Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Hebrews 9:28

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

So Christ was once offered - He shall die no more; he has borne away the sins of many, and what he has done once shall stand good for ever. Yet he will appear a second time without sin, χωρις ἁμαρτιας, without a sin-offering; That he has already made.

Unto salvation - To deliver the bodies of believers from the empire of death, to reunite them to their purified souls, and bring both into his eternal glory. This is salvation, and the very highest of which the human being is capable. Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus! Hallelujah!

1. In the preceding notes I have given my reasons for dissenting from our translation of the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses. Many learned men are of the same opinion; but I have not met with one who appears to have treated the whole in a more satisfactory manner than Dr. Macknight, and for the edification of my readers I shall here subjoin the substance of what he has written on this point.

" Hebrews 9:15. Mediator of the new covenant. See Hebrews 8:7. The word διαθηκη, here translated covenant, answers to the Hebrew word berith, which all the translators of the Jewish Scriptures have understood to signify a covenant. The same signification our translators have affixed to the word διαθηκη, as often as it occurs in the writings of the evangelists and apostles, except in the history of the institution of the supper, and in 2 Corinthians 3:6; : and Hebrews 7:22, and in the passage under consideration; in which places, copying the Vulgate version, they have rendered διαθηκη by the word testament. Beza, following the Syriac Version, translates διαθηκη everywhere by the words foedas, pactum, except in the 16th, 17th, and 20th verses of this chapter, where likewise following the Syriac version, he has testamentum. Now if καινη διαθηκη, the new testament, in the passages above mentioned, means the Gospel covenant, as all interpreters acknowledge, παλαια διαθηκη, the old testament, 2 Corinthians 3:14, and πρωτη διαθηκη, the first testament, Hebrews 9:15, must certainly be the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, as is evident also from Hebrews 9:20. On this supposition it may be asked,

  1. In what sense the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, which required perfect obedience to all its precepts under penalty of death, and allowed no mercy to any sinner, however penitent, can be called a testament, which is a deed conferring something valuable on a person who may accept or refuse it, as he thinks fit? Besides, the transaction at Sinai, in which God promised to continue the Israelites in Canaan, on condition they refrained from the wicked practices of the Canaanites, and observed his statutes, Lev. 18, can in no sense be called a testament.
  • If the law of Moses be a testament, and if, to render that testament valid, the death of the testator be necessary, as the English translators have taught us, Hebrews 9:16, I ask who it was that made the testament of the law? Was it God or Moses? And did either of them die to render it valid?
  • I observe that even the Gospel covenant is improperly called a testament, because, notwithstanding all its blessings were procured by the death of Christ, and are most freely bestowed, it lost any validity which, as a testament, it is thought to have received by the death of Christ, when he revived again on the third day.
  • The things affirmed in the common translation of Hebrews 9:15, concerning the new testament, namely, that it has a Mediator; that that Mediator is the Testator himself; that there were transgressions of a former testament, for the redemption of which the Mediator of the new testament died; and, Hebrews 9:19, that the first testament was made by sprinkling the people in whose favor it was made with blood; are all things quite foreign to a testament. For was it ever known in any nation that a testament needed a mediator? Or that the testator was the mediator of his own testament? Or that it was necessary the testator of a new testament should die to redeem the transgressions of a former testament? Or that any testament was ever made by sprinkling the legatees with blood? These things however were usual in covenants. They had mediators who assisted at the making of them, and were sureties for the performance of them. They were commonly ratified by sacrifices, the blood of which was sprinkled on the parties; withal, if any former covenant was infringed by the parties, satisfaction was given at the making of a second covenant.
  • By calling Christ the Mediator of the new testament our thoughts are turned away entirely from the view which the Scriptures give us of his death as a sacrifice for sin; whereas, if he is called the Mediator of the new covenant, which is the true translation of διαθηκης καινης μεσιτης, that appellation directly suggests to us that the new covenant was procured and ratified by his death as a sacrifice for sin. Accordingly Jesus, on account of his being made a priest by the oath of God, is said to be the Priest or Mediator of a better covenant than that of which the Levitical priests were the mediators. I acknowledge that in classical Greek διαθηκη, commonly signifies a testament. Yet, since the Seventy have uniformly translated the Hebrew word berith, which properly signifies a covenant, by the word διαθηκη, in writing Greek the Jews naturally used διαθηκη for συνθηκη as our translators have acknowledged by their version of Hebrews 10:16. To conclude: Seeing in the verses under consideration διαθηκη may be translated a covenant; and seeing, when so translated, these verses make a better sense, and agree better with the scope of the apostle's reasoning than if it were translated a testament; we can be at no loss to know which translation of διαθηκη in these verses ought to be preferred. Nevertheless, the absurdity of a phraseology to which readers have been long accustomed, without attending distinctly to its meaning, does not soon appear.
  • "He is the Mediator. Here it is remarkable that Jesus is not called διαθεμενος, the Testator, but μεσιτης, the Mediator, of the new covenant; first, because he procured the new covenant for mankind, in which the pardon of sin is promised; for, as the apostle tells us, his death, as a sacrifice for sin, is the consideration on account of which the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant is granted. Secondly, because the new covenant having been ratified as well as procured by the death of Christ, he is fitly called the Mediator of that covenant in the same sense that God's oath is called, Hebrews 6:17, the mediator, or confirmor, of his promise. Thirdly, Jesus, who died to procure the new covenant, being appointed by God the high priest thereof, to dispense his blessings, he is on that account also called, Hebrews 8:6, the mediator of that better covenant.

