Hebrews 9:11-22 – The Christ, the Unblemished Sacrifice

The writer of Hebrews has argued throughout the book that various elements of the Old Covenant were shadows or hints at the reality fully realized in Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most important of these comparisons is the assertion in chapter 9 that the Day of Atonement foreshadowed the work of Christ. Only some of the aspects of the Day of Atonement are important for the comparison, others are not mentioned. Entry into the Holy of Holies to make atonement is featured, but some of the other rituals are omitted.

Passover LambThe Tabernacle Jesus entered was not the earthly one, but rather the real heavenly one. This may not mean that someplace in heaven is a “perfect” tabernacle, physically similar to the tabernacle of the Old Testament.  The tabernacle servers as a metaphor for the separateness of God in heaven. God is within the holy of holies and only those who are without sin may approach his altar. This does not mean Jesus had more work to do after his death on the cross in order to complete salvation. The cross is the provision of blood in the holy place and is completely sufficient for salvation. The writer of Hebrews nowhere implies Jesus had to perform some ritual in heaven to complete the atonement.

Jesus can be the perfect sacrifice because he is “unblemished.” This is a deliberate allusion to the Old Testament law which required a worshiper to bring a lamb from the flock which was “unblemished” or “without defect.” The animal to be sacrificed was to be the best member of the flock, not a sick, unhealthy animal that was not of any value. The sacrifices were never really perfect since there was not truly perfect lamb or goat. It was only in the person of Jesus that there was a possibility of perfection because he was the God-Man, perfectly unified and perfectly fulfilling all of the law.

As the perfect Sacrifice, Christ can provide a ransom for sin committed under the first covenant (9:15).  Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, the one that administers the new salvation.  The High Priest was the mediator of the Old Covenant, administering salvation to the people.

The concept of a “ransom” is introduced here for the first time in Hebrews. “Ransom” has a different meaning in modern English that perhaps was intended by the Greek word.  A ransom is a price paid to a criminal to get them to release a person they have kidnaped.  There might be other connotations of ransom, but we tend to think forest of a bad guy getting paid off, and somehow true justice is not served.

The Greek here does not have that connotation at all.  This is the concept of buying a slave out of bondage, “to release or set free, with the implied analogy to the process of freeing a slave. This is the concept of redemption in the New Testament, God buying us out of the slave market of sin and giving us a new master, himself.  It is wrong to think of the death of Jesus as a payment to Satan in order to “ransom” us back to God.

In Hebrews, the ransom for sin is the shedding of blood (9:16-22). The often quoted verse “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” is based on a common principle in the Old Testament of God requires the shedding of blood, a death, for sin.  This is not because God is some maniac in heaven that demands death and enjoys killing.  The only penalty for sin is death.  One single sin does spoil the whole soul, and the sinner must die.

The “shedding of blood” is actually the mercy of God, allowing a substitute in our place.  Even in the garden, Adam and Eve were covered with animal skins after the first sin.  There was a shedding of blood to cover their sins.  This principle runs through scripture, leading up to the cross, which was a “once for all” shedding of blood.

18 thoughts on “Hebrews 9:11-22 – The Christ, the Unblemished Sacrifice

  1. The deeper meaning of Jesus’ death as the final and perfect sacrifice connects all the dots from the Old Testament to the day Jesus will come back to earth. Jobes points out that Hebrews sees the completion or fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan to have been accomplished by Jesus Christ, bringing God’s plan to its perfection. The day that Adam and Eve sinned and obtained the knowledge of good and evil, God immediately began to restore them to him by setting up his redemptive plan. Jobes explains how God’s expelling of Adam and Eve from the garden was really a gracious act, so that they would not eat from the tree of Life and live forever in sin. The penalty of sin is death because it means eternal separation from God.This is why the first covenant law required animals to die in place of God’s children to atone for their eternal separation from God in death. But when Jesus declared in John 19:30, “It is finished,” he was referring to his act as the perfect and holy sacrifice, which was the atonement for all of humanities sins, that now makes it possible to have eternal life with God after death.

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    • One thought that I have that makes Christ’s sacrifice stand out more than just a perfect sacrifice is the fact that Christ did not have to do it necessarily for the same reason as the other sacrifices that were done. Sacrifices done in the Old Testament were to cover the sins that were committed. The sacrifices were out of obedience to cover sins while Christ did not need this cleansing, but rather His sacrifice was to cover others’ sins because of His love for them. God sent Christ as the sacrifice because He knows Christ is the only one who can be a perfect sacrifice, and Christ is worth sacrificing because He loves His creation as stated in John 3:16. As mentioned in John 15:13 there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. This is significant because in 1 Peter 4:8, it is mentioned that love covers multitude of sins. Christ’s sacrifice was not on the day of Atonement, but it served the same purpose because it was out of love and so perfect it would cover all sins in a way the day of Atonement could never.

