The Finished Work
"Once in the end of the world"
"For where there is a testament, there must needs come in the death of the testator; for a testament is of force when men are dead; since it is in no way of force while the testator liveth."
We have had, in this part of our Epistle much said about the covenants, — the old covenant of the law, and the new covenant whose blessings have been ministered by Christ, and on the basis of which Israel will be brought into eternal blessing. In the original, the words for "covenant" and "testament" are the same, so that what we ordinarily call, "The New Testament," might be called, "The New Covenant" — perhaps more properly covenant being the administration of things according to God's order. In speaking of the covenant the apostle was led to dwell upon this other feature of a testament, which we ordinarily call a "will." He had just before been speaking of the eternal inheritance which is ours through Christ's redemption which has put away the transgressions that were under the first covenant, so that now those who by the grace of God are called, inherit eternal blessings.
Speaking of the inheritance, seems to suggest how it is made good in ordinary life. Here is a person whose father has enormous possessions. His son practically is a poor man. His father might, for instance, lose all his property, then the son would be reduced to the level of the poorest; or, through the misconduct of that son, he might forfeit the right to his father's approval and be cut off without inheriting any of his estate. In this way, so long as the father lives, while the son has the promise of an inheritance, and bright prospects, you cannot say he is a person of wealth in his own right. But the father makes his will, he devises his property he bequeaths it to this son, and the son knows that his father's word is pledged, and that so sure as his father's will is carried out, he will one day be heir of all his wealth. At present he has nothing. His expectations are future. The will is written, it expresses the wishes of the father but before it becomes operative, death has to intervene.
Now apply that to spiritual things. Think of the inheritance of God. Who can describe the wealth of that heavenly inheritance, "incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away"? There is the inheritance, and it was the will of God that it should be for His people in and through Christ. You might say the will was drawn up in eternity, as we read in Ephesians, He "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." But does that insure the inheritance to us? Does the devising of this eternal property insure our possession of it? Something has to come in, in order that the will of the Testator may be made good — it is the death of the Testator. So, before we could inherit any blessing, there had to come in the death of Him through whom all these blessings were promised. And this not only looks forward to the eternal inheritance, but back over all our blessings; so that everything we have had, even our temporal mercies, are a part of those purchased and bequeathed blessings; everything is sanctified by the precious death of our Lord Jesus Christ. How that dignifies the simplest mercies of each day! How, as we bow our heads in thanksgiving for our daily food, we can rejoice at its coming to us, in a distinctive way, as purchased for us through our Lord's
death; things that you might say have cost Him His life.
"Whence, neither was the first covenant inaugurated without blood: for every commandment having been spoken by Moses according to the law, to all the people, — having taken the blood of bulls and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, he sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you. And he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of service. And almost all things are according to the law purified with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was necessary, then, that the representations of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."
Now as we have been seeing all along, while the law was a contrast to the blessings of grace, it was also a foreshadowing of them. That is distinctly stated for us at the beginning of the tenth chapter where it is spoken of as "having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things." In many ways it was in contrast. You can see its feebleness. It waxes old and must be set aside, but at the same time it foreshadows. So, in this sprinkling under the law we have both a contrast and a foreshadowing of "the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel." When the representatives of the people came forward to enter into covenant relationship with God, this sprinkling occurred.
If you turn to the Old Testament passage, you will find there is no mention there of the accompaniments of this sprinkling. We are simply told that he sprinkled half the blood on the altar and the other half on the book and the people; but here we are told that the medium through which he did this was "water, scarlet wool, and hyssop;" and that connects with what we were seeing a little while ago. These details suggest the two kinds of atoning work, if I may so say: that which had reference to the sanctuary — the blood of the sacrifice carried in and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat; and the ashes of the red heifer which was burned entirely, with cedar and hyssop and scarlet wool.
But what did this act mean? We know that first covenant was a ministration of death; it could not give life. It was a ministration of condemnation, it only sealed man's guilt upon him. Man did not continue for a moment to fulfil the part that he had engaged to do. The blood is sprinkled, as though calling God to witness. Sprinkled upon the altar it was a witness that the law, if broken, called for the shedding of blood, the execution of judgment; upon the people, it declared that if they broke that law they would be the objects of God's wrath according to the terms of the covenant; in other words, that they would not merely be condemned as the mass of the world because of their general sinfulness, but specifically condemned as having entered into and broken the covenant relationship with God.
