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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hebrews 9:16

For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Blood;   Inheritance;   Jesus, the Christ;   Law;   Suffering;   Testament;   Will;   The Topic Concordance - Sacrifice;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Covenant, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Covenant;   Law;   Priest;   Sacrifice;   Testament;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Offerings and Sacrifices;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Altar;   Baptism ;   Knowledge of God (1);   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Covenant;   Hebrews, the Epistle to the;   New Testament;   Sacrifice;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Day of Atonement;   Hebrews;   Imagery;   Inheritance;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Covenant;   Priest;   Testament;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Blood;   Covenant;   Debt, Debtor;   Hebrews Epistle to the;   Lord's Supper (Ii);   Mediator;   Priest (2);   Roman Law in the Nt;   Sacrifice;   Will (Testament);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Covenant, the New;   Testator;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Christ;   Testament;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Atonement, the Day of;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Priest;   Sacrifice;  
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Adam Clarke Commentary

For where a testament is - A learned and judicious friend furnishes me with the following translation of this and the 17th verse: -

"For where there is a covenant, it is necessary that the death of the appointed victim should be exhibited, because a covenant is confirmed over dead victims, since it is not at all valid while the appointed victim is alive."

He observes, "There is no word signifying testator, or men, in the original. Διαθεμενος is not a substantive, but a participle, or a participial adjective, derived from the same root as διατηκη, and must have a substantive understood. I therefore render it the disposed or appointed victim, alluding to the manner of disposing or setting apart the pieces of the victim, when they were going to ratify a covenant; and you know well the old custom of ratifying a covenant, to which the apostle alludes. I refer to your own notes on Genesis 6:18; (note), and Genesis 15:10; (note). - J. C."

Mr. Wakefield has translated the passage nearly in the same way.

"For where a covenant is, there must be necessarily introduced the death of that which establisheth the covenant; because a covenant is confirmed over dead things, and is of no force at all whilst that which establisheth the covenant is alive." This is undoubtedly the meaning of this passage; and we should endeavor to forget that testament and testator were ever introduced, as they totally change the apostle's meaning. See the observations at the end of this chapter.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

A will, however fully executed, does not take effect until the death of the testator. The apostle takes occasion from this circumstance to represent the gospel as a will, made effective by the death of Christ, inasmuch as it was by his death that the blessings of salvation were sealed and secured.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews

The New Testament

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Having affirmed ( Hebrews 9:12, 14) that the blood of Christ is the means of the believer's redemption, in verse 15, the apostle proceeds to make further proof of this basic and vital truth. His argument here is taken from the design and object of Christ's priesthood, which was to confirm the covenant God had made with His people, and which could only be done by blood. First, he affirms that the Savior was "the Mediator of the new testament." Many functions were undertaken by Him. Just as one type could not set forth all that the Lord Jesus did and suffered, so no single office could display all the relations which He sustained and all the benefits He procured for us. That which is done by a prophet, by a priest, by a king, by a surety, by a mediator, by a husband, by a father, that and more has been done by Christ. And the more dearly we observe in Scripture the many undertakings of Christ for us, as seen in His varied relations, the more will He be endeared to our hearts, and the more will faith be strengthened.

Christ's undertaking to be a "Mediator" both procured a covenant to pass between God and men, and also engaged Himself for the performance thereof on both parts. This could only be by a full satisfaction being rendered to Divine justice, by the shedding of blood infinitely valuable as His was. To assure His people of their partaking of the benefits of God's covenant, the cross of Christ has turned that covenant into a testament, so that the conditions of the covenant on God's part (its requirements: namely, perfect obedience rendered to His law, and thus "everlasting righteousness'' being brought in: Daniel 9:24; and full satisfaction being taken by the law for the sins of His people) might be so many legacies, which being ratified by the death of the Testator, none might disannul.

Unspeakably blessed as are the truths expressed (so freely) above, there is another which is still more precious for faith to apprehend and rest on, and that Isaiah, that behind all offices (so to speak), lying at the foundation of the whole dispensation of God's grace toward His people, is the mystical oneness of Christ and His Church: a legal oneness, which ultimates by the Spirit's work in a vital union, so that Christ is the Head and believers are the members of one Person ( 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13). This, and this alone, constituted the just ground for God to impute to Christ all the sins of His people, and to impute to them the righteousness of Christ for their justification of life. What Christ did in obeying the law is reckoned to them as though that obedience had been performed by them; and in like manner, what they deserved on account of their sins was charged to and endured by Him, as though they themselves had suffered it: see 2Corinthians 5:21.

The first spring of the union between Christ and His Church lay in that eternal compact between the Father and the Son respecting the salvation of His people contemplated as fallen in Adam. In view of the human nature which He was to assume, the Lord Christ was "predestinated" or "foreordained" ( 1 Peter 1:20) unto grace and glory, and that by virtue of the union of flesh unto His Godhead. This grace and glory of the God-man was the exemplary cause and pattern of our predestination: Romans 8:29, Philippians 3:21. It was also the cause and means of the communicating of all grace and glory unto us, for we were "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" ( Ephesians 1:4). Christ was thus elected ( Isaiah 42:1) as Head of the Church, His mystical body. All the elect of God were then committed unto Him, to be delivered from sin and death, and brought unto the enjoyment of God: John 17:6, Revelation 1:5, 6.

In the prosecution of this design of God, and to effect the accomplishment of the "everlasting covenant" ( Hebrews 13:20), Christ undertook to be the "Surety" of that covenant ( Hebrews 7:22), engaging to answer for all the liabilities of His people and to discharge all their legal responsibilities. Yet was it as Priest that Christ acted as Surety: God's "Priest," our "Surety." That is to say, all the activities of Christ were of a sacerdotal character, having God for their immediate object; but as these activities were all performed on our behalf, He was a Surety or Sponsor for us also. As the "Surety" of the covenant, Christ undertook to discharge all the debts of those who are made partakers of its benefits. As our Surety He also merited and procured from God the Holy Spirit, to communicate to His people all needful supplies of grace to make them new creatures, which enables them to yield obedience to God from a new principle of spiritual life, and that faithfully unto the end.

When considering the administration of the "everlasting covenant'' in time, we contemplate the actual application of the grace, benefits and privileges of it unto those for whose sakes it was devised and drawn up. For this the death of the Mediator was required, for only through His blood-shedding is the whole grace of the covenant made effectual unto us. This it is which is affirmed in Hebrews 9:15, and which we considered at length in our last article. In the passage which is now to be before us, the apostle does two things: first, he refers to a well known fact which is everywhere recognized among men, namely, that a will or testament requires the death of the testator to give it validity. Second, he refers to an Old Testament type which exemplifies the principle which he is here setting before us.

"For where a testament Isaiah, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" (verses 16, 17). That which is found in verses 16-23is really of the nature of a parenthesis, brought in for the purpose of showing why it was necessary for the incarnate Son to die. In verse 24the apostle returns to his proofs for the superiority of the ministry of Christ over Aaron's. What we have in verses 16, 17, is brought in to show both the need for and the purpose of the death of Christ, the argument being drawn from the character and design of that covenant of which He is the Mediator. Because that covenant was also to be a "testament" it was confirmed by the death of the Testator. Appeal is made to the only use of a will or testament among men.

The method by which the apostle here demonstrates the necessity of Christ's death as He was "the mediator of the new testament'' is not merely from the signification of the word "diatheke" (though we must not lose sight of its force), but as he is speaking principally of the two "covenants" (i.e, the two forms under which the "everlasting covenant" has been administered), it is the affinity which there is between a solemn covenant, and a testament, that he has respect unto. For it is to be carefully noted that the apostle speaks not of the death of Christ merely as it was a death, which is all that is required of a "testament" as such, without any consideration of the nature of the testator's death; but he speaks of it also (and primarily) as it was a sacrifice by the shedding of His blood (verses 12, 14, 18-23), which belongs to a Divine covenant, and is in no way required by a "testament." Thus, we see again the needs-be for retaining the double meaning and force of the Greek word here.

There has been much needless wrangling over the Divine person alluded to under the word "Testator," some insisting it is Christ, some the Father, others arguing the impossibility of the latter because the Father has never died. We believe that, in this case, Saphir was right when he said, "The testator Isaiah, properly speaking, God; for we are God's heirs; but it is God in Christ." Had he referred the reader to 2Corinthians his statement had been given scriptural confirmation. The "everlasting covenant" or Covenant of Grace has the nature of a "testament" from these four considerations or facts. First, it proceeded from the will of God: He freely made it ( Hebrews 6:17). Second, it contained various legacies or gifts: to Christ, God bequeathed the elect as His inheritance ( Deuteronomy 32:9, Psalm 16:6, Luke 22:29); to the elect themselves, that they should be joint-heirs with Him ( Romans 8:17, Revelation 3:21). Third, it is unalterable ( Galatians 3:15), "ordered in all things and sure" ( 2 Samuel 23:5); having been duly witnessed to ( 1 John 5:7), hence, being of the nature of a "testament" there are no stipulations for men to fulfill ( Galatians 3:18). Fourth, the death of Christ has secured the administration of it.

A deed is not valid without a seal; a will cannot be probated until the legatee dies, nor were God's covenants with men (the historical adumbrations of the "everlasting covenant") ratified except by blood-shedding. Thus it was with His covenant with Abraham ( Genesis 15:9, 18); thus it was with His covenant with Israel at Sinai ( Exodus 24:6). Thus, unto the confirmation of a "testament" there must be the death of the testator; unto the ratification of a "covenant" the blood of a sacrifice was required. Thereby does the apostle prove conclusively the necessity for the sacrificial death of Christ as the Mediator, both as the Mediator of a "covenant" and as the Mediator of a "testament": for through His sacrificial death, both the promises contained in the "covenant" and the bequeathments of the "testament," are made irrevocably sure to all His seed. We trust, then that we have been enabled to clear up the great difficulty which the word "diatheke" has caused so many, and shown that it has a double meaning and force in this passage.

It remains for us to point out that the Old Testament supplies us with a most striking type which blessedly illustrates the principle enunciated in this 16th verse. But note first of all that verse 15 opens with "For" and that this comes right after the mention of "the Mediator of the new testament," and the promise of "eternal inheritance" in verse 15. Now the "mediator" of the "Old Testament" was Moses, and it was not until his death, though immediately after it, that Israel entered their inheritance, the land of Canaan! Looked at from the standpoint of God's government, the death of Moses was because of his sin ( ); but considered in relation to his official position, as "the servant over the house of God," it had another and deeper meaning as Deuteronomy 3:26 shows, "the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes"—how blessedly did this foreshadow the reason why God's wrath was visited upon Christ: Christ, as Moses, must die before the inheritance could be ours.

In verse 17 it is not of the making of a testament which is referred to, but its execution: its efficacy depends solely on the testator's death. The words "is of force" mean, is firm and cannot be annulled; it must be executed according to the mind of the one who devised it. The reason why it is of "no strength" during his lifetime, is because it is then subject to alteration, according to the pleasure of him who made it. All the blessings of "grace and glory" were the property of Christ, for He was "appointed Heir of all things" ( Hebrews 1:2): but in His death, He made a bequeathment of them unto all the elect. Another analogy between a human testament and the testamentary character of Christ's death is that, an absolute grant is made without any conditions. So is the kingdom of heaven bequeathed to all the elect, so that nothing can defeat His will. Whatever there is in the Gospel which prescribes conditions, that belongs to it as it is a "covenant" and not as a "testament." Finally, the testator assigns the time when his heirs shall be admitted into the actual possession of his goods; so too has Christ determined the season when each shall enter both into grace and glory.

Perhaps a brief word should be added by way of amplification to the bare statement made above respecting the conditions which the Gospel prescribes unto those who are the beneficiaries of Christ's "testament." Repentance and faith are required by the Gospel; yet, strictly speaking they are not "conditions" of our entering into the enjoyment of Christ's gifts. Faith is a means to receive and partake of the things promised, repentance is a qualification whereby we may know that we are the persons to whom such promises belong. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that He who has made the promises works in His elect these graces of repentance and faith: Acts 5:31, Philippians 1:29.

"It is a great and gracious condescension in the Holy Spirit to give encouragement and confirmation unto our faith, by a representation of the truth and reality of spiritual things, in those which are temporal and agreeing with them in their general nature, whereby they are presented unto the common understandings of men. This way of proceeding the apostle calls, a speaking ‘after the manner of men' ( Galatians 3:15). Of the same kind were all the parables used by our Savior; for it is all one whether these representations be taken from things real, or from those which, according unto the same rule of reason and right, are framed on purpose for that end" (John Owen).

"Whereupon neither the first was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (verses 18-22).

In these verses the apostle is still pressing upon the Hebrews the necessity for the blood-shedding of Christ. Their national history witnessed to the fact that when God entered into covenant with their fathers, that covenant was confirmed by solemn sacrifice. In the verses upon which we are now to comment, the apostle is not merely proving that the old covenant or testament was confirmed with blood, for had that been his only object, he could have dispatched it in very few words; rather does he also declare what was the use of blood in sacrifices on all occasions under the law, and thereby he demonstrates the use and efficacy of Christ's blood as unto the ends of the new covenant. The ends of the blood under the old covenant were two, namely, purification and pardon, both of which were confirmed in the expiation of sin. Unless the main design of the Spirit in these verses be steadily kept in view, we miss the deeper meaning of many of their details.

What has just been said above, supplies the explanation of what has seemed a problem to some, namely that in these verses the apostle mentions five or six details which are not found in the historical narrative of Exodus 24. But the Holy Spirit is not here limiting our view to Exodus 24, but gathers up what is found in various places of the law; and that, because He not only designed to prove the dedication of the covenant by blood, but also to show the whole use of the blood under the law, as unto purification and remission of sin. And He does this with the purpose of declaring the virtue and efficacy of the blood of Christ under the new testament, whereunto He makes an application of all the things in the verses which follow. The "Moreover" at the beginning of verse 21is plain intimation that the Spirit is here contemplating something in addition to that which is found in Exodus 24.

Verse 18. The opening word is usually rendered "therefore" or "wherefore": it denotes the drawing of an inference; it confirms a general rule by a special instance. In verse 16 the general rule is stated; now, says the apostle, think it not strange that the new testament was confirmed by the death of the Testator, for this is so necessary that, the first one also was confirmed in the same manner; and that, not only by death, but not "without blood," which was required for the ratification of a solemn covenant. That to which reference is made is the "first" testament or covenant. Here the apostle makes clear what he intended by the first or old covenant, on which he had discoursed at large in chapter 8: it was the covenant made with Israel at Horeb. Just a few words on the character of it.

Its terms had all the nature of a formal covenant. These were the things written in the book ( Exodus 24:4, 7) which were an epitome of the whole law, as contained in Exodus 20-23. The revelation of its terms were made by Jehovah Himself, speaking with awful voice from the summit of Sinai: Exodus chapters 19, 20. Following the fundamental rule of the covenant, as contained in the Ten Commandments, were other statutes and rites, given for the directing of their walking with God. The same was solemnly delivered to Israel by Moses, and proposed unto them for their acceptation. Upon their approbation of it, the book was read in the hearing of all the people after it had been duly sprinkled with the blood of the covenant ( Exodus 24:7). Thereupon, for the first time, Jehovah was called "The God of Israel" ( Exodus 24:10), and that by virtue of the covenant. This formed the foundation of His consequent dealings with them: all His chastening judgments upon Israel were due to their breaking of His covenant.

While there is a contrast, sharp and clear, between the Old Testament and the new, yet it should not be overlooked that there was also that which bound them together. This was ably expressed by Adolph Saphir: "The promise given to Abraham, and not to Moses, was not superseded or forgotten in the giving of the law. When God dealt with Israel in the wilderness, He gave them the promise that they should be a peculiar treasure unto Him above all people: ‘for all the earth is Mine'; and that they should possess the land as an inheritance ( Exodus 19:5, 6; 23:30; Deuteronomy 15:4). Based upon this promise, and corresponding with the Divine election and favor, is the law which God gave to His people. As He had chosen and redeemed them so that they were to be a holy people, and to walk before Him, even as in the Ten Commandments the gospel of election and redemption came first: ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt.' Hence this covenant or dispensation, although it was a covenant, not of grace and Divine gifts and enablings, but of works, was connected with and based upon redemption, and it was dedicated, as the apostle emphatically says, not without blood.

"Both the book, or record of the covenant, and all the people, were sprinkled with the blood of typical sacrifices. For without blood is no remission of sins, and the promises of God can only be obtained through atonement. But we know that this is a figure of the one great Sacrifice, and that therefore all the promises and blessings under the old dispensation, underlying and sustaining it, were through the prospective death of the true Mediator. When therefore the spiritual Israelite was convinced by the law of sin, both as guilt and as a condition of impurity and strengthlessness, he was confronted by the promise of the inheritance, which always was of grace, unconditional and sure, and in a righteous and holy manner through expiation."

Verse 19. The one made use of for the dedication of the covenant was Moses. On God's part he was immediately called unto this employment: Exodus 3. On the part of the people, he was desired and chosen to transact all things between God and them, because they were not able to bear the effects of His immediate presence: Exodus 19:19, Deuteronomy 5:22-27; and this choice of a spokesman on their part, God approved (verse 27). Thus Moses became in a general way a "mediator" between God and men in the giving of the law ( Galatians 3:19). Thereby we are shown that there can be no covenant between God and sinful men, but in the hands of a Mediator, for man has neither meetness, merits, nor ability to be an undertaker of the terms of God's covenant in his own person.

Moses spake "every precept unto the people." This intimates the particular character of the Old Testament. It consisted primarily of commandments of obedience ( Ephesians 2:15), promising no assistance for the performance of them. The "new testament" is of another nature: it is one of promises, and although it also has precepts requiring obedience, yet is it (as a covenant) wholly founded in the promise, whereby strength and assistance for the performance of that obedience are given to us. Moses' reading "every precept unto the people" emphasizes the fact that all the good things they were to receive by virtue of the covenant, depended on their observance of all that was commanded them; for a curse was denounced against every one that "continued not in all things written in the law to do them" ( Deuteronomy 27:26). Obviously, such a "covenant" was never ordained for the saving of sinners: its insufficiency for that end is what the apostle demonstrates in the sequel.

We are again indebted to the exposition of John Owen for much of the above, and now give in condensed form some of his observations on the contents of verse 19. Here, for the first time, was any part of God's Word committed to writing. This book of the law was written that it might be read to all the people: it was not to be restricted to the priests, as containing mysteries unlawful to,be divulged. It was written and read in the language which the people understood and spake, which condemns Rome's use of the Latin in her public services. Again; God never required the observance of any rites or duties of worship, without a previous warrant from His Word. How thankful should we be for the written Word!

That which Moses performed on this occasion was to sprinkle the blood. Exodus 24:6 informs us that he took "half of the blood" and sprinkled it "on the altar" (on which was the book); the other half on the people. The one was God's part; the other theirs. Thereby the mutual agreement of Jehovah and the people was indicated. Typically, this foreshadowed the twofold efficacy of Christ's blood, to make salvation God-wards and to save Prayer of Manasseh -wards; or, to the remission of our sins unto justification, and the purification of our persons unto sanctification. The "scarlet wool," probably bound around the "hyssop" (which was a common weed), was employed as a sprinkler, as that which served to apply the blood in the basons upon the people; "water" being mixed with the blood to keep it fluid and aspersible. In like manner, the communication of the benefits of Christ's death unto sanctification, is called the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" ( 1 Peter 1:2). To avail us, the blood must not only be "shed," but "sprinkled."

The mingling of the "water" with the "blood" was to represent the "blood and water" which flowed from the pierced side of the Savior ( John 19:34,35), the spiritual "mystery" and meaning of which is profound and blessed. In 1John 5:6 the Holy Spirit has particularly emphasized the fact that the Christ came "by water and blood." He came not only to make atonement for our sins by His blood that we might be justified, but also to sprinkle us with the efficacy of His blood in the communication of the Spirit unto sanctification, which is compared unto "water": see John 7:38, 39, Titus 3:5. The application of the blood to the "book" of the covenant was an intimation that atonement could be made by blood for the sins against its precepts, and the application of the "water" to it told of its purity. The sprinkler pointed to the humanity of Christ, through which all grace is communicated to us: the "scarlet wool" speaking of His personal glory ( Daniel 5:7 etc.), and the "hyssop," the meanest of plant-life ( 1 Kings 4:33), being a figure of His lowly outward appearance.

Verse 20. In these words Moses reminded Israel of the foundation of their acceptance of the covenant, which foundation was the authority of God requiring them so to do; the word "enjoined" also emphasized the nature of the covenant itself: it consisted principally not of promises which had been given to them, but of "precepts" which called for hearty obedience. By quoting here these words of Moses "this is the blood of the testament," the apostle proves that not only death, but a sacrificial death, was required in order to the consecration and establishment of the first covenant. The blood was the confirmatory sign, the token between God and the people of their mutual engagements in that covenant. Thus did God from earliest times teach His people, by type and shadow, the supreme value of the blood of His Son. These words of Moses were plainly alluded to by the Savior in the institution of His "supper": "This is My blood of the new testament" ( Matthew 26:28) i.e, this represents My blood, by the shedding of which the new testament is confirmed.

Verse 21. The apostle now reminds the Hebrews that, not only was the Old Testament itself dedicated with blood, but that also all the ways and means of solemn worship were purified by the same. His purpose in bringing in this additional fact was to prove that not only was the blood of Christ in sacrifice necessary, but also to demonstrate its efficacy in the removing of sins and thereby qualifying sinners to be worshippers of the most holy God. The historical reference here is to what is found in Leviticus 16:14, 16, 18. The spiritual meaning of the tabernacle's furniture being sprinkled with blood was at least twofold: first, in themselves those vessels were holy by God's institution, yet in the use of them by polluted men, they became defiled, and needed purging. Second, to teach the Israelites and us that, the very means of grace which we use, are only made acceptable to God through the merits of Christ's sacrifice.

What we have just sought to point out above, brings before us a most important and humbling truth. In all those things wherein we have to do with God, and whereby we approach unto Him, nothing but the blood of Christ and the Spirit's application of it unto our consciences, gives us a gracious acceptance with Him. The best of our performances are defiled by the flesh; our very prayers and repentances are unclean, and cannot be received by God except as we plead before Him the precious blood of Christ. "The people were hereby taught that, God could not be looked to for salvation, nor rightly worshipped, except faith in every case looked to an intervening blood. For the majesty of God is justly to be dreaded by us, and the way to His presence is nothing to us but a dangerous labyrinth, until we know that He is pacified towards us through the blood of Christ, and that this blood affords to us a free access. All kinds of worship are then faulty and impure until, Christ cleanses them by the sprinkling of His blood . . . If this thought only came to our mind, that what we read is not written so much with ink as with the blood of Christ, that when the Gospel is preached, His sacred blood distils together with the voice, there would be far greater attention as well as reverence on our part" (John Calvin).

Verse 22. "By the law" signifies "according unto the law," that Isaiah, according to its institution and rule, in that way of faith and obedience which the people were obligated unto. This has been shown by the apostle in the verses preceding. His design being to prove both the necessity for the death of Christ and the efficacy of His blood unto the purging of sins, whereof the legal institutions were types. The qualifying "almost" takes into consideration the exceptions of "fire" ( Numbers 31:23) and "water" ( Leviticus 22:6, 7, etc.): but let it be carefully noted that these exceptions were of such things as wherein the worship of God was not immediately concerned, nor where the conscience was defiled; they were only of external pollutions, by things in their own nature indifferent, having nothing of sin in them; yet were they designed as warnings against things which did defile. The "almost" also takes note of the exception in Leviticus 5:11.

The last clause of verse 22enunciates an axiom universally true, and in every age. The curse of the law was, and still Isaiah, "the soul that sinneth it shall die" ( Ezekiel 18:20). But whereas there is no man "that sinneth not" ( Ecclesiastes 7:20), God, in His grace, provided that there should be a testification of the remission of sins, and that the curse of the law should not be immediately executed on them that sinned. This He did by allowing the people to make atonement for those sins by the blood of sacrifices: Leviticus 17:11. Thereby God made known two things. First, to the Israelites that, by the blood of animals there should be a political or temporal remission of their sins granted, so that they should not die under the sentence of that law which was the rule of government over their nation. Second, that a real spiritual and eternal forgiveness should be granted unto faith in the sacrifice of Christ, which was represented by the slain animals. The present application of this verse is that, no salvation is possible for any soul that rejects the sacrifice of Christ.

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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews".

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Sacrifice under the old covenant (9:15-22)

Under the old covenant, repentant sinners offered sacrifices for their sins, but the sacrifices themselves could not bring forgiveness. They brought no more than ceremonial cleansing. The actual cleansing of those sins depended on the sacrifice of Christ. Whether sins were committed before the time of Christ or after, the death of Christ is the basis on which God forgives them. Through Christ, God has made a new covenant, and the inheritance he promises under this covenant is one of total and eternal forgiveness (15).

An inheritance can be received only after the death of the person who promised it. So also people can receive forgiveness of sins only through the death of Christ (16-17). Events at the making of the old covenant point to the necessity of Christ's death for the making of the new covenant. The old covenant was established with sacrifices, though the ritual of killing animals and sprinkling blood was more than just a dramatic way of swearing to keep the covenant. It signified also the removal of past sin, so that Israel entered the covenant cleansed (18-21; cf. Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:6-8). The principle of cleansing through sacrifice was basic to the old covenant (22).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth.


The word "testament" in these two verses comes from the same word translated "covenant" everywhere else in Hebrews; and since there are some facts related to wills that do not relate to covenants, the commentators have generally been at a loss to know how to treat this interjection of a drastically new thought. Of course, the Greek word from which both of these renditions comes means either; and the author of Hebrews is well within his rights to make a digression of the kind noted here. His doing so strongly reminds one of Paul and his custom of seizing upon a word or a phrase for a parenthetical development of it apart from his main line of thought. This appears to be exactly the case here. The parenthetical thought that flashed upon the author's mind came as a result of that other meaning of the word for "covenant" which he had been using; and it was suggested by the mention of a death that had "taken place" for the redemption of the sins under the law. Then, departing for the moment from his main argument, and seizing upon the alternate meaning of the word, which is "testament," he made an independent argument for the absolute necessity of Christ's death within the framework of the alternate meaning.

Since Christ is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), people may inherit, therefore, only if Christ died; but he did die. And think of the benefits that accrue to people in this. Lenski has a perceptive paragraph on this subject, as follows:

It becomes still clearer here why Christ is called the mediator of a testament. God made him the Heir, and thus through him alone who owns everything, through him and through his death as the testator, do we inherit as heirs. Although all comes from God, none of it reaches us save through Christ as the medium (Mediator), the middle link, the testator for us, whose death gives to us, his heirs, the great eternal inheritance ... It is misleading to press these human terms, which convey the divine facts, so that these facts become blurred and distorted. The human testator dies and remains dead, his property is conveyed to heirs who in turn die; successive generations of heirs step into the shoes of their predecessors. Our Mediator-Testator died and thereby made us joint-heirs with him, heirs who never die so that their inheritance might be lost to them. The word "eternal" which is used in verses Hebrews 9:2,4 and Hebrews 9:15 is not repeated and emphasized for naught.[14]

The use of the word "testament" in these verses is the source of an incidental revelation for which people may be truly thankful. It furnishes an independent view of the entire concept of eternal life in Christ, a view which makes the eternal inheritance to be, in a sense, on a parity with receiving a bequest from some person who has left it in his will for another. Such is the import of the word "testament" as used here. The terms of any will become binding only upon the death of the person making it; and they do not limit or impede in any way the free use of the testator's property BEFORE his death. This sublime fact is precisely the reason why no person may claim forgiveness of his sins through a mere act of faith, as did a certain woman (Luke 7:50), or like the thief on the cross, for example. The testator had not then died; and the conditions under which it was prescribed how all people might inherit were not announced as yet. The value of this in understanding the preconditions of salvation is past all calculation. If people would inherit through Christ, who is the heir of all things, let them discover what his plenary representatives, the apostles of Christ, announced after his death as the binding terms of the testament, and obey them, meet those conditions; nor should they rely upon isolated and individual instances of Christ's redemptive favor in which, prior to his death, salvation was conferred upon persons such as the thief on the cross and the certain woman already mentioned. To make such prior examples (prior to his death) any solid basis for determining how people are saved now, after Christ's death, is a very hurtful error.


[14] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1938), p. 207.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For where a testament is - This is the same word - διαθήκη diathēkē- which in Hebrews 8:6, is rendered “covenant.” For the general signification of the word, see note on that verse. There is so much depending, however, on the meaning of the word, not only in the interpretation of this passage, but also of other parts of the Bible, that it may be proper to explain it here more at length. The word - διαθήκη diathēkē- occurs in the New Testament thirty-three times. It is translated “covenant” in the common version, in Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8; Romans 9:4; Romans 11:27; Galatians 3:15, Galatians 3:17; Galatians 4:24; Ephesians 2:12; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:9, “twice,” Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 9:4, “twice,” Hebrews 10:16; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:20. In the remaining places it is rendered “testament;” Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6, 2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 9:15-17, Hebrews 9:20; Revelation 11:19. In four of those instances (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25), it is used with reference to the institution or celebration of the Lord‘s Supper. In the Septuagint it occurs not far from 300 times, in considerably more than 200 times of which it is the translation of the Hebrew word בּרית beriytone instance Zechariah 11:14 it is the translation of the word “brotherhood;” once Deuteronomy 9:5, of דּבר daabaar- “word;” once Jeremiah 11:2, of “words of the covenant;” once Leviticus 26:11), of “tabernacle;” once Exodus 31:7, of “testimony;” it occurs once Ezekiel 20:37, where the reading of the Greek and Hebrew text is doubtful; and it occurs three times 1 Samuel 11:2; 1 Samuel 20:8; 1 Kings 8:9, where there is no corresponding word in the Hebrew text. From this use of the word by the authors of the Septuagint, it is evident that they regarded it as the proper translation of the Hebrew - בּרית beriytand as conveying the same sense which that word does. It cannot be reasonably doubted that the writers of the New Testament were led to the use of the word, in part, at least, by the fact that they found it occurring so frequently in the version in common use, but it cannot be doubted also that they regarded it as fairly conveying the sense of the word בּרית beriytOn no principle can it be supposed that inspired and honest people would use a word in referring to transactions in the Old Testament which did not “fairly” convey the idea which the writers of the Old Testament meant to express. The use being thus regarded as settled, there are some “facts” in reference to it which are of great importance in interpreting the New Testament, and in understanding the nature of the “covenant” which God makes with man. These facts are the following:

(1) The word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - is not what properly denotes “compact, agreement,” or “covenant.” That word is συνθήκη sunthēkē- “syntheke” or in other forms σύνθεσις sunthesisand συνθεσίας sunthesiasor if the word “diatheke” is used in that signification it is only remotely, and as a secondary meaning; see “Passow;” compare the Septuagint in Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:1; Daniel 11:6, and Wisdom Daniel 1:16; Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:1; Daniel 11:6. This remarkable fact that the authors of that version never use the word to denote any transaction between God and man, shows that there must have been some reason for it which acted on their minds with entire uniformity.

(4) it is no less remarkable that neither in the Septuagint nor the New Testament is the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - “ever” used in the sense of “will” or “testament,” unless it be in the case before us. This is conceded on all hands, and is expressly admitted by Prof. Stuart; (Com. on Heb. p. 439), though he defends this use of the word in this passage. - A very important inquiry presents itself here, which has never received a solution generally regarded as satisfactory. It is, why the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - was selected by the writers of the New Testament to express the nature of the transaction between God and man in the plan of salvation. It might be said indeed that they found this word uniformly used in the Septuagint, and that they employed it as expressing the idea which they wished to convey, with sufficient accuracy. But this is only removing the difficulty one step further back.

Why did the Septuagint adopt this word? Why did they not rather use the common and appropriate Greek word to express the notion of a covenant? A suggestion on this subject has already been made in the notes on Hebrews 8:6; compare Bib. Repository vol. xx. p. 55. Another reason may, however, be suggested for this remarkable fact which is liable to no objection. It is, that in the apprehension of the authors of the Septuagint, and of the writers of the New Testament, the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - in its original and proper signification “fairly” conveyed the sense of the Hebrew word בּרית beriytand that the word συνθήκη sunthēkē- or “compact, agreement,” would “not” express that; and “that they never meant to be understood as conveying the idea either that God entered into a compact or covenant with man, or that he made a will.” They meant to represent; him as making “an arrangement, a disposition, an ordering” of things, by which his service might be kept up among his people, and by which people might be saved; but they were equally remote from representing him as making a “compact,” or a “will.” In support of this there may be alleged.

(1) the remarkable uniformity in which the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - is used, showing that there was some “settled principle” from which they never departed; and,

(2) it is used mainly as the meaning of the word itself. Prof. Stuart has, undoubtedly, given the accurate original sense of the word. “The real, genuine, and original meaning of διαθήκη diathēkē(diatheke) is, “arrangement, disposition,” or “disposal” of a thing.” P. 440. The word from which it is derived - διατίθημι diatithēmi- means to place apart or asunder; and then to set, arrange, dispose in a certain order. “Passow.” From this original signification is derived the use which the word has with singular uniformity in the Scriptures. It denotes the “arrangment, disposition,” or “ordering” of things which God made in relation to mankind, by which he designed to keep up his worship on earth, and to save the soul. It means neither covenant nor will; neither compact nor legacy; neither agreement nor testament. It is an “arrangement” of an entirely different order from either of them, and the sacred writers with an uniformity which could have been secured only by the presiding influence of the One Eternal Spirit, have avoided the suggestion that God made with man either a “compact” or a “will.”

We have no word which precisely expresses this idea, and hence, our conceptions are constantly floating between a “compact” and a “will,” and the views which we have are as unsettled as they are. unscriptural. The simple idea is, that God has made an “arrangement” by which his worship may be celebrated and souls saved. Under the Jewish economy this arrangement assumed one form; under the Christian another. In neither was it a compact or covenant between two parties in such a sense that one party would be at liberty to reject the terms proposed; in neither was it a testament or will, as if God had left a legacy to man, but in both there were some things in regard to the arrangement such as are found in a covenant or compact. One of those things - equally appropriate to a compact between man and man and to this arrangement, the apostle refers to here - that it implied in all cases the death of the victim.

If these remarks are well-founded, they should be allowed materially to shape our views in the interpretation of the Bible. Whole treatises of divinity have been written on a mistaken view of the meaning of this word - understood as meaning “covenant.” Volumes of angry controversy have been published on the nature of the “covenant” with Adam, and on its influence on his posterity. The only literal “covenant” which can he supposed in the plan of redemption is that between the Father and the Son - though even the existence of such a covenant is rather the result of devout and learned imagining than of any distinct statement in the volume of inspiration. The simple statement there is, that God has made an arrangement for salvation, the execution of which he has entrusted to his Son, and has proposed it to man to be accepted as the only arrangement by which man can be saved, and which he is not at liberty to disregard.

There has been much difference of opinion in reference to the meaning of the passage here, and to the design of the illustration introduced. If the word used - διαθήκη diathēkē- means “testament,” in the sense of a “will,” then the sense of that passage is that “a will is of force only when he who made it dies, for it relates to a disposition of his property after his death.” The force of the remark of the apostle then would be, that the fact that the Lord Jesus made or expressed his “will” to mankind, implied that he would die to confirm it; or that since in the ordinary mode of making a will, it was of force only when he who made it was dead, therefore it was necessary that the Redeemer should die, in order to confirm and ratify what he made. But the objections to this, which appears to have been the view of our translators, seem to me to be insuperable. They are these:

(1)the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - is not used in this sense in the New Testament elsewhere; see the remarks above.

(2)the Lord Jesus made no such will. He had no property, and the commandments and instructions which he gave to his disciples were not of the nature of a will or testament.

(3)such an illustration would not be pertinent to the design of the apostle, or in keeping with his argument.

He is comparing the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and the point of comparison in this chapter relates to the question about the efficacy of sacrifice in the two arrangements. He showed that the arrangement for blood-shedding by sacrifice entered into both; that the high priest of both offered blood as an expiation; that the holy place was entered with blood, and that consequently there was death in both the arrangements, or dispensations. The former arrangement or dispensation was ratified with blood, and it was equally proper that the new arrangement should be also. The point of comparison is not that Moses made a will or testament which could be of force only when he died, and that the same thing was required in the new dispensation, but it is that the former covenant was “ratified by blood,” or “by the death of a victim,” and that it might be expected that the new dispensation would be confirmed, and that it was in fact confirmed in the same manner. In this view of the argument, what pertinency would there be in introducing an illustration respecting a will, and the manner in which it became efficient; compare notes on Hebrews 9:18. It seems clear, therefore, to me, that the word rendered “testament” here is to be taken in the sense in which it is ordinarily used in the New Testament. The opinion that the word here means such a divine arrangement as is commonly denoted a “covenant,” and not testament, is sanctioned by not a few names of eminence in criticism, such as Pierce, Doddridge, Michaelis, Steudel, and the late Dr. John P. Wilson. Bloomfield says that the connection here demands this. The principal objections to this view are:

(1)that it is not proved that no covenants or compacts were valid except such as were made by the intervention of sacrifices.

(2)that the word rendered “testator” - διαθεμενος diathemenos- cannot refer to the death of an animal slain for the purpose of ratifying a covenant, but must mean either a “testator,” or a “contractor,” that is, one of two contracting parties.

(3)that the word rendered “dead” Hebrews 9:17 - νεκροῖς nekrois- means only “dead men,” and never is applied to the dead bodies of animals; (see Stuart on the Hebrew, p. 442.)

These objections to the supposition that the passage refers to a covenant or compact, Prof. Stuart says are in his view insuperable, and they are certainly entitled to grave consideration. Whether the view above presented is one which can be sustained, we may be better able to determine after an examination of the words and phrases which the apostle uses. Those objections which depend wholly on the “philological” argument derived from the words used, will be considered of course in such an examination. It is to be remembered at the outset:

(1)that the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - is never used in the New Testament in the sense of “testament,” or “will,” unless in this place;

(2)that it is never used in this sense in the Septuagint; and,

(3)that the Hebrew word בּרית beriyt- “never” has this signification. This is admitted; see Stuart on the Heb. pp. 439,440. It must require very strong reasons to prove that it has this meaning here, and that Paul has employed the word in a sense differing from its uniform signification elsewhere in the Bible; compare, however, the remarks of Prof. Stuart in Bib. Repos. vol. xx. p. 364.

There must also of necessity be - ἀνάγκη anagkē- That is, it is necessary in order to confirm the covenant, or it would not be binding in cases where this did not occur. The “necessity” in the case is simply to make it valid or obligatory. So we say now there must “necessarily” be a “seal,” or a deed would not be valid. The fair interpretation of this is, that this was the common and established custom in making a “covenant” with God, or confirming the arrangement with him in regard to salvation. To this it is objected (see the first objection above), that “it is yet to be made out that no covenants were valid execpt those by the intervention of sacrifices.” In reply to this, we may observe:

(1) that the point to be made out is not that this was a custom in compacts between “man and man,” but between “man and his Maker.” There is no evidence, as it seems to me, that the apostle alludes to a compact between man and man. The mistake on this subject has arisen partly from the use of the word “testament” by our translators, in the sense of “will” - supposing that it must refer to some transaction relating to man only; and partly from the insertion of the word “men” in Hebrews 9:17, in the translation of the phrase - ἐπὶ νεκροῖς epi nekrois- “upon the dead,” or” over the dead.” But it is not necessary to suppose that there is a reference here to any transaction between man and man at all, as the whole force of the illustration introduced by the apostle will be retained if we suppose him speaking “only” of a covenant between man and God. Then his assertion will be simply that in the arrangement between God and man there was a “necessity” of the death of something, or of the shedding of blood in order to ratify it. This view will save the necessity of proof that the custom of ratifying compacts between man and man by sacrifice prevailed. Whether that can be made out or not, the assertion of the apostle may be true, that in the arrangement which God makes with man, sacrifice was necessary in order to confirm or ratify it.

(2) the point to be made out is, not that such a custom is or was universal among all nations, but that it was the known and regular opinion among the Hebrews that a sacrifice was necessary in a “covenant” with God, in the same way as if we should say that a deed was not valid without a seal, it would not be necessary to show this in regard to all nations, but only that it is the law or the custom in the nation where the writer lived, and at the time when he lived. Other nations may have very different modes of confirming or ratifying a deed, and the same nation may have different methods at various times. The fact or custom to which I suppose there is allusion here, is that of sacrificing an animal to ratify the arrangement between man and his Maker, commonly called a “covenant.” In regard to the existence of such a custom, particularly among the Hebrews, we may make the following observations.

It was the common mode of ratifying the “covenant” between God and man. That was done over a sacrifice, or by the shedding of blood. So the covenant with Abraham was ratified by slaying an heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon. The animals were divided and a burning lamp passed between them; Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:18. So the covenant made with the Hebrews in the wilderness was ratified in the same manner; Exodus 24:6, seq. Thus, in Jeremiah 34:18, God speaks of the “men that had transgressed his covenant which they had made before him when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof;” see also Zechariah 9:11. Indeed all the Jewish sacrifices were regarded as a ratification of the covenant. It was never supposed that it was ratified or confirmed in a proper manner without such a sacrifice. Instances occur, indeed, in which there was no sacrifice offered when a covenant was made between man and man (see Genesis 23:16; Genesis 24:9; Deuteronomy 25:7, Deuteronomy 25:9; Rth 4:7 ), but these cases do not establish the point that the custom did not prevail of ratifying a covenant with God by the blood of sacrifice.

Further; the terms used in the Hebrew in regard to making a covenant with God, prove that it was understood to be ratified by sacrifice, or that the death of a victim was necessary כּרת ברית kaarat beriyt“to cut a covenant” - the word כרת kaaratmeaning “to cut; to cut off; to cut down,” and the allusion being to the victims offered in sacrifice, and “cut in pieces” on occasion of entering into a covenant; see Genesis 15:10; Jeremiah 34:18-19. The same idea is expressed in the Greek phrases ὅρκια τέμνειν , τέμνειν σπονδάς horkia temneintemnein spondasand in the Latin “icere foedus;” compare Virgil, Aeneid viii. 941.

Et caesa jungebant foedera porca.

These considerations show that it was the common sentiment, alike among the Hebrews and the pagan, that a covenant with God was to be ratified or sanctioned by sacrifice; and the statement of Paul here is, that the death of a sacrificial victim was needful to confirm or ratify such a covenant with God. It was not secure, or confirmed, until blood was thus shed. This was well understood among the Hebrews, that all their covenant transactions with God were to be ratified by a sacrifice; and Paul says that the same principle must apply to any arrangement between God and human beings. Hence, he goes on to show that it was “necessary” that a sacrificial victim should die in the new covenant which God established by man through the Mediator; see Hebrews 9:23. This I understand to be the sum of the argument here. It is not that every contract made between man and man was to be ratified or confirmed by a sacrifice - for the apostle is not discussing that point; but it is that every similar transaction with God must be based on such a sacrifice, and that no covenant with him could be complete without such a sacrifice. This was provided for in the ancient dispensation by the sacrifices which were constantly offered in their worship; in the new, by the one great sacrifice offered on the cross. Hence, all our approaches to God are based on the supposition of such a sacrifice, and are, as it were, ratified over it. We ratify or confirm such a covenant arrangement, not by offering the sacrifice anew, but by recalling it in a proper manner when we celebrate the death of Christ, and when in view of his cross we solemnly pledge ourselves to be the Lord‘s.

The death of the testator - According to our common version, “the death of him who makes a will.” But if the views above expressed are correct, this should be rendered the “covenanter,” or “the victim set apart to be slain.” The Greek will admit of the translation of the word διαθέμενος diathemenos“diathemenos,” by the word “covenanter,” if the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - is rendered “covenant.” To such a translation here as would make the word refer “to a victim slain in order to ratify a covenant,” it is objected that the “word has no such meaning anywhere else. It must either mean a “testator,” or a “contractor,” that is, one of two covenanting parties. But where is the death of a person covenanting made necessary in order to confirm the covenant?” Prof. Stuart, in loc. To this objection I remark respectfully:

(1) that the word is never used in the sense of “testator” either in the New Testament or the Old, unless it be here. It is admitted of the word διαθήκη diathēkē- by Prof. Stuart himself, that it never means “will,” or “testament,” unless it be here, and it is equally true of the word used here that it never means one “who makes a will.” If, therefore, it should be that a meaning quite uncommon, or wholly unknown in the usage of the Scriptures, is to be assigned to the use of the word here, why should it be “assumed” that that unusual meaning should be that of “making a will,” and not that of confirming a covenant?

(2) if the apostle used the word διαθήκη diathēkē- “diatheke” - in the sense of “a covenant” in this passage, nothing is more natural than that he should use the corresponding word διαθέμενος diathemenos- “diathemenos” - in the sense of that by which a covenant was ratified. He wished to express the idea that the covenant was always ratified by the death of a victim - a sacrifice of an animal under the Law, and the sacrifice of the Redeemer under the gospel - and no word would so naturally convey that idea as the one from which the word “covenant” was derived. It is to be remembered also that there was no word to express that thought. Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek furnished such a word; nor have we now any word to express that thought, but are obliged to use circumlocution to convey the idea. The word “covenanter” would not do it; nor the words “victim,” or “sacrifice.” We can express the idea only by some phrase like this - “the victim set apart to be slain to ratify the covenant.” But it was not an unusual thing for the apostle Paul to make use of a word in a sense quite unique to himself; compare 2 Corinthians 4:17.

(3) the word διατίθημι diatithēmi- properly means, “to place apart, to set in order, to arrange.” It is rendered “appoint” in Luke 22:29; “made,” and “make,” with reference to a covenant, Acts 3:25; Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in the passage before us. The idea of “placing, laying, disposing, arranging,” etc., enters into the word - as to place wares or merchandise for sale, to arrange a contract, &c; see “Passow.” The fair meaning of the word here may be, whatever goes to arrange, dispose, or settle the covenant, or to make the covenant secure and firm. If the reference be to a compact, it cannot relate to one of the contracting parties, because the death of neither is necessary to confirm it. But it may refer to that which was well-known as an established opinion, that a covenant with God was ratified only by a sacrifice. Still, it must be admitted that this use of the word is not found elsewhere, and the only material question is, whether it is to be presumed that the apostle would employ a word in a single instance in a special signification, where the connection would not render it difficult to be understood. This must be admitted, that he might, whichever view is taken of the meaning of this passage, for on the supposition that he refers here to a will, it is conceded that he uses the word in a sense which does not once occur elsewhere either in the Old Testament or the New. It seems to me, therefore, that the word here may, without impropriety, be regarded as referring to “the victim that was slain in order to ratify a covenant with God,” and that the meaning is, that such a covenant was not regarded as confirmed until the victim was slain. It may be added that the authority of Michaelis, Macknight, Doddridge, Bloomfield, and Dr. JohnP. Wilson, is a proof that such an interpretation cannot be a very serious departure from the proper use of a Greek word.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

The blood of the New Covenant - : One other major benefit of the death of Christ was the ratification of the New Covenant. His death provided atonement for those under both the Old and the New Covenants. The beauty of the teaching of this chapter is that God made a New Covenant, with Jesus as Mediator, and He redeemed man from sin by the sacrifice of His own death.

God"s covenant of Grace is called a testament or will. All things required in a will or testament is found. Christ Jesus died and left His will. The will contains certain bequeath. Some were temporal; many were spiritual, and all related to eternal salvation. The heirs of promises must be part of God"s family. The will contained certain required conditions whereby the blessing could be obtained. The will required faith, repentance, and sincere obedience in baptism into Christ's death and blood, and faithfulness to the Heavenly Father. Let us remember that "without shedding of blood there is no remission."

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Box, Charles. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

there must, &c. = it is necessary that the death . . . be brought in.

testator = appointed (victim). Greek. diatithemi. See Hebrews 8:10.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16.For where a testament is, etc. Even this one passage is a sufficient proof, that this Epistle was not written in Hebrew; for ברית means in Hebrew a covenant, but not a testament; but in Greek , διαθήκη, includes both ideas; and the Apostle, alluding to its secondary meaning, holds that the promises should not have been otherwise ratified and valid, had they not been sealed by the death of Christ. And this he proves by referring to what is usually the case as to wills or testaments, the effect of which is suspended until the death of those whose wills they are.

The Apostle may yet seem to rest on too weak an argument, so that what he says may be easily disproved. For it may be said, that God made no testament or will under the Law; but it was a covenant that he made with the ancient people. Thus, neither from the fact nor from the name, can it be concluded that Christ’s death was necessary. For if he infers from the fact, that Christ ought to have died, because a testament is not ratified except by the death of the testator, the answer may be this, that |berit|, the word ever used by Moses, is a covenant made between those who are alive, and we cannot think otherwise of the fact itself. Now, as to the word used, he simply alluded, as I have already said, to the two meanings it has in Greek; he therefore dwells chiefly on the thing in itself. Nor is it any objection to say, that it was a covenant that God made with his people; for that very covenant bore some likeness to a testament, for it was ratified by blood. (152)

We must ever hold this truth, that no symbols have ever been adopted by God unnecessarily or unsuitably. And God in establishing the covenant of the law made use of blood. Then it was not such a contract, as they say, between the living, as did not require death. Besides, what rightly belongs to a testament is, that it begins to take effect after death. If we consider that the Apostle reasons from the thing itself, and not from the word, and if we bear in mind that he avowedly takes as granted what I have already stated, that nothing has been instituted in vain by God, there will be no great difficulty.

If anyone objects and says, that the heathens ratified covenants according to the other meaning by sacrifices; this indeed I admit to be true; but God did not borrow the rite of sacrificing from the practice of the heathens; on the contrary, all the heathen sacrifices were corruptions, which had derived their origin from the institutions of God. We must then return to the same point, that the covenant of God which was made with blood, may be fitly compared to a testament, as it is of the same kind and character.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1.  INTRO
    1. The public is interested in hearing Celeb’s wills read, as Joan Rivers was revealed this week.
      1. What did she do w/her $150mil fortune? Maybe because it speaks to what was of interest to her. She seemed to have a pretty generous heart. She designated a portion of the funds to go to several nonprof’s & ngo’s: Guide Dogs for the Blind, God’s Love We Deliver, the Jewish Guild for the Blind, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation & the Jewish Home & Hospital Foundation.[as she was the daughter of Russian/Jewish Immigrants]
    2. In John Grisham’s 1999 legal thriller, The Testament, Troy Phelan, an eccentric elderly billionaire, had written many wills during his life, but right before he dies by suicide, he leaves one final will, a holographic will, as a last surprise. He then leaps from a balcony to his death. He leaves his vast fortune to an illegitimate daughter, Rachel Lane, instead of his 6 children by 3 marriages. Her existence comes as a total surprise to everyone. She was a missionary down in Brazil.
      1. A Holographic Will, is a will entirely handwritten, dated and signed by the testator (the person making the will), but not signed by required witnesses.
      2. Under those conditions it’s valid in about 1/2 the states despite the lack of witnesses. A letter which has all the elements of a will can be a holographic will, as can a will scratched in the dust of an automobile hood of a person dying while lost in the desert.
        1. Here, Jesus writes a holographic will for us, not in the dust, but with His own blood!
        2. Jesus writes in bold crimson letters across our lives…FORGIVEN.
    1. THE MEDIATOR (back to vs.15)
    2. The job of a mediator is to arbitrate in order to bring 2 parties together. Here in this case…the Holy God & sinful humanity.
      1. Job cried out for a mediator, For He (God) is not a man, as I am, That I may answer Him, And that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both.
      2. Jesus sacrifice became that medium of arbitration.
    3. THE TESTATOR (16,17)
    4. Last Will & Testament Stories:
      1. A New York writer, wanting to will his body to science, selected Harvard as the recipient, because, I quote…“my parents wanted me to go there & this is the only way I could get in.”
      2. One woman in Philadelphia in her will instructed her executor to take $1 from her estate, invest it & pay the interest on the investment to her husband, “as evidence of my estimate of his worth”.
      3. A wealthy French Industrialist (capitaine Furrer) being disturbed by the impatience & greed of his heirs adopted a blood-sucking leech & bequeathed his fortune to it.
    5. True in every culture, a will is activated by the death of the one who made the will, the testator.
      1. Otherwise sacrifices would have been bled...rather than killed.
    6. What is the benefits we enjoy because of Christ’s death? Forgiveness, a clear conscience, peace/shalom, purpose, eternal life in heaven.
    7. THE ACTIVATOR (18-22)
    8. So Jesus was both the testator & mediator of His will. He died leaving the greatest inheritance ever; but he also lives to mediate his will.
      1. e.g. Before you can use your new Visa Card, when it comes in the mail, you must call a 1-800 # to have it activated.
        1. What activated the last will & testament was…His Blood. (6x’s in vs.18-22)
    9. (re-read 22) Here’s an Eternal principle: Forgiveness is a costly thing.
      1. Human forgiveness is costly: Maybe you’ve experienced that with your children. When they stray or do foolish things, you may forgive them, but that forgiveness brings tears, grey hairs, lines to the face, a cutting anguish, & an ache in the heart.
      2. Divine forgiveness is costly: It’s not God saying, It’s all right or it doesn’t matter. It involves the most costly thing in the world. It costs blood.
        1. ​​​​​​​Some become squeamish at the sight of blood, which is the point. It is to point out the terrible nature of sin.
        2. Think of the days of sacrifice at the temple: How would you have described it in that day? Like a bad episode of Criminal Minds? A bloody/gory scene indeed.
        3. [Kent Hughes] “During the 1000 + years of the Old cov, there were more than a million animal sacrifices. So considering that each bull’s sacrifice spilled a gallon or 2 of blood, & each goat a quart, the Old cov truly rested on a sea of blood. During the Passover, a trough was constructed from the Temple down the Kidron Valley for the disposal of blood...a sacrificial plumbing system.”
    10. Jesus’ blood should arrest our attention. We should be cut to the heart & say, “It costs THAT to forgive my sin.”
      1. ​​​​​​​Where there is forgiveness someone must be crucified.
        1. This is the centerpiece of our salvation.
  3. A DATE WITH DEITY (23-28)
    2. Jesus’ blood grants us a better representation before the Father than the Old Cov.
      1. As soon as He sat down at the Father’s right hand He became our constant & consistent attorney. On the clock 24/7 for you & its all pro bono!
    3. THE TERMINATOR (27)
    4. Man dying & coming to judgment??? that in itself was a shock, for the Greek believed that death was final. We have an appointment w/God.
      1. This is both a basic assumption (man will rise again) & a basic warning (he rises to judgment).
      2. Man is often so careful to keep his business & social appointments yet ignores the supreme date on his calendar.
        1. God has set a day & has ordained a Judge, Christ Jesus.
    5. You and I will we might as well get on with the only really pressing business there is… figuring out how to die well.
    6. Men/women/children need to be reminded of their appointment w/God...their date w/Deity.
      1. Put it on your calendar…IT IS ON GOD’S.
        1. “He is the Great Divider & He does not divide men horizontally [high class, middle class, low class] but vertically, to the right & to the left.” (Vance Havner)
        2. So God doesn’t separate us out like Dan & I felt traveling on Cathay Pacific...they walk you past 1st class, then Business, then coach. But it’s like getting on the right or wrong plane...which always determines your destination. (kid on Cap-Haitien plane)
    7. THE RETURNER (28)
    8. (28a) The heart of Christ became like a reservoir in the midst of the mountains.  All the tributary streams of iniquity, and every drop of the sins of his people, ran down and gathered into one vast lake, deep as hell and shoreless as eternity. All these met, as it were, inChrist's heart, and he endured them all. CH Spurgeon, Christian History, no. 29.
    9. (28b) In this section we have 3 appearances of Jesus:
      1. A Past appearing for our Salvation
        1. (26b) He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
      2. A Present appearing for our Sanctification
        1. (24b) now to appear in the presence of God for us.
      3. A Future appearing for our Glorification
        1. (28b) To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a 2nd time, apart from sin, for salvation
    10. Here we have a different perspective on the return of Christ.
      1. Let’s remember back the sequence of events on the Day of Atonement:
        1. The people watched the high priest enter the sanctuary w/a basin of sacrificial blood; then waited w/bated breath until he emerged; then a corporate sigh of relief as the offering was accepted by God. A sense of festive excitement greeted the high priest’s reappearance.
      2. Here’s is what was said, of Simon II the Just, a priest in 219-196bc. “How glorious he was, surrounded by the people, as he came out of the house of the curtain. Like the morning star among the clouds, like the full moon at the festal season; like the sun shining on the temple of the Most High, like the rainbow gleaming in splendid clouds; like roses in the days of first fruits, like lilies by a spring of water, like a green shoot on Lebanon on a summer day; like fire and incense in the censer, like a vessel of hammered gold studded with all kinds of precious stones; like an olive tree laden with fruit, and like a cypress towering in the clouds.”
        1. Oh, how they eagerly awaited for their high priest to emerge.
        2. Slide#41-44 Jesus is coming again! Are you of those who are eagerly waiting for him to emerge through the clouds?
          1. Martha Butler wrote/sang…
            One day I’ll look up and I’m gonna see my Lord a comin’
            Yes, I’ll look up and I’m gonna see my Lord a comin’ - In the clouds Hallelujah, He is coming - Hallelujah, He is here
            Hallelujah, He is coming - Hallelujah, He is here
    11. Story: In a rural village lived a doctor who was noted both for his professional skill & his devotion to Christ. After his death, his books were examined. Several entries had written across them in red ink: “Forgiven – too poor to pay!”. Unfortunately, his wife was of a different disposition. Insisting that these debts be settled, she filed a suit before the proper court. When the case was being heard, the judge asked her, “Is this your husband’s handwriting in red?” She replied that it was. “Then”, said the judge, “Not a court in the land can touch those whom he has forgiven.”
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These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘He is the Mediator of the New Testament … and without shedding of blood is no remission.’

