Our society has thrown out guilt as a bad carryover from our
Puritan past. Movie stars and celebrities not only cast off
but also go on TV to boast about their shameful deeds. Even
Christians who have fallen into sin explain how they have come
feel good about themselves in spite of their failures. They
complain about self-righteous, judgmental Christians who won’t
accept their “shortcomings.”
And yet, in spite
of our widespread efforts to suppress or deny guilt, we can’t
quite shake it. Years ago, psychologist Eric
Fromm observed, “It is indeed amazing that in as fundamentally
irreligious a culture as ours, the sense of guilt should be so
widespread and deep-rooted as it is” (The Sane Society,
[publisher unknown], p. 181). A cartoon hit the nail on the
head. It showed a psychologist saying to his patient, “Mr. Figby,
I think I can explain your feelings of guilt. You’re guilty!”
declares that all of us are guilty before the bench of God’s
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of
...guilt is more than just a bad feeling. It is true moral
culpability that alienates us from God and brings us under His
decreed penalty, eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Rev.
20:11-15). But, thankfully, the Bible also declares that God has
provided a remedy for our guilt. It is vital that we understand
and apply this remedy personally.
Christians were tempted to leave the Christian faith and return
to Judaism. The author is showing them why that
would be spiritually fatal. The old covenant under Moses was
inferior to the new covenant that Jesus initiated. The Levitical
under the old covenant were sinful, mortal men, as contrasted
with Jesus, our sinless priest forever....
In our text, he
shows that the old covenant sacrificial system was temporary and
imperfect. It could not provide a clean
conscience for the worshipers. God designed that old system to
point ahead to the superior, final sacrifice of our high priest,
Christ, who offered His own blood to obtain for us eternal
redemption and a clean conscience. Thus his point is that…
God’s remedy for guilt is the blood of Christ....
1. God designed the old
sacrificial system as a temporary, imperfect way of pointing
ahead to Christ (Hebrews
designed the earthly tabernacle as a picture of Christ
...the Bible only
devotes two chapters to the story of creation, but it gives
about 50 chapters to the tabernacle [which preceded the temple].
It was the center of Jewish worship under the old covenant.
...the design of
the tabernacle and its worship was not left up to human ideas,
but God revealed everything in great detail to Moses on the
mountain. The whole thing was an Old Testament portrait of Jesus
The author omits
any reference to the courtyard, which contained the bronze altar
for sacrifices and the bronze laver or basin.
His purpose centers on the tabernacle itself, because he wants
to compare and contrast it with the true tabernacle in heaven,
where Jesus entered into the very presence of God.
was divided into two sections. The outer section, called the
holy place, was about 30 long, 15 feet wide, and 15
feet high. The inner section, the Holy of Holies, was a 15-foot
cube. On the left in the holy place, as the priest entered, was
gold lampstand with seven branches filled with pure olive oil.
Since there were no windows, this provided the only source of
light. On the right was the table that held the 12 loaves of
sacred bread. Farther in, and to the center just outside the
veil that divided the holy place from the Holy of Holies, was
the altar of incense....
Inside the Holy
of Holies was the ark of the covenant... a golden jar of manna,
Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the Ten
Commandments. The covering of the ark was called the mercy seat,
or (in Greek), the place of propitiation. It was overshadowed by
two cherubim of glory, so called because it was there that the
glory of God’s presence was manifested (Exodus 25:22). The high
priest sprinkled the blood from the sacrifices on this mercy
seat. The author does not explain the symbolic meaning of any of
these things, but hurries on to his point, that these things
were temporary and looked ahead to Christ ...
pictures Christ, not here as the light of the world (because the
world was not allowed into the holy place), but as the one who
illumines the things of God through the Holy Spirit (the oil) to
those who draw near. The table of sacred bread pictures
Christ as the sustenance of His chosen people and their
communion with Him. The altar of incense shows Christ
His people in God’s presence.
The ark pictured
the very presence of God. The golden jar of manna shows Christ
as the daily bread of His people. Aaron’s rod
that budded shows Christ, the branch, chosen above others
because He alone is life-giving. The tables of the covenant
God’s holy standards. Neither the pot of manna nor Aaron’s rod
existed in Solomon’s time, but the two stone tables were still
there (1 Kings 8:9). The ark itself apparently disappeared when
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 586 B.C. The later temple
only contained a stone slab in the Holy of Holies.
designed the ministry of the priests in the tabernacle as a
picture of the work of Christ (9:6-10).
He summarizes the
common activities of the priests in Hebrews 9:6. They went into
the outer tabernacle to trim the lamps and to put fresh incense
on the altar. Once a week they would replace the sacred loaves
But 9:7 focuses
on the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could go in there,
once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus
16). He would first offer a bull for his own sins. He would
enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the bull on
seat and in front of it. Then he would go back out and slaughter
one of two goats as a sin offering for the people and take this
blood into the mercy seat. He would go back out and lay his
hands on the living goat, confessing over it the sins of the
people. They would lead this goat out into the wilderness and
let it go.
... that old
system provided a way for forgiveness for “the sins of the
people committed in ignorance” (9:7). The Law stipulated that
there was no sacrifice for sins of defiance (Num. 15:30-31).
There is a sense, of course, in which virtually all of our sins
stem from defiance toward God, but the reference in Numbers
seems to refer to outrageous, blasphemous behavior that
represented revolt or treason against God. In this sense,
there is a parallel in Hebrews 10:26-31, where the author
strongly warns his readers against
apostasy, for which there is no sacrifice.
