A Verse by Verse Look at the Book of Hebrews

Hebrews 9

The Old and the New

Hebrews 9 shows how worship in the Old Testament could not perfect the worshipper because it related only to food, drink, various washings and regulations for the body. However when Christ appeared He entered into the heavenly tabernacle and poured out His own blood on the mercy seat. The blood of bulls and goats was never able to cleanse the conscience of the worshipper, but the blood of Christ is able to save completely as it cleansed us thoroughly and we are now without blemish or accusation before God. Christ appeared at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by His sacrifice.

Cherubim of Glory Overshadowing the Atonement Cover (Hebrews 9:1-5)

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Hebrews 9:1-5“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now” ( Hebrews 9:1-5 )

Worship as directed under the first covenant was very detailed. Everything was laid out according to the pattern Moses was shone on the mountain. Everything included in the temple worship had special meanings and significance. Even the items themselves which were placed within the Most Holy Place represented God’s supernatural ability to care for and lead the Israelites.

Behind the second curtain was the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt with the people. Inside the Ark was the gold jar of manna, a reminder of the bread that fed the Israelites for years while wandering through the desert in disobedience, Aaron’s staff, which God used after a rebellion to show that Aaron and the Levites were His chosen priests ( Numbers 17 ). And lastly, the Ark contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments to remind the Israelites of their Covenant.

Guarding the ark and the Most Holy Place were cherubim of glory. The Israelites could not enter because these creatures protected this area. In fact, only the High Priest could enter this room, and only once a year with blood which He poured on the mercy seat making atonement for the sins of the people. The priest made this offering directly before God. We know this from Moses’ account inside the tent, “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him” ( Numbers 7:89 ).

The writer of Hebrews is drawing attention to all of these details, but notice the last statement in verse 5 declaring that these things cannot be discussed any longer. Why? Because the creatures guarding the way into the Most Holy Place where God dwelt among His people are no longer there. This is an amazing truth! After Jesus entered into the more perfect tabernacle in heaven to make perfect atonement for us, there was no longer a need for warrior angels to protect the way to God. Jesus opened this up so that we could have direct access to God the Father ( Hebrews 10:19-22 ). In fact, we are now to approach the throne of grace in confidence ( Hebrews 4:16 ) in a way the Israelites never could.

This makes perfect sense considering the last verse of chapter 8, “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” ( Hebrews 8:13 ). Jesus brought with Him a new way of approaching God. We can approach Him in faith washed clean by the body of Christ, unafraid of anything standing in our way because anything that could condemn or harm us has been removed by the blood of Jesus. Our covenant of grace is vastly superior and Jesus is the one who will forever protect and guarantee the way into the presence of the Father Himself.

The Most Holy Place Was Not Open While the First Tabernacle Was Standing (Hebrews 9:6-8)

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Hebrews 9:6-8“When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.  The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing” ( Hebrews 9:6-8 )

To understand everything that Jesus completed for us as our High Priest we have examples from the earthly Levitical priesthood to guide us in our understanding. Hebrews 9 uses examples from this system to show us how Jesus performed the very same acts on our behalf in the presence of God the Father in the heavenly tabernacle. We can glean so much wonderful truth from these passages of Scripture.

The writer is showing how entrance to the Holy of Holies was not accessible under the Old Covenant. The priests were able to enter into the outer portion of the tabernacle to carry out their daily duties. However, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and he could only enter once a year. In fact, the High Priest wore bells around his ephod so that the sound of bells could be heard when entering before the presence of the Lord.

“The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die” ( Exodus 28:34-35 ). Bells were worn to give off sounds so everyone in the outer portions would know the High Priest’s status when ministering. The Cherubim of Glory circled around the atonement cover protecting the entrance to the Most Holy Place ( Exodus 25:22, Hebrews 9:5 ). So many guidelines were to be met before the Priest could even enter, so the confidence level was extremely low when entering.

