” “Christ’s return?”
This has more to do with our view Christ’s sacrifice then we’d care to admit.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Our sin is an embarrassment.
- We know better but still love for this world, with misplaced affection.
- We neglect Christ.
- Our appetites are worldly so we have lost our cravings for the Lord.
- We do not want go where he is going to take us.
- Heaven does not feel like it will be a fit.
- How can heaven answer my Christian life when my Christian life here on earth does not even seem to work!
“Isn’t heaven going to be the Christian life raised to the tenth power?”
“How do I get eager for Christ?” “For heaven?”
We need to know we are ready for heaven. You and I have seen people who are ready to go! Health has failed and they are dialed for heaven! At peace with God and man. Loosened grip on this world’s control. Our Bible says we can move this direction!
Our text answers this quest zeroing in on one single extraordinary event.
- Nothing more and nothing less.
- All of the Old Testament speaks of “one thing!”
- Hebrews speaks to “one thing!”
- Christ coming, our death, Christ’s return but everything centers on one thing!
- A thing that happened “once” – the only thing that should matter most to you now!
Principle: “One thing” makes you want heaven.
Prop: “One thing” prepares you for heaven in two ways
Christ has prepared heaven for you (vv. 23-24)
Christ’s death is what makes you ready for heaven.
- A 1st Century Jew would always be thinking about the temple to fix his or her life down here.
- To be ready to meet the LORD.
- The text ends this worry, answering our need from heaven’s perspective, not earth’s!
Verse 23 picks back up with the tabernacle.
- Apparently, there was a mockup of Israel’s Tabernacle down at the Delaney Park Strip this week and weekend.
- I’d venture to say, that this one was not laced with dripping blood described here in verses 18-21.
- The “blood-shedding” was necessary for forgiveness - why the tabernacle was initially saturated with animal blood.
Verse 23 picks right up on this theme.
- “Thus is was necessary” for these “copies of heavenly things to be purified with these rites” (v. 23).
- “Copies” were “examples” or “models” of something else.
- Blood poured onto the temple furniture because these would be used as symbolic instruments to deal with people’s sin.
- Blood set apart Priests from God’s presence.
Verse 23 sees the tabernacle as analogous to heaven.
- This was always about heaven as an example of heaven on earth.
- The writer makes this point emphatically.
- The concern is not the symbol but heaven - “heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (v. 23).
“What does this mean?” An analogy is not a “one for one” comparison.
- Not actual heavenly furniture at least this is not the point being made.
- Likewise, not “better sacrifices” being made in heaven.
This analogy says: “What’s done on earth practically reflects what we have reserved for us in heaven – by way of holiness!”
- In this sense, the “copies” symbolize “heavenly things…purified” which could mean, believers – us!
- We are the “living stones…built…as a spiritual house” (1 Pt. 2:5) “ransomed [with the] “precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt. 18-19).
- Earthly sacrifices were necessary but something is “better” as if there were a million “better sacrifices” (v. 23).
The next verse quickly clarifies we are not talking about “sacrifices” but a “sacrifice!”
- Verse 24 takes us right into heaven with him.
- We are not talking about “holy places made with hands” not what was done down here.
- Not “copies” but “true things…into heaven itself” (v. 24).
“made with hands” can be a critical like when Paul compared idols being made on earth compared to God “who gives life and breath to mankind” (Acts 17:25).
- The scene is Christ as our Great High Priest entering into the Holiest of Holies, “face to face” – “the presence” of God for one single express purpose.
- He did this “on our behalf” (v. 24).
- I believe this happened when Christ said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” and when Christ breathed his last on earth as the sacrifice.
- Christ came inside Holy heaven, now as a Priest to intercede on behalf of us by the merits of his own blood.
Nothing was wrong with heaven.
- Only sin could corrupt heaven, so Christ made passage for sinners to enter!
- “How beautiful to realize that when He went in, He took us with Him! [MacArthur].
Christ prepared heaven for us to come in!
- He robed us with wedding garments so we can join the feast!
Remember Jesus comforted his disciples just before the cross.
- His disciples were anxious.
- Peter’s denial had been predicted, Judas was betraying Jesus, Jesus was telling them he was leaving and that trouble was coming.
