“Christ Will Appear a Second Time”
(Hebrews 9:24-28 – Last Judgment – November 7, 2021)
Hebrews 9:24-28 – 24For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – 26He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus,
The Bible teaches that a Day of Judgment is coming. Christ will appear on the clouds in all His glory. He will raise all the dead and judge the world in righteousness. All people will be gathered before Him, believers separated from unbelievers. Believers will be taken into His heavenly kingdom, prepared for them since the creation of the world. Unbelievers will be sent away to eternal fire in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).
“Christ Will Appear a Second Time”; but His coming need not terrify us. Since He came the first time as our Savior, Christ Himself gives us reason to rejoice at His coming. As our text shows: 1) In view of His once for all sacrifice, 2) We confidently await His final salvation.
1) In view of His once for all sacrifice
Speaking of His first coming, it says in verse 26: “But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” When Christ sacrificed Himself for our sins on the cross, He put an end to all sacrifices and all fear of condemnation. Let us contemplate the greatness of that once for all sacrifice of the Son of God, by which all our sins are forgiven and we are given confidence to stand before God’s throne.
If you had visited the temple in Jerusalem at Jesus’ time, out in front of the temple, you would have seen the altar of burnt offering. It was an imposing structure, on which the sacrificed meat of lambs, goats, and bulls was offered. The fires under the altar never went out, nor did the sacrifices stop; at least they were not supposed to under the Old Covenant. Some 1500 years before Jesus came, according to the Law God gave through Moses, God commanded the priests to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar twice daily. Once in the morning and once at night, lambs without blemish were slaughtered and their flesh was consumed on the fiery altar ((Leviticus 6:13; Numbers 28:38-3-8). All this constantly reminded the people that they always needed a sacrifice for sin – day and night, year after year.
By commanding His people to sacrifice animals constantly, God was teaching that sin cannot be ignored. Sin costs a life. As a holy God, He cannot relax His standard of perfection. In His Law He says: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). The justice of a holy God demands the ultimate thing of value – one’s soul for one’s sin.
Think of what this means. God sees every sinful desire, thought, word, or action. When we spoke those rash words on Monday, when we failed to trust God and pray His will be done on Tuesday, when we had that unholy desire on Wednesday, when we had uncharitable thoughts toward someone on Thursday, when we joined that gossip circle on Friday, when we were too self-absorbed to help someone on Saturday, when our sinful nature said, “Oh man, it’s church this morning” – the holy God has seen it all. Every sin screams out to the holy God for justice. Every sin requires a payment of life.
This is what God was teaching under the Old Covenant by all those sacrifices, day after day. But the purpose of the sin offering was not just to announce to sinners: “God has yet another rule to follow.” It was to teach sinners: “God will accept a substitute in your place! Instead of requiring your life, God will satisfy His justice by requiring the life of another.”
How clearly this was taught in ancient Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). On that day, there was a different sacrifice from the regular morning and evening sacrifices. Aaron, or one of his descendants as the high priest, acted as a mediator or go-between on behalf sinners before the holy God. On this day, unlike any other, the high priest alone entered the Most Holy Place, the innermost part of God’s sanctuary, to make atonement for the sins of the people.
Before he could offer a sacrifice for the sin of the people, first he had to sacrifice a young bull for his own sin and the sin of the priests, on the altar in front of the sanctuary. Then he took the blood from that offering into the sanctuary. He passed through the Holy Place, and approached the curtain that was closed at all other times. Opening that curtain, he passed into the Most Holy Place and the presence of the Lord. There he stood, trembling before the Ark of the Covenant. He sprinkled the blood seven times on its atonement cover, the mercy seat that symbolized God’s heavenly throne. Then He sprinkled blood seven times in front of the ark. But all that was just for his sin and the sin of the priests.
Next, the high priest went back out of the sanctuary into the courtyard. Now on the altar of burnt offering, he offered a goat as a sacrifice for the sin of the people. Again, he entered the sanctuary and passed through the inner curtain into the Most Holy Place. Again, he sprinkled the blood seven times on the atonement cover and in front of the Ark, praying: “Lord, forgive the sins of Your people!” Can you imagine how Aaron looked when he came back outside in the sight of the people – his priestly robe splattered with blood, his hands red with blood?
