Once For All
January 10th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
ONCE FOR ALL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-10-60 10:50 a.m.
To you who listen on the radio, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Once for All. In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the Book of Hebrews. It is only this morning that I realized that I have been preaching in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews for five months; in this one chapter. I have two more sermons remaining: the sermon tonight and the sermon next Sunday morning. And I tell you truly, were it not for the persuasion that I ought to go on, that there be some kind of movement in this program of preaching, I would stay months longer in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. I have come to see in it, beyond anything I have ever found, in a like passage in the Word of God. Now the sermon this morning begins at the twenty-fourth verse and goes to the end of the chapter. Hebrews 9:24-28:
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the Holy Place every year with blood of others;
For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So 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, apart from sin unto salvation.
Just in passing, are these not three marvelous appearances mentioned here? One in the past: “In the end of the age He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26]. At the end of the old dispensation, the old covenant, in the fullness of time He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself [Hebrews 9:26]. And in the present: “Now He appears in the presence of God for us,” our great intercessory High Priest [Hebrews 9:24]. And the third appearance, in the future: “Unto them that wait for Him, that look for Him, shall He appear the second time apart from sin,” no cross, no crown of thorns, no agony in the garden, “apart from sin shall He appear,” the great coronation day of the people of God, “without sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:28].
But in that text, and not only in this text, but throughout the Book of Hebrews, there is a word that appears like the reappearing of a note in the organ, underneath the great tumultuous music. It is a note that is repeated. This author uses it nine different times. It’s like the pealing of a great sound, announcement, trumpet call through the ages, proclaiming to the worlds of God above and below the great finished redemptive work of our Lord. And that word is “once”: once for all. It brings to our hearts the passage of Scripture that you just read from the fevered, parched lips of our Savior: He cried, announcing to angels above and devils below and the world of the generations of men, He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished,” John 19:30. Not often can a man look over the life’s work assigned him and say, “It is finished.” So often does the chisel drop from the palsied, paralyzed hand of the sculptor before the statue is finished. So many times the cold, pulseless, lifeless fingers refuse to push the pen one word more, and the book is not done. How many times does the great statesman see somebody else take up the work that he dreamed of and did begin, because he’s taken from the earth, and his work is unfinished? But when our Lord died, bowed His head, cried with a loud voice “It is finished,” He had done, He had accomplished, He had achieved that great, holy redemptive purpose for which He came into the world [John 9:30].
And that summary of the ministry and atonement of our Christ is summed up in this oft-repeated word in the epistle to the Hebrews, “once”; once for all, once finally, once decisively, once eternally, once forever and forever. As in Hebrews 7:27, our great, great Redeemer, our High Priest “needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, then for the people’s: but this He did once, when He offered up Himself” [Hebrews 7:27]. And the words of my text, “But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26]. Then He illustrates it, “As it is appointed unto men once to die . . . so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” [Hebrews 9:27-28]. And again, in Hebrews 10:10, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, and forever.”
Now the tenor, the following of the sermon this morning is just the text, word by word: “But now once in the end of the age [Hebrews 9:26] . . . Not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the Holy Place every year with blood of others; For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world” [Hebrews 9:25-26]. That would be the most impossible, indescribable, unspeakable sadness that mind could dream or think of: that our Lord again and again and again must suffer and die and be crucified [Matthew 27:32-50]. Think of the enormity of such an imperfected work: every year the agony in the garden [Luke 22:44], every year the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29], every year the cry of the cross [Matthew 27:46], every year the pouring out of His blood [John 19:34], every year the sad burial in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-61]; it is unthinkable. It would cast over our world a midnight of sadness that would be impenetrable and indescribable. How triumphantly, gloriously does the author say, “But now once, once!” [Hebrews 9:26].