Hebrews 9:15-22

God has entered into covenant relationship with men. That has been proved in chapter viii., but it is implied here.

I. The covenant.

(a) Its history.

(b) Its substance. An eternal inheritance is given in this covenant. What is this? Romans 8. tells of redemption, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, glorification. (See also Ephesians 1.)

(c) Its fact. A covenant helps confidence. A verbal promise is something; so, too, a written promise; but how much more rest we find in a sealed and delivered bond! That is what the Bible is—God’s covenant.

II. God could make no covenant with man without the shedding of blood—that is the point here; only ‘by means of death could they who are called receive the promised eternal inheritance.’ Now, how is that point established to the satisfaction of the Hebrew? By the analogy of the Jewish covenant.

(a) The Jewish covenant was based on sacrifice (Hebrews 9:18-20).

(b) The Jewish covenant was declared to be typical.

(c) The Jewish type was only the expression of a necessary truth. In the nature of things, there can be no union between God and man without atonement.

III. Atonement is only perfectly met in the death of Christ.—Hebrews 9:14-15 teach that the virtue of His sacrifice enables Him to be the Mediator of the new covenant.

(a) The old sacrifices were unable to expiate moral offences.—The Hebrew found a stumbling-block in the Cross; but the writer shows that so far from Christ’s death being a mystery, it was a necessity.

(b) This incompleteness is met in Christ. More than death is essential; it must be the death of one able to satisfy the law on man’s behalf. ‘In this cause’ (that is, because of the infinite value of His sacrifice) ‘He is the Mediator of the new covenant.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Hebrews chapter9.

In the eighth chapter of the book of Hebrews, he makes mention of the prophecy in Jeremiah where God said that in those days He was going to make a new covenant with the people, not like the old covenant which was written on the tables of stone. He was going to write His law on the fleshly tablets of their hearts. Now, in the declaration that God is going to make this new covenant, it means that the first covenant would be set aside in order that He might establish the new covenant.

When Jesus took the emblems of Passover, He said, "This cup is a new covenant in my blood which is shed for the remission of sins" ( Matthew 26:28 ). So, the old covenant had the remission of sins through the offering of sacrifices by the priests and on the Day of Atonement by the high priest. But God has established a new covenant, not written on the tables of stone, but God writes His law right on the fleshly tablets of our hearts. So the first covenant has been set aside that God might inaugurate this new covenant through Jesus Christ.

So going on still in chapter9, carrying over the thought of chapter8, he is still talking about this new covenant relationship that we have with God and contrasting it with that first covenant that was under the law. Remember the covenant under the law, God said, "And if they will do them, they shall live by them." The first covenant of the law was, "If you will obey Me and all of these statutes, then I will be your God." And the first covenant was established on man"s obedience and man"s faithfulness. The new covenant is established on God"s faithfulness, the work that God has wrought for us through Jesus Christ. The old covenant failed, not because it was not good, not because it did not declare the truth, but it failed because man was weak and did not live by it. The new covenant is established forever, because it is the covenant that is predicated upon God"s faithfulness, and surely God is faithful.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary ( Hebrews 9:1 ).

So in that first covenant God established with Moses, he was to build the tabernacle, and they were to have sacrifices offered within the tabernacle, and there was to be the worship of God there within the tabernacle by the priests.

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary [or often called the holy place in the Old Testament] ( Hebrews 9:2 ).

So, first of all, in this tabernacle, this tent that was made, it was forty-five feet long, and thirty feet wide, and fifteen feet tall, sort of a box-shaped tent, not a pitched tent like we usually think of, more box-shaped, fifteen feet from the corners tall and forty-five feet long and thirty feet wide.

Now, the inner part of the tent was divided into two sections. As you first entered into the tent from the veil that faced towards the east, the first thing that you would come upon in this room, it was thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide, over on your right-hand side would be a table, the table of showbread. On the table were twelve loaves of bread. One loaf representing each of the tribes of Israel.

Before you, and in front of the veil that went into the next room in the tent, there was the altar of incense where the priest would come and offer the incense, which was representative of the prayers of the people. He would offer them unto God.

On the left-hand side, as you came in the veil of the first tent, or the first room within the tent, there was this lamp stand with seven branches out of it. It was lit. There were little cups of oil and they would put the wicks in the oil and it was the light in this portion of the tent. These things are all representative of things that are in heaven. So in the menorah, or the lamp stand, with seven cups coming out of the one branch, you have the symbol of the seven-fold or complete working of the Holy Spirit. You have, of course, the altar of incense. So he talks here that in the first part of it the candlestick, the table with the showbread, which is called the sanctuary or the holy place.

Now after then you went into the second veil, it was called [the Holy of Holies, or translated here] the holiest of all; it had a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant that was overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron"s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant ( Hebrews 9:3-4 );

This Ark of the Covenant surely would be an interesting artifact to find. I don"t know if I"d want to touch it if I found it. But within it they preserved a jar of the manna that God fed their fathers with in the wilderness. They also preserved Aaron"s rod that budded, whereby God affirmed Aaron"s family to be the high priestly family, the Aaronic order established. Then also (and this is what I would absolutely love to see) the two tables of stone upon which God put the Ten Commandments. Oh, wouldn"t that be an exciting thing to behold? And so this was in the Ark of the Covenant, and it was the basis of the covenant of God with the nation; their obedience to the law and to the priesthood service under Aaron the High Priest.

Over this were the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat ( Hebrews 9:5 );

Now again, these are all a model of what the throne of God in heaven is like, surrounded by the cherubims.

And he said,

we cannot speak at this particular time about these things. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God ( Hebrews 9:5-6 ).

Daily the priests would go into this first part of the tent. Once a week they would change the loaves of bread on the table of showbread. Daily they would change and fill the oil in the cups and trim the wicks, and so forth, because God wanted that this light should burn before Him continually. Then they would come and offer the prayers of the people, these little golden bowls that they would have incense in. And when they had lit the fires and all for the sacrifices outside, they would take live coals, or burning coals out of the fire, put them in these little bowls of incense. And then they would go in, and these little bowls were on chains and they would go in and they would swing this incense before the altar there. It was a symbol of the prayers of the people ascending before God. And this they did daily.

There were a certain number of sacrifices and types of sacrifices that had to be offered every day. And then, of course, during the day the hundreds of people that would come with their various types of sacrifices to offer unto God. So the priest was kept busy all day long in these offerings unto the Lord, as well as the regular times of prayer when he would go before the Lord and all.

You remember in the gospel of Luke, it tells how that the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias, was a priest after the course of Abia. It was his duty at this particular time to offer the prayers and the incense before the altar of the Lord. Usually the priest would serve one month out of the year. They had a good thing going. Then the rest of the year they would go back to their homes and be with their families. While Zacharias was offering the incense before the altar of the Lord, Gabriel appeared unto him and informed him that his wife, Elizabeth, in her old age, was to bear a son. He was to be the forerunner of the Messiah.

So you can read a little bit about the service of God there within this holy place which was outside of the Holy of Holies.

But into the second [that is the holiest of all, or the Holy of Holies] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people ( Hebrews 9:7 ):

The Holy of Holies where man met God was off limits to everyone except the high priest. He went in there only one day a year, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Which happened to be yesterday. However, with no tabernacle or no temple, they have changed Yom Kippur from the Day of Atonement to the Day of Reflection. But the high priest would go in only this one day and he would go in twice in the one day.

He would, first of all, have to bathe. And then he would offer an ox for his own sins as a sacrifice for his sins, and he would go into the Holy of Holies with the blood of the ox that he had sacrificed for his own sins. And he was to sprinkle, then, the blood on the mercy seat in a special order. Seven times in front of the mercy seat and put it on the corner and all, and there was a regular routine. The sixteenth chapter of Leviticus tells about the Day of Atonement and the things that the high priest had to do on that day. Having offered, then, the blood of the ox for his own sins, he would go back outside, bathe, change clothes, and then they would take two goats and they would cast lots on the two goats. The one upon which the lot fell was to be slain and offered before God for the sins of the nation. The other goat was to be led by one of the priests out into the wilderness area and turned loose.

They would confess the sins of the nation on these two goats. The one would then be slain and the high priest, for the second time, would go into the Holy of Holies and he would offer, then, for the sins of the nation on this one day the first goat upon which the lot had fallen. The other goat being led into the wilderness having the sins confessed upon it, led into the wilderness turned loose to run free. To get lost, really. The idea is the sacrifice for sins, the putting away of sins by the sacrifice. But then, actually, the separation from our sins, the goat being turned loose and disappearing into the wilderness. God has put away our sins and they"re not to be remembered again. And so the two goats, the one being slain, and the other being turned loose into the wilderness.

"Now into the second, the Holy of Holies, went the high priest alone once every year and not without blood which he offered first for himself and then the second time for the sins of the people."

The Holy Spirit was thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was still standing ( Hebrews 9:8 ):

As long as the tabernacle was there and standing, the approach to God directly by man was impossible. This bore witness to the fact that man just could not come directly to God. There was this heavy veil that separated man from God.

It is significant that when Jesus was crucified, we read that this veil in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom. God ripped the thing. Had man ripped it, it would have been from the bottom to the top. But God ripped the veil at the death of Jesus Christ, signifying that the way into the presence of God is now available for all man. You and I can come now into the presence of God through Jesus Christ, this glorious sacrifice for our sins. And we can enter ourselves right into the very presence of God through His work on our behalf. And so as long as the first tabernacle stood, the Holy Spirit was signifying that the way into the holiest, into the very presence of God, was not yet manifested or open to man.

Which was a figure [that is the tabernacle] for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and in divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of [the change] the reformation [that is that was wrought by Jesus Christ]. But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us ( Hebrews 9:9-12 ).

The contrast is the high priest had to go in every year to offer first the offerings for his own sin, and then to offer for the sins of the people. And every year he had to do this. But Jesus once went into not the tabernacle made with hands, but entered into heaven itself, of which the earthly tabernacle was just a model. He entered into heaven itself and not with the blood of goats or of calves, but with His own blood He entered into that presence of God, having obtained eternal redemption for us. And so with His own blood He was then both the sacrifice and the sacrificer. He was both the offering and the one who offered.

Now you would bring your offering to the priest, he would offer it for you. Jesus became both; the offering itself, and the one who offered the offering unto God in entering into the presence of God with His own blood, and thus, redeemed man.

For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, would sanctify it to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ( Hebrews 9:13-14 ).

As he points out the weakness of the sacrifices made by the priests is that they could not really give us a clear conscience. They were a reminder of our sins. And the fact that they had to do it every year made us constantly conscious of our guilt. But Jesus Christ has now purified our consciences in that He has once and for all entered in to make an atonement for us with His blood, thus having offered Himself without spot.

When they brought a lamb to God, God wouldn"t accept the castoffs. Here is an old cow. It"s about ready to die. Let"s see if we can get some good out of it. Let"s give it to God. It is tragic, really, that so many times man wants to give the castoffs to God. "I can"t use it anymore. I might as well give it to God. It"s no good around here."

I read of a farmer one time who came in to breakfast and announced to his wife that their cow had twin calves. He said, "I"m so excited about it. I want to give one to the Lord and keep one for myself." She said, "Oh, I think that is a great idea." And so as the calves were growing up he kept announcing that when they were old enough to sell one belonged to God and one belonged to him. She said, "Well, which one"s the Lord"s?" He said, "It doesn"t make any difference. One is the Lord"s and one"s mine." So he would never put the finger on one of them being the Lord"s and one his. They just both were the same. But one morning he came in and said, "Terrible thing happened--God"s calf died."

God wouldn"t accept the castoffs. He said when you offer a lamb it has to be without spot. Now a spot was an inherent defect in the lamb. It also had to be without blemish. A blemish was an acquired defect. The lamb born with spots was a genetic thing. A lamb with blemishes that was the result of an encounter with a wolf, or falling down a cliff or some getting caught and blemished. The lamb that was offered had to be both without the inherent defects and without acquired defects; without spot and blemish. Peter said, "For we are redeemed not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from our empty manner of life, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who was a lamb without spot and without blemish" ( 1 Peter 1:18-19 ). It can really only be said of Jesus that He was without spot. He was born without the sinful nature. He had no inherent sin in Him.

It is an interesting thing that they have discovered that the gene factors that make up the blood in a child come basically from the father. Therefore, the gene factors creating the blood in Jesus Christ, coming from the Father, came directly from God and was not spotted by the inherent defectiveness in man. Jesus not only was born pure, but He remained pure. He was without blemish. And so He only could qualify as a sacrificial lamb. You see, you could never qualify as a sacrificial lamb before God. We were born with spots, but even if we weren"t, we have acquired blemishes, and thus, we would not be fit to be a sacrifice for sin. But Jesus, without spot or blemish, offered Himself to God that He might cleanse your conscience from the dead works that you might serve the living God.

Now there are people who are still trying to please God with their works. They are still seeking to offer God the works of their hands. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Jews are doing today. Yesterday, the Day of Atonement, there were no sacrifices for sins. There were no offerings. There were no lambs that were slain. There were no goats or bulls. But what they did was sit in their homes and reflect upon their lives and upon all of their good works. And they reflected also on their evil connivings. But as they reflected, they prayed that God would accept their good works and overlook their evil. And as long as their good works could overbalance their evil, they felt comfortable. Of course, many of them were racing around this past week trying to do a lot of good works so that it would be a comfortable day for them yesterday. Jesus Christ has purged us from these dead works that we might serve the living God.

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new covenant ( Hebrews 9:15 ),

Now the high priest was the one who was the mediator in the Old Covenant, but Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant.

that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance ( Hebrews 9:15 ).

So Christ has become the mediator. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood shed for the remission of sins," the New Testament. That by His death He has made the redemption for our transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, under the law. That we who have been called then might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Now back in verse Hebrews 9:12, we had eternal redemption, and now the eternal inheritance for those who are eternally redeemed. How glorious it is, this eternal inheritance. Peter said, "Thanks be unto God who has caused us to be born again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and fades not away that is reserved in heaven for you. Who are kept by the power of God through faith" ( 1 Peter 1:3-5 ). So this eternal inheritance that is ours in Christ.

Paul the apostle prayed for the Ephesians that they might know what is the hope of their calling. If you only knew the glories that God has in store for you in His eternal kingdom as you are the heirs of this eternal inheritance.

Now where a testament is [or where there is a will], there must of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth ( Hebrews 9:16-17 ).

So a person who makes out a will, the will does not come into force until they die. They"ve made out their last will and testament. This is what I want done with my things after I"m gone. But that will does not come into effect, it does not have any force until after the person who has made it is dead. Then it comes into force. Jesus established the covenant, but by His death the covenant came into force, so that we are now in that glorious covenant. Christ having died, the covenant now comes in force. It is something that we now benefit from because of the death of Christ.

Now neither the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and he sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged [or cleansed] with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission ( Hebrews 9:18-22 ).

What an important declaration! When Moses established the whole thing, he killed the blood, and he killed the goats. He mixed it with water the blood, sprinkled the people, and he sprinkled the book, and he sprinkled the whole place to set it apart. "This is God"s testament." It is now enforced, and enforced by the blood that has been shed, a blood covenant. It was through the blood that everything was cleansed. The Bible speaks about the blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all sin. So these things, the testament then being enforced, the shedding of blood, it now comes in force. He said, "For without the shedding of blood there is no remission." That is, no remission of sins.

That is where I have great difficulty with the very devout Jews of the present day. I have no doubt or question of their sincerity. I believe that they do love God and I believe that they are very sincere in their worship of God. However, I cannot agree that by their works they can atone for their sins. That is totally against the scripture. So as I view it, they have one great problem. And that"s the great problem that plagues all men, the problem of sin. What do I do about my guilt? If there is no temple, if there are no sacrifices, if there is no shedding of blood, then how are their sins remitted? Or how can they be remitted if without the shedding of blood there is no remission? So that, to me, is the great problem that every Jew would have to face, because they are not keeping God"s first covenant that He established with them. Of course, they reject the second covenant, but they"re not keeping the first. Thus, having set aside the law of God, they teach the traditions of men for doctrine, just as they were doing in Jesus" day. He said, "And you teach for doctrine the traditions of man," and the traditions of man is that your good works should atone for your evil. Just be better than you are evil, gooder than you are bad, and you"ll be all right. But that is not what the scripture says. God established the ways by which their sins could be covered, and it was through the offerings.

I think it"s extremely significant that there have been no offerings for almost2,000 years. Since shortly after the death of Christ, they ceased and have not begun again. They will apparently begin again in that seven-year period after the church has been taken out and God begins to work again with Israel. It would appear that their offerings and sacrifices will begin again, for the antichrist is going to come in the middle of that seven-year period and cause the daily oblations and sacrifices to cease. So they will establish a place of worship, and they will institute sacrifices again during that final seven-year cycle, which God has yet to accomplish on the nation of Israel. But right now they do not have a basis, scripturally, for the putting away of their sins.

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these ( Hebrews 9:23 ).

In other words, this pattern down here, this model, it was important that it be cleansed in this manner; purified. But the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than that of calves or goats or lambs.

For Christ did not enter into the holy places that were made with hands ( Hebrews 9:24 ),

He didn"t enter into temple, into the Holy of Holies there.

for these are only figures [or models] of the true; but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us ( Hebrews 9:24 ):

Our great High Priest there in presence of God representing us.

Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation ( Hebrews 9:25-28 ).

And so Jesus came and He offered Himself as a sacrifice and then He entered into heaven itself that He might appear before God for us. His sacrifice was complete. That is why it only needed to happen once; once and for all. And so it"s been appointed unto man once to die after that the judgment; so Christ once offered to bear our sins.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

The New Covenant and the Sacrifice of Christ

Hebrews 9:1 to Hebrews 10:39. The writer now proceeds to elaborate in greater detail the contrast between the old covenant and the new. The old covenant had its tabernacle with furniture and elaborate ceremonial and continual series of sacrifices, culminating in the annual visit of the high priest to the inner chamber of the tabernacle with sacrificial blood. But these very ceremonies implied the impossibility of communion with God, and were unable to make the worshipper 'perfect,' i.e. fit to participate in the mysteries (Hebrews 9:1-10). But now, what these mere animal sacrifices, the ineffectiveness of which was signified by the necessity of their repetition, failed to do, Jesus accomplished when He entered the heavenly tabernacle with His own blood, i.e. when He presented Himself in the presence of God after His crucifixion, having obtained eternal redemption. As Mediator of a new covenant He does this by His death. For a covenant, or will, only comes into effect through the death of the testator. Similarly, the new covenant becomes valid through the death of Christ, which, being a voluntary surrender of His life, as a free act of His Spirit, is of real value in the sight of God (Hebrews 9:11-22). It is enough for such a sacrifice to be offered once for all (Hebrews 9:23-28). Thus over against the failure of the old, proved by the necessity of repetition, is the success of the new. This is illustrated by a passage from Psalms 40, which shows that the essence of sacrifice is obedience to the will of God (Hebrews 10:1-18). On the ground of the cleansing thus accomplished by Christ follow exhortations (Hebrews 10:19-25), admonitions (Hebrews 10:26-31), and encouragements (Hebrews 10:32-39).

1-10. The Tabernacle Ministry.

1. A worldly sanctuary] RV 'its sanctuary, a sanctuary of this world,' and therefore inferior to the 'true' tabernacle in the heavens (Hebrews 8:2), of which it was but a copy.

2. A tabernacle] This term is applied to each of the two chambers into which the whole tent was divided; the outer chamber being the Holy Place, the inner being the Holy of Holies: see Exodus 26. Candlestick] or lampstand: see Exodus 25:31-40. The table] see Exodus 25:23-30. The shewbread] see Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9.

3. The second veil] so called because a veil hung also before the Holy Place, Elsewhere the second veil is called simply 'the veil': see Hebrews 10:20, and cp. Exodus 26:31-33. Holiest of all] i.e. according to a Hebrew idiom, the Most Holy Place.

4. Censer] The word may mean 'altar of incense' (Exodus 30:1-10). This, however, stood in the Holy Place, though the writer did not mention it among the furniture in Hebrews 9:2. But as the Most Holy Place was never entered without incense (Leviticus 16:12) it might be described as 'having the altar of incense.' Ark of the covenant] the chest containing the tables of the Law: Exodus 25:10-22. Pot.. manna] see Exodus 16:32-34. On Aaron's rod, see Numbers 17:1-10.

5. Cherubims] RV 'cherubim,' the Heb. plural of 'cherub': see Exodus 25:17-22; Exodus 37:6-9. The mercyseat, or propitiatory, was the golden lid of the ark (Exodus 25:17, Exodus 25:21) on which the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement: Leviticus 16:14, Leviticus 16:15. Particularly] RV 'severally.'

7, 8. The point is, that entrance into the presence of God was restricted to the high priest alone, and that only once a year, and that it was altogether denied to the people and even to the ordinary priests. The argument of this whole section is that the Levitical system did not and could not provide real access to God. Holiest of all] RV 'the holy place,' meaning here, probably, the real presence of God, the heavenly sanctuary, as in Hebrews 9:12.

9. Which (i.e. the Holy Place) was a figure for the time then present] meaning that it pointed the worshippers of that time forward to the dawning of a better time to come.

Figure] RV 'parable.' In which] RV 'According to which,' sc. parable. Him that did the service] RV 'the worshipper.'

11-14. The superiority of Christ's Ministry, which does cleanse the conscience, being discharged in a heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9:11) and mediated through the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:12-14).

11. Not of this building] RV 'not of this creation,' i.e. of this material creation, but a heavenly sanctuary.

12. Once] i.e. once for all, unlike the high priest in the earthly tabernacle who entered once a year (Hebrews 9:7). Repetition is unnecessary, seeing the redemption he obtained is an 'eternal redemption,' being effectual for ever. The word obtained implies the expenditure of effort.

13. Bulls and goats] refer to the sacrifices offered on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), heifer to the ceremonial described in Numbers 19.

Purifying of the flesh] i.e. the removal of ceremonial defilement, so as to permit the worshipper to take part again in the services of the tabernacle. It is admitted that a limited efficacy is possessed by the Levitical sacrifices, and therefore Christ's offering, being immeasurably nobler and being voluntary, has immeasurably greater efficacy.

14. Through the eternal Spirit] So AV and RV, suggesting that the Third Person of the Trinity is referred to. In the original the article is wanting, which emphasises the operation rather than the personal being of the Spirit. The spirit is Christ's own spirit, or the Holy Spirit in Christ, and the closest parallels to the expression used here are in Hebrews 7:16 and 1 Peter 4:6; (see note there). The word 'spirit' is employed to contrast the nature and sphere of the operation of Christ's offering with those of the Levitical sacrifices. The latter operate in the region of the flesh (cp. Hebrews 9:13), and are temporary in their effect (see on Hebrews 9:12); the former belongs to the sphere of the spirit and will, effects an inner cleansing of the conscience, and is eternal. Offered himself] 'Himself' is emphatic, being one of the points of contrast. What He offered was His own body on the Cross: see on Hebrews 10:10. Dead works] see on Hebrews 6:1. To cleanse from dead works is to cleanse from the defilement (and the consequences of it) caused by such works, and so to enable the sinner to engage in the service of God.

15. 'By offering Himself Christ has become the Mediator of a new covenant, in order that those who have been called may receive the eternal inheritance that is promised, and the necessary condition of this was the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant by means of a death.' Christ's sacrifice is here represented as having a retrospective efficacy, operating not merely on the past sins of the Hebrew Christians, but on the sins of the OT. saints who lived under the first covenant, and who could not inherit the promises because the first covenant could not remove their transgressions.

16. Testament] The Gk. word (diathekç) means either covenant or testament (i.e. will), and in this v. the writer passes from the former to the latter sense. For the operation of the terms of a testament the death of the testator is undoubtedly necessary. Is it also necessary in the case of a covenant? So the writer asserts in Hebrews 9:18-20, where he reverts to the former sense of diathekç as covenant. He says that any diathekç involves death, and cites the Mosaic covenant as an instance. This must be on the supposition that the covenanter is represented by the victim which died in the sacrifice which usually accompanied any serious covenant. The death of the victim represented the inability of the covenanter to retract. It was the solemn ratification of the terms of the covenant.

17. After men are dead] RV 'where there hath been a death.' The Gk. is lit. 'over dead.'

18. Whereupon] RV 'wherefore.' Neither the first] RV 'even the first.. not,' imperfect and temporary though it was.

19, 20. See Exodus 24:3-8.

20. Testament] RV 'covenant': see on Exodus 24:16.

21. This is not recorded m Exodus, but is mentioned by Josephus. It rested probably on some Jewish tradition.

23. Patterns] RV 'copies,' i.e. the earthly things which were made according to the pattern of the heavenly: see Hebrews 8:5. In the view of the writer, the heavenly original needed purifying just as the earthly copies, only with better sacrifices. It is not necessary to supply a different predicate in the second clause, such as 'should be dedicated.' To enable men to draw near to God, however imperfectly, on earth, it was necessary that both they and the tabernacle be sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice; and the inference is that in order to enable men perfectly to hold communion with God above, both they and the heavenly places must in like manner be sprinkled with the blood of a better sacrifice, viz. that of Christ.

24. To appear] lit. 'to be manifested before the face of God,' i.e. to show Himself to God: cp. Hebrews 7:25. The earthly 'copy' of this act is that of the high priest who once a year presented himself before God in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people. In the OT. to 'appear before God' means to go into the Temple to worship Him: cp. Exodus 23:17; Psalms 42:2; Psalms 84:7.

26. End of the world] The Second Coming is regarded as imminent: cp. Hebrews 10:37. Appeared] lit. 'been manifested,' i.e. in the flesh to men: cp. Hebrews 10:24, where the verb, though different, is from the same root.

27. In the case of men, death is a single event, the definite close of a stage in their career. So Christ's death is one final achievement. And as in the former case death is followed by judgment, so Christ's death is followed by His reappearing for the salvation of His people. Moreover, as death and judgment are connected as cause and effect, so Christ's death and His people's salvation are similarly connected: cp. Romans 5:18

28. Apart from sin] So RV. His First Coming was in connexion with sin; He came because of sin, and bearing sin to put it away (Hebrews 9:26); but His Second Coming will be 'apart from sin,' since in dying He did put away sin, actually for Himself, for men by anticipation in faith.

Them that look for him] RV 'that wait for him.' The reappearing of the high priest from out the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement would be waited for with anxious expectancy by the people as the sign that all that was needful for their reconciliation with God had been done, and that the offering had been accepted by Him: cp. Luke 1:21, and see Romans 8:19, Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:8.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The final purging of sin9:11-28

The writer now focused on the issue of sacrifice.

"The argument moves a stage further as the author turns specifically to what Christ has done. The sacrifices of the old covenant were ineffectual. But in strong contrast Christ made an offering that secures a redemption valid for all eternity. In the sacrifices, a good deal pertained to the use of blood. So in accord with this, the author considers the significance of the blood of animals and that of Christ." [Note: Morris, p85.]

"Blood" in Scripture is frequently a metonym (a figure of speech in which one thing stands for another) for "death," particularly violent death involving bloodshed. There was nothing magical about Jesus" blood that made it a cleansing agent for sin. It was the death of Christ that saves us, not something special about His blood.

In Hebrews 9:11-14 the writer introduced Christ"s high priestly ministry, which climaxes in Hebrews 9:15. Hebrews 9:16-22 are parenthetical explaining Hebrews 9:15. Then Hebrews 9:23-28 resume the discussion of Jesus" priestly ministry in heaven.

"The conception of Christ"s death as a liturgical high priestly action is developed as a major argument in Hebrews 9:11-28. Prior to this point in the homily, the high priesthood tended to be linked with Christ"s present activity as heavenly intercessor (cf. Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 8:1-2)." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p235.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

In certain respects the covenants God made with humankind are similar to wills. With all wills, the person who made the will must die before the beneficiaries experience any effects of the will.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The superior sacrifice for sin9:16-28

"The author has made it clear that Christ"s death has instituted a better covenant ( Hebrews 9:11-15) which is superior to animal offerings ( Hebrews 9:12-14). But the need for such a sacrifice has yet to be explored. So a key word in this subunit [ Hebrews 9:16-28] is "necessary" (ananke, Hebrews 9:16; Hebrews 9:23). In the process of exploring this point, the author clearly underscored the measureless superiority of the sacrificial death of Christ." [Note: Hodges, " Hebrews," p802.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Hebrews Chapter 9

The epistle, recounting some particular circumstances which characterised the first covenant shews that neither were sins put away, nor was the conscience purged by its means, nor the entrance into the holiest granted to the worshipers. The veil concealed God. The high priest went in once a year to make reconciliation-no one else. The way to God in holiness was barred. Perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, they could not be through the blood of bulls and of goats. These were but previsionary and figurative ordinances, until God took up the real work itself, in order to accomplish it fully and for ever.

But this brings us to the focus of the light which God gives us by the Holy Ghost in this epistle. Before proving by the scriptures of the Old Testament the doctrine that he announced and the discontinuance of the actual sacrifices-of all sacrifice for sin, the writer, with a heart full of the truth and of the importance of that truth, teaches the value and the extent of the sacrifice of Christ (still in contrast with the former offerings, but a contrast that rests on the intrinsic value of the offering of Christ). These three results are presented:-first, the opened way into the sanctuary was manifested, that is, access to God Himself, where He is, second, the purification of the conscience; third, and eternal redemption (I may add the promise of an eternal inheritance).

One feels the immense importance, the inestimable value, of the first. ‘The believer is admitted into God’s own presence by a new and living way which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; has constant access to God, immediate access to the place where He is, in the light. What complete salvation, what blessedness, what security! For how could we have access to God in the light, if everything that would separate us from Him, were not entirely taken away through Him who was once offered to bear the sins of many? But here it is the precious and perfect result, in this respect, which is revealed to us, and formally proved in chapter 10, as a right that we possess, that access to God Himself is entirely and freely open to us. We are not indeed told in this passage that we are seated there, for it is not our union with Christ that is the subject of this epistle, but our access to God in the sanctuary. And it is important to note this last, and it is as precious in its p]ace as the other. We are viewed as on earth and being on earth we have free and full access to God in the sanctuary. We go in perfect liberty to God, where His holiness dwells, and where nothing that is contrary to Him can be admitted. What happiness! What perfect grace! What a glorious result, supreme and complete! Could anything better be desired, remembering too that it is our dwelling-place? This is our position in the presence of God through the entrance of Christ into the sanctuary.

The second result shews us the personal state we are brought into, in order to the enjoyment of our position; that we may, on our part, enter in freely. It is that our Saviour has rendered our conscience perfect, so that we can go into the sanctuary without an idea of fear, without one question as to sin arising in our minds. A perfect conscience is not an innocent conscience which, happy in its unconsciousness, does not know evil, and does not know God revealed in holiness. A perfect conscience knows God; it is cleansed, and, having the knowledge of good and evil according to the light of God Himself, it knows that it is purified from all evil according to His purity. Now the blood of bulls and goats, and the washing repeated under the law, could never make the conscience perfect. They could sanctify carnally, so as to enable the worshiper to approach God outwardly, yet only afar off, with the veil still unrent. But a real purification from sin and sins, so that the soul can be in the presence of God Himself in the light without spot, with the consciousness of being so the offerings under the law could never produce. They were but figures. but, thanks be to God, Christ has accomplished the work; and, present for us now in the heavenly and eternal sanctuary, He is the witness there that our sins are put away; so that all conscience of sin before God is destroyed, because we know that He who bore our sins is in the presence of God, after having accomplished the work of expiation. Thus we have the consciousness of being in the light without spot. We have the purification not only of sins but of the conscience, so that we can use this access to God in full liberty and joy, presenting ourselves before Him who has so loved us.

The third result, which seals and characterises the two others, is that Christ, having once entered in abides in heaven. He has gone into the heavenly sanctuary to remain there by virtue of an eternal redemption, of blood that has everlasting validity. The work is completely done, and can never change in value. If our sins are effectually put away, God glorified, and righteousness complete, that which once availed to effect this can never not avail. The blood shed once for all is ever efficacious.

Our High Priest is in the sanctuary, not with the blood of sacrifices, which are but figures of the true. The work has been done which puts sin away. This redemption is neither temporal not transitory. It is the redemption of the soul, and for eternity, according to the moral efficacy of that which has been done.

Here then are the three aspects of the result of the work of Christ: immediate access to God; a purged conscience; and eternal redemption.

Three points remain to be noticed before entering on the subject of the covenants, which is here resumed.

First, Christ is a High Priest of good things to come. In saying “things to come”,the starting-point is Israel under the law before the advent of our Lord. Nevertheless, if these good things were now acquired, if it could be said, “we have them,” because Christianity was their fulfillment, it could hardly be still said-when Christianity was established-”good things to come.” They are yet to come. These “good things” consist of all that the Messiah will enjoy when He reigns. This also is the reason that the earthly things have their place. But our present relationship with Him is only and altogether heavenly. He acts as Priest in a tabernacle which is not of this creation: it is heavenly, in the presence of God, not made with hands. Our place is in heaven.

In the second place, “Christ offered himself, by the eternal Spirit (16), without spot, to God.” Here the precious offering up of Christ is viewed as an act that He performed as man, though in the perfection and Value of His Person. He offered Himself to God-but as moved by the power, and according to the perfection of the Eternal Spirit. All the motives that governed this action, and the accomplishment of the fact according to those motives, were purely and perfectly those of the Holy Ghost; that is, absolutely divine in their perfection, but of the Holy Ghost acting in a man (a man without sin who, born and living ever by the power of the Holy Ghost, had never known sin; who, being exempt from it by birth, never allowed it to enter into Him); so that it is the Man Christ who offers Himself. This was requisite.

Thus the offering was in itself perfect and pure, with out defilement; and the act of offering was perfect, whether in love or in obedience, or in the desire to glorify God, or to accomplish the purpose of God. Nothing mingled itself with the perfection of His intent in offering Himself. Moreover, it was not a temporary offering, which applied to one sin with which the conscience was burdened and which went no farther than that one an offering which could not, by its nature, have the perfection spoken of, because it was not the Person offering up Himself, nor was it absolutely for God, because there was in it neither the perfection of will nor of obedience. But the offering of Christ was one which, being perfect in its moral nature, being in itself perfect in the eyes of God, was necessarily eternal in its value. For this value was as enduring as the nature of God who was glorified in it.

It was made, not of necessity, but of free will, and in obedience. It was made by a man for the glory of God, but through the Eternal Spirit, ever the same in its nature and value.

All being, thus perfectly fulfilled for the glory of God, the conscience of every one that comes to Him by this offering is purged; dead works are blotted out and set aside; we stand before God on the ground of that which Christ has done.

And here the third point comes in. Being perfectly cleansed in conscience from all that man in his sinful nature produces, and having to do with God in light and in love, there being no question of conscience with Him, we are in a position to serve the living God. Precious liberty! in which, happy and without question before God according to His nature in light, we can serve Him according to the activity of His nature in love. Judaism knew no more of this than it did of perfection in conscience. Obligation towards God that system indeed maintained; and it offered a certain provision for that which was needed for outward failure. But to have a perfect conscience, and then to serve God in love, according to His will-of this it knew nothing.

This is Christian position: the conscience perfect by Christ, (17) according to the nature of God Himself; the service of God in liberty, according to His nature of love acting towards others.

For the Jewish system, in its utmost advantages, was characterised by the holy place. There were duties and obligations to be fulfilled in order to draw near, sacrifices to cleanse outwardly him who drew near outwardly. Meanwhile God was always concealed. No one entered into “the holy place:” it is implied that the “most holy” was inaccessible. No sacrifice had yet been offered which gave free access, and at all times. God was concealed: that He was so characterised the position. They could not stand before Him. Neither did He manifest Himself. They served Him out of His presence without going in.

It is important to notice this truth, that the whole system in its highest and nearest access to God was characterised by the holy place, in order to understand the passage before us.

Now the first tabernacle-Judaism as a system-is identified with the first part of the tabernacle, and that open only to the priestly part of the nation, the second part (that is, the sanctuary) only shewing, by the circumstances connected with it, that there was no access to God. When the author of the epistle goes on to the present position of Christ, he leaves the earthly tabernacle-it is heaven itself he then speaks of, a tabernacle not made with hands, nor of this creation, into which he introduces us.

The first tent or part of the tabernacle gave the character of the relationship of the people with God, and that only by a priesthood. They could not reach God. When we approach God Himself, it is in heaven; and the entire first system disappears. Everything was offered as a figure in the first system, and even as a figure shewed that the conscience was not yet set free, nor the presence of God accessible to man. The remembrance of sins was continual]y renewed (the annual sacrifice was a memorial of sins and God was not manifested, nor the way to Him opened).

Christ comes, accomplishes the sacrifice, makes the conscience perfect, goes into heaven itself; and we draw nigh to God in the light. To mingle the service of the first tabernacle or holy place with Christian service is to deny the latter; for the meaning of the first was that the way to God was not yet open; the meaning of the second, that it is open.

God may have patience with the weakness of man. Till the destruction of Jerusalem He bore with the Jews; but the two systems can never really go on together, namely, a system which said that one cannot draw nigh to God, and another system which gives access to Him.

Christ is come, the High Priest of a new system, of “good things,” which, under the old system, were yet “to come ;” but He did not enter into the earthly most holy place, leaving the holy place to subsist without a true meaning. He is come by the (not a) more excellent and more perfect tabernacle. I repeat it, for it is essential here: the holy place, or the first tent, is the figure of the relationship of men with God under the first tabernacle (taken as a whole); so that we may say, “the first tabernacle,” applying it to the first part of the tabernacle, and pass on to the first tabernacle as a whole, and as a recognised period having the same meaning. This the epistle does here. To come out of this position, we must leave typical things and pass into heaven, the true sanctuary where Christ ever lives, and where no veil bars our entrance.

Now it is not said, that we have “the good things to come.” Christ has gone into heaven itself, the High Priest of those good things, securing their possession to them that trust in Him. But we have access to (18) God in the light by virtue of Christ’s presence there. That presence is the proof of righteousness fully established; the blood, an evidence that our sins are put away for ever; and our conscience is made perfect. Christ in heaven is the guarantee for the fulfillment of every promise. He has opened an access for us, even now, to God in the light, having cleansed our consciences once for all-for He dwells on high continuously-that we may enter in, and that we may serve God here below.

All this is already established and secured; but there is more. The new covenant,of which He is Mediator, is founded on His blood.

The way in which the apostle always avoids the direct application of the new covenant is very striking.

The transgressions that were imputed under the first covenant, and which the sacrifices it offered could not expiate, are by the blood of the new covenant entirely blotted out. Thus they which are called -observe the expression (ver. 15)-can receive the promise of the eternal inheritance; that is to say, the foundation is laid for the accomplishment of the blessings of the covenant. He says, “the eternal inheritance,” because, as we have seen, the reconciliation was complete, our sins borne and canceled, and the work by which sin is finally put away out of God’s sight accomplished, according to the nature and character of God Himself. This is the main point of all this part of the epistle.

It is because of the necessity there was for this sacrifice-the necessity that sins, and finally sin, should be entirely put away, (19) in order to the enjoyment of the eternal promises (for God could not bless, as an eternal principle and definitively, while sin was before His eyes), that Christ, the Son of God, Man on earth, became the Mediator of the new covenant, in order that by death He might make a way for the permanent enjoyment of that which had been promised. The new covenant, in itself, did not speak of a Mediator. God would write His laws on the hearts of His people, and would remember sins no more.

The covenant is not yet made with Israel and Judah. But meanwhile God has established and revealed the Mediator, who has accomplished the work on which the fulfillment of the promises can be founded in a way that is durable in principle, eternal, because connected with the nature of God Himself. This is done by means of death, the wages of sin and by which sin is left behind; and expiation for sins being made according to the righteousness of God, an altogether new position is taken outside and beyond sin. The Mediator has paid the ransom. Sin has no more right over us.

Verses 16, 17 are a parenthesis, in which the idea of a “testament “(it is the same word as “covenant “in the Greek, a disposition on the part of one who has the right of disposal) is introduced, to make us understand that death must have taken place before the rights acquired under the testament can enjoyed. (20) This necessity of the covenant being founded on the blood of a victim was not forgotten in the case of the first covenant. Everything was sprinkled with blood. Only in this case it was the solemn sanction of death attached to the obligation of the covenant. The types always spoke of the necessity of death intervening before men could be in relationship with God. Sin had brought in death and judgment. We must either undergo the judgment ourselves or see our sins blotted out through it having been undergone by another for us.

Three applications of the blood are presented here. The covenant is founded on the blood. Defilement is washed away by its means. Guilt is removed by the remission obtained through the blood that has been shed.

These are in fact the three things necessary. First the ways of God in bestowing blessing according to His promise are connected with His righteousness, the sins of those blessed being, atoned for, the requisite foundation of the covenant, Christ having withal glorified God in respect of sin when made sin on the cross.

Second the purification of the sin by which we were defiled (by which all things that could not be guilty were nevertheless defiled) is accomplished. Here there were cases in which water was typically used: this is moral and practical cleansing. It flows from death, the water that purifies proceeded from the side of the holy Victim already dead. It is the application of the word-which

judges all evil and reveals all good-to the conscience and the heart.

Third, as regards remission. In no case can this be obtained without the shedding of blood. Observe that it does not here say “application.” It is the accomplishment of the work of true propitiation, which is here spoken of. Without shedding of blood there is no remission. All-important truth! For a work of remission, death and blood-shedding must take place.

Two consequences flow from these views of atonement and reconciliation to God.

First, it was necessary that there should be a better sacrifice, a more excellent victim, than those which were offered under the old covenant, because it was the heavenly things themselves, and not their figures, that were to be purified. For it is into the presence of God in heaven itself that Christ has entered.

Secondly, Christ was not to offer Himself often, as the high priest went in every year with the blood of others. For He offered up Himself. Hence, if all that was available in the sacrifice was not brought to perfection by a single offering once made, He must have suffered often since the foundation of the world. (21) This remark leads to the clear and simple declaration of the ways of God on this point- a declaration of priceless value. God allowed ages to pass (the different distinct periods in which man has in divers ways been put to the test, and in which he has had time to shew what he is) without yet accomplishing His work of grace. This trial of man has served to shew that he is bad in nature and in will. The multiplication of means only made it more evident that he was essentially bad at heart, for he availed himself of none of them to draw near to God. On the contrary, his enmity against God was fully manifested.

When God had made this plain, before the law, under the law, by promises, by the coming and presence of His Son, then the work of God takes the place, for our salvation and God’s glory, of man’s responsibility-on the ground of which faith knows man is entirely lost. This explains the expression (ver. 26) “in the consummation of the ages.”

Now this work is perfect, and perfectly accomplished. Sin had dishonoured God, and separated man from Him. All that God had done to give him the means of return only ended in affording him opportunity to fill up the measure of his sin by the rejection of Jesus. But in this the eternal counsels of God were fulfilled, at least the moral basis laid, and that in infinite perfection, for their actual accomplishment in their results. All now in fact, as in purpose always, rested on the second Adam, and on what God had done, not on man’s responsibility, while that was fully met for God’s glory. (Compare 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 1:1, Titus 2:1-2.) The Christ, whom man rejected, had appeared in order to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Thus it was morally the consummation of the ages.

The result of the work and power of God are not yet manifested. A new creation will develop them. But man, as the child of Adam, has run his whole career in his relationship with God: he is enmity against God. Christ, fulfilling the will of God, has come in the consummation of ages, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and His work to this end is accomplished. This is the moral power of His act, (22) of His sacrifice before God; in result, sin will be entirely blotted out of the heavens and the earth. To faith this result, namely, the putting away of sin, is already realised in the conscience, (23) because Christ who was made sin for us has died and died to sin, and now is risen and glorified, sin (even as made it for us) left behind.

Moreover, this result is announced to the believer- to those who are looking for the Lord’s return. Death and judgment are the lot of men as children of Adam. Christ has been opened once to bear the sins of many; and “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation,” not to judgment.

For them, as to their standing before God, sin is even now put away: as Christ is, so are they; their own sins are all blotted out. Christ appeared the first time in order to be made sin for us, and to bear our sins; they were laid upon Him on the cross. And, with regard to those who wait for Him, those sins are entirely put away. When He returns, Christ has nothing, to do with sin, as far as they are concerned. It was fully dealt with at His first coming. He appears the second time to deliver them from all the results of sin, from all bondage. He will appear, not for judgment, but unto salvation. The putting away of sin on their behalf before God has been so complete, the sins of believers so entirely blotted out, that, when He appears the second time, He has, as to them nothing to do with sin. He appears apart from sin, not only without sin in His blessed Person-this was the case at His first coming-but (as to those who look for Him) outside all question of sin, for their final deliverance.

“Without sin” is in contrast with “to bear the sins of many.” (24) But it will be remarked, that the taking up of the assembly is not mentioned here. It is well to notice the language. The character of His second coming is the subject. He has been manifested once. Now He is seen by those who look for Him. The expression may apply to the deliverance of the Jews who wait for Him in the last days. He will appear for their deliverance. But we expect the Lord for this deliverance, and we shall see Him when He accomplishes it even for us. The apostle does not touch the question of the difference between this and our being caught up, and does not use the word which serves to announce His public manifestation. He will appear to those who expect Him. He is not seen by all the world, nor is it consequently the judgment, although that may follow. The Holy Ghost speaks only of them that look for the Lord. To them He will appear. By them He will be seen, and it will be the time of their deliverance; so that it is true for us, and also applicable to the Jewish remnant in the last days.

Thus the Christian position, and the hope of the world to come, founded on the blood and on the Mediator of the new covenant, are both given here. The one is the present portion of the believer, the other is secured as the hope of Israel.

How wonderful is the grace which we are now considering!

There are two things that present themselves to us in Christ-the attraction to our heart of His grace and goodness, and His work which brings our souls into the presence of God. It is with the latter that the Holy Ghost here occupies us. There is not only the piety which grace produces; there is the efficacy of the work itself. What is this efficacy? What is the result for us of His work? Access to God in the light without a veil, ourselves entirely clear of all sin before Him, as white as snow in the light which only shews it. Marvelous position for us! We have not to wait for a day of judgment (assuredly coming as it is), nor to seek for means of approach to God. We are in His presence. Christ appears in the presence of God for us. And not only this: He remains there ever; our position therefore never changes. It is true that we are called to walk according to that position. But this does not touch the fact that such is the position. And how came we into it ? and in what condition ? Our sins entirely put away, perfectly put away, and once for all, and the whole question of sin settled for ever before God, we are there because Christ has finished the work which abolished it, and without it in God’s sight. So that there are the two things- this work accomplished, and this position ours in the presence of God.

We see the force of the contrast between this and Judaism. According to the latter, divine service, as we have seen, was performed outside the veil. The worshipers did not reach the presence of God. Thus they had always to begin again. The propitiatory sacrifice was renewed from year to year-a continually repeated testimony that sin still was there. Individually they obtained a temporary pardon for particular acts. It had constantly to be renewed. The conscience was never made perfect, the soul was not in the presence of God, this great question was never settled. (How many souls are even now in this condition!) The entrance of the high priest once a year did but furnish a proof that the way was still barred that God could not be approached, but that sin was still remembered.

But now the guilt of believers is gone, their sins washed away by a work done once for all; the conscience is made perfect; nor is there any condemnation for them. Sin in the flesh has been condemned in Christ when a sacrifice for sin, and Christ appears ever in the presence of God for us. The High Priest remains there. Thus, instead of having a memorial of sin reiterated from year to year, perfect righteousness subsists ever for us in the presence of God. The position is entirely changed.

The lot of man (for this perfect work takes us out of Judaism) is death and judgment. But now our lot depends on Christ, not on Adam. Christ was offered to bear the sins of many (25) -the work is complete, the sins blotted out, and to those who look for Him He will appear without having anything, to do with sin that question having been entirely settled at His first, coming. In the death of Jesus, God dealt with the sins of those who look for Him; and He will appear, not to judge, but unto salvation-to deliver them finally from the position into which sin had brought them. This will have its application to the Jewish remnant according to the circumstances of their position; but in an absolute way it applies to the Christian, who has heaven for his portion.

The essential point established in the doctrine of the death of Christ is, that He offered Himself once for all. We must bear this in mind, to understand the full import of all that is here said. The tenth chapter is the development and application of this. In it the author recapitulates his doctrine on this point, and applies it to souls, confirming it by scripture and by considerations which are evident to every enlightened conscience.

1. The law, with its sacrifices, did not make the worshipers perfect; for, if they had been brought to perfection, the sacrifices would not have been offered afresh. If they were offered again, it was because the worshipers were not perfect. On the contrary the repetition of the sacrifice was a memorial of sins; it reminded the people that sin was still there, and that it was still before God. In effect the law, although it was the shadow of things to come, was not their true image. There were sacrifices; but they were repeated instead of there being one only sacrifice of eternal efficacy. There was a high priest, but he was mortal, and the priesthood transmissible. He went into the holiest, but only once a year, the veil which concealed God being unrent, and the high priest unable to remain in His presence, the work being not perfect. Thus there were indeed elements which plainly indicated the constituent parts, so to speak, of the priesthood of the good things to come; but the state of the worshipers was in the one case quite the opposite of that which it was in the other. In the first, every act shewed that the work of reconciliation was not done; in the second, the position of the high priest and of the worshiper is a testimony that this work has been accomplished, and that the latter are perfected for ever in the presence of God.

Footnotes for Hebrews Chapter 9

16: The reader will remark how anxiously, so to speak, the Epistle here attaches the epithet “eternal” to everything. It was not a temporary or earthly ground of relationship with God, but an eternal one; so of redemption; so of inheritance. Corresponding to this, as to the work on earth, it is once for all. It is not unimportant to notice this as to the nature of the work. Hence the epithet attached even to the Spirit.

17: For in Christ we are the righteousness of God. His blood cleanses us on God’s part. Jesus wrought out the purification of sins by Himself, and glorified God in so doing.

18: It is all-important thoroughly to understand, that it is into the presence of God that we enter; and that, at all times, and by virtue of a sacrifice and of blood which never lose their value. The worshiper, under the former tabernacle, did not come into the presence of God; he stayed outside the unrent veil. He sinned-a sacrifice was offered: he sinned again-a sacrifice was offered. Now the veil is rent. We are always in the presence of God without a veil. Happen what may, He always sees us-sees us in His presence-according t the efficacy of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. We are there now, by virtue of a perfect sacrifice, offered for the putting away of sin, according to the divine glory, and which has perfectly accomplished the purification of sins. I should not be in the presence of God in the sanctuary, if I had not been purified according to the purity of God, and by God. It was this which brought me there. And this sacrifice and this blood can never lose their value. Through them I am therefore perfect for ever in the presence of God; I was brought into it by them.

19: The work in virtue of which all sin is finally put away out of God’s sight-abolished-is accomplished, the question of good and evil is come to a final issue on the cross, and God perfectly glorified when sin was before Him; the result will not be finally accomplished till the new heavens and the new earth. But our sins having been borne by Christ on the cross, He rises, atonement being made, an eternal testimony that they are gone for ever, and that by faith we are now justified and have peace. We must not confound these two things, our sins being put away, and the perfectly glorifying God in respect of sin, when Christ was made sin, the results of which are not yet accomplished. As regards the sinful nature, it is still in us; but Christ having died, its condemnation took place then, but, that being in death, we reckon ourselves dead to it, and no condemnation for us.

20: Some think that these two verses are not a parenthesis speaking of a testament, but a continuation of the argument on the covenant, taking the word “diatithemai” to mean, not the testator, but the sacrifice, which put a seal, more solemn than an oath, on the obligation of observing the covenant. It is a very delicate Greek question, on which I do not here enter. But I cannot say they have convinced me.

21: And He must have repeatedly suffered, for there must be reality in putting away sin.

22: The more we examine the cross from God’s side of it, the more we shall see this: man’s enmity against God, and against God come in goodness, was absolutely displayed; Satan’s power in evil over man too; man’s perfectness in love to the Father and obedience to Him; God’s majesty and righteousness against sin, and love to sinners, all He is; all good and evil perfectly brought to an issue, and that in the place of sin, that is, in Christ made sin for us. When sin was as such before His face in the sinless One where it was needed and God perfectly glorified, and indeed the Son of man too, morally the whole thing was settled, and we know it: the actual results are not yet produced.

23: The judgment, which will fall upon the wicked, is not sin. Much more also is involved in the work and position of Christ, even heavenly glory with God: but it is not our subject here.

24: It is of moment to see the difference between Hebrews 9:26 and Hebrews 9:28. Sin had to be put away abstractedly out of God’s sight, and hence He had to be perfectly glorified in respect of it, in that place where sin was before Him. Christ was made sin, appeared to abolish it out of God’s sight, “eis athetesis (?) hamartia”. Besides this, our sins (guilt) were in question, and Christ bore them in His own body on the tree. The sins are borne, and Christ has them no more. They are gone as guilt before God for ever. The work for the abolition of sin in God’s sight is done, and God owns it as done, having glorified Jesus who has glorified Him as to it when made sin. So that for God the thing is settled, and faith recognises this, but the result is not produced. The work is before God in all its value, but the sin still exists in the believer and in the world. Faith owns both, knows that in God’s sight it is done, and rests as God does in it but the believer knows that sin is still, de facto, there and in him: only he has a title to reckon himself deadto it-that sin in the flesh is condemned, but in the sacrifice for sin, so that there is none for him. The athetesis (?) is not accomplished, but what does It is; so that God recognises it, and so does faith, and stands perfectly clear before God as to sin and sins. He that is dead (and we are, as having died with Christ) is justified from sin. Our sins have all been borne. The difficulty partly arises from “sin “being, used for a particular act, and also abstractedly. In the word “sins” there is no such ambiguity. A sacrifice for sin may apply to a particular fault. Sin entered into the world is another idea. This ambiguity has produced the confusion.

25: The word “many” has a double bearing here, negative and positive. It could not be said “all,” or all would be saved. On the other hand the word many generalises the work, so that it is not the Jews only who are its object.

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Bibliographical Information
Darby, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament". 1857-67.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Copyright Statement
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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

On Modernising Christianity

Hebrews 9:10

While in a very real sense Christianity was a new religion in the days of St Paul, in another, following his suggestion, it was a corrective, a revision and a modernisation of the old. The centuries have moved onward and our faith is no longer young. There are those among us who think that Christianity is now over-antiquated, that she is too old-fashioned, and that possibly there ought to be done for her what she in her youth did for the Jewish religion and for the cults of the pagan world. How far, then, and in what particulars is the Church bound to respect the time-spirit? Or, to phrase it differently, in what ways and within what restrictions is the modernising process allowable?

I. What are the changes needed? (1) Christianity should modernise her speech. Now, as on the day of Pentecost, every man has the right to hear the Gospel in the current language of the day, and the folly of talking in an unknown tongue is as pronounced now as when St Paul condemned it. (2) Christianity, likewise, should modernise her thought I do not say that she should abandon it, corrupt it, hide it, or in any way betray it. She can preserve it practically intact, and yet by rendering it less antiquated commend it to the time-spirit of the twentieth century. (3) Christianity ought further to modernise her activities. "New occasions teach new duties," and she, with open eyes for the vision, should not hesitate to employ whatever legitimate weapons are within her reach.

II. Let me point out some restrictions, some limitations, which may guard us from the excesses and from the extravagances that scandalise and vitiate the movement we are commending. (1) Christianity must be careful not so to modernise herself as to obscure her distinctive character. She is of the heavens, heavenly, and has no business to become earthy. It is no more necessary to be untrue to herself than it is for a man to be false to his deepest convictions. (2) Christianity, while preserving her character, must be mindful not so to modernise herself as to conceal her essential message. St. Paul gloried in the cross; and it will be a bitter day for humanity when the Church shall hide it, apologise for it, and explain away its only possible meaning as though it were her shame. (3) Christianity, finally, must be heedful not so to modernise herself as to becloud her supreme object That the Church should strive for social amelioration, that she should do her utmost to improve temporal conditions, and that she should antagonise each specific evil and wrong of the time is cheerfully conceded. But she has a programme of her own. Her theory is: Cleanse the sources and the river will be pure; maintain the power in the power-house and traffic will keep on the move; supply and fill the reservoir and the homes of the citizens will not lack for water. This is her supreme object.

—G. C. Lorimer, The Modern Crisis in Religion, p13.

References.—IX:10.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p46; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p398. IX:11.—H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p193.

Our Lord"s Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:11-12

I. The idea of sacrifice is almost co-extensive with the idea of God. The universality of the sacrificial idea can only be accounted for either by some primeval revelation from God, or by the fact that God, who endowed man with the religious instinct, implanted in him the notion of sacrifice.

