Hebrews 9:11-28

Hebrews 9:11-28

The Blood of Christ

Introduction:  Christianity has been called a bloody religion, and so it is, but perhaps not in the sense that some mean by that.  I had a philosophy professor at S.M.U. who blamed the bombing of Dresden in W.W. II, in which thousands died, on Christianity, as others have done with the Holocaust.  That can only be done by reading history with a jaundiced eye.  But there is another sense in which both Christianity and the Judaism from which it came are indeed bloody religions.  And not only that, but the Bible is a bloody book.  Over 700 times blood is mentioned in the Scriptures, and most of those references are to either the blood of Christ or the Old Covenant sacrifices which prefigured the blood of Christ.

Many today minimize the blood of Christ and some refuse to talk about it altogether, but it is the blood of Christ which pays for our sin, purchases our forgiveness, and provides for our eternal inheritance.  In view of the many times blood is mentioned in our text today, I thought it would be wise to focus our entire attention upon the significance of the blood of Christ.  Hebrew 9:11-28:

         When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 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. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 

         For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. I

         In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 

         It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Inadequate views of the blood of Christ

Sometimes it’s easier to understand what something is if we first understand what it is not.  I would suggest to you that some make too little of the blood of Christ and others make too much of it. 

         Some make too little of it.  The liberal church in the 20th century has generally downplayed the blood of Christ.  The atonement is preached in terms of example, not sacrifice; i.e. we are told that the value of the death of Jesus is found principally in that he set an example of selflessness for us by laying down His life for His friends.  We should live like He did and if we do so, we authenticate our own Christianity.  To such theologians and preachers the emphasis on blood that is found in Hebrews is chalked off as a condescension on the part of the author to the Jewish audience he was addressing.  Since they were accustomed to bloody sacrifices, he allegedly appealed to that background in order to find common ground with them.  (That view, of course, doesn’t explain why similar references to the blood of Christ are found in almost every NT book, even those expressly written to Gentiles).

So embarrassed are the liberals by the frequency of mention of the blood of Christ that if you look at some of the modern hymnals they have published, you will find a concerted effort to remove hymns and Gospel songs that speak of the blood of Christ, such as we sang this morning.  On the other hand, there are those who make too much of the blood of Christ,

         Some make too much of it.  That is, they take it too literally or perpetuate distorted ideas about it.  We Protestants have been known to criticize the Roman Catholic church for some of their views on the blood of Christ, and frankly, some of the criticism is deserved.  For example, the doctrine of transubstantiation, namely that the bread and wine of the eucharist actually turn into the body and blood of Christ, is the result of an overly literal interpretation of Christ’s words in John 6:53 and 1 Cor. 11.  He said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  That the word “real” here means “spiritual” and not “literal, physical” is evident, I believe, from the simple fact that when these words were spoken, Jesus had not yet died.  His flesh was still intact and His blood was still pumping in His body.  As a result of this overly literal interpretation, the priest has to drink the entire contents of the cup and wipe it with a special cloth so as not to waste any of the blood of Christ.  

But rather than focus on inadequate Catholic views of the blood of Christ, I would like to mention that Protestant evangelicals have also been known to miss the boat on this important subject.  A case in point is the late Dr. M. R. DeHaan, founder and principal teacher for decades of the Radio Bible Class.  He was a dedicated Bible student and a real man of God whose ministries included Our Daily Bread, on which many of you cut your devotional teeth. 

Dr. DeHaan wrote a book called The Chemistry of the Blood.  But though he was probably correct in much of his theology, on the subject of the blood of Christ he held some rather bizarre viewpoints.  He begins with the verse in Lev. 17:14 to the effect that “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and deduces that when God created Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him, it was this act that resulted in the formation of blood in Adam’s body.  Then when Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the eating of it caused “blood poisoning” and resulted in death.  So potent was this poison that 6,000 years afterwards, all who are related to Adam by human birth still succumb to that poison of sin which is carried in some way in the blood.  So (and I quote), “sin affected the blood of man, not his body, except indirectly.”