For our Lord to die again and again would be to advertise to the angels above and the devils below the imperfection of His work. Not finished, not done, must be redone, and yet done again, every year the shedding of blood. In those sacrifices, says the author, year after year, there is a remembrance again of sins [Hebrews 10:3]; for the sacrifice was unable to wash away sin, and had to be done again. And that could not suffice for the atonement of the stain of the soul; it had to be done again. “It is not possible,” he says, “that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin” [Hebrews 10:4]. Our Lord’s sacrifice was once, and once for all, once forever, once eternally. It is a completed and finished redemption! [Hebrews 10:10]. No tear of mine is needed, no sigh or groan of my soul; no mourning, or bowing, or praying, or pleading, or begging; it is a finished work, and I receive it! It is a gift of God; I can add nothing to it. It needs nothing for its finishing and consummation and completion. It is done, once and for all! [John 19:30].
“But now once in the end of the world,” you have it translated; the Greek word is aion, here used in the plural, “once in the end of the age,” once in the fullness of time, once at the end of that dispensation, at the end of that covenant, at the end of that appointed time, “once at the end of the ages did Christ appear to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26]; at the end of the age. Time is an accommodation to finite and human thought; it is a parenthesis in the eternities of God. Time is a created thing like space, or distance, or matter; time is a thing, it does not belong to eternity, it belongs to the world and to man. We break time up into hours and days and years. God breaks time up into ages and the ages.
I would think most of you have been out to the Grand Canyon and have listened to the ranger, park rangers, as they will lecture to you about the geological ages of the canyon. No place in the earth where can be seen the vast, immeasurable distances of time in the laying down of those great strata that you can see in the walls of the canyon. The Colorado River is cutting its place through great cliffs of black basalt rock. The ranger will tell you that that black basalt rock one time were great mountains over seven miles high, and in the ages and the ages they were gradually worn down to the level in which you now see them. Then over those ages of the basalt, there came all of those ages that the geologic surveys and studies and teachings love to enumerate. They divide them into five great periods. There will be the Proterozoic, then next will be the Paleozoic, then next will be the Mesozoic, then next will be the Cenozoic, then next will be the Quaternary or the post-Tertiary. All of those geological ages they will describe to you in the walls of the canyon. They will say to you that if we liken time to the Empire State Building in New York, one thousand two hundred fifty feet tall, that the age of mankind, the story of humanity, is just as though you put a nickel on the top of that great building; the rest of it is the geological age of God, and the age of all mankind would be just the thinness of a nickel in comparison. And the story of America would be like putting a piece of tissue paper on top. They befuddle you and confound you with the illimitable, immeasurable years of the eternities of God.
That is the Lord, the Ancient of Days [Daniel 7:9, 13]; a thousand years on His clock are but as a moment, as a second of time. And as the Lord God built up this world through the passing of its successive ages, so God has built up the great program of redemption through the passage of the ages. And at the end of its appointed time, at the end of its age, at the end of its old covenant, the end of that old dispensation, our Lord appeared! [Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4]. No happenstance, no accident, no adventitious development, no fortuitous historical occurrence; according to the plan of God before the foundation of the first stratum of rock was laid, according to the eternal elective purpose of Him who sitteth above the heavens [Isaiah 40:22], and to whom the nations of the earth are but fine dust in the balance [Isaiah 40:15], according to the Ancient of Days in His purpose for us, our Lord appeared, phaneroo, was manifested [1 Timothy 3:16]. That refers to His incarnation [John 1:14]; it refers ultimately to the preexistence of the Son of God in the ages of the eternities [John 8:58]. And in God’s time, at the end of that covenant, the old dispensation, our Lord appeared; He was incarnate [Philippians 2:7].