Before the Fall, when man"s conscience was unclouded by sin, sacrifice was the expression of love alone. Now that man"s heart is stained by sin, sacrifice is the expression of penitence, and yet still of love; for all true penitence is the utterance of love, telling God of sorrow, not for what the penitent has lost, not for the punishment incurred, but of that sorrow which is the expression of love in the presence of sin.

Sacrifice consists of an inward and an outward part, of which, while the inward may be the more important, the outward is absolutely necessary to perfect the sacrifice. True sacrifices are those inward feelings of love and obedience which form the very foundation of religion; but those feelings are not in themselves proper sacrifices: in order that they may become Song of Solomon, they must find some external means of expression. A true sacrifice is one in which the religion of the heart is expressed by some outward symbol or rite acceptable to God.

In our Lord Jesus Christ the inward part was present from the first moment of His incarnate life ( Hebrews 10:9). It was the life of perfect love and unwavering obedience, which, as the inward part, found its outward expression in the death upon the cross, and made our Lord"s a proper sacrifice—"a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world".

II. In the Epistle to the Hebrews our Lord"s sacrifice upon the cross is compared with the sacrifices under the Jewish law. Let us observe how perfectly our Lord fulfilled the sacrificial types, and where His sacrifice differs both from the Jewish sacrifices and the ritual of the Day of Atonement.

(a) There was the presentation of the victim by the offerer ( Leviticus 1:3). Two points here demand attention: the offering was to be without blemish, and it was to be a voluntary offering ( Hebrews 9:14). It was, then, a voluntary offering; and the act of presentation may be referred either to our Lord"s high-priestly prayer (John XVII.), or to that prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane ( Mark 14:26); or we may consider both these actions to belong to the presentation of the victim.

(b) The second stage in the offering of the Jewish sacrifice was the identification of the victim with the offerer ( Leviticus 1:4). By this action the offerer expressed his desire that the offering should be accepted in his place. The victim, however, was only a symbolic substitute for the offerer; but our Lord was, in the truest sense, representative of the human race. The sacrificial offering offered by Christ is a real and equivalent substitute for all mankind, on whose behalf it is sacrificed.

(c) Then came the effusion of the blood. The offerer himself slew the victim. The priest took the blood and sprinkled it ( ). The blood of each sin-offering was sprinkled against the veil, and symbolised the separation which sin had caused between God and man—that there was no free access to God. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, and so the blood was sprinkled, but the veil remained unmoved. The precious blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, so when it was sprinkled the veil of the Temple was rent in twain, signifying that the barrier between God and man was removed, and access to God secured through the precious Blood of Christ.

(d) There was the burning upon the altar of certain parts of the victim, which thus went up as a sweet savour to God. And so our Lord ( Ephesians 5:2).

(e) There was a feast upon the sacrifice, and this is fulfilled by our Lord"s gift of His Holy Body and Blood to be our food in the Eucharist. There we feast upon the Christian sacrifice.

III. Holy Scripture teaches to associate the idea of life with the blood, and therefore forbade the Jews ever to eat blood ( ). So that, as all sacrifice pointed to our Lord"s sacrifice, this injunction pointed to the fact that it was the precious Blood which was to make atonement for sin, which was to redeem the world.

By this inauguration of the new dispensation, a new and living way is opened to the Throne of God, opened by the precious Blood. From that Blood each baptism gains its efficacy, from it each absolution derives its power; the precious Blood of Christ—the means of redemption, applied to our souls through the Sacraments of the Church.

—A. G. Mortimer, Lenten Preaching.

The Priesthood of Christ

Hebrews 9:11-12

The priestly work of the Lord Jesus is the glorious theme of our text, but more especially the superiority of His Priesthood over that of Aaron. Four points of superiority are alluded to in the text Superiority of the Person, the Place, the Plea, the Privileges.

I. The Superiority of the Person. The allusion in the text is to the high priest and to his work, especially on the Great Day of Atonement The Levitical law made high priests of those who had infirmities, moral defects. Hence the high priest had to observe manifold and solemn rites of purification before he entered on the duties of the Great Day of Atonement All these rites indicated his natural unfitness for the duties of his holy office. But Christ our High Priest had no need of ceremonial cleansing: He was clean already.

II. The Superiority of the Place where our High Priest Officiates. "A greater and more perfect tabernacle." (1) "Greater." The figures of our arithmetic fail to describe its vastness. There will be as much room for the inhabitants to roam without colliding as there is in space for the stars to wander. (2) Not only greater but also a "more perfect" tabernacle. No human art helped to build the tabernacle where our High Priest sits enthroned: no angel hand ever put a stone into it. The Builder and Maker is God.

III. The Plea of our High Priest is Superior to that of the Aaronic Priesthood. "Not the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood." One man is of more value than all animals, but this was the blood of the God-man.

IV. Under Christ we have Superior Privileges. He is "the High Priest of good things to come". (1) The things under the law were only shadows: the good things under the Gospel are substantial and enduring. (2) Immediate access to God is one of the good things brought to us by Christ. (3) Christ hath obtained eternal redemption—eternal freedom. Freedom from what? (a) Freedom from the ceremonial law with all its burdensome and costly rites. (b) Christ hath obtained for us eternal freedom from sin.

—Richard Roberts, My Closing Ministry, p224.

References.—IX:11, 12.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p280; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p225. IX:11-14.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p148. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p185, and vol. lix. p192. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Hebrews, p72. IX:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No2076. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p444; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p390. IX:13, 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No1481, and vol. xxxi. No1846.

Hebrews 9:14

We know not the truth of humanity—we know only its perversions while we are living the life of self and enmity and are as gods to ourselves. What it is to be a Prayer of Manasseh, what we possess in humanity, we never know until we see humanity in Him who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.

—McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement (pp147, 148).

Hebrews 9:14

"We know," says Faber, "that the service of God is the grand thing, or rather that it is the only thing about us which is great at all."

References.—IX:14.—Bishop Alexander, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p134. W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p206. Walter Lock, The Guardian, 27th January, 1911. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp34, 442; ibid. vol. ii. pp138-142; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p405. IX:16.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p34. IX:15-28.—Ibid. p351. IX:16.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p373. IX:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No1567.

Gethsemane, the Rose Garden of God

Hebrews 9:22

I do not use the complete sentence. It is true even upon the lowest plane that without shedding of blood there is nothing, no mighty result, no achievement, no triumph. Every worthy deed costs something; no high thing can be done easily. No great thing can be accomplished without the shedding of blood. Life is just our chance of making this great and strange discovery. Many of us never make it. We begin by trifling, by working with a fraction of our strength. We soon see that nothing comes of that. At last, if we are wise, we see that all the strength is needed. What have we besides this? We must disrobe ourselves. We do it; yet our object remains ungained. What more have we to give? We have our blood. So at last the blood is shed, the life is parted with, and the goal is reached. We are happy if we know that everything noble and enduring in this world is accomplished by the shedding of blood, not merely the concentration of the heart and soul and mind on one object, but the pruning and even the maiming of life. Young men are being taught this lesson now, and unless all signs are false they will be taught it more sternly in the future.

I. Blessing comes from blood-shedding; that Isaiah, our power to bless in the highest sense comes from our shedding, as it were, great drops of blood. We need not shed them literally, though the Church has justly placed the martyrs first. The Church of Rome never prays for the martyrs, but makes request for their prayers. The martyrs it sees before Christ in robes of crimson, and the saints in white. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We cannot atone, but we can bless. We cannot have a share in the one perfect Oblation, the Evening Sacrifice of the world, but we fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. Of every great servant of Christ it is true that the Lord says, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name"s sake". It would not be right to say that it is the suffering that counts, and not the labour. What is true is that the labour without the suffering does not count, that the two in a fruitful life are indissolubly joined. We are familiar with the great passages in which the Apostle is driven to use the awful language of the Passion, where he says, "I am crucified with Christ, I die daily". And it is true that all along the way there are sacrifice and blood-shedding. But I believe it is equally true that there is but one great Gethsemane in the lives of Christ"s blessed servants. Many have none, and their work comes to little, but the elect have one that stands above all, one shedding of blood, one death, after which the rest seems easy. The Gethsemane may be, and often Isaiah, the rooting out of some cherished ambition that has filled the heart and occupied every thought. It may be the shattering of some Song of Solomon, the breaking of some dream. It may be, and often Isaiah, the great rending of the affections, the cutting of the soul free from some detaining human tenderness. Anyhow, the full agony cannot last more than a little, though the heartache may persist through a lifetime. "Could ye not watch with Me one hour?" I sometimes think that blood-sheddings are far more common than we are apt to imagine, and that they take place in the most unlikely lives. In the memoir of Dr. Raleigh, a prosperous suburban minister with every earthly ambition realised, there is a significant passage. When he was at the zenith of his fame he said that ministers came and looked round at his crowded church, and envied his position. "They do not know what it cost me to come to this." Song of Solomon, in James Hamilton"s life, we are permitted to see how he parted, for Christ"s sake, with his great ambition. He wished to write a life of Erasmus, and devoted many years to preparation, but other claims came and baulked him of his long desire. He says: "So this day, with a certain touch of tenderness, I restored the eleven tall folios to the shelf, and tied up my memoranda, and took leave of a project which has sometimes cheered the hours of exhaustion, and the mere thought of which has always been enough to overcome my natural indolence. It is well. It was a chance, the only one I ever had, of attaining a small measure of literary distinction, and where there is so much pride and haughtiness of heart it is better to remain unknown." I think we may easily see where the Gethsemane was in Henry Martvn"s life, and I think one may also see it in John Wesley"s life, though I should not care to indicate it. But the heart knoweth its own bitterness. What we know is that the Gethsemanes in the Christian life come in the course of duty, and in obedience to God"s will as it is revealed from day to day.

II. The bloom and perfection of life to the missionary come from the shedding of blood. Observe that I am not speaking here of the blessing to others, but of the blessing that is meant to come to ourselves in the great enrichment of the spiritual life that should follow, and abundantly make up for, the impoverishment and expenditure of the natural life. What comes after the parting with the natural life, after the shedding of blood, after the death to the world? Various things come, but what ought to come is the resurrection life, which the shedding of blood has made room for.

It does not always come even to the servants of God whose lives are faithful. Their work is fruitful, never without result, but they themselves have not the full blessing of the resurrection life.

(1) Often the Gethsemane of the soul means a brief tarrying in this world. It seems as if too much had gone, as if the spirit could not recover its energies. There are a few books peculiarly dear to the heart of the Church which I may call Gethsemane books. The chief are the lives of Brainerd, Martyn, and McCheyne. All of these died young, not without signs of the Divine blessing, but prematurely—rich and fervid natures exhausted and burnt out I do not overlook physical causes and reasons, but in each case there was a Gethsemane.

(2) Sometimes the earthly life parted with is not fully replaced by the resurrection life, and a long drawn melancholy ensues. It is Song of Solomon, I venture to think, in the life of Charles Wesley. It will be granted by the most ardent admirers of that great saint and supreme Christian poet that the last thirty years of his life will not compare with those of his mighty, strenuous, ardent youth. They were sad years in the main, spent in comparative inaction, and with many weary, listless, discontented days. The text of Charles Wesley"s later years, the text that must ever be associated with his name, was, "I will bring the third part through the fire". He thought that one third part of Methodists would endure to the end. He never sought an abundant entrance for himself into the heavenly kingdom, never asked more than that "I may escape safe to land—on a broken piece of the ship. This is my daily and hourly prayer, that I may escape safe to land." Our Gethsemanes are not meant to end in gloom and melancholy. They are meant to give us, by the grace of God, a richer, even an eternal life in the place of that which we have lost. Our sufferings must be well used, for "in this mortal journey wasted shade is worse than wasted sunshine".

(3) No, the bloom of life should come out of death. The resurrection life should pour into the depleted veins, and fill them with strength and peace. That was eminently the experience of John Wesley. Branch after branch was withered, but every time the new life rushed through all the arid fibres, and they bloomed again. There is no book, I humbly think, in all the world like John Wesley"s Journal. It is pre-eminently the book of the resurrection life lived in this world. It has very few companions. Indeed, it stands out solitary in all Christian literature, clear, detached, columnar. It is a tree that is ever green before the Lord.

When the world has become one great Gethsemane, we shall see over it all the flowers that grow, and grow only, in the garden where Christ"s brow dropped blood. The Church of Christ must be in an agony, praying more earnestly, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood, before the world can be brought to Christ. We give nothing, until we give what it costs us to give, life. There is no life without death. Gethsemane is the rose garden of God.

—W. Robertson Nicoll, The Lamp of Sacrifice, p55.

References.—IX:22.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p134. M. Biggs, Practical Sermons on Old Testament Subjects, p43. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No118, and vol. li. No2951. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p462. IX:23.—Bishop Bickersteth, Sermons, p182. IX:24.—J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p277.

Hebrews 9:26

No fact in man"s moral history is more certain than this, that the simple statement of Scripture, "Christ has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," has been found efficacious to reach down to the lowest depths of men"s souls beyond any other truth ever uttered on this earth.

—J. C. Shairp, Studies in Poetry and Philosophy, pp419, 420.

References.—IX:26.—S. Bentley, Pariah Sermons, p100. E. A. Stuart, The One Mediator and other Sermons, vol. xi. p201. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No759, vol. xvi. Nos911, 962, and vol. xxxviii. No2283. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p139; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iv. p277. ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p458; ibid. vol. x. p319; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p428. IX:26-28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No2194.

Hebrews 9:27

Speaking of Plato"s three great myths, Jowett, in his introduction to the Gorgias, observes that they "are a substitute for poetry and mythology; and they are also a reform of mythology. The moral of them may be summed up in a word or two: After death the Judgment; and There is some better thing remaining for the good than for the evil".

We must die and give an account of our life; here in all its simplicity is the teaching of sickness!


I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist, coming to him, and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry? He answered, Sirach, I perceive by the Book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to Judgment, and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second."

—Bunyan"s Pilgrim"s Progress (pt1).

"The hope of a future life," says Sir John Seeley in Natural Religion (pt ii. ch3), "is still strong in men"s minds, and has, perhaps, been expressed with more ardour in this age than in any other. But the legal and penal ideas which used to be connected with it have almost disappeared. "In Memoriam" speaks in every line of a future state, but of a future judgment it is absolutely silent."

References.—IX:27.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p102. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p68. R. Scott, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1868, p113. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p15. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p104. IX:27, 28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No430. IX:28.—H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p352. X:1.—T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2Series), p53. X:1-3.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p338; X:1-18.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p436. X:2.—H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p260. X:3.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p348.

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Hebrews 9:16. ’ The meaning of these words is doubtful. In the LXX occurs about 280 times and in all but four instances translates , covenant. In classical and Hellenistic Greek, however, it is the common word for “will” or “testament” (see especially The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Grenfell and Hunt, Part I., 105, etc., where the normal meaning of the word appears also from the use of for “intestate” and for “to alter a will”). Accordingly it has been supposed by several interpreters that the writer, taking advantage of the double meaning of , at this point introduces an argument which applies to it in the sense of “will” or “testament,” but not in the sense of “covenant”; as if he said, “where a testamentary disposition of property is made, this comes into force only on the decease of the testator”. “it is necessary that the death of him who made the disposition be adduced”. On the very common omission of the copula in the third singular indicative see Buttmann, p. 136. , “necesse est afferri testimonia de morte testatoris” (Wetstein). For passages establishing its use as a term of the courts for the production of evidence, etc., see Field in loc. and especially Appian, De Bell. Civil. ii. 143, . (See also Eisner in loc.) is apparently even used for “to register” in the Oxy. Papyri, Part II., 244. The reason of this necessity is given in Hebrews 9:17. ’ “for a testament is of force with reference to dead people, since it is never of any force when the testator is alive”. On this interpretation the words mean that before the inheritance, alluded to in Hebrews 9:15, could become the possession of those to whom it had been promised, Christ must die. He is thus represented as a testator. The illustration from the general law relating to wills or testaments extends only to the one point that Christ’s people could inherit only on condition of Christ’s death. The reason of Christ’s death receives no illustration. He did not die merely to make room for the heir. The objections to this interpretation are (1) the constant Biblical usage by which, with one doubtful exception in Galatians 3, stands for “covenant,” not for “will”. On this point see the strong statement of Hatch, Essays in Bibl. Greek, p. 48. “There can be little doubt that the word must be invariably taken in this sense of “covenant” in the N.T., and especially in a book which is so impregnated with the language of the LXX as the epistle to the Hebrews”. (2) His argument regarding covenants receives no help from usages which obtain in connection with testaments which are not covenants. The fact that both could be spoken of under the same name shows that they were related in some way; but presumably the writer had in view things and not merely words. To adduce the fact that in the case of wills the death of the testator is the condition of validity, is, of course, no proof at all that a death is necessary to make a covenant valid. (3) The argument of Hebrews 9:18 is destroyed if we understand Hebrews 9:16-17 of wills; for in this verse it is the first covenant that is referred to.

But is it possible to retain the meaning “covenant”? Westcott, Rendall, Hatch, Moulton and others think it is possible. To support his argument, proving the necessity of Christ’s death, the writer adduces the general law that he who makes a covenant does so at the expense of life. What is meant becomes plain in the 18th verse, for in the covenant there alluded to, the covenanting people were received into covenant through death. That covenant only became valid over the dead bodies of the victims slain as representing the people. Whatever this substitutionary death may have meant, it was necessary to the ratification of the covenant. The sacrifices may have been expiatory, indicating that all old debts and obligations were cancelled and that the covenanters entered into this covenant as clean and new men; or they may have meant that the terms of the covenant were immutable; or that the people died to the past and became wholly the people of God. In any case the dead victims were necessary, and without them, , the covenant was not inaugurated or ratified. Great light has been thrown on this passage by Dr. Trumbull in his Blood Covenant, in which he shows the universality of that form of compact and the significance of the blood. The rite of interchanging blood or tasting one another’s blood, indicates that the two are bound in one life and must be all in all to one another. On the whole, this interpretation is to be preferred. Certainly it connects much better with what follows. For having shown that by dead victims all covenants are ratified, the writer proceeds , “wherefore not even the first,”—although imperfect and temporary—“was inaugurated without blood,” i.e., without death. [The perfect here as elsewhere in Hebrews is scarcely distinguishable from the aorist.] Proof that this statement regarding the first covenant is correct he forthwith gives in Hebrews 9:19-20.

Hebrews 9:19. .’ “For when Moses had spoken to the people every commandment of the law,” this being the needful preliminary, that the people might clearly understand the obligations they assumed on entering the covenant, he then took the blood of the calves and the goats, etc. In Exodus 24:3 ff., an account is given of the inauguration of the first covenant. To that narrative certain additions of no importance are here made. In Exodus no mention is made of goats, only of . (See Westcott on this discrepancy.) Probably this addition is due to an echo of Hebrews 9:12-13. Water, which was added to the blood to prevent coagulation or possibly as a symbol of cleansing; (cf.John 19:34; 1 John 5:6) scarlet wool, , so called from “the grain or berry of the ilex coccifera” used in dyeing (cf.Leviticus 14:4) and the hyssop or wild marjoram on which the wool was tied, are all added as associated with sacrifice in general, and all connected with the blood and the sprinkling. here takes the place of the of Exodus and the action is not confined to the people as in the original narrative but includes , the book itself, that is, even the book in which Moses had written the words of the Lord, the terms of the covenant. Everything connected with the covenant bore the mark of blood, of death. Again, in Hebrews 9:20, instead of the of the LXX, which literally renders the Hebrew we have . . ., a possible echo of our Lord’s words in instituting the new covenant, and instead of of Exodus 24:8 we have corresponding with the of Hebrews 9:19.



Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

CHAPTER 8 ends with the ominous words, “ready to vanish away.” Thus it was that the Holy Spirit, who inspired these words, prepared the minds of the Jewish disciples for the disappearance of their venerated religious system, which came to pass within a very few years by the destruction of Jerusalem. The temple being destroyed, the priesthood slain, the sacrifices stopped, Judaism has become but the pale and bloodless shadow of its former self. And in itself, and at its best, it was only a shadow of good things to come.

Yet we must not underestimate the value of the shadows connected with the law. They had very great value until the moment came in which the realities typified were revealed; just as the moon is of much value until the sun rises. At the heart of this typical system lay the tabernacle and its furniture, and the first five verses of chapter 9 summarize the details connected with this. It was the sanctuary, where God placed the cloud which signifies His presence, but it was a worldly one. So also were all the ordinances of the divine service connected with it. Hence it was not the object of the writer to speak particularly of these details.

His object was rather to point out that the tabernacle was in two parts, the holy place, and then the holiest of all, and that while the priests of Aaron’s line had full liberty to enter the former the latter was forbidden to them; into it they had no admittance at all. When once the divine glory had taken possession of the holiest no human foot trod there, with one exception. One man alone might enter, and he only once every year, and that under one stringent condition; he must approach, “not without blood.” If we turn to Leviticus 16:1-34 and read it, we shall get all the details of that solemn occasion.

What did it all mean? It doubtless foreshadowed the fact that the blood of Christ is the only ground of approach to God, yet what the Holy Ghost was really saying in the whole arrangement was that in the old dispensation there was no real approach to God at all. The way in was not yet made manifest. We shall find the wonderful contrast to this when we reach Hebrews 10:19. But as long as the first tabernacle had a standing before God the rule was no admittance.

We might say then that the law instituted the religion of the holy place, whereas the holiest of all characterizes Christianity. It was not that all Israelites had access to the holy place. We know they did not, as the sad case of Uzziah, king of Judah, recorded in 2 Chronicles 26:1-23, shows. But the priests, who were the representatives of all Israel, had free access there. Still, even so, the real value of the whole thing lay in its typical significance, as we have seen.

This fact is again emphasized in verses Hebrews 9:9-10, where the tabernacle is “a figure for the time then present,” and the gifts and sacrifices are but meats and drinks and divers washings; all of which were but ordinances of a fleshly type as opposed to anything of a spiritual nature. Out of this there flow, as a result, two things.

The first thing is, that these sacrifices could not make perfect the one who approached by their means. Here again we meet with that word perfect; and this time not referring to Christ but to ourselves. The Jewish sacrifices, by reason of their very nature, could not make us perfect; and this fact we shall find repeated in Hebrews 10:1. Then passing on to the fourteenth verse of that chapter we find stated, by way of contrast, the glorious fact that, “by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” The law not merely did not accomplish it, but could not; whereas Christ has done it.

But what is this perfection which has to do with ourselves? That question is answered for us here. It is a remarkable fact that the first time the word is used in this connection it is carefully defined for us by the Holy Spirit. The perfection has to do with our consciences. As we read on into Hebrews 10:1-39 we shall see more clearly what this signifies. It means having the whole weight of sin as an accusing load completely lifted off, so that the conscience is perfectly cleared in the presence of God.

Now this was something quite unknown under the law. If a Jew sinned it was his duty to bring to the tabernacle the appropriate sacrifice; and having done so he was clearly entitled to enjoy the relief afforded by the words, “it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:31). That one particular sin was forgiven when once the prescribed sacrifice was offered; but that was all. If he sinned again, again he had to bring a sacrifice: and so on and on, all through life. There was no such thought as a sacrifice being offered which could settle once and for ever the whole question of sin, and so perfect the sinner’s conscience.

The second thing is that the law with all its ordinances was only imposed upon Israel “until the time of reformation,” that is, until the time of “setting things right.” The law was after all a provisional measure. It proved beyond dispute that things needed setting right, by proving how wrong they were, but it did not put them right. When presently God blesses Israel under the new covenant the time of setting things right will have arrived. Meanwhile, as we have just seen, we have been blessed upon new covenant principles, as the result of the sacrifice of Christ; and there is no setting things right upon any other basis than that.

Verses Hebrews 9:11-14 furnish us with the contrast to that which we have in verses Hebrews 9:6-10. If we analyze the verses with a little care we shall see how complete and far-reaching the contrast is.

In the first place CHRIST is set before us, in contrast to the high priest of Aaron’s order.

Then, the Aaronic priest just had to administer the things that existed under his hand. Christ is an High Priest of good things to come.

Christ has entered into the true holiest in the heavens, a greater and more perfect tabernacle than that made with hands in the wilderness; and He entered in once, instead of every year, as with the high priest of old.

Not by the blood of goats and calves, which can never really put away sins, did He enter; but by His own blood which obtains redemption.

The blood of the sacrificial animals did sanctify to the purifying of the flesh: the blood of Christ alone can purify the conscience.

The purifying of the flesh which was accomplished by the Jewish sacrifices was but temporal: the redemption obtained by Christ is eternal.

Notice, moreover, the majesty which characterizes the one offering of Christ. All three Persons of the Godhead stand related to it. The spotless Son of God offered Himself. It was to God that He offered Himself; and it was by the eternal Spirit He did it. No wonder that all sin comes within its scope, and that its results abide for eternity.

The immediate effect of it, as far as we are concerned, is the “purging” or “cleansing” of our consciences. By that cleansing they are perfected and we turn from the dead works of law—dead, because done with the object of getting life—to serve the living God. If our consciences need cleansing from dead works, how much more do they need cleansing from wicked works!

The argument of the opening verses of chapter 9 reaches a climax in verse Hebrews 9:14, but the Spirit of God does not immediately carry us on to the results which flow from it. Instead of that He elaborates with great wealth of detail the point He had just been making; so that when we reach Hebrews 10:14, we find that we are back again at the point we had started from in Hebrews 9:14. And only then do we proceed to the consideration of its results.

From this we may learn the very great importance that attaches to the truth concerning the sacrifice of Christ. It lies at the foundation of everything, and until it is thoroughly apprehended by us we are not able to appreciate what follows from it. Let us pray for the understanding heart as we consider these verses, in which the main point of the Holy Spirit is so fully developed and supported.

The main point, then, is that the blood of Christ completely purges the believer’s conscience so that he is enabled to serve and worship the living God. Now this was an end utterly unattainable under the old covenant; hence it follows, as verse Hebrews 9:15 tells us, that the Lord Jesus became the Mediator not of the old but of the new. And hence, too, His death had a twofold bearing: bringing in redemption as regards the transgressions under the old covenant, and becoming the basis whereon is fulfilled the promise connected with the new. Something had to be done for the removing of the mighty mountain of transgressions which had accumulated under the law: and equally something was needed if God was to call people with an eternal inheritance in view. Both these great ends are reached “by means of death,” and that the death of Christ.

Verses Hebrews 9:16-17 are a parenthesis. The word translated testament here, and covenant in Hebrews 8:1-13, has both those meanings. Used in relation to God it is “a disposition which He has made, on the ground of which man is to be in relationship with Him.” In this short parenthesis the writer uses the word in the sense of a testament or will, which only is of force when the testator is dead. If viewed in this way, again we see the absolute necessity of the death of Christ.

There was no “death of the testator” under the old covenant, yet the necessity for death to take place was acknowledged in a typical way. If we turn to Exodus 24:7-8, we shall find the incident referred to in verses Hebrews 9:19-20, and we may note a remarkable fact. Exodus records only the sprinkling of the people with blood; Hebrews adds that the book of the law was also sprinkled.

The significance of the sprinkling of the people would seem to be that they were thereby reminded that death was the penalty of disobedience. Any breach of its demands meant the death penalty on them. The significance of the sprinkling of the book would indicate, on the other hand, that death was necessary as the basis of everything. Hence even the law system was not dedicated without blood; and this fact is added here by the inspired writer since it is just the point of the argument in this epistle.

Moreover at different times in connection with the sacrifices the tabernacle vessels, and indeed “almost all things,” were purged with blood; and all this was intended to drive home into men’s hearts the all-important lesson, that, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”

In our twentieth century we might almost call this great statement—the most hated fact of Holy Scripture. Nothing so moves to wrath and contempt and ridicule the soul of the “modem” theologian as this. And why?

Not because his delicate sensibilities are shocked by the idea of blood being shed, for the average modernist enjoys his slice of roast beef as much as other average people. But because he knows what this fact really signifies. It means that the death-sentence lies on mankind as creatures hopelessly lost; and that only death can lift this death-sentence so that remission can reach the fallen creature. The solemn witness borne to the modernist, that as a sinful creature he is under the death-sentence before God, is what his soul loathes with an intensity that amounts to hate. The prouder he is the more he hates if.

Do we not all understand this quite well? Did we not all share those feelings until grace subdued our pride and brought us into an honest frame of mind before God? The modernist, of course, deludes himself into thinking that his aversion to this truth arises from his superior aesthetic or moral sense, and we may never have victimized ourselves with that particular little piece of vain conceit. If so, we may well thank God! The moment we were brought to honesty and humility of mind we grasped the absolute necessity of the death of Christ.

Of that necessity verse Hebrews 9:23 speaks. The blood of goats and calves sufficed to purify the tabernacle and its furniture, which were but patterns; the heavenly things themselves needed a better sacrifice. We might be surprised that heavenly things should need a sacrifice at all, did we not remember that Satan and the fallen angels have had their seat in the heavens, and have introduced the taint of sin there; and also that we, who are sinners and had our seat here, are destined as the fruit of redemption to take our seat in the heavens. As the fruit of the work of Christ not only shall there be purification wrought on earth but in the heavens also.

Consequently, in verses Hebrews 9:24-26 we are introduced to the work of Christ from a most exalted view-point. He appeared once at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and now, in virtue of His blood shed, has gone into the very heaven of God’s presence on our behalf. Let us mark that word, “to put away sin.” How comprehensive it is! The expiation of our sins is of course included, but it is not limited to that. The judgment of sin is included, but it is not limited to that. It includes sin in all its ramifications and bearings. Sin, the root, and all the sins which are the fruit; sin as it has affected man and the earth, and sin as it has affected the heavens; sin, in its totality; all put away by His sacrifice. And His sacrifice was the sacrifice of Himself!

In these verses again, the work of Christ comes before us as contrasted with the service of the high priest of old, and this it is which accounts for the way things are put in the last verse of our chapter. When the Jewish high priest had entered the holy place made with hands on the yearly day of atonement, carrying the blood of the goat, the people stood outside waiting for his reappearance. Very possibly they waited with a certain amount of trepidation for they knew that to enter wrongfully into the presence of God meant death. For him they were waiting, and they hailed his appearance with a sigh of relief. Now we, Christians—and this specially applies to the converted remnant of Jews, who were addressed in this epistle—are waiting for the re-appearance of our great High Priest. We “look for” or “await” Him, and when He comes it will be “without sin” or “apart from sin.” He so effectually dealt with sin at His first coming that He will have no need to touch that question at His second coming. He will appear unto the salvation of His people, and the deliverance of a groaning creation.

Thus we can see what a striking analogy exists between the actions of Aaron on the day of atonement and the great work of Christ; only with this complete contrast, that whereas Aaron’s actions were typical and confined to the patterns of heavenly things, and oft repeated, Christ has to do with the heavenly realities and His work in offering for sin has been accomplished once and for ever. It is the lot of sinful men once to die, and then to face the judgment of God. In keeping with that, Christ has once been offered to bear the sins of many, and therefore those that await Him look forward not to judgment but to salvation.

You notice that here it speaks of Christ bearing the sins of many, not of all. It is true that He died for all, as far as the scope and intention of His work is concerned. When however the actual effect of His work is in question, then He bore the sins of many, that is, of those who believe. You will notice also that the words, “look for Him,” have not really got the meaning so often imported into them, by which they are made to support the idea that only certain believers who are watchful are going to find salvation when the Lord comes again. The force of the whole passage the rather is, that sin has been so perfectly put away, and believers so perfectly cleared as to their consciences, and as to all liability to judgment, that they are left awaiting the coming forth of their High Priest from the heavenly sanctuary to their salvation from every adverse power.

With this thought before us, the opening words of chapter 10 carry us back to the days of the law, that once more we may realize the glory of the gospel as contrasted with it. Twice already that contrast has been laid open before us; first in Hebrews 10:6, Hebrews 10:14, and then again in verses Hebrews 9:23-28. In the earlier of these two passages the great point of the contrast seems to be as regards the nature and character of the law sacrifices contrasted with the sacrifice of Christ. In the later passage the contrast seems more to lie in the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, which is therefore one, and not a repeated thing like the sacrifices of old.

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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Hebrews 9:11-20

We are led to consider Christ’s high-priestly work. The scene for it is no edifice made with hands in this transitory world, but eternal and divine. His stay in the Holiest is not brief, hurried, and repeated year by year, but once for all He enters by virtue of His own blood. That blood cleanses not only from ceremonial guilt, but from moral and spiritual pollution. A will or testament comes into force when the testator dies; so the will of the eternal Father toward us has been made valid through the blood of Jesus.

Consider, then, the Eternal or Timeless Spirit. What Jesus did on the Cross was the doing of God through His Spirit. The Atonement was not wrought by the dying Sufferer to appease God, but to express God as reconciling the world to Himself. The Timeless Cross. It belongs to no one age, but “towers o’er the wrecks of time,” and is as near us as to the early Church. The Timeless Christ. Cast yourself out of yourself and into Him; out of the fret of the time-sphere into the freedom and ecstasy of the eternal!

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


1. The first tabernacle and its worship (Hebrews 9:1-10)

2. The blood and the perfect work accomplished (Hebrews 9:11-23)

3. The Priest in heaven (Hebrews 9:24-28)

Hebrews 9:1-10

The Spirit of God now brings forth the greatest and most blessed facts concerning Christ, the offering He brought, and what has been accomplished by that offering. First the worldly sanctuary, the tabernacle, which was connected with the old covenant is briefly mentioned. It was erected by divine command, exhibiting divine wisdom and foreshadowed, like the levitical priesthood, the better things to come. Yet it was a “worldly sanctuary,” that is, it was tangible according to this present world and built of materials of the earth. The antithesis to worldly is heavenly, uncreated, eternal. Everything in this tabernacle had a spiritual meaning. But it is not the purpose here to explain these things, the shadows of spiritual realities, for the apostle writes “of which we cannot now speak particularly” He does not give a complete description of the tabernacle at all. Nothing is said of the outer court, nor of the brazen altar, the golden altar of incense and other details. His object is not to explain the tabernacle but to demonstrate one great fact. He speaks of the two principal parts of the tabernacle, divided by the interior veil. Into the second the high priest entered in only once every year, not without blood--”the Holy Spirit signifying this, that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest, while the first tabernacle had yet its standing.” This is the truth he demonstrates. the way into the holiest, into God’s presence was barred; the veil was in the way and concealed Him. All the gifts and sacrifices brought in that tabernacle could not give perfection as to the conscience--they could not lead the people into the holiest and give peace to the conscience.

Hebrews 9:11-23

With verse eleven begins the setting forth of the perfection which now has come. From here to the close of the tenth chapter we have the heart of this great epistle. The most blessed truth of the great work of Christ accomplished for His people is now gloriously displayed. The greatest contrast between the old things and the new is reached. Two little words of deep significance stand at the beginning of this section--”But Christ.” The gifts and offerings, the meats and drinks, the divine washings, the carnal ordinances, all and everything could not do anything for sinful man-- but Christ. It is well for the understanding of what follows to give a summary of what is here taught. “But Christ having come, a high priest of the good things that are come, by the better and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building (creation)--neither by the blood of goats and bulls, but by His own blood, He hath entered in once for all into the holy places, having found an eternal redemption.” Christ having come, perfection has come through His own precious blood. The blood of Jesus; has opened the way into the Holiest and the believer is admitted into the presence of God by that new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. The next chapter brings this out more fully, that believers on earth have a free, a full, a perfect access to God. The believer can now go in perfect liberty, not into an earthly tabernacle, but into heaven where His holiness dwells and be perfectly at home there in virtue of the work of Christ and His own presence there. Such is the believer’s position in the presence of God through the entrance of our high priest into the heavenly sanctuary.

And the believer can go in without doubt and fear, for he has no more conscience of sin, his conscience is made perfect before God through Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. The question of sin is settled forever. “A perfect conscience is not an innocent conscience which, happy in its unconsciousness, does not know evil, and does not know God revealed in holiness. A perfect conscience knows God; it is cleansed, and, having the knowledge of good and evil according to light of God Himself, it knows that it is purified from all evil according to His purity.

Now the blood of bulls and goats, and the washing repeated under the law, could never make the conscience perfect. They could sanctify carnally, so as to enable the worshipper to approach God outwardly, yet only afar off, with the veil still unrent. But a real purification from sin and sins, so that the soul can be in the presence of God Himself in the light without spot, with the consciousness of being so, the offerings under the law could never produce. They were but figures. But, thanks be to God, Christ has accomplished the work; and is present for us now in the heavenly and eternal sanctuary, He is the witness there that our sins are put away; so that all conscience of sin before God is destroyed, because we know that He who bore our sins is in the presence of God, after having accomplished the work of expiation. Thus we have the consciousness of being in the light without spot. We have the purification not only of sins but of the conscience, so that we can use this access to God in full liberty and joy, presenting ourselves before Him who has so loved us (Synopsis of the Bible).

And thus these Hebrews (as well as we) know that the true high priest is in the sanctuary above, not with the blood of sacrifices, but He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself As man on earth, in the perfection and value of His person, He offered Himself, by the eternal Spirit, without spot, to God. And therefore every sinner who comes to God through Him is purged from dead works to serve the living God. Being therefore perfectly cleansed, perfectly brought into God’s presence, in possession of an eternal (in contrast with earthly) redemption and an eternal inheritance, the believer can serve the living God. All this was unknown in the legal covenant. It is then that through the death of Christ and the subsequent bestowal of the Holy Spirit believers are constituted true worshippers in the heavenly sanctuary, a holy priesthood. Christ is the perfect mediator. And therefore no earthly priesthood is needed. The attempt to introduce priestly mediation of sinful men between Christ and His people, whom He is not ashamed to call brethren is anti-Christian, the offspring of Satan. Adolph Saphir, the author of an able exposition of Hebrews has exposed the Romish blasphemy in aping the defunct Judaism in words, which are worthy to be quoted.

“What a marvellous confusion of Jewish, pagan, and Christian elements do we see here! Jewish things which have waxed old, and vanished away; preparatory and imperfect elements which the apostle does not scruple to call beggarly now that the fulness has come--revived without divine authority, and changed and perverted to suit circumstances for which they were never intended. Pagan things, appealing to the deep-seated and time-confirmed love of idolatry, and of sensuous and mere outward performances; the Babylonian worship of the Queen of Heaven; the intercession of saints and angels, the mechanical repetition of formulas, the superstitious regard of places, seasons, and relics. Buried among these elements are some relics of Christian truth, without which this ingenious fabric could not have existed so long, and influenced so many minds--a truth which in the merciful condescension of God is blessed to sustain the life of His chosen ones in the mystical Babylon .

“This so-called church, vast and imposing, opens its door wide, except to those who honor the Scriptures, and who magnify the Lord Jesus. It can forgive sins, and grant pardons and indulgences, extending the astounding assumption of jurisdiction even beyond the grave; yet it cannot bring peace to the wounded conscience, and renewal to the aching heart, because it never fully and simply declares the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, by which we obtain perfect remission, and the power of the Holy Ghost, who joins us to Christ. This community speaks of sacrifice, of altars, of priesthood, and stands between the people and the sanctuary above, the only High Priest, who by His sacrifice has entered for us into the holy of holies. And in our day this great apostasy has reached a point which we would fain regard as its culminating point, when it places the Virgin Mary by the side of the Lord Jesus as sinless and pure, and when it arrogates for man infallible authority over the heritage of God.”

(Dr. M. Luther describes the Romish harlot in these excellent words: “The Church of Rome is not built upon the rock of the divine word, but on the sand of human reasoning.” It is a rationalistic church. And Lutheranism, Episcopalianism and other sects are turning back to it and support the Satanic counterfeit of a man made priesthood.)

Hebrews 9:15-23

These verses introduce once more the question of covenant. The covenant of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator is now identified with a testament of which He is the testator. When there is a testament there must also of necessity be the death of the testator, before the rights and possessions acquired in the testament can be possessed and enjoyed. The first covenant was inaugurated by blood. “For when Moses had spoken every commandment to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of bulls and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop (Leviticus 14:4, Numbers 19:6) and sprinkled both the book and the people, saying, this is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you.” So also the tabernacle and the vessels were sprinkled with blood. Yea, almost all things are according to the law purified with blood “and without shedding of blood is no remission.” The blood was used in a threefold manner. The covenant itself is founded on the blood. Defilement is washed away by the blood and the guilt is taken away through the blood that hath been shed. And all this is only fully realized through the blood shed by the Lord Jesus Christ, He died and all the blessings of the new and better covenant are righteously willed to the believer.

Hebrews 9:24-28

“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” After His great sacrifice He entered heaven itself, where He now is, appearing in the presence of God for His people. “Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world, but now once in the consummation of the ages hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The sacrifice He brought needs not to be repeated, it is all-sufficient for all eternity. If He were to offer again it would be necessary also to suffer again. Both are impossible. (The Romish assumption of the Lord’s Supper being a sacrifice and that the blasphemous mass is an unbloody sacrifice are completely refuted by Hebrews 9:26, by this entire chapter and by the teaching of the New Testament.) At the completion of the ages of probation (the age before the law and the age under the law), when man’s utter ruin and hopeless condition had been fully demonstrated, He appeared in the fullness of time (the completion of the ages) and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And here let us remember that the full and complete results of this work are not yet manifested. Sin will ultimately be blotted out of God’s creation. The blessed words which came from His gracious lips, when He gave Himself on the cross--”It is finished”-- will find their fullest meaning when all things are made new, when the first heaven and earth are passed away and a new heaven and new earth are come, when all things are made new. Then His voice will declare once more “it is done” (Revelation 21:1-6).

But now for those who believe sin is put away. It is appointed unto men--natural men-- once to die and after this the judgment. From the latter the believer is exempt. His own words “He that heareth my words, and believeth in Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24) assure us of this. And when the believer dies, it is no longer as penalty. A day will come at last when it will be fulfilled “Behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” And He who was once offered to bear the sins of many (those who believe in Him) shall appear the second time. “Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” It is His second coming. When He comes again He has nothing to do with sin, as far as His people are concerned. This was settled forever in His first coming. But He comes for their salvation their complete deliverance from all the results of sin, and His own will be changed into His image.

(“Without sin” is in contrast with “to bear the sins of many.” But it will be remarked, that the taking up of the Church is not mentioned here. It is well to notice the language. The character of His second coming is the subject. He has been manifested once. Now He is seen by those who look for Him. The expression may apply to the deliverance of the Jews who wait for Him in the last days. He will appear for their deliverance. But we expect the Lord for this deliverance, and we shall see Him when He accomplishes it even for us. The apostle does not touch the question of the difference between this and our being caught up, and does not use the word which serves to announce His public manifestation. He will appear to those who expect Him. He is not seen by all the world, nor is it consequently the judgment, although that may follow. The Holy Ghost speaks only of them that look for the Lord. To them He will appear. By them He will be seen, and it will be the time of their deliverance; so that it is true for us, and also applicable to the Jewish remnant in the last days” Synopsis of the Bible.)

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

Because of the better priesthood and the better covenant a better worship is established. First, the sanctuary is described. Christ is set forth as the One who has entered into a greater Tabernacle through a greater service. His entry into the Holy Place is "once ' for all," because He has for ever dealt with sin.

The superiority of the sacrifice is emphasized, for it is able to "cleanse the conscience from dead works to serve the living God." The words used here to describe the central mystery of redemption are arresting. Christ is seen suggestively as Priest and Sacrifice. He offered Himself: "through the eternal Spirit."

On the basis of this great sacrifice the new Priest had entered into the Holy Place. A testament or a covenant always becomes operative through death. Moses had initiated the service of the tabernacle of old by the shedding of blood. So Christ, "once at the end of the ages," having "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," initiated a new covenant of life through the gateway of death.

The pre-eminent thought in this section is that now in the priesthood of Christ a place of worship, unlocalized and unlimited, is provided. Wherever is found the soul who will come to God through Him, there He is as Priest, with the value of His own sacrifice, providing redemption and acceptance; and, moreover, having exhausted judgment in the process of His death, He hides from coming judgment all who trust in Him, changing the dread of that awful assize into the glorious hope of His own second appearing.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For where a testament is,.... The covenant of grace, as administered under the Gospel dispensation, is a testament or will. The Jews have adopted the Greek word, here used, into their language, and pronounce it דייתיקי, and by it understand a dying man's last will and testamentF4T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 17. 4. & T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 152. 2. . Some of them make it to be of Hebrew derivation; as if it was said, דא תהי למיקם, "this shall be to confirm"F5T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 19. 1. Maimon & Bartenora in Misn. Moed Katon, c. 3. sect. 3. & in Bava Metzia, c. 1. sect. 7. & in Bava Bathra, c. 8. sect. 6. , or this shall be stable and firm; though others own it to be the same with this Greek word διαθηκηF6Cohen de Lara Ir David, p. 30. . The covenant of grace, is properly a covenant to Christ, and a testament or will to his people: it is his and their Father's will, concerning giving them both grace and glory; it consists of many gifts and legacies; in it Christ is made heir of all things, and his people are made joint heirs with him; they are given to him as his portion; and they have all things pertaining to life and godliness bequeathed to them, even all spiritual blessings; the witnesses of it are Father, Son, and Spirit; and the seals of it are the blood of Christ, and the grace of the Spirit; and this is registered in the Scriptures by holy men as notaries; and is unalterable and immutable: and this being made,

there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; who is Christ; he has various parts in this will or testament; he is the surety and Mediator of it; and he is the executor of it; what is given in it, is first given to him, in order to be given to others; all things are put into his hands, and he has a power to give them to as many as the Father has given him; and here he is called the "testator": Christ, as God, has an equal right to dispose of the inheritance, both of grace and glory; and as Mediator, nothing is given without his consent; and whatever is given, is given with a view to his "death", and comes through it, and by virtue of it: hence there is a "necessity" of that, and that on the account of the divine perfections; particularly for the declaration of God's righteousness, or by reason of his justice; and also because of his purposes and decrees, which have fixed it, and of his promises, which are yea and amen in Christ, and are ratified by his blood, called therefore the blood of the covenant; and likewise on account of the engagements of Christ to suffer and die; as well as for the accomplishment of Scripture prophecies concerning it; and moreover, on account of the blessings which were to come to the saints through it, as a justifying righteousness, pardon of sin, peace and reconciliation, adoption and eternal life.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament



13, 14. The old dispensation gave prominence to materialities and the new to spiritualities. Under the former ceremonial, defilement must be sanctified from the body before they were allowed to enter the sanctuary and enjoy its privileges. We see in the thirteenth verse that the water of purification was sprinkled on the subject of ceremonial defilement. It is called the sanctifying of the flesh, and typifies the sprinkling of the blood upon the polluted conscience by the Holy Ghost. The effect of the blood of Christ sprinkled on the polluted conscience by the Holy Ghost is to sanctify it from dead works to serve the living God. The phrase “dead works” has a double meaning in the Scriptures. When it applies to sinners, it means wicked works producing spiritual death. When it applies to Christians, as in this passage, it simply means our religious works devoid of the Holy Ghost, the only vitalizer. The great trouble of unsanctified Christians is that they are forever doing dead works which do not know the Holy Ghost. They are frequently indefatigable church workers, e.g., in Sunday-school, prayer-meeting, and the innumerable ecclesiastical societies and institutions. But the great trouble with them is that all their works are dead. They sing dead songs, pray dead prayers, deliver dead testimonies and exhortations, preach dead sermons and conduct dead protracted meetings, thus losing their time and labor, as the people are not profited, neither is God glorified by all their arduous labors. The sanctification of their hearts by the precious blood of Jesus at once takes the graveyard wail out of their voices and floods them with hallelujahs, makes life a constant sunshine, and all duty transcendently delectable.

15-17. In these verses we have the words “testament” and “ testator.” The Greek is the same word, diatheekee, covenant. It means the covenant of the world’s redemption through Christ. Since it is the most prominent institution in the Bible, it has given name to that wonderful book, Old and New Testament, or, as it should read, Old and New Covenant. Really there is but one covenant involving the world’s redemption, and that was inaugurated by the Son of God when He espoused the cause of lost humanity about the time of the fall. The old covenant was superadded in the days of Moses for didactic purposes. It is called old because it is reminiscent of the probationary covenant forfeited in Eden. A prominent and peculiar phase of the great redemptive scheme is involved in these verses, and that is the will peculiarity of the covenant. A will is neither irrevocable nor finally valid till after the death of the testator, from the simple fact that it is optionary with the testator during his life to revoke or cancel it ad libitum. Now, let us see the application of this fact to the covenant of redemption. While the Father gave the wondrous plan, the Son freely volunteered in its vicarious execution. He said, “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay down my life for the sheep.” Hence it was perfectly optionary with Jesus till the very arrival of Calvary’s bloody tragedy. Of course. in case that He had declined to lay down His life for the world the plan of salvation must have hopelessly collapsed. Hence in the very nature of the transaction the covenant was not finally and irrevocably valid till sealed by the blood of the covenant. Hence the plan of salvation under the old dispensation was essentially initial and incomplete, issuing bills of pardon, redeemable by the blood of the great Archetype, typified by millions of dying animals. This explains the pertinency of the Intermediate Paradise, — Abraham’s bosom — the receptacle of the Old Testament saints till the redemption of Calvary. See 1 Peter 3:18.

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

Geneva Study Bible

11 For where a testament [is], there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

(11) A reason why the testament must be established by the death of the Mediator, because this testament has the condition of a testament or gift, which is made effective by death, and therefore that it might be effective, it must be that he that made the Testament, should die.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

16.] For (justification of θανάτου γενομένου, by an appeal to common usage) where a testament is (it is quite in vain to attempt to deny the testamentary sense of διαθήκη in this verse. Many have made the attempt: e. g. Codurcus, in a long excursus, which may be seen in Critici Sacri, vol. vii. part 2, fol. 1067 ff.: Whitby in loc., Seb. Schmidt, Michaelis, al., and recently Ebrard and Hofmann. As these recent expositors have written with the others before them, it may be well to give an account of their views of the passage. Ebrard understands it thus: “Wherever sinful man will enter into a covenant with the holy God, the man must first die,—must first atone for his guilt by death (or must put in a substitute for himself).” This he gives as the summary of his argumentation. But, as Hofmann asks, where does he find one word of this in the general assertion of the Writer? The text speaks axiomatically of something which every one knows in common life. Ebrard interprets theologically: by a declaration which it requires a theologian to accept. The Writer speaks in the abstract—of all διαθῆκαι whatever: Ebrard interprets in the concrete—of one particular set of διαθῆκαι. It is true, Eb. attempts to anticipate this objection, by saying that from the context, every one would know what sort of διαθήκη was meant. But this does not meet it in the least degree. Our verse is a perfectly general axiom, extending over all διαθῆκαι, in whatsoever sense the word be taken. Hofmann on the other hand rejects (Schriftb. ii. 1. 302 ff.) both meanings, testament and covenant, and maintains that of ordinance, disposition, understanding that disposition to extend to the whole property. Then, he says (see also Weissagung u. Erfüllung, ii. 165), “This idea of necessity implies that he must die who makes such a disposition of his whole property: because, as long as he lives, he can be always adding to his property, so that this disposition ( διαθήκη) cannot be meant to be used of the time while the disposer is alive.” But this, though approaching nearer the true meaning, is just as futile as the other. Why may not a man yet living make such a disposition? And if it cannot be made till death, wherein does it in reality differ from a testament? It would be quite impossible to follow out the various argumentations by which the testamentary sense has been sought to be evaded. It will be far more profitable for us to endeavour to substantiate that which I believe to be the only admissible acceptation. And this I will do by starting from the word itself about which all the question is raised. διαθήκη, from διατιθέναι, ‘disponere,’ διατίθεσθαι, ‘disponere sibi,’ regards, in ordinary Greek usage, that disposition of a man’s property which he makes in prospect of his death, and signifies, 1. a will or testament. So in Plato, Legg. xi. p. 926 B, ὃς ἂν διαθήκην γράφῃ τὰ αὐτοῦ διατιθέμενος, and in reff.: in Demosth. 1136. 12, τὴν διαθήκην, ἣν ἂν γνησίων ὄντων παίδων ὁ πατὴρ διάθηται, ἐᾶν ἀποθάνωσιν οἱ παῖδες πρὶν ἡβῆσαι, κυρίαν εἶναι, and al. On the other hand, the word is by no means tied to this its more usual meaning. The general one, of a disposition of any kind, is sometimes found applied to other circumstances than those at the close of life. So Aristoph. Av. 439, where Peisthetærus says, μὰ τὸν ἀπόλλω ʼ γὼ μὲν οὔ, ἣν μὴ διαθῶνταί γʼ οἵδε διαθήκην ἐμοί, … μήτε δάκνειν τούτους ἐμὲ κ. τ. λ.: where it evidently means a covenant, an agreement. And in this sense, either where there are two distinct parties, or where one only arranges or ordains a ‘dispositio,’ do we find the word most often used in the LXX and N. T. In the former sense, 2. of a covenant, with two agreeing parties, it is not so frequent as in the latter: but we find it Genesis 21:27; Genesis 21:32, διέθεντο ἀμφότεροι διαθήκην: in Job 40:23 (Job 41:4) of Leviathan, θήσεται δὲ μετὰ σοῦ διαθήκην: 2 Kings 3:12; Joshua 9:6; Joshua 9:11 al. fr. The other sense, 3. that of a disposition or ordinance made by God πρός τινα, or μετά τινος, is the most ordinary one in the LXX. To it may be referred almost all the passages where in a loose sense of the word we in English render ‘covenant:’ e. g. Genesis 6:18; Genesis 9:9 &c.; Genesis 15:18; and a hundred other places. In this latter sense it is that the word has come to be used absolutely and technically as in ἡ κιβωτὸς τῆς διαθήκης, ἡ διαθήκη κυρίου, &c.: and in the quotation in our ch. Hebrews 8:8 ff.

Now, having these there leading senses of the word before us, we are to enquire, which of them our Writer is likely to have intended when he wrote as a general axiom, ὅπου διαθήκη, θάνατον ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου. It is obvious that in no general axiomatic sense can it be predicated of a covenant, or of an ordinance. There may be particular instances where a death (setting aside for a moment τοῦ διαθεμένου) might have been the requisite ratification of a covenant, or result of an ordinance: but such particular cases are clearly not here in question. Only when we recur to sense (1), that of a testament, can it be true, that where a διαθήκη is, there must of necessity be death, and that, the death τοῦ διαθεμένου, of him who has made the testament. And if it be objected to this, that a testament may exist many years before the death of the testator, the answer is easy, that the Writer here detines his own meaning of ὅπου διαθήκη, when he says διαθήκη γὰρ ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία: viz. that the document in question does not in reality become a διαθήκη, a disposition, till it is of force, till things are disposed by it. I believe then it will be found that we must at all hazards accept the meaning testament here, as being the only one which will in any way meet the plain requirements of the verse) there is necessity that the death ( θάνατον is prefixed before ἀνάγκη, as carrying the whole weight of emphasis, and is for this reason also anarthrous) of him who made it (the testator, as E. V., but it is important to mark that it is διαθεμένου, not διατιθεμένου, as it ought to be on the interpretation of Ebr. al. In the meaning, Christ is the διαθέμενος: and this agrees wonderfully with St. Luke’s manner of speaking in that text which is in fact the key-text to this: κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν, Luke 22:29. There the great and primary διαθέμενος is the Father, who is not here in question, as neither is His διαθήκη with His Son: but as regards us, the διαθέμενος is Christ; to whom alone, as human, the axiom, spoken of human relations, is applicable, and not to the divine Father. And when Ebrard insists on the former of these facts, and altogether omits noticing the second, saying that according to our interpretation God Himself must have died, we can only marvel at this fresh instance of the inconceivable rashness and carelessness which unfortunately characterize his spirited and clever commentary) be implied (it is not easy to express the exact sense of φέρεσθαι here. For we must remember, 1. that we have had θανάτου γενομένου in Hebrews 9:15, quite far enough off to prevent it being probable that φέρεσθαι is a mere rhetorical elegance to avoid repeating γενέσθαι, and inducing us to think that some meaning different from γενέσθαι is here intended: even could it be shewn that φέρεσθαι could bear to be rendered = γενέσθαι, which I am not aware that it has been: 2. that in looking for a sense for φέρεσθαι, we must be careful not to give too pregnant or emphatic an one, seeing that it holds a very insignificant and unemphatic place in the sentence. This being premised, I believe the most suitable sense will be found in such phrases as πάσας αἰτίας φέρειν, to allege all grounds, Demosth. p. 1328. 22; παραδείγματα φέρειν, to produce examples, Polyb. xvii. 13. 7; φέρειν τινὶ τοὺς ἀπολογισμούς, to make one’s apologies to, id. i. 32. 4. And of these I would take ‘alleged,’ ‘carried in to the matter,’ in fact, ‘implied,’ which seems the best word: he who speaks of διαθήκη, ( ἅμα) φέρει, carries in to, involves in, that assertion, the death of the διαθέμενος. On the logical connexion, see below):

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

For where a testament Isaiah, there must also of necessity he the death of the testator.

