15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 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.
Protest signs are designed to make statements and often shocking statements, but one sign in particular may just be the most shocking one ever. The gentleman who designed it and is carrying it in the picture from a protest from some years back clearly, very much wants both attention and notoriety. After all, in addition to the sign he is wearing a t-shirt that depicts a figure tossing a cross into a trash can. But it is through the sign that he makes his most explicit statement. The sign reads: “If Jesus returns, kill Him again.” The sign is not photoshopped. It is real. And the man who created it has surely gotten the attention that he was looking for.
What strikes me about the sign—whatever motives or mind might lurk behind it—is the way that it depicts one half of the what was going on in the actual crucifixion of Jesus. Meaning, from the human perspective as well as from the demonic spiritual realities that fueled that human perspective the crucifixion was an attempt by wicked men to kill, to destroy, to do away with the Jesus who had so incensed the many who resented Him. We might say that this is the earthly half of the crucifixion, the “first floor” perspective of the cross. But there is another perspective. The “second floor” perspective of the cross, the Heavenly perspective. In other words, while the crucifixion reflects a human desire to kill Jesus, much more importantly it reflects God’s desire to save humanity through the death and resurrection of the Son.
Seen from below, the crucifixion was an act of human violence, of killing.
Seen from above, the crucifixion was an act of divine love by and through which God in Christ paid the price for the sins of humanity and enabled lost humanity to come to the Father through the self-giving sacrifice of the Son.
The devil rejoiced for a moment when Christ was crucified. But the cross turned out not to be exactly what he was expecting!
Hebrews 9:15-28 takes us into the very heart of God and shows us exactly what He was accomplishing for lost humanity through the cross.
The cross may represent the world’s and the devil’s desire to kill, but more importantly it reflects the Father’s desire to save.
We have an inheritance through Jesus.
Thus far the writer of Hebrews has been using a number of images that were laden with meaning for the people of Israel: covenant, sacrifice, tabernacle, altar. But now he introduces two more ideas that are critical for our full understanding of the cross: inheritance and will. Let us first consider the idea of inheritance.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
We have seen that this new covenant is the better covenant because it is the result of (1) a greater priest, (2) making a greater sacrifice, (3) in a greater tabernacle, (4) that has greater results. This is the new covenant in the blood of Jesus. But now we are introduced to this idea of “inheritance” when the writer of Hebrews speaks of the results of this new covenant: “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”
We know what an inheritance is. It is what is left for those who are loved by one who has passed away. And while Jesus ultimately defeated death through the resurrection, He nonetheless secured for His followers an inheritance that is “eternal.” The New Testament writers spoke of this inheritance more than once and, when considered together, the references to it paint a beautiful picture indeed!
It is God who qualifies us for our inheritance.
We begin with Paul in Colossians 1, where he speaks of how one is “qualified” to receive this inheritance. Listen:
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It is God who qualifies us. What is more, God is due “thanks” for His great grace in qualifying us for this inheritance. And in verse 13 we are told the nature of the qualification: that through the death of Jesus we have been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred…to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
Our inheritance is rooted in God’s grace and not in our “deserving” it.
This means that the inheritance held for God’s children is not based on merit. It is solely a word of God’s grace resulting from the gracious giving of the Son on Calvary. Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, said:
32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
It is God and His “word of grace” that “is able…to give you the inheritance.” The word of human effort cannot give the inheritance to you. All it can do is condemn! The word of personal effort cannot give you the inheritance. All it can do is disappoint. The word of human striving cannot give you the inheritance. All it can do is exhaust. But “the word of His grace…is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
The Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance.
There is more. In Ephesians 1 Paul speaks of the guarantee of the inheritance that God gives us.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
First, notice the way into the family of God: we hear the word of truth, the gospel, and we believe. But when that happens we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” That is, we are given the gift of the Spirit of God to live within us and He, the Holy Spirit, seals us and secures us. But He is also “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”
The inheritance we are offered will not and cannot be disputed. The Spirit in our lives is evidence that we are God’s, that we are in Christ, that we are in the family of God and are therefore promised the eternal inheritance! The Holy Spirit is therefore the animating deposit of the grace of God who bears witness to our belonging even as He empowers us to walk with Jesus.
God wants us to know how wonderful our inheritance is.
And the inheritance is not a secret. On the contrary, in the next verses of Ephesians 1, we are told that God wants us to know about and understand the inheritance that is ours through Christ. Listen:
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints
So through “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” the “eyes of [our] hearts” are “enlightened” that we may know two things: (1) “what is the hope to which he has called” us and (2) “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
In other words, one of the ministries of the Spirit is to lead us and bring us into a greater understanding of the nature of the “glorious inheritance” which is ours in Christ. So the Spirit bears continuous witness to the greatness of what God has for us. The Spirit opens our eyes to what is ours in Jesus!
