The Three Appearances of Jesus

The writer speaks of three appearances of Jesus in 9:24-28. Taken together, they encapsulate His work in bringing many sons and daughters to glory. The writer touches on what happened on earth, what is happening in heaven, and what will happen at the end of history as we know it.

Jesus’ first appearance is spoken of in the last part of v. 26 where the writer tells us, “He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The phrase “culmination of the ages” (“end of the ages”/ESV, “consummation of the ages”/NASB) seems to be a companion phrase to the “last days” of 1:2, where we’re told “in these last days God has spoken through His Son.” Chronologically it refers to the end of the Jewish age (1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Peter 1:20). Conceptually though, it seems quite possible this language is meant to mark Jesus’ entrance into the world as the high point in human history (see Paul do something like this in Galatians 4:4). Jesus appears at the intersection of the ages. Everything that came before looked forward to His coming and everything since has been marked by it. Indeed, history is His story.

The purpose of His coming to earth was “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” He means by that not that Jesus would obliterate sin (it’s still here), but that He would destroy its power over us by making atonement for our sins (2:17). That’s exactly what He did. In His final moments on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (19:30). He was referring to His work of atonement. He had given Himself as a ransom for us. 

There is a forceful finality to what He did. The writer uses the phrase, “once for all” in speaking of it (v. 26—the phrase occurs 5 x’s in Hebrews). He also likens it to the death we die. We will die once, a single time. There is no need for multiple deaths because the first death fully accomplishes our extinction. In the same way, Jesus appeared a single time to take away the sins of the world and at the cross He did just that.

The second appearing of Jesus refers to His appearing in God’s presence (v. 24). Luke speaks to us about Jesus ascending to heaven at the end of his gospel and also at the conclusion of Acts. Paul will tell us that Jesus “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). But it is the Hebrews writer who paints the fullest picture as he tells us that Christ “has entered heaven itself, to appear for us in God’s presence” (v. 24). 

His appearing before God is inextricably connected to what He accomplished at His first appearing. There He made atonement for our sins and in heaven, He intercedes for us before the Father on the basis of His cross work. John will speak of Him as being “an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:2).

The third appearing the writer speaks of hasn’t taken place yet. It is Jesus appearing at the end of time. The New Testament is full of this promise, and I think it’s fair to say that first-century disciples probably lived with a greater sense of expectancy concerning the return of Jesus than we do. 

The writer tells us that Christ won’t be returning to become our Savior—He’s already that. He will be coming back “to bring salvation” or “to save those” (ESV) who are “eagerly waiting for Him.” Think of it like this, Jesus paid the price for us in His first appearing. When returns, it will be to take us home. Our physical bodies will be resurrected and as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Immediate after that, he says, “Therefore, encourage one another with these words” (v. 18). 

Those are encouraging words, aren’t they? 



Published by A Taste of Grace with Bruce Green

I grew up the among the cotton fields, red clay and aerospace industry of north Alabama. My wife and I are blessed with three adult children and five grandchildren.

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