Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9, verses 25-26.
Once for all. That matters. My friend, Anthony, wrote a song with that title. “Once for all our debt is paid.” It isn’t a time and time again thing: it was once. That’s almost antithetical to us as ‘modern’ people. We constantly go back and forth and have to do and then re-do whenever we mess up. It’s that way with home improvements. It’s that way with relationships. It’s that way with our sins. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has relapsed into an addictive behavior.
Yet Jesus ‘went there’ once and once was enough. If anything, that ought to be proof enough for us of His divine nature. The ancient priests had to offer sacrifices every day, then once a year on the Day of Atonement in the Most Holy Place. Again and again they went back to repeat the same actions over and over in hopes of eliciting better behavior after. Didn’t Albert Einstein call that ‘insanity’ (repeating the same behavior again and again hoping for a different outcome)?
Insanity: that’s a good word for sin. Sin makes no sense. Sin is illogical. Sin is randomly destructive, often hurting others in unintended ways beyond just the hurt we inflict on ourselves. Sin is a mental illness. Yep: sin is insanity.
And once for all, the cure for the common sin of insanity was a single visit by Jesus to the cross. Once for all our debt was paid; thanks for the jingle, Anthony.
Yet there’s another great thought in these verses that segues off that ‘once for all’ theme: “culmination of the ages.” ALL of human history since the fall had led up to the cross. Everything about the story of man found it’s climax, it’s high water mark, it’s highest height in the moment when Jesus walked out of His tomb. The highest point of all human history isn’t the inauguration of Barack Obama, man standing on the moon, exploding an atomic bomb, Lincoln freeing the slaves, or Columbus discovering the New World. No, the culmination of all human history, before and after, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One time and one time only did God incarnate live, die, then live again to defeat the power of death and restore the power of living love to humanity. Once for all, Christ died to atone perfectly for all our sins, and once for all Christ rose to live perfectly for all eternity so that we might have the promise of doing the same.
As people, we like our pride. We get the big head and like to think more of ourselves than we should. Our achievements are the best, and our way of thinking is superior to all who thought before us. I’m guilty of it; so are you. Yet none of that matters. None of our best achievements as individuals or society can compare to the simple perfection of Jesus of Nazareth redeeming us from our sins. If God had chosen to achieve that redemption in another way, then that way would be what we talk about, and it would be the culmination of history. That simply isn’t the case. Once for all our debt was paid. It was paid with blood through the mystery of how God did it. He defeated death. He defeated Satan. He defeated hopelessness. He defeated sin. Once for all and for always.
For further reading: Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 4:3, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 7:27.
Lord, I praise You for living, dying, and living again, once for all.