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Volume 7, Issue 3: Exegetica

From That Time Waiting, Hebrews 10:11-18

Jim Nance

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history, for at the cross God purchased from out of the world His own special people, granting them new life through the life of His Son raised from the grave. By that death and resurrection He also has destroyed the evil one, taking from him the kingdoms of the world and giving all authority in heaven and on earth over to the Son whom He raised. But as we focus on these things, we must not lose sight of the rest of history to which they are central. We should have a perspective which allows us to see both what God has done beforehand in history to prepare mankind for that glorious event, and what He has done and is doing in history afterward as a result of it. This portion from the book of Hebrews provides us with such a perspective.

"And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool" (Heb. 10:11-13). God beforehand granted to His people Israel the priestly service and sacrifice of bulls and goats as a picture to them, and by them to the world, of what He would do in the sacrifice of His Son. The atoning death of innocent, spotless animals foreshadowed the atonement accomplished by the death of the sinless Son of God. The presentation of the blood of that sacrifice, along with the intercession made by the Levitical priests, looked forward to the presentation before God's throne in heaven of the blood of Christ and His intercession as our High Priest.
The fact that these were only pictures and shadows of the work of Christ to come, and not the realities themselves, God exemplified to them in two ways. First, in the position of those priests, "every priest stands ministering," He showed that their sacrifices were ineffectualthe priests could never consider their work as finished. The author of Hebrews contrasts this with Christ, Who having made His sacrifice said, "It is finished," and then sat down . Similarly, God showed by the repetition of those "same sacrifices" that they "can never take away sins," for if they could, they would have ceased to be offered. The author contrasts this with the power and effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice to remove sins by calling it "one sacrifice for sins forever."
Having accomplished in the cross what God prefigured in the past, Jesus"sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool." This is an allusion to Psalm 110:1, which the author has already quoted in Hebrews 1:13. It refers to the era from the ascension of Christ up to the present time, since Christ yet reigns in heaven as our High Priest and King. There He will remain until God the Father subdues His enemies, which He is now doing and will continue to do until there is one enemy, namely death, which Christ Himself will conquer when He returns to raise the dead at the end of history (1 Cor. 15:22-26). The foundation for the subduing of Christ's enemies is again His death and resurrection. His enemy the devil was destroyed by this work (Heb. 2:14), and by His death He also disarmed other evil principalities and powers (Col. 2:15). Those who were at one time His enemies He conquered by reconciling them to Himself by that same death and resurrection (Ro m. 5:10). He accomplishes this by the preaching of the word, which is His conquering sword (Eph. 6:17). But this sword is a two-edged sword, for those who refused to submit to it in love are conquered by it in judgment (Heb. 4:11-12; Rev. 2:16), as the unbelieving Jews were when their city Jerusalem was destroyed, which the author will warn these Hebrews of later in this chapter.
So Christ is seated at the Father's right hand, "for by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). We see the once-for-all work of Christ in the offering of Himself, which accomplished what the offering of bulls and goats never could, that is, the perfection of the worshippers. By His shedding of the blood of this New Covenant, they have been perfectly forgivenpropitiated, reconciled, redeemed, and justified. Those so forgiven "are being sanctified." Christ perfects no one who is not then sanctified "with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26, cf. John 17:17). In so doing, the Father places under Christ's feet His enemies which remain in our livesevery sinful thought, word and deed. Notice that this sanctification is progressive; we are being sanctified or made holy. There is also a sanctification, a setting apart, which is not progressive: "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). This distinction will be an important one later on in Hebews.
"And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them' " (Heb. 10:15-16), which is a promise that God, on the basis of the New Covenant which He made, will sanctify us by the word. "Then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more'" (Heb. 10:17). This promise corresponds to our justification, by which we are "perfected forever."
"Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin" (Heb. 10:18). Unlike the Old Covenant sacrifices, the Sacrifice of the New Covenant effectively accomplished the remission of sins. Having accomplished this for us, Jesus is from that time waiting, either through loving sanctification or fearful judgment, for His enemies to be made His footstool.

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