In These Last Days: The Message of Hebrews
Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice
Lesson #9 for February 26, 2022
The idea that a man found guilty and executed on a cross should be worshiped as God was offensive to the ancient mind. Sparse reference to the cross in Roman literature shows their aversion to the idea. For the Jews, the law declared that a man impaled on a tree was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23).
Thus, the first motifs that we find in the Christian paintings of the catacombs were the peacock (supposedly symbolizing immortality), a dove, the athlete’s victory palm, and the fish. Later, other themes appeared: Noah’s ark; Abraham sacrificing the ram instead of Isaac; Daniel in the lions’ den; Jonah being spit out by the fish; a shepherd carrying a lamb; or depictions of such miracles as the healing of the paralytic and the raising of Lazarus. These were symbols of salvation, victory, and care. The cross, on the other hand, conveyed a sense of defeat and shame. Yet, it was the cross that became the emblem of Christianity. In fact, Paul simply called the gospel “the word of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18, ESV).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath, February 19.†§ [Crucifixion was for shaming traitors to the Roman government.]‡
In the ancient Near East, a covenant between two persons or nations was a serious matter. It involved an exchange of promises under oath. It implied the assumption that the gods would punish those who broke the oath. Often, these covenants were ratified through the sacrifice of an animal.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sunday, February 20. [SeeGenesis 15:6 andJeremiah 34:8-22.]‡
Merely to hear or to read the word is not enough. He who desires to be profited by the Scriptures must meditate upon the truth that has been presented to him. By earnest attention and prayerful thought he must learn the meaning of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the holy oracles.
God bids us fill the mind with great thoughts, pure thoughts. He desires us to meditate upon His love and mercy, to study His wonderful work in the great plan of redemption. Then clearer and still clearer will be our perception of truth, higher, holier, our desire for purity of heart and clearness of thought. The soul dwelling in the pure atmosphere of holy thought will be transformed by communion with God through the study of Scriptures.?Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons* 59.5-60.1.†
The holocaust offering (or burnt offering) required that the whole animal be consumed on the altar (Leviticus 1). It represented Jesus, whose life was consumed for us. Expiation required Jesus’ total commitment to us. Even though He was equal with God, Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:5–8, ESV). [The original meaning of holocaust was “whole burnt offering.”]
The grain offering was a gift of gratitude for God’s provision of sustenance for His people (Leviticus 2). It also represents Jesus, “ ‘the bread of life’ ” (John 6:35, 48), through whom we have eternal life.
The peace or fellowship offering implied a communal meal with friends and family to celebrate the well-being provided by God (Leviticus 3). It represented Christ, whose sacrifice provided peace for us (Isa. 53:5,Rom. 5:1,Eph. 2:14). It also emphasizes that we need to participate in Jesus’ sacrifice by eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood (John 6:51–56).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Monday, February 21.‡§
The sin or purification offering provided expiation for sins (Lev. 4:1–5:13). This sacrifice emphasized the role of the blood of the animal—which represented its life—to provide redemption from sins (Lev. 17:11) and pointed forward to the blood of Jesus who redeems us from our sins (Matt. 26:28,Rom. 3:25,Heb. 9:14).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Monday, February 21.†§ [Expiation means the way “to atone for” or “to make reparations for wrong.”]‡
Leviticus 17:11: The life of every living thing is in the blood, and that is why the LORD has commanded that all blood be poured out on the altar to take away the people’s sins. Blood, which is life, takes away sins.?American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Leviticus 17:11). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡
Hebrews 10:4,11: 4For the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins….
11but these sacrifices can never take away sins.?Good News Bible.*†
Romans 3:25-26: 25–26God offered him, so that by his blood [footnote: by his blood; or by his sacrificial death.] he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people’s sins; but in the present time he deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate his righteousness. In this way God shows that he himself is righteous and that he puts right everyone who believes in Jesus.?Good News Bible.*†‡§ [Notice that this passage of Scripture is the only one that directly talks about why Jesus died. Three times it says that Jesus died to show God’s righteousness which is the truth about God before it talks about us humans!]‡
The law of Jehovah was burdened with needless exactions and traditions, and God was represented as severe, exacting, revengeful, and arbitrary. He was pictured as one who could take pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures. The very attributes that belonged to the character of Satan, the evil one represented as belonging to the character of God. Jesus came to teach men of the Father, to correctly represent him before the fallen children of earth. Angels could not fully portray the character of God, but Christ, who was a living impersonation of God, could not fail to accomplish the work. The only way in which he could set and keep men right was to make himself visible and familiar to their eyes....