Then a second goat was brought, and the high priest followed these instructions of the Lord: “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22). The worshipers watched as the scapegoat was led into the desert, never to be seen again. In this way, God assured His people: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Imagine the gruesome sight in those day after day, year after year sacrifices. See what sin does, the life it costs! Imagine a child asking a parent, “Why does the priest have to kill those animals?” With a bowed head, the parent teaches his child about sin and atonement. “Will he have to do it again?” “Yes my child, again and again; for we daily sin much.” “Are we forgiven, then?” “Yes child, but with each sacrifice we look forward to the coming of our Messiah. For God says He is the one who will save us from all sin. As Isaiah foretold: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Indeed, all the shedding of blood under the Old Covenant taught about God’s forgiveness; but those sacrifices in themselves did not forgive and save sinners. This was clear by their very nature, as they had to be done over and over again. Rather, these sacrifices pointed to Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, in which we have full atonement for sin, forgiveness, and salvation.
How different is Christ, as our High Priest, from all the priests under the Old Covenant. They entered an earthly sanctuary, and an inner room called the Most Holy Place; but that was only a man-made copy of God’s throne and mercy seat in heaven. But our text says in verse 24: “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
Unlike all other priests, Christ did not first have to offer a sacrifice for sin of His own. He is sinless, meeting the standard of perfection. He entered the Most Holy Place on His own merit, as the beloved Son coming before His Father. Yet behold the truly gruesome and shocking sight! See what sin does, the life it costs! Unlike priests of the Old Covenant who offered symbolic sacrifices, sprinkling the blood of substitutes that was not their own, Christ offered Himself. He paid the high cost for our sin with His own life. On the altar of the cross, He suffered the consuming fires of holy judgment. As the Lamb of God without blemish, His blood flowed for the sins of all people. Verse 26 says: “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
Fellow worshipers gathered in the sanctuary of the Lord. We have come as sinners before the mercy seat of a holy God. We know Judgment Day is coming. But why should we live in fear? Fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). Fear has to do with thinking some sacrifice must still be made to appease God, as if it will still take some good work or holy offering on our part to make up for our sins. But why turn back to that Old Covenant of Law, when we know what God has done to save us? His New Covenant of Grace puts to rest every fear. The Gospel assures us that the holy God has atoned for all our sins and removed all condemnation from us in the sacrifice of His Son. He is declaring us forgiven and holy in the name of Christ.
2) We confidently await His final salvation
Therefore with believers in Old Testament Israel, and believers through the ages, as we gather in worship we say: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD” (Psalm 118:26). In view of Christ’s once for all sacrifice, we confidently await His final salvation.
Our text assures us of this confidence in verses 27-28: “As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Death is a result of sin (Romans 5:12); but since Christ died and faced judgment for us, on the Last Day He will not deal with our sin. He is already declaring us forgiven. So we can eagerly wait for Him, knowing His coming is to bring us the eternal blessings of His salvation in heaven.
Until He appears a second time, verse 24 says Christ has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” He continues to act as our High Priest, interceding for us at His Father’s right hand. Hebrews 7:25 says: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” His intercession in the Most Holy Place gives us confidence when we have sinned. For “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
Not only has Jesus entered the Most Holy Place for us; He has enabled us to enter that Most Holy Place. He opened the way for us on the cross. When He cried out “It is finished” and gave up His spirit, the veil in the temple that used to set apart the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom (John 19:30; Matthew 27:50-51). This signified Christ removing the separation between the holy God and sinners. Now through Christ, you and I can enter God’s presence directly. In His sanctuary we are sprinkled by Christ’s blood, washed in the waters of Baptism, pronounced clean and holy. At His altar in Holy Communion, we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, once given and shed for us, for the remission of our sins. In Jesus’ name, we present our prayers and petitions, as children coming before our dear Father. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
Rejoice believers! When Christ appears again on the clouds, and the earth in its present form is passing away, yet we will stand with Him in His heavenly sanctuary that never passes away. In view of His once for all sacrifice, we confidently await His final salvation, singing:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day, For who ought to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.