Purification of Sins

A key point of the Letter to Hebrews is the victory of the Son on behalf of his people, and his exalted position at the “right hand” of God as their High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek.” He alone secured what none of his predecessors did or could. Through his self-sacrificial death, he “achieved the purification of sins,” then he “sat down” in the “true and greater Tabernacle” in God’s very presence where now he intercedes for his saints.

The logic is clear. The “Son” sits on the Throne of grace BECAUSE he achieved the “purification of sins” and dealt definitively with sin’s stain. Consequently, he was appointed the “High Priest” of his people. The opening declaration anticipates the later discussions about his priesthood and “better” sacrifice.

Clean water - Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
[Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash]

For example, in Chapter 2 the Letter details the priestly qualifications of the Son. He partook of human nature in every way, including mortality, only “
apart from sin.” Through his sacrificial death, he disarmed the Devil and freed his “brethren” from bondage to the “fear of death.” In this way, he became the “faithful and sympathetic” High Priest for his saints. In Chapter 10, we read of his nonrepeatable and “once for all” sacrifice for sins - (Hebrews 2:5-18, 10:1-29).

Though the image of him sitting “at God’s right hand” is drawn from the second Psalm, the emphasis in Hebrews is not on his exaltation as the messianic King, but his appointment as High Priest – (Compare Hebrews 7:25).

It is no accident that the passage refers to the “purification of sins” rather than their forgiveness. The language reflects the Levitical system with its sacrifices that were designed to remove ritual impuritIES. The image of a priestly figure who “sits down” at God’s right-hand echoes the annual Day of Atonement but WITH A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE.

Under the “former” covenant, the High Priest entered the Sanctuary only once each year on the Day of Atonement, and he neversat down or remained in the Holy of Holies for more than a brief period. In contrast, the “Son” entered the true Sanctuary “once-for-all” and “sat down” where he now remains interceding for the Assembly.

This modified picture stresses the finality of his high priestly act. He will remain in his Father’s presence until God again “introduces the firstborn Son into the habitable earth.


The term “sat down” in the opening paragraph alludes to another key passage, once again from the Psalms, a text that prophetically summoned the Messiah and “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek” to do this very thing:

  • Yahweh said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” - (Psalm 110:1. Compare Hebrews 12:1-2).
  • We have such a high priest who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched not man” - (Hebrews 8:1-2).
  • And every priest indeed stands day by day ministering and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, the which can never put away sins. But he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins once-for-all, sat down on the right hand of God - (Hebrews 10:11-12).

The passage in Chapter 10 contrasts the position of the Aaronic priests with that of the “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.” The ancient priests “stood” in the Sanctuary while performing their duties but Jesus “sat down” in the Greater Tabernacle “not made with hands,” namely, the very presence of God “in the Heavens.”

The repeated animal sacrifices performed by the Aaronic priests were and remain incapable of “putting away” the stain of sin or cleansing the conscience, but the one-time sacrifice of the Son did exactly that, and “once-for-all.”

Especially for these reasons - the removal of sin’s stain and his intercession for his people - the “Word of the Son” is supreme over all others, surpassing even the word given “in the prophets” or mediated through “the angels” to the greatest of the prophets, Moses. To discard and abandon the “word spoken” in Jesus is, therefore, a transgression of the worst kind.


His Superior Word