The Superiority of Christ’s Sacrifice
Hebrews 9:11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (NIV)
In this passage, the writer of Hebrews continues to proclaim to the Hebrew Christians the superiority of Christ to the tenants of Judaism. He is encouraging them to stay faithful to Christianity and to not return to Judaism. In the previous passage he wrote of the sacrificial system under Judaism. In comparison, he now explores the sacrificial system under Christianity.
The writer begins by comparing Christ to the Jewish high priest. Christ was the high priest of “the good things that are already here” (v. 11a). The NIV translation of this may be pointing to Christ as “already here”. Other translations, such as the KJV, translate this phrase as “good things to come”. The Greek word used is from the verb “ginomai” which means “to come”. The better translation is “good things to come”, which points to the future rule of Christ and eternal security for the believer.
The “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (v. 11b) refers to the sanctuary of Christ in comparison to the sanctuary of the earthly high priest, the tabernacle. The sanctuary of Christ is far superior. It is Heaven itself. It is not “man-made” (v. 11c), like the tabernacle. It is “not a part of this creation” (v. 11d).
Christ, the high priest did not enter the “Most Holy Place” (v. 12b), the Holy of Holies, by the “means of the blood of goats and calves” (v. 12a), like the earthly high priest. The phrase “means of the blood of goats and calves” is a figure of speech called a “meiosis”. It is defined as the be-littleing of one thing in order to magnify another. In this case it is a be-littleing of the animal sacrificial system in order to magnify the much superior sacrifice of Christ. Animal sacrifice obtained only a ritual cleansing to allow the people to worship God. Christ’s sacrifice “obtained eternal redemption” (v. 12c) for Christians.
Verse thirteen describes a method in which animal sacrifice would provide “ceremonially” cleansing. Under the law, if an Israelite touched a dead body he was ceremonially unclean. The remedy was to mix the ashes of a red heifer with spring water and to sprinkle that mixture on the unclean person on the third and seventh day after. This would ceremonially cleanse the person.
If this ceremonial cleansing was deemed effective in cleansing, “how much more, then, will the blood of Christ” (v. 14a) cleanse us. Christ “through the eternal Spirit (the Holy Spirit) offered himself unblemished to God” (v. 14b). He was “unblemished”, sinless, the perfect sacrifice. He cleansed “our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (v. 14c). Christ’s sacrifice was superior because it had the power of cleansing our consciences and saving us from spiritual death, eternal separation from God. We are saved so that we may serve God.
Because of this “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant” (v. 15a). The New Covenant based on the blood of Christ replaced, and is far superior to, the Old Covenant based on animal sacrifice. “Those who are called (Christians) may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (v. 15b), eternal life in Heaven. Christ “died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (v. 15c). The first covenant, the law, defines sin but has no power over sin. The grace of Christ has replaced the punishment for sin dictated by the law.
This passage establishes the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice to the animal sacrificial system. His sacrifice paid the penalty for our sin. We are the redeemed in Christ, the chosen ones. He chose us, meaning that He had foreknowledge that we would accept His call. As such, Christians are assured of eternal life in Heaven. We need never worry about our future. Our future is in Heaven. We are just passing through this life. Nothing of this life will stick. So why worry.
Online Bible Commentary