Where a testament Isaiah, there is of necessity the death of the testator. It is true that a testament, or last will, is liable to be altered so long as the testator liveth; but there may be a valid testament executed and in force for years while the testator survives. But we have already seen, and shall find further proof, that the Apostle's reasoning does not apply to a testament. The word rendered in our version testator is a participle of the verb which signifies to appoint. It may be rendered the appointed (victim or sacrifice), or that by which the covenant is confirmed, which is the same.

That the Apostle is speaking of a covenant is certain, both from what goes before and what follows. We find instances in which a covenant was made without any sacrifice; on the other hand, sacrifices were frequently offered. Thus we find the covenant made with Abraham. Genesis 15 : By the Divine commandment, Abraham took an heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon, dividing them in the midst with the exception of the birds, and when it was dark a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, the emblem of the Divine presence, Hebrews 12:29, passed between the pieces. Thus God made a covenant with Abraham, to give his posterity the land of Canaan. The heifer, goat, &c, were the appointed victims, whose death was essential to the ratification of the covenant. It was confirmed by their death.

We have another striking instance in Jeremiah 34 : During the siege of Jerusalem the Jews made a covenant to let their servants go free, a calf was the appointed victim or sacrifice; it was slain, and those who made the covenant passed between the pieces. When they considered the danger to be passed they again brought the servants into bondage, and for this wickedness God denounces his judgments upon them; they are described as having "passed between the parts of the calf," thus confirming the covenant. These instances fully explain the language of the Apostle.

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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

For where there is a testament, the death of the testator, &c. The same Greek word, corresponding to the Hebrew word Berith, is often used both in the books of the old and new Scriptures. The ancient Latin interpreter puts for it testamentum, a testament: but others would rather have the Hebrew and Greek word to signify any agreement, bargain, alliance, or covenant, which last word is generally put in the English Protestant translations, followed also by Mr. N. We do not deny but the Hebrew and Greek word have this signification, but not exclusively: this place of St. Paul shews evidently that they also signify what both in Latin and English is called a testament or last will, which is only of force by the death of the testator. The Protestants, therefore, here find themselves obliged to translate testament, contrary to their custom, and to apply this word not only to the promises and blessings God made to Christians, of which Christ is the mediator, and which were confirmed by his blood and by his death, but also to the former alliance and promises or blessings God made to the Israelites, when he chose them to be his elect people, and gave them his law and his commandments under Moses. It is true God is immortal in his own nature, cannot die, and therefore cannot make a testament that shall be confirmed by his own death. But as for the new alliance, or New Testament, as here it must be called, it was confirmed by the death of the Son of God; that is, of God made man, by which it is true to say that God died for us, though he did not die, nor could die, as God. And as for the former alliance, or first testament, as it is called here, (ver. 18.) that, says St. Paul, (which was only a figure of the second or new testament) was not made nor ratified without the blood of so many victims as used to be offered and sacrificed. (Witham)

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Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 9:15-28. In order, however, that Christ might become the mediator of the New Covenant, it was matter of necessity that He should suffer death. This follows from the very notion of a διαθήκη, since the same is only ratified after the death of the διαθέμενος has been proved; as accordingly the first or O. T. διαθήκη was not inaugurated without blood. For the inauguration of the earthly sanctuary the blood of slain animals sufficed; for the consecration of the heavenly sanctuary, on the other hand, there was need of a more excellent sacrifice. This Christ has presented once for all in the end of the world, by His sin-cancelling sacrificial death.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 9:16-17. Demonstration of the necessity of the θάνατον γενέσθαι by means of a truth of universal application. That Christ might be able to become the Mediator of a new διαθήκη, His death was required. For, to the validity of a διαθήκη, it is essential that the death of the διαθέμενος be first proved. Since immediately before (Hebrews 9:15) and immediately after (Hebrews 9:18 ff.) διαθήκη was employed in the sense of “covenant,” elsewhere usual in our epistle, we might naturally, on account of the conjunction of Hebrews 9:16-17, by means of γάρ, with Hebrews 9:15, and on account of ὅθεν, by which again Hebrews 9:18 is joined to Hebrews 9:15-16, expect this signification of the word to be found also in Hebrews 9:16-17. This has accordingly been insisted upon, here too, by Codurcus (Critt. sacrr. t. VII. P. ii. p. 1067 sqq.), Seb. Schmidt, Peirce, Whitby [in com.], Macknight, Michaelis, Sykes, Cramer, Paulus, and others, lastly also by Ebrard. But it is altogether inadmissible. For if we take διαθήκη as covenant, διαθέμενος could only designate him who makes or institutes the covenant; to take διαθέμενος as the mediator of the covenant, as is generally done in connection with that view, and to understand this again of the sacrificial victims, by the offering of which the covenant was sealed, is pure caprice. The thought, however, that for the validity of a covenant-act the death of the author of the covenant must first ensue, would be a perfectly irrational one. Irrational the more, inasmuch as, Hebrews 9:16-17, only an entirely general truth is contained, passing for a norm in ordinary life. Ebrard finds expressed the thought: “Where a sinful man wishes to enter into a covenant with the holy God, the man must first die, must first atone for his guilt by death (or he must present a substitutionary עוֹלָה).” But all these definings have been arbitrarily imported. For Hebrews 9:16-17 nothing is said either about a “sinful man,” or about a volition on his part, or about the “holy God,” or about an “atoning for guilt,” or about a “substitutionary עוֹלָה.” From what has been said, it follows that διαθήκη, Hebrews 9:16-17, can be taken only in the sense, likewise very frequently occurring with the Greek authors, of “testament” or “disposition by will.” It is true there arises therefrom a logical inaccuracy,(93) owing to the fact that διαθήκη is used in these two verses in another sense than before, and the formal demonstrative force of that which is advanced by the author—although the underlying thoughts are in themselves perfectly just—is thereby sacrificed. It is, however, to be observed that while for us, since we are obliged to employ a twofold expression for the reproducing of the diversity of sense, the transition from the one notion to the other appears abruptly made, this transition for the author, on the other hand, might be an imperceptible one, inasmuch as in the Greek one and the same word included within itself both significations. Thus, accordingly, it has happened that the ancient Greek interpreters explain διαθήκη, Hebrews 9:16-17, expressly in the sense of a testament or will, then at once pass over to the declaration contained in Hebrews 9:18, without so much as noticing the logical inaccuracy which presents itself. The sense consequently is: where a testament or deed of bequest exists, there it is necessary, in order to give it validity (comp. ἰσχύει, Hebrews 9:17), that the death of the testator first be proved. The New Covenant, therefore, which Christ has established between God and man by His sacrificial death, the author here represents—in accordance with the figure of the κληρονομία, Hebrews 9:15—as a testamentary disposition on the part of Christ, which, however, as such could only acquire validity, and put the heirs in possession of the blessings bequeathed to them, by means of the death of Christ.

θάνατον] emphatically preposed, while τοῦ διαθε΄ένου, upon which no emphasis falls, comes in at the end of the clause.

φέρεσθαι] be declared or proved. Wrongly Grotius: the verb to be regarded as equivalent to exspectari (“est enim exspectatio onus quoddam”); Wittich: it denotes the being endured on the part of the relatives; Carpzov, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Schulz, Kuinoel, Klee, Stein, Stengel, Hofmann (Schriftbew. II. 1, 2 Aufl. p. 428), and others, that it denotes nothing more than ensue or γίνεσθαι, Hebrews 9:15.

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Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Remission of sins by the blood of Christ

Hebrews 9:13-28

To better understand this portion of scripture, I will divide it into four parts.

1. The efficacy of his blood (Hebrews 9:13-14).

2. The necessity of his blood (Hebrews 9:15-17).

3. The blood illustrated on earth (Hebrews 9:18-23).

4. The blood applied in heaven (Hebrews 9:24-28).

Hebrews 9:13-14. We know that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). These sacrifices were never given to remove sin but to illustrate the atonement and sacrifice of Christ. But if these Old Testament sacrifices did purify the people, hold back the wrath of God, and sanctify the flesh in an external way, how much more shall the very blood of God's Son, offered to God (without spot, sin, or stain) through the Holy Spirit by design and purpose, thoroughly cleanse us, purify our souls, and deliver us from seeking acceptance through our dead works! If they could come to God through types, how much better to come to God in Christ! If they could find comfort and confidence in types, how much more comfort and assurance do we find in Christ! The blood of Christ effectually cleanses from all sin! (1 John 1:7.)

Hebrews 9:15-17. These verses show us that Old Testament believers were redeemed by the death of Christ exactly as we are. This first testament reaches from Adam to Christ, for Adam and his sons offered blood sacrifices upon an altar. The transgressions that were under it are the sins of believers from Adam until Christ's personal coming into the world, and the redemption of these sins was by the death of Christ (Acts 10:43; John 8:56). The promise of eternal inheritance was made to all believers by him who is the Mediator of the will and testament (1 Corinthians 10:4; Luke 24:44-47).

Where there is a will and testament, there must be the death of the testator. No claim can be made by the heirs until the testator dies; even so, all that Christ has given to all believers can never be ours actually until he, by his death fulfills the requirements of law and justice (John 3:14-16; Romans 3:19-26). Christ must suffer and die if we are to be redeemed (1 Peter 1:18-21).

Hebrews 9:18-23. Even the old covenant with Israel was not ratified nor put in force without blood. When Moses had given them the pattern for the tabernacle and its services, he took the blood and water (typical of the blood and water which flowed from the side of Christ, typical also of justification and sanctification) and sprinkled the book, the roll of the law and covenant, and the people. He also sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels used in divine worship. In fact, under the law of Moses almost all things were purified by means of blood (Leviticus 17:11). Some things were cleansed by water and fire, but without the blood there was no forgiveness of sin! No example of pardon, where there is no blood, can be given. The blood of Christ has been shed; it would be foolish to suppose pardon without it (1 Corinthians 5:7).

In Hebrews 9:23, we see that the tabernacle, the mercy-seat, the written law, the priesthood, and the nation Israel were all patterns of what is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). Christ, our great High Priest, comes before the holy throne of God representing spiritual Israel. He satisfies the law; he atones for our sin with his blood; he prays for us; he presents a suitable atonement. Now if all this in heaven is done through his blood, the pattern on earth must have blood sacrifices.

Hebrews 9:24-28. Christ, our Mediator and High Priest, is not entered into a holy place made by human hands (as the tabernacle), which was but a pattern, or picture, of the true tabernacle; but he has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

It is not necessary for him to offer more than one sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-14). If he had to offer a yearly atonement like the priests of old, he would have suffered death thousands of times; for he has been our Priest from the foundation of the world. But now in these last days, he hath appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Isaiah 53:4-6; Hebrews 10:17-18).

As men die just once and face judgment but once, so Christ was once offered to bear our sins. They are paid for and put away. Unto them who believe on him and look for him, he will appear without sin unto eternal glory (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:33-34).

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Hamilton Smith's Writings

8 The New Sacrifice and the New Sanctuary

( Hebrews 9)

The apostle has brought before us the new priesthood of Christ ( Hebrews 7), involving the blessings of the new covenant ( Hebrews 8). Now in Hebrews 9 he presents the new sacrifice of Christ in all its infinite value, together with the new sanctuary to which the sacrifice of Christ gives access.

The Earthly Sanctuary with its Carnal Sacrifices


(Vv1-5). The apostle first refers to the tabernacle of old, not to speak in detail of its furnishings however symbolically instructive, but in order to show by contrast the superiority of the heavenly sanctuary.

We learn that though there were ordinances of divine service connected with the tabernacle, yet it was essentially "a worldly sanctuary". By its beauty, its elaborate ritual and impressive ceremonies, it made special appeal to the natural Prayer of Manasseh, and was thus entirely suited to this world. Further, the apostle lays great stress upon the two divisions of the tabernacle separated by the veil, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

(Vv6, 7). Having referred to the form of the tabernacle and its contents, the apostle passes on to speak of the priests, the sacrifices connected with the tabernacle, and the people. In connection with this tabernacle it was the priests, not the people, who accomplished the service of God. Moreover, into the second part of the tabernacle the high priest alone had access, and that only once every year, and then not without blood, which he offered for himself and the errors of the people.

Here, then, in these first seven verses we have a description of what the apostle speaks of in the closing chapter as "the camp" ( Hebrews 13:13). The camp was composed of a host of people surrounding a beautiful tent that appealed to nature, with one portion veiled off as the Holy of Holies, and served by a company of priests, distinct from the people, who accomplished the services of God on behalf of the people.

The Signification of the Tabernacle and its Sacrifices


(Vv8-10). What then are we to learn from the tabernacle and its services? We are not left to give our own interpretation, but are definitely told that the Holy Spirit has signified their true meaning. Firstly, we are to learn that the services of the tabernacle clearly showed that, under the law, the way into the presence of God was not yet made manifest.

Secondly, if the way into the Holiest was not yet open, it was a clear proof of the insufficiency of the sacrifices. They could not make the offerer perfect as to the conscience.

Thirdly, these things during their existence were a figure of things to come. The figures, however, could never satisfy God nor meet the need of man. Under such a system God was shut in and man was shut out. The Jewish system could neither open heaven to us nor fit us for heaven.

Christendom, alas, ignoring the teaching of the Holy Spirit, instead of seeing in the tabernacle a figure, has used it as a pattern for their religious services. So doing, it has lost the "good things" of which the figures speak. Thus the mass in Christendom have again set up magnificent buildings, have again railed off one part of their buildings as more holy than the rest, and again have instituted a priestly class distinct from the laity, who perform religious services on behalf of the people. Thus a system has been adopted after the pattern of the Jewish camp that keeps people at a distance from God and can never make the conscience perfect.

It is well to remember that the "perfect" or "purged" conscience, of which the apostle speaks in Hebrews 9 and10, is very different to that which is spoken of elsewhere as "a good conscience". The purged conscience is one that, being "once purged", has no more conscience of sins ( Hebrews 10:2). It supposes a conscience that has been exercised as to its sins, but has had that exercise met by learning that the believer is cleansed from all sins by the precious blood of Christ and will never come under judgment. A good conscience is a conscience void of offence in the practical ways and walk.

The New Sacrifice


(V:11). With the coming of Christ all is changed. At once we have a new High Priest, a greater and more perfect tabernacle and a new sacrifice. Aaron was high priest in reference to things in this present world; Christ is our "High Priest of good things to come". The sacrifice of Christ does indeed secure present blessings for the believer, but the "good things" in reference to which Christ is High Priest are yet "to come". Thus again the Spirit of God keeps in view the end of our wilderness journey. In Hebrews 2:10 we have learnt that Christ is bringing many sons to glory; in Hebrews 2:5 we read of "the world to come"; in Hebrews 4:9 we are told of the rest that remaineth; in Hebrews 6:5 we again read of "the world to come". Christ is our High Priest to support us through the wilderness in view of bringing us into the "good things" at the end of the journey in the world to come.

If, then, the Aaronic priesthood is set aside by the priesthood of Christ, so too the earthly tabernacle is set aside by "the greater and more perfect tabernacle". The earthly tabernacle was made with hands and was of this creation; the perfect tabernacle is "heaven itself" (verse20).

(V:12). The Levitical sacrifices are set aside by the one great sacrifice of Christ, who by His own blood has entered into heaven itself, prefigured by the Holy of Holies. Moreover, in contrast with the Aaronic priest who entered once "every year", Christ has entered into heaven "once for all". He enters to take up His priestly service on behalf of those for whom He has already obtained eternal redemption.

(Vv13, 14). The blood of Christ, by which eternal redemption has been obtained, sets aside the blood of bulls and of goats. The blood of these animals did indeed have a sanctifying effect, so far as the cleansing of the body is concerned. (See Numbers 19:7; Numbers 19:8.) But the blood of Christ purges the conscience. The blood of an animal offered through a priest is entirely set aside by " the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God." By the Holy Spirit Christ became incarnate; by the Holy Spirit He lived His life of perfection. Song of Solomon, by the eternal Spirit, as the perfect Man He "offered Himself without spot to God". (Compare Luke 1:35 and Acts 10:38.) In the ninth verse of the second chapter we read that by "the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every man". Here we learn that He has offered Himself without spot to God. Thus we can announce to the sinner that Christ has offered Himself to God, but for you.

For the one that believes, the effect of this great sacrifice is to purge the "conscience from dead works". As Christ has offered Himself without spot to God and God has accepted the great sacrifice and is infinitely satisfied with Christ and His shed blood, the conscience of the believer is relieved of all thought of working to secure the blessing. Such works, however good in themselves, would only be dead works. Thus set free in conscience, the believer becomes a worshipper of God.

(V:15). As the offering of Christ meets the holiness of God and the need of the sinner, Christ becomes the Mediator of the new covenant, the One through whom all blessings of the new covenant are secured for those who are called, that they might enter into the promise of the eternal inheritance.

(Vv16, 17). The apostle has shown that "by means of death" the believer receives the promise of the inheritance. In order to illustrate the necessity of death he refers in these two parenthetical verses to the fact that, amongst men, the inheritance is secured by a will that only comes into force by the death of the one who makes the will.

(Vv18-22). The writer proceeds to show the great fact that the blessings of the new covenant and the new sanctuary can only be secured "by means of death" was set forth in figure in the first covenant and the earthly tabernacle. The first covenant was dedicated by blood, and the tabernacle with all its vessels were sprinkled with blood, the witness that there can be no blessing for Prayer of Manasseh, no drawing nigh to God apart from the blood.

Thus the great conclusion is reached that "without shedding of blood is no remission." Here it is not simply the sprinkling of blood, but the "shedding of blood" - the righteous basis upon which God can proclaim forgiveness to all and proclaim all who believe forgiven.

(V:23). The tabernacle and its furnishings were only "the patterns of things in the heavens". It was possible to enter the earthly tabernacle through the purification of the flesh, afforded by the blood of bulls and goats; but the purification of heavenly things demanded better sacrifices.

The New Sanctuary


(V:24). The writer has spoken of the better sacrifices, introducing the subject with the words, "But Christ being come" (verse11). Now he leads our thoughts to the New Sanctuary with the words, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself." There, in the very presence of God, the Lord Jesus as our great High Priest now appears to represent His people before the face of God. Christ appearing in heaven before the face of God "for us" is the everlasting witness that heaven is secured and thrown open to the believer.

(Vv25-28). Moreover, every hindrance to the believer being in heaven has been righteously met and removed by one eternally efficacious sacrifice. The yearly repetition of the Levitical sacrifices was a proof of their inadequacy to put away sin. In contrast with these sacrifices, Christ has once appeared in the consummation of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, "and as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." Thus, by one sacrifice, of Christ Himself, sin has been put away, sins have been borne, and death and judgment removed for the believer.

The blessed result for the believer is that when Christ appears the second time, He will no more have to do with sin. Sin having been dealt with at His first appearing, His second appearing will be wholly for the salvation of His people from a world of sin and the power of the enemy to bring them into the rest that remaineth.

The passage thus presents the three appearings of the Lord Jesus: His past appearing at the cross to put away sin, bear sins and remove judgment (verse26); His present appearing in heaven itself as the great High Priest on behalf of His people; the future appearing in glory for the final salvation of His people from this wilderness world with all its temptations and infirmities.

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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". 1832.

The Bible Study New Testament

16. Where there is a will. The same Greek word means both covenant and will. Now the explanation shifts to the probation of a will. “To show why Christ had to die to make the New Covenant possible, I remind you that a will does not go into effect until the man who made it dies.”




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Subdivision 3. Chaps. 9, 10

The Perfection of Christ’s Work

Section A. Hebrews 9:1-10

The Earthly Sanctuary a Shadow of the Heavenly

As we enter now into the very heart of this precious portion of God’s Word, the apostle at the outset directs our attention to the typical character of the sanctuary and its service under the former dispensation. It will be noted throughout that he has the tabernacle in view rather than the temple. This is not, as some have supposed, because the construction of the temple was any less divinely ordered than that of the tabernacle. David plainly declared to Solomon, in giving him the plan of the more permanent sanctuary, “All this the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19). But the temple types evidently prefigure millennial glory and blessing and will be fully entered into and understood in that day of Jehovah’s power. The tabernacle, on the other hand, which was a temporary dwelling-place, picturing truth for a pilgrim people, has its application to the present times when the Holy Spirit, typified by the cloudy pillar of old, is leading the new dispensation company through the wilderness of this world, on to the rest that remains for the people of God.

As the first covenant was but for a time, so with the first tabernacle. It had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary. By “worldly” we are not to understand “unspiritual,” but rather that which is in contrast with the heavenly.

The tabernacle itself was, as we well know, divided into two parts, the first called the Holy Place, and the second, the Holiest of all, separated by the sacred veil. And as the apostle points out the various pieces of furniture connected with each compartment, we have another most striking illustration of the absolute verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; and this, in regard to a point which unbelievers have eagerly seized upon, claiming that it showed the very opposite, namely, apparent inaccuracy on the part of the sacred writer.

When he speaks of the first compartment, he says, “Wherein was the candlestick and the table, and the showbread.” He makes no mention of the golden altar of incense. Had he forgotten that this altar stood immediately before the veil? Or was there some divine reason for omitting mention of it in this connection?

All becomes very clear when we carefully note the next three verses: “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly” (Hebrews 9:3-5). Now observe carefully the change from the expression “wherein” to the altogether different term “which had.” And then notice that the golden censer is really the golden incense altar. The original is “thumiasterion,” which is the ordinary word for an incense altar. It is not at all the same as the word used in Revelation 8:3; Revelation 8:5 for a censer. This is “libanotos.” Any Ordinary reader of English can see how utterly different the two words are. There can be no question, then, but that “censer” here means the incense altar. But why did the writer not say it was in the Holy Place? Why does he plainly connect it with the Holiest? The answer is perfectly simple. It belonged to the Holiest because it typified Christ’s Person and intercessory work in the Holiest of all. But during all the Old Testament dispensation it must stand outside the veil where it could be approached by the priests, and yet so near the veil that the moment this curtain was rent in twain from the top to the bottom the fragrant smoke of the incense entered the Holiest. The apostle does not say it was in the Holiest, but he does declare it belonged to the Holiest “which had the golden incense altar.” So then the apparent imperfection is really a most beautiful evidence of the perfection of Holy Writ.

As long as the old dispensation lasted the priests had no access into the Holiest. They went only into the first tabernacle and accomplished the liturgical service. Once a year the high priest alone was permitted to enter the sacred inner chamber where the Shekinah hovered over the mercy-seat. Nor could he approach without atoning blood, which he offered first of all for himself as being but a sinful man, and also for the failures of the people.

By this arrangement, the Holy Spirit was declaring the solemn fact that the way into the immediate presence of God had not yet been made known, nor could be, so long as that first tabernacle had any standing before Him. The expression “was yet standing” is misleading. It would suggest that the way into the Holiest was not made known until the destruction of the temple about A.D. 70, and thus many have understood it. But it clearly means that the way into the Holiest was not opened up so long as God recognized the first tabernacle. The moment Christ Jesus died upon the cross the entire typical system ceased to have any standing before God. It was but a figure for a time then present, and the gifts and sacrifices offered in connection with it were simply picturing the offering up of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. In themselves, they were of no real value. They could not settle the sin question, and therefore could not perfect the consciences of those who brought them. The many ordinances in connection with meats and drinks and different baptisms, whether of persons or things, in fact all the fleshly observances which were connected with the first covenant, were only intended to serve a temporary purpose and to be in force until the time of reformation; that is, until Christ by His death and resurrection fulfilled them all and brought in the present new and glorious dispensation of the grace of God.

Section B. Hebrews 9:11-23

The Superiority of the Sacrifice of Christ to all those Offered under the Old Dispensation

The apostle now proceeds to show how marvelously the one offering of our Lord Jesus Christ transcends all the types and shadows of old. He is both High Priest and Victim. As High Priest of good things to come, whose ministry is linked with a greater and more perfect tabernacle, that is, with the eternal dwelling-place of God, He has by the presentation of His blood entered in once for all into the Holiest on the basis of an accomplished redemption. His work abides eternally before God. No failure on the part of His redeemed can touch the value of His finished work. Of old, every time an Israelite sinned he needed a new sacrifice; but Christ’s one perfect offering up of himself has settled the sin question for ever, and therefore no wandering of heart nor failure in life on the part of those who have availed themselves by faith of His atoning work can alter for one moment their standing before the throne of God.

“That which can shake the cross

Can shake the peace it gave;

Which tells me Christ has never died,

Nor ever left the grave.”

Because of the infinite value of His precious blood, He has fully met all the claims of divine justice and thus secured eternal redemption. The moment His blood was shed upon the cross its efficacy was recognized in Heaven, thus answering to the sprinkling of the blood upon the mercy-seat. But it is not only seen as sprinkled upon the throne of God but also upon the believer, who is thus purged from all uncleanness.

Hebrews 9:13 brings vividly before us the ordinance of the red heifer as given in Numbers 19. The heifer was burned to ashes, the ashes mixed with water, and this water of separation was sprinkled upon an unclean Israelite in order to make him fit for participation in the service of the earthly sanctuary. Ashes in this connection became eloquent indeed. They cried aloud, as did the expiring Saviour, “It is finished!” For ashes tell of fire burned out never to burn again. And so the failing believer has daily recourse to the washing of water by the Word, bringing afresh to his soul the truth of that finished work wherein every sin was settled for when Jesus died upon the tree. Therefore the apostle says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” He, the Sinless One, offered Himself to take the sinner’s place, and this in the power of the Eternal Spirit; and through the shedding of His blood our consciences are purged from works of death and we are set free to serve the living God. The Israelite of old who was defiled by coming in contact with the dead, had recourse to the water of separation. But all our best efforts were defiled by the fact that we ourselves in our unsaved state were dead in trespasses and in sins. Now, with all the past settled for, we are free to serve the living God in faith and in the power of a new life.

Christ is therefore the Mediator of the new covenant, which is founded upon His own death, whereby He settled for the transgressions of all who turned to God in faith during the times of the first covenant, that they, with us, might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression, “The redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant.” The sins of Old Testament saints were not actually put away until Christ accomplished redemption on the cross. Then these came into all the blessing of the new covenant which He sealed with His own blood.

There has been much controversy as to whether the change from covenant to testament, in the sense of a will, is intended in the verses that follow. But the two are so intimately connected that there would seem to be no reason for difficulty in understanding the truth presented. The old covenant was God’s will for His people prior to the coming of Christ and was sealed by the blood of calves and goats, which Moses sprinkled upon the book and all the people saying, “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” The new covenant is the will of our blessed Lord whereby He decrees that all who put their trust in Him should receive part in that eternal inheritance which He gladly shares with all believers. By His death this testament came into force. Apart from His death, there could be no such blessing for guilty sinners. A testament is in effect after men are dead. His death upon the cross puts this new covenant, or testament, or will, into operation, and inasmuch as it is a covenant of pure grace, all who believe enter into the good of it even before the day when it is to be openly confirmed with Israel and Judah, as we saw in the previous chapter. The blood of the covenant having already been shed, there is nothing to hinder the outflow of blessing. The sprinkling of the blood under the old dispensation confirmed that covenant, and was a warning to the people that death would result for its violation; while at the same time it typified the shedding of the blood of the new covenant Victim. Therefore we are told that Moses sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry, and “almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” This last statement is absolute. It is not restricted to the old covenant, as the verses that immediately follow make plain. It was necessary in the plan of God that the patterns and figures of things in the heavens should be purified with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the realities with better things than those of old. The heavenly things need purification because sin began in the heavens. It was there that Satan fell, and thus the heavens became unclean. Christ’s sacrifice is the basis for the purification of the polluted heavens and guarantees the bringing in of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Thus eventually, all in Heaven and all on earth will be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross.

This, of course, is not Universalism. It does not imply the salvation of all who have lived on earth, and certainly not of fallen angels who defiled the heavens. But it does speak of a time coming when sin and sinners will be banished from the earth and the heavens, and God be all in all.

Section C. Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:1-22

The Way into the Holiest through the Blood of Jesus. His entrance the Pledge of Ours

The ground has now been laid which enables the Apostle to open up for us the special truth of the new dispensation, and to show how fully Christ has superseded all the types of old. In Hebrews 9:24-28 of this ninth chapter we have what some one has very aptly designated, “the three appearings of our Lord Jesus Christ:” He hath appeared, He doth appear, He shall appear. The order, however, is somewhat different, for the Holy Spirit dwells first on His present appearance as our Intercessor above, then turns our minds back to the time when He appeared to settle the sin question, and in the closing verses carries us forward to the glad hour when He shall appear the second time for our complete and glorious redemption.

In Hebrews 9:24, then, we look by faith into the true tabernacle which is above, the Holy Places not made with hands, and there we see our blessed risen Lord as He appears in the presence of God on our behalf. He is there to give us a perfect representation before the throne of God and we are accepted in Him. He is also there to make intercession for us in view of human frailty and tendency to err. And as the apostle John shows us, He is there as our Advocate with the Father, to undertake for us when actual failure has come in and broken communion. How full and complete is His present service as He officiates for us in the Holy Places! We often speak, and rightly so, of the finished work of Christ. This refers of course to His vicarious atonement which took place upon the cross. But it is just as scriptural to speak of His unfinished work, if we have in mind this special ministry of intercession which He has been carrying on in the Holiest ever since He was received up in glory, and which will never be finished so long as one needy saint is in the place of testing here on earth. His Cross work can never be repeated. No repetition is required, for He settled the sin question perfectly when He took our place in judgment. And in this we have the great distinction between the legal sacrifices and His one offering of Himself, when in the consummation of the ages He appeared to put away sin by His mighty sacrifice. The offerings of old had to be repeated again and again because they did not possess value sufficient to settle the sin question. But His precious blood poured forth for our redemption was of such infinite value that it is sacrilegious even to think of adding to it in any way. Having officiated at the altar, answering to the type of the great Day of Atonement, He has now gone into the sanctuary in the value of His own blood, and by and by He will come out to bless His people as did the priest of old.

“And though a while He be

Hid from the eyes of men,

His people look to see

Their Great High Priest again.”

Just as truly as men were under sentence of death with judgment beyond it, so Christ took that sentence upon Himself and was once offered to bear the sins of many. And just as certainly shall He appear unto them that look for Him the second time, altogether apart from the sin question, unto the complete and final salvation of all His own. Meantime the Holy Spirit has come forth to bear witness to the efficacy of His propitiatory work, while He Himself continues His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.

It ought to be clear that the latter part of Hebrews 9:28 is not intended to teach that only those who have advanced in knowledge along prophetical lines, and therefore live in daily expectation of the second coming of the Saviour, shall be caught up to meet Him at His return. This is not at all what was in the mind of the writer, and is certainly not the teaching of the Holy Spirit elsewhere in Scripture. But just as all Israel could be said to look for the coming forth of the high priest who had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood of atonement, so all believers look for the coming again of our Lord Jesus. There may not be much intelligence as to the mode of His coming, nor in regard to the order of events, but the renewed heart cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.”




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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Hebrews 9:16. διαθήκη) testament. This is the peculiar force of the Greek word, as compared with (above, præ) the Hebrew ברית. The article omitted agrees with the general sentiment expressed, as in Galatians 3:15.— φέρεσθαι) be shown, or made good, fulfilled (præstari). The Greek words, φέρεσθαι, προσφέρεσθαι, Hebrews 9:14, allude to each other.— τοῦ διαθεμένου, of the testator) Christ is the testator in respect of us. This agrees with the words of the Lord before His death; Luke 22:29.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

A general axiomatic truth; it is “a testament”; not the testament. The testator must die before his testament takes effect (Hebrews 9:17). This is a common meaning of the Greek noun {(diathece}. So in Luke 22:29, “I appoint (by testamentary disposition; the cognate Greek verb {(diatithemai}) unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.” The need of death before the testamentary appointment takes effect, holds good in Christ‘s relation as MAN to us; Of course not in God‘s relation to Christ.

be — literally, “be borne”: “be involved in the case”; be inferred; or else, “be brought forward in court,” so as to give effect to the will. This sense (testament) of the Greek “{(diathece}” here does not exclude its other secondary senses in the other passages of the New Testament: (1) a covenant between two parties; (2) an arrangement, or disposition, made by God alone in relation to us. Thus, Matthew 26:28 may be translated, “Blood of the covenant”; for a testament does not require blood shedding. Compare Exodus 24:8 (covenant), which Christ quotes, though it is probable He included in a sense “testament” also under the Greek word diathece (comprehending both meanings, “covenant” and “testament”), as this designation strictly and properly applies to the new dispensation, and is rightly applicable to the old also, not in itself, but when viewed as typifying the new, which is properly a testament. Moses (Exodus 24:8) speaks of the same thing as [Christ and] Paul. Moses, by the term “covenant,” does not mean aught save one concerning giving the heavenly inheritance typified by Canaan after the death of the Testator, which he represented by the sprinkling of blood. And Paul, by the term “testament,” does not mean aught save one having conditions attached to it, one which is at the same time a covenant [Poli, Synopsis]; the conditions are fulfilled by Christ, not by us, except that we must believe, but even this God works in His people. Tholuck explains, as elsewhere, “covenant  …  covenant  …  mediating victim”; the masculine is used of the victim personified, and regarded as mediator of the covenant; especially as in the new covenant a MAN (Christ) took the place of the victim. The covenanting parties used to pass between the divided parts of the sacrificed animals; but, without reference to this rite, the need of a sacrifice for establishing a covenant sufficiently explains this verse. Others, also, explaining the Greek as “covenant,” consider that the death of the sacrificial victim represented in all covenants the death of both parties as unalterably bound to the covenant. So in the redemption-covenant, the death of Jesus symbolized the death of God (?) in the person of the mediating victim, and the death of man in the same. But the expression is not “there must be the death of both parties making the covenant,” but singular, “of Him who made (aorist, past time; not ‹of Him making‘) the testament.” Also, it is “death,” not “sacrifice” or “slaying.” Plainly, the death is supposed to be) past (aorist, “made”); and the fact of the death is brought (Greek) before court to give effect to the will. These requisites of a will, or testament, concur here: (1) a testator; (2) heirs; (3) goods; (4) the death of the testator; (5) the fact of the death brought forward in court. In Matthew 26:28 two other requisites appear: witnesses, the disciples; and a seal, the sacrament of the Lord‘s Supper, the sign of His blood wherewith the testament is pri)marily sealed. It is true the heir is ordinarily the successor of him who dies and so ceases to have the possession. B)ut in this case Christ comes to life again, and is Himself (including all that He hath), in the power of His now endless life, His people‘s inheritance; in His being Heir (Hebrews 1:2), they are heirs.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

An axiomatic truth; "a (not 'the') testament." The testator must die before his testament takes effect (Hebrews 9:17) [a common meaning of diatheekee (Greek #1242)]. So Luke 22:29, "I appoint [by testamentary disposition: the cognate diatitheemai] unto you a kingdom," etc. The need of death before the testamentary appointment takes effect holds good only in Christ's relation as MAN to us.

Be, [ feresthai (Greek #5342)] - 'be borne;' 'be involved in the case;' or else 'be brought forward in court,' to give effect to the will. [This sense (testament) here does not exclude other secondary senses of diathece in the New Testament:

(1) A covenant between two parties;

(2) An arrangement made by God alone in relation to us.

Thus, Matthew 26:28, "blood of the covenant:" for a testament does not require blood shedding. Compare Exodus 24:8, covenant which Christ quotes, though probably He included "testament" also under diathece, as this designation strictly applies to the new dispensation, and is applicable to the old also, not in itself, but viewed as typifying the new.] Moses speaks of the same thing as Paul. Moses, by "covenant," means one giving the heavenly inheritance (typified by Canaan) after the testator's death, which he represented by the sprinkling of blood Paul, by "testament," means one having conditions, and so being a covenant (Poli, 'Synopsis'): the conditions are fulfilled by Christ, not by us; we must indeed believe; but even this God works in His people. Tholuck, 'covenant ... covenant ... mediating victim:' the masculine used of the victim regarded as mediator of the covenant: especially as in the new covenant a MAN (Christ) was the victim. The covenanting parties used to pass between the divided parts of the sacrificed animal; but, without reference to this, the need of a sacrifice for establishing a covenant suffices. Others consider that the death of the victim represented the death of both parties as unalterably bound to the covenant. So in the redemption covenant, Jesus' death symbolized the death of God (?) in the person of the mediating victim, and also the death of man. But it is not, 'there must be the death of both parties making the covenant,' but singular, 'of Him who made [aorist, diathemenou (Greek #1303): not "of Him making"] the testament.' Also, it is "death," not 'sacrifice' or 'slaying' The death is supposed past: the fact of the death is brought forward to give effect to the will. These requisites of a testament concur:

(1) A testator;

(2) Heir;

(3) Goods;

(4) The testator's death;

(5) The fact of the death brought forward.

In Matthew 26:28, two other requisites appear: witnesses, the disciples; a seal, the sacrament of the Lord's supper, the sign of His blood wherewith the testament is sealed. The heir is ordinarily the successor of him who dies, and so ceases to have possession. But Christ comes to life again, and is Himself (including all that He had), in the power of His now endless life, His peoples inheritance; in His being Heir (Hebrews 1:2), they are heirs.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

John Owen Exposition of Hebrews

῞οπου γὰρ διαθήκη, θάνατον ἀνάγκη θέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου· διαθήκη γὰρ ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία, ἐπεὶ μήποτε ἰσχύει ὅτε ζῇ ὁ διαθέμενος.

θάνατον ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι. Syr., מַוְתָא היּ מְחַיְּיָא“the death of him is declared,” showed, argued, or proved. “Mors intercedat necesse est;” “necesse est mortem intercedere.” Ar., “Necesse est mortem ferri;” which is not proper in the Latin tongue: however, there is an emphasis in

φέρεσθαι, more than is expressed by “intercedo.” διαθεμένον. Syr., דְּהָו דְּעַבְדָהּ, “of him that made it; “of the testator.” ᾿επὶ νεκροῖς. Syr., עַל מִיתָא הוּ, “in him that is dead;” “in mortuis,” “among them that are dead.” βεβαία. Vulg., “confirmatum est;” and so the Syriac, “ratum est,” more proper. ΄ήποτε ιεσχύει. Syr., לַית בָּהּ חַשְׁחוּ, “there is no use, profit, or benefit in it.” Ar., “nunquam valet;” “quandoquidem nunquam valet;” “nondum valet;” “it is not yet of force.” (10)

. — For where a testament [is,] there must also of necessity be brought in the death of the testator. For a testament [is] firm [or ratifed] after men are dead; otherwise it is of no force whilst the testator liveth.

There is not much more to be considered in these verses, but only how the observation contained in them doth promote and confirm the argument which the apostle insists upon. Now this is to prove the necessity and use of the death of Christ, from the nature, ends, and use of the covenant whereof he was the mediator; for it being a testament also, it was to be confirmed with the death of the testator. This is proved in these verses from the notion of a testament, and the only use of it amongst men. For the apostle in this epistle doth argue several times from such usages amongst men as, proceeding from the principles of reason and equity, were generally prevalent among them. So he doth in his discourse concerning the assurance given by the oath of God, Hebrews 6. And here he doth the same from what was commonly agreed upon, and suitable unto the reason of things, about the nature and use of a testament. The things here mentioned were known to all, approved by all, and were the principal means of the preservation of peace and property in human societies. For although testaments, as unto their especial regulation, owe their original unto the Roman civil law, yet as unto the substance of them, they were in use amongst all mankind from the foundation of the world. For a testament is the just determination of a man’s will concerning what he will have done with his goods after his decease; or, it is the will of him that is dead. Take this power from men, and you root up the whole foundation of all industry and diligence in the world. For what man will labor to increase his substance, if when he dies he may not dispose of it unto those which by nature, affinity, or other obligations, he hath must respect unto? Wherefore the foundation of the apostle’s arguing from this usage amongst men is firm and stable.

Of the like nature is his observation, that “a testament is of no force whilst the testator liveth.” The nature of the thing itself, expounded by constant practice, will admit no doubt of it. For by what way soever a man disposeth of his goods, so as that it shall take effect whilst he is alive, as by sale or gift, it is not a testament, nor hath any thing of the nature of a testament in it; for that is only the will of a man concerning his goods when he is dead.

These things being unquestionable, we are only to consider whence the apostle takes his argument to prove the necessity of the death of Christ, as he was the mediator of the new testament.

Now this is not merely from the signification of the word διαθήκη, — which yet is of consideration also, as hath been declared, — but whereas he treats principally of the two covenants, it is the affinity that is between a solemn covenant and a testament that he hath respect unto. For he speaks not of the death of Christ merely as it was death, which is all that is required unto a testament properly so called, without any consideration of what nature it is; but he speaks of it also as it was a sacrifice, by the effusion of his blood, which belongs unto a covenant, and is no way required unto a testament. Whereas, therefore, the word may signify either a covenant or a testament precisely so called, the apostle hath respect unto both the significations of it. And having in these verses mentioned his death as the death of a testator, which is proper unto a testament, in the 4th verse, and those that follow, he insists on his blood as a sacrifice, which is proper unto a covenant. But these things must be more fully explained, whereby the difficulty which appears in the whole context will be removed. Unto the confirmation or ratification of a testament, that it may be βεβαία, “sure, stable, and of force,” there must be death, “the death of the testator.” But there is no need that this should be by blood, the blood of the testator, or any other. Unto the consideration of a covenant, blood was required, the blood of the sacrifice, and death only consequentially, as that which would ensue thereon; but there was no need that it should be the blood or death of him that made the covenant. Wherefore the apostle, declaring the necessity of the death of Christ, both as to the nature of it, that it was really death; and as to the manner of it, that it was by the effusion of his blood; and that from the consideration of the two covenants, the old and the new testament, and what was required unto them; he evinceth it by that which was essential unto them both, in a covenant as such, and in a testament precisely so called. That which is most eminent and essential unto a testament, is, that it is confirmed and made irrevocable by the death of the testator; and that which is the excellency of a solemn covenant, whereby it is made firm and stable, is, that it was confirmed with the blood of sacrifices, as he proves in the instance of the covenant made at Sinai, verses 18-20. Wherefore, whatever is excellent in either of these was to be found in the mediator of the new testament. Take it as a testament, which, upon the bequeathment made therein of the goods of the testator unto the heirs of promise, of grace and glory, it hath the nature of, and he died as the testator; whereby the grant of the inheritance was made irrevocable unto them. Hereunto no more is required but his death, without the consideration of the nature of it, in the way of a sacrifice. Take it as a covenant, as, upon the consideration of the promises contained in it, and the prescription of obedience, it hath the nature of a covenant, though not of a covenant strictly so called, and so it was to be confirmed with the blood of the sacrifice of himself; which is the eminency of the solemn confirmation of this covenant. And as his death had an eminency above the death required unto a testament, in that it was by blood, and in the sacrifice of himself, which it is no way necessary that the death of a testator should be, yet it fully answered the death of a testator, in that he truly died; so had it an eminency above all the ways of the confirmation of the old covenant, or any other solemn covenant whatever, in that whereas such a covenant was to be confirmed with the blood of sacrifices, yet was it not required that it should be the blood of him that made the covenant, as here it was.

The consideration hereof solves all the appearing difficulties in the nature and manner of the apostle’s argument. The word בְּרִית, whereunto respect is here had, is, as we have showed, of a large signification and various use. And frequently it is taken for a “free grant and disposition” of things by promise, which hath the nature of a testament. And in the old covenant there was a free grant and donation of the inheritance of the land of Canaan unto the people; which belongs unto the nature of a testament also. Moreover, both of them, a covenant and a testament, do agree in the general nature of their confirmation, the one by blood, the other by death. Hereon the apostle, in the use of the word διαθήκη, doth diversely argue both unto the nature, necessity, and use of the death of the mediator of the new testament. He was to die in the confirmation of it as it was a testament, he being the testator of it; and he was to offer himself as a sacrifice in his blood, for the establishment of it, as it had the nature of a covenant. Wherefore the apostle doth not argue, as some imagine, merely from the signification of the word, whereby, as they say, that in the original is not exactly rendered. And those who have from hence troubled themselves and others about the authority of this epistle, have nothing to thank for it but their own ignorance of the design of the apostle, and the nature of his argument. And it were well if we all were more sensible of our own ignorance, and more apt to acknowledge it, when we meet with difficulties in the Scripture, than for the most part we are. Alas! how short are our lines, when we come to fathom the depths of it! How inextricable difficulties do appear sometimes in passages of it, which when God is pleased to teach us, are all pleasant and easy!

These things being premised, to clear the scope and nature of the apostle’s argument, we proceed unto a brief exposition of the words.

Hebrews 9:16. — “For where a testament [is,] there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.”

There are two things in the words:

1. A supposition of a testament.

2. What is required thereunto.

1. In the first place there is,

(1.) The note of inference;

(2.) The supposition itself.

(1.) The first is the particle “for.” This doth not infer a reason to ensue of what he had before affirmed, which is the common use of that illative; but only the introduction of an illustration of it, from what is the usage of mankind in such cases, on supposition that this covenant is also a testament. For then there must be the death of the testator, as it is in all testaments amongst men.

(2.) The supposition itself is in these words, ῞οπου διαθήκη. The verb substantive is wanting. “Where a testament is;” so it is by us supplied, it may be, not necessarily. For the expression, “Where a testament is,” may suppose that the death of the testator is required unto the making of a testament; which, as the apostle showeth in the next verse, it is not, but only unto its execution. ‘In the case of a testament, namely, that it may be executed,’is the meaning of the word “where;” that is, ‘wherever.’ Amongst all sorts of men, living according unto the light of nature and the conduct of reason, the making of testaments is in use; for without it neither can private industry be encouraged nor public peace maintained. Wherefore, as was before observed the apostle argueth from the common usage of mankind, resolved into the principles of reason and equity.

2. What is required unto the validity of a testament; and that is, the death of the testator. And the way of the introduction of this death unto the validity of a testament is, by “being brought in,” — φέρεσθαι; that it enter, namely, after the ratifying of the testament, to make it of force, or to give it operation. The testament is made by a living man; but whilst he lives it is dead, or of no use. That it may operate and be effectual, death must be brought into the account. This death must be the death of the testator, — τοῦ διαθεμένου. ῾ο διαθέμενος is he who disposeth of things; who hath right so to do, and actually doth it. This in a testament is the testator. And διαθήκη and διαθέμενος have in the Greek the same respect unto one another as “testamentum” and “testator” in the Latin.

Wherefore, if the new covenant hath the nature of a testament, it must have a testator, and that testator must die, before it can be of force and efficacy; which is what was to be proved.

This is further confirmed, —

Hebrews 9:17. — “For a testament [is] of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all, while the testator liveth.”

It is not of the making and constitution of a testament, but of the force and execution of it, that he speaks. And in these words he gives a reason of the necessity of the death of the testator thereunto. And this is because the validity and efficacy of the testament depend solely thereon. And this reason he introduceth by the conjunction γάρ, “for.”

A testament ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία, — “is of force,” say we; that is, firm, stable, not to be disannulled. For “if it be but a man’s testament, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereunto,” Galatians 3:15.It is ratified, made unalterable, so as that it must be executed according unto the mind of the testator. And it is so ἐπὶ νεκροῖς, “among them that are dead,” “after men are dead;” that is, those who make the testament: for it is opposed unto ὅτε ζῆ ὁ διαθέμενος, “whilst the testator liveth;” for testaments are the wills of dead men. Living men have no heirs. And this sense is declared in these words, ἐπεὶ μὴποτε ἰσχύει, “quandoquidem,” “quoniam,” “seeing that;” “otherwise,” say we, — without this accession unto the making of a testament, as yet it prevaileth not, it is not of force for the actual distribution of the inheritance or the goods of the testator.

Two things must yet further be declared:

1. What are the grounds or general reasons of this assertion.

2. Where lies the force of the argument from it: —

1. The force of a testament depends on the death of the testator, or the death of the testator is required to make it effectual, for these two reasons: —

(1.) Because a testament is no act or deed of a man whereby he presently, and in the making of it, conveys, gives, or grants, any part of his possession unto another, or others, so as that it should immediately thereon cease to be his own, and become the property of those others: all such instruments of contract, bargain, sale, or deeds of gift, are of another nature, they are not testaments. A testament is only the signification of the will of a man as unto what he will have done with his goods after his death. Wherefore unto the force and execution of it his death is necessary.

(2.) A testament, that is only so, is alterable at the pleasure of him that makes it whilst he is alive. Wherefore it can be of no force whilst he is so; for he may change it or disannul it when he pleaseth. The foundation, therefore, of the apostle’s argument from this usage amongst men is firm and stable.

2. Whereas the apostle argueth from the proportion and similitude that is between this new testament or covenant and the testaments of men, we may consider what are the things wherein that similitude doth consist, and show also wherein there is a dissimilitude, whereunto his reasonings are not to be extended. For so it is in all comparisons; the comparates are not alike in all things, especially where things spiritual and temporal are compared together. So was it also in all the types of old. Every person or every thing that was a type of Christ, was not so in all things, in all that they were. And therefore it requires both wisdom and diligence to distinguish in what they were so, and in what they were not, that no false inferences or conclusions be made from them. So is it in all comparisons; and therefore, in the present instance, we must consider wherein the things compared do agree, and wherein they differ.

(1.) They agree principally in the death of the testator. This alone makes a testament among men effectual and irrevocable. So is it in this new testament. It was confirmed and ratified by the death of the testator, Jesus Christ; and otherwise could not have been of force. This is the fundamental agreement between them, which therefore alone the apostle expressly insisteth on, although there are other things which necessarily accompany it, as essential unto every testament; as, —

(2.) In every testament amongst men there are goods disposed and bequeathed unto heirs or legatees, which were the property of the testator. Where a man hath nothing to give or bequeath, he can make no testament; for that is nothing but his will concerning the disposal of his own goods after his decease. So is it in this new testament. All the goods of grace and glory were the property, the inheritance of Christ, firmly instated in him alone; for he was “appointed heir of all things.” But in his death, as a testator, he made a bequeathment of them all unto the elect, appointing them to be heirs of God, co-heirs with himself. And this also is required unto the nature and essence of a testament.

(3.) In a testament there is always an absolute grant made of the goods bequeathed, without condition or limitation. So is it here also; the goods and inheritance of the kingdom of heaven are bequeathed absolutely unto all the elect, so as that no intervenience can defeat them of it. And what there is in the gospel, which is the instrument of this testament, that prescribes conditions unto them, that exacts terms of obedience from them, it belongs unto it as it is a covenant, and not as a testament. Yet, — (4.) It is in the will and power of the testator, in and by his testament, to assign and determine both the time, season, and way, whereby those to whom he hath bequeathed his goods shall be admitted unto the actual possession of them. So it is in this case also. The Lord Christ, the great testator, hath determined the way whereby the elect shall come to be actually possessed of their legacies, namely, “by faith that is in him,” Acts 26:18. So also he hath reserved the time and season of their conversion in this world, and entrance into future glory, in his own hand and power.

And these things belong unto the illustration of the comparison insisted on, although it be only one thing that the apostle argues from it, touching the necessity of the death of the testator. But notwithstanding these instances of agreement between the new testament and the testaments of men, whereby it appears to have in it, in sundry respects, the nature of a testament, yet in many things there is also a disagreement between them, evidencing that it is also a covenant, and abideth so, notwithstanding what it hath of the nature of a testament, from the death of the testator; as, —

(1.) A testator amongst men ceaseth to have any right in or use of the goods bequeathed by him, when once his testament is of force. And this is by reason of death, which destroys all title and use of them. But our testator divests himself neither of right nor possession, nor of the use of any of his goods. And this follows on a twofold difference, the one in the persons, the other in the goods or things bequeathed: —

[1.] In the persons. For a testator amongst men dieth absolutely; he liveth not again in this world, but “lieth down, and riseth not, until the heavens be no more.” Hereon all right unto, and all use of the goods of this life, cease for ever. Our testator died actually and really, to confirm his testament: but, 1st. He died not in his whole person; 2dly. In that nature wherein he died he lived again, “and is alive for evermore.”

Hence all his goods are still in his own power.

[2.] In the things themselves. For the goods bequeathed in the testaments of men are of that nature as that the propriety of them cannot be vested in many, so as that every one should have a right unto and the enjoyment of all, but in one only. But the spiritual good things of the new testament are such, as that in all the riches and fullness of them they may be in the possession of the testator, and of those also unto whom they are bequeathed. Christ parts with no grace from himself, he diminisheth not his own riches, nor exhausts any thing from his own fullness, by his communication of it unto others. Hence also, —

(2.) In the wills of men, if there be a bequeathment of goods made unto many, no one can enjoy the whole inheritance, but every one is to have his own share and portion only. But in and by the new testament, every one is made heir to the whole inheritance. All have the same, and every one hath the whole; for God himself thence becomes their portion, who is all unto all, and all unto every one.

(3.) In human testaments, the goods bequeathed are such only as either descended unto the testators from their progenitors, or were acquired during their lives by their own industry. By their death they obtained no new right or title unto any thing; only what they had before is now disposed of according unto their wills. But our testator, according unto an antecedent contract between God the Father and him, purchased the whole inheritance by his own blood, “obtaining for us eternal redemption.”

(4.) They differ principally in this, that a testament amongst men is no more but merely so; it is not moreover a solemn covenant, that needs a confirmation suited thereunto. The bare signification of the will of the testator, witnessed unto, is sufficient unto its constitution and confirmation. But in this mystery the testament is not merely so, but a covenant also. Hence it was not sufficient, unto its force and establishment, that the testator should die only, but it was also required that he should offer himself in sacrifice by the shedding of his blood, unto its confirmation.

These things I have observed, because, as we shall see, the apostle in the progress of his discourse doth not confine himself unto this notion of a testament, but treats of it principally as it had the nature of a covenant. And we may here observe, —

Obs. 1. It is a great and gracious condescension in the Holy Spirit, to give encouragement and confirmation unto our faith by a representation of the truth and reality of spiritual things in those which are temporal and agreeing with them in their general nature, whereby they are presented unto the common understanding of men. — This way of proceeding the apostle calls a speaking κατ ᾿ ἄνθρωπον, Galatians 3:15, “after the manner of men.” Of the same kind were all the parables used by our Savior; for it is all one whether these representations be taken from things real or from those which, according unto the same rule of reason and right, are framed on purpose for that end.

Obs. 2. There is an irrevocable grant of the whole inheritance of grace and glory made unto the elect in the new covenant. — Without this, it could not in any sense have the nature of a testament, nor that name given unto it. For a testament is such a free grant, and nothing else. And our best plea for them, for an interest in them, for a participation of them, before God, is from the free grant and donation of them in the testament of Jesus Christ.

Obs. 3. As the grant of these things is free and absolute, so the enjoyment of them is secured from all interveniencies by the death of the testator.

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Owen, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "John Owen Exposition of Hebrews". 1862.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 9:2-6. A tabernacle — wherein was the candlestick. For a description of this portable temple, which disdains borrowing figures from the Egyptian temples, though they had some figures analogous to the jews, see the sixteen last chapters of the book of Exodus, and the book of Leviticus for its rituals. The candlestick having seven lamps, he names first, for without light the inner court could not be clearly seen; and so of the other mystical glories already explained as above. Concerning the golden pot of manna, and the rod of Aaron, the Hebrew doctors make strong memorials, putting the golden pot in front of their shekel, and the rod of Aaron on the reverse side. — See the map of Jerusalem.

Hebrews 9:7-8. But into the second veil, or holy of holies, went the highpriest alone once every year, on the great day of atonement. He might go oftener, if the special events of the nation so required, which shows that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest. The veil of Moses is now done away in Christ.

Hebrews 9:11. But Christ being come a highpriest of good things to come, and come in the fulness of the time foretold. Galatians 4:4. The rags of Joshua are superseded by robes, as in the vision of Zechariah; the true, the heavenly temple is now laid open, and the church is filled with the glory of the only-begotten of the Father. This is the temple not made with hands, but is the spiritual or mystical body of Christ.

Hebrews 9:12. Neither by the blood of goats and calves. David in the Spirit foresaw that these would be rejected. Psalms 40:6. He entered into the holy place with his own blood, to which our redemption is always ascribed, and by which we obtain eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:13. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean. Rabbi Maimonides, in his Novochim, has a good note here. He says that though the Hebrew altar made no atonement for murderers, for idolaters, for adulterers, yet there was an atonement made for them by the red heifer, and other accursed victims laden with their sins, [called here “dead works”] slain, and burned without the camp, from whose ashes the waters of purification were secreted.

Hebrews 9:14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, the Lamb without spot, immolated by the good pleasure of the Father, and offered up through the eternal Spirit, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Was ever sacrifice like this? God spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all. For their sakes, said the Saviour, I sanctify myself, a vicarious victim, to satisfy the demands of justice, that mercy may be extended to the ruined and the lost. His death gave a perfect finish to the ransom; by the one offering of himself he has for ever perfected, as regards atonement and satisfaction, them that are sanctified.

Hebrews 9:15. For this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, which is open to the gentiles, and calls the world to turn to God. Aaron therefore, compared with Christ, was restricted in his powers. He could only look on the leper, but could not cleanse; whereas, all the gentile armies washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Thus sinners, washed and reconciled, are brought nigh, and joined to the hundred and forty four thousand of the virgin church; they are made heirs of the promises, and all the blessings of eternal life.