Jesus Christ was human, of course, and thus He partook of Adam’s flesh, but, according to DeHaan, He could not partake of Adam’s blood, because his blood was completely sinful.  So God provided a way via the virgin birth, by which Jesus received His body from His mother and His blood from the Holy Spirit, so that not one drop of Adam’s blood was in His veins.  His blood was sinless blood and incorruptible blood; therefore, and again I quote, 

“every drop of blood which flowed in Jesus’ body is still in existence and is just as fresh as it was when it flowed from His wounded brow and hands and feet and side.  The blood that flowed from His unbroken skin in Gethsemane, the blood that was smeared about His back when the cruel, weighted thongs cut through His flesh as the flagellator scourged Him, the blood that oozed out under the thorny crown and flowed form His hands, His head, His feet was never destroyed.”  

Well, then, where is it?  DeHaan suggest that 

“perhaps there is a golden chalice in heaven where every drop of the precious blood is still in existence, just as pure, just as potent, just as fresh as 2,000 years ago.  The blood is there in heaven’s Holy of Holies, pleading for us and prevailing for us.”

Now I do not have time to refute all these ideas, but I believe Heb. 2:14 deals a death blow to them:  “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity.”  If Jesus was fully human as well as fully God, as the Bible clearly teaches and as Catholic and Protestant Churches have always held, then chemically His blood must have been the same as ours; it was not magical, spiritual, heavenly blood.[i]

The only difference between Jesus’ body and ours that I can find in the Bible is that His was unaffected by sin.  And the reason He had no sin is not because His blood type was different but because He was the very Son of God.  Now please don’t quit reading Our Daily Bread because of this one issue.  I guess every preacher has a few strange views.  My main point is that there is the need for some clear, straight thinking on the blood of Christ.

The meaning of the Blood of Christ

I would suggest to you that the Blood of Christ is a virtual synonym for the death of Christ.

         It is used synonymously for his death.  In 1966 Dr. Robert Bratcher translated and the American Bible Society published Today’s English Version, better known as Good News for Modern Man.  This was really more of a paraphrase of Scripture, translated with a very limited vocabulary, and designed for English‑speaking people around the world.  Fundamentalists took Bratcher to task for this translation, and one of the key criticisms leveled was that he translated “the blood of Christ” as “the death of Christ.”  Now the word “blood” in Greek is quite distinct from the word “death” so I don’t think that was a good translation, but it is actually not a bad paraphrase.  Theologically he was not in error.

In fact, the N.T. author frequently uses the terms “blood” and “death” interchangeably.  Look, for example, at Romans 5:8‑10:  

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”  

I don’t think anyone would want to suggest that blood and death refer to two different things in this passage, as though his blood justifies us but His death reconciles us. Both are referring to the same event‑‑the shedding of His blood on the cross, resulting in His death for sinners.

But if “blood” means “death” why didn’t the biblical author just speak of Christ’s “death.”  Why did he so often refer to “blood?”  I think the answer is found in the fact that for His death to be atoning, it had to be a sacrifice.

         That death had to be a sacrifice.  I’m going to ask you to do some hypothetical thinking here.  Had Jesus died of some childhood disease, or had He suffered a heart attack on one of his hot desert walks to Jericho, or had He died of old age, would His death have solved our sin problem?  I think not, just as an OT Israelite could not expect to find atonement if he brought to the tabernacle a lamb that had died of disease or that had been killed by a mountain lion or that had died of old age.  For the death of a lamb or bull or goat to have any value as an offering it had to be intentionally sacrificed as a substitute for the sinner, and the ritual was clearly spelled out as to how the animal was to be killed and how the blood was to be drained, caught, and then sprinkled on the altar.  Likewise, for the death of the Lamb of God to have any value as an offering for sin, He had to be sacrificed.  That is, He had to be intentionally killed as a substitute for the sinner, with His shed blood serving as fulfillment of the OT picture of the bloody sacrifice.

