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Hebrews 9:11-28: Jesus Is the Final Sacrifice
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: Describe a time when you gave up an old pattern, habit, or way of thinking to start a new and better pattern, habit, or way of thinking.
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Hebrews 9:11-28.
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is 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, thus obtaining 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.
16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
What is the context for this passage?
This passage frequently refers back to the rules for the tabernacle and sacrifices. For context, we’ll define and explain a few of these key terms.
Tabernacle: The tabernacle was the house of God on earth while the Israelites were wandering in the desert, seeking the Promised Land. God gave specific instructions to Moses for the design of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was where the priests worked, where sacrifices were offered, and where the people worshipped God. To read more about the tabernacle, see Exodus 35-40.
Most Holy Place: The Most Holy Place was the innermost room in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:31-35). It housed the Ark of the Covenant, which originally held the stone tablets that contained the covenant law (Exodus 25:10-22, Exodus 40:20-21). Later, Aaron’s budding staff and a bowl of manna were added. The Most Holy Place was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a large curtain. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and only when God allowed.
High priest: The high priest was the primary religious leader for the Israelites. The high priest was the only priest whose head was anointed with oil (Exodus 29:5-7, Leviticus 8:10-13, Leviticus 21:10). The first high priest was Aaron, the brother of Moses. Although the high priest had many duties, one of the most significant was to serve on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), which was the day that the high priest offered sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the people. This was the only day that the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. After all the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Day of Atonement were complete, the people would be cleansed for their past sins.
First covenant: God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 that Abraham’s descendants would become a great nation. This nation was the Israelites. The covenant promised that the Israelites would have their own land, the Promised Land. The journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land is told in Exodus through Joshua.
The Law: The law was given to Moses when he ascended Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19-31. The law dictated the rules that God laid out for the Israelites to follow and obey him. The law included the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) but also gave directions for sacrifices, for the building of the tabernacle, and for how to deal with different situations with the people. The book of Leviticus spells out many of these laws.
Blood of animals: As we saw in our study of Leviticus 4, the blood of animals (bull, goat, calves, lambs, and more) was used in many different sacrifices, each with a different purpose. Offerings that used blood included the burnt offering (Leviticus 1), the fellowship offering (Leviticus 3), the sin offering (Leviticus 4–5), and the guilt offering (Leviticus 5–6). The shedding of blood is required to make atonement for the sins of the people.
Ceremonially unclean: The law included many rules about what makes people unclean. It usually involved what they touched (for example, dead animals), but it could also involve diseases (especially skin diseases) and other things. In order to present themselves before God, the people had to be ceremonially clean, which involved a process of waiting and then washing the body. Part of the cleansing process was using water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19).
Cleansing with blood: When Moses first received the law, the people of Israel offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to God. Moses then took the blood of the animals and sprinkled some on the altar and some on the people during a ceremony in which he read the covenant to the people, and they agreed to live under that covenant (Exodus 24). From then on, part of the ritual of the different sacrifices involving the blood of animals included sprinkling the blood of the animal on the altar. This is part of the process of cleansing with blood.
Blood of Christ: As we saw in the study about Jesus’ death, Jesus was killed by being crucified on a cross after he was severely flogged. After being flogged, Jesus’s body would have been pouring out blood, and during the crucifixion, a soldier pierced his side, and blood and water flowed (John 19). Jesus literally poured out his blood to pay the penalty for our sin.
New covenant: After the death and resurrection of Jesus, a new covenant was established. No longer did the people have to follow the law of the old covenant, with its sacrifices, cleansing, and other rules. Although some parts of the old covenant were still relevant morally (for example, the 10 Commandments), the system of sacrifice was no longer needed because Jesus fulfilled the first covenant by becoming the final sacrifice through his death on the cross.
Ransom: In the times of the Bible, a ransom was what was paid to redeem something. For example, if someone was sold into slavery, a family member could pay a ransom to redeem that person and free them from slavery. In the same way, Jesus paid a ransom to redeem all people from the slavery of sin. The price of the ransom was his life.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Hebrews 9 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
Jesus is our high priest (vs. 11). The job of the high priest was to be the mediator between God and his people. Because of his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus is now the only mediator we need. He has taken the role of high priest, which means we have direct access to God.
Jesus is not part of creation (vs. 11). If Jesus is not part of creation, that can only mean one thing—he is God. Only God himself was never created. He just was.
Jesus is part of the Trinity (vs. 14). There are three members of the Trinity, and all are part of one God. The three members include God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. All three are mentioned in verse 14.
God only takes sacrifices that are unblemished (vs. 14). Throughout the Old Testament law, God made it clear that any sacrifice had to be the best if he was going to be pleased with it. It wasn’t enough to offer the sick or injured animal who was going to die soon anyway. That’s not really a sacrifice on the part of the people. Instead, he wanted the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He wanted the best of the best—something that would truly be a sacrifice for the people. Through his death on the cross, Jesus was that unblemished, perfect sacrifice.