Hebrews 9:21-23. Moreover, he sprinkled likewise with blood, both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. All the church must of course be sprinkled with blood; all our words and works must be touched with the Redeemer’s merits. Such is the harmony of the divine counsel and love in our redemption.

Hebrews 9:27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, so Christ in the end of the world died for us. And as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so Christ bare the sins of many, or as above, he died for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant. There is no need then for his sacrifice to be repeated; but he shall come the second time without (coming to die for) sin, and shall judge the world, when those that pierced him shall wail because of him.


Paul reviews here the tabernacle, that he might show the true glory of that temple which is in heaven. He begins with the candlestick, whose seven lamps showed the interior sanctuary, where all the priests officiated. So God who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our dark hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. All the insignia of the sanctuary raised the expectation of better things, designated by the glory of all the types. The leviticum therefore could never make its votaries perfect; this was reserved for the introduction of a better hope. Jesus Christ, for whom all things were created, was to officiate in a better tabernacle, and to have somewhat better than beasts to offer. God prepared him a body, joined to a human soul, illustrious, immaculate, and heir of the world by descent. This body was offered upon the high altar of the cross to obtain eternal redemption, or a redemption once for all for us.

The approach of sinful man to an offended God is now opened by a new and living way; whereas under the law it was encumbered with restraint, and death was denounced against man or beast that should approach the mount. In the temple also the holy place was separated from the most holy; and no Israelite, no priest was allowed to enter it except the highpriest, and he only once a year with the blood of atonement. But Christ having entered heaven by his own blood, and made us all priests and kings by the spirit of adoption, allows us all to follow in his steps. Why then should the jew be obstinate, or the christian fall away from so glorious a hope?

The atonement made by Christ not only surpasses the blood of animals in efficacy to expiate guilt, but also in point of privilege. He is the mediator of the new testament, and has received for us the promise of an eternal inheritance: Hebrews 9:15. Exemption from punishment is but the negative good of our redemption; he prepares the soul by all the adorning of grace for the worship of his perfect tabernacle, and for the inheritance that fadeth not away. And this inheritance is left us by his last will and testament, and which now comes to us, the testator being dead.

Now, as it is appointed unto men to die but once; and he, the second Adam, dying for the family of the first which are many, so we look for him again without coming to die for sin, but to bring us everlasting salvation, and to give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

Ver. 16. For where a testament is] {See Trapp "Hebrews 8:6"} Here the testator is Christ, heirs the saints, legacies the gifts of the Spirit, executor the Holy Ghost, witnesses apostles, martyrs, &c.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

The Purification and the Appearance

Heb 9:16-17. These verses form a parenthesis. In Heb 9:15 the writer spoke about the death and the inheritance. He is now explaining how these two are connected to each other. The one is not separated from the other. Then it was like that and it is still like that nowadays.

An inheritance is something that someone bequeaths when he dies. He who has possessions he bequeaths will usually make a testament. In a testament the 'testator' describes who shall receive his possessions when he dies. That means that his death must have taken place before the heir, the one who is called the beneficiary in the testament, can enjoy the possession that is promised to him in the testament. Therefore it is said in these verses that a testament can only have power when the testator dies. In order to execute the will of the testator, that one's death has to be absolutely sure.

Now the exceptional thing in this situation is that Christ is both the Testator and the One Who is entitled to that inheritance. As God He is Testator and as Man He died. As the Son of God He is also "the heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). Considering that He shares that inheritance with you (Eph 1:11; Eph 3:6) and that you belong to the ones He called and who will receive the eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15), it can only bring you to your knees to worship Him. These are things that are beyond human understanding, but in faith you will accept that they are true. It is exactly the glory of Christ and the mystery of His Person that make us draw near to Him in worship.

A testament or covenant therefore only has power when death has occurred. That is not something that was only valid in relation to the new covenant. Also in the old covenant or Old Testament it was already like that. In the Old Testament we have plentiful examples of the necessity of the occurrence of death before men were able to stand in connection with God. Just think of the whole offering service. Yet again a person either endures the judgment himself or sees how his sins are being wiped out because another one has endured the judgment on his behalf.

Heb 9:18-20. To illustrate his teachings the writer quotes another example that was very familiar to his readers. Moses had passed on the words that he heard from the Lord about His covenant on the mountain, to the people (Exo 24:3). The people then responded solemnly to obey this covenant. Thereupon Moses offered up the offerings and sprinkled blood on the altar and on the people and the book (Exo 24:6). The blood is the blood that God commanded as His answer on the promise from the people. Threat came from this blood. God makes known what would happen to Israel when the people trespass the words of the Lord.

The blood of the new covenant speaks a totally different language. The believers of the New Testament are sprinkled with it. Atonement, forgiveness and blessing come from that blood (1Pet 1:2; Heb 12:24). In the value of that blood we, who are not any better than those who were under the old covenant, are able to stand before God.

Heb 9:21. The sprinkling mentioned here, happened on the Day of Atonement, though not through Moses, but through Aaron. The point of the writer is to demonstrate the meaning of the blood under the old covenant and how everything was ruled by it. It clarifies the fundamental role of the blood, both in the old and in the new covenant.

Heb 9:22. "Without shedding of blood" there is no forgiveness possible, just as little as redemption (Heb 9:12) and washing (Heb 9:14). By saying that with blood "almost all things" are purified, it is clear that the writer is aware of exceptions like for a poor (Lev 5:11-13; Lev 15:10; Num 31:22-23; 50; Num 16:46).

There is almost nothing that modern theologians hate more than the very thought that without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It means that humanity consists of hopelessly lost creatures on whom the death penalty lies and that only through death it is possible to remove this death penalty, through which lost creatures are able to receive forgiveness. How necessary the death of Christ was indeed!

Heb 9:23. With "the copies of the things in heaven" the whole earthly tabernacle with its service is meant. They are an illustration of the better, real, "heavenly things". The symbolical things had to be purified, for they were touched by sinful people. That purification happened through blood. However, as a consequence of the fall of man also the heavenly things, that is the created heaven, are defiled (Job 15:15) and have also to be reconciled (Col 1:20). In connection with that purification the writer speaks about "better sacrifices". The blood draws our attention to the work of Christ; the sacrifice draws our attention to Christ Himself and the sacrifice He offered.

Heb 9:24. Christ has entered the real, "the true one", that is the heavenly sanctuary. The earthly sanctuary was the "copy". It was nothing more than a copy, an image or picture of the heavenly sanctuary. Christ has not entered the earthly sanctuary, but the heavenly one. He entered it in a very different way than Aaron entered the earthly one. Aaron remained just a very short time in the sanctuary. Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary in order to appear in the light of God on our behalf. As a result of that we are able to be there also now. He represents us to God.

Heb 9:25. Christ entered the sanctuary on the basis of His one-time sacrifice. That is perfect. Therefore repetition is not necessary. The Day of Atonement was totally different. There the prescribed sacrifices had to be offered up each year. You can derive from the repetition that that was inadequate. The high priest had to enter the sanctuary over and over again with blood and indeed with strange blood, which means: with other blood than that of himself. That is a great difference with the Lord Jesus Who on the contrary, entered into the sanctuary with His own blood.

Heb 9:26. The writer again demonstrates clear what the consequence would be if the one-time sacrifice of Christ had not been adequate. He would then have had to come from heaven numerous times, again and again, to suffer. This proves the foolishness and also the reprehensibility of the sacrifice of the mass of the roman-catholic church, wherein Christ is being sacrificed again and again. If that one sacrifice of Christ wouldn't be adequate, when then would His sacrifice be adequate? It is one of both: either the sacrifice of Christ was perfectly accomplished once for all or it will never ever be perfect. In the latter case an equally endless repetition would be required as this was the case under the old covenant.

But Christ came only once and has accomplished a one-time work that never has to be repeated ever (see also 1Pet 3:18). The time of suffering was determined by God. It would happen in the fulfillment of the ages. Only when many ages had proven that there is no good to be expected from man, God sent His Son.

The corruptness of man has been fully exposed, with its lowest point being the rejection of the Son of God. At the same time this great purpose of God to abolish sin, was made known in the revelation of the Son. He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). The complete fulfillment is still to happen, but the foundation for the ultimate, definite and complete abolishment is laid by the Lamb when He died.

Heb 9:27. Everybody will die once. That is the inevitable consequence of sin through which death entered into the world (Rom 6:23). With death the consequences of the earthly life are irrevocably and eternally established for everyone. He who dies in unbelief will end up in Hades, the place where pain rules (Lk 16:19-31; 1Pet 3:19), and finally in hell (Rev 20:11-15).

Man is not given a second life on earth. A circle of life and death, the so-called reincarnation is a fabrication from the devil. People who ignore God love to believe that. Still, with death everything is not finished yet. There is an "after this [comes] judgment" that will be exerted by Jesus Christ (2Tim 4:1; Jn 5:27).

Heb 9:28. Like all people Christ has also died only once, but with what wonderful, heavenly, everlasting and irrevocable consequences for the believer! He has two great securities: the forgiveness of his sins and the return of the Lord. Christ died in the place of everyone who believes in Him. He bore their sins (1Pet 2:24; Isa 53:12). When He appeared as Man on earth it was to die. Now He is in heaven, after He fulfilled His work, He appears before God's face for us.

When He appears for the second time on earth, it is then for them who are waiting for Him. This is not about the rapture of the church, but His revelation on earth. The remnant of Israel will wait for Him and we also are looking forward to see Him. We love His appearing (2Tim 4:8).

When He then comes it will have nothing to do with His work regarding sin, because the problem of sin has already been solved once and for all with His first coming. When He comes the second time, it will not be in humiliation, but in glory. Then the full salvation of the kingdom of peace will be realized by Him.

Now read Hebrews 9:16-28 again.

Reflection: Why is the value of the blood of Christ so great?

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The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

The necessity of Christ's death:

v. 15. And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

v. 16. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

v. 17. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Having shown that the high-priestly office of Christ was in every respect more excellent than that of the Old Testament high priests, the author in the second part of the chapter furnishes proof of the fact that Christ is also the Mediator of a better covenant than that of the Old Testament. In demonstrating the necessity of Christ's death, he refers, first of all, to the effect and purpose of the great sacrifice on Calvary: And for that reason He is the Mediator of a new testament that, a death having taken place for deliverance from the transgressions under the first covenant, those that have been called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For this reason, because Christ entered into the Most Holy Place of the heavens through His own blood, and because His blood cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, He is the Mediator of the new covenant. Through the annual atonement made by the high priests of the Old Testament the covenant of God with His chosen people was always renewed and Israel continually reinstated in its rights as the people of the covenant. But Christ, through His blood, through His salvation, has established a new covenant, one by which we are God's children, God's people, by which we are assured of the mercy of God and have fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, not only for one year or for a few years, but for all eternity. All this has been made possible through the death of Christ, which took place for the deliverance from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For unless these transgressions, of which all men were guilty, were atoned for, no man could receive the eternal inheritance. The sacrifices of the Old Testament not being able to atone for sin, a new covenant was necessary with a death which could accomplish this necessary object. Christ's vicarious death being a historical fact, it follows that the promise can now be carried into effect. We, whom He has called by the Gospel, can now freely rely upon the promise of the eternal inheritance in heaven, where we shall enjoy the true, lasting gifts and blessings.

The covenant of God, assured to us through His promise, is at the same time the testament, the last mill, of our Savior Jesus Christ. And from this fact the sacred writer argues: For where there is a testament; it is necessary that the death of him who made the testament be set forth; for a testament is in force with regard to dead people, since it is never in force while the testator is living. The illustration is taken from the general custom or law with regard to wills, for a man's last will and testament is never valid while the testator is still alive. If the real or alleged heirs want the benefit of the inheritance, proofs of the death of the testator must first be adduced. Only when this fact is established beyond a reasonable doubt, when the man who has formally put his last will to paper is no longer among the living, then the provisions of the testament are in force. Thus also the death of Christ was necessary in order that Christ might really be the Mediator of a new and better covenant.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


In the concluding of this New Covenant the blood of Christ was indispensable

  Hebrews 9:16-22

16For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be [be adduced or declared, φέρεσθαι] the death of the testator 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all [since it scarcely is of any force] while the testator 18 liveth. Whereupon [whence, ὅθεν] neither [not even, οὐδέ][FN9] the first testament was [has been] dedicated [inaugurated] without blood 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the[FN10] law, he took the blood of calves and of goats,[FN11] with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled[FN12] both the book [itself, 20 αὐτό] and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament [or, covenant] 21which God hath [om. hath] enjoined unto you. Moreover [And] he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry [service]. 22And almost [parety nearly, or about, σχεδόν] all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is [there takes place] no remission.

[ Hebrews 9:16.—φέρεσθαι, not be, as E. V, but, adduced, declared, Alf, implied; Words, brought to pass; many, afferri coram judice, of establishing judicially; Moll renders “beigebracht werden.

Hebrews 9:17.—ἐπὶ νεκροῖς, over the dead, in case of the dead, lit, on condition of persons as dead.—ἐπεί μήποτε elegantly softening and appealing rather to the judgment of the reader; “for look whether perchance it has force;” see if it be not perhaps invalid. It is by no means intensive, as in the E. V, “it has no force at all.” Otherwise it should be taken as a question: “Since does it at all=it does not at all, does it?”

Hebrews 9:18.—ὃθεν, whence, logical.—οὐδέ., not even.—ἐγκεκαίνισται, Perf, has been inaugurated, not, was dedicated. The Perf, implies that it stands before our eyes.

Hebrews 9:19.—λαληθείσης γάρ, for after every commandment was spoken, etc.—αὐτό τε τὸ βιβλίον, both the book itself.

Heb 9:20.—ἐνετείλατο, Aor., enjoined, not, hath enjoined.

Hebrews 9:21.—καὶ τὴν σκηνὴν δέ, and the tabernacle too; so καί—δέ, constantly and elegantly used in Greek. Not quite as in E. V. and Alf, and moreover.

Hebrews 9:22.—καὶ σχεδόν, and pretty much, pretty nearly, as one might say. It does not like our almost (Gr. ὀλίγου δεῖν) positively exclude a part, but simply declines to guarantee the exact accuracy of the statement. Almost, therefore, is never its proper rendering. Alf. renders almost, but adds parenthetically, one may say that, which is sufficiently exact.—αὶματεκχυσία, either shedding of blood in the slaughter of the victim, or pouring out of the blood of the victim when slaughtered; the former here seems more probable. Αἱματεκ., “seems to be a word coined by the sacred writer, to express his meaning.” Alf.—γίνεται, takes place.—K.].


Hebrews 9:16. For where a testament is, etc.—Attempts have been very naturally made (springing from the ὄθεν of Hebrews 9:18, and the γάρ connecting this verse with Hebrews 9:15), to take διαθήκη here in its ordinary sense of covenant (Crit. Sacr., VII:2 p, 1067 sq, Seb. Schmidt, Michaelis, Cramer, Ebrard, etc.). They are convicted at once, however, of error, by the utter falseness of the idea that in the formation of a covenant the death of Him who framed it is indispensable to its validity, as well as by the intolerable harshness of any other mode of explaining διαθέμενος. For although ἐπὶ νεκροῖς might indeed denote “over slaughtered sacrificial victims,” inasmuch as in later usage τὸ νεκρόν, is frequently=τὸ πτῶμα,—it is impossible that διαθέμενος can be applied either to the animal offered in sacrifice in confirmation of the covenant, or to the man regarded as replaced and represented by the victim, and thus pledging himself as it were to a moral death, or to the mediator of the covenant. If, on the other hand, in allusion to the above mentioned inheritance (κληρονομία), we evolve here out of the more general signification of διαθήκη (arrangement, dispositio) the more special one of testamentary arrangement, testament, we must beware of extending the application of the comparison made in illustration of the thought, beyond the immediate sentiment and purpose of the writer, and thus of introducing alien and incongruous elements into the passage. Such is the idea advanced by Menken, who says (Homilies on Chapters9,10., p142) that only He who by His death has proved Himself worthy of the inheritance, could make others fellow-heirs with Him; as also that of Hofmann, who (Weissag. II, 165) appeals in proof of the necessity of the death of the διαθέμενος, to the fact that during His life He could add something to His possessions, and thus could not during His life-time make any one an heir of the whole property that He should leave behind Him. The question is not now of a setting forth of the ultimate ground of the death of Christ, a ground already assigned at Hebrews 9:15—but of an illustration of its practical necessity, in order for the delivering over of the blessings of salvation, as an inheritance. Compare as to the idea, Luke 22:29 : κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι πατήρ μου βασιλείαν. Among the ancient Hebrews there were, it is true, no arbitrary testamentary bequests, Deuteronomy 21:16. But among the later Jews they were by no means unknown (Michaelis, Mos. Recht. II, § 80), and the sentiment in question is conceived and expressed not from a Hebrew, but a Hellenic point of view. If we decline giving to φέρεσθαι the signification adduced (Hofm. Schriftb. II:1, 428) or endured (referred by Wittich to the relatives), the most probable rendering will be that of sermone ferri=constare (Bretschn.). The juristic application of the word=afferri coram judice (Hammond, Elsner, and the majority, since Valckenaer) is restricted properly to the adducing of evidence in court, and applies not to the right of inheritance. The rendering esse, extare=γίγνεσθαι [be or become), which, with the ancients and up to the time of Valck, was the prevalent one, is held among later comm. only by Schultz and Böhme, and cannot be sustained. The rendering expectari (Grot.) is totally inadmissible. Grammatically indefensible too is the making μήποτε=μήπω, not yet (Vulg, Erasm, Luth, Schlicht, Böhme). In a strictly objective sentence we should indeed have expected οὐ; but the later writers in causal sentences with ὅτι and ἐπεί frequently confound οὐ and μή (Madvig, Synt., § 207, Anm. 2). If, with Winer, we decline ascribing to our author a negligence belonging properly to the vulgar idiom (Mullach, Gramm. der Griech. Vulgarsprache, p29), but give to μή its subjective force, we must then (with Œc, Beng, Lachm, Hofm, Del, etc.) assume an interrogation; and this all the more, as ἐπεί, also at Hebrews 10:2; Romans 36; 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 15:29; introduces a proof in the form of interrogation, and μήποτε appears alike in direct ( John 7:26) and indirect ( Luke 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:25) interrogations. Quite unnecessarily Isidor. Pelus. (Ep. IV, 113) prefers the reading μὴ τότε found only in D[FN13].

Hebrews 9:18. Whence, also, neither has the first covenant, etc.—The reference of ὅθεν to Hebrews 9:15 by putting Hebrews 9:16-17, in parenthesis (Zachar, Mor, Storr, Heinr, Bisp,) is inadmissible. The words κατὰ τὸν νόμον are not to be connected with πάσης ἐντολῆς=(“Every commandment as contained in the law,” (Schlicht, Calov, Beng, Bl, Bisp, etc.,) but with λαληθείσης, Œc. Erasm, Calv, Bez, Grot, etc.,); not, however, in the sense of “according to the command” in reference to the injunction, Exodus 20:22, (Bez, etc,) but, “in accordance with the law received on Sinai;” inasmuch as in concluding the covenant, an exact repetition of the divine commands was indispensable.

Hebrews 9:19. He took the blood, etc.—The καί after βιβλίον which we must not (with Colomes. and Valcken.) strike out, and which cannot possibly, with Beng, be taken as corresponding to the καὶ δέ of Hebrews 9:21, forbids our making αὐτὸ τὸ βιβ. dependent on λαβών. We are to assume here, as also in the mention of the goats which might be chosen for burnt offering, ( Leviticus 1:10 f.; Leviticus 4:23 f.; Leviticus 9:2 f.; Numbers 6:10 f.; Hebrews 7:27; comp. Exodus 24:5); and were also used in the expiatory offerings mentioned in Hebrews 9:12-13, and in like manner in respect to the means of purification, (which elsewhere are found only in the case of lepers, LeHebrews Hebrews 9:14 and those defiled by dead bodies, Numbers 19.) an expression drawn from tradition, (and which, at least in respect to that which immediately follows, is also found in Joseph. Antt. III:8, 6), of the event recorded, Exodus 24. In the citation we have τοῦτο instead of the ἰδοὐ of the Sept, θεός instead of κύριος, and ἐνετείλατο instead of διέθετο.

Hebrews 9:21. And the tabernacle, too.—Since the tabernacle and vessels were constructed at a later period, the author cannot refer to anything that is contemporaneous with what is hitherto mentioned. To this fact points the καὶ δέ=but also, on the other hand also. The anointing is that enjoined, Exodus 40:10, which is probably identical with that which was performed, Leviticus 8:10, during the seven days of priestly consecration, an account of which, similar to that here recorded, is given by Josephus, while the original text recounts only the sprinkling with oil, as of the positive means of consecration, but mentions the purifying by the blood of atonement only in reference to the altar, Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 8:19; Leviticus 8:24.

Hebrews 9:22. And all things, as one might say, are purified with blood, etc.—Also, water and fire are a means of purification; but when the question is of forgiveness of sin, then blood is demanded, according to Leviticus 17:11. The vegetable sin-offering of the poor, Leviticus 5:11-13, forms no exception, but is a recognized substitute. Chrys, Primas, etc., erroneously refer σχεδόν to καθαρίζεται as if expressing the imperfection of this purification, neither, however, does it belong to ἐν αἵματι, (Beng, Böhm.), but to πάντα. The word αἱματεκχυσία is understood by De W, Thol, Hofm, Keil, of the pouring out of blood on the altar, and the sprinkling, while Bl, Lün, Del, Kurtz, on the contrary, refer it to the slaughter, which is parallel to the death of Christ upon the cross. Del. recalls the language of the last Supper, Luke 22:20, as in point of symbol and of fact, furnishing the closest parallel, without yet being insensible to what, on purely archæological grounds, may be urged in favor of the former explanation (comp. Einhorn, Prinzip des Mosaismus, p 82 ff.).


1. Even in the Old Test the salvation promised by God to His people, under certain terms and conditions, appears as an inheritance. נַחֲלָה. It is thus not unscriptural, and not even surprising, but merely uncommon, when Christ, who previously was regarded as the accomplisher of the revelation of God, and as royal head and leader of His people to salvation, as pledge and mediator of that new covenant which was promised and typified in the Old, is now represented as a Testator, in that, for the vivid illustration of the close connection, lying in the very nature of the case, between the death of Jesus Christ and the attainment of the inheritance of the children of God, promised to us by God, and given over as His own, to Christ, for transmission to us, this comparison opens the most appropriate and the most instructive analogies.

2. Since such is the state of the case, for this reason even in the formation of the old covenant, the application of blood, for cleansing and for expiation, was indispensable, and during the existence of that economy was always employed for such a purpose, in accordance with the express command of God. It was then, with a reference to the death of Jesus Christ, as the true and efficacious sacrifice, that this arrangement was instituted; and it is no accommodation to Jewish prejudices, and Rabbinical modes of expression, to regard Christ as a priest and an offering; rather, on the contrary, the Levitical offerings are to be conceived under the point of view of a divinely ordained type of the sacrifice determined in the eternal counsels of God, and freely undertaken by Christ, ( Hebrews 10:5 ff.). Hence the ὅθεν, Hebrews 9:18.

3. In this connection becomes explicable, also, the sprinkling of the Tabernacle, and of the sacred vessels, and of the sacred records of the divine revelation and covenant, with blood, as well as the sprinkling of the people, although this belongs only to tradition. It expresses the obligation inhering in both parties for the offering of the efficient sacrifice, and the present inability to furnish it with the means existing at the time. Remittere peccata non est opus absolutæ misericordiæ, sed fit interveniente simul satisfactione eaque sufficientissima licet a misericordia divina procurata. (Seb. Schmidt).


Obedience to the ordinances of God is not merely the duty of men, but our best auxiliary in the struggle against sin.—The law of God which makes acquainted with and condemns sin, points also the way to the forgiveness of sin.—Sin is a stain which can be removed only by blood.—On the connection of sin, expiation, and forgiveness.

Starke:—Just as surely as Christ has died, so sure is the covenant of grace with God.—Divine justice demanded blood, and without this God could not be propitiated, Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20.—Moses, a faithful servant in the house of God. Blessed are they who are his imitators!—There Isaiah, in itself, nothing pure before God, not even the holy place, nor the teachers who enter thither to conduct the service of God, as the people who assemble there to serve God, and this even in their best acts; yet the blood of Christ purifies all.—How capital a point of faith is furnished by the blood and death of Jesus Christ! without this, all His suffering were in vain, and that even though it had been far heavier than it was. By this we are reconciled with God.

Rieger:—Only through Christ, and His death, has the whole blessing of redemption, which God would apply to us miserable wretches for our salvation, amounted to a proper testament and bequest, i.e., to a gracious economy confirmed by the death of its Author.

Heubner:—If everything is defiled by the impure hands of men, if the whole earth is desecrated by sin, then does everything stand in need of cleansing and consecration, Job 15:4.—In the expiatory power of the death of Jesus lies its proper significance, Isaiah 53.—Without a surrender to death there is no reconciliation. The yielding up of life an expiation for desecrated life, Exodus 17:11.


FN#9 - Hebrews 9:18.—Instead of οὐδ’ A. C. D. E. L, 4, 44, 55 (but at the Sin.), write οὐδέ.

FN#10 - Hebrews 9:19.—The article before νόμον is vouched for by A. C. D*. L, 21, 47, 71. In the Sin. it comes from a second hand.

FN#11 - Hebrews 9:19.—The Art. before τράγων is required by Sin. A. C. D. E, 80.

FN#12 - Hebrews 9:19.—For ἐῤῥάντισε all the Uncial MSS. have ἐράντισεν.

FN#13 - Alford criticises the Eng. ver. “must have suffered” on the ground that the antecedent time, being already indicated by the ἔδει, need not be again expressed by παθεῖν. The criticism would be just if the ἔδει were in the English version instead of in the Greek. But in English the must, which translates the ἔδει, not having in itself the idea of past time, this idea has to be put into the accompanying Infinitive. The rendering of the common version is therefore, I think, idiomatic and unexceptionable.—K.].

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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Chapters 9 and 10 form a wonderful climax in the orderly presentation of the truth in this epistle: If according to the new covenant, a man must be morally fitted for the presence of God by means of the new birth, as we have seen, yet the way into Gods presence, the holiest of all, must also be clearly made manifest. These chapters admirably and fully deal with this grand subject.

And first, from verse 1 to 10, the service of the tabernacle is summarized for us, for its typical significance is of deepest importance in this matter. A study of the details of these things in Exodus and Leviticus would greatly repay the godly reader. "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread: which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all: which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."

The details are not to be dwelt upon here, but we are intended to closely observe the distinction between the two holy places, the sanctuary and the holiest of all. Indeed, emphasis is put strikingly upon the holiest of all; for in the outer sanctuary the candlestick was of pure gold, the table of shewbread was overlaid with gold, yet the gold is not mentioned in connection with these, while it is mentioned three times in verse 4, in connection with the holiest. Moreover, the incense altar, which was in the outer sanctuary, is not mentioned at all. It was also overlaid with gold. Perhaps the reason for this is that under law there had been no true, real worship, of which the incense altar would speak. Gold is typical of the glory of God, and though this was involved in Judaism, yet His glory could not in any full measure be revealed under law and its shadows. Thus the Spirit of God would direct our attention to the greater revelation connected with the holiest. This is typical of Heaven itself, while the outer sanctuary is typical of the sphere of Judaism and the earthly priesthood.

This is intimated in the following verses: "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service. But into the second went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." Judaistic priests had access at all times into the first sanctuary: it was the sphere of their common service as the sons of Aaron. But none of the common priests were allowed at any time in the holiest of all.

The High Priest alone on the great day of atonement each year was allowed in, in order to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering before and on the mercy - seat. The veil remained always between the two sanctuaries, keeping the holiest of all in constant darkness.

What a lesson for Israel! Here was continual testimony to the fact that there was a sphere into which Judaism could give no free access. God Himself remained in the thick darkness. Yet the entrance of the High Priest each year was an indication that God had not precluded the possibility of man's entrance there; while at the same time the High Priest is a striking type of the Lord Jesus - the Man Christ Jesus, Mediator between God and men. But the way into the holiest could not be made manifest in connection with the first tabernacle, that is, under the legal system: the system itself pointed to something beyond itself. It was "a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."

Such gifts and sacrifices left the conscience still unpurged. Their actual value lay only in the fact that they typified a better sacrifice than these. Meats and drinks too were but typical of the food and refreshment of the sacrifice of Christ - both for God and for the believer. Divers washings and carnal ordinances were typical of the application of the truth of Christ to the soul, in cleansing and sustaining power. Such things, being typical, were of course temporary, - imposed only until the time of reformation, when God would set things in proper relationship and perspective, introducing a change to end all changes.

"But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building: neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Blessed fulfilment of all these types! Christ is come, "an High Priest of good things to come." These good things have of course not yet been secured by the nation Israel, as they will be; though the church is infinitely blessed in anticipation of that day, by her reception of Christ, with all the blessings His Priesthood brings. The greater and more perfect tabernacle is that which is eternal in contrast to the earthly system of Judaism committed to men's hands: it would speak of the universe as in the counsels of God, - God's eternal building.

Verse 12 speaks of the eternal character of His work, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the old testament. By the blood of goats and calves the high priest in Israel had title to enter into the holiest on the great day of atonement; but this gave no title to remain in, and the same sacrifice must be repeated each year. But Christ, by His own blood, because of its eternal value, had title to enter into Heaven "once," having obtained eternal redemption for us." The work of the priest in Israel was always unfinished: that of Christ was perfect and complete in every respect, and God has received Him in perpetuity in His own holy presence, the holiest of all.

In the type, the high priest brought with him the blood of the sin offering into the holiest, and sprinkled it before the mercy - seat, and upon it. This was necessary, in order to illustrate the fact that it was "by blood" that he had title there. It is of course evident that the actual material blood of Christ was not brought by Him into Heaven. Not "with blood;" but "by His own blood He entered in." That is, the eternal value of His sacrifice gave title to His entering Heaven as Redeemer and High Priest of His people.

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" These formal ordinances accomplished a formal result. "The purifying of the flesh" was merely an outward, public setting apart from the sin for which the sacrifice was offered. The very fact of the sacrifice was a public condemnation of the sin; and the offerer thereby linked himself with the repudiation of the sin, publicly. But there was no vital, eternal value in it.

But a sacrifice of such vital, eternal character as that of the Lord of Glory, must necessarily have vital, eternal results. This is involved strikingly in the expression, "by the eternal Spirit." His was not a sacrifice by formal appointment, but by the voluntary, Divine energy of the Spirit of God. Nor are we to narrow our thoughts so as to think of "the blood of Christ" as merely the material blood which was shed, but rather to consider its deep, precious significance. For it is the sign of His life given up in sacrifice, - offered to God, whose heart takes unutterable delight in the infinite value of this. Well may Peter speak of "the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).

Another matter of consequence is to be observed here. The actual offering of Christ through the eternal Spirit to God is seen in His baptism by John the Baptist, when the Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father's voice bore witness to His pleasure in Him. His baptism was the very figure of the death to which He pledged Himself. But offering Himself then to God, His utter devotion eventually culminated in His being "offered up" at Calvary, His blood shed for us. How fully and blessedly such a sacrifice purges the conscience from dead works (an effect vital and permanent), to energize the soul to serve the living God!

"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Having offered a sacrifice of eternal value, He is therefore necessarily the Mediator of the covenant that displaces the temporary one. Moreover, His death fulfils that which the old covenant demanded: it has satisfied the judgment of God against those sins which the old covenant brought to light. His death therefore is in a very real sense the end of the old covenant. Nothing in the old covenant could possibly provide redemption in regard to the sins it exposed; but it demanded death. Its claims have been met in the death of Christ, and its authority set aside by this great Mediator. He has triumphed in resurrection - a new and eternal condition, which involves a new covenant and introduces the "promise of eternal inheritance."

How much greater is this than anything that Israel has as yet inherited? Again and again has God demonstrated to them that their possession of the land of Israel is far from permanent. Law could not secure it to them. Nor, now that many of them have returned there, will all their political diplomacy and military prowess be sufficient to hold what they have gained. They will yet be more violently oppressed than ever before, their land torn from their hands. But God has decreed that under the new covenant Israel will dwell in peace, in full possession of their inheritance, given them by God's sovereign intervention in power and grace. Above this however, the church has her eternal inheritance "in Christ" and "in the heavenlies," and this perfectly secure now. This is consistent with the New covenant, but not actually a part of it, for we are not in any sense under a covenant, however rightly and greatly we may enjoy the benefits of it.

It is to be remarked also that "covenant" and "testament" are actually the same Greek word, translated in either way. This will give more clear understanding as regards what follows: "For where a testament is, there must be also the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, and water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover, he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without the shedding of blood is no remission."

How perfectly this illustrates the fact of God's foreknowledge that blessing for Israel under the law was impossible, that is blessing promised by the testament of law. The blood, shed at that time, and sprinkled so profusely, really only insisted upon the necessity of death; and being a conditional testament, that is, its blessings conditional upon the obedience of the people to law, then blessing under it was hopeless. Indeed, disobedience demanded the shedding of blood, but blood was shed in the very giving of the law and its ordinances, before ever it brought guilt to light. And every service of the sanctuary was a continual reminder that blood must be shed: there could he no remission without it. Even formal remission, applicable to a public, temporary system of things, demanded the blood of an animal. What then must eternal remission require? The old testament required death, and so must the new. And the new is entirely a testament of Divine character, expressing the will of God. How admirable the truth here: in order to come into force, the death of the testator must take place.

But while law could demand death, it could not provide the death of the great Testator: indeed it only affirmed Him to be the living God, and man rightly under the sentence of death. All was hopeless under this testament. But how marvelous therefore is the new testament, full of unconditional blessing for confessed sinners, because it provides in pure grace the amazing incarnation and matchless death of the Testator Himself, on their behalf. This is what gives it eternal force and value. Only by the great mystery of incarnation - God's being made manifest in flesh - could this wonderful death have taken place, opening the floodgates of Heaven's blessing to unworthy sinners. The New Testament has fullest force on this grand basis of Divine grace. Sad to say, of course, Israel has today refused such grace, and there can be no application of this to that nation until they bow their hearts to acknowledge this blessed Testator who died for them. Meanwhile others, who have received Him, reap the benefits of this testament which was not actually made for them at all, - and thus grace is magnified.

"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Such purification was strictly formal, that is the patterns were purified: all was external. The pattern itself accomplished no actual result, no more than a dress pattern could substitute for the dress itself. But the pattern must illustrate in its measure the form the dress is to take. So the heavenly things must be purified with a sacrifice of vital character, not formal.

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." He is not a formal priest of the line of Aaron performing the daily ritual of an earthly tabernacle, but infinitely above this. He has entered into Heaven itself, the true "Holy of holies," in gracious mediation on behalf of His redeemed people.

"Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year, with the blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Even a casual reader of Hebrews ought not to fail to observe the apostle's insistence upon the fact of Christ's being sufficient and final, in contrast to the repeated offerings of the Old Testament, specifically the sin offering on the great day of atonement. If His sacrifice were comparable to these, then He must offer Himself repeatedly, and with no hope of cessation? But as Hebrew's has so fully illustrated, since He is in Person infinite, therefore His one sacrifice has infinite value, not limited by the greatness of man's sin, nor by the element of time, - that is by the question of whether sins were committed before or after the offering of Himself: its value is all-sufficient. It is the perfect basis for the complete putting away of sin from under Heaven, as will be known in the eternal state; and by it the sins of believers are now put away, through faith in this blessed sacrifice: faith in this way anticipates eternity.

Another expression here must be noticed: "once in the end of the age hath He appeared." The age here is of course the probationary age of Judaism, which made nothing perfect. When all else was proven hopeless, theGreat Creator Himself became Saviour, in one great work of infinite perfection and completeness. Blessed Redeemer indeed! Blessed grace that offered no less than Himself!

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Here is another viewpoint also involved, that since man is appointed to die only once, on account of sin, after which he has an appointment to give an account of his sins, therefore Christ died once, offering Himself for sins, that judgment might be averted for "many," that is believers, for He Himself has borne this judgment fully for them. If it is true that He died for all, yet to "bear the sins of many" is limited to those who in faith receive Him. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12). Thus such grace is available to "all," but applicable only to "many."

The many are of course "them that look for Him." Every true child of God looks for the Lord Jesus to eventually take His rightful place of authority and glory in the universe. All may not have clear thoughts as regards the truth of the coming of the Lord, but all "look for Him." To these He shall appear the second time, apart entirely from any raising of the question of sin. This has been settled long before, and cannot be raised again. Judgment is past, and therefore His coming will be "unto salvation," that is, complete salvation bodily, the believer delivered entirely from the very presence of sin. Wonderful prospect indeed! This is the first part of the second coming, for here He appears only to believers, while later "every eye shall see Him," when He must mete out judgment to those who have refused His blessed mercy.

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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Priesthood of Christ. A. D. 62.

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood and without shedding of blood is no remission.

In these verses the apostle considers the gospel under the notion of a will or testament, the new or last will and testament of Christ, and shows the necessity and efficacy of the blood of Christ to make this testament valid and effectual.

I. The gospel is here considered as a testament, the new and last will and testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is observable that the solemn transactions that pass between God and man are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament. A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties about things that are in their own power, or may be so, and this either with or without a mediator this agreement takes effect at such time and in such manner as therein declared. A testament is a voluntary act and deed of a single person, duly executed and witnessed, bestowing legacies on such legatees as are described and characterized by the testator, and which can only take effect upon his death. Now observe, Christ is the Mediator of a New Testament (Hebrews 9:15) and he is so for several ends and purposes here mentioned. 1. To redeem persons from their transgressions committed against the law or first testament, which makes every transgression a forfeiture of liberty, and makes men debtors, and slaves or prisoners, who need to be redeemed. 2. To qualify all those that are effectually called to receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. These are the great legacies that Christ by his last will and testament has bequeathed to the truly characterized legatees.

II. To make this New Testament effectual, it was necessary that Christ should die the legacies accrue by means of death. This he proves by two arguments:-- 1. From the general nature of every will or testamentary disposition, Hebrews 9:16. Where a testament is, where it acts and operates, there must of necessity by the death of the testator till then the property is still in the testator's hand, and he has power to revoke, cancel, or alter, his will as he pleases so that no estate, no right, is conveyed by will, till the testator's death has made it unalterable and effectual. 2. From the particular method that was taken by Moses in the ratification of the first testament, which was not done without blood, Hebrews 9:18,19, &c. All men by sin had become guilty before God, had forfeited their inheritance, their liberties, and their very lives, into the hands of divine justice but God, being willing to show the greatness of his mercy, proclaimed a covenant of grace, and ordered it to be typically administered under the Old Testament, but not without the blood and life of the creature and God accepted the blood of bulls and goats, as typifying the blood of Christ and by these means the covenant of grace was ratified under the former dispensation. The method taken by Moses, according to the direction he had received from God, is here particularly related (1.) Moses spoke every precept to all the people, according to the law, Hebrews 9:19. He published to them the tenour of the covenant, the duties required, the rewards promised to those who did their duty, and the punishment threatened against the transgressors, and he called for their consent to the terms of the covenant and this in an express manner. (2.) Then he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and applied this blood by sprinkling it. This blood and water signified the blood and water that came out of our Saviour's pierced side, for justification and sanctification, and also shadowed forth the two sacraments of the New Testament, baptism and the Lord's supper, with scarlet wool, signifying the righteousness of Christ with which we must be clothed, the hyssop signifying that faith by which we must apply all. Now with these Moses sprinkled, [1.] The book of the law and covenant, to show that the covenant of grace is confirmed by the blood of Christ and made effectual to our good. [2.] The people, intimating that the shedding of the blood of Christ will be no advantage to us if it be not applied to us. And the sprinkling of both the book and the people signified the mutual consent of both parties, God and man, and their mutual engagements to each other in this covenant through Christ, Moses at the same time using these words, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. This blood, typifying the blood of Christ, is the ratification of the covenant of grace to all true believers. [3.] He sprinkled the tabernacle and all the utensils of it, intimating that all the sacrifices offered up and services performed there were accepted only through the blood of Christ, which procures the remission of that iniquity that cleaves to our holy things, which could not have been remitted but by that atoning blood.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The solemn transactions between God and man, are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament, which is a willing deed of a person, bestowing legacies on such persons as are described, and it only takes effect upon his death. Thus Christ died, not only to obtain the blessings of salvation for us, but to give power to the disposal of them. All, by sin, were become guilty before God, had forfeited every thing that is good; but God, willing to show the greatness of his mercy, proclaimed a covenant of grace. Nothing could be clean to a sinner, not even his religious duties; except as his guilt was done away by the death of a sacrifice, of value sufficient for that end, and unless he continually depended upon it. May we ascribe all real good works to the same all-procuring cause, and offer our spiritual sacrifices as sprinkled with Christ's blood, and so purified from their defilement.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

For where a testament is: for gives the reason of the Mediator’s death, even the putting the called into the possession of the bequeathed inheritance, demonstrated by a common, natural law in all nations of the testament’s effect on the testator’s death; a testament being a disposition by will nuncupative, or written, of either goods or lands, which are the person’s own, to be the right and possession of others after his death, whom he nominateth in it: such in proportion is the new covenant, where God gives freely all spiritual good things with a heavenly inheritance, as legacies to all his called ones in Christ, by this last and best will and testament of his, written in his Scripture instrument, witnessed by the prophets and apostles, sealed by the two sacraments, especially the Lord’s supper, Luke 22:20.

There must also of necessity be the death of the testator; he who maketh a testament by the law of nature, as of nations, must die before the legatees have any profit by the will; the son and heir inherits not but on the father’s death; then is the testament firm and valid, the time being come for the heir’s inheriting, and for the will’s execution, it being now unalterable; the necessity of which is cleared, Hebrews 9:17.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Christ As Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15-17).

As a result of His death for us Christ is now the Mediator of the New Covenant already mentioned (Hebrews 8:8-12). Not only are our sins dealt with but He works in us His perfect work. A mediator is One Who comes on behalf of two parties in order to establish terms with both and arrange all necessary fulfilment of any requirements, in order to bring about between them what is desired. From God’s point of view He recognises the necessity of the shedding of blood for sin, indeed because of His holiness demands it, while from man’s point of view He offers Himself as a sacrifice as representative Man. Having accomplished that He can then arrange a further carrying out of the terms by His Spirit working in our hearts and by His acting in Heaven on our behalf. But first there must be the required shedding of blood.

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Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘For where a covenant-testament (diatheke) is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there has been death, for it never avails while he who made it is alive.’

Thus having brought out that the new covenant was, as far as God is concerned, a ‘covenant-testament’ he stresses again that it was more than a covenant. It was an unconditional God-to-man covenant (diatheke), with God the Benefactor and man the beneficiary, because it referred to what God had covenanted to bring about, and it was a testament (diatheke) because from the very beginning its bringing about was, in God’s purposes, linked to the death of the Covenantor. Such a covenant testament thus necessarily involves the death of the One Who made it, without which it could not come into force.

The further implication here is that God has in the covenant given all things to His Son (John 3:35; John 13:3; John 16:15; John 17:10), Who has therefore become the covenantor as well as the mediator, and that He must die in order for the covenant to come into force because of the special nature of the covenant as a covenant-testament.

This revelation could be expressed in this way because word used for ‘covenant’ in the New Testament (diatheke) regularly means ‘a will’ in popular Greek usage, but was used in LXX to translate God’s ‘covenant’ (berith) with His prospective people. This situation arose because the usual Greek word for covenant (suntheke) rather referred to a covenant between equals, while God’s covenant (diatheke) with His people, was like a will in that it was that of a benefactor to a beneficiary and was initiated solely by God.

However, it was not just a play on the meaning of a word for such a covenant was recognised as regularly accompanied by the symbolised death of one or both of the parties involved, and where a death was not mentioned it would certainly be somewhere in the background (as he will now illustrate). Its fulfilment was totally dependent on His intention that man should benefit through a death (just as a will was an expression of intention). And in this case, because God is unchangeable and the covenant unconditional, it was a binding intention.

So the writer has taken advantage of this dual usage in order to point out that in fact the requirement for a death implicit in the word diatheke emphasises the fact that the new covenant is not only a covenant but a covenant-will, which will be brought into force through death. This is not just clever manoeuvring, a trite play on words. It can be likened to this precisely because it was always God’s necessary intention on making the covenant (the old having been broken) that it would be actioned through death, the death of His own Son through Whom the inheritance was to be passed on. This thus made it a will (but not only a will, for, apart from a deathbed will, a will is revocable), as well as a covenant.

The stress here is thus on what God’sintentionin making the new covenant was from the beginning. It was always His direct intention that the fulfilment of the covenant should be dependent on the death of His appointed Benefactor. Thus it was from the beginning also a special kind of covenant, a covenant-will. The making of the covenant and its being actioned was always in God’s eyes linked to a death, the death of His Son.

He illuminates this further by arguing that where there is a will it is the intention that it will not be enforceable while the testator is alive. So in this case too the application of this solemn covenant-will, made by God, can only take place through Christ’s necessary death, solemnising the covenant and bringing it into effect, making it ‘of force’. The change in illustration is valid in this case because of the intention of the covenantor. It was He Who in His eternal purposes tied His covenant to a death, because He knew that without it the fulfilment could not take place. And that is what is being indicated here.

It would lose its force with an ordinary will-maker who does not choose to die and can withdraw his will. There the will is not a covenant but simply a prospective ‘covenant’. So this case is more like the case of a man who has chosen that he will die or is on the point of death and has made his will accordingly knowing it to be irrevocable. It is a covenant-will. In choosing to make a covenant with man He always recognised that the consequence must be His own death in His Son. It was a covenant of blood.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. It is shown, in a brief digression, that the death of Christ was necessary in order that the new covenant should come into force. An "eternal inheritance"—i.e. an enduring fellowship with God—was promised long ago to God's people; and they could not obtain it under the first covenant, which afforded no real deliverance from sin. Before it could be obtained a death had to take place, so that all the sins of the past might be removed and men might start afresh under a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). Why a death was necessary is explained by the analogy of a will or testament. The Greek word diatheke can mean either a "covenant" or a "will," and the writer avails himself of this double meaning in order to bring out a particular aspect of the death of Christ. For a will to come into effect, the person who made it must die. This was recognised even in the case of the first covenant or "will," which was ratified by the blood of a slain victim, in the solemn manner described in various OT texts (Leviticus 4:4; Numbers 19:6; Numbers 19:17 f.; Exodus 12:12). Everything connected with that first covenant, the Tabernacle and all its furniture, was likewise sprinkled with blood. It may be regarded, indeed, as a fixed principle of the Law that every act which has for its aim the forgiveness of sins must be accompanied with the shedding of blood.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Heb . Good things to come.—Lit. "who procures future blessings"; in the sense of spiritual blessings. Farrar suggests the reading "of the good things that have come." Compare the expressions "last days," "latter days." Tabernacle.—Representing heaven, the spiritual sphere, after the figure of the material tent. Made with hands.—A rhetorical way of showing its distinction from the Jewish tabernacle.

Heb . Neither by the blood, etc.—Referring to the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement. Goats and calves.—A summarising of the victims offered, not a precise detail. Bullocks may be put for calves. His own blood.—As the heavenly sanctuary cannot be thought of as admitting actual blood, that spiritual thing which the blood represented must be meant. What then was that spiritual thing which Christ, as spiritual High Priest, presented, which answers to the symbol of the blood? What is the soul sacrifice that has "blood" for its earthly figure? This is the great question to be solved, if this portion of the epistle is to be understood. "His own blood was the offering by which He was admitted as our High Priest and eternal Redeemer into the Holy of Holies of God's immediate presence." Eternal redemption.—Compare the temporary redemption which was all that the old priest could accomplish. The spiritual is the permanent. Omit the words "for us." The λύτρωσις effected by Christ needs no repetition.

Heb . Ashes, etc.—Num 19:2-9. These were distinctly for purification from ceremonial offences. Flesh.—I.e. from uncleanness according to Mosaic ideas and rules; ritual disabilities.

Heb . How much more.—The form of argument characteristic of this epistle. The argument recalls to mind what has already been said concerning the dignity of the person of Christ. Through the eternal Spirit.—One of the most difficult expressions in the epistle. It may mean either

(1) by the help of the Holy Spirit; or

(2) in an eternal, that is a spiritual, nature or manner; or

(3) by His own Divine nature, i.e. with the full concurrence of His own eternal spirit or will. Ellicott says, "in spirit, in the higher sphere of His Divine life; the πνεῦμα of Christ is not here the Holy Spirit, but the higher principle of spiritual life." Through this spirit, a spirit of holiness, a spirit of indissoluble life, He offered Himself to God. This made such a self-offering possible, this gave to the offering infinite worth. It must refer to Christ's own spirit, the consenting act of His Divine personality. This expression, offered Himself, explains the reference to the blood; the offering of the blood is the figure, the offering of Himself is the fact. Without spot.— ἄμωμον, with allusion to the ground of acceptance for Jewish victims. Christ's offering of Himself, if it had been that of a stained sinner, could not have been acceptable. Spotless, it could be representative. Dead works.—The term "dead" is used because the ashes, referred to above, cleansed those who were made unclean by contact with the dead. "Dead works" may mean generally sinful works, since it is from the pollution as well as the penalty of sin that Christ's offering of Himself delivers and cleanses.

Heb .—The writer now proceeds to show that this real sacrifice of Christ was the medium through which full forgiveness and personal acceptance were vouchsafed under the old covenant. "The doctrine of Heb 9:15; Heb 9:26, together with the passage Rom 3:25-26, is clear and conclusive to the point, that from the fall of Adam to the end of time the way of salvation is one, viz. God's free grace manifested through the Redeemer's self-sacrifice, responded to by the thankful trust of the sinner in undeserved Divine mercy, and in the medium of that mercy according to the degree of its revelation." Stuart gives the sentiment of this verse thus: "As Jewish sacrifices rendered the offerer externally clean, so the blood of Christ purifies the moral or internal man, and removes the consequences of sin. On this account ( διὰ τοῦτο), i.e. because the sacrifice of Christ produces an effect such as the Jewish sacrifices did not, He may justly be called the ‘Mediator of a new covenant,' differing greatly from the old." For this cause.—Either "on account of the grandeur of His offering," or "as bearing relation to conscience" (see Heb 9:14). New testament.—The Greek word is "covenant," διαθήκη; testament is the confusing translation of the A.V.; in the R.V. the word "covenant" is restored. For mediator with idea of "negotiator," see Moses (Gal 3:19). The idea expressed is, that this new covenant is retrospective as well as prospective, and is the explanation of the spiritual relationship with God that could be attained under the old, and preparatory, and formal covenant. The new covenant, in fact, underlay, and was involved in, the old covenant. That was indeed such an expression of it as was possible in the age to which it was given. By means of death.—Christ's surrender of Himself in death. In the light of it as the covenant acceptance and seal. Redemption, etc.—Those spiritual transgressions (including penalties) which the old covenant did not touch; concerning them God promised forgiveness on the condition of Christ's obedience. When that obedience was rendered the promise was actually fulfilled. They which are called.—The Scripture figure for the sincerely believing and pious. Eternal.—Equivalent to "spiritual," which includes that idea of permanence. Inheritance.—Stuart renders "blessings"; "proffered good." Compare Heb 3:1, "partakers of a heavenly calling." Farrar renders "eternal heritage."

Heb . Testament.— διαθήκη. Here rhetorically used in its Greek and Roman sense of "a will," the idea being suggested by the mention of the "inheritance" (Heb 9:15), and of the necessity of a "death." The covenant ratified by the death of Christ is compared with a testament proved valid, and rendered operative, by the death of the testator. But the argument is rhetorical rather than logical. Death of the testator.—It lies over as a promise, but the testator's death alone gives possession. Of force.—Comes into power and operation. It is an inoperative thing, a mere promise through all the long ages, until Christ's death brings it into operation. This is one view of the death of Christ, but it appeals much more forcibly to Jewish minds than to ours.


The High Priest of Spiritual Things.—The greater involves the less. If it can be shown that Christ has gained for a man a right of free personal access to God Himself, it is involved that He has gained for him the right to offer his worship himself. If He has opened the way into the Holy of Holies, He must have opened the way into the Holy Place. This explains why the writer carries his reference to the Holy Place no further, but fixes attention on the Most Holy. Recall the symbolical ceremonies of the Day of Atonement.

1. The attention of the priest to personal cleanliness and suitable clothing.

2. The sacrificial ceremonies by means of which he gained personal acceptance with God, before undertaking to represent anybody else.

3. The precise acts associated with his passing, as standing for the people, into the presence of Jehovah.

(1) Taking the golden censer out;

(2) putting in it live coals;

(3) dropping on the coals the handful of incense, just as he took the veil aside;

(4) sprinkling the blood of the goat on the mercy-seat;

(5) waiting, anxiously watching for, the sign of Divine acceptance;

(6) coming forth to declare unto the people the Divine forgiveness and favour. But notice that, when he came forth, he closed the veil behind him, and it remained closed for another year. Now see resemblances and differences between the work of the old high priest of symbols, and the new High Priest of spiritual realities.

I. Christ, as High Priest, entered the spiritual Holy of Holies.—The spiritual counterpart of that material chamber. By the spiritual presence of God we mean that presence which we, as spirits, may realise in a spiritual way. Direct access of spirit to spirit. In using the term "heavenly," there is some danger of our making material figures in our minds of the eternal abode of the Eternal. God is a spirit. His heaven is spiritual. And it is the loss of free spiritual access to the spiritual God which is man's supreme loss; and it is that lost access which Christ set Himself to restore. Man's humanity, as the medium of his sin, is the veil which shuts him out of the spiritual Holy of Holies, even as the gates and the cherubim shut our first parents out of Eden. Christ entered through the veil, "His flesh," by winning His humanity wholly for God, and because of His sinlessness He could go right in; there was no hindering veil of a sinful body.

II. Christ, as High Priest, took in His own spiritual blood.—The figure is taken from the blood of the goat which the high priest took in, but we must see the spiritual thing which the figure symbolised. And the blood that Jesus took was His own life. "The blood is the life." In Heb it is precisely explained for us. He "offered Himself without spot to God." He had fully won His body and His earthly life for God. And now He gave Himself,—sinless body, obedient will, devoted self—Priest and sacrifice: Himself, as it were, the old high priest; and Himself, as it were, the blood which the old high priest took.

III. Christ, as High Priest, gained spiritual rights and privileges for us.—

1. Rights of free, open, permanent access to God. Our being human, and having these sin-experienced human bodies, no longer makes a veil hiding God away, for any of us whose wills are renewed and made as Christ's. His representative body-triumph stands for us; and the veil is gone for us, as it was for Him, and we have "boldness of access."

2. Privileges of cleansed consciences. Relief from that sense of constraint to sin which distresses every man so long as his will is unrenewed. Jewish ceremonies brought removal of certain penalties of sins. Christ by His sacrifice and mediation brings deliverance from the sinfulness which works out into sins.

3. Privileges and rights of a new and spiritual covenant; which pledges, on God's part, spiritual power for maintaining spiritual life; and, on man's part, spiritual service, the constant holding of himself as a "living sacrifice" unto God. And these rights and privileges are kept up for us by the abiding presence of our High Priest in the heavenly Holy of Holies, where He is with His blood, Himself, fully surrendered to God in our name, and as our pledge.


