One of the most succinct ways of expressing the full scope of our salvation, or perhaps better, Christ’s past, present, and future work respecting our salvation is set forth by the writer of the Book of Hebrews. In just three verses found in the ninth chapter of that book the Spirit of God describes the central role of Christ in providing complete redemption, which the writer defines in terms of three appearances.
The Past Appearance. “Christ appeared as a high priest” (v. 11). The writer of Hebrews takes us back to the first appearing of Christ, describing that appearance in contrast with the high priest under the Mosaic Law. Year after year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, “not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” (v. 7). That the high priest had to perform this duty every year evinced the fact that the blood of bulls and of goats “cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience” (v. 9). But in the fullness of time, Christ appeared—not as a mighty conquering general and not as an omnipotent king, but as a high priest to offer a blood sacrifice. And not an animal sacrifice, but Himself. And so the writer exclaims, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (v. 14). Christ first appeared as the Offerer and the Offering, giving His life to pay the penalty for our sins. Again, “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (v. 26).
The Present Appearance. “Now to appear in the presence of God for us” (v. 24). Once in the past, Christ appeared on earth in the presence of men in order to lay down His life in sacrificial atonement for the sins of those whom God would save. He currently and continually appears presently before God, not to escape the burdens of a sin-cursed world, not for His own comfort, not in order to have fellowship with the Father, but “for us.” So although men do not see Him in this appearing as they did at His initial appearing, the present appearing is as crucial to our salvation as was His initial one. Hebrews explains the function of this present appearing thus: “Therefore He [Christ] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Though we have been saved, we still sin—something requiring eternal separation from God. But Christ appears in the presence of God “reminding” Him that His sacrifice paid for that sin, that we have been eternally secured against sins past, present, and future through the infinite efficacy of His work on the cross on our behalf. He comes before the Father to keep us through the sufficiency of His once-for-all death for us.
The Future Appearance. “Christ also . . . will appear a second time for salvation . . . to those who eagerly await Him” (v. 28). At any moment Christ will forsake His intercessory appearing before the Father and appear in the clouds to “catch away” His body, the New Testament church, made up of blood-washed believers. At His first appearing, Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (v. 28). But at any moment, He will appear again not to bear the sins of many but to bear the many away from the very presence of sin once and for all eternity. Scripture teaches that Christ may appear “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52). In that moment of His coming appearing, “the dead [who died “in Christ”] will be raised imperishable,” and those believers who are alive at that time “will all be changed,” or instantaneously glorified.
Christ has continually busied Himself on behalf of those He died to redeem. Believer, have you busied yourself for Him in view of the immeasurable blessings of His appearings on your behalf? Do you love Him, and are you serving Him so that you will not be ashamed at His coming? Sinner, have Christ’s appearances captured your heart? Then turn to Him so that you might be delivered from sin and meet Him when He appears to catch away “those who eagerly await Him.” You will not be disappointed.
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