    Hebrews 9:16. For where a covenant (is made by sacrifice), there is a necessity that the death of the appointed sacrifice be produced. This elliptical expression must be completed, if, as is probable, the apostle had now in his eye the covenant which God made with Noah and Abraham. His covenant is recorded, Genesis 8:20, where we are told, that on coming out of the ark Noah offered a burnt-offering of every clean beast and fowl. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor. And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground, neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done. This promise or declaration God called his covenant with men, and with every living creature. Genesis 9:9, Genesis 9:10. In like manner God made a covenant with Abraham by sacrifice, Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:18, and with the Israelites at Sinai, Exodus 24:8. See also Psalm 50:5. By making his covenants with men in this manner, God taught them that his intercourses with them were all founded on an expiation afterwards to be made for their sins by the sacrifice of the seed of the woman, the bruising of whose heel, or death, was foretold at the fall. On the authority of these examples, the practice of making covenants by sacrifice prevailed among the Jews; Jeremiah 34:18; Zechariah 9:11; and even among the heathens; for they had the knowledge of these examples by tradition. Stabant et caesa jungebant foedera porca; Virgil, Aeneid, viii. 611. Hence the phrases, foedus ferire and percutere, to strike or kill the covenant.

    "There is a necessity that the death του διαθεμενου, of the appointed. Here we may supply either the word θυματος, sacrifice, or ζωου, animal, which might be either a calf, a goat, a bull, or any other animal which the parties making the covenant chose. Διαθεμενου is the participle of the second aorist of the middle voice of the verb διατιθημι, constituo, I appoint. Wherefore its primary and literal signification is, of the appointed. Our translators have given the word this sense, Luke 22:29; Καγω διατιθεμαι ὑμιν, καθως διετιθετο μοι ὁ Πατηρ μου, βασιλειαν . And I appoint to you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed to me a kingdom.

    "Be brought in; Θανατον αναγκη φερεσθαι του διαθεμενου, Elsner, vol. ii., p. 381, has shown that the word φερεσθαι is sometimes used in a forensic sense for what is produced, or proved, or made apparent in a court of judicature. Wherefore the apostle's meaning is, that it is necessary the death of the appointed sacrifice be brought in, or produced, at the making of the covenant. In the margin of our Bibles this clause is rightly translated, be brought in. See Acts 25:7, where φεροντες is used in the forensic sense.

    Hebrews 9:17. A covenant is firm over dead sacrifices; Επι νεκροις . Νεκροις being an adjective, it must have a substantive agreeing with it, either expressed or understood. The substantive understood in this place, I think, is θυμασι, sacrifices; for which reason I have supplied it in the translation. Perhaps the word ζωοις, animals, may be equally proper; especially as, in the following clause, διαθεμενος is in the gender of the animals appointed for the sacrifice. Our translators have supplied the word ανθρωποις, men, and have translated επι νεκροις, after men are dead, contrary to the propriety of the phrase.