He appeared for a purpose. “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me [Hebrews 10:5] . . . Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God [Hebrews 10:7]. By which will, by which elective purpose in heaven, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” [Heb 10:10]. The purpose of our Lord’s coming into this world was to be given a prepared body [Hebrews 10:5]. And the purpose of that prepared body was that through incarnation, through birth, He might die a sacrifice for our sins [Matthew 1:21-25; Hebrews 10:9-10]. And when a man describes the coming into this earth, the incarnation, the nativity of our Lord [Luke 2:8-16] we’ve just celebrated, as the elective purpose of God, that He might have a body to offer for our sins, he announces the gospel of the Son of God [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. That is the great revelation from heaven: He appeared at the end of the age to put away sin, to put away sin, atheteō [Hebrews 9:26], to nullify it [Colossians 2:14]; to cancel it; to make it as though it were not; as though a man paid a debt and there’s no more debt; as though the note were cancelled and there’s no more mortgage; like the sacrifice of the Old Testament, and the blood washed away the transgression [Hebrews 10:4]; to take our sin and to nullify it, bury it in the depths of the sea [Micah 7:19], blot it out like a thick cloud [Isaiah 44:22], remove it as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12], take it out of memory as though it never, ever was [Isaiah 43:25]; to take away sin. He drew into Himself, upon Himself, all of the guilt of the world of all humanity [1 John 2:2]; and as we died in the federal head of the race, the first Adam, so we live in the new head of our spiritual race, Jesus Christ, the second Adam [1 Corinthians 15:22]. He came to do what Adam could not do: to bring back to us the Paradise of God, the tree of life, the fellowship of angels, to live in His presence world without end; to put away sin, cancel it, negate it, nullify it, pay the penalty for it, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself [Hebrews 9:26].
“By the sacrifice of Himself”; then not by His example, fair and beautiful as it is; then not by the marvelous words that He spake, food for our souls as they are; then not by His incomparable works, the fountainhead and inspiration of all philanthropy and altruism; by the sacrifice of Himself [Hebrews 9:26]. When He spake, it was incidental. When He lived beautifully, it was incidental. When He did works of marvelous love and mercy, they were incidental, they were peripheral. The great central purpose of the coming of the Son of God into the world was to die for our sins, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26], to offer Himself an atonement for our souls [Romans 5:11; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2].
Do you remember—I tried my best in this book, this chapter—do you remember I have said so many times what God did in the old Mosaic legislation, giving us the tabernacle, the altar, the laver, the showbread, the lampstand, the golden altar of prayer, the veil, the mercy seat, and the ark holding the Ten Commandments; do you remember I tried to say and to teach, what God was doing in that was teaching us a language by which we could understand the thoughts of heaven and the purposes of God [Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1]. We were as untaught, unlettered, unlearned children, and God had to teach us a language first, before He could speak to us the great redemptive thoughts and purposes of God. Now, when God teaches us that language, there is a purpose in it and a reason for it. And when I come across in this Book of Hebrews, when I come across the word “sacrifice,” when I come across the word “propitiation,” when I come across the word “atonement,” when I come across the word “expiation,” I have been taught the meaning of that word by the legislative rituals given from God to Moses. And what atonement meant in the Book of Leviticus, it means here in the Book of Hebrews. And what propitiation and expiation mean in the Book of Leviticus, it means here in the Book of Hebrews. And what sacrifice means in the Book of Leviticus, it means here in the Book of Hebrews. I have learned its language, and its meaning, having been taught as a teacher would teach a child, by symbols, and diagrams, and types, and examples, I have been taught what these words mean.
In the Book of Leviticus, sacrifice meant, sacrifice meant the substitution, the substitution of something for somebody; an animal was slain instead of the man [Leviticus 1:4]. The man was judged of God, the man was guilty, the man was serving under the sentence of death; but the man brought, in his sin, in his guilt, in his transgression, in his shortcoming, the man brought an animal, the best of the flock, without spot and blemish, tied it to the horns of the altar, knelt and confessed over the head of the victim all of the sins and transgressions of his soul; then the animal was slain, and its blood poured out at the base of the altar, and its carcass offered a burnt offering unto the Lord. That’s what sacrifice was in the Book of Leviticus.
And that’s what God taught us to understand by the word “sacrifice” in the great end of the age, when He sent His Son to die in our stead [1 Peter 3:18]: it was a substitutionary sacrifice, atonement, expiation, propitiation, for you! [1 John 2:2]. Had it not been for the atoning mercy and love and death of Christ, you would receive in your soul the damnation of the judgment of your sins forever and forever! [John 3:36]. Our Lord took upon Himself our guilt, and He died in our stead [Hebrews 9:28]. That’s what the word “sacrifice” meant in Leviticus; and that’s what the word “sacrifice” means today, here in the Book of Hebrews.