Heb . The Greater Tabernacle.—The tabernacle of old was the dwelling of God in the midst of His people: "Let them make Me a sanctuary where I may dwell among them"; "I will set My tabernacle among you and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people" (Exo 25:8; Lev 26:11-12). Whatever other thoughts, therefore, the tabernacle may have suggested, this was its first and most important aspect; and it need only further be observed that, when it is spoken of as the dwelling-place of God, it is of God, not in His abstract Being, but as He makes Himself known to, as He comes into contact with, us. It is not a model upon a small scale of the universe, as if He of whom Solomon at the dedication of the Temple sublimely said, "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee," desired an earthly representation of His boundless abode. We have to do with God in the relation in which He stands to man. Of that relation as it existed toward Israel the σκηνή was a type. Yet, further, the other name by which the structure was known, and which is even more frequently given it than that of tabernacle, has to, be taken into account. It was the "tent of meeting," words unhappily rendered in the A.V., though corrected in the R.V., the "tabernacle of the congregation"; and it received this name because there God met with Israel. "This," it is said, "shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations at the door of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there will I meet with the children of Israel" (Exo 29:42-43). This, then, was the meaning of the tabernacle. It was the place in which God dwelt, and at which He met with His people, and they with Him. It had relation to the Almighty, not as the Ruler of the universe, but as One who desired to bring His children nearer to Himself, that they might be sanctified for His service, and be made to rejoice in His favour. It spoke to man, not as a creature to be bowed down beneath the thought of infinite power, but to be elevated to communion and fellowship with that holy yet merciful Being who had formed him to show forth His praise, and to find in doing so his true dignity and joy. If this was the meaning of the tabernacle to Israel, there can be no doubt as to what is expressed by the word when filled with Christian thought. Christ Himself is the Christian tabernacle. In Him the Father dwells with men, meets with them, and makes Himself in ever-increasing measure known to them. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father"; "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also" (Joh 14:9; Joh 8:19). It ought to be unnecessary to remind the reader that this idea of meeting God, of His drawing nigh on His side to us, and of our drawing nigh to Him, is the distinguishing feature of the Christian dispensation, and that it is dwelt upon with remarkable frequency and emphasis in the epistle to the Hebrews. Putting these considerations together, we appear to be justified in coming to the conclusion that by "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" we are to understand the human nature of our Lord, or our Lord in His incarnate state; and the only question comes to be, whether we are to think simply of His humanity, as it was on earth, or (with Hofmann) of that humanity as it exists in its glorified state in heaven. There is little room for hesitation as to the answer. That the writer of this epistle could never have spoken of the earthly body of Christ as "not made with hands—that is to say, not of this creation"—is clear from the statement of Heb 10:20, where he refers to "the new and living way which Jesus has dedicated for us through the veil—that is to say, His flesh"—words founded upon that rending asunder of the veil of the Temple at the Crucifixion, by which the veil was not so much opened as abrogated and thrown aside—words also in which it is not without interest to notice that the human name "Jesus" is used, not, as now, the higher name "Christ." The "flesh" of our Lord, then, i.e. His humanity under its earthly conditions and limitations, was in like manner something, so far at least as these conditions were concerned, which needed to be thrown aside, something not spiritual, heavenly, and unlimited, and of which we give a true description when we say that it was "of this creation." It was a body of flesh, and what the writer understands by that word we see from his use, in Heb 7:16, of the word σάρκινος, made of flesh (not σαρκικός, fleshly), when he employs it to express the character of that Old Testament dispensation which had been superseded by the higher, to which Christ belonged. Nor is this all: for throughout his epistle the redeeming work of our Lord is conceived of as that not of an earthly, but of a heavenly High Priest, and the writer would certainly not depart from that conception at the moment when he is contrasting the very essence of Christ's work with that of the high priest of Israel. Once admit, therefore, that the "greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands—that is to say, not of this creation"—is the incarnate Lord, and it is impossible to pause there. We must also admit that it is that Lord in His human nature exalted and glorified. In the nature which He possessed, when He returned, after His resurrection and ascension, to His Father in heaven, He carries out the great work of bringing God and man into perfect union and communion with one another. In the glorified Redeemer God and man have their true and everlasting meeting-place.—Prof. W. Milligan.

Heb . The Offering of Himself.—Our Lord's death was a voluntary offering, a sacrifice, a sacrifice of Himself. But the word "sacrifice," and the associations of the text, bring up before us the Jewish tabernacle and ritual. We see the smoking altars, the slain beasts, the waiting worshippers. And it must be with the imagery of these altar forms in our minds that we approach the consideration of the "self-offering" of Christ. But it is evident that our Lord's death was not a sacrifice after the precise Jewish pattern. We visit Calvary on that ever-memor able day, and we say, Where is the Temple? Where is the altar? Where are the officiating priests? Where is the flowing blood? Where is the floating incense? We can find none of them. In the outward seeming there is no sacrifice here. That prætorium, this knoll, are no temples. That howling mob was no devout company of worshippers. Pilate was no priest. The cross is no altar. At first we are bewildered, and it is only as we search deeper that we recover our confidence, and find that within this strange appearance there is the great spiritual reality of sacrifice. In expecting Christ's sacrifice to answer precisely to the Jewish model we have mistaken the proper relations of "type" and "antitype." A type is a representation, taking some material form, for an earlier and undeveloped age, of some spiritual thing, which is to be afterwards realised as antitpye. The type and antitype cannot be of the same material and form. A picture may be the type of a man, but the man differs from the picture. Earth is the type of heaven, but we may not therefore conclude that in everything heaven is like earth; it is the spiritual realisation of the type. Properly a type is the representation, in other forms and modes, of some spiritual reality which either cannot get outward expression at all, or only in modes which could not be understood when the type was given. In treating of Christ's sacrifice as the antitype to which the Jewish typical sacrifices pointed, we have not perhaps made due account of this fact: the sacrifice of Judaism was a pictured material representation; the sacrifice of Christ is an inward spiritual reality. The type was a kind of drama, wrought out with scenes and representative figures. The antitype was the very life-story itself, wrought out in mental agony, and soul-struggling; and ending in sublime moral victory. We ought not, therefore, to seek any precise reproduction of the Jewish altar-forms in connection with the antitypical and spiritual sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

I. Christ's offering was a sacrifice.—The pious Jew sought to offer a spiritual sacrifice by means of the victim he brought in accordance with Mosaic rules. And though the days of Judaism are long past, and no altars smoke with burning victims now, it is as possible as it ever was for true hearts to make oblation of themselves to God; and when we say that the death of Christ was a sacrifice, we mean that it was such a sacrifice as a man may make, not merely such a special and peculiar sacrifice as only a Jew may make. As the Jew brought his very costliest and best, and surrendered it wholly to God in testimony that he held all he was and all he had as God's and for Him, so Christ brought Himself, He had nothing, so He brought all He was, and surrendered it wholly, "a living sacrifice"—devoted Himself to the obedience of the will of God.

II. Christ's offering was a self-sacrifice.—The only true sacrifice is self-sacrifice. No gift reaches the dignity of a sacrifice until, to give it, a man has deprived himself, given up his own will and pleasure. Every human gift is measured by the self-sacrifice in it. No redemptions can ever come out of the mere giving of things. But even upon God a kind of power may be gained by self-sacrifice. Mere gifts of things may become acceptable, and even propitiatory, when they serve to express devotion and self-sacrifice. If a man can suffer for God, can give up for God, can die for God, putting his inmost soul to agony in order to do the will and accomplish the purpose of God, he gains, as it were, a kind of holy moral power with God. And how will this kind of power be increased when it is the self-sacrifice of the only begotten Son, for the sake of the honour of the eternal Father?

III. Christ's offering was a spotless self-sacrifice.—In the preceding chapter the sinlessness of Christ has been treated. The sacrifices of Judaism had to be "without blemish." A perfect service God demands of every creature He has made. Not an absolutely, only a relatively, perfect service. From a man God asks the full devotion and sacrifice of all that belongs to his manhood. The claim is just and good; but man, by his wilfulness, has rendered himself incapable of meeting it. Jesus Christ, as man, brings the proof that man can meet God's claim. He lifts up into view the great law of our life, and shows it to be "holy, and just, and good." He submitted to human conditions, and in them worked out a perfect obedience, presenting himself to God as a man without spot. In Him God accepted what He had vainly sought for through all the generations of humanity—the perfect, spotless obedience and service of a man. The perfectness of Christ's sacrifice was the ennobling of the human race. It lifted its burden, and gave it hope. To the view of God it was a salvation for the race.

IV. Christ's offering was a spotless self-sacrifice on behalf of others.—Christ is our Representative, our Vicar. As Adam dealt with God for the human race, not instead of it, in the first great moral trial, carrying weaknesses and moral evils to the race in his failure, so Christ, as the second Adam, dealt with God for the race in the second great moral trial, carrying salvation, forgiveness, life, and hope to the race by His spotless obedience unto, and through, death. Christ's righteousness does not supersede ours; it involves, and demands, and pledges ours. His sacrifice was not made in order that we might never have to make any; but He, in fulness, offered what we, in our measure, also should offer. And in acknowledging Christ's offering as ours we declare ourselves to be not our own, and we testify our determination to strive also to offer ourselves without spot to God. "Real human life is a perpetual completion and repetition of the sacrifice of Christ,"

Christ's Eternal Spirit.—This fact must be fully faced—there is no instance, in the New Testament, in which the Holy Ghost is spoken of as the "eternal Spirit." The assumption therefore is, that the Holy Ghost is not referred to in this verse. Moreover, this writer uses the term "Holy Ghost" (Heb ; Heb 3:7; Heb 4:4; Heb 9:8; Heb 10:15); and if on one occasion he uses another term, the assumption is that he had in his mind another idea. It may also be shown that there was nothing to suggest the Holy Ghost to the writer at this point. He was dealing with Christ's voluntary offering of Himself to God. His own will, His own spirit, inspired the surrender, and made it so infinitely acceptable. It was the real, genuine, willing, entire devotion of a man's self to God in obedience and submission; and this was the representative Man. If the Holy Ghost, conceived in any sense as separate from Christ, really inspired our Lord's surrender, then it was not, genuinely and simply, Christ's offering of Himself. The real merit of the offering belongs to the Holy Ghost who inspired it, not to Jesus—the Man Christ Jesus—who made it. We cannot use the term "spiritual spirit," though that might best convey the idea that is in the term "eternal spirit." We may say "Divine spirit"—the holy will and resolve of a Divine Being. So understanding the term, the point of the writer's reference to it comes fully into view. "By His own spirit—by that burning love which proceeded from His own spirit." Moses Stuart translates, "in an eternal spiritual nature"; and he explains thus: "It is in the heavenly world, in the tabernacle not made with hands, that the offering of our great High Priest is made. There He has presented Himself, in His heavenly or glorified state, in His eternal spiritual condition, or possessed of an eternal spiritual nature." Dr. Moulton says: "For the opinion that the reference is to the Holy Spirit there seems to be no foundation in the usage of the New Testament, and it is not indicated by anything in the context. The explanation of the words must rather be sought in the nature of our Lord, or in some attribute of that nature. The πνεῦμα of Christ is not the Holy Spirit, but the higher principle of spiritual life, which was not the Divinity (this would be an Apollinarian assertion), but especially and intimately united with it."

Heb . The Old and the New.—It was a part of the mission of the apostles not to transfer the allegiance of the Jews from one God to another, but to teach them how to serve the same God in a higher dispensation, under a noble disclosure of His character and attributes by new and better methods. The Old was good; the New was better. We could scarcely conceive of Christianity as a system developed in this world, if it had not been preceded by the Mosaic economy. The Old was local and national in its prime intents and in its results. The New was for all ages. The Old was a system of practices; the New is a system of principles. The Old built men for this world. Therefore it hardly looked beyond this world. The whole force of the New is derived from its supereminent doctrine of the future. The Old addressed the conscience through fear. The New aims at the very springs of moral power in the soul, and that through love. The Old sought to build up around the man physical helps. It was a system of crutches and canes. The New strikes straight for character, by the force of a man's own will. The Old Testament was not wholly without its natural religion. To the Hebrew mind nature was one vast symbolism. With a far lower aim in character, the Old kept men in bondage. With immeasurably higher aim and larger requisition, the New yields liberty. The Old was a dispensation of secular morals. It lived in the past. The New is a system of aspiration. It lives in the future. The Old was a system in which men remembered; the New is a system in which men aspire. The Old Testament was God hidden; the New Testament is God made known through Jesus Christ—a living force. We are the children of the New Testament, and not of the Old. Woe be to us if, living in these latter days, we find ourselves groping in the imperfections of the Old Testament, instead of springing up with all the vitality and supereminent manhood which belongs to the New Testament! We are the children of a living Saviour. To be a disciple of the New Testament is to have a living Head. It is to have a vital connection with that Head. It is to be conscious, while all nature speaks of God, and while all the exercises of religion assist indirectly, that the main power of a true religion in the soul is the soul's connection with a living God. Let your life mount up toward God.—H. Ward Beecher.

Redemption through Death.—Read "that, death having taken place for redemption from the transgressions," etc. The first covenant had been broken by "transgressions": unless there be redemption from these—that is, from the bondage of penalty which has resulted from these—there can be no promise, and no new covenant. In respect of this bondage, this penalty, the death of Christ was a ransom—an offering to God looked at in the light of a payment in the place of debt, service, or penalty due. When debt and payment are changed into the corresponding ideas of sin and punishment, the ransom gives place to the sin-offering, of which the principle was the acknowledgment of death deserved, and the vicarious suffering of death. So far our thought has rested on the removal of the results of the past. The covenant and the promise relate to the establishment of the better future. Death was necessary alike for both. "The offering of Christ's life (Mat ) was a ransom or an offering for sin; it was also a sacrifice inaugurating a new covenant, which contained the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Dr. Moulton). It will be seen that this is a setting of truth designed to meet the ideas and associations of Jews, who would want to be assured that every obligation of the old covenant had been fully and honourably met. What precisely does the term "ransom" teach us when applied to the death of Christ? This much at least: that the death of Jesus, voluntarily endured, is somehow the means of delivering from death the souls of the many; He died, that they might live; He died willingly, because He believed that thereby He could render this service. This much, and perhaps not much more. How the death of the Son of man brings life to others, and whether the life thus procured could not be obtained in any other way, does not appear. We may have recourse to the sacrificial system in search of the needful supplementary explanations.—Dr. A. B. Bruce.

Heb . The Ratification of God's Covenant.—For "testator," R.V. reads "Him that made it." Doddridge has paraphrased thus: "For where a covenant is, it necessarily imports the death of that by which the covenant is confirmed: since sacrificial rites have ever attended the most celebrated covenants which God hath made with man, so that a covenant is confirmed over the dead." And it is evident from the line of reasoning which the author of the epistle follows, that if διαθήκη is to be taken as equivalent to "covenant," then the death of the pacifier, or confirming instrument, is implied. Parkhurst and others suggest that "institution," or "dispensation," gives greater force, and is a just rendering. And though the idea of a will or testamentary document (as given in our A.V.) seems to fit in with Heb 9:16-17, there is much difficulty in harmonising it with the whole passage.


Heb . Philo's Divine Spirit.—Professor Bruce aptly illustrates this passage by a citation from Philo. The question in the verse is this—How should the blood of Christ have so unlimited value as compared with that of bulls and goats? The reply is found in the phrase "by an eternal spirit." Philo in one place says that a man has two souls: the blood, the soul of the man as a whole; the Divine spirit, the soul of his higher nature. "We may conceive our author as consciously or unconsciously re-echoing the sentiment, and saying: ‘Yes, the blood, according to the Scriptures, is the soul of a living animal, and in the blood of the slain victim its soul or life was presented as an offering to God by the officiating priest. But in connection with the sacrifice of Christ, we must think of the higher human soul, the Divine spirit. It was as a spirit He offered Himself, as a self-conscious, free, moral personality; and His offering was a spirit revealed through a never-to-be-forgotten act of self-surrender, not the literal blood shed on Calvary, which in itself possessed no more intrinsic value than the blood of Levitical victims.'"

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(15) And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (16) For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (17) For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (18) Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. (19) For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, (20) Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. (21) Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. (22) And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (23) It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

We enter at the first of these verses, on a most interesting subject, in which Christ is considered, as the Testator of all the blessings, purchased by him in the Covenant, for his people; and the Testament he hath made, in the blessings Covenanted for, of grace here, and glory forever. I beg the Reader to attend to the subject, with that attention its importance demands. Christ hath made his Testament or Will in which all the several legacies are mentioned, in relation to temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings; the things themselves are registered in the word of God; the blood of Christ is said to be the purchase; God the Father is pledged for the performance by word and oath, and is a party witness to the great transaction; and God the Spirit hath sealed the writings with his broad seal of heaven, in the charter of grace. So that it hath every confirmation to make it sure and binding.

But as all testamentary writings become of force after men are dead, and are of no value before, Christ the Testator to his Will, dies also, to give efficacy to his. And as Christ is both the Testator, Administrator, and Executor of his own will; it became necessary that he should arise from the dead, and enter into glory, that he might pay all the legacies himself; with his own hand. This was strikingly set forth, under the law, by the shedding of blood; to intimate the Covenant or Testament being confirmed; and by the sprinkling the blood, to intimate the application. Indeed here were four distinct services, in the Old Testament dispensation of shedding of blood, as one alone could not have set forth in shadowy representations, those several grand and momentous truths, in the death of Christ. The first was that of the Passover, Ex 12, teaching, that Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us, to deliver from the wrath to come, 1 Thessalonians 1:10. But the Church of Christ, when in the Adam-state of a fallen nature, needed somewhat more than a deliverance from wrath; and therefore the atonement of sin, became the second, and which was also shadowed out, in the great day of the sin offering, Le 16. Here was shewn, how the Church being delivered from wrath, was also brought into a state of reconciliation, and favor, by the offering of the body of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:21. But we must not stop here. For even a deliverance from wrath, and an atonement for sin, to bring into reconciliation and favor, need also, a qualification in the Lord's people, to partake of those rich mercies. Our souls, while unregenerated by the Holy Spirit, and on sanctified in the Adam-nature, are not made meet partakers, of the saints in light. Hence, a third service, in the Jewish Church, typified the great blessings, to be enjoyed from the Lord Jesus in the Christian; and by the service of the slaying of one bird, and the flying away of another in the air, was set forth, Christ giving himself for his Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water, by the word, and to present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And thus Christ was set forth, by the sacrifice of the one bird that was killed over the running water; and the Lord's entrance into heaven, in his own blood was also represented by the other bird being sprinkled with blood, and being let loose in the open field. Compare Leviticus 14:6-7 with Ephesians 5:26-27. And, lastly, as a ratification of the whole, this of the Testament, as here set forth, is in conformity to the Lord's appointment under the law, Exodus 24:8.

I will only detain the Reader, with a short observation on this whole passage, just to remark, that if the Lord Jesus Christ, thus died, to confirm and make sure, all his testamentary gifts to his Church and people, how necessary it must be, for every one of his redeemed ones, to prove their relationship to Christ, by which alone they can lay claim to all the blessings of the Covenant. When Christ was in the full prospect of death, he instituted the Holy Supper, as a memorial to be observed, by his people forever. And, as he delivered them the sacred Cup, he said; This cup is the new testament in my blood. Take this, and divide it among yourselves. Luke 22:17; Luk_22:19. Nothing could more strikingly illustrate, than the original institution of Moses sprinkling the book, and the people, in the Old Testament dispensation, was, in direct allusion, to this of Christ in the New, for Jesus hath nearly made use of the same words, verse 20. It will be our mercy, if we can prove our heir-ship in Christ, and our relationship to Christ, for then, all the legacies Jesus hath left his Church are our own. Reader! see to it, that as the Apostle saith, you make your calling and election sure; for so all temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings, are in Christ, and from Christ, and an entrance shall be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 1:10-11.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

People's New Testament

For where a testament is. An inheritance has just been spoken of (Hebrews 9:15). That suggests a last will and testament, one meaning of the Greek word {diatheekee} used in Hebrews 9:15. A testament has no force until the testator is dead.

Is of force after men are dead. As soon as a man dies, his last will and testament comes into force, but has no force whatever while he lives. The application of this is that Christ's testament, the new covenant, came into force when he died. The old covenant was in force to the cross; it was then "nailed to the cross," and Christ having died, the New Testament came into force. It has been urged against this view that the making of wills was not a custom of Israel. It was, however the custom of the whole Roman Empire, and Judea was now a Roman province. The Roman customs had made provinces of the empire familiar with the use of wills.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "People's New Testament". 1891.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 9:16-17. For where a testament is — That is, where there is a covenant, which is also a testament; there must of necessity be the death of the testator — As if he had said, The reason why there was a necessity that Christ should die, is taken from the nature of the covenant whereof he is Mediator, which covenant is also a testament, and therefore could not be of force but by his death. For a testament is of force — Has validity; after men are dead — When, and not before, the legatees may claim their legacies. Otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth — And therefore hath power to alter his will at pleasure. But it is not necessary that the expression του διαθεμενου, at the end of Hebrews 9:16, should signify a testator, properly so called: it may mean only a promiser, and one that confirms his promise with his own blood. For διατιθημι, according to Phavorinus, is, I promise, I covenant; and διατιθεσθαι διαθηκην is very commonly in profane authors, to enter into covenant; and in the same sense the phrase is used in the Old Testament; and therefore the participle διαθεμενος, derived from the same verb, must probably have the same signification here, in which it is continually used by the LXX., and which it always bears in the New Testament. Thus, Acts 3:25, Ye are the children, διαθηκης ης διεθετο, of the covenant which God made with our fathers; Luke 22:29; καγω διατιθεμαι υμιν, and I appoint to you a kingdom, καθως διεθετο, as my Father hath appointed to me. So in this epistle, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16, αυτη η διαθηκη ην διαθησομαι, This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel. And because covenants were usually made victimas cædendo, by sacrifices, as the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin expressions used in the making of covenants show; accordingly, the new covenant was established in the blood of Jesus. Hence the apostle speaks thus of this covenant, and the appointed disposer or maker of it. This sense of the passage is defended at large by Dr. Macknight, in a note too long to be here quoted. His paraphrase on it is as follows: “And for this reason, that the death of Christ is so efficacious, [namely, as is set forth in Hebrews 9:13-14,] of the new covenant he is the Mediator, or High-Priest, by whom its blessings are dispensed; and also the sacrifice by which it is procured and ratified; that his death being accomplished for obtaining the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant, believers of all ages and nations, as the called seed of Abraham, (Romans 8:28,) may receive the promised eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is made by sacrifice, there is a necessity that the death of the appointed sacrifice be produced. For — According to the practice of God and man; a covenant is made firm over dead sacrifices, seeing it never hath force while the goat, calf, or bullock, appointed as the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. Because from the beginning God ratified his covenant by sacrifice, to preserve among men the expectation of the sacrifice of his Son; hence not even the covenant of Sinai was made without sacrifice.”

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A testament (διατηκηdiathēkē). The same word occurs for covenant (Hebrews 9:15) and will (Hebrews 9:16). This double sense of the word is played upon also by Paul in Galatians 3:15. We say today “The New Testament” (Novum Testamentum) rather than “ The New Covenant.” Both terms are pertinent.

That made it (του διατεμενουtou diathemenou). Genitive of the articular second aorist middle participle of διατιτημιdiatithēmi from which διατηκηdiathēkē comes. The notion of will here falls in with κληρονομιαklēronomia (inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4) as well as with τανατοςthanatos (death).

Of force
(βεβαιαbebaia). Stable, firm as in Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14.

Where there hath been death
(επι νεκροιςepi nekrois). “In the case of dead people.” A will is only operative then.

For doth it ever avail while he that made it liveth?
(επει μη ποτε ισχυει οτε ζηι ο διατεμενοσepei mē pote ischuei hote zēi ho diathemenos). This is a possible punctuation with μη ποτεmē pote in a question (John 7:26). Without the question mark, it is a positive statement of fact. Aleph and D read τοτεtote (then) instead of ποτεpote The use of μηmē in a causal sentence is allowable (John 3:18, οτι μηhoti mē).

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 9:16. And it is a covenant—with all the requisite validity. For where a covenant is, there must also be (brought in—or, there is necessarily implied) the death of the covenanting victim.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

An external sanctuary, a material structure, and therefore belonging to this world.

Hebrews 9:2. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread: which is called the sanctuary.

Or, “the Holy Place.”

Hebrews 9:3-8. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the Second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

Notice especially those words, “Not without blood.” There could be no approach to God under the old dispensation without the shedding of blood, and there is no access to the Lord now without the precious blood of Christ.

Hebrews 9:9-22. Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testators. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

That is the great gospel truth that was set forth by all the sacrifices under the law: “without shedding of blood is no remission.”

This exposition consisted of readings from Leviticus 16:1-31; And Hebrews 9:1-22.

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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Hebrews 9:1. Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

That is to say, a material sanctuary, a sanctuary made out of such things as this world contains. Under the old covenant, there were certain outward symbols. Under the new covenant, we have not the symbols, but we have the substance itself. The old law dealt with types and shadows, but the gospel deals with the spiritual realities themselves.

Hebrews 9:2-3. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

All this was by divine appointment; the form of the rooms, the style of the furniture, everything was ordained of God; and that not merely for ornament, but for purposes of instruction. As we shall see farther on, the Holy Ghost intended a significance, a teaching, a meaning, about everything in the old tabernacle, whether it was a candlestick, or a table, or the shewbread.

Hebrews 9:4-5. Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

It would not have been to the point which the apostle had in hand, so he waived the explanation of those things for another time.

Hebrews 9:6-8. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying,

It is from this sentence that I am sure that the Holy Ghost had a signification, a meaning, a teaching, for every item of the ancient tabernacle and temple; and we are not spinning fancies out of idle brains when we interpret these types, and learn from them important gospel lessons. “The Holy Ghost this signifying,”-

Hebrews 9:8. That the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

It was necessary that you should take away the sacred tent, the tabernacle, ay, and take away the temple, too, before you could learn the spiritual meaning of them. You must break the shell to get at the kernel. So God had ordained. Hence, there is now no tabernacle, no temple, no holy court, no inner shrine, the holy of holies. The material worship is done away with, in order that we may render the spiritual worship of which the material was but the type.

Hebrews 9:9. Which was a figure for the time then present,

Only a figure, and only meant for “the time then present.” It was the childhood of the Lord’s people; it was a time when, as yet, the light had not fully broken in upon spiritual eyes, so they must be taught by picture-books. They must have a kind of Kindergarten for the little children, that they might learn the elements of the faith by the symbols, types, and representations of a material worship. When we come into the true gospel light, all that is done away with; it was only “a figure for the time then present.”

Hebrews 9:9. In which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

All these rites could only give a fleshly purity, but they could not touch the conscience. If men saw what was meant by the outward type, then the conscience was appeased; but by the outward sign itself the conscience was never comforted, if it was a living and lowly conscience.

Hebrews 9:10. Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

These ordinances were only laid upon the Jews-not upon any other people-and only laid upon them until the better and brighter days of reformation and fuller illumination.

Hebrews 9:11. But Christ-Oh,

how we seem to rise when we begin to get near to Him, away from the high priests of the Jews! “But Christ”-

Hebrews 9:12. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

The Jewish high priests went once a year into the Holy of Holies. Each year as it came round demanded that they should go again. Their work was never done; but “He entered in once,” and only once, “into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” I love that expression, “eternal redemption”-a redemption which really does redeem, and redeems forever and ever. If you are redeemed by it, you cannot be lost; if this redemption be yours, it is not for a time, or for a season, but it is “eternal redemption.” Oh, how you ought to rejoice in the one entrance within the veil by our great High Priest who has obtained eternal redemption for us!

Hebrews 9:13-15. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

When you come to deal with Christ, you have to do with eternal things. There is nothing temporary about Him, or about His work. It is “eternal redemption” that He has obtained for us, it is an “eternal inheritance” that He has purchased for us.

Hebrews 9:16-17. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Or, “Where a covenant is, there must also be the death of him who covenants, or of that by which the covenant is established.” Or read it as we have it in our version, for it seems as if it must be so, although we are loathe to give the meaning of “testament” to the word, since its natural meaning is evidently covenant: “Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth”; or, if you will, while the victim that was to confirm the covenant lived, the covenant was not ratified; it must be slain before it could be thus effective.

Hebrews 9:18-22. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

There is no truth more plain than this in the whole of the Old Testament; and it must have within it a very weighty lesson to our souls. There are some who cannot endure the doctrine of a substitutionary atonement. Let them beware lest they be casting away the very soul and essence of the gospel. It is evident that the sacrifice of Christ was intended to give ease to the conscience, for we read that the blood of bulls and of goats could not do that. I fail to see how any doctrine of atonement except the doctrine of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ can give ease to the guilty conscience. Christ in my stead suffering the penalty of my sin-that pacifies my conscience, but nothing else does: “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”

Hebrews 9:23. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these;

These things down below are only the patterns, the models, the symbols of the heavenly things; they could therefore be ceremonially purified with the blood which is the symbol of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Hebrews 9:23-24. But the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

He never went within the veil in the Jewish temple; that was but the symbol of the true holy of holies. He has gone “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

Hebrews 9:25-28. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;

There is no need that He should die again, His one offering has forever perfected all His people. There remains nothing but His final coming for the judgment of the ungodly, and the acquittal of His redeemed.

Hebrews 9:28. And unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Christ’s second coming will be “without sin,” and without a sin offering, too, wholly apart from sin, unto the salvation of all His chosen. May we all be amongst those who are looking for Him! Amen.

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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

The Biblical Illustrator

Hebrews 9:15-28

Mediator of the new testament

The two mediators:


1. Both of Divine appointment.

2. Both give to the world the notion of a covenant with God.

3. Both proposed a covenant that was fundamentally the same.


1. There is a difference of natures.

2. Jesus is a Mediator with individuals.

3. Jesus is a Mediator giving to man the fullest possible knowledge of God.

4. Jesus is a Mediator giving to man sufficiency of power. (D. Young, B. A.)

The old and the new

It was a part of the mission of the apostles not to transfer the allegiance of the Jews from one God to another, but to teach them how to serve the same God in a higher dispensation, under a noble disclosure of His character, and by new and better methods. It was to be the same heart and the same God; but there was a new and living way opened. The old was good, the new was better. The new was not an antagonism of the old, but only its outgrowth, related to it as the blossom and the fruit are to the root and the stalk. The old was local and national in its prime intents, and in its results. The new was for all ages. The old was a system of practices. It aimed at conduct--of course implying a good cause for conduct. The new is a system of principles, and yet not principles in a rigid philosphical sense, but principles that are great moral impulses or tendencies of the heart. The old built men for this world. Therefore it hardly looked beyond this world. The whole force of the new dispensation is derived from that which scarcely appeared at all in the old--its supereminent doctrine of the future. That is its very enginery. The aims of Christianity are supramundane. The motives are drawn from immortality-its joys, honours, promises, rewards. The old addressed the conscience through fear, and soon overreached its aim, losing some by under-action, and others--and the better natures--by over-action. What the law could not do, in that it was weak, it is declared, God sent His own Son to do. The new aims at the very springs of moral power in the soul, and that through love. It is a total change, it is an absolute difference, in this regard. The old was a dispensation of secular morals. It lived in the past. The new is a system of aspirations. It lives in the future. We are the children of the new testament, and not of the old. Woe be to us if, living in these later days, we find ourselves groping in the imperfections of the old testament, instead of springing up with all the vitality and supereminent manhood which belongs to the new testament. We are the children of a living Saviour. We are a brood over which He stretches His wings. We ought to have more than a creed which is only a modern representation of an old ordinance or institution. We ought to have something more than an ordinance. To be a disciple of the new testament is to have a living Head. It is to have a vital connection with that Head. It is to be conscious, while all nature speaks of God, and while all the exercises of religion assist indirectly, that the main power of a true religion in the soul is the soul’s connection with a living God. Ye are the children of the new and not of the old. Let your life mount up toward God. (H. W. Beecher.)

They which are called


To every one of you I say, you are called. You are called because you were baptized as infants, dedicated to the service of the gospel, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. You are called because you have been instructed from the days of childhood to the present hour to believe in the Lord Jesus. You are called because you are in a Christian land, surrounded by those who own that the gospel is the word of God, and having also many within your sight or hearing, who live according to the will of Christ. You are called by the ordinances of the Christian Church, by the voice of the Christian ministry; by the word and sacraments of Christ, and by the preaching of those pastors who address you by His commission, and in His name. This day, this hour I call you in His behalf; therefore you are called. This is your calling. May God give you grace to hear! May God help you to believe His promise! May God make you to enjoy His glory. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)

Effectual calling:

God draws His people, not with force, as mere machines, but “with the cords of a man and with the bands of love.” The subject may be best unfolded by a familiar illustration. How was it that Jacob was drawn into Egypt? He was made to feel the pressure of a grievous famine; he was informed that there was plenty of corn in Egypt, and that his dearly-beloved Joseph was the lord of all that land, and that he disposed of the good things to whomsoever he would. He was told, moreover, that Joseph had expressly invited him, and had sent waggons for the conveyance of his family, together with abundant provisions for the way; and, finally, he was assured that, at the end of this journey, all the good of the land of Egypt should be his. Did he need, after this, to have a chain fastened round him m be dragged into Egypt? No; all that he needed was faith to believe the tidings; and when once he was persuaded of the truth of these things he was willing of himself to go into that good land. Thus God draws sinners. He causes them to feel their need of mercy; He informs them that Jesus Christ has all heaven at His disposal; that He has sent to invite them, assuring them of all that is needful by the way, and all the glory of heaven at the end. Thus a thorough belief of these truths bends the most stubborn heart, and overcomes the most reluctant mind. (C. Simeon.)

A testament is of force after men are dead

Christ’s testament


1. The record gives a definite meaning and fixed character to the mind of Christ.

2. The record gives to the mind of Christ an abiding existence among us.

3. The written Word renders the will of Christ accessible to all.


III. CHRIST’S TESTAMENT IS A WRITTEN AND AUTHENTIC RECORD OF WHAT HE HAS BEQUEATHED TO MEN. There are great bequests for each of us. We are guilty--Christ has willed our forgiveness. We are enslaved--Christ has willed our freedom. We are sorrowful--Christ has willed our peace. We are dying--Christ has willed us life for ever.


Christ’s testamentary covenant:

It seems to us that St. Paul took advantage of the double meaning of the Greek word which he uses, and illustrates his subject the more copiously by employing it in one place for a “covenant,” and in another for a “testament”; and we shall possibly, as we advance, find reason to conclude, that the full sense of the passage is only to be evolved by our attaching to the word its double signification--by bearing in mind that a “covenant” and “testament” are alike designated by the word which the apostle employs. After all, there is not the wide difference which, at the first sight, we may suppose between a covenant and a testament. If I make a will, I may, in one sense, be said to covenant and agree to give certain things to certain parties upon the condition of my death; so that a testament is virtually a species of covenant. And if, on the other hand, two parties enter into a covenant, and the terms of this covenant require that one of them should die, you all see that, without any great forcing of language, the covenant may be considered as the testament or will of the sacrificed individual. God made a covenant with the Israelites, but then this covenant was ratified by the shedding of blood; in other words, there must be death to give the covenant its validity; and the covenant which required death in order to its completeness, might, as we have shown you, without anything overstrained in language, be designated a “testament.” So that under these limitations, and under these conditions, we can attach the name of a “testament” to that covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai. The exhibition which we are called upon to survey is that of our Saviour under the character of a testator; as the maker, that is, of a will, which could only become valid by the death of the party who made it. Now you will see at once that there is a peculiarity in this exhibition which marks it off from other representations of the scheme of human salvation. If Christ Jesus is displayed as bequeathing to the world legacies, which legacies could not be paid except after His death, then it may be said that it was the fact, the simple historical fact of His death, and not any merit which there was in that death, which entailed the large blessings on the race of mankind. And if by parity of reasoning the Redeemer is to be considered as a testator, or will-maker, does not the representation take away from the meritoriousness of His death, and, at least, show that it was not because His sufferings were expiatory and precious that such and such blessings have been obtained for us? A few words will suffice for the removal of this objection. If a man is worth £1,000 he may bequeath me that £1,000; and thus his death, considered as the mere separation of his soul from his body, will make me the owner of the money. But take the following case which is perfectly supposable: a criminal is sentenced to die, but is allowed, if he can, to find a substitute. He offers £1,000 for a substitute, and an individual comes forward and agrees on these terms to die in his stead. Now certainly this substitute may will away the £1,000, and yet nothing but his death entitles him to the £1,000. He might, for example, have long striven in vain to earn a livelihood for his family; he might then, calculating that his family would be more benefited by his death than his life, determine to sacrifice himself in order to procure for them the proper remuneration; and, without question, he might make a will which would secure to his children the property to which the value o! his death would alone give him right. He would thus unite the character of a testator and of a man who purchases, by dying, the goods which he bequeathes. Now this supposed case finds its precise counterpart in the matter of our redemption. “The blessings of the gospel could only be procured by the sufferings and death of the Mediator. Hence, unquestionably, the blessings which Christ bequeathed were blessings which His death, and nothing but His death, could give Him right to bestow; but, nevertheless, He might still be a testator, or still make a will. In dying He might bequeath what He was to obtain by dying; and thus real inconsistency, after all, there is none, between regarding Christ as the maker of the will, and at the same time as procuring by His death the blessings which He made over to His people. In what sense, then, did Christ make a testament or will, or what fidelity is there in such an account of the scheme of our redemption? Now we would, first of all, remark that there is nothing more frequent in Scripture than the speaking of true believers “as heirs of God,” or as brought into such a relationship to the Almighty that heaven becomes theirs by the rights of inheritance. Yon cannot fall immediately to observe that the correspondence is most exact between this account of the believer as an heir and the representation of Christ as a testator. In dying Christ made us heirs. But this is exactly what would have been done by a testament; and, therefore, it is not possible that the effects of Christ’s death should be more clearly represented than by the figure of Christ as a testator. But is there then, indeed, no registered will, no document to which we can refer as the testament of the Mediator? We shall not hesitate to say that there is not a single promise in the New Testament which ought not to be regarded as a line or codicil in the will of the Redeemer. If you ask us for a written testament we carry you along with us to the archives of the Bible, and we take cut of it declarations which ensure to the faithful the crown and the rapture, and we join them into one continuous discourse, and we say to you, Behold the last will of the Saviour. What, we further ask, is this but an exact parallel to that which would take place in the case of a testament? Suppose you were permitted to read a will made in your own favour; there might be the bequeathment of a rich and noble estate, there might be the coffers of wealth and the caskets of jewellery consigned to your possession; but you would never think that you had a right to the domain, and you would never be bold enough to put forward a claim to the gold and the pearl, unless you knew that the testator was dead, and that thereby a force had been given to the testament. So that the correspondence is most accurate between the promises of Scripture and the consignments of a will. Had Christ (if we may bring forward such an idea) while suspended on the Cross, and exhausting the wrath which had gone forth against a disloyal creation, dictated a testamentary document enumerating the blessings which He bequeathed to all who believe on His name, not until He had bowed the head, and yielded up the ghost, would this register of the legacy have lived, overpassing in its wealth all the thoughts of created intelligences, and given right to a single child of our race to look and hope for the heritage of the redeemed. A testament is but a combination of promises becoming valid by the death of the promiser, we give the truest description of the promises of the Bible when we define them as “the last will and testament of Christ our Lord.” Now we would refer for a moment to that connection which we show to subsist between a covenant and testament. The Father and the Son had, from all eternity, entered into a covenant; the Father engaging, on the performance of certain conditions, that blessings should be placed at the disposal of the Son for the seed of the apostate. The covenant between the persons of the Trinity engaged for the pardon and acceptance of all who, in every age, should believe on the Son. Hence, you must all perceive, that what was the covenant between the Father and Son was also a document in favour of man; but, certainly, the covenant could only become valid by death; that in the fulness of time the Son should die, being its grand and fundamental article. And if as a covenant it could only become valid by death, then as a document in favour of man it could only become valid by death; but that document in favour of a party, which only becomes valid by death, is, most strictly, a will or testament. So that by one and the same act Christ Jesus performed His covenant with the Father, and made His testament in favour of man; that, in short, which was a covenant considered relatively to God, was a testament considered relatively to man. It obtained blessings from God; it consigned blessings to man, and both equally through death. You cannot, therefore, view Christ as executing a covenant without also viewing Him as executing a testament. What tie gained as a covenanter He disposed of as a testator; and whilst we say of Him, as making an agreement with God, “Where a covenant is, there must be the death of the covenanter,” we say of Him, as bestowing gifts on men, “where a testament is, there must be the death of the testator.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ’s last will and testament

I. We have to inquire IN WHAT SENSE OR SENSES MAY WE SPEAK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS A TESTATOR. What is involved in this idea? If a will is made, two things are implied--that there is something to leave: that there is some measure of interest felt in those who are mentioned as legatees.

1. Now in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see one who has large and royal possessions, and who has these absolutely at His own disposal. All things are described as the property of Christ. All things were made by Him and for Him. Jesus Christ has power and authority to bestow all gospel blessings and privileges upon His people. He gives them grace here; He will crown them with glory hereafter.

2. And then, in making His will, Christ has distinctly in view those who are interested in its provisions--His friends, His relations those for whom, though they had no natural claim upon Him, the Saviour has bound Himself to provide. And we have the means of determining very exactly who these are. His friends are those who love Him, and who show their love by keeping His commandments.

3. A testator, in making his last will and testament, so far as there is in it any different disposition of property, supersedes, renders null and void, any will that may have been previously made. So Jesus Christ disannulled the law of the old covenant by establishing the new. Let us see to it that we put in our claim under the last will and testament of Christ. Let us not expect to receive under the law what can only come to us as a matter of free grace, under the gospel.

4. As in the case of a merely human testator, so in the case of Jesus Christ--where a testament is, for it to have force, for it to take effect, theremust needs be the death of the testator; “otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” In this particular instance there was need for the death of the testator on several different accounts. Among men it is the death of the testator which renders a testament effectual. And so this testament was confirmed and ratified by the death of Jesus Christ, and but for that death it could have had no force at all. And as after death a will may not be altered or revoked by the testator, but remains the expression of his mind to be carried out as exactly as possible, so it may not be interfered with by others. You may question its meaning, you may question whether it be the will of him who is declared to have drawn it up, you may question his right to make it, or make it in that precise form, yet, admitting it as a will, though it be only a human will, “no man disannulleth or addeth thereunto.” How much more truly is this the case with the testament, the will of Christ! And we must bear in mind, in the case of this testament, that there was a necessity for the death of Christ, which does not exist in the case of any ordinary testament. The death of Christ not merely rendered His will irrevocable, and afforded the heirs of promise a way of entering upon the enjoyment of their inheritance, as the death of every testator does, but there was this peculiarity--the very blessings which were disposed of by the will of Christ were secured and purchased by His death. A testator appoints executors in trust, who undertake, according to their ability, to see that all the provisions of his will are faithfully carried out. The Father and the Holy Ghost engage to carry out the will of Christ, and are ever actually doing so. But there is a high and important sense in which Christ is His own executor. “He ever liveth” to carry out those gracious designs which find changeless expression in His last will and testament. In the record of our Saviour’s visible residence among men, we are told only “ of all that Jesus began, both to do and to teach.”

II. Having considered Christ as the testator, let US NOW LOOK AT THE GOSPEL AS THE “LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF CHRIST, We are presented with the will of Christ, not as so much mere hearsay--not as a vague and floating tradition--not as the “lingering echo” of His much-loved voice--not as a general and unaccredited expression of His intention: we haveit in a written record, an authentic document. It is necessary that a human will should be written. And though it has been determined that an oral will, under certain circumstances (as in the case of soldiers on actual service, or mariners at sea), is valid, if properly attested, yet that even must be reduced to a written form. And so have we the will of Christ embodied in words of human speech. Nor can we be too thankful that it has been so handed down to us. It is not enough that a will and testament be written, it must be attested; it must be proved to be authentic and genuine. It must be shown to be the will of that very person whose will it purports to be. This last will and testament of Christ is proved by much concurrent testimony. The gospel of the great salvation, “which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both by signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.” I feel that I am safe in affirming that the proof which sustains the testament of Christ is immeasurably stronger and more convincing than that which sustains any human and earthly will. There has been a practical proof of a twofold kind. For eighteen hundred years and more this will has been repeatedly disputed by the enemies of Christ. The wit and wisdom and science of the world have done all that they could do to invalidate it, but all these attempts have been in vain. For the same period the will has been proved by Christ’s friends. We might summon a great cloud of witnesses, all of whom could bear the testimony of personal experience. There is, in every testament, provision implied or expressed that it should, with all convenient speed, be published and made known. This is necessary, that the legatees may become aware of that which has been bequeathed to them, and be in a position to put in their claim. Christ has ordained and provided that His disciples should publish His will and testament to all the children of men. We are “put in trust with the gospel.” We are bound to publish the glad tidings in every direction. And we ought to ask ourselves how far we are discharging this obligation. This will and testament of Christ informs us of all that is provided for us. All that we enjoy, we enjoy under this will; all spiritual blessings and privileges come to us as they are bequeathed by the Lord Jesus Christ. This will of Christ is our sure and sufficient title to all that we possess as Christian believers. The provisions of a will constitute an absolute title as far as it goes. If you would invalidate my right to what is bequeathed, you must go back and question the right of him who bequeathed it. And so, does any one question us as to our right to the spiritual privileges and possessions we enjoy, we reply by pointing to the last will and testament of Christ, and any further question must be raised with Christ Himself. We must not look for our title to our own merit--to anything we are, or have done--but to the will trod testament of the Saviour. (T. M. Morris.)



1. The pardon of all sin.

2. The merit of His own most glorious righteousness.

3. His own most Holy Spirit.

4. But the most glorious part of the property bequeathed by Jesus to His people is that “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,” which is “reserved for them in heaven.”

II. THE EVENT BY WHICH IT IS MADE OF FORCE. Because He hath “poured out His soul unto death,” that His heirs enter into possession of the property which He hath left them. Indeed, the death of Christ has a bearing on the privileges He has bequeathed among His people beyond what can be said with reference to man’s bequests. Man’s death must happen before his will can fake effect because, whilst he lives, he enjoys his property himself. But Christ’s death is, as it were, the purchase-money of the estate which He bequeaths. His death therefore was as essential to their enjoyment of these blessings as the payment of the sum demanded is to the possession of a piece of land.


1. Convinced of sin.

2. Men of faith.

3. Men of grace. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

The testament of Christ

I. WHO IS THE TESTATOR? God’s everlasting Son, of the same essence, perfections, and glory with the Father.

II. WHAT ARE THE LEGACIES CONVEYED BY THIS COVENANT? In their nature and number they are very great. The sum of them is expressed thus Revelation 21:7). They have the noblest spring and fountain with all its refreshing streams. In few words, the particular bequests in this great will of the Divine Testator, are complete deliverance from the legal consequences of sin--redemption from the curse of the law--the regeneration of our moral nature, and adoption into the household of faith--support under the trials of life--foretastes of eternal glory--and agood hope through grace which shall issue at length in the full possession of the heavenly kingdom, where every Divine and moral excellence will be perfected in the soul, and the rejoicing spirit for ever supremely happy before the throne of God.

III. WHAT ARE THE TERMS ON WHICH THIS DIVINE TESTAMENT BESTOWS ITS BEQUESTS? In all deeds disposing of property among men, there are certain conditions to be observed, in order to establish the validity of the claim. In some cases, the estate is conveyed charged with various encumbrances; in others, the observance of sundry specified acts is necessary to the legal holding of the property. Some inherit by descent, others by favouritism of the testator. In the case before us all is of pure mercy and love. There are terms, but they are not hard. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole condition of eternal life; but that faith is productive of holiness, of love, of obedience, and of all good works.

IV. WHERE IS THE PROOF OF THE VALIDITY OF THIS TESTAMENT OF LOVE? There must be attestation in every case of a human will. In the conveyance of property there must be the seal. If we were to set up a claim to the right of any possession in a court of law, the case would break down if the seal of the party from whom we plead our title was not appended to the deed of conveyance. So, likewise, a will is of no effect, till proof be given of the decease of the testator. Our blessed Lord has made His death, resurrection, and ascension to glory, the seal of His will. To conclude, Have you any part or portion in this testament? Many are anxious to know if some aged and wealthy relative has remembered them in his will. In this will all are remembered, save those who wilfully exclude themselves. (Am. Nat. Preacher.)

The dying will of Jesus Christ:

Perhaps a consideration of the legal ideas of the time when the. Epistle to the Hebrews was written may help to explain this difficult passage. The idea of a will was derived by the Jews from the Romans, and they probably associated with it the various ideas which had grown up around the Roman will. Let us see what these were. The origin of the ordinary form of a Roman will, was the old testament per ms et libram, by which the father of the family (generally when on his death bed) sold his whole family and estate to some friend in whom he had confidence (called the heres), on trust to carry out his wishes (an obligation which apparently was not originally legally enforceable, though afterwards it was recognised by law). This form was still kept up, though probably at the time when the Epistle was written, the familiae emptor was not generally the same person as the heres. Still the familiae emptor represented the heres, and served to keep the theoretical nature of the transaction before all parties concerned, and the heres was looked upon not merely as a distributor of goods, but as the purchaser and master of the family. It is therefore suggested that the argument is somewhat as follows. By the first διαθήκη the Hebrews were purchased and became the bondsmen of the Law (an idea already rendered familiar to them by Exodus 15:16 and Psalms 74:2); but by a new διαθήκη our Lord purchased them with His blood (Acts 20:28), as the heres or familiae emptor purchased the inheritance, and having thus purchased the inheritance of the Law, became the new master of the bondsmen of the Law, and the mediator, or executor, of a new dispensation. But inasmuch as the right of the heres can only come into operation after the death of the testator (the Law), it is evident that, if the new dispensation has begun, the Law is dead and is no longer their master. In fact, the line of argument seems similar to that in Romans 7:1-4. (H. S. Keating.)

The blood of the testament.

The blood of Christ is the ruby gem of the ring of love. Infinite goodness finds its crown in the gift of Jesus for sinners. All God’s mercies shine like stars, but the coming of His own Son to bleed and die for rebel men is as the sun in the heavens of Divine grace, outshining and illuminating all.

I. Of that death and of that blood we shall speak in a fourfold way; and first, we shall take the verse as it would most accurately be translated--the blood of Jesus Christ is THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT. There cannot be much doubt that the word rendered “ testament “ should be translated “covenant.” It is the word used for covenant in other passages, and though our translators have used the word “ testament,” many critics go the length of questioning whether the word can bear that meaning at all. I think they are too rigid in their criticism, and that it does bear that meaning in this very chapter; but, still, all must admit that the first, and most usual meaning of the word, is “covenant.” Therefore, we will begin with that reading, and consider the blood of Jesus as the blood of the covenant.

1. The blood proves the intense earnestness of God in entering into covenant with man in a way of grace.

2. It displayed the supreme love of God to man. Seeing that He entered into a contract of grace with man, He would let man see how His very heart went forth with every word of promise; and, therefore, He gave up that which was the centre of His heart, namely, Jesus Christ.

3. The blood of the covenant, next, speaks to us and confirms the Divine faithfulness. The main object of thus sealing the covenant with blood is to cause it to be “ordered in all things and sure.”

4. The blood of the everlasting covenant is a guarantee to us of its infinite provision. There can be nothing lacking for a soul redeemed by Christ between here and heaven; for He that spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

5. This blood manifests the depth of the need which the covenant was meant to meet.

II. Now, I take our translators’ own words--“THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE TESTAMENT.”

1. Jesus Christ has made a will, and He has left to His people large legacies by that will. Now, wills do not need to be sprinkled with blood, but wills do need that the testator should be dead, otherwise they are not of force. And so, first of all, the blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary is the blood of the testament, because it is a proof that He is dead, and therefore the testament is in force. If Jesus did not die, then the gospel is null and void not without the sprinkled blood does the promise of salvation become yea and amen.

2. It is the blood of the testament, again, because it is the seal of His being seized and possessed of those goods which He has bequeathed to us: for, apart from His sacrifice, our Lord had no spiritual blessings to present to us. His death has filled the treasury of His grace.

3. The blood of the testament, again, is a direction as to His legatees. We see who are benefited under His will. He must have left them to the guilty because He has left a will that is signed and sealed in blood, and blood is for the remission of sin.

III. But now I must speak upon that blood from another point of view. IT WAS THE BLOOD OF CLEANSING. This blood of the covenant and of the testament is a blood of purification to us. Wherever it is accepted by faith it takes away all past guilt. And this is but the beginning of our purification, for that same blood applied by faith takes away from the pardoned sinner the impurity which had been generated in his nature by habit. He ceases to love the sin which,once he delighted in: he begins to loathe that which was formerly his choice joy. A love of purity is born within his nature; he sighs to be perfect, and he groans to think there should be about him tendencies towards evil. Temptations which once were welcomed are now resisted; baits which were once most fascinating are an annoyance to his spirit. The precious blood when it touches the conscience removes all sense of guilt, and when it touches the heart it kills the ruling power of sin. The more fully the power of the blood is felt, the more does it kill the power of sin within the soul.

IV. And then it is THE BLOOD OF DEDICATION. On the day when Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the people, and on the book, it was meant to signify that they were a chosen people set apart unto God’s service. The blood made them holiness unto the Lord. Now, unless the blood is upon you, you are not saved; but if you are saved you are by that very fact set apart to be God’s servant. “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” A saved man is a bought man; the property of Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The blood of sprinkling:

This blood sprinkled on the people was a significant type and figure of the blood of our Saviour Christ, whereby the new testament is confirmed to us.

1. That was the blood of goats and heifers; this of Christ the immaculate Lamb of God.

2. Moses was the sprinkler of that blood: the Holy Ghost is the sprinkler of this.

3. That was sprinkled on the face or garments of the people: this on our hearts and consciences.

4. The aspertorium, the sprinkling stick, there was made of purple wool and hyssop: the aspertorium here is faith. With that doth the Spirit of God sprinkle on us the blood of Christ.

5. That sprinkling did but sanctify the outward man: this the hid man of the heart.

6. The force and power of that sprinkling lasted but a while: the efficacy of this sprinkling continueth for ever. Therefore let us all be desirous of this sprinkling. (W. Jones, D. D.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 9:16". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Hebrews 9:16. For where a testament is, &c.— "For where a covenant is engaged in, answerable to that which typified this of which I now speak,—to make it firm and binding, there must be necessarily something done, which implies the death of the covenanting party." Nothing can be more foreign to the apostle's subject than to speak of testaments and testators, as he is made to do in this and the next verse, and then to return again, Hebrews 9:18 to the subject of covenants, upon which he had been treating. But let us consider what was the fact, that we may understand, or at least get some light into, this very difficult portion of scripture. A covenant is proposed by God the Father to mankind by a Mediator, Jesus Christ, his own eternal Son; wherein a promise of an eternal inheritance is made to man, provided he is ready and willing to comply with the conditions laid before him: there had been a covenant made by God to the Jewish nation, which engaged to them a present temporal happiness in the land of Canaan, provided they observed the law given to them. Here then a second covenant is proposed by God, not offering a present, but a future good; not a temporal, but an eternal happiness: it is a covenant offered by God,—a Being omnipotent, immortal, uncontrolable,—to a series of beings weak, frail, infirm, but capable of subsisting after death. Christ, as the eternal Word of God made flesh, assuming human nature and uniting it to his Godhead, is not the party that enters into covenant, but he is the Mediator between the parties covenanting. God the Father is the party on one side, and he offers peace through the blood of his Son: man is ο διαθεμενος, the party with whom the covenant is made; who is through grace to accept and fulfil the conditions, namely, to believe in, love, and obey Christ through the Spirit of God. Christ is the Person who acts between God the Father and offending man, and brings the conditions of our salvation; but offers themto us through the infinite merit of his death and intercession, and with the promise of his Spirit, without whom we could not in the least degree comply with the conditions, or be in the least degree sanctified and prepared for glory.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

The Pulpit Commentaries


The sphere of Christ's "more excellent ministry," as the "Mediator of a better covenant," having been shown to be elsewhere than in the earthly tabernacle, the ministry itself is now contrasted with that of the superseded priesthood. With this view the latter is described, and shown to express in itself its own insufficiency and to point to a more availing one to come.

Hebrews 9:1

Then verily (or, now indeed) the first covenant also (or, even the first covenant) had ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary (rather its sanctuary of this world ( τὸ ἅγιον κοσμεκόν). The definite article points to the well-known one of the Mosaic dispensation, which, unlike the true one, was in its bearings, as well as locally and materially, of this world only). This sanctuary itself is now first described in necessary preparation for an account of priestly ministrations in it.

Hebrews 9:2-5

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbead; which is called the holy place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holy of holies; having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid with gold, wherein was a golden pot having the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat; of which things we cannot now speak particularly. The tabernacle as a whole is first spoken of; and then its two divisions, called respectively "the first 'and "the second" tabernacle. The account of them is from the Pentateuch, and describes them as they originally were. In the then existing temple there were neither ark, mercy-seat, nor cherubim, though the ceremonies were continued as though they had been still there. The ark had been removed or destroyed in the sack by the Chaldeans, and was never replaced (for the Jewish tradition on the subject, see 2 Macc. 2:1-8). Josephus says ('Bell. Jud.,' 5.5. 5) that in the temple of his day there was nothing whatever behind the veil in the holy of holies; and Tacitus informs us ('Hist.,' 5 9) that, when Pompey entered the temple, he found there "vacuam sedem et inania arcana." A stone basement is said by the rabbis to have occupied the ark's place, called "lapis fundationis." In the "first tabernacle," called "the holy place" ( ἅγια probably, not ἁγία: i.e. a neuter plural, equivalent to "the holies"), the table of shewbread (with its twelve loaves in two rows, changed weekly) stood on the north side, i.e. the right as one approached the veil; and opposite to it, on the left, the seven-branched golden candlestick, or lamp-stand, carrying an oil-lamp on each branch (Exodus 25:1-40; Exodus 37:1-29; Exodus 40:1-38). Between them, close to the veil stood the golden altar of incense (ibid); which, nevertheless, is not mentioned here as part of the furniture of the "first tabernacle," being associated with the "second," for reasons which will be seen. The "second veil" was that between the holy place and the holy of holies (Exodus 36:35), the curtain at the entrance of the holy place (Exodus 36:37) being regarded as the first. The inner sanctuary behind this second veil is spoken of as having ( ἔχουσα) in the first place "a golden censer," as the word θυμιατήριον is translated in the A.V. (so also in the Vulgate, thuribulum). But it assuredly means the" golden altar of incense," though this stood locally outside the veil. For

Hebrews 9:6

Now these things being thus ordained (A.V rather, arranged or constituted; it is the same word ( κατασκευάζω) as was used in Hebrews 9:2, "there was a tabernacle made;" also in Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4, of God's "house;" on which see supra), the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services. (Observe that here, where the ministrations are described, present tenses are used; perhaps because these ministrations were still going on when the Epistle was written) The continual services in the "first tabernacle" were

Hebrews 9:7, Hebrews 9:8

But into the second the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offereth for himself and for the errors (literally, ignorances; cf. Hebrews 9:2) of the people. For the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, see Leviticus 16:1-34. They may be summarized, in their main characteristics, thus:

Hebrews 9:9

Which ( ἥτις, with its usual force) is a parable for the time present (i.e. present as regarded from the standpoint of the old dispensation. The A.V., translating "then present," and using past tenses throughout, though departing from literalism, still gives, we conceive, the idea correctly); according to which (referring to "parable," if we adopt the best-supported reading, καθ ἥν. The Textus Receptus, followed by the A.V., has καθ ὅν, referring to "the time") are offered both gifts and sacrifices (cf. Hebrews 9:1), which cannot, as pertaining to the conscience, make him that doth the service (or, "the worshipper," the idea not being confined to the officiating priest; cf. Hebrews 10:2, where τοὺς λατρεύοντας is translated "the worshippers") perfect. The emphatic expression here is κατὰ συνείδησιν. The gifts and sacrifices of the Law availed in themselves only for external ceremonial purification; they did not reach, however typical, the sphere of man's inner consciousness; they could not bring about that sense of spiritual accord with God which is spoken of in Jeremiah 31:1-40. as marking the new covenant (see below, Jeremiah 31:13, Jeremiah 31:14).