    "It never hath force whilst the appointed liveth; Ὁτε ζῃ ὁ διαθεμενος . Supply μοσχος, or τραγος, or ταυρος· whilst the calf, or goat, or bull, appointed for the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. The apostle having, in Hebrews 9:15, showed that Christ's death was necessary as ὁ Μεσιτης, the Mediator, that is, the procurer, and ratifier of the new covenant, he in the 16th and 17th verses observes that, since God's covenants with men were all ratified by sacrifice to show that his intercourses with men are founded on the sacrifice of his Son, it was necessary that the new covenant itself should be ratified by his Son's actually dying as a sacrifice.

    1. "The faultiness of the common translation of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 20th verses of this chapter having been already shown in the notes, nothing needs be added here, except to call the reader's attention to the propriety and strength of the apostle's reasoning, as it appears in the translation of these verses which I have given, compared with his reasoning as represented in the common version."
  • It is supposed that in Hebrews 9:28, the apostle, in speaking about Christ's bearing the sins of many, alludes to the ceremony of the scape goat. This mysterious sacrifice was to be presented to God, Leviticus 16:7, and the sins of the people were to be confessed over the head of it, Leviticus 16:21, and after this the goat was dismissed into a land uninhabited, laden, as the institution implied, with the sins of the people; and this the word ανενεγκειν, to bear or carry away, seems to imply. So truly as the goat did metaphorically bear away the sins of the many, so truly did Christ literally bear the punishment due to our sins; and in reference to every believer, has so borne them away that they shall never more rise in judgment against him.
  • In Christ's coming, or appearing the second time, it is very probable, as Dr. Doddridge and others have conjectured, that there is an allusion to the return of the high priest from the inner tabernacle; for, after appearing there in the presence of God, and making atonement for the people in the plain dress of an ordinary priest, Leviticus 16:23, Leviticus 16:24, he came out arrayed in his magnificent robes, to bless the people, who waited for him in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. "But there will be this difference," says Dr. Macknight, "between the return of Christ to bless his people, and the return of the high priest to bless the congregation. The latter, after coming out of the most holy place, made a new atonement in his pontifical robes for himself and for the people, Leviticus 16:24, which showed that the former atonement was not real but typical. Whereas Jesus, after having made atonement, (and presented himself in heaven, before God), will not return to the earth for the purpose of making himself a sacrifice the second time; but having procured an eternal redemption for us, by the sacrifice of himself once offered, he will return for the purpose of declaring to them who wait for him that they are accepted, and of bestowing on them the great blessing of eternal life. This reward he, being surrounded with the glory of the Father, Matthew 16:27, will give them in the presence of an assembled universe, both as their King and their Priest. This is the great salvation which Christ came to preach, and which was confirmed to the world by them who heard him: Hebrews 2:3." Reader, lay this sincerely to heart!
  • The form in which the high priest and the ordinary priests were to bless the people, after burning the incense in the tabernacle, is prescribed, Numbers 6:23-26. Literally translated from the Hebrew it is as follows, and consists of three parts or benedictions: -
  • May Jehovah bless thee, and preserve thee!
  • May Jehovah cause his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee!
  • May Jehovah lift up his faces upon thee, and may he put prosperity unto thee! (See my notes on the place, Numbers 6:23-26.)
  • We may therefore say that Christ, our High Priest, came to bless each of us, by turning us away from our iniquity. And let no one ever expect to see him at his second coming with joy, unless he have, in this life, been turned away from his iniquity, and obtained remission of all his sins, and that holiness without which none can see God. Reader, the time of his reappearing is, to thee, at hand! Prepare to meet thy God!

    On the word conscience, which occurs so often in this chapter, and in other parts of this epistle, see the observations at the end of chap. 13.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    So Christ was once offered - Since people are to die but once; and as all beyond the grave is fixed by the judgment, so that his death there would make no change in the destiny, there was a propriety that he should die but once for sin. The argument is, there is one probation only, and therefore there was need of but one sacrifice, or of his dying but once. If death were to occur frequently in the existence of each individual, and if each intermediate period were a state of probation, then there might be a propriety that an atonement should be made with reference to each state. Or if beyond the grave there were a state of probation still, then also there might be propriety that an atoning sacrifice should be offered there. But since neither of these things is true, there was a fitness that the great victim should die but once.

