Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Hebrews 9:28

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

So Christ was once offered - He shall die no more; he has borne away the sins of many, and what he has done once shall stand good for ever. Yet he will appear a second time without sin, χωρις ἁμαρτιας, without a sin-offering; That he has already made.

Unto salvation - To deliver the bodies of believers from the empire of death, to reunite them to their purified souls, and bring both into his eternal glory. This is salvation, and the very highest of which the human being is capable. Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus! Hallelujah!

1. In the preceding notes I have given my reasons for dissenting from our translation of the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses. Many learned men are of the same opinion; but I have not met with one who appears to have treated the whole in a more satisfactory manner than Dr. Macknight, and for the edification of my readers I shall here subjoin the substance of what he has written on this point.

" Hebrews 9:15. Mediator of the new covenant. See Hebrews 8:7. The word διαθηκη, here translated covenant, answers to the Hebrew word berith, which all the translators of the Jewish Scriptures have understood to signify a covenant. The same signification our translators have affixed to the word διαθηκη, as often as it occurs in the writings of the evangelists and apostles, except in the history of the institution of the supper, and in 2 Corinthians 3:6; : and Hebrews 7:22, and in the passage under consideration; in which places, copying the Vulgate version, they have rendered διαθηκη by the word testament. Beza, following the Syriac Version, translates διαθηκη everywhere by the words foedas, pactum, except in the 16th, 17th, and 20th verses of this chapter, where likewise following the Syriac version, he has testamentum. Now if καινη διαθηκη, the new testament, in the passages above mentioned, means the Gospel covenant, as all interpreters acknowledge, παλαια διαθηκη, the old testament, 2 Corinthians 3:14, and πρωτη διαθηκη, the first testament, Hebrews 9:15, must certainly be the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, as is evident also from Hebrews 9:20. On this supposition it may be asked,

  1. In what sense the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, which required perfect obedience to all its precepts under penalty of death, and allowed no mercy to any sinner, however penitent, can be called a testament, which is a deed conferring something valuable on a person who may accept or refuse it, as he thinks fit? Besides, the transaction at Sinai, in which God promised to continue the Israelites in Canaan, on condition they refrained from the wicked practices of the Canaanites, and observed his statutes, Lev. 18, can in no sense be called a testament.
  • If the law of Moses be a testament, and if, to render that testament valid, the death of the testator be necessary, as the English translators have taught us, Hebrews 9:16, I ask who it was that made the testament of the law? Was it God or Moses? And did either of them die to render it valid?
  • I observe that even the Gospel covenant is improperly called a testament, because, notwithstanding all its blessings were procured by the death of Christ, and are most freely bestowed, it lost any validity which, as a testament, it is thought to have received by the death of Christ, when he revived again on the third day.
  • The things affirmed in the common translation of Hebrews 9:15, concerning the new testament, namely, that it has a Mediator; that that Mediator is the Testator himself; that there were transgressions of a former testament, for the redemption of which the Mediator of the new testament died; and, Hebrews 9:19, that the first testament was made by sprinkling the people in whose favor it was made with blood; are all things quite foreign to a testament. For was it ever known in any nation that a testament needed a mediator? Or that the testator was the mediator of his own testament? Or that it was necessary the testator of a new testament should die to redeem the transgressions of a former testament? Or that any testament was ever made by sprinkling the legatees with blood? These things however were usual in covenants. They had mediators who assisted at the making of them, and were sureties for the performance of them. They were commonly ratified by sacrifices, the blood of which was sprinkled on the parties; withal, if any former covenant was infringed by the parties, satisfaction was given at the making of a second covenant.
  • By calling Christ the Mediator of the new testament our thoughts are turned away entirely from the view which the Scriptures give us of his death as a sacrifice for sin; whereas, if he is called the Mediator of the new covenant, which is the true translation of διαθηκης καινης μεσιτης, that appellation directly suggests to us that the new covenant was procured and ratified by his death as a sacrifice for sin. Accordingly Jesus, on account of his being made a priest by the oath of God, is said to be the Priest or Mediator of a better covenant than that of which the Levitical priests were the mediators. I acknowledge that in classical Greek διαθηκη, commonly signifies a testament. Yet, since the Seventy have uniformly translated the Hebrew word berith, which properly signifies a covenant, by the word διαθηκη, in writing Greek the Jews naturally used διαθηκη for συνθηκη as our translators have acknowledged by their version of Hebrews 10:16. To conclude: Seeing in the verses under consideration διαθηκη may be translated a covenant; and seeing, when so translated, these verses make a better sense, and agree better with the scope of the apostle's reasoning than if it were translated a testament; we can be at no loss to know which translation of διαθηκη in these verses ought to be preferred. Nevertheless, the absurdity of a phraseology to which readers have been long accustomed, without attending distinctly to its meaning, does not soon appear.
  • "He is the Mediator. Here it is remarkable that Jesus is not called διαθεμενος, the Testator, but μεσιτης, the Mediator, of the new covenant; first, because he procured the new covenant for mankind, in which the pardon of sin is promised; for, as the apostle tells us, his death, as a sacrifice for sin, is the consideration on account of which the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant is granted. Secondly, because the new covenant having been ratified as well as procured by the death of Christ, he is fitly called the Mediator of that covenant in the same sense that God's oath is called, Hebrews 6:17, the mediator, or confirmor, of his promise. Thirdly, Jesus, who died to procure the new covenant, being appointed by God the high priest thereof, to dispense his blessings, he is on that account also called, Hebrews 8:6, the mediator of that better covenant.