The annual Day of
Atonement ritual would have underscored to Israel a number of
vital spiritual truths. It portrayed the absolute
holiness of God and how our sin separates us from entering His
presence. It showed the sin and defilement of all of the people,
including the high priest. It showed that no one dared to enter
God’s holy presence without the blood of an acceptable
showed that the people must approach God through the proper
mediator, the high priest. It showed that if the proper
offered, God would be propitiated or satisfied, so that He would
not judge their sins. But, as glorious as all of this ritual
was, it was
inadequate, for two main reasons:
1) The old
system provided limited access to God. None of the people
and not even all of the priests could enter
the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could go there, and
that only once a year, with blood. It was not a cozy place where
his feet up on the hearth and had a warm conversation with God!
He had to make sure that he had the ritual down perfectly, or it
would be his last trip into that sacred sanctuary!...
2) The old
system provided limited efficacy of the sacrifices. The
author’s bottom line is that these gifts and sacrifices
could not “make the worshiper perfect in conscience” (9:9). He
does not explain exactly what that means, except that it was “a
symbol” (parable) “for the present time.”...
Second, they were
temporary, “imposed until a time of reformation,” which refers
to the time of Christ. The fact that the sacrifices
had to be repeated annually showed the incomplete nature of the
forgiveness. It put off guilt for each year, but it had to be
again and again.
Testament sacrificial system was not God’s complete and final
provision for the guilt of our sins. It all pointed ahead to
2. The blood of Christ obtained
eternal redemption and a clean conscience for us (9:11-14).
old system provided only limited access and limited
efficacy, Christ provides complete access and efficacy:
blood provides complete access into the heavenly Holy of
and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,”
refers to the “true tabernacle” in heaven (8:2), which is God’s
very presence. The point is, Christ didn’t just go into an
earthly Holy of Holies. He went into heaven itself, of which the
earthly tabernacle was only a picture.
Christ didn’t take the blood of goats and calves to sprinkle on
the altar. Rather, He went there “through His own
blood.” Some have erroneously taught that Jesus had to carry His
blood into heaven to secure our redemption. But He didn’t go
there with His blood, but through His blood. He secured our
redemption on the cross.
In contrast to
going back every year, Christ “entered the holy place once
for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
The author is
showing the complete supremacy and finality of the blood of
Christ over the old system. Through His death, our
guilt is atoned for once and for all, for all eternity!
The penalty has been paid. There is nothing that we can add to
what Christ did.
Through Him we
have direct access to God!
B. Christ’s blood
provides complete efficacy that cleanses our consciences
The Bible teaches that the conscience alone is not an infallible
guide. Through repeated sin, the conscience can be defiled
1:15) and seared (1 Tim. 4:2). For example, I read that
dictator Pol Pot murdered between two and seven million of his
fellow people. He ordered the murder of everyone who wore eye
glasses, among many other senseless killings. Historians say
that his evil deeds were even greater than those of Hitler and
Stalin, if possible. Yet just before he died in 1998, he told a reporter that he had
a clear conscience! It wasn’t clear; it was seared!
So our consciences need to be informed and trained through
Scripture. As we learn who God is and what His holy standards
our consciences accuse us of how sinful we are. God’s
applied as Jesus did to the heart level, convict and condemn
us all! None of us come close to loving God with our entire
or to loving our fellow human beings as we love ourselves. Part
God’s work in regeneration is to bring His holy Law to bear on
hearts, so that we despair of any way of trying to justify
We stand truly guilty.
So how can our guilt be removed and our consciences be
cleansed? Only through the sacrifice of an acceptable
1 Peter 3: 18 puts it, “For Christ also died for sins once for
just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God….” Or, as
Paul put it (Rom. 3:24-25), “being justified as a gift by His
through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God
publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”
guilt is not removed by doing penance or good works. Our guilt
totally removed by God’s free gift through the blood of Christ.
receive this gift through faith.
“But,” you may wonder, “if it is totally by God’s grace apart
from anything that we do, won’t people take advantage of His
grace by living in sin?” Paul deals extensively with this
Romans 6. But here our author counters it with a single phrase
the end of verse 14:
3. Christ redeems and cleanses us from dead works to serve
the living God (Hebrews 9:14).
Some Christians serve God in an attempt to pacify a guilty
conscience. They erroneously think, “If I do enough for Him,
maybe He will forgive me.” That is a wrong motive! ...
There are three senses in which the works of those who have
not trusted in the blood of Christ are dead works (from P.
- First, they are dead works because the one doing
them is dead in his sins, separated from the life of God.
they are dead works because they “are essentially sterile and
They cannot communicate spiritual life to others because
they stem from a person who is spiritually dead.
- Third, they are
dead works because they end in spiritual death. A person does
them thinking that they will earn him eternal life. But if
could come through our good works, then Christ died needlessly!
No amount of good works can qualify a person for heaven.
But once we are born again by God’s grace, we offer ourselves
as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2), so that whether we eat or
whatever we do, we do it to God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Our
lives become an act of worship and praise to the living God out
gratitude (Heb. 13:15-16).
transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering
for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God
willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment
longer.” Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred
head of Jesus.
Have you done that? If you have not, you are truly guilty before
God and stand in jeopardy of His judgment. If you have, you
have applied God’s remedy for your guilt, the blood of Christ.
With a clean conscience, you now can serve the living God.
© 2004 by
Steven Cole. Used
"If we say that we have no
sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1
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