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Only Once

Only Once

 Hebrews 9:25-28

There are very few things in the world that occur once in a lifetime. As many of you would, I remember as a boy viewing the Hale-Bopp Comet in the night sky in 1996-97. It was seen roughly 4200 years prior. It was just another comet, but its infrequency made it significant. Our verses today disclose three events that happened once for all time: the appearing of Christ to put away sin, the physical death of a human, and the offering of Christ to bear the sins of many. The gravitas of these unique events in world history is not lost on Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9 – Sanctuary, Service and Sacrifice of the Covenants

  • V1-10 – The Earthly Services of the Priest in the Earthly Tabernacle
  • V11-24 – The Greater Service in the Greater Tabernacle by a Greater Sacrifice

V25-28 – One Sacrifice for Sin, One Entering and Exit of the Holy Places

V25 draws us to the fact that there is no need for Christ, the High Priest, to bring blood into the Holy Places year after year. If this was the requirement, He would have had to “often suffer since the foundation of the world.” But as v26 continues on, it states that it was “once in the end of the world [He] appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” We don’t need another sacrifice for ourselves. The thought of re-crucifying Christ by partaking in the loaf and the cup, or that His actual body and blood are involved is contrary to this scripture.

We must note in v26 the word “world” which first appears in v26 is different from the “world” that appears second. The expression “the end of the world,” could be better translated, “consummation of the ages” (Darby, NET, NASB, others). The consummation of the ages is that point in time in which the ages prior achieved their purpose and goal. Everything in time before pointed ahead to the time of the cross. We can also rightly say that everything in the time after the cross in God’s purposes looks back to it. It is the fulcrum of God’s plans.

The final two verses in the chapter work together as a set. Notice in v26 that “once in the consummation of the ages,” and now in v27 and 28 “it is appointed unto men once to die… so Christ was once offered…” Physical death is the normal path that all humanity will take, but after that death will be judgment. Due to this coming judgment, Christ by grace “was once offered to bear the sins of many.”

The question always arises at some point in a reader’s mind, “Did Christ only bear the sins of many?” An affirmative answer must be gathered, because this is what the Scripture says.  V28 shows us the truth of substitution: the death of Christ and the forgiveness of sins is only applicable to as many as believe. However, v26 may be the thought of a propitiatory sacrifice, wherein Christ has appeased God for sin in an unlimited way.

The last phrase of the chapter brings to us much to think upon. First, notice that “He shall appear.” In v24 it is “now to appear” in the present. V26 it is “hath appeared” in the past.  Now v28 it is the future. These three appearances, which are three different Greek words, link us back to the opening of the chapter and thoughts of the sanctuary, sacrifice and service. Presently His appearing is in the presence of God – the better sanctuary. In the past He appeared on earth to put away sin – the better sacrifice. In the future He will be seen again on earth a second time bringing salvation with Him to those that look for Him – the better service.

Lastly, to be right in interpreting these last verses, we must notice that in v24 He appears in the presence of God for “us,” while in v28 he appears “to them that look for Him.” It is a tremendous truth and blessing that we, the church, have a High Priest appearing in the presence of God. But “them that look for Him” refers to a remnant of Israel who will look to the heavens and see the appearing of the Messiah for them, just as the nation of Israel watched the Tent of the Tabernacle for the high priest to come out to them. When this future day comes, salvation will be brought to this remnant.

Challenge

  1. What is the emphasis of the three different Greek words in v24, 26, 28 translated in the KJV  as “to appear,” “appeared” and “appear”? How do they convey a similar thought, and how do they convey a different idea?
  2. How does v24 “now to appear... for us” standing against v28 “to them... shall He appear” confirm the truth that the church will not be in the Tribulation period?
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