"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." — Hebrews 9:27, 28.
There are three different appearings of the Lord spoken of at the end of this chapter. We read of Christ having appeared at the end of the world — the end of the ages — to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (v. 26.) You see it was not simply to make a way for the sinner that Christ died, but to do what nothing else ever did or could do — to put away sin; and so completely has this been done, that we read elsewhere of sins being purged, blotted out, cast into the depths of the sea, cast behind God's back, never more to be remembered, and the like, to show us God's estimate of the value of Christ's work. Some say that they must every now and then look at their sins; but how much better is it to look to Jesus, and see how completely they have been "put away!" Observe, the Scripture says, "put away!"
Then you find Christ spoken of as appearing somewhere now. Where is it? In heaven. He is gone back again to the Father, gone into heaven with that which has accomplished our eternal redemption. He entered into heaven itself by His own blood. He is there as a great High Priest for all believers. He is only a High Priest for such: the unbeliever is far from God. Jesus, then, is now appearing in the presence of God for us. He is our righteousness, life, redemption, so that we appear before God as He is; we are perfect in Christ Jesus.
Then we have another appearing mentioned in the closing words of the chapter, which is yet future, though we know not how very near it may be; but I shall hope to refer to that soon. Meanwhile, I would call attention to the very solemn truth recorded in verses 27, 28: "As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." The as and so here are very emphatic.
Death and judgment are God's appointments for men, because they are sinners. The divine verdict is not only that "all have sinned," but that all are "under sin" — "servants of sin;" so that sin to the natural man is something agreeable to his nature; hence we read of the "pleasures of sin." Death is the result of sin, and so is judgment; and what can God's condemnation of sin be but eternal? Hence we read of the "second death," the lake of fire. Death, then, is God's just sentence on men because of sin — "the wages of sin is death." There was one Man here on whom death had no claim, because in Him was no sin; sin having been laid upon Him, sin in the flesh was condemned in Himself, and He died; but He saw no corruption. "It was not possible that He should be holden of death." This was the spotless, holy Jesus, the Saviour of sinners.
Men know they must die, and therefore try to make it, by comfortable circumstances, as agreeable as they can; but they cannot bear to think of "judgment." Nevertheless, it is God's appointment, and cannot be altered. Men are exposed to death and judgment; for they are under the dominion of sin as well as the guilt of sin; they are, therefore, "servants of sin," and "the wages of sin is death." This is very plain. It is not simply the death of the body; but if a man die in his sins, he will be raised again, and judged for those sins before the great white throne, and then cast into the lake of fire, the second death of everlasting darkness and misery. Those of you, therefore, who are still in your sins are going on to death and judgment — God's appointments. How can you bear the thought of being judged by the light of God's infinite holiness and unchanging hatred to sin?
We have here, as it were, two parallel columns. The one headed "men," and having written under it "death" and "judgment;" the other headed, "them that look for Him" — "believers," and under that is written, "Christ put away their sins, and consequently delivered them from death and judgment." How wide the contrast! The one clouded with darkness and misery, the other bright with light and glory. Observe the as and so. As death and judgment were the doom of men because of sin, so Christ bare the sins, and death and judgment. He bare "the sins of many." How blessed is the portion of those who have Christ for their Saviour!
I would now, my friends, ask if you have received Jesus the Son of God as your Saviour? I do not ask if you have good intentions; for I believe multitudes intend to go to heaven who are still treading the broad road to destruction; neither do I ask if you have some knowledge of the doctrines of Christ; but I do ask if you have received Him? You may say, I pray more, give more, deny myself more, and the like; but that is not the question. To know Christ, and take Him as your very own Saviour, because there is no other, knowing you must perish in eternal misery without Him because of your sins, this is the vital question. For it is not knowing doctrines, or giving alms, or saying prayers, that can deliver you from death and judgment, but Jesus the Son of God, and Jesus only. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish." Or, as the blessed Lord said in another place, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation" (or judgment). (John 5:24.) Blessed deliverance! Happy indeed are those who, having simply received Christ as their Saviour, can rest their heads on their pillows in sweetest confidence and peace, knowing that their sins were purged by the sacrifice of Christ, and that they will not come into judgment. Such are already on the other side of death. "They have passed from death unto life."
