But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:11–15)
Jesus’ willingness to pay the high price for our sins is complemented by the fact that His sacrifice was the only offering in the universe that God would have accepted as payment in full for our sins. As I have already quoted from the Book of Hebrews, the sacrifices of the Old Testament did not please God, and He did not want them, even though they were offered according to the law which He Himself established (Heb. 10:8–10). Those sacrifices had a purpose in pointing to and leading the people to trust in Christ who was to come, but they were not the end God had in mind.
What God wanted, and the only thing that would have pleased Him, was the preparation of a human body for His Son, so that He might become the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:1–7). And when Jesus laid down His life in fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for us, He did so in complete alignment with the requirement God had established for all the symbolic sacrifices of the Old Testament—He offered Himself “without spot” to God (Heb. 9:14).
The fact that Jesus was “without spot” is a reference to His perfection, not simply a reference to His good performance, though He did perform well. He never committed any sins (1 Peter 2:22), and He always did what was well pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). But it was not for His performance only that God judged Him a worthy sacrifice for our sins. He was inherently worthy on His own merits before He ever came to earth. And that is why God selected Him for the mission in the first place.
The requirement for the Old Testament sacrifices was that they had to be without defect (Num. 28–89). And theirs was only superficial and physically observable. Jesus fulfilled in every respect what they only pictured poorly. He was free of defect all the way to the core of His being.
Jesus was perfect in every way because He was God Himself. Before time began, He was with God and was God (John 1:1–2). He was “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). He was the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of God’s person (Heb. 1:3). By Him, “all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16–17).
When He stepped into our world in the form of a lowly servant (Phil. 2:7), Jesus did not cease to be who He was, but continued to be who He had always been. Through the miracle of a virgin birth (Isa. 7:14), the Holy Spirit providing the power of conception (Matt. 1:18), the prepositional phrase, “with us”, was added to His eternal name. He became “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Upon His birth, because God Himself had come to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21), the hope of mankind that we might not perish was fulfilled. And so great was the event, and so important was it that we not miss it, that God sent His angels to tell us:
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:7–14)
Jesus was aware of His divinity and His eternal past as He conducted His earthly ministry. He told us about it frequently, because He wanted us to believe in Him. Of His eternal past He said, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me” (John 7:28–29). In another place, concerning His eternal past, He said, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going” (John 8:14).
Of His divinity, He said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37–38). In another place He said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
In response to a question from some Pharisees about a statement He had made that Abraham saw His day and was glad, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). And they knew that He meant by those words that He Himself was God in the flesh, and that He existed before the world began. But because they did not believe Him, they considered His words to be blasphemy. So they took up stones to stone Him (John 8:59). But because it was not time for Him to die, He hid Himself from them and walked out of their presence undetected and unharmed (John 8:59).
But His life on earth was only the means to an end. And so too was His death. As the writer of Hebrews explains,
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:14–17)
Half of the glory of the gospel is wrapped up in the fact that Jesus willingly died for our sins, because this wrought our forgiveness (Rom. 4:25). The other half is in the fact that God raised Him from the dead, because this wrought our righteousness (again, Rom. 4:25). But what lies between the two is a great mystery.
We do not know exactly what happened between His death and resurrection or precisely how long it lasted. But what we do know is this: Jesus became a man so that he could die. He died so that He could destroy the devil. He destroyed the devil so that He could end his power of death. And He ended His power of death so that He could rescue us from the damnation that following the devil into sin earned us. His end in mind was that He wanted to become the means by which our sins may be forgiven (Heb. 2:14–17). And it is important for us to keep in mind that Jesus was inherently worthy of carrying out this mission because He was God in the flesh.
In a story He told about the casting out of demons, Jesus said:
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. (Luke 11:21–22)
The Lord God Almighty, seeing beforehand our plight and the desperation of our situation, decided on His own to come to earth in the form of a man to rescue us from our sins. And when He came to earth and died on the cross, He entered the strong man’s house (death), defeated him (the devil), and vanquished his spoils (us). “By Himself [He] purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3), and by Himself He “obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). He removed the sting of death and delivered us from the power of the grave (1 Cor. 15:55–56; Hos. 13:14).
And when Jesus finished His work in death, because even in death He was the Lord God Almighty, death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24). He exited hell (Acts 2:31 says, “His soul was not left in Hades”), and raised Himself from the dead (John 10:18). Upon His resurrection, no longer was Jesus “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9), but He was restored to His former glory (John 17:5). He took a seat at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20–21). Then He “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33).
And from heaven, where He is right now, He gives out His Spirit to as many as believe in Him:
To them He [gives] the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who [are] born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Through the performance of a grand miracle, the Lord God Almighty takes up residence in the hearts of men, transforming them into new creatures, blessing them with the glorious knowledge of the mystery kept hidden for ages (“which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”—Colossians 1:27), and fulfilling what was written:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jer. 31:33–34)
And when the time comes that no one knows but God the Father (Mark 13:32), Jesus—the spotless lamb, the worthy sacrifice, and the eternal God—will roll up the sky like a scroll (Rev. 6:14). He Himself will tread “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15). And according to Revelation 19:16, He will have on His thigh and on His robe a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And when He has defeated all His enemies, He will cast the devil, his demons, death itself, and even hell into the lake of fire where they will remain forever (Rev. 20:10). And every person whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever (Rev. 20:15). But those whose names are written in Jesus’ Book of Life will survive judgment and will live with God forever (Rev. 21:27; 22:3–5).
Then, in a new heaven and new earth, as a bride adorned for her husband, we will be with the Lord forever. We will be like Him, and we will finally see Him in all His glory (1 John 3:2). We will not need lights, because the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and of God our Father will shine so brightly that everything will be illuminated by their glory (Rev. 21:23). And we will be able to see and comprehend and appreciate Him. And He will not allow anything to distract us from Him or draw us away to sin again (Rev. 21:27). And we will be an eternal object lesson of His grace to demonstrate to all creation just how good and kind a God He really is (Eph. 2:7).
The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). This is also the main point of what I am saying here. We have such a “great God and Savior [in the person of] Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
The greatness of our God and Savior is demonstrated in the fact that He existed before time began. It is demonstrated in the fact that He created the worlds. It is demonstrated in the fact that He made Himself a man to die for our sins and to save us from God’s wrath. It is demonstrated in the fact that He entered death, conquered the devil, and raised Himself from the dead. It is demonstrated in His power to take up residence in hearts of men and to make them His offspring. And one day it will be demonstrated again when He rolls up the sky like a scroll, when He does away with evil, and when He shines in place of the sun forever.
This Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one who offered Himself without spot to God as a sacrifice for our sins. His greatness, and majesty, and spotlessness, and perfection, and power, and strength, and beauty, and glory made Him worthy. When God saw the travail of His soul as He bore our sins, He was satisfied (Isa. 53:11). And He was the only one who could have done it. For this reason, it is written: “[There is no] salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Nowhere in Scripture is the inherent worthiness of our Lord Jesus Christ to receive honor and glory more dramatically depicted than in the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation. We first see Him there portrayed as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and the “Root of David” who prevailed to open the scroll that no one else in the universe was even worthy to look at (Rev. 5:1–5). Then we see Him in the form of a “Lamb as though it had been slain” taking the scroll out of God’s hand (Rev. 5:6–7).
And when He took the scroll, it was a dramatic event. There were living creatures around the throne of God who had never rested either night or day, saying:
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come! (Rev. 4:8)
And there were elders with them who had always followed them saying:
You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created. (Rev. 4:11)
They had been saying these things to God who was on the throne perhaps for all eternity past. But when Jesus took the scroll, suddenly they all stopped what they were doing. They fell down before the Lamb, and they sang a brand new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9–10)
Then, more than a hundred million angels joined them, saying with a loud voice:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev. 5:12)
Then every creature (likely every creature ever created) said in one accord:
Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever! (Rev. 5:13)
And when these things had been done, “Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev. 5:14).
And in these things, we see plainly the fulfillment of what God inspired the apostle Paul to write about Jesus:
God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11)