THE SACRIFICE TO END ALL SACRIFICES.
The Law is but a “shadow” of “good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). As such the Law, though good in itself (cf. Romans 7:12), serves only as a schoolmaster pointing us to Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:24). The round of sacrifices represented here by the annual Day of Atonement, though appointed by God, “could never make the comers thereunto perfect” (Hebrews 10:1).
Furthermore, those sacrifices had to be repeated “year by year continually” (Hebrews 10:1) exactly because they were ineffective in the long term. If the sacrifices were effective in purging the consciences of those who offer, “would they not have ceased to be offered?” argues our writer (Hebrews 10:2). The net result was a cleansing which potentially would last until this time next year, but which actually only served to remind one of sins committed from the very moment one stepped outside the sanctuary (Hebrews 10:3).
The epitaph of the Old Testament sacrificial system is: “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4; see also Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8). Now it was time to move on to new and better things (cf. Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 8:13; Hebrews 11:39-40). The “fullness of time” had come (cf. Galatians 4:4-5), and the Son of God was waiting in the wings to fulfil all that the sacrifices had represented.
The answer to this deficiency came out from the borders of heaven (Hebrews 10:5). With the words of Psalm 40:6-8 upon His lips, Jesus was already on His way. He was heard announcing the incarnation: “a body You have prepared for me … Lo, I come” (Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 10:7).
It is by ‘the body of Christ’ that we become ‘dead to the law’ (cf. Romans 7:4). ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14). Mary’s child, Jesus, was also known as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
Jesus also said, “In the volume of the book it is written of me” (Hebrews 10:7). His name is, in effect, the heading of the scroll. After the resurrection, Jesus opened up the Scriptures to show His disciples ‘the things concerning Himself’ (cf. Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44-45).
He added, “Lo, I come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9). Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy will be done’ (cf. Matthew 6:10) - yet it was also His prayer. He echoed this in the Garden of Gethsemane: ‘not my will, but Yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).
The Lord takes away the Old Testament to establish the New, “by the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:9-10). The incarnation had its foundation in the love of God (cf. John 3:16). It was the beginning of the Lord’s own self-sacrifice, which would lead all the way to Calvary (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).
John the Baptist recognised Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world’ (cf. John 1:29). John the Evangelist writes that ‘He was manifested to take away our sins’ (1 John 3:5). It is by this outworking of God’s will that we are saved and sanctified: the “body of Jesus Christ” is the bridge between heaven and earth. (Hebrews 10:10).
Jesus has finished the work which the Father sent Him to do (cf. John 17:4; John 19:30). He is now seated, His work completed, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12). He awaits the culmination of all things, when His enemies will at last be “put under His feet” (Hebrews 10:13 clearly echoes Psalm 110:1 – Paul no doubt alludes to the same Old Testament verse in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26).
The application draws ever closer as the writer re-emphasises the one offering of Jesus (Hebrews 10:14). Although we are still being perfected in experience, in point of fact Jesus has already accomplished our perfection at the Cross – a past event with on-going consequences for our lifestyle. Sanctification, in this verse, is on-going action: “those who are being sanctified.”
It is interesting to note here that the Holy Spirit is witnessing to US through the Scriptures (Hebrews 10:15). He has re-introduced the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Hebrews 10:16; and He is now telling us that it is OUR sins and iniquities He will remember no more (Hebrews 10:17). If our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus, then there is no further need for the sacrificial system represented by tabernacle and Temple (Hebrews 10:18)!