Before I could take possession of the house my mother left me in her will, she had to pass away. While she lived, it was hers and remained hers. It was not mine. This truth is introduced as evidence in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 9:16-18, the author says, “For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.” Hughes observes, “This is true in every culture. A will is activated by the death of the one who made the will, the testator. You may be the stated recipient of a fabulous will that includes millions of dollars, a luxurious apartment, season tickets to the hottest team in town and the Lyric Opera, a villa in Majorca, and a quiver full of Orvis fly rods, but it will do you no good unless the testator dies! Such a fact has provided endless grist for writers from William Shakespeare to Neil Simon.”[1]

Referring to a will, Tanner says, “A death is necessary to activate it. If a biblical covenant is in view, the death would be that of an animal as a substitute for the one ratifying the covenant.”[2] Once that sacrifice was offered, and the blood was sprinkled around and on the participants. This was the guarantee that it would be fulfilled; it was ratified. The Greek word for “covenant” is the same word used for “testament” and “contract.” God ratified his promises to Abraham in Genesis 15 with blood sacrifices as was the custom in the Old Testament economy. He reaffirmed that covenant with Abraham by providing the sacrificial lamb as a substitute for the sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Blood sealed the promises. They were once and for all unbreakable. This is true of a last will and testament for us as well. Girdwood notices, “A person might prepare and sign a legally binding will which names benefactors and assigns an inheritance. Unless changed, it is a promise which will be enforced by law.”[3]

I’m sure there are many instances in the drama of human history where humans have changed their wills at the last minute. But once the blood was shed and the testator died, the will is locked in stone and cannot be changed. Girdwood continues, “Until the testator dies, however, it remains no more than a promise for the future. Only the death of the testator changes the promised inheritance into a legal possession. Until then the will is only a piece of paper.”[4] Jesus’ death is the ratification of the New Covenant. His death, his blood, guarantees that it cannot be changed. This means believers are eternally secure. One website says, “When people come to know Christ as their Savior, they are brought into a relationship with God that guarantees their eternal security. Jude 24 declares, ‘To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.’ God’s power is able to keep the believer from falling. It is up to Him, not us, to present us before His glorious presence. Our eternal security is a result of God keeping us, not us maintaining our own salvation.” (See


[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 235.

[2] J. Paul Tanner, “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 1068.

[3] James Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse, Hebrews, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), Heb 9:17.

[4] James Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse, Hebrews, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), Heb 9:17.