One Sacrifice - One New Priest

According to Hebrews, God has spoken His decisive and superior “word” in His son, Jesus of Nazareth, and He did so “upon the last of these days.” This last clause refers to the end of the period epitomized by the Levitical code, its priesthood, and its repeated animal sacrifices, a system of worship that was centered in the Tabernacle, and later, in the Temple in Jerusalem. With the exaltation of the Son to “sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” a new and final era commenced.

The Letter to the Hebrews shows only limited interest in the final events expected just prior to the return of Jesus at the end of the age such as the rise of the Antichrist. The focus instead is on the present situation of the church and what it must do to avoid apostasy.

Jesus - Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash
[Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash]

This is 
NOT to say that the Letter shows no interest in topics beyond the new priesthood or covenant established by the sacrifice of the “Son.” And it certainly looks forward to the end results of the “purification of sins” achieved by Jesus, including “salvation,” the “coming habitable earth” in which all things will be in “subjection to man,” God’s “rest” that the saints must yet enter, and the “abiding city” of the “living God, heavenly Jerusalem.”

Beginning at the Cross, the church has been in transit to the new Promised Land, and this is why believers must “hold fast to the things they have heard,” lest they find themselves receiving a “sorer punishment” from a righteous God for again “trampling underfoot the Son of God and the blood of the covenant.” Failure to persevere in this sojourn means the loss of what God has promised to the faithful. In the theology of Hebrews, apostasy is a very real possibility and something that produces horrific consequences.

The Letter is addressed to a congregation where some members are contemplating a return to the local synagogue to escape pressure and opposition to their faith from outsiders.

To discourage this, Hebrews presents a series of comparisons that highlight the superiority of what God has provided in His Son - “upon these last days” - over the Levitical system with its imperfections, all interspersed with warnings about the consequences of apostasy.

  • (Hebrews 1:1-3) - “In many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets; upon the last of these days - He spoke to us <in a Son>, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages, who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory and an exact impress of his being, also, bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, having achieved purification of sins, SAT DOWN ON THE RIGHT HAND{a} of the Majesty on High.” - [{a} – Citation from Psalm 110:1].

In the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the old and now obsolete era of the Aaronic priesthood that amounted to “glimpses and shadows” of the coming “better things” has concluded, and the promised New Covenant is now underway - (Hebrews 1:1-3).


To now return to the synagogue would mean once again practicing the rites of the Levitical system, including its animal sacrifices, and this is why the Letter spends considerable time demonstrating the superiority of the new priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” inaugurated by Jesus over the old priesthood and the “former covenant.”

The priestly service and animal sacrifices of the old order failed to cleanse the conscience of the individual from sin. In contrast, having “achieved the purification of sin,” the new High Priest “sat down” forevermore in the presence of God where he now intercedes on behalf of his people.

His victory over sin ushered in the promised New Covenant, and that means the “former” one had reached its termination point. ONE ERA SUPERSEDED ANOTHER.

Thus, the “Son” instituted what the old order represented but failed to do, indeed, what it was never capable of accomplishing in the first place due to human weakness and mortality.

  • (Hebrews 9:24-26) - For not into a holy place made by hand entered Christ, the counterpart of the real one, but into the heaven itself, now, to be manifested before the face of God in our behalf, nor yet that often he should be offering himself, just as the High-Priest enters into the holy place year by year with alien blood; else had it been necessary for him to suffer often from the foundation of the world. But now, ONCE FOR ALLUPON THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGES, for a putting away of sin through his sacrifice, has he been manifested – (emphasis added).

In the preceding passage from Chapter 9, the Greek noun rendered “counterpart” in the provided translation more accurately means “antitype.” Thus, the Tabernacle in the wilderness was the “type” or model, but the heavenly sanctuary is the “antitype” or the thing itself, its “counterpart.”

If “perfection through the Aaronic priesthood” ever was a real possibility, there would have been no need to install a new priesthood, one that is “according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The repeated animal sacrifices of the “former covenant” were only “shadows of the good things to come, but not the very image of the things,” and as such, they were incapable of “perfecting those who draw near” the altar.

Moreover, the Letter to the Hebrews links what the “Son” has achieved in his one-time sacrifice to the “consummation of the ages.” In other words, “upon these last days” – (Hebrews 7:11-12).

And so, in contrast to the Aaronic priests, the Son “offered one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering, he has perfected forever those who are sanctified.” And rather than another animal sacrifice, Jesus offered himself – (Hebrews 10:1-14).


The point of declaring that Jesus “sat down on the right hand of God” is not to show that he now reigns supreme over the Cosmos, as true as that is, but that he is our “high priest, the minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.”

The priests under the Levitical code served in a MAN-MADE TENT, one that was a mere “copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” But the Son intercedes forevermore in the true and greater Tabernacle “PITCHED BY GOD” – (Hebrews 8:1-13).

And as our High Priest, he mediates the “better covenant that has been enacted upon better promises.” And by promising a “New Covenant” that does accomplish the forgiveness of sins and cleanses the conscience, Scripture declares that the first one is “old and becoming obsolete and near to vanishing away” - (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-13).

Thus, with the advent of the “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek,” the time of the old priesthood with its extensive rituals and repeated animal sacrifices reached its intended conclusion. And in Jesus, the new and final era of salvation history commenced - “upon these last days.”



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