In Leviticus, sin was washed away by the spilling out of blood [Leviticus 1:4]. As He says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” [Hebrews 9:22]. All things were sanctified and purified by the pouring out of life [Hebrews 9:22]. And that’s what he means when he says that our Lord “came into the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26]. He died in your stead. He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. “God made Him to be sin, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He loved me, and gave Himself for me [Galatians 3:20]. He died in our stead. That was the picture of the sacrifice. That was the meaning of the sacrifice.
What is the death of Christ? “A martyrdom,” says the modernist theologian. What is the death of Christ? “A mishap, a misadventure, a historical tragedy,” says the reviewer. What is the death of Christ? “It is,” says the liberal preacher, “it is an example of what happens to any man who tries to confront and battle evil.” What is the death of Christ? “A sacrifice!” thunders the Word of God and the revelation of heaven! [Hebrews 9:26]. No heroic martyrdom in it, no wonderful, incomparable example. “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:3], says the apostle Paul. And that is the preaching of the gospel.
Incidentally, He is a marvelous example. Incidentally, He is the paragon of excellence. Incidentally, He is the fairest of ten thousand. But the great central elective purpose of God is this: the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. “He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:26].
And that is a finished and completed work [John 19:30]. If I pray, it ought to be, “Lord, that I might love Thee more, and serve Thee better, for what You have done for me.” If I sing it, ought to be, “O praise the Lamb. He took our sins, and bore them in His own body on the tree, bless His name. Bless His name” [1 Peter 2:24]. And if I testify, it ought to be, “Oh, my heart overflows to God for the abounding mercy that saved a wretch like me” [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5]. In nowise and in no sense should my tears, or my songs, or my praise, or my works be in order to buy or purchase from God the forgiveness of our sins! But my tears ought to be tears of gratitude, and my prayers ought to be thanksgiving, and my words and my testimony ought to be, “Glory, glory, glory, what Jesus has done for me! Unto Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God” [Revelation 1:5-6]. That is the Christian faith: once for all, once for all, forever and ever, efficacious, able, mighty to save [Hebrews 10:12].
Once for all, oh, sinner, receive it,
Once for all, oh, brother, believe it:
Cling to the cross, cling to the cross
Your burdens will fall,
Christ hath redeemed us, once for all.
[“Once For All,” Philip P. Bliss]
While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give his heart to Jesus; somebody you coming into the fellowship of the church; would you make it now, this morning, this hour? The great throng of people in this balcony round, there’s a stairwell at the back on both sides, there’s a stairway at the front on both sides; coming down one of these stairways, “Preacher, here I am, and here I come, looking away from myself, looking unto Jesus.”
“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other” Isaiah 45:22. On this lower floor, a family you, or one somebody you, into the fellowship of the church, by letter or statement or baptism; a family, or just one you, however God would say, the Spirit lead the way, God open the door, would you come? Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
A. Three appearances of
Christ (Hebrews 9:24, 26, 28)
B. A note repeated
throughout the book – “once”(John 19:30)
C. The “once” of a completed
work (Hebrews 7:27, 9:26-28, 10:10)
II. “Every year with blood of others”(Hebrews 9:25, 10:3)
A. Unspeakable sadness
if the Lord was to die again and again
Lord’s sacrifice was once for all, forever(Hebrews
10:4, John 19:30)
III. “In the end of the world”(Hebrews 9:26)
in the end of theaion, age, in the fullness of time did Christ appear to
put away sin
Time is a created thing; belongs to the world and to man
1. God breaks up time
into ages and ages
IV. “Hath He appeared”(Hebrews 9:26)
to His incarnation, the embodiment in visible form of Him who existed before
He appeared for a purpose(Hebrews 10:5-10)
V. “To put away sin”(Hebrews 9:26)
A. Atheteo – “to
nullify, make null and void”
drew upon Himself all the guilt of all humanity(1
VI. “By the sacrifice of Himself”
by His example, His words, His works, but by His sacrifice
of Mosaic revelation to teach us language of heaven(Hebrews
9:22, 26, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
What is the death of Christ?(1 Corinthians 15:3)
His finished and complete work (Revelation 1:5-6,
13:8, Hebrews 9:26)