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  2. I had never realized the parallels between the old and new covenants and the more I see how Jesus is the perfect fulfillment, the more I am astounded. In the old testament, people needed atonement from their sins which could only be brought about by a sacrifice. Jesus, because He was without sin, was able to be the perfect sacrifice that no longer has to be repeated. It is an everlasting sacrifice, and we no longer have to do anything to appease God. Hebrews 9:18 says that the first covenant was with blood and that was the only way for the second one as well. I like your point that it doesn’t mean that God is bloodthirsty and that He enjoys it but Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. This does not just mean that we cease to live, but because of sin, the only way to defeat sin is a sacrifice, innocent and pleasing to God. Jesus was perfect in every way, and therefore was the only one who could be the perfect sacrifice. Jobes talks about the need for Jesus to be perfect and without sin, as well as to live forever, and so the sacrifice never has to be repeated.

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  3. In doing more research on the background of Hebrews I would have to agree with Adam here in the sense that I never realized there were so many parallels with the Old and New Covenants for our sins and as I learn only a human could suffice for human sins the more I am excited to learn more about this section. Hebrews has always been a tough section of the Bible to decipher and understand but it is important that we as Christians get a strong hold on this topic. In doing further research, Jobes says in Letters to the Church that the Incarnation of the Son was necessary for Jesus’ Priesthood as no animal sacrifice could suffice for human sins (Letters to the Church, 96). It was important to have the Son crucified in this way so that we would do nothing more to appease God and continue to kill off animals. I would agree with your point that Jesus doesn’t like to crucify people for their sins but for something so massive to take place the only way to take care of such sin is death as seen in Romans 6:23. In order for the human race to quit making sacrifices every time a sin had been committed was to offer a human sacrifice. In doing my research, the only perfect and sinless sacrifice would have been in the time of the Incarnation of the Son as the Son Jesus Christ. It was his job to end sins and start to restore the human race back to perfection as it were before humankind was created so that the sins and the sacrifice would never have to be repeated.

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  4. While reading this I realized just how much allusion to the old testament there is when we think of Jesus as a sacrifice. It is also interesting that the author of Hebrews uses ransom as an adjective or word to describe Jesus’ death on the cross. I always only think of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin and never think to the allusions of the Old Testament that state that talk of a spotless lamb without fault or blemish. Although in the back of my mind I know that is what they mean I never think of that when reading through the Bible sometimes. It is also interesting to think about how Jesus wasn’t a way to be bought back from Satan but rather truly was the last sacrifice that was needed to complete the bringing of the New Covenant. As well as bringing us back into relationship with God. I just never think about how much the Old Testament truly does allude to the sacrifice that Jesus truly is in the New Testament and what it means for us in our sin.

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    • When Karen Jobes speaks of God dealing with His people under the Old Covenant, she discusses the duties of the high priest. Representing the people before God meant to present an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. “This representation brought people symbolically into the presence of God and involved elaborate rituals” (Jobes 95). With the book of Hebrews telling that the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming (10:1), I especially enjoyed studying the Day of Atonement and the many ways it foreshadows the work of Christ as atonement for our sins.

      Hebrews 9:7 reminds us that only the high priest was allowed to enter the inner room of the tabernacle. This happened only once a year, and only with blood to cover the sins of the people and the priest himself. When we look at Christ’s work in the establishment of the New Covenant, we see that He is the only one who can enter into God’s holy presence, that this only needed to happen once, and that Christ’s blood was sufficient to cover the sins of all people.
      Leviticus 16:4 explains the rituals the high priest would go through on the Day of Atonement. He was to put on specific garments in preparation for making sacrifices. Similarly, it was necessary for Jesus to put on flesh and become a man so that He could make atonement for our sins. The high priest was the mediator of the old covenant, but Jesus administers salvation under the New Covenant.

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  5. The final analogy you made about Adam and Eve was an admirable connection and I am impressed (good job). After reading about how Jesus had to die on the cross to save our sins, two questions are brought up again in my mind. 1.) Why did God think it was necessary for Jesus to be sacrificed for us to be saved and 2.) Does God get what he wants? I was faced with that second question earlier today and it still roams my mind. Jesus was God’s perfect son and he let him die for us. God put a tree in the middle of the garden that we could eat from whenever we want even though God knew the consequences that would stem from that. I think that we too often see God as unfair and our own lives being bad somehow, but maybe God is the one who is being hurt in the end. We are so engulfed in sin that we cannot see the extent of which Christ has paid so that we may live for God (1 Corinthians 5:15). So did God really need Jesus’ perfect blood? If God lived to be happy, Jesus would have lived and we would all be loving Him. However, God wanted us to have the choice of whether or not we would follow him and the only way He could do that was to give up his own desires.

