...When He had made purification of sins...(Hebrews 1:3)
Though we will later discuss the reasons as to why Jesus is, from the perspective of His humanity, the sole human capable of inaugurating salvation (cf. Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 7:11-28; 9:1-10:14), we find here a statement regarding the reality of Christ's salvific work in the proposition that "[Jesus] had made purification of sins" (Hebrews 1:3). That is, at the time of the author's writing the epistle to the Hebrews, the act of purification was a past event, and one that Jesus Himself had both brought about and carried out to completion. From our point in history, we may also say that Jesus has made purification of sins, implicating that this past action holds even for the present. Thus, it is not surprising that we read elsewhere in Hebrews that Christ perpetually holds the office of the Great High Priest, as He is a "priest forever" (5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21; see art inserted below).
What the author highlights in verse three with regards to the purification that Jesus made is the absolute and definitive quality that pertains to Christ's offering of Himself as a sacrifice for sin. As will be argued later in the epistle, Jesus Christ has "by one offering perfected for all time those who are sanctified," and, furthermore, "where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin" (10:14, 18). What this entails, then, is the singularity of Christ's sacrifice, the completeness of Christ's sacrifice, and the inability for any other imitation to effectuate these aspects in order to consummate humankind by cleansing us from all sin. For those prior to the coming of the Messiah, the provisional sacrifices of animals by obedience to the Law necessarily looked forward to the one time offering of Jesus, since they could not produce the absolute purification that He would as the one truly pure and spotless Lamb. And, for those to come after Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection, we conclude that there can no longer be any (additional) offering for sin; Jesus has made purification and there is no longer (nor has there ever been) need outside of Him.
If the Levitical sacrifices were insufficient, why should we declare the all-sufficiency of Christ? This question is, in part, an apparent reason for why the epistle to the Hebrews was written. The author provides the answer to this soteriological question by developing a Christology that is consistent with Jesus' reality (i.e., His Person and Work). The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ offering Himself is perfect and complete because in it God Himself directly cleanses our sins. As we will read in Hebrews, Christ is able to cleanse us from all unrighteousness because in Him we see the perfect union of divinity and humanity. In Him we see true innocence. In Him we see true perfection. In Him we have a sinless and eternal Great High Priest. Therefore, we find a means of obtaining ultimate and eternal resolution for the problem that plagues all of humankind, our desparate need to be cleansed from sin. Knowing these things, we are confident that "if we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Jesus lovingly invites us to eat and drink of His body and blood (John 6:35, 51-58), for, the blood of Jesus alone, an offering of Himself by Himself, is able to provide absolute purification. With this in mind, our hearts cannot but overflow with joy, singing in praise to God for the cleansing blood of His Son:
Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Icon of Christ the Great Hight Priest used by permission and is courtesy of Marek Czarnecki at Seraphic Restorations,
(c)MCzarnecki2010. Visit his website at www.seraphicrestorations.com.