|ONCE FOR ALL
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 5, 2015
This morning we’re focusing on just 3 verses in Hebrews 9. Hebrews of course being the one place in Scripture where coffee is mentioned… He-brews.
These three verses are part of a larger chapters long teaching about Jesus and His work on the cross. These three verses touch the core of that teaching. Since this morning we’re focusing on Jesus’ resurrection - these verses are hugely significant for us. Hugely helpful for us as we’re focusing on the significance of Jesus resurrection for us.
Let’s read these verses out loud together. We’re starting mid way through verse 26: But as it is, He [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 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.
Let’s do some unpacking. There are three truths here that are helpful for us to grab this morning. First truth - in verse 26 - God Gets Us. God really does understand us and where we live our lives.
Verse 26 begins: “But as it is - meaning “now this is it…” meaning don’t miss this. He - Jesus - has appeared - once for all - at the end of the age.
What age? In the way the Bible looks at things, we’ve been in the same “end of the ages” age since Jesus’ death and resurrection and we’re going to be in that age until Jesus comes back. Same age. Same season of time. Meaning that the same bottom line issues of life that we deal with today we’re the same bottom line issues that Jesus dealt with back then.
In the midst of all of what we deal with Jesus appeared. Appeared - translates the original Greek word that literally means Jesus was made visible. He was made known to us.
Which is astounding when we stop to think about what that means. God, Who is invisible - becomes visible. God, Who is unknowable - becomes knowable.
Christmas. The incarnation. Jesus en carne. Jesus being born. Being laid in a manger. The shepherds and the angels and Mary and Joseph.
What the Apostle John describes in his gospel account: “And the Word - meaning the eternal self-existent God - became flesh and dwelt among us.” God in the flesh of humanity. “And we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” To see Jesus is to see God - visible - in the real time of our human existence. This age - the circumstances and drama of where we live our lives. (John 1:14)
Jesus - fully God - takes on what it means to be fully man - one of us - appears to put away sin - our sin - by the sacrifice of Himself.
Friday night - here in the sanctuary - some of us watched The Passion of The Christ. Which is a hard movie to watch. Some people say that Mel Gibson sensationalized the brutality of the beatings Jesus endured. Sensationalized the brutality of the crucifixion. Gibson over did it.
I don’t know. How many of us have ever personally seen a crucifixion? But, its hard to imagine how any of that could be over dramatized. Its just so over the top brutal. Period.
The sacrifice that Jesus offered - His death on the cross - we know is a “once for all time” fulfillment of the requirements of the Old Testament sacrificial system. We need to be clear on what that means.
The Old Testament sacrifices were intentionally brutal. Goats and lambs and bulls - sliced and diced - body parts being waved around. Blood sprinkled and flowing freely. Ongoing carnage. Day in and day out. Year in and year out. The whole thing was one generations long bloody mess. A slaughterhouse illustrating sin.
Was God sensationalizing all that brutality or was God trying to make a point? How ugly is sin? How ugly is our sin?
Look at the world - the age - we live our lives in. Human history is brutal. Look at the Middle East. Look at this country - this state. Look at Merced. Look at our families. Look at ourselves. The hurt. The bondage. The wounds. The struggles. The addictions. The loneliness. The fear. The hopelessness. How brutal are the ravages of sin - when we focus our lives on ourselves and not God and what He wills for us? How can someone over dramatize all that drama?
God shows us all that in the sacrifices of the Old Testament and in the brutality of the cross. Sin is ugly - self-destructive - brutal - repulsive when we’re brought to see our sin in its unmasked - undeniable - reality.
Get gets us. God is honest with us.
Humanity has been compared to a man who fell down a well and started crying out for help. A man passing by heard his cry for help. Leaned over the well and asked the man down in the well what he wanted. The man in the well said he wanted to get out.
One of our major problems as humanity is that we by ourselves we don’t realize we’ve fallen into a well or maybe we have WDS - well denial syndrome. Somehow we have this idea that we’re suppose to live in a well. That this is what being human is all about. We stubbornly refuse to cry out for help - or to accept the help we need. With our clever ideas and efforts we keep on trying to improve the bottom of the well. And we can’t understand why we’re so miserable.
The Law with its Ten Commandments is given to us to show us that we’re in a well. The Old Testament sacrificial system shows us the brutality of what living in the well is all about. The need to continue making sacrifices over and over again shows us that we of ourselves cannot do what it takes to get out of the well.
