Purification of Sins

A key point in the opening paragraph of the Letter to Hebrews is the accomplishment of the Son on behalf of his people, and his exalted position at the “right hand” of God as their High Priest “forever after the order of Melchizedek.” He alone secured what none of his predecessors did or could do. Through his sacrificial death, he “achieved the purification of sins,” and afterward, he “sat down” in the “true and greater Tabernacle” in God’s very presence where now he intercedes for his church.

The Letter’s logic is clear. The “Son” sits on the throne of grace BECAUSE he achieved the “purification of sins” and dealt definitively with sin’s stain. He was appointed the “High Priest” of his people due to this victory over sin.

The opening declaration anticipates the Letter’s discussions about his priesthood and superior sacrifice. And though the image of him sitting “at God’s right hand” is drawn from the second Psalm, the emphasis is not on his exaltation as the messianic king of Israel, but on his appointment as our High Priest.


As High Priest,” he now intercedes unhindered for his people - Wherefore, also, he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near to God through him, seeing he lives forevermore to make intercession for them” – (Hebrews 7:25).

It is no accident that the passage refers to the “purification of sins” rather than the forgiveness of sin. The language reflects the Levitical system and its sacrifices that were designed TO REMOVE RITUAL IMPURITY. Moreover, the image of a priestly figure who “sits down” at God’s right-hand echoes the annual Day of Atonement but WITH A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE.

Under the “former” covenant, the High Priest entered the Sanctuary only on the annual Day of Atonement, and he NEVER “sat down or remained in the Holy of Holies for more than a brief period. In contrast, the “Son” entered the true Sanctuary “once-for-all” and “sat down” where he remains still interceding for the saints.

This modified picture stresses the finality of his priestly act. And according to the Letter, he will remain in his Father’s presence until God again “introduces the firstborn Son into the habitable earth.


The term “sat down” in the opening paragraph alludes to another key passage, once again from the Psalms, the text that prophetically summons the Messiah and “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek” to do this very thing – sit down at God’s right hand:

  • “Yahweh said to my Lord, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND until I make your enemies your footstool” - (Psalm 110:1. Compare Hebrews 12:1-2).
  • We have such a high priest who SAT DOWN ON THE RIGHT HAND of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched not man” - (Hebrews 8:1-2).
  • And every priest indeed stands day by day ministering and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, the which can never put away sins. But he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins once-for-all, SAT DOWN ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD - (Hebrews 10:11-12 – Emphasis added in the preceding passages).

The passage from Chapter 10 of Hebrews contrasts the position of the Aaronic priests with that of the Son, the new and final “High Priest forever.”

The ancient priests “stood” in the Sanctuary while performing their duties but Jesus “sat down” in the Greater Tabernacle, the one “not made with hands” and found in the highest of the heavens; namely, in the very presence of God Himself.

And the repeated animal sacrifices performed by the Aaronic priests were and remain incapable of “putting away” the stain of sin, but the one-time sacrifice of the Son did exactly that and did so “once-for-all.” Ever since, he has remained seated at the “right hand of God” interceding for his “brethren.”

In the Letter’s later chapters, it demonstrates not only the vastly superior sacrifice and priestly qualifications of the “Son,” but also that his death did what no animal sacrifice ever could do; namely, the cleansing of the individual’s “conscience” and his or her reconciliation with God.

And especially for these reasons - the removal of sin’s stain and his intercession for his people - the “Word of the Son” is supreme over all others, surpassing even the word given “in the prophets” or mediated through “the angels” to the greatest of the prophets, namely, Moses.



The Suffering Servant

The Living Word