But there is still one more concept that must be understood when we equate “blood” with “death.”  Not only must the death be a sacrifice, but it must also be a sinless sacrifice, and that is our third point. 

         And that sacrifice had to be sinless. (14). Under the Old Covenant very strict standards were laid down regarding which animals qualified for a sacrifice.  They could not be sick or scrawny or old.  Listen to these words from Lev. 22:  “You must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. . . Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running soars.”  Sacrifices had to be the very best one had, without spot and blemish.  Such a requirement reminded the people that sin is costly and atonement is costly. 

The same point is frequently made regarding the sacrifice of Christ.  Right here in verse 14 it says He offered Himself “unblemished” to God.  That’s just another way of saying He was sinless, pure, and spotless.  Only one who knew no sin could take any responsibility in regard to giving sinners a new nature.

So the blood of Christ means the death of Christ as a sinless sacrifice.  

Now so far we have looked at some inadequate views of the blood of Christ and at the biblical meaning of the blood of Christ.  Thirdly, I want us to turn specifically to Hebrews 9 and think about . . .

The necessity for the shedding of the blood of Christ (15‑24)

         Without the shedding of His blood there was no salvation available for saints who died under the Old Covenant. (15).  Every Jewish person introduced to the greatness of the New Covenant and the permanent, inward cleansing power of the blood of Christ had one automatic question:  what about my ancestors?  If the sacrifices under the Old Covenant did not suffice to deal finally with sin, but only brought temporary outward cleansing, is there any hope for those who died under the Old Covenant?  No, there would not be except for the blood of Christ.  Isn’t that what verse 15 says?  “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance‑‑now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”  

God’s people in the O.T. were promised an eternal inheritance.  But they did not receive it until Jesus died and paid the ransom to set them free.  In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus Jesus paints a picture of OT saints who had died as being in “Abraham’s bosom,” a place of enjoyment and refreshment, but not the final resting place in the presence of God.  Some have viewed them as in a kind of “holding tank” until the shedding of Jesus’ blood set them free to enter God’s presence.  Their destiny was certain, so “Abraham’s bosom” was not a purgatory, but their enjoyment of that destiny was “not yet.”  The transfer into God’s presence was accomplished, I believe, between the death of Christ and His resurrection when he descended into hades and led captivity captive.

By the way, the same truth we find in Heb. 9:15 is taught in Rom. 3:23‑25:  “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”  The point is this:  God cannot justly leave sins unpunished; but He can delay punishment.  And He delayed the deserved punishment of the sins of OT saints until His Son was ready to shed His blood on Calvary.

The shedding of Jesus’ blood, however, was not only necessary for the OT saints.  Without it the New Covenant could never have gone into effect.

         Without the shedding of His blood the New Covenant could never have gone into effect.  (16‑22).  This is the point of verses 16‑22.  The author tells us that a will (which in Greek is the same word as “testament”) has no validity until the one who makes it dies.  I have a will, as I believe every Christian should.  My estate, which consists mostly of term insurance, is designed to take care of my wife and two boys until they are both out of college and on their own.  But they can’t spend a dime so long as I’m still kicking.

The Old Covenant was ratified by death.  Our passage says that when God instituted it with Moses, it was put into effect by having Moses sprinkle blood on the Book, on the people, on the tabernacle, and on everything used in its ceremonies.  “In fact,” says verse 22, “the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  The reason he says “nearly everything” is that very poor people who couldn’t afford an animal sacrifice had the option of bringing two quarts of fine flour.

But just as the Old Will and Covenant was ratified by the shedding of blood, so the New Will or Covenant had to be ratified in the same way.   

         Without the shedding of His blood sinners could never enter the presence of God. (23,24).  We’ve already seen how this is true in respect to the saints who died in the OT, but now the author makes the same point about us today. Listen to verses 23-24:  “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a man‑made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”  I do not think the author’s point is that there is an actual heavenly tabernacle that needs to be physically cleansed by the blood of Christ.  I believe he is saying that though ritual purification serves the material, physical order, a better kind of sacrifice is necessary to effect purification in the spiritual order.  Yes, heaven is the true tabernacle, but there is also a spiritual tabernacle here on earth, namely the heart and life of the believer, where the Spirit of God dwells.  We are the temple of God and it is we who need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus so we can enter the presence of God.