Hebrews 9:10

Rendered in A.V.," Which stood only in ( μόνον ἐπὶ) meats and drinks and divers washings, and carnal ordinances [ καὶ δικαιώμασι σαρκὸς, Textus Receptus], imposed on them ( ἐπικείμενα) until the time of reformation." This is a satisfactory rendering of the Textus Receptus, ἐπὶ before "meats," etc., being taken in the sense of dependence, and ἐπικείμενα necessarily as agreeing with "gifts and sacrifices" ( δῶρα τε καὶ θυσίαι) in Hebrews 9:9. But there are other readings, though none, any more than that of the Textus Receptus, to be decidedly preferred on the mere ground of manuscript authority. The best sense seems to be given by that of δικαιώματα instead of καὶ δικαιώματι, so that we may render ( ἐπὶ being taken in the sense of addition), Being only (with meats and drinks and divers washings) carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation. We thus have an obvious neuter plural ( δικαιώματα) for ἐπικείμενα to agree with, and we avoid the assertion that the "gifts and sacrifices" of the Law "stood only" in "meats," etc. This was not so; their essential part was blood-shedding ( αἱματεκχύσια, Hebrews 9:22) the other things here mentioned were but accompaniments and appendages. The "meats and drinks" spoken of may refer mainly to the distinctions between clean and unclean viands, which we know were made such a point of by the Jews of the apostolic ago. The "diverse washings" ( βαπτισμοῖς) may be taken to include both the ablutions of the priests before sacrifice, and those enjoined on the people in many parts of the Law after ceremonial defile-merit, which kind of washings had been further multiplied variously in the traditional law.

Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12

But Christ having come ( παραγενόμενος, cf. Matthew 3:1; Luke 12:51) a High Priest (or, as High Priest) of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation ( κτίσεως), nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all ( ἐφάπαξ) into the holy place, having obtained ( εὑράμενος, not necessarily antecedent to εἰσῆλθεν) eternal redemption. On the futurity expressed (here and Hebrews 10:1) by "the good things to come" (the reading μελλόντων being preferred to γενομένων), see under Hebrews 1:1 ( ἐπ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων) and Hebrews 2:5 ( τὴν οἰκουμένεν τὴς μέλλουσαν). Here, certainly, the period of the earthly tabernacle having been the temporal standpoint in all the preceding verses, futurity with regard to it may, without difficulty, be understood; and hence "the good things" may still be regarded as such as have already come in Christ. On the other hand, there is no difficulty in regarding them as still future. For the full and final result of even Christ's perfected high priesthood is not yet come. But what is "the greater and more perfect tabernacle," through which he entered the heavenly holy of holies? It seems evidently, in the first place, to be connected with εἰσῆλθεν, being regarded as the antitype of that "first tabernacle" through which the high priests on earth had passed in order to enter within the veil; διὰ having here a local, not an instrumental, sense. The instrumental sense of the same preposition in the next clause ( διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος) is not against this view. In English, "through his own blood he entered through the tabernacle" presents no difficulty, though "through" is used in two different senses. But what is exactly meant by the tabernacle through which Christ has passed? Bearing in mind what was said under Hebrews 8:2 of the prophetic visions of a heavenly temple—corresponding to the earthly one—and that the epithet ἀχειροποίητος is applied also (verse 24) by implication to the counterpart of the holy of holies, and also the expression (Hebrews 4:14), "having passed through the heavens ( διεληλυθόντα τοὺς οὑρανοὺς)," we may regard it as denoting the heavenly region beyond this visible sphere of things ( οὐ ταύτης τῆσ ̓τίσεως), intervening between the latter and the immediate presence, or "face," of God. Thus "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle" of this verse answers to "having passed through the heavens" of Hebrews 4:14; and "entered once for all into the holy place" of Hebrews 4:12 to "entered into heaven itself" (the very heaven) of verse 24. Thus also the symbolical acts of the Day of Atonement are successively, and in due order, fulfilled. As the high priest first sacrificed the sin offering outside the tabernacle, and then passed through the holy to the holy of holies, so Christ first offered himself in this mundane sphere of things, and then passed through the heavens to the heaven of heavens. Delitzsch, taking this view, offers a still more definite explanation; thus: "The former ( τὰ ἅγια) is that eternal heaven of God himself ( αὐτὸς ὁ οὐρανὸς) which is his own self-manifested eternal glory (John 17:5), and existed before all worlds; the latter ( ἡ σκηνή) is the heaven of the blessed, in which he shines upon his creatures in 'the light of love'—'the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven' of Revelation 15:5, which the apocalyptic seer beheld filled with incense-smoke from 'the glory of God, and from his power.'" There are other views of what is meant by "the greater and more perfect tabernacle." The most notable, as being that of Chrysostom and the Fathers generally, is that it means Christ's human nature, which he assumed before passing to the throne of the Majesty on high. This view is suggested by his having himself spoken of the temple of his body (John 2:21), and calling it, if the "false witnesses" at his trial reported him truly, ἀχειροποίητον (Mark 14:58); by the expression (John 1:14), "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled ( ἐσκήνωσεν) among us;" by St. Paul's speaking of the human body as a tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:4); and by Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20, where the "veil" through which we have "a new and living way into the holy place through the blood of Jesus" is said to be his flesh. There is thus abundant ground for thinking of Christ's body as signified by a tabernacle; and the expression in Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20 goes some way to countenance such an interpretation here. The objection to it is that it seems neither suggested by the context nor conformable to the type of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. For, if the human body of Christ assumed at his birth is meant, he entered into that before, not after, his atoning sacrifice; and if, with Hofmann, we think rather of his glorified body, in what sense in accordance with the type can it be said that he entered through it? We should rather say that he ascended with it to the right hand of God. The further points of contrast between Christ's entrance and that of the earthly high priests are:

Hebrews 9:13

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling those that have been defiled ( κεκοινωμένους, cf. Matthew 15:11, etc; Acts 21:28), sancfifieth to the purifying (literally, unto the purity, καθαρότητα) of the flesh. In addition to the sin offerings of the Day of Atonement, mention is here made of the red heifer, whose ashes were to be mixed with water for the purification of such as had been ceremonially defiled by contact with dead bodies (for account of which see Numbers 19:1-22). They are classed together because both were general sin offerings for the whole congregation, representing the idea of continual and unavoidable defilements notwithstanding all the daily sacrifices; the difference between them being that the ashes were reserved for use in known cases of constantly recurring defilement, the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement were for general sin and defilement, known or unknown. But neither, in themselves, could from their very nature avail for more than outward ceremonial cleansing—" the purity of the flesh." This, however, they did avail for; and, if so, what -must the cleansing power of Christ's offering be? Its deeper efficacy shall appear from consideration of what it was.

Hebrews 9:14

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purify your (al. our) conscience from dead works to serve the living God? As in Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12 Christ's entrance was contrasted with that of the high priest, so here is the sacrifice itself, in virtue of which he entered, similarly contrasted. The points of contrast to which attention is drawn are these:

Hebrews 9:15-17

And for this cause he is the Mediator of a new testament, that by means of death (literally, death having taken place), for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Here the view of the gospel as a new διαθήκη (introduced first in Hebrews 7:22, and enlarged on in Hebrews 8:6-13) is again brought in. For the word is still διαθήκη, though here, for reasons that will appear, rendered "testament" in the A.V. The connecting thought here is—It is because of Christ's sacrifice having been such as has been described, that he is the Mediator of that new and better covenant; it qualified him for being so. A sacrifice, a death, was required for giving it validity (Hebrews 9:16-23), and the character of his sacrifice implies a better covenant than the old, even such a one as Jeremiah foretold. Further, the purpose of his death is said to be "for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant." For in the passage of Jeremiah the defect of the first covenant was based on the transgression of its conditions by man, while under the new one, such transgressions were to be no more remembered. But this could not be without atonement for them; the whole ceremonial of the Law signified this; and also that such atonement could not be except by death. The death of Christ satisfied this requirement; and so the new covenant could come in. So far the course of thought is clear. Nor is there difficulty in understanding the purport of verse 18, etc., taken by itself, where the "blood-shedding" that inaugurated the first covenant is regarded as typical of that of Christ in the inauguration of the new one. But there is a difficulty about the intervening verses (16, 17), arising from the apparent use of the word διαθήκη in a new sense, not otherwise suggested—that of testament rather than covenant. The verses are, as given in the A.V., For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be ( φέρεσθαι. a word of which the exact meaning is not clear; some interpret "be brought in, or proved," some "be understood, implied ") the death of the testator ( τοῦ διαθεμένου, equivalent to "him that made it"). For a testament is of force after men are dead ( ἐπὶ νεκροῖς): otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (or, for doth it ever avail while he theft made it liveth? ἐπεὶ μήποτε: cf. Hebrews 10:2; Romans 3:6; 1 Corinthians 14:16; John 7:26; Luke 3:15). Now, the word διαθήκη itself undoubtedly may bear the sense of "testament." Its general meaning is " disposition," or "settlement;" and it may denote either compact between living persons, or a will to take effect after the testator's death. In the verses before us it appears to be used specifically in the latter sense. For they express general propositions, which are not true of all covenants, but are true (according to their most obvious sense) of all testaments. Further, this sense is distinctly applicable to the new διαθήκη, regarded as the dying Christ's bequest to his Church. Hence, but for the context, we should naturally so understand it in these verses. The difficulties attending this sense are:

Hebrews 9:18

Wherefore neither hath the first (testament, A.V or, covenant) been dedicated without blood. Here the blood of slain victims, which had been essential for the first inauguration of the old διαθήκη, is referred to as expressing the principle of Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, viz. that there must be death for a διαθήκη to take effect. Whichever view we take of the intended import of the word, the reference is equally apposite in support of the introductory proposition of Hebrews 9:15; which is to the effect that Christ's death ( θανάτου γενμένου), fulfilling the symbolism of the old inaugurating sacrifices, qualified him as Mediator of a new διαθήκη.

Hebrews 9:19, Hebrews 9:20

For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water anti scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant (A.V. testament) which God enjoined unto you (strictly, to you-ward; i.e. enjoined to me for you). The reference is to Exodus 24:3-9, where the account is given of the inauguration of the covenant between God and the Israelites through Moses. He "came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do." And then he wrote all the words of the LORD in a book, and builded an altar under the mount, and sacrifices were offered, and half of the blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the words were read from the book, and again the people undertook to observe them, and the other half of the blood was sprinkled on the people, and so the covenant was ratified. The essential part of the whole ceremony being the "blood-shedding," it is of no importance for the general argument that the account in Exodus is not exactly followed. The variations from it are these:

Hebrews 9:21

Moreover the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry be sprinkled in like manner with the blood. This refers to a subsequent occasion, the tabernacle not having been constructed at the time of the inauguration of the covenant,—probably to the dedication of the tabernacle, enjoined Exodus 40:1-38., and described Leviticus 8:1-36. It is true that no sprinkling of the tabernacle or its furniture with blood is mentioned in the Pentateuch; only the anointing of them with oil (Le Leviticus 8:10). But the garments of Aaron and his sons are said on that occasion to have been sprinkled with the blood as well as with the anointing oil (Hebrews 8:1-13 :30), and Josephus ('Ant.,' 3.8. 6) says that this blood-sprinkling was extended also to the tabernacle and its vessels ( τήν τε σκηνὴν καὶ τὰ περὶ αὐτὴν σκεύη). Here, as well as in Leviticus 8:19, our writer may be supposed to follow the traditional account, with which there is still nothing in the Pentateuch inconsistent. Be it observed again that the force of the argument does not depend on these added details, but on the general principle, abundantly expressed in the original record, which is assorted in the following verse.

Hebrews 9:22

And almost all things are according to the Law purified with blood; and without shedding of blood there is no remission. The essentiality of blood, which is "the life of all flesh," for atonement and consequent remission, is emphatically asserted in Le 17:11, which expresses the principle of the whole sacrificial ritual. The idea seems to be that the life of man is forfeit to Divine justice (cf. Genesis 2:17), and so blood, representing life, must be offered instead of his life for atonement.

Hebrews 9:23

It was therefore necessary (i.e. in accordance with the principle above expressed) that the patterns (rather, copies, see Hebrews 8:5, supra) of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. According to the view taken under Hebrews 8:2 and Hebrews 9:11, "the heavenly things" here must be taken to denote the corresponding realities in the heavenly sphere of things to which Christ has gone. But how can they themselves be said to require purification or cleansing? The mundane tabernacle did, being itself conceived as polluted by human sin; but how so of the unpolluted heavenly tabernacle? The answer may be that the expressions, chosen to suit the case of the earthly type, need not be pressed in all their details as applying to the heavenly sanctuary. With regard to the latter, they may he meant only to express that, though it be itself pure, yet man requires purification for access to it, and that for this purpose "better sacrifices" are required. "In hac apodosi verbum καθαρίζεσθαι, mundari, subauditum, facit hypallagem: nam exleslia per se sunt pura, sed nos purificandi fuimus, ut ilia possemus capessere" (Bengel). The general meaning is obvious enough. Commentators sometimes raise needless difficulties, and may sometimes even miss the essential purport of a passage by the too constant application of the critical microscope. If, however, it be thought necessary to find a sense in which the heavenly sanctuary may be said to need purification, the idea may be the appeasing of Divine wrath which bars the entrance of mankind.

Hebrews 9:24

For not into holy places made with hands did Christ enter, which are figures ( ἀντίτυπα, antitypes) of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of (literally, before the face of) God for us. This verse confirms the view that "the heavenly things" of Hebrews 9:23 denoted the heavenly regions into which Christ is entered. ἅγια at the beginning of the verse may be better translated "holy place" (as at Hebrews 9:12 and Hebrews 9:25) rather than "places," since here the heavenly counterpart of the holy of holies, as distinguished from the" first tabernacle," appears to be in view, viz. "heaven itself," the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence or "face" of God, the "throne of the Majesty on high," to which Christ passed through the intermediate heavens. There he now (the perpetual now of the new era of accomplished redemption), in his humanity, in behalf of and representing all humanity, beholds for ever the very face of the eternal God, which Moses could not see and live, and of which the typical high priest saw from year to year but the emblem, in transitory glimpses, through intervening clouds of incense. The word ἀντίπυπα, like ὑποδείγματα in Hebrews 9:23, expresses the idea of the earthly sanctuary being a visible representation answering to a heavenly reality. The original τύπος (type) was shown to Moses in the mount (Hebrews 8:5); what was constructed by him on the earth below was the antitype to it. The words τύπος and ἀντίτυπος are elsewhere used to express respectively a prophetic figure of a fulfillment to come and the fulfillment itself (as in Romans 5:14 and 1 Peter 3:21, baptism in the latter text being regarded as the ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge), but still with the same idea of the type being prior to the antitype, the latter answering to the former.

Hebrews 9:25, Hebrews 9:26

Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others (i.e. blood not his own, ἀλλοτρίῳ); for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now (probably νυνί, not νῦν, meaning "as it is ") once at the end of the ages hath he appeared (rather, been manifested, πεφανέρωται) to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Here (as above noted) the idea of ἐφάπαξ in Hebrews 9:12 is taken up. That Christ's offering of himself is once for all, needing no repetition, follows from the view of it already given, viz. that it is a perpetual presentation of himself, after fully availing sacrifice of himself, before the very face of God. That this is of necessity once for all is now further shown by the consideration that repeated offerings of himself would involve the impossible condition of repeated deaths. Observe that "offer himself" in Hebrews 9:25 does not refer to the death upon the cross, but to the intercession before the eternal mercy-seat after accomplished atonement, answering to the high priest's entrance, with the blood of previous sacrifice, within the veil. The death itself is denoted in Hebrews 9:26 by παθεῖν ("suffered"). The argument rests on the principle, already established as being signified by the whole of the ancient ritual, that, for acceptable intercession in behalf of man, previous death or blood-shedding is in every case required. But why add "since the foundation of the world"? We must supply the thought of the retrospective efficacy of Christ's atonement. Ever since sin entered, man needed atonement, signified, but not effected, by the ancient sacrifices. Christ's one offering of himself has supplied this primeval need, availing, not only for the present and future, but also for all past ages. This view was definitely expressed, with reference to "transgressions which were under the first covenant," in Hebrews 9:15, and, though not repeated here, is prominent in the writer's mind. This view accounts for "since the foundation of the world," the idea being that, the transgressions requiring atonement having been since then, repeated deaths since then would have been needed had not Christ's one offering of himself availed for all time, just as repeated sacrifices were needed for the high priest's symbolical yearly intercessions. The question is not asked, nor is any reason given, why this one all-sufficient offering was deferred till so long after the need began. It is enough to know that such has been, in fact, the Divine will, viz. that not till the fullness of time was come—not till the end (or consummation) of the long preceding sinful ages—should the Redeemer once for all be manifested for atonement. The phrase, ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων, seems certainly to imply the idea, otherwise known to have been prevalent in the apostolic age, of the end of all things being close at hand; and this expectation further accounts for the reference to the past rather than the future in the expression, "since the foundation of the world." For, with regard to the future, the second coming of Christ was the one great idea present to the minds of Christians, the intervening time being regarded by them as but the dawn of coming day (see, on this head, what was said under Hebrews 1:2). The strong expression, εἰς ἀθέτησιν ἁμαρτίας (for the sense of ἀθέτησις, cf. Hebrews 7:18, where it means "abrogation"), used as it here is with reference to all the transgressions of the ages past, though not to be pressed so as to invalidate what is elsewhere said of the future penal consequences of all willful and unrepented sin, may still be cited among the texts supporting the view of those who "trust the larger hope."

Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28

And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this judgment: so the Christ also, once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, without sin, to them that look for him, unto salvation. The Divine ordinance concerning mankind in general has its analogy in the truth concerning Christ, who was made like unto us in all things, and who represents humanity. As human life, with all its works, comes to an end in death, and only judgment fellows, so Christ's death once for all completed his ministerial work, and nothing remains for him to do but to return as Judge in glory—he judicaturus, men judicandi. "To bear the sins of many" is taken from Isaiah 53:12. For similar use of the word ἀναφέρειν, el. Numbers 14:33, LXX; and especially 1 Peter 2:24, τὰς ἁμαρτίᾶς ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν ἐν τῷ σώματι αὑτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον, which expresses the idea of Christ's taking our sins upon himself and bearing them up to the cross, and so removing them. The ideas of bearing and of taking away may thus be both implied. In contrast with this is the χωρίς ἁμαρτίας ("without, or apart from, sin") when he shall appear again. For then he will have been, as he is now, removed from it altogether—from its burden and its surroundings; it is in glory only that he will then appear. And so also "to them that look for him" his appearing will be "unto salvation" only. They, too, will have done with sin. The insertion of the words, "to them that look for him," precludes the conclusion that it will be so to all. The many passages that express the doom of those who shall be set on the left hand, whatever they imply, retain their awful meaning (cf. especially infra, Hebrews 10:27).


Hebrews 9:1-10

Arrangements of the first covenant.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the New Testament Leviticus. In itself, the book of the Jewish ritual is rather dry reading. "Nothing can well be duller or more dingy than the appearance of a stained-glass cathedral window to one who is looking on it from the outside of the building; but, when you enter and gaze at it from within, the whole is aglow with beauty" (Dr. W.M. Taylor). Now, from this Epistle we learn to read Leviticus with the bright gospel sunlight for a background, and we thus discover how rich that ancient Scripture is, in instruction regarding the way of access to God, and the means of fellowship with him.

I. THE HEBREW SANCTUARY. (Verses 1-5) The tabernacle was the Divine palace, the symbol of Jehovah's residence among his ancient people. There was a gracious presence of God in Israel which other nations did not enjoy. Mention is made here of the two chambers of the sacred tent, each of which had a "veil" covering the entrance, and of the principal articles of furniture in these two chambers respectively.

1. The holy place. (Verse 2) This anterior apartment was oblong in shape, being thirty feet in length, fifteen in width, and fifteen in height. Three articles are named as belonging to it.

2. The holy of holies. (Verses 3-5) This innermost recess of the sanctuary, separated from the outer chamber by a richly wrought curtain, was the dwelling-place of Jehovah. It was a smaller apartment than the other, measuring fifteen feet in length, breadth, and height, and thus forming a perfect square. Seven things are named as belonging to it.

II. ITS SERVICES. (Verses 6, 7) While the outer court of the tabernacle was open to the whole congregation of Israel, except to such as might at any time be ceremonially unclean, only the sons of Aaron were allowed to minister at the altar, or within the sanctuary proper.

1. The holy place was for the daily ministration of the ordinary priests. (Verse 6) Their duties were such as these: They sprinkled the blood of the sin offerings before the "second veil;" they lighted and fed and trimmed the seven lamps of the candelabrum; they offered incense upon the golden altar; they changed the shewbread every sabbath day.

2. The holy of holies was for the annual ministration of the high priest alone. (Verse 7) None of the ordinary priests ever dared to enter the inner sanctuary, or even to look into it. And even the high priest could only do so on one day in the year—on the great annual fast day, the Day of Atonement. In the course of that day, however, he went into the holy of holies at least three times: first, with the censer and incense; secondly, with the blood of the bullock, for his own and the priests' sins; and, thirdly, with the blood of the goat, for the people's sins. He went in "not without blood," the presentation of the blood being necessary to the completion of the sacrifice.

III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BOTH. (Verses 8-10) These verses remind us that the institutions of Judaism were established by the Holy Spirit himself as a symbol of Old Testament facts, and as a prefiguration of the privileges of the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8-12. It was not Moses who ordained the Levitical ceremonial; it was the Holy Ghost. And by this means the Spirit taught the great truth that on the ground of nature access to God is barred for all sinful men; and that even under the "first covenant" of grace this blessing was only most imperfectly realized. The division of the sacred tent into two apartments, and the exclusion of the ordinary priests from the holy of holies, illustrated the great defect of the old covenant. The nature of the services, too, reflected its imperfections. The rites of Judaism cleansed the body from ceremonial defilement; but they could not wash the soul from sin. They involved, indeed, a continual remembrance of sins, rather than a putting away of sins forever. And yet, notwithstanding this, the tabernacle-worship was a bright promise and prophecy of the "opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers" at the time of rectification foretold by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Hebrews 9:11-14

Superiority of the new covenant.

The advent of the Messiah has removed the defects suggested by the Mosaic ritual. He has obtained for the true Israel those great spiritual blessings which "the first covenant" was powerless to bestow. These verses indicate various elements of superiority. The new covenant has provided—

I. A BETTER HIGH PRIEST. (Hebrews 9:11) Our priestly Mediator is "Christ," the Anointed. He has been divinely ordained, equipped, and accredited. He is a better High Priest than Aaron, because the Minister of a better dispensation. The "good things" denote the blessings of the new covenant; and these are described as "to come," because they had been always premised and expected in connection with the advent of the Messiah. How joyful the tidings to our guilty, sin-deflowered, distracted world, that its true Priest has "come"! He has assumed our nature; he has lived and died; he has risen and ascended; he has "entered in once for all" into the true sanctuary.

II. A NOBLER TABERNACLE. (Hebrews 9:11) The sacred tent of the Hebrews had, doubtless, many excellences. It was a costly erection. Its arrangements were "a parable" (Hebrews 9:9) which instructed the Jews in spiritual truth. The ark was an emblem of the Divine majesty. The cherubic figures were "cherubim of glory," for Jehovah dwelt in symbol between them. Yet, after all, the Jewish tabernacle was only an earthly structure. It was "made with hands." But our High Priest ministers in "the greater and more perfect tabernacle." The place of his priestly service is the highest heavens. The true tabernacle is "not of this creation;" it is in the unseen—in the immediate presence of Jehovah. And the work of Christ there is to interpose and intercede for his people. Every act of saving power results directly from the expression of his will, as our Advocate at the bar of God.

III. A RICHER SACRIFICE. (Hebrews 9:12-14) Salvation comes to us as the result of satisfaction rendered to Divine justice. We are not saved by receiving Christ's doctrine, or by observing a Christian ritual, or by following Christ's example, or by imbibing moral influence from him as a Teacher and Martyr. Christ saves us "by the sacrifice of himself." As he laid down his life for us, and as "the blood is the life," he is said to have "entered into the holy place" "through his own blood." How much richer and more powerful is this blood than that which was shed upon the brazen altar of the tabernacle! The latter contained only the principle of brute life. But Christ's is:

1. Human blood. Our High Priest is a real man, woman-born—our own mother's Son. He is "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." So he yielded himself up intelligently and voluntarily as our Sacrifice.

2. Holy blood. Jesus "offered himself without blemish unto God" (Hebrews 9:14). His earthly life was absolutely faultless. He is the only perfect specimen of humanity that has ever lived upon earth—the one "Son of man" who did not share in human corruption and condemnation.

3. Heavenly blood. The Man Christ Jesus had an "eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14); i.e. he possessed the Divine nature. He is personally and literally God. And it is his Deity that gives to his death its marvelous significance. No creature-blood could atone for our sins; but the sacrifice of Christ is of infinite value, because there resides in him" the power of an endless life."

IV. A MORE THOROUGH CLEANSING. (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14) The writer concedes that the Levitical sin offerings did purify. One purpose of their appointment was that they might effect legal or ceremonial cleansing. "The blood of goats and bulls," which was presented for the collected guilt of Israel once a year, consecrated the Jew ceremonially to the worship and service of Jehovah. In like manner the sprinkling of "the ashes of a red heifer," mixed with water, removed legal defilement from the person who had touched a dead body (Numbers 19:2-9). But the blood of Christ purifies from a deeper pollution. It cleanses the "conscience." It is the God-provided solvent for the stains of sin. It can

"Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart."

This blood purifies from "dead works"—those deeds which are done by dead souls, and which, however excellent some of them may appear when viewed in themselves, are yet of no avail to recommend to the Divine favor. Under the new covenant the conscience is cleansed so thoroughly that the service of God becomes a constant joy to the believer's soul. The Divine statutes become his "songs," and he learns to "run in the way of God's commandments."

V. A MORE BLESSED REDEMPTION. Some of the positive elements of the Christian salvation are indicated in these verses. Those had not been "made manifest" under the old covenant.

1. Perfect access to God. The subject of access is the nerve-thought of this whole section of the treatise. The worshipper under the new covenant, being cleansed through the "one offering" of Christ, is admitted into the immediate presence of Jehovah. He stands within the "second veil," that veil being now "rent in twain" (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2).

2. Full freedom to serve God. (Hebrews 9:14) A guilt-stained soul can perform only "dead works;" but the spirit that is washed in the blood of Christ's atonement begins immediately to be of use to its Redeemer. Oar High Priest has shed his blood, not only to render us safe, but to make us holy; not only to deliver us from God's wrath, but from our own wickedness. So soon as Christ destroys "the body of sin" within us, we discover that it is our "reasonable service" to present our persons "a living sacrifice."

3. The gift of eternal life. (Hebrews 9:12) The gospel salvation redeems both soul and body, finally and for ever. It saves, not only from the curse of the Law, but from all evil. "Eternal redemption" expresses the sum total of the benefits which accrue from Christ's mediation, and includes the consummation of the plan of grace in the heavenly world. It denotes "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory."

Hebrews 9:15-22

Ratification by blood.

Here the writer pauses in his argument regarding the superiority of Christ's sacrifice to the sacrifices of the Law, and directs attention to an important point of similarity between the old covenant and the new. This passage is a serious crux. It has perplexed the most eminent commentators. The great question is, whether διαθήκη should be translated "covenant" or "testament:" in Hebrews 9:16 and Hebrews 9:17. For ourselves, we have come to the conclusion that as this Greek word does not bear the meaning of "testament" or "will" in any other part of Scripture, and as it is unquestionably used in the sense of "covenant" in the immediate context (Hebrews 8:6-13), as well as in Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:18-20 of this very passage, we are compelled, in spite of opposing considerations, to attach to the word the sense of "covenant" in Hebrews 9:16 and Hebrews 9:17 also. Moses did not make a will at Mount Sinai, the provisions of which could only be carried into effect after his death. Neither did Christ speak of a will when he instituted the Lord's Supper in the upper room—using the words of Moses. The one reference throughout the paragraph before us is to a covenant, or rather to the two covenants which are being compared and contrasted in this section of the treatise. It is most unfortunate that the two great parts into which Holy Scripture is divided should be designated among the English-speaking nations by the word "testaments," which is confessedly a mistranslation. Rather, the Hebrew oracles ought to have been called "The Book of the Old Covenant;" and the Christian Scriptures "The Book of the New Covenant."

I. IN OLDEN TIMES COVENANTS WERE SEALED BY THE DEATH OF VICTIMS. "For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the ratifying victim. For a covenant is of force where there hath been death; for doth it ever avail while the ratifying victim liveth?" (Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17). The Hebrew word for a covenant means primarily "a cutting;" the reference being to a common custom among the ancients of dividing into two the animals slain for the purpose of ratification, that the contracting parties might pass between the pieces (Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:10, Genesis 15:17; Jeremiah 34:18, Jeremiah 34:19). It is certain that in the oldest times of Scripture history, covenants were sealed by means of sacrifice. God's covenant with Noah (Ge 8:20-9:17), and his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), were thus ratified. And it is probable that the prevalent custom among both Jews and Gentiles of confirming contracts in this manner originated in the Divine appointment of animal sacrifice as a type of the atonement of Christ.

II. THE "FIRST" OR MOSAIC COVENANT WAS THUS SEALED. (Hebrews 9:18-22) This old covenant, made at Mount Sinai, comprised the Ten Commandments and the body of laws contained in Exodus 21:1-36.- 23. These laws were called "The Book of the Covenant." They were the first rough outline of the Mosaic code which Jehovah gave to his people. In Exodus 24:3-8 there is a description of the ceremonial which is here referred to. The awe-stricken people were gathered before an altar erected at the foot of the mountain. The book of the covenant was read over to them. Twelve young men, acting as priests, shed the blood of certain propitiatory victims. Then Moses sprinkled half of the blood upon the altar and upon the book of the covenant, and the other half upon the assembled multitude. Some of the circumstances of the ceremonial which are alluded to in verse 19 are not mentioned in the narrative of Exodus; but the writer of our Epistle refers to them as matter of well-known and thoroughly authenticated Hebrew tradition. This solemn ratification of the Sinaitic Law shows that God and the sinner can only be made "at one" through a covenant of blood; and thus, the words spoken by Moses when he sprinkled the blood (verse 20) were adopted by the Savior in instituting the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:28), to signify the confirmation of the "new" and "eternal covenant" through the shedding of his own blood. But, besides this, the tabernacle and its furniture were dedicated with the sprinkling of blood; and blood continued to be used in connection with nearly all the rites of which the tabernacle was the center (verses 21, 22). The ceremonial Law was, in fact, one vast system of blood-symbols. The crimson streams never ceased to flow upon the brazen altar; blood was put upon the altar of incense; the holy of holies itself was sprinkled with it. There was blood everywhere;—no access to God except by blood. The Jews were thus taught, with solemn and continual iteration, that the forgiveness of sins can only be obtained by means of a substitutionary atonement.

III. THE NEW COVENANT HAS BEEN SEALED BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST. (Verse 15) This death was at once a sacrifice for sin and a covenant offering. The blood of Jesus has done for the new covenant, in sealing it, what the blood of the Mosaic sacrifices did for the old. His death as the ratifying Victim took place "of necessity." It was necessary, not certainly because of the ancient custom of sealing covenants by sacrifice; rather, God had appointed sacrifice, and employed it in his gracious communications with his ancient people, in order to prefigure thereby the true meaning and purpose of the death of Christ. The necessity of the atonement was neither hypothetical, nor governmental, nor a necessity of expediency. It arose out of the nature of God, as infinitely holy, just, and righteous. "For this cause" that by his death he has paid a full ransom for human sin, "he is the Mediator of a new covenant"—of that better economy promised long before by Jeremiah (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrifice of Christ is of such transcendent efficacy that it has availed to wash away the guilt of all God's people who lived under the former imperfect covenant; as well as to secure for all saints, whether Jewish or Christian, the inestimable gift of eternal life.


1. We should avail ourselves of the benefits of the new covenant.

2. Have confidence that all its promises will be fulfilled.

3. Cherish grateful love to the Lord Jesus, who has sealed the covenant with his blood.

4. Celebrate the Lord's Supper with intelligence and joy.

5. Consecrate our lives to the service of our Redeemer.

Hebrews 9:23-28

Perfection of Christ's atonement.

In these verses the writer contrasts the incompleteness of the Mosaic sacrifices with the finality which attaches to the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus.

I. THREE GREAT CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES. These rest respectively upon three facts, viz. the death and the ascension of Christ, which are matters of history; and the second advent, which is still future.

1. Christ died as a Sacrifice for sin. (Hebrews 9:28) His death was a stupendous event—being that of a Divine Person. It did not occur as the result of disease, or of natural decay. It was not an accidental death. It was judicially inflicted. Sentence was pronounced upon Jesus, not merely in the high priest's palace and in Pilate's judgment-hall, but in the court of heaven. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; 'The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.'"

2. He ascended to heaven as our Priest. (Hebrews 9:24) Of the three offices which Jesus executes, the prophetical occupied the most prominent place while he was on earth; his priestly office has seemed to come into the foreground now that he has gone to heaven; and his kingly functions will appear to be most fully discharged after the second advent. Why was it necessary that he should enter heaven as our Priest?

3. He shall come again to consummate the salvation of his people. (Hebrews 9:28) On the Day of Atonement, after Aaron had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood, he came forth from the holy of holies, reclothed himself in his splendid vestments of blue and red and purple, trimmed with pomegranates and golden bells, and appeared outside to bless the waiting multitudes. So our High Priest, although he still tarries in the heavenly tabernacle, filling it with the fragrant incense of his intercession, shall appear at the end of the ages, wearing the robes of his immortal glory, to say to his expectant people, "Come, ye blessed of my Father." He shall appear "apart from sin." When he came the first time, he was "made to be sin on our behalf," although he "knew no sin;" but at his second advent he shall not again assume the dreadful burden. He shall appear "unto salvation," i.e. to complete the redemption of his people. By his first coming he saved their souls; at his second coming, he shall save their bodies. Or, rather, at his first coming he paid down the ransom-price of our redemption; while at his second coining he shall receive the final installment of his purchased possession.

II. THE DOCTRINAL FOCUS OF THE PASSAGE. The chief point of thought for the sake of which these three doctrines are adduced is marked by the repetition of the word "once" in Hebrews 9:26-28; and by the contrast between this "once" and the "often" or "year by year" of Hebrews 9:25. Christ died only once; he ascended only once; he shall come again only once. Why is it that, while Aaron entered the Hebrew holy of holies every year, Jesus Christ has gone into the heavenly sanctuary "once for all"? Two reasons are assigned: the one, that to repeat his sacrifice would be unnatural; and the other, that to do so is unnecessary.

1. It would be unnatural. (Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28) Jesus Christ is the Son of man, and in all things he has been "made like unto his brethren." Now, it is a human thing to die once; and the death of every child of Adam will be followed by his appearance at the general judgment. So "it was in harmony with the law of mortality in this world that Christ should die but once. There would have been something unnatural in his dying and rising, and dying and rising, again and again without end" (Dr. Lindsay). The Lord's death and his second advent are parallel arrangements to what is the common lot of man.

2. It is unnecessary. This reason is still more satisfying, and it receives great prominence in the verses before us. It was not needful that Christ should die and ascend and come again oftener than once; for:


Hebrews 9:4, Hebrews 9:5

The ark of the covenant, a symbol of redemptive truth.

"The ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein … were the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat." Jewish solemnities were types of Christian truths and relations. The furniture of their sacred courts possessed symbolical significance. Their religious institutions were parables of spiritual and saving truths. Deep significance of this kind attached to the ark of the covenant. We shall regard it as setting forth certain facts and features of God's redemptive relations with men. In it we discover—

I. THE RECOGNITION OF LAW IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "The ark of the covenant, wherein were the tables of the covenant." The two tables containing the ten commandments, in accordance with Divine directions, were deposited in the ark (Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:21; Exodus 40:20). Thus Law was recognized and honored there:

1. As a sacred thing. The tables were in the most holy place and in the most venerated receptacle which that place contained. Law is a benevolent thing, a holy thing. It is at the very center of all things. In the material universe, in human history, and in Divine redemption, law is present everywhere, and operative everywhere. It is of a religions nature, of a Divine nature.

2. As a permanent thing. Ceremonial laws pass away; moral laws are abiding. The "ten words" given on Sinai in their essential characteristics are as binding now as they were under the earlier dispensation. Our Lord endorsed and enforced them. He said, "Thou shall love the Lord thy God," etc. (Matthew 22:37-40). The everlasting continuance of law is essential to the order and well-being of the universe of God. The redemption which is by Christ Jesus aims at the establishment of the Law of God in blessed and perpetual supremacy, and the inspiration and confirmation in man of the spirit and habit of cheerful conformity to that Law. There is law in heaven. The ark of the covenant is there. "And there was opened the temple of God that is heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant" (Revelation 11:19).

3. As a witness against man. Man had broken this holy Law. In his fallen and sinful condition he could not thoroughly keep it. Hence it bore witness against him. The tables of the covenant were also called "the two tables of testimony," and they testified to the transgressions and failures of men. "By the Law is the knowledge of sin." And in this way the Law witnessed to man's need of mercy and forgiveness and spiritual power.

II. THE MANIFESTATION OF GRACE IN GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. The ark of the covenant was covered, and the covering was called "the mercy-seat." The word which is here rendered "mercy-seat" is applied to our Savior: "Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation," etc. (Romans 3:25). There was a manifestation of grace:

1. In the mercy-seat itself. It was the lid of the chest which contained the tables of the Law. Those tables testified against man, and the mercy-seat hid, as it were, their testimony from the eyes of the Holy One who dwelt between the cherubim. The mercy-seat covered and concealed the accusing tables. Hence arose the poetical view of forgiveness as a covering of sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

2. In the symbolical atonement which was made upon the mercy-seat. The covering of the tables of testimony was not in itself sufficient to put away the guilt of the people. For this atonement also was necessary. Hence on the great Day of Atonement the high priest was required to sprinkle the blood of the sin offerings upon the mercy-seat to "make an atonement, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins" (Le 16:11-16). To the mercy-seat in this aspect there is reference in several verses of the Scripture, or at least the verb used in these verses (kaphar) suggests such a reference. "Our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away" (Psalms 65:3); "He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity" (Psalms 78:38); "To make reconciliation for iniquity" (Daniel 9:24). In this the mercy-seat pointed to the Christ, the great Atonement, the true Propitiatory, "whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith by his blood" (Romans 3:24-26). Thus the manifestation of the grace of God in his redemptive relations with man was symbolized in the covering of the ark of the covenant. Moreover, grace and Law appear here as connected and harmonious. Rightly understood, Law itself is an expression of Divine grace, and Divine grace aims to establish the universal reign of Law, which is but another word for the reign of God. The mercy-seat was "God's throne of grace founded upon Law." Here "mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

III. THE ATTITUDE AND ACTION OF ANGELS IN RESPECT TO GOD'S REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat." We regard the cherubim as emblems of angelic powers; and their position here suggests that they are:

1. The solemn guardians of God's holy Law. They kept constant watch over the "tables of testimony." They are deeply interested in the maintenance of moral law. They "are in Scripture evermore the attendants, and bearers up, of the throne of God." When man rebelled against the authority of that throne, they were appointed ministers for punishing the transgressors (Genesis 3:24).

2. The interested students of God's redemptive relations with men. The cherubim were represented as looking intently and constantly upon the ark of the covenant. "Toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be," etc. (Exodus 25:20, Exodus 25:21). "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). "Unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places is made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).

3. The willing servants in promoting the successful issue of God's redemptive relations with men. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" (see on Hebrews 1:14).

IV. THE REVELATION OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN HIS REDEMPTIVE RELATIONS WITH MEN. "Cherubim of glory." They were so called because they appeared to bear up the visible symbol of the presence of God, which in the Old Testament is sometimes called "the glory." God promised to commune with his people "from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Exodus 25:22). "Moses heard the voice of one speaking unto him from between the two cherubim" (Numbers 7:89). God was said to "dwell between the cherubim" (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalms 80:1; Psalms 99:1). God sometimes manifested his presence here in a luminous cloud, which the Jews called the Shechinah, and here he was always thought of as present. Jesus Christ our Redeemer is the true Shechinah. He is "the Effulgence of the Father's glory, and the very Image of his substance." He is the truest, the highest, the fullest manifestation of God to man. And in spiritual presence God dwells with his people now. The Holy Spirit is present with every godly soul. And Christians are inspired by the mighty and blessed hope that when this life in the body ends, they will follow their Forerunner within the veil and see God "even as he is."—W.J.

Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12

The pre-eminent priesthood.

"But Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come," etc. Our Lord is here represented as the pre-eminent High Priest in three respects.


1. The temple in which he ministers is itself pre-eminent. He has "entered in once for all into the holy place." He ministers in the true holy of holies, of which the Jewish one was only a figure. He is not in the symbolized, but in the veritable and immediate presence of God. "A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." "Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us."

2. The access to this temple is pre-eminent. The Jewish high priest entered the holy of holies through the holy place. Our Lord passed into the true holy of holies "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands." It seems to us that "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" cannot mean either

No interpretation of this part of our text is without its difficulties; but that which seems to us to be the true one is, that he passed through the visible heavens as through an outer sanctuary into the inner sanctuary of "heaven itself." Our "great High Priest hath passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14), and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The outer sanctuary of the Jewish temple was "made with hands," small and imperfect; but the heavens which Christ passed through were created by the Divine fiat, and they are immeasurably vast and unspeakably glorious.

II. IN THE ATONEMENT WHICH HE MADE. "Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered in once for all into the holy place." The entering in through blood refers to the blood which the high priests took into the holy of holies to" make an atonement" (cf. Le 16:14-16). Christ is represented as entering the heavenly sanctuary through blood. Not literally, but figuratively, must we accept this. He complied with the condition of entrance into the perfect sanctuary as our great High Priest. He made atonement for sin previous to his appearing "before the face of God for us." But, unlike the Aaronic high priests, he needed not to make atonement for himself. For us and for all men he made the pre-eminent atonement—the perfect atonement. How?

1. By the sacrifice of the highest life. Not animal, but human life. Not a sinful or imperfect human life, but a pure, holy, perfect one. He gave his own life—the undefiled, the highest, the sublimest, the supremely beautiful life—as an atonement for the sin of the world.

2. By the voluntary sacrifice of the highest life. Christ did not die as an unwilling Victim. He freely gave himself for us. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," etc. (John 10:17, John 10:18). "Through his own blood," which was willingly shed for us, he effected human redemption, and then ascended to his mediatorial throne.


1. He has obtained eternal redemption for us. Man was in bondage. Wicked powers had enslaved him. He was the thrall of corrupt passions and sinful habits; "sold under sin;" "the slave of sin;" the "bond-servant of corruption." Christ redeemed man from this bondage. He paid our ransom-price. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, with silver or gold; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." He is the great Emancipator. He "proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to the bound." He delivers from the condemnation, from the guilt, from the defilement, and from the sovereignty of sin. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And this redemption is eternal. Its benefits endure forever. It introduces man into everlasting liberty and light, and starts him upon a career of endless progress and blessedness.

2. He is "a High Priest of the good things to come." These good things are the blessings of the gospel age, the privileges which Christians now enjoy. Under the former covenant they were in the future; now they are a present possession. They who lived during that dispensation had the figures of gospel blessings; we have the very blessings themselves. But there is more than that here. Christ is a High Priest of good things yet to come. There are blessings which we hope for in the future, and shall obtain through his glorious priesthood. We look forward to the time when we shall enter upon "the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled," etc. (1 Peter 1:4, 1 Peter 1:5). The blessings which flow to man from his priesthood are inexhaustible and infinite. Through him there will ever be "good things to come" for those who by faith are interested in his gracious and blessed mediation.—W.J.

Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14

Ceremonial and spiritual cleansing.

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats," etc.

I. THE HUMAN NEED OF CLEANSING. By implication our text teaches the moral defilement of man. Both under the Mosaic and under the Christian dispensation the impurity was moral. But in the earlier dispensation the external and ceremonial uncleanness was made most conspicuous. A very small thing led to this defilement. If a man unwittingly walked over a grave, or touched a dead human body, he was accounted unclean seven days (cf. Numbers 19:11-22). This was designed as a parable of spiritual uncleanness. It was intended to lead men to feel the contamination of sin. So in the Christian economy it is the internal and moral impurity that is exhibited, and the need of spiritual cleansing that is insisted upon. Sin is the corrupting, defiling, separating thing. The great need is a clean heart and a right spirit.

II. THE DIVINE METHODS OF CLEANSING. Our text brings before us two methods, that of the Mosaic economy and that of the Christian, the ceremonial and the spiritual.

But in other respects these methods were widely different. Let us notice the method:

1. In the earlier dispensation.

2. In the Christian dispensation.

(a) It was the sacrifice of a human life. "The blood of Christ, who … offered himself."

(b) It was the sacrifice of a holy human life. "Christ offered himself without blemish unto God"(cf. Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 7:27; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19).

(c) It was the sacrifice of the holy human life of a Divine Person. "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God." By "the eternal Spirit" we understand, "not the Spirit of the Father dwelling in Christ, nor the Holy Spirit given without measure to Christ, but the Divine Spirit of the Godhead which Christ himself had, and was in his inner personality" (Alford, in loco). Our Lord's Divine nature acquiesced in the redemptive plan and purpose, and contributed to its fulfillment. "It was 'the blood of Christ; 'of the whole and undivided Christ," as Richard Watson observes, "who was both God and man. For though a Divine nature could not bleed and die, a Divine person could. This distinction is to be kept in mind: for, the person being one, the acts and sufferings of each nature are the acts and sufferings of the same person, and are spoken of interchangeably." "His blood, though not the blood of God, yet was the blood of him that was God." The chief value of our Savior's sacrifice was not in the physical life which was offered, although that was perfect, but in the spirit in which it was offered, tie shed his blood for us in the spirit of uttermost and perfect obedience to the Divine Father, and of willing sacrifice for the accomplishment of human salvation. And this spirit of obedience and self-sacrificing love was eternal; not a transient mood or a temporary feeling, but his eternal disposition. "The sacrifice of Christ," says Ebrard, "could only be offered in the power of eternal spirit. Only the eternal spirit of absolute love, holiness, wisdom, and compassion was capable of enduring that sacrificial death."


1. The sacrifices of the Jewish ritual were efficacious in producing ritualistic purity. Doubtless there were persons who, regarding these sacrifices as types of a far higher sacrifice, and these cleansings as figures of a spiritual cleansing, derived spiritual and saving benefits through them. To these benefits the text does not refer, but to the national and ceremonial use of these institutions. They "sanctified unto the cleanness of the flesh." By means of them ceremonial impurity was removed, the separation consequent upon that impurity was brought to an end, and the cleansed person was restored to the congregation of Israel.

2. The sacrifice of Christ is far more efficacious in producing spiritual purity. "How much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse your conscience?" etc. By "conscience" in this place we do not understand any one faculty of our spiritual nature, but our entire moral consciousness in relation to God, our religious soul. "Dead works" are those which are regarded as meritorious in themselves, and apart from the disposition and motive which prompted them. They do not proceed from a heart alive by faith and love. No living spiritual sentiment breathes through them. And their influence on the soul is not inspiring, but depressing. They have no fitness for quickening spiritual affections and powers, but for crushing and killing them. They, moreover, tend to defile man's religious nature. As the touching of a corpse, or the bone of a dead body, or treading upon a grave, defiled a man under the Mosaic Law, so the contact of these dead works with man's soul contaminates it. The moral influence of the blood of Christ cleanses away this contamination (cf. 1 John 1:6-9). The holy and infinite love of God manifested in the death of Christ for us, when it is realized by us, burns up base passions and impure human affections and unholy desires. It acts within us as a fervent and purifying fire. And it inspires the soul for true spiritual service. It "cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God." The word used to express this service indicates its religiousness. It "denotes in the New Testament the priestly consecration and offering up of the whole man to the service of God. the willing priestly offering of one's self to God." It does not signify service which is limited to religious duties, but the performance of every duty and all duties in a religious spirit. The whole life is consecrated to the living God, and all its occupations become exalted into a Divine service (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). "How much more," then, "shall the blood of Christ?" etc. In the ceremonial cleansings the connection between the means and the end was merely symbolical and arbitrary; but in the redemptive influences of the gospel there is a beautiful and sublime fitness for the accomplishment of their end. The infinite righteousness and love manifested in the great self-sacrifice of the Savior are eminently adapted to redeem and purify man's soul from sin, and to inspire and invigorate him for the willing service of the living God. Our text corrects two errors concerning the sacrifice of Christ.

1. It corrects the error of those who make the essence of that sacrifice to consist in the physical sufferings and death of our Lord. God has no delight in mere pain, or blood-shedding, or death. In themselves these things cannot be pleasing to God. It was the spirit in which Christ suffered and died that made his death a Divine sacrifice and a mighty power of spiritual redemption.

2. It corrects the error of those who depreciate the expression of the Divine spirit of self-sacrifice in the life and death of our Lord. It was morally necessary that he should give himself as a sacrifice for us, in order that the mighty influence of the Divine righteousness and love might be brought to bear upon us and redeem us. "Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things?" "Thus it behooved the Christ to suffer," etc. (Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46, Luke 24:47).—W.J.

Hebrews 9:22

Forgiveness through sacrifice.

"Without shedding of blood is no remission." This is as true in Christianity as it was in Judaism. The text suggests—

I. A SAD FACT. Implied in the text and in the whole of the present section of the Epistle is the sad fact that men are sinners, needing forgiveness of sin and cleansing of soul. Men endeavor by various methods to get rid of this fact of sin. Some attribute what the Bible calls sin to defective social arrangements. Men, say they, are parts of a very imperfect and faulty organization, and their errors are to be charged against the organization, not against the individuals composing it. Others denominate sin "misdirection" or mistake, thus eliminating the element of will and moral responsibility. Others speak of it as "imperfect development." Others charge all personal wrongdoing upon the force of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances, ignoring the fact that solicitation is not compulsion. With these theories, how are we to account for the self-reproaches which men heap upon themselves after wrong-doing—for the fact that men do blame themselves for wrong-doing? We feel that we have sinned, that we are morally free and responsible individually, that we have broken a holy law, that we deserve punishment. The penitent heart cries, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," etc; "God be merciful to me the sinner." It is a terrible fact that sin is in the world, that we individually are sinners.

II. A GREAT WANT. Remission of sins—forgiveness. Man everywhere is consciously guilty before God; everywhere his heart cries out for reconciliation with him, and forgiveness from him. Altars, sacrifices, pilgrimages, penances, all witness to this. Evidences of this deep need are in our personal experience. The guilt, the consciousness that we have offended God, the dread of the stroke of his just wrath, the aching want of his forgiveness,—these things we have felt. Who shall roll away the burden of our guilt? Who will give us peace? etc. Oh, very deep is this need, and wide as the world!

III. A DIVINE CONDITION. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." Under the Mosaic economy atonement for sin was made and ceremonial cleansing obtained by the shedding and the sprinkling of blood. And the text teaches that forgiveness of sin is attainable, but only through the shedding of blood. What is the reason for this condition? The sacred Scriptures assert that "the blood is the life" (Deuteronomy 12:23). "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Le 17:11). Now, life is our most precious possession. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." Thus the "shedding of blood' is equivalent to the giving of the life. And to say that we are "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ" is to express the truth that we are redeemed by the sacrifice of his pure and precious and perfect life. But why should forgiveness of sin rest upon this condition of sacrifice? How the atonement of the death of Christ is related to the Divine Being and government we know not. But in relation to man and the forgiveness of sin we may without presumption offer one or two observations. Forgiveness cannot be granted at the sacrifice of law and moral order. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Man must be brought to recognize this, or to pardon him would be to license wrong-doing. A forgiveness which did not respect and honor the law and order of God would sap the foundations of his government, blight his universe, and prove an injury to man himself. How shall the Law be maintained and honored and man be forgiven? God has supplied the answer. He gave his only begotten Son to shed his blood and give up his life for us sinners, as a grand declaration that Law is holy and righteous and good, and must be maintained, and that the Lawgiver is the righteous and loving Father, who is willing to forgive all men who turn from sin and trust the Savior. Through the death of Christ God proclaims the wickedness of sin, the goodness, beauty, and majesty of Law, and his own infinite righteousness and love. "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission." This is not an arbitrarily imposed condition of forgiveness of sin. The necessities of the case demand it. It is gracious on the part of God so clearly to declare it. And he who declares it has himself provided for its fulfillment. "Herein is love," etc. (1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:10); "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc. (Romans 5:8). "Forgiveness of sin through the shedding of blood, the salvation of the sinner through the sacrifice of the Savior, is the Divine and the only true method. The atonement of the cross is a comprehensive force in the actual redemption of the world from evil."

IV. A GLORIOUS FACT. Forgiveness is attainable unto all men. The blood has been shed, Jesus the Christ has offered up his most precious life as a sacrifice for sin, the Divine condition of forgiveness is fulfilled, and forgiveness is now within the reach of every man. It is freely offered to all men, and upon conditions which render it available unto every man. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts," etc. (Isaiah 55:6, Isaiah 55:7). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "If we confess our sins," etc. (1 John 1:9).


1. There is no forgiveness for us apart from Jesus Christ. Our works cannot merit it. Presumptuous trust in the mercy of God, as though he were regardless of law and order, will not meet with it. Future obedience as an atonement for past sins cannot secure it. Apart from Christ we cannot obtain it.

2. Accept heartily the forgiveness which is offered to us through him.—W.J.

Hebrews 9:24

"Heaven itself."

"For Christ entered … into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Our text teaches—

I. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS A LOCALITY. It is spoken of here as a place into which Christ entered. In his glorified body he entered there, and we cannot conceive of the existence of a body apart from space and place. Body cannot exist apart from place. Our Lord said to his disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." Doubtless the blessedness of heaven is chiefly a thing of moral condition, not of circumstances; of character, not of locality. If a person's soul be impure, sinful, and possessed by wicked passions, no place could afford him joy. To such a one "heaven itself" would be a place of intolerable misery. Heaven as a state is in the holy soul; but there is also heaven as a place in which the holy dwell. We know not where this place is. We know it is not in the visible, stellar heavens; for Christ passed through them (Hebrews 4:14) into heaven itself. But where it is situated we know not. We know not its aspects or the character of its scenery. But we are convinced that it must be supremely beautiful. There are scenes of exquisite beauty and glorious grandeur and awful sublimity in this world. And we cannot but believe that in this respect heaven will, at least, be not less beautiful, or grand, or sublime. Rather, does not every consideration encourage the belief that it will present scenes that for beauty and sublimity, grandeur and glory, will immeasurably surpass everything that we know at present?

II. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE SCENE OF THE SUPREME MANIFESTATION OF GOD. "The presence of God" is manifested there. "The face of God" is seen there. Moses said unto Jehovah, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" and he was answered, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live Thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen" (Exodus 33:18-23). It must, we conceive, in one sense remain forever true that no man shall see the unveiled face of God, and live. "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). But it is also true that in the future there will be granted unto his people a spiritual vision of God of much greater clearness and fullness than any which they have in this present state. Their "future life will be spent in God's presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life." For this the intensely religious soul of David yearned. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness," etc. (Psalms 17:15). With ardent desire St. Paul anticipated that he should see him "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). And St. John was thrilled with the sublime and sanctifying hope that he should "see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). At present we see him through his works. Creation is a revelation of his might and majesty, his wisdom and goodness. But a nearer and clearer vision of him awaits us in the future. In that future our perceptions will doubtless be more quick and true, more comprehensive and strong, than they are at present. Here and now some men discern signs of the Divine presence and catch sounds of the Divine voice, where others recognize nothing Divine.

