Purification for Sins: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 13)
after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
There are many theories that have been put forth in the history of theology to try and articulate all of the ramifications of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. Yet, the scriptures affirm so many different aspects of Jesus’ work on the cross that it is difficult to encapsulate all of them within one theory. And here is one of those passages in scripture that gives us a glimpse into one aspect of Jesus’ redeeming work—that of making purification for sins. This idea of making purification ties in closely with the Old Testament concept of the high priest offering a sacrifice to make atonement for his people. Indeed, this very language is found in the Greek translation of passages like Exodus 29:6 and Exodus 30:10, which speaks specifically of this atoning work.
In light of the Old Testament passages of atonement for sin, one thing that we must recognize is that sin is an offense to God, it is ugly and wicked, and it warps us wholly. The physical disease of Leprosy in the Old Testament is a visual description of the effect that sin has upon us in life. It makes us wretched and separates us from that which is holy and of God. Yet, God offers a means by which we may be made clean. In the Old Testament age, this cleansing revolved around the illustration of slaughtering animals. Though the blood of animals has no intrinsic value of its own, the promise of the work of Christ would impart value to it (Hebrews 9:15). And ultimately, the work of Christ in laying down his life as an offering of atonement, would offer a cleansing for those who flee to him in faith. Just as Jesus physically healed the lepers and others who were being consumed by disease and the other effects of the fall, Jesus heals us as well through faith in his finished work.
Does this idea of cleansing encapsulate the entirety of what Jesus’ atoning work does, certainly not! There are legal aspects where we need to talk about Jesus in terms of penal substitution. Scripture speaks of Jesus as having provided a ransom (to God, not the devil) for believers. There is the language of his being a model for us to follow and one who imputes his righteousness. We could go on, but that misses the point. The atonement is quite complex and we will likely never plumb the depths fully of this remarkable doctrine; this passage gives us just one glance at what Christ does for us: he cleanses us from our sins so that we might stand as clean in the presence of a righteous and a holy God who cannot tolerate sin in his presence. And this task, the writer of Hebrews affirms, Christ has gloriously completed, taking his seat at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Blessed be the name of our Lord!
Extol the Lamb of God,
The sin atoning Lamb;
Redemption by His blood
Throughout the lands proclaim:
The year of jubilee is come!
The year of jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.