The Present Work of Christ in Hebrews -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:590 (Apr 1991)
Article: The Present Work of Christ in Hebrews
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Present Work of Christ in Hebrews

David J. MacLeod

Dean of the Graduate Program, Emmaus Bible College
Dubuque, Iowa

Several years ago a number of writers voiced the concern that attention to the present work of Christ has been “largely neglected” by the systematic theologians of the church.1 The authors of the New Testament would not have understood such neglect, for Christ’s present work is one of their most important themes. The purpose of this article is to examine the work of one of those authors, the epistle to the Hebrews, and to outline its contribution to the subject.

There are at least three reasons for such a study. First, to neglect any theme central to apostolic Christianity can impoverish Christians and the church. Second, attention needs to be drawn to some aspects of the subject neglected in earlier studies of Hebrews. Third, it is hoped that the material presented will aid Bible students who teach and write on the Christology of the New Testament.

The Commencement of Christ’s Present Ministry

His Ascension through the Heavens

2 Having accomplished His redemptive work on the cross (Heb 9:12), Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father (13:20).

Subsequently3 He “passed through the heavens” (διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς, 4:14), “a statement which is most important for the theology of Hebrews.”4 The ascension is one of a series of events that marked the beginning5 of Christ’s present ministry. The imagery in 4:14 suggests the Old Testament Day of Atonement when the high priest walked through the outer court into the sanctuary.

His Entrance into the Sanctuary

The Levitical high priest annually entered the earthly holy of holies. Christ, however, at His ascension entered the true holy of holies in heaven (9:24; cf. 6:19; 9:12). The aorist εἰσῆλθεν (“He entered”) and the aorist infinitive ἐμφανισθῆναι (“to appear”) both speak of Christ’s past act of entering...

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