I need not say how they did violate the terms of that covenant. So the sin of those who have had a revelation from God is far greater than of those who live in heathen darkness. "As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." There is no such teaching in Scripture, however, as that those who are ignorant of the Bible are therefore guiltless before God, as simply unfortunate. Every man by virtue of his creation is a responsible being; and because responsible, he must give account to God for everything he has done; but it will be on the basis of his knowledge. The Gentile will not be judged for violating the law as the Jew will; still less will he be judged for having rejected Christ.
Ah, we speak of the privilege of being in a Christian land! The privilege is great indeed, but the responsibility is equally great, and fearful if, with all these blessings, there is still a disregard of the grace of God. That I conceive to be clearly what is meant by the sprinkling of the blood upon the book and the people. It was a declaration that if the terms of this covenant were violated nothing but judgment could follow. What self-confidence and spiritual blindness it reveals when the people entered into this covenant, not realizing their utter helplessness to keep the law, thus incurring its terrible condemnation the moment they violated it! And they have been ever since, as you might say, a people living under the condemnation of that sprinkled blood. They have also added to this by taking upon themselves the guilt of the death of Christ when they said, "His blood be upon us and our children." And in an equally solemn way, the knowledge and profession of allegiance to Christ is an awful sentence upon those who in heart despise and reject the gospel of the grace of God.
But the fulness of Scripture is not apprehended when we look only at one side of things. While the law of the old covenant was a ministry of death and condemnation, it was at the same time a figure of the good things to come. It was in connection with the giving of the law that provision was also made for God's dwelling among His people. Sinai stands between the Red Sea, and the Tabernacle. Now, in that sense, the law prefigures the obedience of faith which is the result of redemption; and while we have been speaking of the responsibility which the blood sprinkled upon the book and the people suggested in view of their failing to keep the law, we can also see in it a suggestion of the precious fact that the blood of redemption, the blood of Christ, has brought us into permanent relationship with God, so that our obedience and everything else is under the power of that precious blood.
Think of it as you take up this precious Book: every page sprinkled with the blood of redemption! We read it, not as those who are pledged to keep it in our own strength, but as those who are first of all redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. More than that, we can now turn to it and seek, by that grace which has saved us, to carry out the righteous requirement of the law as we walk "not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Thus redemption seals us as those who belong to God and brings us into a relationship in which it is possible now to obey that very law of God which otherwise would have been our condemnation.
I have thus ventured to give what I believe to be the two foreshadowings of what this sprinkling of the blood means.
In addition to what we have seen, the Tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry, "and almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." The meaning is very distinct and precious, being that, I have no doubt, which we have just been dwelling upon. It was to show that God's dwelling place among His people was upon the basis of redemption; that the only ground upon which a holy God could dwell in the midst of a sinful people was the ground of the blood. And as the priest went into the Tabernacle to accomplish his ministry, if an intruder had been allowed to go in there, he might have asked, What do you mean by these marks of blood upon that glorious veil, upon the sides of the Tabernacle, upon the table and the altar and the candlestick? Everything is marked with blood. Why do you not remove these stains which mar their beauty? And the priest could reply, That blood gives true beauty to it all. It is a pledge that we, a sinful people, have a title to enjoy the privileges which are ministered by these precious things. A holy God could not dwell among us, nor minister to us, nor could we offer our worship to Him, were it not on the basis of the blood.
And when you come to Christian worship, what joy and liberty it is — in connection too with all ministry — to know that the mark of the blood is upon it all! Thus it is on the basis of redemption that we are ministering one to another, and offer up "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Ah, the precious truth of the blood! Wherever the believer looks, — back upon his guilty past, he sees it blotted out by the precious blood of Christ if he looks forward to the eternal glory, he sees it secured for him by that precious blood; if he looks upon himself, poor, failing, feeble as he is, he can say, The very blood which is upon the throne of God is upon me also and is pledged to bring me into that place of eternal blessedness. There is no thought of our worthiness, of self-satisfaction or self-complacency. As the apostle says: "Where is boasting, then? It is excluded." The precious blood humbles us, glorifies God, but brings us into abiding blessing.
One would pause and say just here, if there are any who are seeking acceptance with God, and yet may be trusting in themselves, in their own righteousness, how these words set all that aside with one stroke: "Without shedding of blood is no remission"!