Christ exalted the character of God, attributing to him the praise, and giving to him the credit, of the whole purpose of his own mission on earth,Bto set men right through the revelation of God. In Christ was arrayed before men the paternal grace and the matchless perfections of the Father. In his prayer just before his crucifixion, he declared, AI have manifested thy name.@ AI have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.@ When the object of his mission was attained,Bthe revelation of God to the world,Bthe Son of God announced that his work was accomplished, and that the character of the Father was made manifest to men.?Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times,* January 20, 1890, par. 6,9.†
The guilt or reparation offering (Lev. 5:14–6:7) provided forgiveness in cases where reparation or restitution was possible. It tells us that God’s forgiveness does not free us from the responsibility to provide reparation or restitution, where possible, to those whom we have wronged.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Monday, February 21.†§
We also need to “feed” on Him, share His benefits with others, and provide reparation to those whom we have wronged.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Monday, February 21.
Hebrews 9:14: Since this is true, how much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 9:25-26: 25 But Christ did not go in to offer himself many times, 26for then he would have had to suffer many times ever since the creation of the world. Instead, now when all ages of time are nearing the end, he has appeared once and for all, to remove sin through the sacrifice of himself.?Good News Bible.*†
Romans 8:3: What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like sinful human nature, to do away with sin.?Good News Bible.*†
First, Jesus’ sacrifice is perfectly effective and never to be surpassed. The sacrifices of the Levitical priests were repeated because they were not effective; otherwise “would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?” (Heb. 10:2, ESV). [If the sacrifices really did away with sin, they would not have sinned again!]
Second, all the different kinds of sacrifices of the Old Testament found their fulfillment at the cross. Thus, Jesus not only cleanses us from sin (Heb. 9:14), but He also provides sanctification (Heb. 10:10–14) by putting sin away from our lives (Heb. 9:26). Before the priests could approach God in the sanctuary and minister in behalf of their fellow human beings, they had to be cleansed and sanctified, or consecrated (Leviticus 8, Leviticus 9). Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses us and consecrates us (Heb. 10:10–14) so that we may approach God with confidence (Heb. 10:19–23) and serve Him as “a royal priesthood” (Heb. 9:14, 1Pet. 2:9).
Finally, Jesus’ sacrifice also provides nourishment for our spiritual life. It provides an example that we need to observe and follow. Thus, Hebrews invites us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, especially the events of the cross, and follow His lead (Heb. 12:1–4;Heb. 13:12, 13).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Tuesday, February 22.†‡§ [See Desire of Ages 83.4.]‡
Hebrews 9:22-28: 22Indeed, according to the Law almost everything is purified by blood, and sins are forgiven only if blood is poured out.
23 Those things, which are copies of the heavenly originals, had to be purified in that way. But the heavenly things themselves require much better sacrifices. 24For Christ did not go into a Holy Place made by human hands, which was a copy of the real one. He went into heaven itself, where he now appears on our behalf in the presence of God. 25The Jewish High Priest goes into the Most Holy Place every year with the blood of an animal. But Christ did not go in to offer himself many times, 26for then he would have had to suffer many times ever since the creation of the world. Instead, now when all ages of time are nearing the end, he has appeared once and for all, to remove sin through the sacrifice of himself. 27Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God. 28In the same manner Christ also was offered in sacrifice once to take away the sins of many. He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting for him.?Good News Bible.*†
Isaiah 66:1-2: The LORD says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house, then, could you build for me, what kind of place for me to live in? 2I myself created the whole universe! I am pleased with those who are humble and repentant, who fear me and obey me.”?Good News Bible.*
Acts 2:38: Peter said to them, “Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit.”?Good News Bible.*†
Acts 5:31: [Peter and the other apostles said:] “God raised him to his right-hand side as Leader and Saviour, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven.”?Good News Bible.*‡
Hebrews 8:10-12: [God said:] 10 “Now, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
in the days to come, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 None of them will have to teach their fellow-citizens
or say to their fellow-citizens,
‘Know the Lord.’
For they will all know me,
from the least to the greatest.
