Power of the Blood of Jesus – Volume 16
Message Summary by AFT Team
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. – Hebrews 12:22-24.
The blood that Jesus shed on the Cross is referred to as ‘the blood of sprinkling’. Over the previous several weeks, we have learnt much about the blood of Jesus. Let’s now look at this particular term ‘the blood of sprinkling’ that describes the blood of Jesus, and what it means to us today.
Historical background and context
When we read the epistles, we get an idea of the sermons of the early church; these writings were taught to the new believers of Christ. When we read the epistles we must understand that there is a definite purpose to writing it, a context – perhaps a situation to be addressed or a problem to be solved. The book of Hebrews was written to the 1st century Christian church. It was written to the Jews who had now accepted Christ. They were persecuted by other Jews; they were tormented that they had left their grand, old Jewish religion with its wonderful rituals and tradition to follow this man called Jesus Christ who could not even save himself from an inglorious death. The Jews had angelic visitations, the Ten Commandments, an elaborate system of sacrifice, high priesthood, great rituals, traditions, feasts and celebrations, great leaders like Moses, Abraham, and many such wonderful things. Why would they leave all this and follow this man Christ? So the author of Hebrews writes it to encourage Christians that the new covenant that they had was much superior to the old covenant that the Jews were trying to reconvert them to. The first 2 chapters teach that Jesus is greater than angels. The 3rd chapter speaks about how Jesus is greater than Moses. Chapter 4 says that one can go boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain grace and mercy in the time of need. Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 are about how Jesus is better than Aaron; He is of the order of Melchizedek, not of Aaronic order. Chapters 8 and 9 teach us that Jesus is better than the law. Chapter 10 has encouragement to new Christian believers. Chapter 11 speaks about faith heroes. Chapter 12 has comparisons between the new covenant people and the old covenant people in the way they approached God. Chapter 13 has parting instructions and a promise that God never leaves nor forsakes them.
With this background and context in mind, let’s delve into Hebrews 12:22-24.
The important place occupied by the blood of Jesus
It gives us a description of heaven. The author of Hebrews calls it by three names – Mount Zion, the city of the living God and heavenly Jerusalem. The groups of people who are present there are numerous angels, New Testament saints referred to as the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, and Old Testament saints referred to as the spirits of just men made perfect. He then tells us that three other entities are present in the inner most sanctum, God’s throne – God, the judge of all, Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling. The blood of Jesus is present in the inner most sanctum, alongside God the father and Jesus. It is given the most important place in heaven.
The New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant
The author of Hebrews compares the old covenant believer’s encounter with God to the new covenant believer’s approach to God. In the Old Testament times, they went to Sinai. It was a place filled with darkness, out nowhere in the wilderness. The New Testament believer worships in Mount Zion, the city of God. It is like a modern metropolis with people of all colour, race and creed worshiping God in oneness and unity. Whereas the Old Testament believer had to go through rigorous experiences if he wanted to become a Jew, the New Testament church is a welcoming place to everyone. In the Old Testament encounter, the trumpets were sounded, the earth shook, the heavens dropped and Mount Sinai moved. When God spoke, it was such a terrorising experience that people begged Moses to ask God to stop speaking. When the New Testament believer approaches God, he goes boldly into God’s presence and freely worships Him. Today, all around the world, people worship God and enjoy His presence; they listen the word of God and they hear from Him. In the Old Testament, angels were set to guard the garden of Eden to prevent man from entering it. But under the new covenant, angels are ministering spirits to people.
Hebrews 12:23 says God, the judge of all, is present in Heaven. It may be terrorising to some to think of facing God as judge, to face death and condemnation. But a believer need not fear; his judgement is already over and he has accepted eternal life. The judgement for a believer is not whether he will go to heaven or hell; it is when he gets rewarded for his works on earth. (Read more here) Moreover, as believers, we understand that the judge is our heavenly Father, who sent His only Son to take our place and our punishment, and die on the Cross. Verse 24 says that Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant is present in heaven. The new covenant has certain features that were missing in the old covenant; the new covenant is an improvement on the old covenant. The new covenant has Jesus as the sacrifice, the fulfilment of many prophecies. The new covenant has Jesus as the High Priest; the old covenant high priest was merely a foreshadow. Under the new covenant, it is the blood of Jesus that is shed as the one-time atonement for the sins of the world, whereas under the old covenant the blood of animals had to be shed continually. The believer under the new covenant has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that the old covenant believer did not have. When we compare the old and new covenants, we must understand that they are not exclusive and different. It’s not the that the old covenant was cancelled and an entirely new one has come in its place. The new covenant is inclusive of the old covenant; it has all the wonderful things of the old covenant plus some more wonderful things. The old covenant offered the blessing of Abraham only to the children of Abraham, but the new covenant makes the blessing of Abraham and all the blessing that we receive in and through Jesus available to everyone.
So as you read below about the blood of sprinkling in the old and new testaments, please rest assured that as a new testament believer living under the new covenant, that all of those provisions, both old and new, are available to you.
Blood of sprinkling in the old covenant
Since this letter was written to Jewish converts, when author refers to the blood of Jesus as the ‘blood of sprinkling’, they immediately and without doubt know what it meant. It meant many things under the old covenant:
PRESERVATION The blood of sprinkling meant preservation. On the day of the Passover, the blood of the lamb was sprinkled upon the doorways (the doorposts and lintels) of the Israelite houses; this prevented the angel of death from entering their houses. The first born of Egyptian homes died that night. But the blood of sprinkling preserved the Israelites.