The High Priest also had to enter with blood from animal sacrifices which he offered for both himself, and Israel. It was offered for all sins, even the ones committed in ignorance and thoughtlessness. It was a covering for a time period but these sacrifices were to continually be made. There was no permanence to this covering.

This system was an illustration looking forward to the time of Christ. As long as this system was in place the new system was not enacted. In the same way, when Christ came, He fulfilled everything that the Levitical priesthood foreshadowed. In other words, when Jesus came and took the role as High Priest, there was no longer a need for the previous institution. Because the way into the Most Holy Place was thrown wide open by Jesus ( Hebrews 10:19-20 ).

The amazing truth in all of this is that Jesus has made it possible to enter into the presence of God the Father. This was never the case while the first tabernacle was standing. However Jesus’ blood has completely cleansed us so that we are able to enter in to the throne room through the veil which is His body and boldly come before the Father ( Hebrews 10:21-22 ). As believers, we are included in a wonderful heritage. Peter tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” ( I Peter 2:9 ). What was limited to a few because of a family line, has now been thrown wide open and offered to everyone who puts trust in Jesus.

The Sacrifices Offered Could Not Clear the Conscience (Hebrews 9:9-10)

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Hebrews 9:9-10“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” ( Hebrews 9:9-10 )

On this side of the cross we celebrate certain things to remind ourselves of everything Jesus accomplished on the cross. Communion is a great example of this. As we symbolically partake in the body and blood of Christ Jesus we remind ourselves of the sacrifice God the Father and his son Jesus made on our behalf. We remind ourselves that His body was broken so that we may be whole. We remind ourselves that His blood was shed so that we can be forgiven. We do this to remember.

In the same way, the Israelites experienced and celebrated certain rituals that were aimed at looking forward to the time of Christ Jesus. They were by no means an end unto themselves; they served as an illustration of the new order, or the institution of Jesus’ eternal High Priesthood.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, theses ceremonies were carried out. If this system could have worked, then the repetition would not have been needed, in other words, they would not have offered the same gifts and sacrifices over and over. Understanding this, we see why the entire system served as an illustration. The sacrifices made never cleared the conscience of the worshipper. What was offered was never able to renew the inner man because it only dealt with external rules and regulations for the body. This is why a new order was needed, one that dealt with the heart of mankind.

The sacrificial system was meant to point the worshipper to the coming Messiah. Just as we look back to the cross, the Israelites entire system of worship looked forward to the Cross. In both cases, Jesus plays the lead role. Since He has come, there is no longer a need for this illustration because we have the real thing. Hebrews 10:1 sums up this very thought, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” ( Hebrews 10:1 ). The shadow is inconsequential when the real thing is present. Unlike the illustration, Jesus is able to wash clean and clear the conscience of those who come to him. This shows how vastly different and far superior the New Covenant is over the Old. I am thankful that we are on this side of the cross looking back in remembrance to Jesus’ sacrifice, with no need for an illustration because what we have is the real thing.

Jesus Obtained Eternal Redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12)

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Hebrews 9:11-12“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” ( Hebrews 9:11-12 )

One of the most amazing truths throughout the entire Bible and a marvelous theme in the book of Hebrews is that our sins are completely paid for, eternally forgiven, forgotten and removed from all records. In fact, the writer of Hebrews mentions this idea so many times in chapters 8, 9 and 10 that it is impossible to miss. Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for those who put saving faith in Him.

If we have been redeemed, it is important for us to understand what it is. In the Old Testament redemption was the process of buying something back For instance if a person sold a piece of property to another, by law, the seller or a family member could redeem their land so that no family would be without their inheritance ( Leviticus 25:23-25 ). If they didn’t have the means to for redemption then everything was returned to them in the Year of Jubilee ( Leviticus 25:28 ). This principle applied to land, people and possessions.  The Law made it possible for the next of kin, also known as “kinsman redeemer” to rescue a person or property ( Leviticus 25:47-55 ). Redemption was a family matter.