12 I will forgive their sins and will no longer remember their wrongs.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Ezekiel 36:25-27: [The Lord told Ezekiel to tell the people:] 25“I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27I will put my spirit in you and I will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Its purpose is to show the righteousness of God in forgiving His people. In this judgment, the records of their lives will be open for the universe to see. God will show what happened in the hearts of believers and how they embraced Jesus as their Savior and accepted His Spirit in their lives.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, February 24.
John 5:22: [Jesus said:] “Nor does the Father himself judge anyone. He has given his Son the full right to judge.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
John 12:47-48: [Jesus said:] 47“If anyone hears my message and does not obey it, I [Jesus] will not judge him. I came, not to judge the world, but to save it. 48Those who reject me and do not accept my message have one who will judge them. The words I have spoken will be their judge on the last day.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
John 3:17-21: [Jesus said:] 17“For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.
18 “Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son. 19This is how the judgement works: the light has come into the world, but people love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. 20All those who do evil things hate the light and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown up. 21But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God.”?Good News Bible.*†‡ [These words from Jesus Himself should be considered the definitive description of how the judgment takes place. We actually judge ourselves by how we respond to the truth.]‡
Zechariah 3:1-5: 1 In another vision the LORD showed me the High Priest Joshua [This is the Joshua who was the high priest for those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity and exile, not the Joshua who worked with Moses and afterward.] standing before the angel of the LORD. And there beside Joshua stood Satan, ready to bring an accusation against him. 2The angel of the LORD said to Satan, “May the LORD condemn you, Satan! May the LORD, who loves Jerusalem, condemn you. This man is like a stick snatched from the fire.”
3 Joshua was standing there, wearing filthy clothes. 4The angel said to his heavenly attendants, “Take away the filthy clothes this man is wearing.” Then he said to Joshua, “I have taken away your sin and will give you new clothes to wear.”
5 He commanded the attendants to put a clean turban on Joshua’s head. They did so, and then they put the new clothes on him while the angel of the LORD stood there.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Professor Ji?í Moskala has explained the nature of this pre-Advent judgment. God “is not there in order to display my sins like in a shop window. He will, on the contrary, point first of all to His amazing transforming powerful grace, and in front of the whole universe He, as the true Witness of my entire life, will explain my attitude toward God, my inner motives, my thinking, my deeds, my orientation and direction of life. He will demonstrate it all. Jesus will testify that I made many mistakes, that I transgressed His holy law, but also that I repented, asked for forgiveness, and was changed by His grace. He will proclaim: ‘My blood is sufficient for the sinner Moskala, his orientation of life is on Me, his attitude toward Me and other people is warm and unselfish, he is trustworthy, he is My good and faithful servant.’ ”—“Toward a Biblical Theology of God’s Judgment: A Celebration of the Cross in Seven Phases of Divine Universal Judgment,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 15 (Spring 2004): p. 155.?[as quoted in Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Friday, February 25].†‡§
Human beings have always had the tendency to offer different kinds of sacrifices to God as an exchange for forgiveness or salvation. Some offer God heroic acts of penance (long journeys, etc.), others offer a life of service, or acts of selfdeprivation, et cetera. How should these acts be considered in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice and the assertion of Scripture that the cross has put an end to all the sacrifices (Dan. 9:27,Heb. 10:18)??Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Friday, February 25.§ [Does a person performing or encouraging an act of penance deny the free gift of salvation that God has offered us?]‡
Romans 12:1: So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 13:15-16: 15Let us, then, always offer praise to God as our sacrifice through Jesus, which is the offering presented by lips that confess him as Lord. 16Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God.?Good News Bible.*†
When the voice of the mighty angel was heard at Christ’s tomb, saying, Thy Father calls Thee, the Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself. Now was proved the truth of His words, “I lay down My life, that I might take it again.... I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Now was fulfilled the prophecy He had spoken to the priests and rulers, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”John 10:17, 18; 2:19.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 785.2.†
Turning to the New Testament, we find that John the Baptist identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NRSV; emphasis added). Paul declared: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7, ESV). In the letter to the Ephesians, this same Paul is unambiguous: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2, NRSV; emphasis added). In Romans, Paul states: “while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NRSV; emphasis added). The Bible is full of substitution and sin-bearing language. (For more examples, seeIsa. 53:12; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24.) Hebrews crowns this topic with the indisputable, though often ignored, statement that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22, NRSV). What blood? It cannot be the blood of animals, because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4, NRSV). Thus, it has to be the blood, the life, of Christ.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 121-122.†§
82022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. HBold type is added. IText in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. &Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: January 30, 2022
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