Let’s be careful to understand that. God is holy - without sin - totally separate from the sin that we drench ourselves in. No amount of rearranging our bottom of the well existence - or sacrificing bulls and goats and sheep - some kind of self-improvement plan or religious acts - going to church and trying to suck it up and live morally right - nothing we do on our part is ever going to get us out of the well. We just can’t will ourselves to be the holiness that God is.
The Law makes painfully clear that we sin and we’re hopelessly separated from God. All those imperfect - do over sacrifices - point us forward to our need for a once for all - its finished - completed sacrifice. All of that points to Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the rope dropped into the well - the way out. Moreso - He’s the winch that pulls us out.
Let’s make sure we don’t pass by that too quickly. Let’s think together. Why blood? Why death?
Blood is life. Try living without blood. Pretty tough. Yes? Death because that’s the requirement that needs to be paid. Because we cannot enter into the presence of the holy God drenched in our sin the only alternative is our being eternally separated from God - what is eternal death. The payment of our life - the giving of our blood - physical and forever death.
Which is hopeless. We can’t gain anything that God desires for us - forgiveness of our sin - release from guilt because of our sin - the riches and blessings and joy of eternal life with God - unless there’s death - the payment of a life - ours. But once we’re dead we’re dead. At that point what is the point?
Think about a last will and testament. Say you have a rich uncle… Horace. Horace is worth billions… trillions… mega trillions. He writes you into his will as his sole heir. What has to happen for you to inherit Horace’s riches? Horace has to die.
It doesn’t do any good for you to die. You’re dead. Horace dies and what we could never do for ourselves is given freely to us. Somebody has to die. But it has to be the right person. The only way to gain what God offers to us is for God to die for us.
Paul writes: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The cross is God’s way of saying that there is nothing in us worth saving - nothing that we could ever do to save ourselves. And yet - God - Jesus - appears - enters into our humanity. Takes the ugliness of our sin on Himself. Takes the penalty for our sin on Himself - dying in our place. Once - because that’s all that’s needed. Right person. Right time. Right sacrifice.
So that the moment we accept what God tells us about ourselves and trust what God has done for us - crying out to God for what He offers us in Jesus - God applies all of what Jesus has done for us - applies that acceptable sacrifice to us and God gives to us eternity with Him - that begins even today.
Verse 27 brings us to the second truth that we really need to grab on to this morning - that Judgment Will Happen.
Tuesday - March 24th - Germanwings flight 9525 - an airbus A320-200 - this one. Anyone here ever flown on a A320? Lots of airlines use these.
Germanwing flight 9525 took off from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany. Reached its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet. When the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, apparently suicidal - when Lubitz took control of the plane he flew it right into the French alps. 144 passengers - including 16 school children. Six crew members. Killed. When the 150 passengers and crew boarded that flight none of them knew it would be their final hours on earth.
A few years back I was driving down I5 out on the westside. It was late a night - pitch black. Way off in the distance there were a few lights.
Suddenly, in the distance there was a burst of bright white light - and then blackness. About ten minutes later traffic slowed to a crawl. From what I could see, on the side of the road there had been a fire. There were a lot of emergency vehicles - cars pulled to the side of the road - the flashing of emergency lights - lots of people standing around. And something very interesting - we were driving over downed power lines - stretched across the road.
Later I found out what had happened. Maybe you remember this? A pilot and friend were flying north in their Cessna. Low on fuel - they were in contact by radio with a trucker below. The trucker was helping to guide them to the airport a few miles ahead. Apparently they didn’t see the high voltage power lines - and they flew right into these suspended lines - the plane exploded and they were killed.
Life here is short. None of us knows when we’ll enter eternity.
The Bible is not silent about what comes next. Verse 27: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Its appointed. Its a fixed certainty. We all have an appointment with physical death. Once. After death comes judgment.
Meaning there’s no cycle of reincarnation - no purgatory - no spiritual dark place or prison verse paradise where we get to make up our minds - no question mark hanging over someone’s life as to where they’ll spend eternity. There is a final - complete - end to life on earth after which each of us will be held accountable to God for how we lived our lives.
Great meaning there is no greater - no higher - authority. White meaning pure and holy. Him - meaning God seated on His throne of judgment. His verdict alone is holy and righteous.
From His - God’s - presence earth and sky fled away, and not place was found for them. Everything of this world - of God’s creation - fades away in comparison to Who He is.