    Hebrews 9:16. For where a covenant (is made by sacrifice), there is a necessity that the death of the appointed sacrifice be produced. This elliptical expression must be completed, if, as is probable, the apostle had now in his eye the covenant which God made with Noah and Abraham. His covenant is recorded, Genesis 8:20, where we are told, that on coming out of the ark Noah offered a burnt-offering of every clean beast and fowl. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor. And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground, neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done. This promise or declaration God called his covenant with men, and with every living creature. Genesis 9:9, Genesis 9:10. In like manner God made a covenant with Abraham by sacrifice, Genesis 15:9, Genesis 15:18, and with the Israelites at Sinai, Exodus 24:8. See also Psalm 50:5. By making his covenants with men in this manner, God taught them that his intercourses with them were all founded on an expiation afterwards to be made for their sins by the sacrifice of the seed of the woman, the bruising of whose heel, or death, was foretold at the fall. On the authority of these examples, the practice of making covenants by sacrifice prevailed among the Jews; Jeremiah 34:18; Zechariah 9:11; and even among the heathens; for they had the knowledge of these examples by tradition. Stabant et caesa jungebant foedera porca; Virgil, Aeneid, viii. 611. Hence the phrases, foedus ferire and percutere, to strike or kill the covenant.

    "There is a necessity that the death του διαθεμενου, of the appointed. Here we may supply either the word θυματος, sacrifice, or ζωου, animal, which might be either a calf, a goat, a bull, or any other animal which the parties making the covenant chose. Διαθεμενου is the participle of the second aorist of the middle voice of the verb διατιθημι, constituo, I appoint. Wherefore its primary and literal signification is, of the appointed. Our translators have given the word this sense, Luke 22:29; Καγω διατιθεμαι ὑμιν, καθως διετιθετο μοι ὁ Πατηρ μου, βασιλειαν . And I appoint to you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed to me a kingdom.

    "Be brought in; Θανατον αναγκη φερεσθαι του διαθεμενου, Elsner, vol. ii., p. 381, has shown that the word φερεσθαι is sometimes used in a forensic sense for what is produced, or proved, or made apparent in a court of judicature. Wherefore the apostle's meaning is, that it is necessary the death of the appointed sacrifice be brought in, or produced, at the making of the covenant. In the margin of our Bibles this clause is rightly translated, be brought in. See Acts 25:7, where φεροντες is used in the forensic sense.