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  6. There are so many correlations between the Old and New Testament that point back to Christ and his death. We see in Isaiah 61:1 that the messiah came to bring good news to the poor and to also proclaim freedom for the captives and release the prisoners from darkness The blood that Christ shed for us serves as a ransom for our sin which was alluded all throughout the Old Testament. Animal sacrifice was a common thing for the people of Israel to do as the death of the animal was the ransom for their sin. However Hebrews 11:15 reads “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” (NIV). God has promised to bless those who followed the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:15–18) and now after Christ’s death, we see a new covenant formed as the ransom for sin has now been paid! It’s important to understand that Jesus’s death is a mercy towards us sinners.

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    • I agree that it is important to understand this with the view point that Jesus’ death is a mercy towards us sinners. This can also be related in a sense to the paper we’re writing in class now. If you go back a chapter in Hebrews and read Hebrews 10:5-7 NIV, it says that, “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.’ Then I said, ‘Here I am-it is written about me in the scroll-I have come to do your will, O God.” To me, this is another way of describing a ransom and Jesus realizing that in order to put God’s plan into motion, it was Jesus himself that was going to have to be the ransom. Would you agree Troy?

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  7. I guess this is the first time it has clicked in my head that before Christ died, all of the animal blood sacrifices were incapable of being perfect. I knew obviously that they weren’t enough on their own, but it never connected that even the best lamb in a flock wasn’t good enough. Because of Jesus’ holiness and perfection, He fills the void, and like you said: “administers the new covenant.”
    I also love the mention of the fact the ransom Jesus provided for us was not a payment unto Satan as if God owed something to Satan. Rather, the ransom paid was an act of genuine love, mercy, and grace.

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  8. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. These sacrifices that kept occurring were not going to be able to forgive all of humanity, and Jesus was ultimately the sacrifice that needed to be made. This was an ultimate act of mercy on every front, and I personally wonder what our world would look like if there still were sacrifices just like there was in the OT. Jesus’s act of mercy and sacrifice changed the course of history forever, and did more than just free us of our sins.

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  9. I agree the comment made by Sean above. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. It can be seen in Hebrews 9:15 like P. Long states above. However, it can be seen in Jobes as well. “Hebrews presents Jesus as the mediator of a new and better covenant that supersedes the old. God’s” (Jobes 121). I also like how Sean commented on what if sacrifices were still going on like the OT? What would that look like? Yet, we know that Jesus did the ultimate act of kindness. A perfect man and a perfect God. Gave his only Son so that we can be free of sin. The beauty is the promise of eternal life. If we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior and know and believe he walked in flesh we will be saved.

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  10. It is interesting to look back at everything that Israel had to do in the Old Covenant in order to cover their sins, compared to the New Covenant when Christ died on the cross. The high priest would have to make the sacrifice for himself and the people. Jesus was not only the High Priest but He was also the sacrifice; pure without sin. When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, there was no need for another animal sacrifice to be made. His was enough since He never sinned, His blood was enough to pay for the sins of those who believe and trust in His sacrifice.

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  11. I think the word that would better describe what Jesus is NOT or what ransom did not intend to mean is a bribe. Jesus was not a bribe. He was not simply an acceptable payment that God would deem “enough” to set these people free of their death sentence. But, rather, Jesus was the only ransom and the payment needed to pay the price for all of humanities sin. He was literally the only answer, and the payment God was “looking for”. It was the only thing that could satisfy and defeat death. It’s like their was an incurable disease in the world and the only antidote that could ever cure the disease was Christ on the cross. Its not that God was looking for death, or wanted death to be the penalty for sin, it just is! that’s just a fact of how things are, death is the penalty for sin because the opposite of God is sin, and the opposite life is death and God is life.

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  12. This blog post makes me realize just how clever God truly is. Throughout the whole entire Old Testament God was alluding to the cross that would save all of us. From the very beginning with Adam and Eve’s first sin. I knew that they were clothed, but I never took the time to think about what that actually meant. There was a “bloodshed” so that they could have clothes all because of their sin. Then, obviously, as stated the Old Covenant sacrifices also alluded to the cross. God had planned His story from the very beginning. He was even sending hints the entire time. How great is our God? Clever.

    Also, in thinking about the idea that one single sin spoils the entire soul, I am in awe of Jesus Christ willpower. In order for him to be the perfect sacrifice he had to be without sin completely. In my humanity, I will never understand how he never fell to temptation. I will just always be thankful that he didn’t. I would not want to be under the Old Covenant laws, or even more so bound by sin.
    -McKenzie McCord-

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