    (Rather, perhaps, as in the original sentence, “once dying” was the penalty denounced on the sinner, so the substitute in enduring it, is in like manner, under necessity of dying but once. By this he fully answers the requirement of the Law. Or there may be in the passage a simple intimation that, in this respect, as in others. Christ is like us, namely, in being but once subject to death. It would be inconsistent with the nature which he sustains, to suppose him a second time subject to death.)

    To bear the sins of many - To suffer and die on account of their sins; see Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:11 notes; Galatians 3:13 note. The phrase does not mean:

    (1) that Christ was a “sinner” - for that was in no sense true. See Hebrews 7:26. Nor

    (2) that he literally bore the penalty due to transgression - for that is equally untrue.

    The penalty of the Law for sin is all which the Law when executed inflicts on the offender for his transgression, and includes, in “fact,” remorse of conscience, overwhelming despair, and eternal punishment. But Christ did not suffer forever, nor did he experience remorse of conscience, nor did he endure utter despair. Nor.

    (3) does it mean that he was literally “punished” for our sins. Punishment pertains only to the guilty. An innocent being may “suffer” for what another does, but there is no propriety in saying that he is “punished” for it. A father suffers much from the misconduct of a son, but we do not say that he is punished for it; a child suffers much from the intemperance of a parent - but no one would say that it was a punishment on the child. Men always connect the idea of criminality with punishment, and when we say that a man is punished, we suppose at once that there is “guilt.” The phrase here means simply, that Christ endured sufferings in his own person, which, if they had been inflicted on us, would have been the proper punishment of sin. He who was innocent interposed, and received on himself what was descending to meet us, and consented to be treated “as he would have deserved if he had been a sinner.” Thus, he bore what was due to us; and this, in Scripture phrase, is what is meant by “bearing our iniquities;” see the notes Isaiah 53:4.

    (It is indeed true, that Christ did not endure the very penalty which we had incurred, and, but for his interference, should have endured. His sufferings must be regarded in the light of an equivalent to the Law‘s original claim, of a satisfaction to its injured honor, which the Lawgiver has been pleased to accept. It is, however, equally true, that the sufferings of Christ were strictly penal. They were the punishment of sin. The true meaning of the important phrase in this verse, “to bear sin,” establishes this point. It can have no other meaning than bearing the punishment of sin. See Stuart‘s xix. Excursus. That punishment supposes guilt is not denied. What then? Not certainly that Christ was personally guilty, but that our guilt has been imputed to him - that he has taken the place of the guilty, and become answerable for their transgressions. See Supp. note, 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

    And unto them that look for him - To his people. It is one of the characteristics of Christians that they look for the return of their Lord; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:12; compare the notes, 1 Thessalonians 1:10. They fully believe that he will come. They earnestly desire that he will come; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20. They are waiting for his appearing; 1 Thessalonians 1:10. He left the world and ascended to heaven, but he will again return to earth, and his people are looking for that time as the period when they shall be raised up from their graves; when they shall be publicly acknowledged to be his, and when they shall be admitted to heaven; see the notes on John 14:3.

    Shall he appear the second time - He first appeared as the man of sorrows to make atonement for sin. His second appearance will be as the Lord of his people, and the Judge of the quick and the dead; Matthew 25:31, see the notes, Acts 1:11. The apostle does not say when this would be, nor is any intimation given in the Scriptures when it will occur. It is on the contrary everywhere declared that this is concealed from people Acts 1:7; Matthew 24:36, and all that is known respecting the time is, that it will be suddenly and at an unexpected moment; Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:50.

    Without sin - That is, when be comes again he will not make himself a sin-offering; or will not come in order to make atonement for sin. It is not implied that when he came the first time he was in any sense a sinner, but that he came then with reference to sin. or that the main object of his incarnation was to “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” When he comes the second time, it will be with reference to another object.

    Unto salvation - That is, to receive his friends and followers to eternal salvation. He will come to save them from all their sins and temptations; to raise them from their graves; to place them at his right hand in glory, and to confirm them in the everlasting inheritance which he has promised to all who truly love him, and who wait for his appearing.

