Unlike the blood of the old covenant, Christ's once-for-all sacrifice is effectual—precisely because it does not have to be repeated.
“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26b).
- Hebrews 9:25–26
Under persecution from various authorities, it was tempting for many in the original audience of the book of Hebrews to return to the old covenant. It was tempting for them to believe that the death of Jesus, and the fact that the world order had not yet changed, made it seem that He was not really the Mediator of the new covenant.
But a return to the old covenant would have been utterly foolish for them. It would be a return to the days of priests with weaknesses (7:28). It would be a return to only a shadow and a copy of the heavenly things (8:5). It would be a return to the animal blood that could not perfect the conscience (9:9). It would be a return to the time before the “reformation” (v. 10).
The audience had to be reminded of the superiority of the Messiah’s sacrifice. Jesus’ death does not invalidate His claim to be the new covenant Mediator. Rather, it is His unsurpassed blood that proves He is the Mediator (vv. 13–15). Under the old covenant, a sacrifice was necessary to inaugurate the covenant (v. 18). If the new covenant was to fulfill the old, a sacrifice was also necessary to inaugurate it (v. 23).
The superiority of Christ’s sacrifice is shown in that it enabled Him to enter the temple in heaven (v. 24). Another item that shows His sacrifice to be superior is that it is a once-for-all sacrifice (vv. 25–26). The blood offered by the priests was only temporarily cleansing. It could not perfect the conscience. But the blood of Christ is not like this. The author is telling us that the once-for-all sacrifice is effectual, unlike the blood of the old covenant, precisely because it does not have to be repeated. If the sacrifice that Christ offered was just like the sacrifices of the old covenant; it would have to be repeated. But it is not like those sacrifices, and so it will accomplish its purpose.
Verse 26b tells us two more important things. First, we are reminded that Christ sacrificed Himself. As such, we are represented far better by His sacrifice than we could be by animals. For it was the God-man who bore the penalty that God’s people deserved. Second, we see that this sacrifice was made at the end of the ages. This tells us that through the death of Jesus, the kingdom breaks into history. As this cursed era passes away, the times of refreshing begin to come.
The predictability of daily life can make it easy to forget that we have been living in the last days since Christ came. This final era may have been extended longer than expected, yet it is here now. Take some to time to consider how you might allocate your time and money for the Gospel in light of this reality.
Passages for Further Study
- Zeph. 3:9–13
- John 19:30
- Col. 1:19–20