Mankind was sold into slavery in the Garden of Eden. Adam, God’s representative for mankind, had been given full authority and possession of the earth ( Genesis 1:28-30 ). Everything belonged to him. He transferred this birthright to Satan when he ate from the tree that God instructed him not to ( Genesis 2:16-17 ). According to the Law of the Kinsman Redeemer only a relative could redeem or purchase back that which was lost or sold. In other words, mankind was the only one who could provide this redemption. This is why Jesus came in the flesh, fully God and fully man ( Isaiah 59:16, John 1:14 ). Jesus became our brother so Adam and all mankind could be redeemed ( Hebrews 2:11 )

Jesus has been called the second Adam because He was able to undo everything that the first Adam did. As God’s second representative for mankind, He came and restored mankind’s birthright through the redemption process. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” ( Romans 5:18 ). Jesus acted as our Kinsman Redeemer and purchased back everything that mankind lost in the garden.

Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer, this is an amazing truth! He did not enter into the man-made tabernacle but into the Most Holy Place in the heavenly tabernacle in the very presence of God the Father to redeem us. His blood was the entrance fee to intercede on our behalf before God in Heaven ( Hebrews 9:12 ). His blood was poured on the Mercy Seat to atone and cleanse us from our sin ( Hebrews 9:14 ). He is the mediator guaranteeing our eternal inheritance because He died as a ransom to set free, rescue and deliver us from all transgressions under the first covenant ( Hebrews 9:15 ). He has done away with sin once for all by his perfect sacrifice ( Hebrews 9:26 ). And lastly He has restored the relationship between God and mankind eternally ( Hebrews 10:19-22 ).

All of this was accomplished by the law of the Kinsman Redeemer. And because Jesus is the second Adam, He was able to eternally secure our redemption. His blood was the purchase price which paid for an everlasting release from sin, death and judgment. This makes Jesus the pinnacle of history, the most significant person in all of humanity. He is the eternal God and the Savior of the world. Jesus is the reason we have life and the reason we have eternally been redeemed!

The Blood of Christ Cleanses Our Conscience (Hebrews 9:13-14)

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Hebrews 9:13-14“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” ( Hebrews 9:13-14 )

Jesus came to give life. This is an amazing truth. We once were dead, but Christ came to give us life and the life He gives is abundant.

If the blood of bulls and goats sanctified the Israelites for the purification of the body just think how much more surely the blood of Christ cleanses us. The Israelites only experienced a momentary cleansing and this was only for the outside of the body. However, Jesus’ blood works from the inside out. It purifies the heart of man, eliminating the eternal effects of sin and purging the conscience of the guilt and shame that results from sin.

This was possible because Jesus’ blood was unblemished by sin. He was perfect and sinless. He fulfilled the letter of the Law which qualified Him for being the perfect sacrifice. He became our sin so that we could have His righteousness ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). This is the best trade ever recorded in history!

The result for us is that we are able to serve the living God. We have been cleansed and our consciences have been purified from dead works. We stand before the Lord holy, righteous and completely justified. We are not like the Israelites who serve at an altar and continually adhere to lifeless observances and rituals. We come before the Most High God, changed and accepted. Cleansed and purified from within.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” ( Hebrews 10:19-23 ).

Christ is the Mediator of a New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15)

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Hebrews 9:15“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” ( Hebrews 9:15 )

The church I grew up in concluded their weekly services by singing the hymn, ‘Jesus Paid it All’. The refrain goes like this,

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

There are incredible truth in these words. Even as a young child I understood that Jesus made things right. I knew that He had settled the score, made the account balanced and washed us clean by His blood.

In fact, the previous verses in Hebrews 9 declare that the previous way of forgiveness, the shedding of the blood of bulls and goats, only cleansed on the outside. In contrast, Jesus’ blood entirely cleansed the heart of mankind and was able to clear the conscience from the guilt of sin, once for all. The debt was completely and utterly wiped out by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The result was life, so that we could serve the living God ( Hebrews 9:14 ).