The patterns of things in the heavens were purified with the blood of sacrifices which had no intrinsic value; they were simply valuable as types of that better Sacrifice, "of richer blood than they." But "the heavenly things themselves" must be purified "with better sacrifices than these." I call your attention to this remarkable expression, "the heavenly things" needed to be purified. The Tabernacle itself would have been a defiled place because it was in the midst of a guilty and defiled people. God distinctly declares that the only ground upon which He could dwell among them was the ground of the blood. (See Lev. 16:16.) If God's dwelling is to be with a people in themselves guilty and defiled, it must be purged from the sin that has penetrated there. What a solemn thought! A man committing sin may say, It is only myself that I am injuring; nobody has anything to do with it. And he is rightly told that no man is so isolated from his fellows. If one came with a contagious disease into a city, he would not be allowed to remain. And the sinner can rightly be told, You are not only affected yourself, but you influence humanity. You set an example, and defile those with whom you are associated. You are degrading the moral level of the human race.
But there is a more solemn thought than even that. Every sin committed has penetrated heaven itself. If heaven is to be in association with man — if God is to take knowledge of His creatures in the least — from very necessity of that fact, every sin has penetrated there. The place for a sinner to look for his sins, is not merely to read the record of his life as he can keep it — not to look into his bosom and see the secrets there concealed, but — how solemn the thought! it is recorded in the presence of God's glory. And how defiled for a holy God would that heaven be, if it were not purged from the presence of sin there recorded!
But we look further. Who has become the ruler and prince of this world, the god of this age? It is one who gained control and authority over man, by man's disobedience in listening to his lie. So you find that Satan, too, has an entrance into heaven itself. In the book of Job we see he presented himself before God; and so in Revelation he accuses the saints of God day and night before Him. What solemn thoughts are these! Our sins up there defiling that holy place, and that unclean intruder claiming, so to speak, a right to be there to accuse, because God is allowing sin to go on in this world!
But what is it that will purge that place? What is it that has purged it and removed from it, so to speak, all taint, all evidence of any inconsistency on God's part? Ah, it is a better Sacrifice than those that purged the earthly sanctuary. The heavenly sanctuary is purged by the precious blood of Christ; and, carrying the thought on further, the power by which Satan is overthrown and cast out of heaven is the power of the blood. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb."
Now, these are profound and yet most precious truths. We read in Colossians that Christ has reconciled by His death, not merely persons, but actually reconciled all things, so that God can dwell in abiding communion with His people. God could never dwell in association with an earth where sin is. The heavens are not clean in His sight because of their association with the creature's sin, and the only way these could be purged is by the blood of Christ. When His blood was shed, there was the basis upon which heaven itself was purified from all the charge which could be brought against God because of His condoning or allowing sin; He abides in eternal righteousness in relation with His creation.
I am sure, as we go on to learn the basis on which God has to do with His whole creation, from eternity past to eternity to come, it will be found to be the precious blood of Christ. The Cross is the centre upon which rest, and around which revolve all God's attributes, all His ways, His counsels, His purposes. But what a transcending thought! What a wondrous thing to realize that that precious blood which has so glorified God in the heavens is the seal upon us too; it has cleansed us and made us meet for that glorious place, so that we have the same mark upon us that is upon the throne of God itself!
Ah, brethren, God has no light thoughts of the Cross. No secondary place in the plan of salvation. It is the display of God's righteousness and grace, the ground of our peace and of all our blessings.
I need hardly say that it is not a literal sprinkling upon the throne, but that God is fully glorified by what is done. The actual bearing of sin by our Lord upon the cross, and God's acceptance of that work, is all that is meant by the sprinkling of the blood.
"For Christ is not entered into holy places made with hands, the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; and not that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy places every year with blood of others; for then would he need often to have suffered from the foundation of the world; but now once in the completion of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by his sacrifice."
In contrast still with the Tabernacle and the Old Testament figure, Christ as our Priest has not entered holy places made with hands, as the high priest did, but into heaven itself; the witness there of the establishment of an eternal basis of relationship between God and His people. How has He entered in? He had a personal right to enter because of what He was personally; but He could not enter in that way as our representative. If He is to appear for us, it must be with the witness of the blood. The priest, who appeared for the people and himself, had to carry the blood into the holiest. Christ has gone in by His own blood, having accomplished eternal redemption.
