For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
In our worship service at Living Shepherd this past week, we focused on 3 different Scripture lessons. In our first lesson from the Old Testament book of Malachi, we were assured that Judgment Day is “surely” coming (Malachi 4). Jesus used the phrase “I tell you the truth” three times in our lesson from John’s gospel and he clearly acknowledges that one day he will return to judge (John 5). He tells us the dead will be raised and every person to ever live will be judged. In verse 27 of this lesson from Hebrews chapter 9, we hear, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment...” It’s not possible to read the Bible and come to any other conclusion. Judgment Day is real. And it can be really scary to think about.
And it’s not just the Biblical reality of Judgment Day. In this week’s worship preview we talked about how opposed we are to any kind of judgment. No one likes to feel judged. We know very well that other human beings aren’t capable of reading our minds or peering into our hearts based on the simple fact that we are unable to do so. It doesn’t matter how much you think your boss hates you. It doesn’t matter how convinced you are that one of your friends maliciously stabbed you in the back. Unless someone directly tells you their motives were impure, you don’t really know. You cannot read their thoughts and you cannot peer into their hearts.
And because you know very well that you cannot read minds and peer into hearts, you and I prefer that others would refrain from acting as though they can. If your boss were to look at recent records of your work and conclude you are lazy, without showing any effort to understand what actually happened, wouldn’t you be frustrated? How could your boss possibly know if your recent work record was actually caused by laziness? Of course, if you were not being lazy at all you will feel justified to stand up to this judgmental boss. But what if you were lazy? Even just a little bit! How would you handle the situation then? Would you say, “You got me! I was a little lazy this past month.” Or would you play off of your knowledge that your boss is unable to peer into your heart?
Either way, you know the truth. You know the thoughts in your minds just as well as you know the motives found in your hearts. There may be times when your boss—or anyone else for that matter—wrongly accuses you, but you know better than anyone how often you are in the wrong. And I’m just like you. I know the thoughts that go through my head and the motives that drive my words and actions better than anyone else in this world. That means I know every single despicable thought and sickening motive. Even when no one else does. Maybe that’s why no one likes being judged. From time to time we may be innocent, but we know we’re far from perfect. We may be guilty of different things, but we’re all guilty of something. If our whole life were to be judged on a scale of human perfection the verdict would be clear. Guilty.
And that’s a scary thought as you begin to consider that, while other human beings can’t read my mind and heart, the God who created me can and does. That means he knows the worst about me. He knows the worst about you too. The question is, when we do stand before Jesus on Judgment Day, “Will we receive the verdict we deserve?”
It seems the audience the writer to the Hebrews was addressing struggled with a similar question. They don’t seem to deny the fact that they were sinners. But they do seem confused over how their sin will impact their verdict on Judgment Day. They seem to have lost sight of what Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection meant for that verdict. The writer to the Hebrews reminds them and he does so by comparing Jesus’ saving work to the work of a Jewish priest. “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9:24). In lesson 2 of our Bible Basics class we take a look at the Great Day of Atonement section in Leviticus chapter 16. The Israelite’s worship space taught them (and teaches us!) a whole lot about the relationship human beings have with God. The Tabernacle (as well as the Temple after Solomon built it) was a big rectangle made up of two rooms. There was a perfectly square room at one end and a rectangular room on the other. Separating these two rooms was a curtain. And that curtain was very important. Think of it as a dividing barrier. The perfectly square room was called the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant which contained the 10 Commandments was found in this room and God dwelled there. As a result, God warned his people that they were not allowed to enter into the Most Holy Place. If they did, they would die.
That’s how Leviticus 16 starts. Moses’ brother Aaron had two sons who entered into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place and died. The rest of the chapter details what the High Priest (Aaron at this point in time) must do to enter the Most Holy Place. The High Priest would be allowed to do this once a year and that day was called the Great Day of Atonement. In short, the Israelite’s worship space was a constant reminder that sinful human beings cannot stand in the presence of a righteous God on their own. (Read Leviticus chapter 16 for more details.)
The High Priest had to enter the Most Holy Place every year! This was a man-made sanctuary where God himself dwelled. But it was only a copy of God’s eternal home in Heaven. After he paid for our sins on a cross and rose from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven and entered the presence of God the Father. Not only are we told he entered God’s presence, we’re told he entered FOR US! The explanation continues “Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:25-26).
Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice “to do away with sin.” He didn’t ignore our sin and act like it didn’t happen. He didn’t ask his Father not to judge us. Instead, while suffering on that cross, Jesus took our indefensible actions on himself. He allowed himself to be judged by taking the guilty verdict we deserve upon himself. And then he died.
Once and for all, Jesus poured out his innocent blood as a payment for the sins of the world. That means your sin is gone. And that one sacrifice still speaks to our heavenly Father today, reminding him who WE are—not ugly sinners deserving eternal judgment—but perfect saints—covered in the blood of Christ—worthy of heaven.
This beautiful truth brings a new meaning to the way we look at Judgment Day. You don’t need to fear judgment because you already know the verdict. The last verse of our text says, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28). That’s the translation found in the New International Version. I think you get the idea, but I think the New American Standard Bible, which tends to be a bit more literal, captures the beauty of Christ’s return a bit better. “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
Jesus will come to judge. But as Christians, we not only have nothing to fear, we actually look forward to it! Because Jesus will not come back like some creditor seeking to make good on our debt to him. He will come back WITHOUT REFERENCE TO SIN!! That means he’s not going to have a list of sins we’ve committed. That means he’s not going to demand we somehow pay him back for rescuing us. He died for sin already. His verdict for you and for me will be “Not Guilty!” It’s this verdict that we’re eagerly waiting for.
Don’t let the world’s skewed view of judgment influence your view of Judgment Day. People hear judgment and they think of only bad things. This message is different. It’s joyful! And it’s ours to share.
Do you struggle when someone says, “Don’t judge me!”? Now you have an answer: “I can’t see into your heart, but God does. And if you are doing something that you know is wrong, my judgment doesn’t matter. But God’s judgment does! And if you’re hiding something, then I think you already know what God’s judgment would be! But let me tell you about another judgment. God, the righteous Judge, sent his Son Jesus to take all those acts that deserve judgment on himself and die for them. Jesus paid the penalty for those wrong actions. And he gives us his own blood to cover that sin forever. So don’t fear judgment. Jesus paid for your sin. I’m not the one judging you. God is! And he says in Jesus you’re not guilty.