    In view of this anticipated return of the Redeemer, we may remark:

    (1) There is a propriety that the Lord Jesus should thus return. He came once to be humbled, despised, and put to death; and there is a fitness that he should come to be honored in his own world.

    (2) every person on earth is interested in the fact that he will return, for “every eye shall see him;” Revelation 1:7. All who are now In their graves, and all who now live, and all who will hereafter live, will behold the Redeemer in his glory.

    (3) it will not be merely to gaze upon him, and to admire his magnificence that they will see him. It will be for greater and more momentous purposes - with reference to an eternal doom.

    (4) the great mass of people are not prepared to meet him. They do not believe that he will return; they do not desire that he should appear; they are not ready for the solemn interview which they will have with him. His appearing now would overwhelm them with surprise and horror. There is nothing in the future which they less expect and desire than the second coming of the Son of God, and in, the present state of the world his appearance would produce almost universal consternation and despair. It would be like the coming of the flood of waters on the old world; like the sheets of flame on the cities of the plain; or as “death” now comes to the great mass of those who die.

    (5) Christians “are” prepared for his coming. They believe in it; they desire it; they are expecting it. In this they are distinguished from all the world besides, and they would be ready to hail his coming as that of a friend, and to rejoice in his appearance as that of “their” Saviour.

    (6) let us then live in habitual preparation for his advent. To each one of us he will come soon; to all he will come suddenly. Whether he come to remove us by death, or whether in the clouds of heaven to judge the world, the period is not far distant when “we” shall see him. Yes, our eyes shall behold the Son of God in his glory! That which we have long desired - a sight of our Saviour who died for us, shall soon, very soon be granted unto us. No Christian begins a week or a day in which there is not a possibility that, before its close, he may have seen the Son of God in his glory; none lies down upon his bed at night who may not, when the morning dawns upon this world, be gazing with infinite delight on the glories of the Great Redeemer in the heavens.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    It is evident that the sacrifices of Christ are infinitely better than those of the law, which could neither procure pardon for sin, nor impart power against it. Sin would still have been upon us, and have had dominion over us; but Jesus Christ, by one sacrifice, has destroyed the works of the devil, that believers may be made righteous, holy, and happy. As no wisdom, learning, virtue, wealth, or power, can keep one of the human race from death, so nothing can deliver a sinner from being condemned at the day of judgment, except the atoning sacrifice of Christ; nor will one be saved from eternal punishment who despises or neglects this great salvation. The believer knows that his Redeemer liveth, and that he shall see him. Here is the faith and patience of the church, of all sincere believers. Hence is their continual prayer as the fruit and expression of their faith, Even so come, Lord Jesus.
    Ellen G. White
    The Great Controversy, 485

    Thus will be realized the complete fulfillment of the new-covenant promise: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” Jeremiah 31:34; 50:20. “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 4:2, 3. GC 485.1

    The work of the investigative judgment and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord. Since the dead are to be judged out of the things written in the books, it is impossible that the sins of men should be blotted out until after the judgment at which their cases are to be investigated. But the apostle Peter distinctly states that the sins of believers will be blotted out “when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ.” Acts 3:19, 20. When the investigative judgment closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man as his work shall be. GC 485.2

    In the typical service the high priest, having made the atonement for Israel, came forth and blessed the congregation. So Christ, at the close of His work as mediator, will appear, “without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28), to bless His waiting people with eternal life. As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scapegoat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away “unto a land not inhabited” (Leviticus 16:22); so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. Thus the great plan of redemption will reach its accomplishment in the final eradication of sin and the deliverance of all who have been willing to renounce evil. GC 485.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Lift Him Up, 373.1

    So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28. LHU 373.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Maranatha, 282.8

    When Christ comes the second time, not as a prisoner surrounded by a rabble will they see Him. They will see Him as heaven's King.... Then the priests and rulers will remember distinctly the scene in the judgment hall. Every circumstance will appear before them as if written in letters of fire. Mar 282.8

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    Ellen G. White
    Maranatha, 10.1

    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. Hebrews 9:28. Mar 10.1

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