    Hebrews 9:17. A covenant is firm over dead sacrifices; Επι νεκροις . Νεκροις being an adjective, it must have a substantive agreeing with it, either expressed or understood. The substantive understood in this place, I think, is θυμασι, sacrifices; for which reason I have supplied it in the translation. Perhaps the word ζωοις, animals, may be equally proper; especially as, in the following clause, διαθεμενος is in the gender of the animals appointed for the sacrifice. Our translators have supplied the word ανθρωποις, men, and have translated επι νεκροις, after men are dead, contrary to the propriety of the phrase.

    "It never hath force whilst the appointed liveth; Ὁτε ζῃ ὁ διαθεμενος . Supply μοσχος, or τραγος, or ταυρος· whilst the calf, or goat, or bull, appointed for the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. The apostle having, in Hebrews 9:15, showed that Christ's death was necessary as ὁ Μεσιτης, the Mediator, that is, the procurer, and ratifier of the new covenant, he in the 16th and 17th verses observes that, since God's covenants with men were all ratified by sacrifice to show that his intercourses with men are founded on the sacrifice of his Son, it was necessary that the new covenant itself should be ratified by his Son's actually dying as a sacrifice.

    1. "The faultiness of the common translation of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 20th verses of this chapter having been already shown in the notes, nothing needs be added here, except to call the reader's attention to the propriety and strength of the apostle's reasoning, as it appears in the translation of these verses which I have given, compared with his reasoning as represented in the common version."
  • It is supposed that in Hebrews 9:28, the apostle, in speaking about Christ's bearing the sins of many, alludes to the ceremony of the scape goat. This mysterious sacrifice was to be presented to God, Leviticus 16:7, and the sins of the people were to be confessed over the head of it, Leviticus 16:21, and after this the goat was dismissed into a land uninhabited, laden, as the institution implied, with the sins of the people; and this the word ανενεγκειν, to bear or carry away, seems to imply. So truly as the goat did metaphorically bear away the sins of the many, so truly did Christ literally bear the punishment due to our sins; and in reference to every believer, has so borne them away that they shall never more rise in judgment against him.
  • In Christ's coming, or appearing the second time, it is very probable, as Dr. Doddridge and others have conjectured, that there is an allusion to the return of the high priest from the inner tabernacle; for, after appearing there in the presence of God, and making atonement for the people in the plain dress of an ordinary priest, Leviticus 16:23, Leviticus 16:24, he came out arrayed in his magnificent robes, to bless the people, who waited for him in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. "But there will be this difference," says Dr. Macknight, "between the return of Christ to bless his people, and the return of the high priest to bless the congregation. The latter, after coming out of the most holy place, made a new atonement in his pontifical robes for himself and for the people, Leviticus 16:24, which showed that the former atonement was not real but typical. Whereas Jesus, after having made atonement, (and presented himself in heaven, before God), will not return to the earth for the purpose of making himself a sacrifice the second time; but having procured an eternal redemption for us, by the sacrifice of himself once offered, he will return for the purpose of declaring to them who wait for him that they are accepted, and of bestowing on them the great blessing of eternal life. This reward he, being surrounded with the glory of the Father, Matthew 16:27, will give them in the presence of an assembled universe, both as their King and their Priest. This is the great salvation which Christ came to preach, and which was confirmed to the world by them who heard him: Hebrews 2:3." Reader, lay this sincerely to heart!
  • The form in which the high priest and the ordinary priests were to bless the people, after burning the incense in the tabernacle, is prescribed, Numbers 6:23-26. Literally translated from the Hebrew it is as follows, and consists of three parts or benedictions: -
  • May Jehovah bless thee, and preserve thee!
  • May Jehovah cause his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee!
  • May Jehovah lift up his faces upon thee, and may he put prosperity unto thee! (See my notes on the place, Numbers 6:23-26.)
  • We may therefore say that Christ, our High Priest, came to bless each of us, by turning us away from our iniquity. And let no one ever expect to see him at his second coming with joy, unless he have, in this life, been turned away from his iniquity, and obtained remission of all his sins, and that holiness without which none can see God. Reader, the time of his reappearing is, to thee, at hand! Prepare to meet thy God!