God is a living and eternal God (vs. 14). So many idols that people worship are inanimate objects that have been created by people. They are temporary and finite. God is the opposite of this. God is living, he’s active, and he’s eternal.
God and Jesus are in heaven (vs. 24). Heaven is the place where God lives. It is perfect and holy because God is there, and Jesus is there with him. All heavenly beings live together in God’s presence.
2. What does the passage say about people?
People under the old law could be ceremonially clean by the blood and ashes of animals (vs. 13, 18-22). Under the old law, the priest used the blood of animals and cleansing water that was mixed with the ashes of a heifer to make people and tabernacle instruments ceremonially clean. This allowed the people and instruments to stand before God. However, this was only outward cleanness, not inward cleanness. Their hearts could still be dirty even if they were ceremonially clean.
People can serve God if they are cleaned with the blood of Christ (vs. 14). One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that we are to serve God and serve one another. We can only truly be of service to God if we are first cleansed by the blood of Christ—we must accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and live our lives to honor him.
Some people are called to follow Christ (vs. 15). God calls people to follow him, from the Old and New Testaments to now. Those who are called and those who follow Christ will receive an eternal inheritance.
People can be free from sin through Christ’s sacrifice (vs. 15). We are all born slaves to sin. We can only be freed from this bondage to sin if we follow Christ and accept that his sacrifice on the cross was for our sins.
People create a will that will take effect upon death (vs. 16-17). A will is a legal document that tells others what you want done with your possessions upon your death. Wills were common not only today but in Bible times as well. But the key to a will is that it only has power after the person dies. While the person is still alive, the will is not in effect.
People are destined to die once, and then to face judgment (vs. 27). Here on this earth, every person must face death. This may come earlier for some than for others, but everyone will go through the dying process. What happens after that? This verse is clear that we will stand before God and face judgment for what we have done on earth.
People should be waiting for Jesus’ second coming (vs. 28). The Bible promises that Jesus will return to earth to gather all those who have followed him, both past and present. If we believe in Jesus, we should be eagerly waiting for the day when he returns to set all things right.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan is that Jesus’ blood gives us eternal redemption (vs. 12). Satan holds us in bondage to sin. We are slaves to sin. Jesus’ blood redeems us from this slavery. This redemption is not temporary; it is eternal.
God’s plan is that Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin (vs. 14). Just like the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament under the old covenant cleansed people from sin, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin.
God’s plan is that Jesus brings a new, better covenant (vs. 15, 23). The old covenant was a poor reflection of a better covenant. That new covenant was established when Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant by becoming the one perfect sacrifice for sin. He then replaced that with a better covenant in which the price for sin has already been paid. We just have to accept that gift through God’s grace.
God’s plan is that Jesus’ sacrifice brings us an eternal inheritance (vs. 15). Not only does Jesus’ sacrifice buy us back from the hold that sin has on our lives, it also provides us with an eternal inheritance—a place in heaven reserved for us, where we can spend eternity with God.
God’s plan was that Jesus would pay the ransom to set people free from sin (vs. 15). Because of God’s wrath for sin, a penalty must be paid for sin. Under the old covenant, that penalty was the blood of an animal. Once that animal was sacrificed based on God’s law, the people’s sins were forgiven. Under the new covenant, Jesus paid that penalty as a ransom to set people free from their sin. Why did it have to be Jesus? He was the only available perfect sacrifice.
God’s plan is that blood must be shed in order to forgive sin (vs. 22). The Bible tells us that the penalty for sin is death. In order for this penalty to be paid, blood must be shed. Under the old covenant, this penalty was paid through the sacrifice of an animal. Under the new covenant, this penalty was paid by the blood of Jesus Christ.
God’s plan was that Jesus would only have to offer himself as a sacrifice one time (vs. 25-28). Under the old covenant, the priests had to offer sacrifices for sin repeatedly. This passage tells us that Jesus did not have to sacrifice himself repeatedly. Because he was the perfect sacrifice, he only had to sacrifice himself one time to pay the penalty for all sin.
God’s plan is that Jesus will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (vs. 28). Under the old covenant, God’s people were waiting for a promised Messiah. When that Messiah (Jesus) came, he paid the penalty for sin and conquered sin and death. But Satan still has a hold on this earth for a time. Under the new covenant, we wait for Jesus to come back a second time to defeat Satan once for all time. When Jesus returns, he will bring salvation to all those who are waiting for him.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
This passage is a great summary of God’s plan for restoring the relationship between God and humans. It discusses the contrast between the old covenant (the Old Testament law) and the new covenant (Jesus as one sacrifice for all sins). It tells us that the old covenant was just a reflection of the new covenant, and the new covenant is far superior to the old covenant. It contrasts the blood of animals, which had to be offered repeatedly to cleanse people from their sins, with the blood of Christ, which only had to be offered once to cleanse people from their sins. A few of the differences between the old and the new covenant that are highlighted in this passage are outlined in the table below.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Hebrews 10:1-18.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Hebrews 9 Resources