Friday, July 12, 2013
The Better Sacrifice
Heb. 9:23 ¶ Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these.
Heb. 9:24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Heb. 9:25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;
Heb. 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Heb. 9:27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,
Heb. 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
The earthly tabernacle was actually a model of heaven and the sacrifices that were made here on earth, represented those that were to be made to God in heaven. The problem was that the earthly followers of God had failed in their walk as God's holy people. Now, what was needed was a better sacrifice. Jesus never entered the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle in Jerusalem. Instead, when Jesus became a sacrifice for all of humanity he entered, not the model of the holy place, but the actual holy place in heaven. It is in this place that he was the better sacrifice. It was not the model of a sacrifice, but it was the real thing in the most holy of all places -- God's own presence. And once this sacrifice was made, no other sacrifice needs to be made because now the model of heaven on earth is in God's living temple -- his people. And his people are not just static models, but they are real representatives of the temple which exists in heaven. As God's people become reflections of him what becomes visible here on earth is the real temple of God and in this way the new kingdom has already come to this earth. The already of the kingdom is here on earth and therefore when Jesus comes again it's not to bring the kingdom, but to bring about the total completion of the kingdom of God. Sin has already been dealt with once and for all by Christ's sacrifice in the holiest of holies, now he will come to bring about the fulfillment and completion of the kingdom for those who are already in his kingdom and awaiting this final day.
The better sacrifice has provided so much for you and for me. This better sacrifice has reached out beyond the realm of the legalism of the sacrifices made by human hands in the earthly temple. Jesus' sacrifice made in the presence of God is one which never needs to be repeated and which brings the hope of transformation in the life of an individual now.
Sadly, too many of us are living in the old sacrifice and not the better sacrifice. Too often we misunderstand the kingdom of God and we try to explain it in the old legalistic terms. This is especially true when it comes to understanding holiness. The Old Testament outlined the idea of being "set apart" for God and the concept of particular items being made "holy to God." This could be done through the earthly temple. There were articles that had been especially consecrated to be used in service to God and they were not to touch the things of this world for if they did, they would be contaminated and again they would need to be cleansed if they were to be used for the worship of God. The list of rules under the old covenant was extensive. It was impossible for anyone to consistently follow each and every single one and those that tried became angry and rigid and enjoyed pointing out everyone else's faults -- including those they thought they saw in Jesus! There remains a temptation to this day to interpret God's holy intents for his people in these legalistic terms. We embrace the idea that we are a part of a "sketch" or "model" of the kingdom that will someday come and we fail to see the victory which has already been won by the better sacrifice.
What happens when we live into the "better sacrifice?" When we live into the "better sacrifice" the old rigid systems are set aside and we embrace our place in the new kingdom. We are living stones within the new kingdom, stones which are to be a reflection of heaven on earth. Often I speak of the importance of reflecting the image. Just imagine what happens here on this earth when all of those who are facing Christ -- the one who has paid the better sacrifice in the presence of God -- are reflecting him on earth. Then that which was done in heaven is already reflected here on earth. Instead of living in the model of what exists in heaven, what exists in heaven can actually be here on earth, lived out in you and in me. This is all a result of the better sacrifice which invites us into a living relationship with God in the heavenly realms. No longer do we have to live in the legalism of the "model" of the kingdom of God, we are privileged to participate in the kingdom of God.
Therefore I am not waiting around for Jesus to come again and take me out of the things happening in this world. Instead, I am already serving him in his kingdom while I live my life in this world. My work as a holy child of God is to be an ambassador for the God's kingdom in everything that I do. This includes the expansion of the God's kingdom here on earth. We are to be ambassadors who are working to bring heaven to earth and we believe this can be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we do not live in hopeless anticipation of being taken away from what is happening here, instead we live in hopeful joy of what is already happening here and how we can help work within that kingdom to bring about real change. We must look at the world around us on a daily basis and ask how we are to be engaged as citizens of God's kingdom. And all of this is possible because of a better sacrifice.
I'm wondering whether too much of Christianity may be wandering around a dusty old empty and musty tabernacle, trying to follow a list of rules while failing to engage with the living kingdom of God which has been made possible through the better sacrifice of Christ.
Lord, please help me to be drawn to the living kingdom each and every day. Amen.