    On the word conscience, which occurs so often in this chapter, and in other parts of this epistle, see the observations at the end of chap. 13.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    So Christ was once offered - Since people are to die but once; and as all beyond the grave is fixed by the judgment, so that his death there would make no change in the destiny, there was a propriety that he should die but once for sin. The argument is, there is one probation only, and therefore there was need of but one sacrifice, or of his dying but once. If death were to occur frequently in the existence of each individual, and if each intermediate period were a state of probation, then there might be a propriety that an atonement should be made with reference to each state. Or if beyond the grave there were a state of probation still, then also there might be propriety that an atoning sacrifice should be offered there. But since neither of these things is true, there was a fitness that the great victim should die but once.

    (Rather, perhaps, as in the original sentence, “once dying” was the penalty denounced on the sinner, so the substitute in enduring it, is in like manner, under necessity of dying but once. By this he fully answers the requirement of the Law. Or there may be in the passage a simple intimation that, in this respect, as in others. Christ is like us, namely, in being but once subject to death. It would be inconsistent with the nature which he sustains, to suppose him a second time subject to death.)

    To bear the sins of many - To suffer and die on account of their sins; see Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:11 notes; Galatians 3:13 note. The phrase does not mean:

    (1) that Christ was a “sinner” - for that was in no sense true. See Hebrews 7:26. Nor

    (2) that he literally bore the penalty due to transgression - for that is equally untrue.

    The penalty of the Law for sin is all which the Law when executed inflicts on the offender for his transgression, and includes, in “fact,” remorse of conscience, overwhelming despair, and eternal punishment. But Christ did not suffer forever, nor did he experience remorse of conscience, nor did he endure utter despair. Nor.

    (3) does it mean that he was literally “punished” for our sins. Punishment pertains only to the guilty. An innocent being may “suffer” for what another does, but there is no propriety in saying that he is “punished” for it. A father suffers much from the misconduct of a son, but we do not say that he is punished for it; a child suffers much from the intemperance of a parent - but no one would say that it was a punishment on the child. Men always connect the idea of criminality with punishment, and when we say that a man is punished, we suppose at once that there is “guilt.” The phrase here means simply, that Christ endured sufferings in his own person, which, if they had been inflicted on us, would have been the proper punishment of sin. He who was innocent interposed, and received on himself what was descending to meet us, and consented to be treated “as he would have deserved if he had been a sinner.” Thus, he bore what was due to us; and this, in Scripture phrase, is what is meant by “bearing our iniquities;” see the notes Isaiah 53:4.

    (It is indeed true, that Christ did not endure the very penalty which we had incurred, and, but for his interference, should have endured. His sufferings must be regarded in the light of an equivalent to the Law‘s original claim, of a satisfaction to its injured honor, which the Lawgiver has been pleased to accept. It is, however, equally true, that the sufferings of Christ were strictly penal. They were the punishment of sin. The true meaning of the important phrase in this verse, “to bear sin,” establishes this point. It can have no other meaning than bearing the punishment of sin. See Stuart‘s xix. Excursus. That punishment supposes guilt is not denied. What then? Not certainly that Christ was personally guilty, but that our guilt has been imputed to him - that he has taken the place of the guilty, and become answerable for their transgressions. See Supp. note, 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

    And unto them that look for him - To his people. It is one of the characteristics of Christians that they look for the return of their Lord; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:12; compare the notes, 1 Thessalonians 1:10. They fully believe that he will come. They earnestly desire that he will come; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20. They are waiting for his appearing; 1 Thessalonians 1:10. He left the world and ascended to heaven, but he will again return to earth, and his people are looking for that time as the period when they shall be raised up from their graves; when they shall be publicly acknowledged to be his, and when they shall be admitted to heaven; see the notes on John 14:3.

