A covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
One way to help people understand complex truth is through illustrations. So, in Hebrews 9, the writer illustrated the need for Christ’s death in three ways.
First, the writer illustrated by example. He used an analogy to explain why Christ had to die: “Where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives” (9:16-17). The word here for “covenant” refers to a will. In a will, the testator alone decides the terms of that will and the beneficiaries. Only when the testator dies do the beneficiaries receive something. Using that illustration, the writer said the death of Christ was necessary for us to receive the benefits of God’s covenant (or will). Only with Christ’s death do we inherit the benefit of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins.
Second, the writer showed by history why the death of Christ was important: “Even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood” (9:18). We should not find it strange that the new agreement is based on death, since the old agreement was based on death. In the Old Testament, it was the death of animals, but it was still all about blood. Notice that the writer said, “According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (9:22). Why did he say “almost”? Leviticus 5 said if you could not afford to buy an animal to be sacrificed, then you could offer flour or grain instead. But it was not through the blood of an animal or flour or wheat or anything else that sins were removed; it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Finally, the writer of Hebrews illustrated the need for Christ’s death by contrast: “It was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (9:23). The “copies” of heavenly things included the tabernacle, the brazen altar, and the mercy seat. In the new covenant, Jesus offered a better sacrifice. Second, Jesus offered it in a better place: “Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God” (9:24). Most importantly, Jesus only had to offer His sacrifice once: “Nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own” (9:25). The Old Testament high priest made sacrifices year after year, because he went in without his own blood. If he had offered his own blood, he would only be able to make that sacrifice once. Why? Because you only die once. Verse 27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Christ died one time to obtain forgiveness for our sins. Jesus is the superior priest who offered the superior sacrifice to obtain a superior salvation.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Where There Is A Will, There Is A Body” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.