What makes heaven somewhere they would want to go?
- Somewhere to anticipate. To find comfort?
ESV John 14:1-6 a"Let not your hearts be troubled. bBelieve in God;1 believe also in me.
2 In amy Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that bI go to prepare a place for you?13 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you ato myself, that bwhere I am you may be also.4 And you know the way to where I am going."15 aThomas said to him, "Lord, bwe do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"6 Jesus said to him, "I am athe way, and bthe truth, and cthe life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Christ has prepared heaven for you.
Christ has prepared you for heaven (vv. 25-28)
The text says, links eagerness for heaven with preparedness for heaven.
- Heaven is prepared for us so now the text points to the fact that we are likewise prepared for heaven.
If you are like me, I do things last minute, for instance packing for a trip. Most people enjoy being well prepared for a trip. Checked in, packed, and being at the airport plenty of time before departure. I have grown to appreciate the psychological peace of being prepared. Once prepared you literally can go into auto-pilot and relax.
The author moves the focus from Christ in heaven back down to earth, where Christ “offered” himself sacrificially.
- This sacrifice was a “better sacrifice” because it only had to be offered one time!
- Not “repeatedly.”
- Not from “the high priest entering the holy places every year” meaning this is superior to The Day of Atonement! (v. 26).
- One primary reason made Christ’s sacrifice superior.
- This time Christ’s blood was shed, not an animal!
Verse 22 again states, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (v. 22).
- In reverse, “With Christ’s shed blood, there is forgiveness of sins!”
Verse 25 brings up “blood” again!
- High priests would offer a sacrifice for all of Israel to be right with God.
- High Priest had to bring blood for themselves for their own sinner!
- NOT Christ, came to offer the sacrifice, sacrificing himself based on his own innocence!
- This sacrifice was never to be repeated and could never be repeated.
Verse 26 states: If Jesus was not this perfect then he would have had to suffer over and over again, “since the foundation of the world” (v. 26).
Ludwig Ott a Roman Catholic theologian during the 1900’s explains the perpetual sacrifice dogma, made official by the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth century.
- Ott states, The holy Mass is a true and proper sacrifice.
- It is physical and propitiatory, removing sins and conferring the grace of repentance. Propitiated by the offering of this sacrifice, God, by granting the grace of the gift of Penance, remits trespasses and sins however grievous they may be.”
- God’s satisfaction regarding sin depends on the weekly mass.
- Why attending mass is so important.
- Roman Catholics like Protestants believe that Jesus died once for sins but their doctrine and practice of mass leads to the error of believing a “repeated” sacrifice or “offering” is necessary.
- Their sacrament of The Lord’s Supper or miracle of Mass is described as transubstantiation.
- Trans meaning “across” and substantiation from the word “substance” meaning Christ’s literal presence is across the substance of the bread and wine.
- Transformed supernaturally while still remaining bread and wine on an atomic level.
They call it an “unbloody” sacrifice that makes present the one sacrifice.
- This is a saving grace in that it is viewed as keeping grace.
- This grace is given in what they call the Eucharist, what they call The Last Supper.
- Grace comes to participants ex opera operato [Latin] “through the working of the work.”
- The sacrament automatically infusing grace into a person.
- Participating in what is that is keeping you in grace.
This is an error in their doctrine and practice.
- Christ neither literally nor ceremonially suffers on an ongoing basis.
- If this was the case, Jesus would have been dying and re-dying “since the foundation of the world” (v. 26).
This a reference to the beginning of time, specifically at the fall.
- This by the way, is a reference to young earth!
- Not long after everything was created, there was a need for a Savior from sin that entered the world!
Verse 26 slams the door on this saying Christ “appeared once for all.”
- Meaning when He came to earth.
- [Question] “When did he come?” “At the end of the ages” meaning 2,000 years ago.
- Starting the clock on the end times!
ESV 1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but athey were written down for our instruction, bon whom the end of the ages has come.
ESV 1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but awas made manifest bin the last times for the sake of you
- What we are now living in!
“Why did he come?” “To put away sin” meaning to annul or remove sins. “How did he do this?”