    Shall he appear the second time - He first appeared as the man of sorrows to make atonement for sin. His second appearance will be as the Lord of his people, and the Judge of the quick and the dead; Matthew 25:31, see the notes, Acts 1:11. The apostle does not say when this would be, nor is any intimation given in the Scriptures when it will occur. It is on the contrary everywhere declared that this is concealed from people Acts 1:7; Matthew 24:36, and all that is known respecting the time is, that it will be suddenly and at an unexpected moment; Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:50.

    Without sin - That is, when be comes again he will not make himself a sin-offering; or will not come in order to make atonement for sin. It is not implied that when he came the first time he was in any sense a sinner, but that he came then with reference to sin. or that the main object of his incarnation was to “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” When he comes the second time, it will be with reference to another object.

    Unto salvation - That is, to receive his friends and followers to eternal salvation. He will come to save them from all their sins and temptations; to raise them from their graves; to place them at his right hand in glory, and to confirm them in the everlasting inheritance which he has promised to all who truly love him, and who wait for his appearing.

    In view of this anticipated return of the Redeemer, we may remark:

    (1) There is a propriety that the Lord Jesus should thus return. He came once to be humbled, despised, and put to death; and there is a fitness that he should come to be honored in his own world.

    (2) every person on earth is interested in the fact that he will return, for “every eye shall see him;” Revelation 1:7. All who are now In their graves, and all who now live, and all who will hereafter live, will behold the Redeemer in his glory.

    (3) it will not be merely to gaze upon him, and to admire his magnificence that they will see him. It will be for greater and more momentous purposes - with reference to an eternal doom.

    (4) the great mass of people are not prepared to meet him. They do not believe that he will return; they do not desire that he should appear; they are not ready for the solemn interview which they will have with him. His appearing now would overwhelm them with surprise and horror. There is nothing in the future which they less expect and desire than the second coming of the Son of God, and in, the present state of the world his appearance would produce almost universal consternation and despair. It would be like the coming of the flood of waters on the old world; like the sheets of flame on the cities of the plain; or as “death” now comes to the great mass of those who die.

    (5) Christians “are” prepared for his coming. They believe in it; they desire it; they are expecting it. In this they are distinguished from all the world besides, and they would be ready to hail his coming as that of a friend, and to rejoice in his appearance as that of “their” Saviour.

    (6) let us then live in habitual preparation for his advent. To each one of us he will come soon; to all he will come suddenly. Whether he come to remove us by death, or whether in the clouds of heaven to judge the world, the period is not far distant when “we” shall see him. Yes, our eyes shall behold the Son of God in his glory! That which we have long desired - a sight of our Saviour who died for us, shall soon, very soon be granted unto us. No Christian begins a week or a day in which there is not a possibility that, before its close, he may have seen the Son of God in his glory; none lies down upon his bed at night who may not, when the morning dawns upon this world, be gazing with infinite delight on the glories of the Great Redeemer in the heavens.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    It is evident that the sacrifices of Christ are infinitely better than those of the law, which could neither procure pardon for sin, nor impart power against it. Sin would still have been upon us, and have had dominion over us; but Jesus Christ, by one sacrifice, has destroyed the works of the devil, that believers may be made righteous, holy, and happy. As no wisdom, learning, virtue, wealth, or power, can keep one of the human race from death, so nothing can deliver a sinner from being condemned at the day of judgment, except the atoning sacrifice of Christ; nor will one be saved from eternal punishment who despises or neglects this great salvation. The believer knows that his Redeemer liveth, and that he shall see him. Here is the faith and patience of the church, of all sincere believers. Hence is their continual prayer as the fruit and expression of their faith, Even so come, Lord Jesus.
    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 1, 237-8

    So sacred and so glorious is the law, that when Moses returned from the holy mount, where he had been with God, receiving from His hand the tables of stone, his face reflected a glory upon which the people could not look without pain, and Moses was obliged to cover his face with a veil. 1SM 237.1