Think of that Man who walked this earth, who passed through all its trials, who magnified God in His daily life; He is now in the presence of God! He is not there for Himself, but appears in the presence of God for us! A Man before God, a Man as our representative, a Man who is God's delight, is the pledge that just so surely as He is there, so surely does God delight in every one of His redeemed people! If you want to know the measure of your acceptance before God think not of your poor, feeble, unworthy self, but look up yonder upon the throne and see One who has entered into heaven itself and appears in the presence of God for us. You remember in the fiftieth of Isaiah, the Lord asks, Who is it that will lay anything to His charge? God is near who justifies Him. When you turn to the eighth of Romans, you find that identical language used of His people!
He appears in the presence of God for us — how much that means! It means that the journey is already over, so far as our standing is concerned; that the whole question is eternally settled. Christ Himself would need to be dragged down from His place of glory before the acceptance of a believer in Him could be questioned. Doubts dishonor God's grace, and practically dethrone Christ! If we but realized it, to have a doubt of our perfect and eternal security is to have a doubt of Christ's place in the presence of God — He appears there for us.
Then, he goes on to say, it is not that He offers Himself often, as the high priest who once a year entered into the holy place with blood of others. If that were the case, think of the centuries of suffering for the blessed Lord Jesus! "Then must He often have suffered from the foundation of the world." Instead of the oft repeated sacrifices which could not really take away sin, instead of coming over and over again, making mention of the same sins every year, what is there? That blessed word "once, in the end of the world."
"The end of the world," people say, means the time when this world is coming to an end. If we want to see the end of the world, we look back at Calvary. People talk about the world improving, about its progress, but the Cross has ended it all. It is God's sentence upon it. Man had been tested in every way. God had given him every opportunity. The dim light of promise, before Noah, had waxed brighter by special revelation. God had called out a chosen people. He had given them all the privileges of a priesthood ordained by Himself. He sent them prophets and kings and everything that could possibly minister to them. What was the result of it all? It only meant added condemnation. If He sent His only Son, they set a seal upon all their iniquity by putting Him on the cross. There the history of the world came to an end. There Christ appeared, in the end of the world, — the consummation of the ages, as it is better rendered — when man had been fully tried. All his iniquity, all his helplessness, all his hopelessness had fully come out.
He appeared to put away sin, to blot it out from before God's face, to deliver us from its guilt and power. And in what way? "By the sacrifice of Himself." Ah, nothing else could put away sin, and He has appeared once to do it. No need of repeating that. When those words of triumph rang out from Calvary: "It is finished," all was done. In the very language of the Son of God Himself it meant that nothing could be added to the work now accomplished. Oh, let that precious word take hold of our inmost souls, a finished work, to the praise of His glory!
"And forasmuch as it is reserved unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so Christ also having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear to those that look for him the second time, apart from sin, for salvation."
The apostle now speaks of a fact which is admitted by all men: "As it is appointed unto men once to die." Solemn word that is! Word uttered in Eden before the fall! "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," — a word which has found its echo in every sob and grief by the bed of death, from that day to this. Death has reigned from Adam to Moses, and spreads its dark pall everywhere, a solemn witness of the universality of sin. Death has come in because of sin, and there is never a death but is witness to the fact of sin and separation from God. God declared it should be so, and He has carried out inexorably that solemn declaration in the whole history of humanity.
Men may try to put off the day of death. All the skill, the ingenuity, the science of man, conspire to put off that evil day, and yet you would be considered a madman if you should say to the most eminent physician, I want you to insure that I shall not die. Ah, the hand of the most skilful operator will one day be pallid and cold in death itself, and those who have ministered to the needs of the sick and dying, will be a witness that they had no power to help themselves.
"It is appointed unto men once to die" — that is only half the solemn truth. Equally appointed, equally certain: "After death, the judgment." Death, instead of being the end of all, is rather the beginning. This present time is but the ante-chamber of eternity. No one can deny the certainty of death for the human race; and after that comes the judgment. No one can deny that, either. The very God who declares the one and who witnesses to it in countless deaths, witnesses and declares the certainty of that judgment which is also coming, solemn realities for every one to face!
