Hebrews 9:16-17 (NIV) 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
On verses 15-22: During my time practicing law, clients would often ask me to help them write their will. A will is a legal document by which a person spells out, among other things, what they want to do with their assets and whom they want to gift those assets to as an inheritance when they die. The person making the will signs it in the presence of witnesses. All the gifts described in the will do not take effect until that person dies. That’s why a will is often called a person’s “last will and testament”. As verse 17 says, “a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.”
Why is this important as we study Hebrews 9? It’s because here the writer of Hebrews likens both the old covenant under Moses as well as the new covenant under Jesus to a will. Like a will, the old covenant and the new covenant were each a legal agreement that described how God would give His inheritance (namely, forgiveness, acceptance, and great blessing) to His people. Like a will, the old covenant and the new covenant were made with witnesses. Just as a person’s will is also called a person’s last “testament”, it is no coincidence that the Greek word for covenant is also sometimes translated “testament” and thus in your Bible you have the Old Testament (containing the old covenant) and the New Testament (containing the new covenant). But, for the purposes of Hebrews 9, the most important similarity is that, like a will, someone had to die in order for the old covenant and new covenant to become effective. As verse 22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. In the case of the old covenant, it was the death of bulls and goats that put the old covenant into effect. In the case of the new covenant, it was the death of Jesus.
What can we learn from all this? The new covenant that Jesus established is no small matter. Jesus died so that we could enjoy the benefits of that new covenant.The New Testament is Jesus’ last will and testament, a document that spells out how Jesus wanted to distribute His assets after He died. Of all the wills I’ve ever read from all the clients I’ve ever served, the New Testament is the only will where the maker of that will died, gave away His assets to the people He loved in accordance with his will, and then rose again from the dead!
Hebrews 9:26 (NIV) 26 …now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
On verses 23-28: One of the big themes of Hebrews is that Jesus’ sacrifice under the new covenant beats all the sacrifices ever made under the old covenant. Under the old covenant priests went into a man-made sanctuary and made sacrifices again and again for their sins and the people’s sins (v24). Under the new covenant, Jesus’ sacrifice was so much more precious and powerful. He entered heaven and made a one-time sacrifice that was enough to bring forgiveness and cleansing once and for all (v24-28).
Heavenly Father, I recognize today that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. May I never take for granted the fact that Jesus died once and for all so that we could be made beneficiaries under His new covenant. Because Jesus died, I now own an inheritance that rightfully and originally belonged to Him. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for shedding Your blood so that I could be forgiven and become a child of God with a glorious inheritance. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!