Verse 12: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
All of mankind will come before the Judgment Throne of God - before His power and holiness. There’s no escaping from this. All of us will be there - the rulers and the peons - the rich and the poor - from wherever we’ve been buried or from wherever we’ve been living - we’re all going to be there.
Books are opened. Books that are the record of everything that we’ve done. How we’ve lived our lives.
We live based on what we actually believe. Not what we say we believe. Or what we hope others think we believe. But what we really believe. What goes on in at the core of who we are. What we know. What God knows about us.
Our actions and our hearts - everything about us is preserved in God’s great library. The whole record of every life is made known before all. Judgment will be based on that. Judgment will be according to what each one of us has done. The living out of what actually is true of our hearts.
Verse 14: Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire - the second death. Not the physical death of this world. But spiritual eternal separation from God.
The Bible describes this second death as eternal separation from the holy God - a very real and nasty - evil - place. A lake made not of refreshing water but of fire. A place of eternal burning and choking - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - unending weeping - sorrow - gnashing [grinding] of teeth. A bottomless pit - no physical or solid surroundings - total isolation - utter darkness - eternal desire eternally unfulfilled - eternal death.
With all that heaven is - all that God is - all that dwelling eternally in the presence of God is - this eternal death is the opposite of that. Those who come to judgment without having Jesus as their Savior will go there.
Perhaps the most dreadful torment of the lost will be the realization that its too late for repentance. The great horror of the second death is not physical pain. But, the consciousness that one deserves what he’s getting - forever.
There is one other book - the Book of Life. Those whose names are written into the Book of Life enter into eternity with God.
In Revelation 21 - the Apostle John gives us a description of that eternity with God. Starting at verse 1: Then I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
God originally created the heaven and the earth - meaning our atmosphere and the dirt under our feet - God created that to be our home. But sin and death entered in and transformed this world into a place of rebellion and alienation - a place occupied by our Adversary - a place of bondage and corruption. The sea is symbolic of evil - the source of which is Satan. Evil that’s lived out in the affairs and actions of mankind.
But God has been working through history His plan of redemption - of salvation - buying us out of all that - through the work Jesus on the cross. What was is no more. Its been replaced by God with a new heaven and new earth. The freshness - the relief - of a totally new reality than what came before.
Verse 2: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The importance of a city is its people. Heaven is not nirvana. Not some all encompassing eternal god consciousness that we all kind of dissolve or evolve into. John sees a city with the life and activity and interests of people. God’s people. A city that God has prepared.
The bride is how God - in the Bible - how God describes the Church - the bride of Christ. Those who’s names are written in the book of life.
Let’s be clear. Salvation is a work of God. Yes? Ephesians 2:8: By... grace we’re saved through... faith - through trusting in God’s gracious salvation given to us through Jesus’ work on the cross. Not our works. His work.
We can’t get ourselves out of the well. Being that city - the bride - is what God makes us to be. He is preparing us for that coming eternity - to be that city. We will dwell there because we stand in Christ’s holiness not ours. Because of what God has done for us.
Verse 3: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Those whose names are written in the Book of Life will not carry today’s torments with us into eternity. God will put all things right.
All the crud of this world will have been wiped away. The baggage of sin that pulls us down each of our lives - that entangles us - that works against us - sin will be no more. Our relationships will be free of the struggles we have now. And the relationship we will have - we will enjoy without fear and in purity.
There’ll be no more death. When we get to heaven we’re going to get new bodies. Bodies that aren’t subject to disease - that don’t wear out and break down.
God Himself will wipe away our tears. Wipe them away for good. No more mourning - no crying - no pain - all the physical stuff that drags us down - all the those things will have died with this world.
Reading through Revelation 21 and other places in Scripture God describes eternal life as our living forever with God. A place better than the best places of earth today. More beautiful - more awesome - a place of great joy - peace.
There’s a river that runs through that place - the river of life - refreshing - renewing water - the purist crystal clear water - coming right from the throne of God. We’ll be able to see God - right there on His throne and drink from that river. God’s presence - God’s glory - will shine so there’s no night - no darkness - no sin.
Did you know that Costco sells caskets? Seriously. Google it. The one on the left is the “Edward Casket” which goes for $2,599.99. The one on the right is the “In God’s Care” casket which sells for a cheap 949.99. Unless we want expedited shipping. Then the price goes up… a lot. I guess it depends on how soon we think we might need the casket.
Are we hearing God? There are two trajectories through life - pathways through life - with God or without God. Everyone of us is going through life on one or the other of those trajectories.