But I want to call your attention to one word which sheds the light of grace over the whole statement: "As." What then? "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." In the very scene where death witnesses of sin and where judgment hangs in the future, darkly threatening and certain to come, Christ was offered, to bear the very judgment and death which we deserved for our sins. Man gets death first, and after death the judgment. Christ, our blessed Lord, bore the judgment first, going to the cross, bearing wrath. Look at that scene upon Calvary; think of, ponder upon those cries which came from the cross. Hear that cry of forsaken anguish when all was darkness about Him, for you will never fully understand the reality of the cross until you have entered into the meaning of those words: "My God, My God, why Nast Thou forsaken Me?" That is the very thing that the ungodly will realize in the judgment. The word will be to them: "Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire." We read that Christ was made a curse for us, the very thing the sinner deserves. The sinner will be cast away from God; so Christ was in that outer darkness. He bore the judgment of God inflicted upon Him as the full penalty upon the whole world of His creatures.
He bore judgment and then death, which is, after all, not the deepest, not the most solemn part of it, having to do with the body only But our blessed Lord delivered us completely from all the results of our sin, bearing in His body the sentence of our transgressions, and laying down His bodily life upon this earth. So He has borne judgment in this twofold way, — judgment upon the soul and upon the body. He has taken it all away by the sacrifice of Himself, "Once offered to bear the sins of many."
I call your attention again to that blessed word "once." It is a finished work. Would you dare to think of His coming down from that excellent glory and being nailed afresh to the cross? Impossible, impossible! So, for a believer, it is utterly impossible for his sins to come back upon him again, for they have all been put away forever by the sacrifice of Christ.
Now notice the blessed conclusion. How we mount higher and higher! "To them that look for Him." We are not looking for death, though it is the common portion for men. Christ has annulled death for the believer, by removing its sting — by removing sin. It may come in as an incident, but for the people of God it is called by a new and different word — "those who sleep in Jesus." If He should call tonight, dear brethren, if He should put His hand upon us and put us to sleep this night, would there be any terror in it, any sting, any fear? We are ready to go to Him this very night, to lie down in quiet rest.
But even that is not the blessed hope that is before us. Death has been taken away so that we do not even dwell upon the probability of our falling asleep. "To them that look for Him." We have looked at Him upon the cross; we have seen the work which has put away our sin there. Now we are looking not merely at Him in the presence of God, but we are looking for Him, for His manifestation: "To them that look for Him, shall He appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation."
Once He appeared in lowly guise, the Man of sorrows here. It was only faith that could pierce through that outer covering and see the glories and beauties within. He appeared to be a Sin-offering, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. We look for Him now to appear the second time, apart from sin. No question of sin upon Him now, is there? We saw Him on Calvary, with all the judgment of His redeemed people; but we look at Him now in glory, and there is not a shadow upon His face. No sin upon Him now, nor upon us. We are not looking for Him to put away our sins when He comes, nor to purge our conscience. We are looking for Him the second time, apart from the whole question of sin, unto salvation.
Blessed hope, this coming of the Lord! As we have traced Him thus, traced the precious blood of the new covenant from the cross up into the presence of God, and think of the Lord coming back again, we see how utterly out of place would be any thought of His coming except for one special object, and that is to take His redeemed out of this scene where sin is, into that scene which He has purchased by His own blood, our habitation with God forever.
How the soul thrills, how the heart delights at these glorious themes and the soul fills with adoration! We think of the grace which has thus given us a perfect redemption and made it our business to be waiting. To be sure, we must work while we wait, but work out of love. We work, not for life, but by reason of life; and we wait for God's Son from heaven. There is no joy, or hope, or victory for the believer that can compare with the glad shout that shall ring in every heart as we shall mount into His own blessed light, to be forever with Him.
Salvation will get its full significance then. It is not the salvation of the soul, which we know now; it is not deliverance by His grace from the bondage of sin, which we are privileged to know now; it is not His sustaining us through various circumstances of our pilgrim path; but His full salvation, when He shall have His own way with us at last. Alas, we have not yielded ourselves up to His will as He would have us here; but when at last He shall have His own way with us, when He shall fashion our bodies of humiliation and make them like unto the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself, His full desires will be attained.
Such, beloved, is the value of the blood of Jesus Christ, as we contrast it with all works of our own, with all human ritual, all Jewish ordinances, with all basis of acceptance in any other way. As you think of it, how you long to put it so simply that the heart shall grasp it and believe it. Nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ, nothing but the Man at God's right hand, as the witness of what we are in God's sight; and nothing but His coming again to cheer us and to give us songs in the night, as we think, "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh."