The Bible makes it clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Under the Old Covenant, the blood and death of sacrificial animals were essential for the remission of sin. It wasn’t the blood of bulls and goats however that redeems sinners. They only pictured the redemption to come through the blood and death of Jesus himself. This is what the author of Hebrews means in Hebrews 9:15. He writes, “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.”  Hagner explains this in his commentary, “The real answer to sins against the commandments of the Mosaic law is found not in the sacrifice of animals, but in the sacrifice of Christ. The new covenant thus contains within it the answer to the failure to abide by the requirements of the old covenant (cf. 8:12; 10:17–18). And, forgiveness experienced during the OT period depended finally—although this was hardly understood at the time—upon an event that was to take place in the future. The sacrifice of Christ is the answer to sin in every era, past and present, since it alone is the means of forgiveness.”[1]

It was a frightening thing for the “Hebrews” addressed by the author to give up their religion and put their full confidence in Jesus. They lived all their lives with the belief that the sacrificial system was the only remedy for their sin. All the rituals, rules and routines that had been part of their entire lives had to be dismissed. It was so difficult that many became “Judaizers.” Paul refers to them frequently in Galatians but also in Titus, and 2 Corinthians. Luke makes them a primary subject in the book of Acts. In the Gospels they are referred to as religions leaders, Pharisees, or Sadducees. The Judaizers attempt to blend their religion with their laws and thereby “corrupt” the pure gospel message. In the Christian denominations today we see these same tendencies. The doctrinal statements of many groups connect faith with works as a necessary part of salvation. Many still argue that one’s eternal inheritance is still obtained by faith plus works. But the overall theology of the New Testament argues that it’s faith only, in Jesus only! Jesus is fully sufficient!

The Judaizers of course were the detractors of the view of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They pressured believers not to turn away from the rituals, rules and regulations of their religion saying it was OK to believe in Jesus as long as you maintained the traditions of our ancestors. The Judaizers would cajole, criticize, and even condemn those who turned away from their religion for the sake of Christ alone. The author of Hebrews wanted the new believers to stand firm in their faith in Christ alone, insisting on the failure of the Old Covenant and the sufficiency of Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, to dispel guilt and shame and cleanse consciences once and for all. Not only is Jesus fully sufficient in dispelling guilt and shame in this generation, he’s the basis of God’s forgiveness of all sin in all generations throughout all time. It was his plan from the beginning and every drop of blood shed during the old economy simply pictured the true sacrifice to come in Christ. Jesus’ blood is the only basis for forgiveness of sin at any time and any place.  William Cowper wrote in his famous hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins; and sinners, plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.”

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 141.