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One and Done: Hebrews 9

In Summary:

Hebrews 9 begins with a reminder of the Tabernacle and the regulations for worship of the One True God. We see the continued reference to the Tabernacle more than the Temple here, including a rare New Testament reminder of the Ark of the Covenant. Rather than focusing on these (or telling us where the Ark is at this point!), our author links the formality of worship in the Tabernacle with the ceremonial regulations found in the Old Testament law. The conclusion, though, is that the conscience is not satisfied by these practices because God is not finally satisfied by these practices.

Ultimately, the new high priest had to come. First, He had to take the first covenant to its fulfillment. Then He entered into something better and greater than the Tabernacle. He entered into the holy place, once for all, to bring His people into a place of eternal redemption. The Tabernacle, while impressive, was a shadow at the beginning and became superfluous by the end. If the Tabernacle is characterized like this, how much more should the food and drink laws be considered in this manner?



In Focus:

Turning our focus to the oft-quoted Hebrews 9:27, let’s take this one apart for a moment. First, this verse, usually shortened in quotation to “It is appointed to men once to die and after that, the judgment,” is not a complete sentence. It’s the first half of a comparison between normal humanity and Jesus.

The second half, 9:28, reminds us that not only did Jesus die once and once only, but He will be coming back. This time, though, it is not to die but to save those who eagerly await Him. (ESV renders this nicely.)

In Practice:

The first practical point is that we need to be careful how we treat this verse. It is not presented as a standalone statement. While “it is appointed unto man…” is certainly true, keeping verses in context is one of the keys to Biblical Interpretation.

Second among our practical points is to live in constant anticipation of the promised second appearing of Jesus. That fleshes out in two directions. The main direction is that we never slack off on obedience. The enemy is a defeated enemy and we must keep up the skeer as he is run to ground! Our Lord has given us instructions and we must not let up.

The other direction is this: our Lord will return and we need not trouble ourselves about the timing. In fact, one of the least faithful ways we can spend the time God has given us is wasting it trying to determine if He’s really been honest. Or if His return will be when we expect.

Our practice must be to remember that He gets a second appearing. We get one shot.

In Nerdiness: 

Where does the nerdiness stop here? We have references to the Tabernacle and the altars and the dietary laws…folks, if you aren’t brushed up on the Mosaic Covenant, you will just miss all of the richness and depth in this chapter.

Then there is the idea of the shedding of blood for forgiveness of sins. It’s hard to not see this as a potential positive about human sacrifice, because Jesus is substituted in the chapter for sheep and goats and cattle. But we need to keep this in mind: the animals were substituted for the human beings who weren’t facing “sacrifice” but punishment.


Sacrifice is willing. Punishment is deserved. Jesus takes our punishment, willingly as a sacrifice. It’s not that His death was demanded by the Law. It’s that ours is deserved by it.

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