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Sacrifice under the new covenant (9:23-10:18)
Levitical sacrifices were part of a material order and brought symbolic cleansing. Christ’s death is concerned with the spiritual order and brings actual cleansing (23). The Levitical high priest entered the symbolic presence of God with the blood of a sacrificial animal, a ceremony that had to be repeated yearly. Christ entered God’s real presence on account of his own blood, and he did so only once. His death is sufficient to remove completely the sins of the whole world, past, present and future (24-26).
People die once and face judgment. Christ died once and gained eternal salvation for those who trust in him. By his death believers are forgiven; their sins are taken away. They will enjoy the fulness of their salvation when Christ reappears, coming out of the heavenly tabernacle to be with them for ever (27-28).
The repeated offering of the Levitical sacrifices showed that they were unable to bring complete cleansing. They indicated that there must have been something better yet to come (10:1-4). God’s plan was not that animal sacrifices be offered for ever, but that they prepare the way for Jesus Christ. As the man who came from God, Jesus spent his life doing God’s will, even though it led him to offer that life in sacrifice. His death puts an end to all the old sacrifices, for it cleanses people from sin once and for all (5-10).
Israelite priests stood offering sacrifices day after day. Their work was never finished, because animal sacrifices could not remove sin. The great high priest offered one sacrifice (himself), took away sin for ever, then sat down in God’s presence. His work of salvation is complete, and is available for those who want it. But there remains his work of judgment on those who refuse it (11-14). Under the new covenant a complete and permanent spiritual work is done in the lives of God’s people. There is no need for further sacrificial offerings. God’s work through Christ removes all sin and gives believers new life in the Spirit (15-18).
10:19-12:29 THE ENDURANCE OF GENUINE FAITH
The new covenant brings confidence (10:19-25)
Access to God’s presence was limited under the old covenant. Only the high priest could pass through the curtain that closed the entrance to the Most Holy Place, and then only at certain times and under strict conditions. But now that Christ, by his death, has atoned for sin and opened the way to God, all God’s people are able to come before him. They can do so confidently, yet with the reverence and purity that the old ceremonies symbolized (19-22). To fight against the tendency to lose heart, they must trust firmly in God’s promises, help each other in everyday affairs, and meet regularly to encourage each other in the faith (23-25).
Warning against turning back (10:26-39)
Those who are tempted to go back to Judaism are reminded that apart from Christ’s work there is no way of salvation. If they reject him, they can expect only judgment (26-27). Even under the old covenant rebellion met with death. How much worse will be the punishment of those who have experienced the grace of God through Christ, yet deliberately reject and disown it (28-31).
The writer encourages his readers not to forsake Christ, by reminding them of what they have suffered for his sake. They have persevered through insults, violence, imprisonments and robberies, because of their confidence of a lasting reward (32-35). Endurance is essential, since there must always be some waiting time before a promise can be fulfilled. For Christians the promised reward will be at Christ’s return, when he judges between those who persevere in faith and those who turn back (36-39).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany