November 18 2012 Sermon
Hebrews 10:11 And every priest stands adaily at his service, boffering repeatedly the same sacrifices, cwhich can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ1 had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he asat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time auntil his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering ahe has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 a”This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, a”I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 aTherefore, brothers,1 since we have confidence to enter bthe holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by athe new and living way that he opened for us through bthe curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have aa great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts asprinkled clean bfrom an evil conscience and our bodies cwashed with pure water. 23 aLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for bhe who promised is faithful. 24 And alet us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 anot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see cthe Day drawing near. (Heb 10:11 ESV)
The temple in Jerusalem was the house where God dwelt. There, and there alone, were sacrifices offered. However, the priests could not enter the holy of holies in the interior of the temple because that was the very dwelling place of God and his holiness would consume any man who entered there. One day each year the high priest alone could pass through the veil that closed off the holy of holies and enter. The veil was a huge curtain six inches thick that shut off the holy of holies so that no one not even the priests could enter in. For if any unclean person entered, he would be destroyed by the holiness of God.
Outside the holy of holies, the priests stood daily, three hundred and sixty five days of the year, offering a morning and an evening sacrifice for the sins of the people. Every day there were still more sins so the sacrifices were never ending.
But when Christ offered himself as the sacrifice for sins, all sin past, present, and future, was atoned for by his single sacrifice, and then he entered the holy of holies of heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. The priests, the sacrifices, the temple, were but copies of heavenly the reality. The reality was Jesus Christ. By his one, single offering he perfected for all time those who are being sanctified—you and I, his bride.
It is finished! Done and over! All sins are forgiven. So now the daily sacrifices have come to an end, because “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
And since there is no longer any sacrifice, there is no need for a temple. Jesus says in our Gospel reading, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” He said Jerusalem would be destroyed, and in fact, in the year 70 ad, Roman armies led by the future Emperor Titus besieged Jerusalem, destroying the temple and burning the whole city to the ground.
But “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been.” Says the prophet Daniel (12:1). Jesus said, “Many will come in my name and lead many astray. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But this is not the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes and famines. This is just the beginning. They will deliver you over to councils and you will be beaten and brought to trial and delivered over to the executioner. Brother will deliver brother to death and the father his child and the children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13). The times Jesus spoke of are today. Current events reveal that tribulation and persecution have begun and will continue to worsen. Already freedom of religion has come under attack in our country. Freedom of speech is being curtailed and with it the freedom to proclaim Christ. We are living in a post-Christian society that is more and more opposed to Christ every day. Dr. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has written: “…we face not only the decline, but the very demise of America as a republic of free people…The assault which threatens the Republic…is being waged on two fronts….militant Islamists and radical secularism. … The U. S. Constitution and particularly the First Amendment were constructed …to protect …religious citizens from the encroachment of federal power. Now we live, since 1947 , with precisely the opposite reality.” Senator Coburn from Oklahoma, writes, “…the mainstream media [is] dominated by a political correctness that requires the truth to be suppressed in order to accommodate a secularist ideology.” And also, “Since  the courts have expanded this secularist theme in an attempt to scrub any trace of Christian heritage out of American public life. The secularists and jihadist have practically nothing in common except a shared disdain for American Christian heritage.”
The fact is, each and every day there are fewer and fewer believers in Christ in our country as it becomes increasingly more difficult to live as Christians in an ever more hostile society. Church attendance dwindles as people turn away from faith. In the future the church will become more impoverished and Christians will become a marginalized sub-class of society. In our life-time we have grown accustomed to luxury and affluence. But now the tribulation is occurring and the affluence and success the church has experienced over the past two hundred years is coming to an end. Some of us will not endure these hard times to come. Will your faith survive?
But while this picture is grim, God gives us great consolation in his Word. Daniel tells us that Michael, the great prince who has charge over the people of God, shall arise.” That is to say, “Jesus is coming to save us.” “At that time everyone whose name is found written in the book of life shall be delivered. And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life but others to everlasting shame. But those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above.” (Dan 12:1-3). Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father so “The gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.” (Mat 16).
Even as our lives in this world become more dismal, God is using these difficult times to turn our hearts away from the fleeting things of the world and set them on the eternal treasures which await us when Christ returns. Our text from the Book of Hebrews is a message of consolation and hope. It is his grace and promise of salvation. Persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations are indeed blessings from God. It is through them that He is turning our hearts back to Him. Through them he is sanctifying us whom he has perfected by his sacrifice on the cross. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will not pass away,” he promises. (Mar 13:21). Christ himself has entered into the holy of holies and is sitting at the right hand of God until “all his enemies are made a footstool beneath his feet,” (Heb 10) in order to preserve his church,. The enemies of his church will be subdued. They will become a footstool beneath his feet. When the gospel is proclaimed to all nations He will come again to save us. (Mark 13:10). He who endures to the end shall be saved.
“So hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23). Our faith is in Christ, the Lamb who was slain and was the offering for sin. This is the consolation we have in these evil times; our sins have been paid for. The blood of the Lamb is the offering for our sin and we now stand holy and blameless in the presence of God. This is our confession which gives us confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. Because he is the new and living way through the curtain to the holy of holies. Once the holy of holies was separated by a curtain that no man could pass through, but now the flesh of Christ is the way through the curtain into the kingdom of heaven. We can see this right here in the church. The altar in front stands for the ark of the covenant which was placed inside the holy of holies. The holy of holies itself was the dwelling place of God, heaven. The communion rail in our church stands in place of the curtain that no one could pass through. The curtain represented the sin and iniquity that separated us from God. But you notice that the communion rail is opened! It is no longer closed, because the body and blood of Christ which we receive at this rail is the new and living way to enter through the curtain into the holy of holies; into God’s dwelling place in the heavens. Your sins that once separated you from God have been forgiven. The gates of heaven have been opened to all who have faith in Christ. Now we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. So let us draw near with a true heart and in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water in Baptism.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Heb 10:23-24). For the days are evil and the peril is great. But let not one single child of God fall away, rather stir up one another to love that his faith may not fail. “Do not neglect to meet together as some have already done. Rather, encourage one another.” (Heb 10:25). Your presence here today is encouragement to all the rest. Look out for each other’s faith. Hold each other up as you see him begin to fall. Talk among yourselves and encourage each other to stay the course and be constant in worship around God’s means of Grace. When someone is not in church, give them a call to encourage them. Invite them to remain in the fellowship of God’s saints. For you need one another. Any member of Christ’s body that is weak or missing hurts the entire body.
And do this all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For the night is gloomy and the times evil, and we will all need the strength of each other more and more so as the day of Christ nears. As we wait and watch for Christ to come, we dedicate ourselves, our lives, our time, our resources to mutual encouragement in the faith, to helping one another, and to proclaiming the gospel to all nations for then and only then will he be able to come.
And do not lose faith, for on that day all his enemies will be placed under his feet as a footstool. “Who shall separate us form the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long, we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 12:35-37).