Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:23-28 ESV
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:17 ESV
When people are learning to drive a car, one thing that they might do is use a simulator. A simulator is something that has a driver’s seat, steering wheel, dashboard, mirrors, and everything a real car has. A person using a simulator sees a video of a car moving down a road, and practices driving by doing all the things that have to be done in a real car. People practicing in simulators turn the steering wheel, check the mirrors, use the turn signal, and press the gas pedal and the brake pedal. The simulator can help a new driver feel confident and know what to do in a real car when the time comes to drive one. But a simulator is only a model of a real car, and the person in the simulator doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s a preparation for driving, but it isn’t really driving.
The writer to the Hebrews talked a little like that about the sacrifices made by the priests in the tabernacle and the temple. They were only copies of the heavenly reality of Jesus. The high priests went into the Most Holy Place, but Jesus went into the presence of God. The high priests offered cows and lambs to atone for the sins of the people, but Jesus offered himself. The high priests had to offer the sacrifices in the Most Holy Place every year, but Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and only needed to offer himself once. Everything that was done by the priests in the temple pointed ahead to Jesus and the work he would do on the cross. They were copies of Jesus to help people to look ahead to the promised Savior, and not the real thing.
There are no sacrifices of animals that anyone could ever offer for the forgiveness of our sins. Sometimes we might think that doing good things will please God and earn his forgiveness, but that won’t win his favor either. The only thing that will bring our forgiveness is what Jesus has done for us on the cross. He died to pay the penalty for all our sins, and because of what he has done all our sins are washed away and we have peace with God. When we die, we will face God’s judgment, but we don’t have to worry about that, because Jesus took God’s judgment on himself. When Jesus returns to judge the whole world, we know that for us it will be the happy time that he takes us home to be with him forever, and we wait for that time eagerly.
Dear Jesus, thank you for being the perfect sacrifice that won our forgiveness once and for all. Amen.