The believer, then, is delivered from what every unbeliever is exposed to — death and judgment. How is it that he is delivered from death? for do not we see that saints die just the same as sinners? They may appear to as to their bodies; but the wages of sin is not simply the separation of soul and body, but there is a "sting" and "terror" connected with death that knows no rest or solace. The believer is so completely delivered from these things that he can say, "O death, where is thy sting?" for the sting of death being "sin," it is removed by the precious blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. The "terror," too, is gone, because he knows that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The believer's death, therefore, is not called death in the New Testament, but falling asleep in Jesus. Hence, too, the blessed Lord said, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death" — "he shall never taste of death." Blessed, glorious fact, that the soul that has accepted Christ for its Saviour is so completely delivered from death, that, when Jesus comes, those who are alive will at once, in a moment, be changed, and caught up into the air to meet Him!
As to "judgment," nothing can be more contrary to the teaching of Scripture than to suppose that saints are going to be judged as to whether they shall have eternal life or not. I refer to the wrong use made of our Lord's teaching on the sheep and the goats. On referring to it (Matt. 25:31-46), you will see that there is no idea of resurrection there, not one dead person raised; but, instead of that, it is the King coming here, and judging the nations as to how they dealt with His brethren, a remnant of Jews who will go forth with the gospel of the kingdom after we have been caught up at the Lord's coming. It is Christ assembling and judging living people. Nothing can be more opposed to the precious truth, that every believer now has everlasting life, is a child of God, is passed from death unto life, than the false idea of God's children going to be judged. That every believer will appear before the judgment seat, or bema, of Christ is quite true; but there will be no question of salvation then, but of reward for service; and we shall appear there like Christ in glorified bodies.
It is most blessed, then, to see that God teaches us that death and judgment have been already met for us by Jesus on the cross, and that which is before us is not, as some say, a day of judgment, a great assize, to decide who shall be saved and who not; for I affirm that Scripture nowhere teaches us to expect that, but to expect Christ. Hence the 28th verse concludes with, and "to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." There will be no question with Christ and believers about sin, and therefore not of its consequences — death and judgment. Christ will then put forth His redemption power on our bodies, and thus not only give us full and everlasting deliverance from sorrow and all the consequences of sin, but, in a moment, change our vile bodies, and fashion them like unto His glorious body, so that we may have full capacities for ceaseless and untiring enjoyment of Himself. Blessed hope indeed! Precious portion! now children of God, delivered from death and judgment, and having the blessed hope of being for ever with the Lord, and for ever like Him! The believer is therefore instructed to look back on the cross, and see that Christ there put away his sins, and delivered him from death and judgment; to look up to the throne, and see Jesus now appearing in God's presence for him, his righteousness and great High Priest; and to look for His coming to bring him into eternal enjoyment with Himself.
In a moment, like a lightning flash, and the twinkling of an eye, He will change these vile bodies, and then at once our grateful hearts, loosed for ever from every bond, will burst forth in one eternal anthem of praise — "Worthy is the Lamb." Now, if we sing a few hymns, nature grows weary, and admonishes us that it is enough; but then it will be untiring and unending worship and delight in the Lord Jesus. We even now feel that nothing is comparable to Jesus. If the world were to pile up all its wealth, or gather together all its pleasures, or concentrate all its honours, and present them to a child of God, his reply would be — Jesus only can satisfy me.
I ask you then, dear friends, have you delight in Jesus? Is He precious to your souls? He is the Father's delight, and all intelligences in heaven are in subjection to Him. If you, then, cannot find delight in the Lord Jesus, how can you be fit for the Father's company? Christ loves me; He loved me when dead in trespasses and sins. I know this; therefore I can say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly !" His coming again has no terror for me, but delight. Oh, how blessed it will be to find oneself in a moment brought into a region of eternal life, eternal love, eternal glory, and, more than that, to have capacities for its unceasing enjoyment! How blessed, then, is the promise, that "to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation."