Friday, July 17, 2009

Christ's Continual Sacrifice

Gibson, Edgar Charles Sumner. “Hebrews: It Revelation of the Person and Work of Our Lord.” Pages 301-5 in The Official Report of the Church Congress, Held at Wolverhampton, on October 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1887. Edited by C. Dunkley. London: Bembrose, 1887.

Edgar Charles Sumner Gibson (1848-1924), at the time of this address, was Principal of Wells Theological College. He later became Principal of Leeds Clergy School, Vicar of Leeds Parish Church and then finally Bishop of Gloucester in 1905.

In the early church there were two books which viewed this outward and visible world as the shadow of the unseen, heavenly world: Revelation and Hebrews. While the character of the two books is very different, both books give a revelation of the heavenly tabernacle. In Revelation Christ is the eternal sacrifice, the Lamb who was slain; in Hebrews Christ is the eternal high priest seated at the right hand of God.

There are three stages in the life of the Eternal Word: 1) His preexistent life from eternity past; 2) His incarnation on earth; and 3) His glorification subsequent to the ascension. While the first two stages are touched upon, it is the third stage that is the focus of Hebrews. His preexistence is implied in the expressions the “efflugence” of God’s “glory,” and the “exact expression or manifestation” of God’s substance, and by the fact that he was involved in the creation and sustenance of the world. Jesus’ incarnation, which involved temptation, suffering, and death, is the basis for his qualification as priest.

The Old Covenant as mediated through the Law was revealed by angels, inaugurated by Moses, and administered by the Aaronic priests. In the New Covenant all three offices are now united in Christ, whose superiority to all three is demonstrated in turn by the author of Hebrews. The emphasis of Hebrews, however, is on the last of the three, since it is his present, continuous work. “Hence the prominence is given . . . not to the Resurrection . . . but to the Ascension, as marking the point of time when He entered within the veil, and His present unseen work began” (303).

The writer of Hebrews attaches the session with the high priestly work of Christ. While the Levitical priest stands daily continually offering sacrifices, Christ sat down once for all having offered one sacrifice (Heb 10:11-12). His is a royal priesthood (cf. Zech 6:13). Christ’s offering is final, yet if Christ remains a priest he must have something to offer. He enters into the veil through his own blood (9:12). Here is where Gibson makes his most interesting comment:

“It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the writer had before him the conception of our Great High Priest as continuously presenting the blood in the Holy of Holies on high, as Aaron did in the earthly tabernacle. Time is lost sight of altogether. In the sphere of eternal realities it disappears. It is but one continuous action which is spoken of from the Ascension to the Second Advent” (304).

So, whereas Christ’s sacrifice is one, it is also a continuous sacrifice. This is reinforced by the fact that Christ entered once into heaven to appear before God (9:24) “passing through the veil into the unseen, as Aaron into the darkness of the Holy of Holies” (304) but he will appear a second time, apart from sin, to those that await him (9:28). Thus Christ remains hidden behind the veil offering the one, continuous sacrifice of himself, until at which time he will reappear at his parousia.

Even after death the blood was regarded by the Jews as living. Abel’s blood still cried from the ground, but Christ’s blood speaks better than that of Abel (12:24). Blood thus not only represented the death of the victim, it also represents the life of the victim surrendered in death, but now given and consecrated to God. Christ’s sacrifice of Himself is a continuous presentation of His life, as a life that has passed through death, and is now forever an offering and a sacrifice to God. The continual presence of Christ’s blood in heaven becomes the surety for the salvation of humanity whom Christ represents.


  1. it is interesting that we still do not know why there had to be blood sacrifice, and how anything in carnal form can in any way effect the spiritual.

    particularly from one who said "dont be concerned about what kills the body............"

    faith definitely is a gift from heaven.

  2. Perhaps it is a false dichotomy to make a distinction between the physical and spiritual realm.