Because of this, Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant. A mediator is the representative between two parties. A mediator negotiates for both parties until a resolution is reached. Jesus’ blood was the means to bring mankind and God together. Up until this time, mankind was held hostage under the accusation of death because of sin. At the right time, Jesus was born as a man, to die as a ransom for us. The cost was his blood, the result was redemption from all of the sins committed under the first covenant. If sins have been paid for, then there is no longer the threat of death.

Jesus’ cleansing blood is the reason and the means by which He is eternally the mediator of the New Covenant. In fact, Hebrews 12:24 tells us that Jesus’ blood speaks a better word for us than the blood of Abel. Abel was murdered by his brother Cain and his blood cried out to God from the ground ( Genesis 4 ). If Abel’s blood cried for restitution, then think how much more the blood of Christ speaks on our behalf before God. What it is saying is love, mercy, grace, favor, forgiveness and acceptance. What a marvelous thing!

Just as the words of the hymn declare, ‘Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow”, Jesus’ blood both washes us clean and guarantees the relationship we enjoy with the Father. Knowing that Christ is forever the mediator of the covenant of grace we enjoy, empowers us to live a life fully devoted to God, serving out of gratitude for all that He has done for us. Because Jesus Christ lives, we have received the fulfillment of the promise of an everlasting inheritance, He guarantees it!

Jesus’ Death Made God’s Will and Testament Valid (Hebrews 9:16-18)

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Hebrews 9:16-18“In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood” (Hebrews 9:16-18)

Obtaining a family inheritance only comes after the death of the family member and after the will is read. The will provides the guideline for how the inheritance is to be dispersed. The will’s originator is the one who dictates this by creating a last will and testament so that their wishes are known and honored. This is a legal binding contract and it is never put into effect before the death of the individual, although it exists in legal form before death. The same is true of the both the Old and New Covenants. They were put into effect after death, and always with blood.

This is an amazing truth about the Covenant we enjoy through Jesus. His death put the will of God into effect and made it legally binding and in operation. It is important for us to know what this Last Will includes so that we will understand what we have inherited through Jesus. To do this we must look at what Jesus said His mission, or God’s will for His life was. Luke describes this perfectly. “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21).

Jesus came to preach the gospel, free the prisoners, restore sight, release the oppressed and announce the Lord’s favor to mankind. This was God’s will concerning the life of Jesus. He came to bring us into fellowship with the Father through the gospel. The good news is that our sins are forgiven and paid for through Jesus, and that we have been redeemed and purchase back by His blood.

He has freed the prisoners. Jesus’ blood paid for the debt that sin held against us. He died as a ransom for us so that we wouldn’t (Mark 10:45, Hebrews 9:15). We have been rescued from bondage.

He restores the sight of the blind. This happens in a spiritual sense as well as in the physical, because we now can see and understand the Father by looking at Jesus (John 1:18, II Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:15;19, Hebrews 1:1-3). The fullness of God dwelt in Jesus and He has shown us an exact representation of God the Father.

He has released the oppressed. No longer are we subjected to the whims of the sinful nature, but we have been freed from it and given a new, born again spirit, fashioned after Jesus’ in righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:24).

He was sent to announce the favor of the Lord. This was the message of the angels at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14). God was in the world, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer holding man accountable for his sins. Jesus’ entire life was a proclamation of this amazing truth!

Just as Jesus declared in the synagogue that this Scripture had been fulfilled at their hearing, Jesus’ death completed and put into effect the will of God. Eugene H. Petersen said it best in the Message version, “Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus' death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way” (Hebrews 9:16-17 Message). Jesus’ death made God’s will and testament valid and in operation. He guarantees it with the precious blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, so that we who hope in God have received the inheritance eternally promised to us.

