"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:11-12).

The high priestly ministry of Christ at the right hand of the Father is one of the rarest features of the revelation given to the Apostle Paul.

In the epistles, Paul not only tells us what Christ did for us in His substitutionary work on the cross; he also tells us what the Holy Spirit does in our individual lives.

Many theologians and scholars question the authorship of the Book of Hebrews. Some do not think Paul is the author. I believe, however, that it is quite conclusive that this book is part of the Pauline revelation, because Hebrews fits into it like part of a jigsaw puzzle, and the language is that of Paul.

The book of Hebrews is a revelation of what Jesus did from the time He was made sin on the cross, until He sat down on the right hand of Majesty on High. Christ's entire redemptive work is shown in the wonderful unveiling in Hebrews. There are references to this work elsewhere in the New Testament, but this revelation in found primarily in Hebrews.

There are four phases to this revelation that God gave Paul:

  1. What God, through Christ, did for us in His great substitution;
  2. What the Holy Spirit, through the Word, does in us in the New Birth and the infilling of the Holy spirit;
  3. What Jesus is doing for us now in His present-day ministry at the right hand of God;
  4. What God's Word and His love do through us in ministering.
Through the years, we believers have spent a great deal of time studying what Christ has done for us. Most sermons are along that line. However, very little time has been spent studying what He does in us. And even less time has been spent studying what He is doing for us now in His great high priestly office at the right hand of the Father. Yet His entire ministry for us would not have been complete if He were not carrying on a ministry now in our behalf at the right hand of God.

Jesus' first ministry after His resurrection is mentioned in John 20:

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,...Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God (John 20:11, 15-17).

Christ is not talking in this passage about His ascension and being seated at the right hand of the Father, because just a short time later He appeared again; this time to His disciples. (His actual ascension didn't happen for many days afterwards.) The disciples thought He was a ghost, but He said, "...handle me...for a spirit hath not flesh and bones..." (Luke 24:39).

Why did Jesus say to Mary, "Touch Me not"; yet a short time later He instructed His disciples to touch Him? Because when Mary saw Him, He was on His way to enter into the heavenly Holy of Holies to present His blood as an eternal offering, or sacrifice, for our sins.

Jesus died as a Lamb, but He arose as the Lord High Priest! And the Word tells us that He is a merciful and faithful High Priest; not just in things pertaining to men, but also in things pertaining to God:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:14-17).

The claims of justice had to be satisfied in things pertaining to God. It was necessary that Christ as a High Priest make propitiation for the sins of the people. He had to carry His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies and seal the document of our redemption with it.

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:11-12).

Under the Old Covenant, which Paul is referring to here, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year and offered the blood of innocent animals slain as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Thus, the peoples' sins would be covered for another year.

But Christ entered in once for all. This is one ministry He never has to repeat: He does not enter the Holy of Holies year after year as the high priest of old did. He entered in once and for all to obtain an eternal redemption for us. His blood is the guaranty, so to speak, of our redemption.

That is what He was on the way to do when Mary saw Him and He told her, "Don't touch me." He already had taken care of our redemption when the disciples saw Him a little later, because He said; "Now you can touch Me."

Afterwards, when Christ ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, He began another ministry, an ongoing high priestly ministry as our advocate, Mediator, Intercessor, and Shepherd.

The word translated "atonement" in Romans 5:11 is actually "redemption." "Atonement" is an Old Testament word, which simply means to cover the sins of Israel while the sins were borne away by the scapegoat.

The nature in man that had caused him to sin remained to be dealt with - that nature in man that made him lie, steal, and break the law. Under the New Covenant, Jesus dealt with that sin-nature. He took that nature away by the sacrifice of Himself.

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:24-26).

Notice the scripture doesn't say "sins." Sins are deeds or acts that are wrong. It says, "sin," referring to man's sin-nature - the thing that caused him to do what he did.

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:28).

Christ not only bore our sins - our deeds and acts of wrongdoing - He also bore our sin - man's sin-nature.

After all, it would not do me any good for Christ to bear just my sins - I still would have that sin-nature in me, and I could not help but do wrong. I still would be the same kind of creature I always had been. But when He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Jesus did something about that sin-nature that caused me to sin. And he did it once and for all.

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior and confessed Him as my Lord, the Holy Spirit did something in me. This is also part of the Pauline revelation not found anywhere else in the New Testament.

For example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away (Do you know what this old thing is that passed away? It is the old sin-nature); behold all things are become new." You have a new nature inside! At the very moment you were born again, that inward nature was changed!

I found that true in my own life. I had never heard it preached, but I discovered immediately after being born again that the things I had been so concerned about were gone. My nature was changed. The things I once loved I no longer loved. The things I once hated I now loved. The "want-to" or desire to do wrong was gone. (That doesn't mean that I haven't failed since then.)

Under this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, we have a better covenant! Through the New Birth that we experience, Christ took away our old sin-nature and gave us the life and nature of God. The "want-to" toward sin is gone.

The destruction of our sin-nature required, however, that God's beloved Son become sin for us:

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

No wonder Jesus cried out on the Cross, when he was made to be sin, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).

God had forsaken Him because He was taking our place. He became what we were. He took our sin that we might become righteous. He took our spiritual death that we might have eternal life. He took our ostracism, our outlawed nature, that we might become sons of God.

How marvelous is the unmeasured grace of God as unveiled in the sacrifice of Jesus! Jesus carried His own blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies, thus canceling the need for the high priest to make an annual atonement. Instead, Jesus gave us eternal redemption!

Jesus was made sin. He was under condemnation because we were under condemnation. For three days and nights He was locked up in the prison house of death because that is where we should have gone. He became our Substitute and took our place. He met the demands of Justice and liberated us! Until then, no one could be born again. The Old Testament believers were not born again.

They were saved as far as God's plan of salvation then was concerned - their sins were forgiven - but they were not born again.

If you sin after you are born again, you can confess your sins and God will forgive you (1 John 1:9), but you aren't born again a second time. No one is ever born again twice. If you were born again every time your sins were forgiven, some people would be born again a million times. You can't be made a new creature more than once.

In the Old Testament we read that So-and-so begat So-and-so. It was necessary that the Jews keep their genealogy. Under the New Covenant, however, we can write our genealogy in four words: "Ye are of God..." (1 John 4:4). We are born of God!

Source: The Present Day Ministry of Jesus Christ by Kenneth E. Hagin
Excerpt permission granted by Faith Library Publications