Every religion that worships a deity has some system of required sacrifices. Even in places in the world where the name of Jesus is not known or heard, the human heart knows that there is someone (or something) greater outside of ourselves and that we must appease this entity in order to be accepted. Our reading in Hebrews 7-10 clarifies why we instinctively know there is something “wrong” that must be made “right,” and it tells us how God addressed this issue Himself.
God showed us from the very first sin in the garden of Eden that sin brings death, a necessary sacrifice. He killed an animal to make coverings of skin to cover Adam & Eve’s nakedness, evidence of their guilt and shame. When Abraham’s descendants grew into a nation, He established the Law, giving Moses a blueprint for the extensive, detailed sacrificial system that they would follow for thousands of years to atone for their sin. The blood of bulls and goats, however, was not able to take away sin (10:4); it only provided a temporary covering until the perfect sacrifice was made at Calvary.
This time of year, you might get an opportunity to tell someone why Jesus had to come. Read Hebrews, and you’ll be well-equipped to answer. Jesus came as a sinless High Priest, not to offer another lamb, but His own self, the perfect Lamb of God. He did not enter an earthly temple to present His shed blood to the Father, because earthly tabernacles and temples are just a copy, a shadow, of the real temple in heaven. He entered the actual “Holy of Holies,” heaven itself, once for all, to “do away with sin,” and obtain “eternal redemption,” not just the annual Day of Atonement covering that would last for a year.
There’s a line in these chapters that is simply magnificent to think about. In 10:1 we read, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” I’ve always understood that in reference to the sacrificial system, and the feast days, etc., things that God required of the Old Testament saints. I “get” that the lambs and bulls and goats were only a “picture” of Christ, the perfect sacrifice who would one day come. But I think there’s more to it.
This passage talks about the “new covenant” vs. the “old covenant.” God promised in the Old Testament (quoted here in 8:8-13) that with the new covenant, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And no longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
The “rules” of the Law (all the “do’s” and “don’t’s”) are also a shadow of what is to come. We already experience this in part; the Holy Spirit indwells us and rules our hearts, convicting and directing us. But one day, even that will be unnecessary as our unredeemed flesh is changed into immortality, and we will no longer have to strive to be good or control our thoughts or watch our words. Everything in God’s law will be fulfilled in us fully, in reality. We will be perfect. The shadow of the written Law, and the partial fulfillment by the Spirit-filled heart, will be made complete. We will be as God always intended us to be, a perfect image of Christ.
Can you imagine a world without sin? Nothing the Law forbids will exist, and everything the Law commands will be perfectly implemented and fulfilled. Wow.
That makes me look forward to heaven even more. Maybe that’s why the writer James said our lives were just a vapor…a shadow of the reality to come. Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection accomplished more than we can imagine. That’s a wonderful thing to ponder on Christmas Eve.