Sooner or later whatever trajectory we’re on passes through death. That’s where these two trajectories split dramatically - at death. One leads to hell - the other to heaven.
One trajectory is what believers in Jesus - followers of Jesus - are on. Those who’ve listened to God’s speaking - accepted God’s offer - who are going through life trusting Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The other trajectory is the one everyone else is on - those who’ve refused His offer.
Both of these trajectories follow pretty closely parallel with each other. We all go through pretty much the same stuff of life. The same seasons of life - growing up and growing older. We all have similar struggles - joys - concerns. Some go through all that with Jesus. Some go through all that without Jesus.
Both trajectories experience death. Sooner or later everyone of us - unless Jesus comes back before then - everyone of us is going to die.
After death judgment will happen. God’s judgment of our lives will determine where we will spend eternity. Meaning that every one of us is on a trajectory through life to one of two eternal destinations.
Please hear this. This is the sobering reality. Unless you’re trusting in Jesus as your Savior you’re eternal destination will be Hell.
A. W. Tozer once said that, “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”
No one who is ever in Hell will be able to say to God, “You put me here.”
All God asks is that we trust Jesus as our Savior. When we trust Jesus as our Savior - the judgment of God which is leveled against us is placed on Jesus. Jesus bears our penalty. Jesus becomes our salvation now and when we stand before God to be judged. For those who die, knowing Jesus as their Savior, judgment is actually a time of great hope.
Three truths. First - God Gets Us. Second - Judgment Will Happen. Third: Jesus Will Come.
Verse 28 tells us that 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.
Jesus is coming back. Not to bear the sins of the many. Not to deal with sin. He’s been here and done that on the cross. Jesus is coming back a second time for those who are eagerly waiting for Him. To give to us what we have been eagerly waiting on Him to bring to us to. The realization of life with God forever.
One of these days this age is going to end. One of these days time is going to be no more. One of these days there’s going to be a trumpet sounding from heaven and a shout from the archangel and cry of command coming from Jesus and the graves are going to open and the dead are going to rise and the saints who are alive are going to meet together in the air.
One of these days Jesus is coming back. Not a baby born in a humble stable and laid in a manger but Jesus is going to descend from heaven on a white horse at the head of heavens armies. He’s going to touch down on the Mount of Olives and that mount is going to spit in two. He’s gonna touch down and shake this world. He’s going to do battle with the armies and arrogance of man and put an end to the ugliness and garbage and waste of our sinful pride.
One of these days Jesus is coming back - not to die on a cross but to rule and reign as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Every knee will bow - on heaven and on earth and under the earth - every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
One of these days - on a day known only to God - Jesus will come back for us. For those who eagerly are waiting for Him. Those who are waiting with great expectation of what His coming will mean for them.
Question: What are you expecting when your live here is over? When Jesus returns and judgment happens. What will that be like for you? Is judgment something to be feared? Or are you looking with eagerness to His reward. To our reunion. To seeing Jesus face to face - being in the presence of God forever?
God demonstrates the reality of Jesus’ resurrection through the empty tomb - through the rolled away stone - through the facts of the resurrection. Jesus demonstrated it to His disciples with each encounter that followed His resurrection - the hundreds of people who saw Him after His resurrection. We need those images. We relate to them. They connect with our lives.
But as Jesus moves from encounter to encounter - its not about establishing evidence for what is an incontrovertible fact of history - its about application. Bringing the reality of His resurrection into the lives of His disciples.
The resurrection isn’t about crosses and tombs and flowers. The resurrection is about the saving work of the living Jesus touching us at the deepest need of our lives. The resurrection is about the forgiveness of sin - being set free - acquitted - from the penalty for our individual sin. Salvation from the wrath of the Holy God which must be poured out on the unholy - each of us eternally perishing.
Salvation to life with God in which God - even today - desires to heal our wounds - to heal us and care for us and meet the deepest needs of our hearts.
The resurrection is about our need to believe that Jesus - the Savior - is alive. That what God offers us in Jesus - through the crucified broken body and shed blood of Jesus - God’s Son - God’s offer of salvation - is real. An offer that has been placed on the table before us.
John 3:16... God so loves each of us that He gave His only Son to die for us. God’s offer of salvation laid out for us - whoever will respond to that offer with belief - turning from their sin and trusting Jesus as their Savior - God promises - that we will not perish - but we will have eternal life - now and into eternity with God.
The question before each one of us is whether we will choose to accept God’s offer - to turn from our sin and trust God with our lives.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.