We might ask? Surely to encourage us, to equip us, to guard us against despair, and to act as a rebuke to the devil and his accusations of our inadequacy. It is the Spirit who says over and above the voice of the devil, “You are redeemed. You are a child of God. And you have an inheritance in and of the Kingdom through Jesus!”
Nobody and nothing can take away the inheritance you have through Jesus.
And then there is this: the inheritance will not be taken away from us. In 1 Peter 1, Peter writes:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Those descriptors are as amazing as they are comforting:
- kept in heaven for you
The devil cannot snatch it away. God will not grow weary of you and cancel it. Rather, God’s grace is so wonderful and God’s heart is so loving that He will give you the promised inheritance on the basis of the cross and empty tomb of His beloved Son, Jesus.
Our inheritance is secured in the will and testament of Jesus that was activated by His death.
Having established that we have an inheritance in Christ, the writer of Hebrews now moves to another concept: that of the last will.
16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
We need to understand that this idea of “a will” involves the interesting use of a word that has previously been rendered “covenant” in the book of Hebrews. Thomas Long explains.
The Preacher begins the section with a pun and an analogy. The pun is on the word “covenant,” which can also mean “testament” or “will.” For two chapters the Preacher has been talking about “covenant,” the old one and the new, and now, through a little wordplay, he transforms “covenant” into “will.”
Likewise, Donald Guthrie writes:
The switch from covenant to will is more understandable in Greek than in English since the same word (diathēkē) does service for both ideas. Indeed a ‘will’ is the more basic meaning of the word, although in the LXX it normally means covenant.
So the author proclaims that “a will is involved” and, like all wills, “the death of the one who made it” enacts and activates it. And so the death of Jesus enacts the will that spells out the terms of the inheritance that is offered to all who are born again. In verses 27 and 28 of our chapter, the writer speaks of the death of Jesus.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 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.
The picture is therefore rounded out:
- We have an inheritance.
- The terms of the inheritance are spelled out in the will.
- The will is founded in the nature and being of the Triune God who saves us.
- It was enacted on the basis of the death of Jesus.
- It is now securely held for all who are in Christ.
Over the years I have heard people speak of the inheritances that others have received with a mixture of bemusement, amazement, and jealousy. At the very least there is always one unsurpassable reality that haunts those who observe the lavish inheritances of others, and it is this: being outside of that family we are likewise outside of that inheritance. The inheritances that others receive are their inheritances, not ours. We are not in those families and so they do not belong to us.
I wonder if you read this text and feel the same way? You hear the Lord speak of an inheritance and a will and you think, “This is not good news for me, because I am outside of the family of God!” But here is where the family of God differs from earthly families: Jesus has opened the door for whosoever to enter God’s family and, having entered by grace through faith, to become recipients of the promised inheritance! This inheritance of life eternal can be yours! You need not stand outside looking in! Christ has invited you in!
I have read of a dissenting Christian group in Scotland from many years ago. This group of humble Christians were not part of the official church so they had to coordinate carefully their meeting places and their activities. So they would predetermine where their service on any given Sunday would be held and then the members would carefully make their way to that designated spot. Then, they would carefully and quietly, so as not to attract attention, hold their service.
On one particular Sunday they had determined to meet in a given location to observe the Lord’s supper and to have worship. The members, as was their custom, nonchalantly made their way to the meeting place, never betraying their intentions. One little girl was doing just this when she rounded a corner and came face-to-face with two large police officers. “And where are you going, Miss?” they asked the girl. Realizing the danger of her situation to both herself and the rest of the church the little girl, quick on her feet, replied: “My brother has died, and our family is gathering to read the will and to find out what our inheritance is.”
And in this the little girl told the truth and did not lie.
That is not a bad definition of church: “Our brother has died, and our family is gathering to read the will and to find out what our inheritance is.”
The little girl did not lie, but then again she did not tell the whole truth either, for our hearts desperately want to add the point she omitted: “Our brother has died…but He did not stay dead. Death could not hold Him! He is alive even now! And the family is gathering in His name to hear the will read and to celebrate and pledge once again our devotion to Him: Jesus, Prophet, Priest, and King!”
You have an inheritance.
Christ has secured it for you.
 Long, Thomas G. Hebrews (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (pp. 98-99). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
 Guthrie, Donald. Hebrews (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.