CONFIRMATION When blood is shed as the confirmation of a covenant, it is called a blood covenant. Let’s look at a present day illustration to understand it better. Now anyone can write a document. But the document is not valid unless it is registered with a government office. When a government official accepts it and stamps it, it become registered and has legal value. Then the terms and conditions stated in the document have to be followed. Similarly, the blood was used as a stamp or seal in a blood covenant. It meant that both parties had a legal obligation to fulfil the covenant. The blood covenant that God made with us seals and confirms to us that God will do everything that He has promised.
PURIFICATION We have already learnt that the blood of sprinkling offers both purification and cleansing. The blood offers us forgiveness for our sins; when we sin, we merely commit the act of disobeying God’s words. But more importantly, we realise that sin is not just an act, but an ever-pervasive polluter, constantly polluting our minds. Just like dust pollutes and dirties every thing that it touches, sin is in the air and it continuously pollutes our emotions, will, thoughts and imaginations. Old testament cleansing procedures teach us about the constant pollution of sin and that we must be cleansed from it. For ex, a person who came in touch with a dead body would have to undergo purification procedures before coming to God’s presence. (Read detailed blog here).
SANCTIFICATION Sanctification is the process by which someone or something is separated or set apart for a particular use. When a person was made priest, he was sanctified by a certain procedure – blood was applied to his eyes, legs, fingers, toes and so on. By doing this, they were declaring that every part of this person who was being consecrated to God must belong to God completely, all parts of him.
ACCEPTANCE AND ACCESS Sin separated God and man, since God is holy and man is sinful; so God could not accept man. When the blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies as atonement for sin, sins are forgiven and God is able to accept man. Then they could have access to God and worship Him.
Blood of sprinkling in the new covenant
THE BLOOD OF JESUS IS CENTRAL TO THE GOSPEL
The blood of Jesus is central to the Gospel. That is why it is given an important and prominent place. It is in heaven, in the presence of God, in the throne room, alongside God and Jesus. Without the blood of Jesus, there is no preservation, confirmation, purification, sanctification, acceptance and access to God. Without the blood of Jesus, we cannot even approach God. We also learn that the blood is central to the gospel from the book of Revelation. In the first chapter, Jesus says that He is He who lives; He was dead but is now alive and will live forever more. If that is so, why is He constantly referred to as the Lamb of God, which was a single incident that took place way back 2000 years ago? Revelation says that He is forever referred to as the Lamb of God. He is the Lamb of God before the foundations of the world, and He is the Lamb of God for all eternity. In the past and the present and future, He is called the Lamb of God to show us that that one instance of His shedding the blood and dying on the Cross in central and essential to the gospel. Everything that we believe is hinged on the blood of Jesus.
THE BLOOD AND JESUS ARE ONE
Let’s look at parts of verse 24 and 25 to understand this great truth. “…the blood of sprinkling… …See that you do not refuse Him who speaks”. The passage says that we have come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant and the ‘blood of sprinkling that speaks’, and then goes on to say that we must not refuse ‘Him who speaks’. The question that arises is – is it the blood speaking or Jesus speaking? Well, both are speaking, and they are one and the same. Jesus and His work on the cross can never be separated. Jesus and His blood are not different entities. Some people like to take the blood out of the gospel, because they fear that it sounds gory. They try not to preach about the cross and the blood. They try to just focus only on how Jesus was a good man who taught good things and went about doing good and healing people. If we take the blood of Jesus out of the equation, there is no forgiveness of sin, no cleansing from sin; there is no hope. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us and transform us. It gives us peace and hope. That is why Paul does not say that he preached Christ; he says he preached ‘Christ crucified’.
We believe in Christ crucified, not Christ without crucifixion, not Christ without shedding of blood, not Christ without dying on the cross. WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST CRUCIFIED.
THE BLOOD OF JESUS SPEAKS
The blood of Jesus is the voice of the new covenant. When the blood of Jesus speaks, it is not terrifying like the voice of God in the old covenant. It speaks good things, things that are better than those spoken by the blood of Abel.
- The blood of Jesus tells us to observe the evil of sin. Sin is not without consequences; it brings death. Jesus did not die for His sins; He was sinless. He died for the sins of the world. The consequence of sin is what sent Jesus to die on the cross. People encourage one another to sin thinking that sin has no consequences, and that they can get away with sinning. But the blood of Jesus tells us otherwise. It shows us clearly the evil and tragic consequences of sin. The only way out of it is to accept Jesus.
- The blood of Jesus tells us that God is righteous and just. He decreed that the wages of sin is death. And He did not change His decree, even when it was His own sinless son that was going to face the consequence. He went ahead and let Jesus suffer the consequences of sin and die for our sins, because He is just and will keep His word.
The blood of Jesus is speaking blood; it speaks constantly. It speaks to the people through the preacher. If it didn’t speak, it would be a dumb gospel. We could go further and say that it would be a dummy gospel, one with no use. It could not offer forgiveness of sins and cleansing from sin. It could offer neither hope nor comfort nor healing. It could not offer transformation to people. If churches fail to preach the power of the blood of Jesus, they would become useless and powerless. However, because the blood of Jesus speaks, the gospel is powerful. When we infuse what we teach with the blood of Jesus, there is power to change and to renew, there is power to transform the worst person in the world to the best person in the world.