"Cleon sees no charms in nature—in a daisy, I

Cleon hears no anthem ringing in the sea and sky:

Nature sings to me for ever—earnest listener, I."

But the perceptions of even the spiritual and thoughtful man here are dim to what they will be hereafter. Then we shall see him, not through the veil of flesh, not through the clouds which our doubts and sins interpose between us and him, but with the clarified vision of the pure heart (Matthew 5:8). This vision is promised unto his servants. "His servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face "(Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:4; see also Revelations Revelation 7:15; Revelation 21:3). This vision of God is:

1. Enrapturing. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."

2. Transforming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after forty days' communion with God, "the skin of his face shone." He had caught something of the glory of the august and awful Being with whom he had been in communication. How much more will the saints in heaven receive of his glory! For

3. Abiding. In heaven itself the manifestation of God will not be occasional or intermittent, but regular and constant. "He will dwell with them," etc. (Revelation 21:3).

III. THAT HEAVEN ITSELF IS THE ABODE OF THE CHRIST AND THE SCENE OF HIS PRESENT MINISTRY. "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there in his mediatorial glory (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1).

1. He is there as the Representative of man. The expression, "to appear in the presence of God for us," suggests that he is in heaven as our Representative or Advocate (cf. Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34). As the Aaronic high priest, on the great Day of Atonement, went into the holy of holies as the representative of the people; so our Savior, "when he had made purification of sins," "entered into heaven itself," etc.

2. He is there continuously as the Representative of man. The meaning of the "now" is, "from the point of time when he entered heaven as our High Priest, onward indefinitely." It implies the continuance of his appearance before the face of God for us.

3. He is there as the Forerunner of man. (Cf. Hebrews 6:20; John 14:2, John 14:3)

CONCLUSION. Let us seek for heaven in the soul, or we can never be admitted into heaven itself. "Blessed are the pure in heart," etc. (Matthew 5:8). "Follow after holiness," etc. (Hebrews 12:14).—W.J.

Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28

The two deaths, and the two appearings after death.

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die," etc. The writer is still treating of the completeness of the sacrifice of our Savior. That sacrifice was offered once for all. Being perfect, it needed no repetition. And now he shows that its repetition was impossible. Notice—

I. THE TWO DEATHS. The death of man, and the death of the Christ. They are mentioned together here to bring out the fact that Christ's offering of himself will not be repeated. Notice these two deaths in the order in which they are here mentioned.

1. The death of man.

2. The death of the Christ. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."

(a) Its repetition is impossible. As man can die only once, so the Christ can only be offered in death once.

(b) Its repetition is unnecessary. His offering was perfect in itself and in its efficacy; its efficacy, moreover, is perpetual, so that it need not be repeated. Heaven asks no more. Man needs no more.

"His precious blood

Shall never lose its power,

Till the whole ransomed Church of God

Be saved, to sin no more."



1. The appearing of man after death. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this, judgment." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:10). The fact of human responsibility to God suggests the coming of a great day of account. The Divine government of the world, and the inequalities between the characters and conditions and circumstances of men, which are so many and remarkable at present, point to the necessity of such a day. The holy Bible declares it as a certainty (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10-12). How unutterably solemn the consideration that all the myriads of the dead shall appear again in the great day, and before the awful and holy tribunal of the Son of God and Son of man.

2. The appearing of the Christ after death. "The Christ, also, having been offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time," etc.

(a) The attitude of his people in relation to his coming. "Them that wait for him" This implies:

( α) Faith in his coming. "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. (Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21).

( β) Desire for his coming. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

( γ) Expectation of his coming. They "wait for God's Son from heaven," etc. (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

(b) The object of his coming in relation to his people. "Unto salvation." To perfect their salvation. He will raise their bodies, reunite body and soul, receive them into his glory. He will say unto them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father," etc. They shall enter into the joy of their Lord. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things," etc. (2 Peter 3:14).—W.J.


Hebrews 9:1-5

Passing reference to the symbolism of the Jewish tabernacle.

The third deduction from the fact that Christ, infinitely greater than Aaron, is High Priest at the right hand of God: The abolition of the Jewish types by their fulfillment in the Redeemer. This occupies Hebrews 9-10:18.

Subject—Passing reference to the symbolism of the Jewish tabernacle. The importance of the tabernacle is obvious, since thirty-seven chapters are devoted to describe it and its services, and seven times it is said to have been made according to the heavenly pattern; so much so that when the writer of this Epistle has to refer to what was typical in the old economy, he does not speak of the temple, but of the original sanctuary. Moreover, but for the tabernacle and its services, much of what is most important in the New Testament would be unintelligible—the veil, mercy-seat, priest, atonement, Lamb of God, etc. The tabernacle standing in its sacred enclosure in the midst of the vast encampment, with the cloudy pillar resting upon it, was the dwelling-place of Israel's King. At Sinai God and Israel entered into solemn covenant. He was to be their King, and they a people peculiarly his own, and from that time he made his visible abode among them. But what was the purpose of the particular form this abode assumed? They were ignorant of him, and in so low a condition that abstract truth was insufficient for their teaching; they needed heavenly things in pictures. The tabernacle, therefore, was doubtless designed in its construction to meet this need. It would convey to them very plainly that God is real, one, theirs, holy, only approachable to man by sacrifice. But the New Testament throws additional light on this ancient sanctuary, by which its details are seen to be profoundly symbolic of New Testament truth, and Christians may better understand, because of it, their position in Christ. The Jewish tabernacle is the type of the Christian Church (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). The Church, founded on "the atonement money" (Scripture name for the hundred silver sockets which were the foundation of the tabernacle); the Church, habitation of God through the Spirit; the Church, witness to the world of the reality, character, and grace of God.

I. THE SYMBOLISM. IN THE JEWISH TABERNACLE. The tabernacle consisted of two apartments separated by the veil, the inner one called "the holy of holies."

1. The relation of Jehovah to the Church, as seen in the holy of holies. Described in Hebrews 10:3-5. A symbol of heaven, as in Apocalypse: "The city lieth four square, and the length," etc; "And the city had no need of the sun, for the," etc. Most glorious place, seat and throne of the King, where celestial beings bow in his presence! Most holy place, hidden from human gaze, inaccessible save through the atonement, inaccessible yet so near; only a veil between, which a breath might almost waft aside, and which the incense of prayer can penetrate! Most blessed place, for there our great High Priest ever carries on his work on our behalf! How well is the tabernacle a type of this! There was the ark of the covenant, and nothing more, save that the walls and ceiling were draped with curtains embroidered with cherubic figures. What did this typify? That

2. The relation of the Church to Jehovah, as seen in the holy place. (Hebrews 10:2) The golden altar, candlestick, shewbread-table, occupied this apartment. (Note, no mention of the golden altar in the text, but in the fourth verse the word "censer" signifies anything that holds incense, and probably should be rendered "altar," as we read of no censer belonging to the holy of holies. It is not said in Hebrews 10:4 that this was within the holy of holies, but only that it belonged to it; it stood close to the veil, its incense passed through the veil, its work was within whilst its form was without) These are also part of the type of the Church; the Church below, as the former the Church above. What do they teach about the Church on earth? Righteous mercy raising us to perfection with him. That is God's part of the covenant. What is ours?


1. That the Church is the dwelling-place of God. The symbolism is abolished; what is left? The Christian Church, the spiritual temple, which is to be in the world what the tabernacle was in Israel. As once God dwelt in a consecrated temple, now he dwells in consecrated lives; no more worshipped by sacred forms, but by devout hearts. Symbolism has given place to spirituality.

2. That the true Church is that which embodies the teaching of the holy and most holy places. Or, in other words, the true Christian. You believe in what is done for you within the veil, the Godward aspect of Christian life; but to that do you add the manward—worship, service, consecration?

3. That the way into the Church is symbolized in the types of the old sanctuary. Between the entrance to the tabernacle and the gate of the court, stood the brazen altar on which rite sacrifices were offered, and the brazen laver. No entrance to the Church but by Christ's work and the Spirit's—the atoning blood and the laver of regeneration.—C.N.

Hebrews 9:6-10

The symbolism of the Jewish sacrifices.

Only a partial reference, but enough to call up to the Hebrew mind the round of sacred offerings prescribed in Leviticus.


1. What was the origin of the sacrificial act? Did it originate with man or God? In favor of the former, there is the fact that it is not recorded that the first sacrifice was the result of a Divine call. But against this, we are told that the first recorded sacrifice was offered "by faith" (Hebrews 11:4), and faith implies a Divine revelation—"faith cometh by hearing, and hearing," etc. The Divine origin of the act is, therefore, implied. Moreover, the act of religious sacrifice is practically universal. Does not that imply a principle wrought into human nature by its Creator, especially when it is remembered that the act is one repugnant to human feeling? But, more than all, God's covenant with men is based on sacrifice, and it is surely incredible that Jehovah adopted for so supreme an end what man had first suggested.

2. What was the meaning the Jew attached to sacrificial rites? Whatever shades of meaning attached to different offerings, and however much or little spiritual significance to any of them, it must, at least, have been impressed on the Hebrew mind with great clearness that "without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins," that God's people only remained in covenant with him through the efficacy of a substitutionary victim. That was the basis of the Jewish system, and was before the people in various forms every day, and could hardly be missed. How far the average few regarded these as types of a perfect sacrifice to be made hereafter, or how far he trusted in them, cannot be said; but at least the pious amongst them understood that unless the physical act had a spiritual antitype it was unacceptable (Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 50:7-15; Isaiah 1:11-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:7-8).

3. What are the particular truths symbolized in the various sacrifices? The offerings (except those which applied to special and personal matters) were of five kinds—sin, trespass, burnt, meat, and peace offerings. It must be remembered that these were the offerings of those living under the privileges of the Day of Atonement; in other words, of a people already in covenant with Jehovah. The Day of Atonement was the one day on which expiation was made for all sin, and Jehovah showed himself still their God. That day was unique, and was to the nation what that day is to the believer when, on his first faith in Christ, he is admitted into God's family. By the services of that day the people stood justified before God, in covenant relation with him. No doubt the sum of the five offerings is the Lord Jesus. He is essentially the Sacrifice in whom all these typical sacrifices are gathered, up, and they are so many different aspects of his work. But beside this, and growing out of it, they have reference to different aspects of the worshipper's position. On the Day of Atonement the sacrifices were offered for the people. The high priest did it all; but in these other offerings the people appear as actors, and there is a sense in which these were not made for them, but by them. The penitent sinner has only to receive; that is the Day of Atonement. The redeemed saint has to give; that is represented by these five offerings. The sacrifices, therefore, set forth different aspects of Christ's work, revealing different aspects of the saint's position.

II. WITH THIS IDEA OF THE MEANING OF THE SACRIFICES, GLANCE AT THEM SEPARATELY. When a complete round of sacrificial offerings was required, they were generally made in a specified order: sin, or trespass, or occasionally both; burnt; meat; peace. We may divide these into three groups.

1. Sin and trespass offerings setting forth the worshipper's need off expiation. The prominent idea in both these is expiation. Israel stood before God in a state of reconciliation, yet needing constant pardon for offences committed in that state. These offerings were to meet that need. "He that is cleansed needeth not save to," etc; but he needs that. In the law of these offerings (Leviticus 4:1-35. and 5) we have sin confessed, judged, requiring blood-shed-ding, atoned for, and pardoned. The peculiarity of the trespass offering was that it was for sins which admitted of some sort of restitution. The teaching of these offerings is that for the Christian's sins there is pardon through the blood of the Lamb, but the condition of which is penitence which tries to undo the wrong done. "I lay my sins on Jesus," etc; that is the sin offering. "Lord, if I have wronged any man, I restore unto him fourfold;" that is the trespass offering. Where these are combined" it shall be forgiven him" (Leviticus 4:1-35).

2. Burnt and meat offerings expressing the worshipper's desire for dedication. These are classed together in Scripture (Numbers 15:3, Numbers 15:4), and, unlike the former, they were both "sweet savor offerings unto the Lord." The law of the burnt offering is in Leviticus 1:1-17. This was the perpetual offering of God's covenant people, being offered every morning and evening. Every sabbath, every month, and at all the annual festivals, and indeed all through the night, when the altar was required for no other use, this sacrifice was slowly consuming. The idea of sin needing expiation was here, but was not the prominent one. This could hardly refer to less than that perpetual self-dedication which is the natural result of acceptance by Geol. (Heads, legs, and inwards all burnt—thoughts, walk, affections) With this was joined the meat offering. "Meat," equivalent to "food." Man's food is symbolic of man's life. Here we have the burnt offering over again, but with this addition—part of it was bestowed on the priest. See here the Christian law of dedication—a whole life given to God, but in being given to him given to his people. Christ was both Burnt Offering and Meat Offering. "I beseech you.., present yourselves," etc; that is the burnt offering. "To do good and to communicate," etc; that is the meat offering.

3. The peace offering representing the worshipper's enjoyment of fellowship. (Leviticus 3:1-17) Its peculiarity is that it was divided into three parts; one burnt as God's portion, one given to priests, and one retained by the offerer, who might invite his friends to partake of it. The idea of unworthiness was represented with the imposition of hands and sprinkled blood; but the great idea was that, notwithstanding unworthiness, peace with God was realized, verified, enjoyed in fellowship. It was the token that the offerer was admitted to a standing in God's house, a seat at his table, communion and friendship. How much is involved when a man can eat together with God and his family! This is fulfilled in Christ; in him God and man find common food; and when we partake of him we are drawn into closest nearness to the Father. This is the peace offering—"Truly our fellowship is with the Father." Expiation, dedication, fellowship, complete Christian life.


1. The privileges here symbolized are to be fulfilled by the Christian Church. "See here," says God to us, "the blessings you believers may enjoy!" Do we enjoy them? Unless we do we are no better for living under the Christian dispensation, and the Jew was as rich as we.

2. These privileges were only possible at the sacrificial altar. All five offerings were made at the brazen altar used on the Day of Atonement. All our Christian privileges flow from the cross of Christ, and can only be fulfilled as we fulfill them there.

3. These privileges only belong to those for whom the Day of Atonement avails. Only for them—but for them. If we cannot offer the unpardoned sinner these, we can offer him a share in the great essential preceding atoning work.—C.N.

Hebrews 9:6-13

The Day of Atonement fulfilled, and its imperfect blessings perfected in Christ.

In dealing with the abolition of the types of the old economy since their fulfillment in the high priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:18), the writer comes here to dwell on the Jewish Day of Atonement. That day is the key to these and following verses, and the most forcible illustration of our Lord's high priestly work. This day was at the basis of the Jewish system; by its services, Israel's covenant relation to Jehovah was re-established and affirmed. The other offerings of the year were dependent on this, representing the various spiritual privileges of those who are at peace with the Most High. On that day, not only was atonement made for the people, but also for the priesthood, and the altar on which the other sacrifices were offered, and the tabernacle and its furniture, implying that the privileges these represented were only possible through the atonement made then. Had there been no Day of Atonement it would have involved the extinction of their peculiar privileges as the chosen people. That day was to Israel what to the believer that day is when in faith he first lays his sins on Christ, and enters the number of the redeemed. Subject—The Day of Atonement fulfilled, and its imperfect blessings perfected in Christ.

I. THE IMPERFECTION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT TYPE. (Hebrews 9:6-10) It is here said that the Divine Spirit was the Author of these arrangements, that they were a representation of sacred truth, and that in every part of them we have the utterance of a thought of God—so much so that there is, probably, no fundamental doctrine of the New Testament whose striking symbol we cannot find in one or other of these ancient ordinances. Describe the Day of Atonement—the penitence which was to usher it in; the services conducted entirely by the high priest; the two sets of sacrifices, the sin and burnt offerings for himself and his house, and those for the people; the slaying the sin offering for himself, and his entrance within the veil with the blood of sprinkling; the slaying the sin offering for the people, and his second entrance within the veil, sprinkling also the furniture of the holy place as he passed out; the confession of sins over the head of the scapegoat and its being sent away into the wilderness; the putting on of his gorgeous robes and presenting the burnt offerings (dedication after expiation); the closing of the ceremony with the high priestly benediction. Now, what was the use of all this?

1. It was perfect as a type. It is not possible to imagine a more perfect parallel than exists between this and New Testament truth. On the sinner's side, repentance, faith, holiness; on the Savior's side, the substitutionary offering of himself, the passing into the Father's presence to plead his sacrifice, and then "as far as the east is from the west, so far," etc.

2. It was perfect as a means of legal and ceremonial cleansing. God has in all ages but one means of atonement. The nation was not a nation of saved persons after the Day of Atonement; the fact that this was repeated annually showed that "it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." This day "sanctified unto the purifying of the flesh" (Hebrews 9:13)—"flesh" as opposed to spirit; it removed legal and ceremonial defilement, and retained the nation in its legal standing with Jehovah.

3. But it was imperfect for giving access to God. "The Holy Ghost this," etc. Conscience knows that no formalism, no human works, can atone for sin and admit to the Divine favor; that when the Day of Atonement has done its best, the spirit of man is left as far from Jehovah as it was before; that the true veil remained unrent.

II. THE PERFECTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TYPE. Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12, and Hebrews 9:14 display the wonderful perfection of our Lord's sacrifice.

1. His Divine appointment. The various titles of the Savior are not used at random. Here he is called Christ, the Anointed One—he who was promised by God, and for whom the ages have been looking. The substitution of another in our stead depends for its efficacy on whether God will accept him in that capacity. But God "gave his Son;" God" made him to be a Sin Offering for us;" God "hath set him forth to be a Propitiation." "My son, God will provide himself a lamb;" twenty centuries later, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

2. His Divine nature. "Christ, who through the eternal Spirit," etc. Does this refer to the Holy Ghost? We think not. That name is given to him nowhere else, and it is not easy to see the bearing of that idea on the argument. We take it as referring to the eternal nature of Christ, as opposed to his fleshly nature. "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God according," etc; "A Priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." According to the flesh, he is Son of man; according to his eternal spirit, he is Son of God. The efficacy of his sacrifice was due to the eternal spirit of Godhead, the most extraordinary feature in his person. He who poured out his soul unto death at the world's great altar for man's sin was God himself, making the atonement his righteousness required. Hence the infinite efficacy of that atonement.

3. His Divine sinlessness. "Without spot." He can bear our sins because he had none of his own.

III. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT BY THE PERFECT REALITY OF WHAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO THE IMPERFECT TYPE. (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14) (The word "serve" refers to religious ministration, worship) Mark the contrast: Let the silver trumpets herald in the Day of Atonement, let its inspired solemnities be all fulfilled; and, though the nation is legally, ceremonially cleansed thereby, this has not met the needs nor silenced the fears of a single contrite soul; not one of their number is spiritually nearer to God, and the most holy place is still inaccessible. Now turn to Calvary, the reality to which these types pointed, and what is the result?

1. Our conscience is satisfied—satisfied because it knows God is satisfied. The atonement, then, meets every requirement of the Divine Law; not even Divine righteousness could demand a greater. In it every claim of our conscience is intelligently and abundantly met.

2. The way into the Divine presence is opened. Sin separates between God and us; but, with a conscience satisfied that sin is put away, we can look into God's face, venture to his side, bow at his feet, confide in his welcome. The veil of the temple fell to as before, and God was still hidden from man, after the great Jewish day; but when the true atonement had been made, the veil was rent in twain, the way into the holiest was made manifest. To the question, "How much more?" the utmost thought of man can give no answer.—C.N.


Hebrews 9:1-5

Symbolism of the tabernacle.

It is remarkable that in the Epistle to the Hebrews there is a constant reference to the tabernacle, while the glory of the temple is not noticed and explained. This may arise from several causes, of which the following may be named as the most probable. It was the original form of Divine worship. It had the attraction of antiquity. It was connected with the personal history of Moses and Aaron. It was unpolluted by idolatry. Here the writer mentions the nature and furniture of the tabernacle, which expressed Divine ideas alone. Moses was, to use a modern phrase, "master of the works;" but the plan was Divine, and supplied by him who sees the end from the beginning. The principal thoughts which this passage supplies are:

1. The covenant had a material or worldly tabernacle which denotes approachableness. The ever-blessed God placed his tent in the midst of the tents of Israel that they might come to him, and use the ordinances of Divine service for their forgiveness, peace, and intercourse with the Father of spirits. It proclaims the truth which our Lord announced to the woman of Samaria, that God seeketh men to worship him. "He is not," said Paul," far from every one of us." This is plainly taught by the incarnation of our Lord, who is Immanuel—God with us.

2. The next thought is that of mystery, for God dwelt in the thick darkness, and once a year the solemn service of the high priest was performed with sacred awe. Within the second veil Jehovah dwelt, and taught men that, how gracious soever he was to come near, he must be had in reverence by all them that are round about him.

3. The appointment of the candlestick signifies illumination for service. It must be confessed that while there are vast and inscrutable mysteries, those things which are requisite for our salvation and growth in grace are very plainly revealed. The mystery of the inner holy place is not for us to understand; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and our children, that we may do all the words of this Law. Our Lord said to a man, probably of a serious temper, who desired to know if few were saved, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." The light of the lamp was for the service of the priest, and Scripture is given that the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works.

4. Then appears the thought of spiritual supply. The tables of shewbread were furnished every week, and the priests ate of the loaves which had stood seven days before God in his tabernacle. God blessed the provision of his house; but the arrangement foreshadowed that supply which Christ claimed to be when he called himself "the Bread of life." "My God," said Paul, "shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

5. The pot of manna and Aaron's rod presented memorials of Divine power. The one reminded worshippers of that all-sufficiency which supplied the wants of myriads with daily bread, and the other was a miraculous act which terminated all disputes about the priesthood. Believers now can look up to the throne and see more illustrious proofs of power in the glory of the Redeemer, who was proved to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead, and by the sight of the number of "spirits of just men made perfect," who have come out of tribulation, and are in the joy and felicity of heaven.

6. Then follows the acceptableness of prayer, which is denoted by the golden censer; and the odors represent the prayers of the saints. Prayers are pleasant to God from the sense of our need, and therefore humility of soul; our faith in his interest in us, and our desire to glorify his Name. The angel said to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God."

7. And, lastly, this furniture signifies mercy and adoration. There was the mercy-seat, under which, in the most sacred place, was the Divine Law. Between the Law and God came the cover of the ark, which was sprinkled with sacrificial blood, and through faith in the arrangement sins were forgiven. This is realized in the Redeemer, who is our Propitiation; through whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. Then the cherubim overshadowed the mercy-seat; for the angels desire to look into these things, and bow with reverence and love in the presence of God. The object of all revelation, all sacrifice, all the work of the Son of God, and all the sacred power of the Spirit, is to prepare believers by the experiences of earth for the adoration of heaven.—B.

Hebrews 9:6-10

Symbolism of the sacrifices.

The writer declares that the past dispensation of the Law was a parable or figure. The whole of this Epistle turns upon the interpretation of this parable. Our Lord employed many parables to set forth the nature of his kingdom. He presented many aspects and features and processes of the gospel; and the meaning of these things he explained to the humble and docile spirit of his disciples. In the condition of the Jews under the Law, there was the exclusion of the people from the first tabernacle, and the exclusion of the priests from the second, or holy of holies. The high priest, once a year, entered with awe into the presence of God. There were constant repetitions of the same service which could not take away sin. There was much that was external and ceremonial, and had respect to washings—purification from the defilement that arose from touching certain objects—and there was a sharp division with reference to meats and drinks. All these things were parables, and when the times of reformation came, their object was seen, because a parable must be lifted to the higher region of the truth which it is designed to illustrate. It must be inferior to the object. Here was a sinful priest who offered his errors, and therefore we need one who was sinless and Divine. The repetition of the sacrifice suggests the need of One who by one offering should take away sin. It suggested the need of greater light, for there was a veil which hid the interior of the holy of holies. This veil was rent at the death of Christ, and heaven is now open to faith and worship.

"The smoke of thine atonement here

Darkened the sun and rent the veil,

Made the new way to heaven appear,

And showed the great Invisible:

Well pleased in thee, our God looks down,

And calls his rebels to a crown."

It leads us to consider the removal of all exclusiveness; and while formerly priest and high priest alone could minister in the tabernacle, all believers are now kings and priests unto God. It teaches us how needful was a spiritual system to displace that which had to do with the outward washing and distinctions of food; and to make us know that the kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks, but in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."—B.

Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:12

Christ's eternal priesthood.

Over against the imperfection and material character of the laws of Moses which concerned meats, drinks, and divers washings, there is here introduced the exalted nature and efficiency of the Redeemer's priesthood.

I. This appears IN THE FUTURE AND ENDURING EFFECTS OF HIS SACRIFICE. All his office relates chiefly to eternity, whereas the work of the Levitical priesthood had to do with annual atonement, purity of person, and temporal blessings. Our Lord directs our thoughts and hopes to the immeasurable future in which are to be found spiritual life, holy peace, perfection of worship, and the everlasting presence of God. These blessings will always be good things to come; for with God is the Fountain of life, and in his light shall believers always see light.

II. THE EXALTED SPHERE OF HIS MINISTRY. The old tabernacle was made with hands. The genius of Aholiab and Bezaleel, the work of carpenter, spinner, and weaver, were applied to make the holy tent. It was a narrow and perishable fabric. Our Lord is now in heaven, which is not made with hands and by the assistance of men or angels. It is the direct creation of the infinite and all-sufficient power of Jehovah, where his holy angels and archangels dwell and worship. The place is suitable for the matchless dignity of the priest. The earthly tabernacle is fit for the weakness and sin of the earthly minister, but heaven with its brightness and purity is the proper tabernacle for the Son of God.

III. THE SUPERIORITY OF HIS ATONING BLOOD. The victims whose blood was shed were unconscious of any purpose in their death. There was no willingness and no sympathy with the object of the sacrifice, and there was consequently nothing more than subjection to physical force, which deprived the death of moral value. Our Lord offered himself a willing Sacrifice, and his voluntary surrender to death has imparted to his work of suffering an inconceivable value and power. He is "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." He is now in the holy place as the one, all-sufficient High Priest, whose one sacrificial act has a vital and indestructible force in the government of God and the system of Divine grace.

IV. THE FINALITY AND ISSUES OF HIS SACRIFICE. He entered once, and is therefore unlike the Jewish priest, who went in to the holiest of all year after year. It is the glory of Christ to do this thing once, and there needs no more sacrifice for sin. The redemption is not from year to year, but it has eternal issues which, beginning by faith in him, now advances in constant acts of redemption through life, by which believers are redeemed from evil in its various forms, from the penal stroke of death, and from all the effects, traces, and influences of evil for evermore.—B.

Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14

Ceremonial and spiritual purification.

There are here—

I. THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR CEREMONIAL PURIFICATION. A red heifer—the color of red signifying the inflaming nature of sin—was to be slain by a priest; but not the high priest, who was to abstain from all contact with death. And the body and the blood were to be burnt outside the camp. Some of the blood was sprinkled towards the tabernacle, and during the process of burning, cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were thrown into the fire. The ashes were laid up for use by those who had become ceremonially unclean by touching the dead, and for the purification of the house, furniture, and utensils where a death had occurred. Being mixed with water and sprinkled upon such persons and homes, on the third and seventh day the defilement was removed. This was the Divine arrangement for the purity of Israel, and those who complied with the will of God enjoyed liberty of approach to his courts, and a share in the blessings of the tabernacle and priesthood.

II. THE SUPERIOR GLORY AND EFFECT OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. The writer had previously noticed the inferior nature and limited effect of animal sacrifices; and here he rises from the blood of slain beasts, and the bodily cleansing they secured, to the Divine nature of our Lord, which gives an untold importance to his death, and ensures the highest spiritual results in the purification of the conscience. By the "eternal Spirit" is commonly understood that glory which is described in the commencement of the Gospel of John. It is probable that the writer looked back to the passage in which he declares that Jesus is "the Brightness of the Father's glory, and express Image of his person." It reminds us of his transfiguration, and the glimpses of his superhuman dignity and power which lighted up his earthly ministry. It is a thought before which we stand in silent and essential wonder, and feel that it lifts the sacrifice of our Lord to a height of glory which transcends our clearest vision. This sacrifice cleanses the conscience from "dead works." Death in the Old Testament always suggests pollution. The conscience which is defiled by dead works sheds a clear and penetrating light on the disqualifying nature of sin, and the exclusion from the service of God which it produces. The precious blood of Christ, which cleanses the conscience, makes it full of the life of love, gratitude, and filial service. The fruit which comes from life is holiness now, and hereafter it is everlasting fire. It opens the prospect of fellowship with God, who is the "living God," and communes with his people from off the mercy-seat. The life of those who are forgiven turns to God, and the living God holds fellowship with them, which is the high privilege of believers now, and the pledge of its continuance in the world to come.—B.

Hebrews 9:15-22

"The Mediator of the new testament."

The ideas contained in this section are—

I. THE TWOFOLD EFFECT OF THE DEATH OF OUR LORD. The free surrender of his life was the means of removing, in the case of believers, the burden of those sins which the Mosaic Law could not take away. The sins committed under the first covenant were not forgiven by acts of sacrifice and the aid of priestly service, which, though ordained by Jehovah, were unequal to produce peace and purity of conscience. It may be that there is a retrospective effect of the death of Christ which furnished the ground of the dispensation of mercy before the mystery of his atonement was revealed. Considering the stress which is laid upon the value of forgiveness in the Scripture, the glory of Jesus Christ shines in the fact that he is the cause, by his death and mediatorial office, of its safe and secure enjoyment. The next effect is to be traced in the vocation of believers to an eternal inheritance, which is to stand in sublime contrast to Canaan, respecting which the Jews say (Isaiah 63:18), "The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while." That inheritance was defiled by idolatry, desolated by heathen invaders, and ruled over by the pagan power of Rome; but that to which our Lord calls his followers is an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth net away." There is a sublime harmony here between the death and mediation of our Lord, and the everlasting effects which they produce and secure.

II. THE VITAL FORCE OF THE COVENANT ARISES FROM THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Here the writer passes over to the idea of a testament or will which is of force when the testator dies. The covenant is a Divine arrangement which includes two parties, for a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is One, and his people are those who, through his condescending mercy, stand on the other side as those who accept and rejoice in the arrangement. The mention of the inheritance suggests the thought of a testament, by which, as soon as the testator dies, the heir enters upon the enjoyment of the inheritance. This is an auxiliary illustration which aids us to understand the mighty love of the Son of God, who was ready to endure the woe and agony of the cross, to bequeath to us the blessing of forgiveness now, and the enjoyment of the imperishable inheritance of heaven in the future life.


The allusion in Hebrews 9:18-22 is to the original establishment of the covenant with Israel at Sinai. There are several deviations from the Mosaic narrative in this section. In the account in Exodus there is no mention of goats, hyssop, scarlet wool, the book, the tabernacle and its vessels, and therefore there may be here a traditional account; or the writer combined several subsequent acts of Levitical services which had the same signification and object. The essential truth contained in this solemn transaction was the application of blood to ratify the covenant which was made between God and his people at Sinai. It was the Divine will that such should be the method, according to which the old tabernacle, the chosen nation, and the first covenant should be consecrated, and should foretell and typify future events of the highest importance for the world. "Without shedding of blood there was no remission." This voice was heard century after century in the services of the Jewish Law; and now that Christ has become "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," the truth has received a more solemn confirmation. If he is rejected, "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins." If he is received and trusted in, there is peace with God, and hope of eternal life. The phrase which Moses used, "This is the blood of the covenant," recalls the sacred words of Jesus, who said when he took the cup at the Passover feast, and looked forward to the covenant of grace, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins."—B.


Hebrews 9:1

The orderly arrangements of the new covenant.

Evidently a double meaning is possible to the adjective κοσμικόν. The sanctuary sheltered within the tabernacle was a sanctuary of this world; but is that all the writer means by the word he uses here? Surely we must remember the antithesis between cosmos and chaos. The furniture of the sanctuary was not a collection of objects placed anywhere and anyhow. There was as much symbolism in the order and relation of these objects as in the objects themselves. All worship and holy service had to be according to Divine regulations. And as all was κοσμικὸς in the visible, symbolic, temporary sanctuary, so all must also be κοσμικὸς in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle.

I. WE MUST RECOGNIZE CHRIST'S PLACE IN THIS SANCTUARY. The new covenant has its sanctuary, even as the old, and that sanctuary is to be found wherever Christ is manifesting himself to take away sin. It is the presence of Christ that makes the holiest place we know, and there is no making of a truly holy place without him. In the old covenant, everything was gathered round the tables of the Law as a center. They expressed the will of God. And so now the center of our religious life, around which all is to be gathered in orderly relations, is to be found in Christ—at once a High Priest to enter into the true holy of holies, and One to show the Law of God in actual working, as something not too high for human attainment. We are to worship and serve God through Christ, and there is no other way whereby we may become faultless in the presence of his glory.

II. WE MUST RECOGNIZE OUR OWN PLACE IN THE SANCTUARY. What are we doing in the way of orderly, well-considered daily service? Is the lamp of our life shining forth every day? Do we help to spread a table for the varied necessities of men, remembering that whatsoever we do for them is done for Christ, and whatsoever is done for Christ is done for God? There is to be a measure of order in our own personal religious life—repentance leading to faith, and faith opening up the way to all that is holy, pure, and Christ-like.—Y.

Hebrews 9:9

The parabolic function of the tabernacle services.

The tabernacle, with its contents and its institutions, was one great parable embracing and uniting many subordinate parables. A parable looking towards the time of the new covenant—the "present time," as the writer calls it; or, as we might even more closely render it, the impending season. For in God's economy the new state of things is to be ever looked at as impending. So Christ would have us, who rejoice in his first advent, to be ever making ready for his second one. And in the same way the men of the old covenant had to be on the look-out for the initiation of the new. Rejoicing in what Moses had given them, they looked eagerly for what Messiah had to give; and in the mean time Moses had given them parables through the eye, even as in after times Christ gave his disciples parables in words. Such mode was suitable for the time and the purpose. What parabolic teaching was there, then, in the tabernacle and the things connected with it?

I. THE REALITY OF GOD'S DWELLING WITH MEN. Each Israelite family had its tent, and Jehovah's tent was in the midst of all, a center of unity, protection, and glory. Jehovah was the Companion of his people in all their pilgrimage and vicissitudes. It is only as we recollect this that we get at the full significance of John's expression concerning the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The glory that belonged to the tabernacle was thus a parable of the Incarnation glory.

II. THE POSSIBILITY OF SATISFACTORY INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. It was dangerous for a man to meddle in Divine things according to his own inclination and his own wisdom. Yet he could not stand aside and neglect Divine things altogether. Such a course was equally dangerous with the other. But if he would only submit to the way of Jehovah's appointment, attending to every detail, and striving to comprehend the undoubted purpose in it, then he-was assuredly in the way of safety. He was doing what God wanted him to do with the resources then within his reach. And though an obedience of this kind, an obedience in certain external rites, could not take away all trouble of conscience, yet when a man comprehended that Jehovah had even this in view, he would feel that what he enjoyed not now he would enjoy hereafter. Though the blood of bulls and goats could not put away sin and wash out the heart's deep defilement, yet the blood-shedding was not in vain, if it intimated the coming of something that would take away sin.

III. THE POSSIBILITY OF REAL SERVICE. In itself, the elaborate ritual of the tabernacle was nothing. Save as it was parabolic and provocative of hope and aspiration, it could not be called other than a waste of time. "What mean ye by this service?" was a question which might well be put to every Levitical person every day.

But when the service of the high priest looked forward to the sacrificial cleansing service of Christ in perpetuity, and when the service of all the subordinate attendants looked forward to the daily obedience of Christians, faithful in little things, then assuredly the service of the tabernacle gets lifted above a mechanical routine. Under the old covenant, a whole tribe, separated for ritual observance, serving Jehovah in formal religious ordinances, was thereby serving, not only a nation, but all mankind. Serving God in appearance, the Levite served men in reality. Now, under the new covenant, we serve God in serving men. The Christian, because he is a Christian, has most power of all men to serve his brother man.—Y.

Hebrews 9:12

The eternal redemption.

One cannot but be struck with the occurrence three times within four verses of the word "eternal." There is the eternal redemption, the eternal Spirit, the eternal inheritance. The change from the old covenant to the new was also an escape from the temporary to the abiding. In the old covenant there had to be a constant succession of things, each lasting for a little time, and then by the nature of it giving way, and needing something new to fill its place. "Now," the writer of this Epistle seems to say, "all good things have become eternal." And first there is the eternal redemption. By contrast, then, we have to think of—

I. A REDEMPTION WHICH IS NOT ETERNAL. This idea of redemption and ransom happily an unfamiliar one to us. But there was a time when people perfectly comprehended the continual risk to themselves and their property from the attacks of strong robber-tribes, who would take a man away and keep him in captivity till his friends provided a ransom. And that ransom did only for the special occasion; there might come another captivity which would need its own ransom. So it was with the services of the old covenant. At no time was Israel allowed to think that enough of beasts had been slain on the altar. No sooner was one accumulation of defilement cleansed away than another began to appear. And thus, also, no sooner did the priest wipe away the blood of one beast than he began to make ready for shedding the blood of another. The task was endless, and no satisfaction or peace came out of it, save the satisfaction of knowing that if this redemption had not been attended to, things would have been infinitely worse.

II. THE REDEMPTION WHICH IS ETERNAL. Christ entered once for all into the holy place, and there he remains in perpetual and profoundly fruitful mediation between God and man. How different from the Jewish priest, slaying his victim, and then before long asking for another! The whole conditions of sacrifice and obedience are altered. Under the old covenant the people themselves had to provide the sacrifices; but now Jesus comes, providing the sacrifice himself, not asking us to do anything save to accept, humbly and gratefully, the completeness of his own service. We cannot provide an eternal redemption for ourselves. All we can do is to escape for the time, and to-morrow we must face to-morrow's dangers. What a grand thing to understand in our very hearts that Jesus is emphatically, the Redeemer! We are not ungrateful for the temporary redemptions of life, and the minor redeemers; but we must ever take care lest, in our natural solicitude for these matters, we neglect the eternal redemption and the eternal Redeemer. If we are safe in vital union with him, then what are all other captivities and all other losses?—Y.

Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14

Christ a self-presented offering to purify the consciences of men.

I. AN ARGUMENT FROM THE LESS TO THE GREATER. The writer reminds his readers of a kind of cleansing already practiced by them, and believed to be efficacious for its purpose. From their point of view, they had no difficulty in believing that something was really done when defiled people were sprinkled with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer. Whatever had communicated the defilement was thus removed—in a mysterious way, it is true, and so that there might be no visible sign; but still there was the feeling and the faith that things were really made different. If, then, it was so easy to believe that the sacrifice of brute-life produced such results, what profound and permanent results might not be expected to flow from the cleansing application of the blood of Christ? For in the one, case it was the blood of a brute beast poured out and then done with for ever, available for only one occasion, and needing for the next occasion that another beast should be slain. But here is the shedding of the blood of Christ, the continuous and accurate presentation of the Christ's own life by Christ himself. Surely the writer here is thinking of something more than the shedding of the blood of Christ's natural life on the cross. He is thinking of what Christ is doing behind the veil, on the eternal, invisible scene. The work, whatever it is, is the work done by Christ through an eternal Spirit. He is continually pouring forth his life to cleanse the consciences of believers. Christ's death was a passing into the holy of holies, to go on with the deep realities of which the holiest offerings of the old covenant were only feeble symbols. The writer of the Epistle, therefore, wanted his readers to appropriate the ineffably great results of what Christ was doing.

II. THE MEANS OF APPROPROATION. Clearly the appropriation was by faith. Indeed, all the good that could come through any cleansing ceremony of the old covenant came by faith—often superstitious enough, no doubt, and having little or no result in the improvement of character; but still it was faith. Faith was the element keeping these ceremonials in existence from generation to generation. If nothing more, there was at least the faith that something dreadful would happen if the ceremonials were discontinued. If, then, men will only labor to keep themselves in living connection with the ever-loving Christ, whose life is all the more fruitful since he vanished from the eye of sense, what great things they may expect! Belief in Christ is Christ's own instrument for cleansing the heart, so that there may not any more go out of it the things that defile a man. What wonder that before he closes his Epistle the writer should be so copious in extolling the triumphs of faith, and enforcing the need of it in all the relations of Christian life!—Y.

Hebrews 9:15

The eternal inheritance.

I. CONSIDER THE TEMPORAL INHERITANCE. The land of Canaan, which was connected with the old covenant. This land could only be called an inheritance in a typical sense, for the satisfactions which Israel was taught to expect did not come in reality. For as the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, so neither could any mere terrestrial possession ever satisfy a human spirit. This land was but the standing-ground for a time, the place of discipline and revelation. It is always necessary to show by a sufficient experience and consideration the inadequacy of earthly things for those whose proper kinship is with heaven; and the more clearly this inadequacy appears, the more clearly will it appear that somewhere there must be something entirely satisfying. The earthly inheritance proved to Israel a constant scene of struggle, temptation, and loss; and if, by some happy period of lull, an Israelite had something that might not untruly be called satisfaction out of his inheritance, yet the day came when he had to leave it. The inheritance was a more abiding thing than the possessor. Thus, in any message of comfort from God to his people, it could not fail to be pointed out that the best of earthly possessions fall far short of what a loving God intends for his separated and obedient people.

II. THE ATTAINMENT OF THE ETERNAL INHERITANCE, This inheritance may well be considered in a twofold aspect. It may be considered as something within us, and also as something without. The Israelite possession of the land of Canaan would have deserved something nearer the name of reality if only the Israelite had been first of all in possession of himself. But he was at the mercy of his lusts and selfish inclinations. Real self-possession means heart-submission to God. If we would enter on the real and satisfying inheritance, God must first of all enter upon his proper inheritance in us. Self-control, which suggests something like the caging of a wild beast, must be exchanged for self-surrender. And all this is to come through the searching redemption and cleansing effected by Christ. Then are we ready for that eternal inheritance, which is also external. Christ only can redeem us from present limitations and corruptions, and how great those limitations and corruptions are we have as yet no sufficient perception. It is noteworthy how the λύτρωσις of Hebrews 9:12 is strengthened into the ἀπολύτρωσις of Hebrews 9:15. We shall enter on an eternal inheritance, suited to the spirit of man—an infinite, inexhaustible possession; where every one will have exceeding abundance, from which he can never be parted, and of which he will never grow tired. In comparison with that reality, the most real things of this world will thin away into dreams. In comparison with its everlastingness, the everlasting hills will be as dissolving clouds.—Y.

Hebrews 9:22

The death of Jesus the seal of the new covenant.

In this passage there is allusion to an ancient, cherished custom of making a covenant over a slain animal. In the light of this custom probably we must explain Genesis 15:1-21. There Abram is represented as dividing a heifer, a goat, and a ram, and when darkness came a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces. Then follows the significant statement that in the same day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram. The idea in the English version of a testament and a testator is not so much misleading as meaningless, for there is no reason at all why a testament should be referred to, but every reason why the writer should go on expounding and illustrating the new covenant as compared with the old. To us, of course, the custom here mentioned is hardly intelligible, but the mention of it would throw a great deal of light on the subject at the time the reference was made. The custom may even have been still in vogue, and human customs have ever been subordinated to Divine ends. Hence we have here a special aspect of the death of Christ. It is presented as—

THE SEAL OF A SOLEMN COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, The very existence of Christ is a covenant between the Divine and the human. The glorious things that were in Christ because of the Divine Spirit dwelling in him are promised to us by their very presence in Christ. All the good things coming to Christ because of his humanity are equally offered to us because of our humanity; and all that Christ did in his humanity makes us responsible for doing the same. The promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. We may also add that the obligations of man are defined and settled in Christ Jesus. Thus there is a covenant, and we may well look on the death of Christ as giving that covenant shape in a formal transaction. For there God gave his well-beloved Son to death, the pledge of all that he is willing to give. And Jesus surrendered himself to death, giving the greatest proof of obedience and devotion which a human being can give. Christ's death becomes our death, the pledge of an individual covenant on our part, if only we choose to enter into it. The death of Christ points out a solemn duty and a large expectation. And if the death of Christ is a seal of the covenant, how much is the significance of that seal added to by the resurrection and the ascension into glory!—Y.

Hebrews 9:28

The difference between Christ's first and second advent.

I. THE FIRST ADVENT. Here Christ shares the common lot of men; he dies, and dies once for all. There is no dying and rising and dying again. He is offered as a Sacrifice once for all, to bear the sins of many. And here, of course, the death of Christ must be taken as representing the whole of his life in the flesh. His life in every hour and every faculty was vicarious. He was ever striving to show that he could neutralize the consequence of sins committed, and prevent the commission of sins to come. His great aim was, in every sense of the expression, to take away sin. And from his place of power and glory on high this is his aim still. No matter how laden the conscience may be with guilt and the remembrance of folly, no matter how full of weakness the life, Christ has all fullness of power and steadiness of disposition to restore strength, rectitude, and purity. Let it be remembered that this is Christ's present work. Christ is in his Church continually, that his Church may have success in setting him forth as taking away the sin of the world. Whenever we come across sin, in ourselves or in others, we should ever view it in relation to Christ. Then we shall be filled with a sense both of responsibility and hope. Sin is not a burden to be sullenly endured, but to be removed by faith in Christ.

II. THE SECOND ADVENT. In Christ's first coming everything is connected with sin. He is lifted up to draw sinners to him. All the energy of the Spirit and all the agencies of the gospel are employed to persuade sinners to accept the sin-bearing, sin-removing work of Christ. But he is coming a second time, altogether apart from sin—coming to deliver into everlasting security those who have believed in him. The completeness of salvation is always looked upon in the New Testament as a thing yet to come. The promise is of immediate safety, as far as it can be given in our present surroundings. It is our own fault if we are not safe from backsliding, temptation, and doctrinal error. But in the fullest sense of the word salvation, we are saved, as Paul says, by hope. We are hoping for full possession of every good, full security from every evil. When Christ has taken away the sin of the world, he will take away the peril, the insecurity, of the world.—Y.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
or, be brought in.
Reciprocal: Hebrews 1:3 - by himself;  Hebrews 9:15 - means;  Hebrews 9:20 - testament;  Hebrews 13:20 - covenant

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Vincent's Word Studies

For where a testament is ( ὅπου γὰρ διαθήκη )

“The English Version has involved this passage in hopeless obscurity by introducing the idea of a testament and a testator.” This statement of Rendall (Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 159) is none too strong. That interpretation, however, is maintained by a very strong array of modern expositors. It is based upon κληρονομία inheritanceit being claimed that this word changes the whole current of thought. Hence it is said that the new covenant established by Christ is here represented as a testamentary disposition on his part, which could become operative in putting the heirs in possession of the inheritance only through the death of Christ. See Additional Note at the end of this chapter.

There must also of necessity be the death of the testator ( θάνατου ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου )

Rend. it is necessary that the death of the institutor (of the covenant ) should be borne. With the rendering testament, φέρεσθαι is well-nigh inexplicable. If covenant the meaning is not difficult. If he had meant to say it is necessary that the institutor die, he might better have used γένεσθαι : “it is necessary that the death of the institutor take place ”; but he meant to say that it was necessary that the institutor die representatively; that death should be borne for him by an animal victim. If we render testament, it follows that the death of the testator himself is referred to, for which θάνατου φέρεσθαι is a very unusual and awkward expression.

Additional Note on Hebrews 9:16

Against the rendering testament for διαθήκη , and in favor of retaining covenant, are the following considerations:

(a) The abruptness of the change, and its interruption of the line of reasoning. It is introduced into the middle of a continuous argument, in which the new covenant is compared and contrasted with the Mosaic covenant (8:6-10:18).

(b) The turning-point, both of the analogy and of the contrast, is that both covenants were inaugurated and ratified by death: not ordinary, natural death, but sacrificial, violent death, accompanied with bloodshedding as an essential feature. Such a death is plainly indicated in Hebrews 9:15. If διαθήκη signifies testament, θάνατον deathin Hebrews 9:16must mean natural death without bloodshed.

(c) The figure of a testament would not appeal to Hebrews in connection with an inheritance. On the contrary, the idea of the κληρονομία was always associated in the Hebrew mind with the inheritance of Canaan, and that inheritance with the idea of a covenant. See Deuteronomy 4:20-23; 1 Chronicles 16:15-18; Psalm 105:8-11.

(d) In lxx, from which our writer habitually quotes, διαθήκη has universally the meaning of covenant. It occurs about 350 times, mostly representing בְּרִית, covenant. In the Apocryphal books it has the same sense, except in Exodus href="/desk/?q=ex+30:26&sr=1">Exodus 30:26; Numbers 14:44; 2 Kings 6:15; Jeremiah 3:16; Malachi 3:1; Luke 1:72, Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8. Also in N.T. quotations from the O.T., where, in its translation of the O.T., it uses foedus. See Jeremiah 31:31, cit. Hebrews 8:8. For διατιθέσθαι of making a covenant, see Hebrews 8:10; Acts 3:25; Hebrews 10:16.

(e) The ratification of a covenant by the sacrifice of a victim is attested by Genesis 15:10; Psalm 1:5; Jeremiah 34:18. This is suggested also by the phrase כָּרַֽת בְּרִֽת, to cut a covenant, which finds abundant analogy in both Greek and Latin. Thus we have ὅρκια τάμνειν tocut oaths, that is, to sacrifice a victim in attestation (Hom. Il. ii. 124; Od. xxiv. 483: Hdt. vii. 132). Similarly, σπονδὰς letus cut (make ) a league (Eurip. Hel. 1235): φίλια τέμνεσθαι tocement friendship by sacrificing a victim; lit. to cut friendship (Eurip. Suppl. 375). In Latin, foedus ferire to strike a league foedus ictum a ratified league, ratified by a blow (ictus ).

(f) If testament is the correct translation in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, the writer is fairly chargeable with a rhetorical blunder; for Hebrews 9:18ff. is plainly intended as a historical illustration of the propositions in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, and the illustration turns on a point entirely different from the matter illustrated. The writer is made to say, “A will is of no force until after the testator's death; therefore the first covenant was ratified with the blood of victims.


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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

I say by means of death; for where such a covenant is, there must be the death of him by whom it is confirmed - Seeing it is by his death that the benefits of it are purchased. It seems beneath the dignity of the apostle to play upon the ambiguity of the Greek word, as the common translation supposes him to do.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

c. By the death of our High Priest, the new covenant is a last will and testament, Hebrews 9:15-18.

The Greek word for covenant, , signifies a disposition of things, a dispensation, an arrangement. Hence it includes an arrangement by agreement, that is, a covenant; or an arrangement by bequest or dying will, that is, a testament. Parenthetically, therefore, and very much as a side thought, the analogy of a testament is brought in as illustrating the death of which the ritual bloodshed was the symbol. The idea of testament, or will, was not, indeed, included in the Hebrew word for covenant; nor was a testamentary bequest one of the customs of Israel. Yet our apostle finds in the three facts of an inheritance, namely, a bestower, the death of the bestower, and the condition of the inheritance passing down to the inheritor—all the points necessary to be framed into the conception of a testament. The sense of covenant does, indeed, still remain; but the newly specified elements in the transaction entitle him to figure it a testamentary covenant.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.For—Assuming this beautiful view of the covenant as a testament, or bequest by will, the death of the testator is required, as by Jesus fulfilled.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation

For where (there is a) covenant, there must of necessity be brought the death of the one covenanting, vs. 17. (OT, death proceeding from one covenanting--genitive of definition.--Winer, Ed. vi, p198.) For a covenant has force over dead (persons or things), since it in no way has power when he is living who covenanted. The opening word, "For," of verse 16 must be governed, we see at once, by the "death" spoken of in verse 15: A death having taken place. Any reader of this page who is familiar with the King James, or Authorized Version of the New Testament, has also noticed that we are translating the Greek word diatheke, covenant, and not "testament" as does the Authorized Version. This we shall now explain and consider.

Two facts must be borne in mind in our examination of this word diatheke, covenant.

  1. The word "covenant" is confined, as are all other quotations and references in the book of Hebrews, to the definition and use already made of them by God in the Word of God. Therefore arguments concerning the use of diatheke in Greek or Roman literature have no bearing whatever.
  2. The word "covenant," or diatheke in Chapter 9:15-17 is evidently spoken of those covenants that have to do with relationships, communication, and dealings with the holy God, which of course are confirmed by shed blood: and therefore is the use of blood emphasized.

We are persuaded, therefore, that the change in translation of the Greek word diatheke from "covenant" (vss. 15, 20) to "testament" (vss. 16, 17), in the Authorized Version, is both incorrect and confusing. For the expression the first (covenant) of verse 18 simply continues the argument (the first covenant) of verse 15. We would commend to the student the unanswerable comment by Westcott (Hebrews, p. 298 ff.) We quote from this in the footnote below:

* "The Biblical evidence then, so far as it is clear, is wholly in favor of the sense of 'covenant,' with the necessary limitation of the sense of the word in connection with a Divine covenant ... The mention of the 'Inheritance' in vs. 15 does not appear to furnish any adequate explanation of a transition from the idea of 'Covenant' to that of 'Testament.' It is true that Christ has obtained an inheritance (1:4); and it is also true that He entered on the possession of it through death. But it cannot be said that He 'bequeathed' it to His people ... By union with Him they enjoy together with Him what is His. But He does not give them anything apart from Himself, It is also important in this respect to notice that the thought of the bequeathal of an inheritance by Christ to His people is not supported by any other passage of Scripture (not by Lk. 22:20) ... The conceptions of Christ as the 'Mediator of a Covenant,' and as a 'Testator,' the 'framer of a will,' are essentially distinct. A covenant is the disposition of things determined by God for man and brought about through Christ; a Testament would be the expression of Christ's own will as to what should be after His death. The thoughts are wholly different; and the idea of death is unable in itself to combine them.--Westcott in loc.

Nor am I at all persuaded that verses 16-17 constitute a parenthesis, as some say. For,

  1. The argument of verses 15 to 20 is continuous: the word diatheke being translated "covenant" in vs. 15, is called "the first" (covenant understood), in verse 18; and verse 18 begins with the word "Wherefore," or "Whence," and the word diatheke is translated "covenant" consequently in verse 20.
    Note that "For" in both verses 16 and 17, like "Wherefore" in Verse 18 and "For" in verse 19, closely connect the argument of the whole paragraph about a covenant. These verses cannot be set asunder.
  2. It is inconceivable that only the Epistle to the Hebrews should depart from the Old Testament use and meaning of the word "covenant" (used 17 times in Hebrews and 17 times in the rest of the New Testament), to a new and entirely different meaning of the word--a Graeco-Roman use, not a Biblical!
  3. Moreover, it is a "Mediator of a new covenant" the passage has been speaking of, and a "testament" (vs. 17) or "will" does not need a "mediator." A covenant in Scripture has a mediator, as Moses, the mediator of "the first" (vs. 18); and Christ, the Mediator of a new covenant.* A man who makes a will does not perforce execute its provisions!

The great Bible illustration of the word "covenant" is given in Exodus 24.

"(Moses) sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:5-8).

* "With the utmost decision must we continue to protest against the introduction of 'testament' as the meaning of diatheko in verses 16, 17. It is needless, and it does violence to the continuity of our Author's argument. It is needless, as a patient consideration of Gen. 15:7,21, and Jer. 34:18-19, might have shown, where both parties to the Covenant are represented as dead to all change of mind; and it does violence to the argument of the present passage as the sudden jerk back to the covenant idea, which in that case is felt in vs. 18, all sufficiently shows: Whence not even the first apart from blood hath been consecrated. The first--what? 'Testament'? Nay! the first (that at Sinai) was not a testament but a covenant. Besides, as well said by the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Ch. 7:22, 'A testament no more requires a surety than it does a mediator' and on Ch. 9:15, 'The use of the term 'Mediator' shows that we have here to do with the Hebrew idea of a covenant, not with a Roman idea of a 'testament.' A mediator is the proper guardian of a covenant (see Gal. 3:15-20), but has no place in regard to a testament. Neither, again, does the death of a testator possess any of the sacrificial character which is referred to in vss. 15-22."--Rotherham, pp138-9.

"There is not a trace of the meaning testament in the Greek O.T."--Vincent.

See also the able and searching rejection of the word "testament" in Kendrick's edition of Olshausen, pp512-17.

This, mark, is the example of the inauguration of a Biblical covenant, and it is a Biblical covenant only which is before Us throughout Hebrews 9 and 10.

*A covenant is between two or more parties.

A covenant states the conditions of relationship or action.

The Old Covenant made Divine blessing dependent upon human obedience. The New Covenant proceeds wholly from God, and is based entirely upon Christ's work.

Note. "the blood of the covenant ... Heb. 9:20; and "The Lord Jesus ... said, This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

Note that it was the blood, not of the Israelites, who were entering into the covenant; nor of Moses, a Mediator of that covenant, but of appointed animals, that was shed: death proceeding from the covenanting one. The one great point is that a covenant with Jehovah could not be dedicated or inaugurated apart from bloodshedding.

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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. 1938.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

This paragraph may be regarded as a companion passage of chapter S: 4, in that the New Testament which is the covenant or will of Christ was not in force until after His death. This is a rule that is generally recognized concerning testaments (or wills) that men make, in that such wills are not in force during the lifetime of the men who make them.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:16". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.