Without the Shedding of Blood There is no Forgiveness (Hebrews 9:19-22)

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Hebrews 9:19-22“When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” ( Hebrews 9:19-22 )

Both the Old and New Covenants were put into effect by blood. The blood proved the death, thereby enforcing and enacting the will of the one who died ( Hebrews 9:17 ). Leviticus 17:11 explains why the blood was used, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” ( Leviticus 17:11 ). So it was necessary for both Covenants to be ushered in by blood, because first it proved the death because the blood is the life force. And secondly, it was given for atonement. So without it, there could be no forgiveness for sins.

Jesus’ blood was shed to usher in the New Covenant. His blood proved that a death had occurred thereby enacting His last will and testament. His blood was the price necessary for this will to come to pass, in other words, it put this covenant into effect. The New Covenant is not only the will of Jesus, whose blood ushered it in, it is also the will of God. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth He said over and over that His will was to do the will of the Father ( John 6:38 ). He stressed that what He said was only what the Father told Him to say ( John 8:28 ) and He did only what He saw the Father do ( John 5:19 ). His words and teachings were not His own but from the One who sent Him ( John 7:16 ). In fact John 6:38 summarizes this very nicely, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” ( John 6:38 ). The writer of Hebrews starts chapter 1 by declaring that Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father ( Hebrews 1:3 ). Since they are one and the same, we can see that Jesus’ blood was the life force that was able to usher in the will of God, which was the New Covenant.

Not only did Jesus’ blood prove the death and put the Covenant into effect. Part of the New Covenant that God spoke of through the prophets included the forgiveness of sins ( Jeremiah 31:31-34, Isaiah 54:13, Hebrews 8:8-12, Hebrews 10:16-18 ). Leviticus 17:11 says the life force is in the blood and this is used as a means for atonement. So Jesus’ blood served multiple purposes, it enacted the Will of the Covenant and it was the cleansing agent for sin. If no blood was shed, there couldn’t be any forgiveness for sins.

The Vines Dictionary of New Testament Words brings clarification to this point. There are two words used for blood in Hebrews 9. The first one is haima, which has many meanings, but in this case it denotes the blood of sacrificial victims ( Hebrews 9:7 ). “The "blood" of Christ, which betokens His death by the shedding of His "blood" in expiatory sacrifice; to drink His "blood" is to appropriate the saving effects of His expiatory death, John 6:53. As "the life of the flesh is in the blood," Lev 17:11, and was forfeited by sin, life eternal can be imparted only by the expiation made, in the giving up of the life by the sinless Savior” (Vines Dictionary). In other words, life had been forfeited because of sin, which is why Jesus’ life was given so that He, as a sinless man, could impart eternal life through this sacrifice. Jesus himself said this, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” ( John 6:53-54 ). Our life was forfeited because of sin, but Jesus’ blood was shed to forgive and restore us to a state as if we had never sinned in the first place ( II Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18 ). What an amazing truth!

The second word for blood used in Hebrews 9:22 is haimatekchysia, which means the “shedding of blood”, to pour out. Jesus didn’t just give His blood, He let it flow freely. In fact, it didn’t stop until every last drop had been given. He was poured out unto death, which is what Isaiah prophesied about Him, “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” ( Isaiah 5:3:12 ). His life force completely covered, cleansed and annulled sin. Our lives had been forfeited because of sin, however His blood completely reversed  the effect of sin so that we could experience eternal life.

Jesus understood this which is why He spoke these words while reclining at the table with His disciples at the last supper. “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” ( Matthew 26:27-28 ). He knew the price to bring us to the Father and His own words testify to the fact that He would let the blood flow freely. He knew His blood would usher in the covenant and it would completely and utterly blot out and destroy the effects and stains of sins.

His perfect blood was shed to usher in both the New Covenant and the forgiveness of sins. Neither one could be accomplished without it which is why He freely gave himself to the will of God. Jesus accomplished what we could not and because of His sacrifice we have been forgiven, freed and offered eternal life through the person of Jesus Christ.