- “By the sacrifice of himself” meaning “himself” nothing more and nothing less!
Again, this is Jesus who fitted you and me for heaven! Heaven’s ready for you and guess what? You are already made ready for heaven!
Verse 27 is the clearest New Testament reminder that we are going there!
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (v. 27).
- This reality rings in the hearts of every one of us.
- The truth is that you have an “appointment” with death.
- In the mind of God, there is a reservation where you will die and you will come before his judgement!
- For believers we will suffer some “loss” or “grieve regrets” for what could or should have done for his glory (1 Corinthians 3:15) at his bema judgment.
- At the same time, being under Christ blood we will gain heaven.
- There is “no condemnation” for our sins (Romans 8:1).
- For unbelievers, they with the greatest sadness will stand at the great white throne judgment where names not written in the Lambs book of life, mean the eternal flames of Hell.
A reality all being true - is not the deep point of this verse.
- The point of this verse is bound up in the single word, “once.”
- The text uses our common experience with “death” saying you know people die “once.”
- You know they go somewhere else “once.”
- A person’s accounting before God will happen “once.”
Life is filled with repetition or cycles.
- Solomon was correct saying, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).
If you think about history - old adage says, “Learn from history so you won’t repeat its mistakes.”
This is wise but unlikely lived because of our human condition.
- So we are filled with life-cycles.
- This means that rarely does anything happen “once” in our lifetime.
- We live in a serious of “firsts” that shape into repeat experiences.
- We have a first day of school but just like it felt in jr. high that happens again freshman year of college.
- First job, first car, first house, first dog etc.
With a world filled with repeatable “firsts” so the things that happen “once” truly stand out!
- There are only a few things we know of that happen “once.”
- People are born people are born again and people die.
“Sin” has always been predictable and repetitive and sacrifices were predictable and repetitive.
Christ’s death was “once.”
- Likewise, Christ’s return to take us home will be “once.”
- Our passage is about wanting heaven.
- Wanting to be there - to be taken to heaven by Christ.
So, verse 28 saying, “so Christ…[was] offered once!” (v. 28).
- The first century Jewish idea that you need to keeping being religious to stay prepared for heaven is over!
- Christ came on mission to be “offered…to bear the sins of many” (v. 28).
- [NOTE] The term “offered” is different from the term “death.”
- The focus is the sacrificial nature of this death!
“Every human being dies, but Jesus’ death was distinctive in that he died as a sacrificial offering, giving his life for the sake of others” [Barclay].
- He came “once” (v. 28).
Like a Doctor who finally was willing to perform a surgery. No one ever had hope of being cured until this Doctor’s great success. Now, he has paved the way!
To “bear” a lot of “sins” for a millions and millions of people who have believed, are believing, and who will believe!
- Particular redemption!
ESV Isaiah 53:12 aTherefore I will divide him a portion with the many,1 band he shall divide the spoil with the strong,2 because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; cyet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
- This does not deny that Jesus will appear again!
- He “will appear a second time” but “not to deal with sin!” (v. 28).
Jesus prepared heaven for you and has prepared you for heaven!
- All that’s been stated here says, “He’s done it!”
So, what’s’ left? He’s coming back to get us! Literally “to save” (v. 28).
- Don’t be thrown off by the word, “save.”
“Save” or final salvation simply means Jesus is coming back to take us out of this world, to “save” us from this sinful world, and bring us into another!
- He is going to personally take us home.
- This is called “The Consummation” – Eschatological deliverance – “The culmination of the ages” [Carson].
- This is the sentiment of Christians being described as “those who are eagerly waiting for him” (v. 28).
- Christians called to grasp and re-grasp our status to fuel “eagerness” for Heaven and for Christ!
ESV Hebrews 13:14 For ahere we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
- This is a reminder to remember.
- Christ did the work once!
- Christ bringing us before His Father for our entrance based on his blood.
- By His blood sacrifice while on earth! He “offered himself” and did so “once” (vv. 25-26).
Author/Poet William Cowper – under the pastoral care of John Newton penned:
There is a fountain filled with blood - Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see - That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, - Wash all my sins away.
Being washed makes us ready – The dying thief was ready
Are you ready? – Being ready makes us eager!