“And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I love trick shot videos. Dude Perfect offers some of the best of these that are out there. I know because my kids have watched all of them. Twice. A week. For the last year. Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but we do watch a lot of Dude Perfect videos around my house. One of the thoughts that runs through my head every time I see a trick shot is, “He couldn’t do that again.” Sometimes when I’ve done something particularly hard, my first thought is, “I wouldn’t want to do that again.” That’s probably what Jesus thought after the ordeal of the cross. Thankfully, as the author of Hebrews explains here, He won’t have to. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s break this down in three ways. We’ll start with the unique nature of Jesus’ death, I’ll nitpick something, and then we’ll talk about the end of the verses.
Like so many of the trick shots the Dude Perfect guys perform, Jesus’ death was a one-shot deal. For starters, His death was a grave injustice, the gravest injustice that has ever been devised and committed by people. We rightly hate the idea of innocent people suffering unjustly. We should. But the truth is that no one of truly innocent. Everyone is corrupted by sin. This does not at all mean that everyone deserves the suffering they experience, but there are no innocent people. Except Jesus. He really was entirely innocent of sin, yet He suffered for all of it. God allowed that injustice to stand once because it was accomplishing an infinitely greater good. He’s not going to let it happen again.
But Jesus’ death was a one-time thing for more reasons than that. By God’s grace, His death bore the sins of many, the author says. That’s a rather understated way of describing the extent of what Jesus’ death accomplished. He didn’t simply bear the sins of many. His death paid the price for the sins of the whole world.
By God’s gracious decree, the debt owed to Him because of sin by every single person who ever lived was paid by Jesus’ sacrificial death. Each of those people owed their lives to God because by sinning that’s what they took from Him. He was rightly in charge of their lives because He created them. When they chose to sin, they wrested control from Him and by their actions illegitimately declared themselves sovereign over their own lives.
Yet rather than requiring every person to give her own life back to God to atone for her sin, God accepted Jesus’ life as a substitute. This wasn’t just for all the lives that came before Him either. This was for all the lives yet to be lived after Him until the end of human history including yours and mine. And with the price of sin thus paid for everyone and for all time, no further sacrifices were necessary.
As we will talk about next week, Lord willing, this is not something the old covenant could ever come close to touching. Under the old sacrificial system, no person could atone for the sins of anyone else. They had their own sins to deal with. Now, a person could act as an intercessor for another person and offer a sacrifice on their behalf like Job is recorded as having done for his children, but that never did anything like covering all of their sins for their entire life including sins not yet even committed. Thus the sacrificial system. The new covenant fixed this by Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.
Now, the reason the author here gives for Jesus’ sacrifice being a one-time thing is that all people are appointed to die once. That’s mostly true, but it doesn’t account for the fact that during Jesus’ life He raised more than one person from the dead, Lazarus being the most notable of them. Technically, Lazarus died twice. Furthermore, when Matthew was describing the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion, in the chaos of the ensuing earthquake, “The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.” All of those people apparently died twice too. Yet as a general rule, people die once. Jesus was not an exception to this like Lazarus and these others because unlike all of them, He won’t die a second time. When He rose, He rose to a new and permanent life—the same eternal life He offers to all those willing to trust in Him and follow Him.
That, in fact, is where the author lands here. Jesus isn’t physically with us now. He is stationed at the right hand of the Father where He is constantly interceding on our behalf before Him. The author made that point way back in chapter 4. But there is a day coming when He will return. He will come back to dwell among us. And while most descriptions of His second coming are very much focused on the judgement He will bring, the author here focuses in a different direction.
When Jesus returns, it will not only be for the purposes of bringing judgment on the finally impenitent. While that will definitely be part of the package, and the reason we are to be out sharing the Gospel and encouraging people to accept Jesus as Lord, it won’t be the only part. The other side here is that Jesus will return to finally bring that eternal life to all those who have trusted in Him. We live with a mere taste of it now. Then we will have the whole thing delivered to us. Our hope will be made sight. Our lives will be finally saved. We will at last get to live with the eternity for which we were always intended. That will be a good day. And it is a good day coming even more surely than the next sunrise. If you don’t trust in Him yet, I implore you to change that. You don’t want to miss out on this life, and you don’t want to fall on the wrong side of that judgment.