The value of the blood of Christ, which can be expressed in this phrase, “One for all, once for all.” (25‑28)

         No repetition is necessary.  (25,26).  No repetition is necessary because, as verse 26 says, “Jesus has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”  If it had been necessary for Him to offer himself again and again the way the high priest did, then it would have also been necessary for Him to suffer and die many times as well.  But He did not; His death occurred once, never to be repeated.  It seems to me that verse 26 says something to us about the danger of morbidly dwelling on the crucifixion of Christ.  When the cross is displayed it really ought to be displayed empty, shouldn’t it, rather than with a suffering Jesus hanging on it?  He is not there, He is risen.  He sacrificed Himself once, never to suffer and never to be sacrificed again.

But then the author goes even a step further. 

         No repetition is even possible.  (27,28a).  He says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.”  Did it cross your mind to ask how this reference to our death and pending judgment fits into this whole discussion of the blood of Christ?  Let me suggest this is his point:  Jesus could not suffer and die many times because it is appointed unto men once to die and Jesus was a man like we are.  And He experienced God’s judgment, not for His own sins but for ours.  

Points to Ponder:

1.  Today’s sin is forgivable.  Again and again in the book of Hebrews we are told that Jesus died to do away with sin, to take away the sins of the people, to deal with sin finally and completely.  That translates into the fact that your sin is forgivable.  Sin being an affront to God must be paid for, but God in His grace asked His Son to pay so that we do not have to.  Nothing else can provide forgiveness—no act, no attitude, no rite, no ritual, no church, no prayers.  Jesus’ blood and that alone makes today’s sin forgivable.  

2.  Tomorrow’s judgment is also avertable.  When you die you are not reincarnated.  When you die you do not get another chance.  When you die you are not annihilated.  When you die you face judgment.  But there are two distinct judgments mentioned in the Scriptures, and it makes a great deal of difference which one you face.  One is the Great White Throne Judgment where all those, religious and irreligious alike, who have failed to receive Jesus as Lord and to trust in Him alone for their salvation will be judged.  All those who stand before that judgment will be cast into the lake of fire.   

But there is another judgment which is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is not a judgment at all in the normal sense of the term, for no one will be condemned at that judgment.  It is where those who have trusted in Jesus Christ will be rewarded (or sadly, find they have no rewards, 1 Cor. 3:14-15) and received into the eternal dwelling.  

The last verse in our chapter says that Jesus is coming “a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”  Recently we received a package at the office that carried a printed message:  “One of two.”  It was the sender’s way of saying, “You have not received everything yet—another package is still to come.”  When the second package arrived it contained this message:  “Two of two.”  And that meant, “You’ve got it all—there is no more to come.”  

One day God sent a package to earth, a very special gift.  It was deity wrapped in the package of humanity.  Jesus was Immanuel, God with us; His glory was veiled within His flesh; and in humility and lamb‑like silence He went to the cross and shed His blood for every man.  As great as that package was, it contained this message:  one of two.  Someday Jesus will return again, this time wrapped in glory to usher His people, cleansed by His blood, into the heavenly sanctuary.  He will not bring up our past. He will not discuss our failures.  He will not make any reference to our sins or our inadequacy.  He will not bring those things up because He has already dealt with them.  This is the promise to His people, defined in verse 28 as “those who are waiting for Him.”  Are you waiting?  Are you ready?  Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?



Death of Christ

New Covenant



[i] By the way, I wonder what DeHaan would say about the blood Jesus lost when he stubbed his toe as a child or cut Himself with a saw in the carpenter’s shop.  At first that may sound like a sacrilegious question, but the Bible constantly presents Him as subject to the frailties and weaknesses of human flesh, including hunger, thirst, exhaustion, sleepiness, etc.  Why wouldn’t He also have fallen occasionally and skinned His knee?