    The glory that shone on the face of Moses was a reflection of the righteousness of Christ in the law. The law itself would have no glory, only that in it Christ is embodied. It has no power to save. It is lusterless only as in it Christ is represented as full of righteousness and truth. 1SM 237.2

    The types and shadows of the sacrificial service, with the prophecies, gave the Israelites a veiled, indistinct view of the mercy and grace to be brought to the world by the revelation of Christ. To Moses was unfolded the significance of the types and shadows pointing to Christ. He saw to the end of that which was to be done away when, at the death of Christ, type met antitype. He saw that only through Christ can man keep the moral law. By transgression of this law man brought sin into the world, and with sin came death. Christ became the propitiation for man's sin. He proffered His perfection of character in the place of man's sinfulness. He took upon Himself the curse of disobedience. The sacrifices and offerings pointed forward to the sacrifice He was to make. The slain lamb typified the Lamb that was to take away the sin of the world. 1SM 237.3

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1077-8

    13. See EGW on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. 6BC 1077.1

    15-21 (1 Timothy 1:9, 10; James 1:22-25; see EGW on 2 Corinthians 3:6-9). Not Obedient, but Transgressors, Under Bondage—Paul in his Epistle to Timothy describes the very men who are under the bondage of the law. They are the transgressors of the law. He names them lawless, disobedient, sinners, unholy, profane, murderers, adulterers, liars, and all who depart from sound doctrine. 1 Timothy 1:9, 10. 6BC 1077.2

    The law of God is the mirror to show man the defects in his character. But it is not pleasant to those who take pleasure in unrighteousness to see their moral deformity. They do not prize this faithful mirror, because it reveals to them their sins. Therefore, instead of instituting a war against their carnal minds, they war against the true and faithful mirror, given them by Jehovah for the very purpose that they may not be deceived, but that they may have revealed to them the defects in their character. 6BC 1077.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Great Controversy, 429

    This subject was not understood by Adventists in 1844. After the passing of the time when the Saviour was expected, they still believed His coming to be near; they held that they had reached an important crisis and that the work of Christ as man's intercessor before God had ceased. It appeared to them to be taught in the Bible that man's probation would close a short time before the actual coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven. This seemed evident from those scriptures which point to a time when men will seek, knock, and cry at the door of mercy, and it will not be opened. And it was a question with them whether the date to which they had looked for the coming of Christ might not rather mark the beginning of this period which was immediately to precede His coming. Having given the warning of the judgment near, they felt that their work for the world was done, and they lost their burden of soul for the salvation of sinners, while the bold and blasphemous scoffing of the ungodly seemed to them another evidence that the Spirit of God had been withdrawn from the rejecters of His mercy. All this confirmed them in the belief that probation had ended, or, as they then expressed it, “the door of mercy was shut.” GC 429.1

    But clearer light came with the investigation of the sanctuary question. They now saw that they were correct in believing that the end of the 2300 days in 1844 marked an important crisis. But while it was true that that door of hope and mercy by which men had for eighteen hundred years found access to God, was closed, another door was opened, and forgiveness of sins was offered to men through the intercession of Christ in the most holy. One part of His ministration had closed, only to give place to another. There was still an “open door” to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ was ministering in the sinner's behalf. GC 429.2

    Now was seen the application of those words of Christ in the Revelation, addressed to the church at this very time: “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Revelation 3:7, 8. GC 430.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 1, 233

    I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments. 1SM 233.1

    Christ was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy. The death of Abel was in consequence of Cain's refusing to accept God's plan in the school of obedience to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ typified by the sacrificial offerings pointing to Christ. Cain refused the shedding of blood which symbolized the blood of Christ to be shed for the world. This whole ceremony was prepared by God, and Christ became the foundation of the whole system. This is the beginning of its work as the schoolmaster to bring sinful human agents to a consideration of Christ the Foundation of the whole Jewish economy. 1SM 233.2

    All who did service in connection with the sanctuary were being educated constantly in regard to the intervention of Christ in behalf of the human race. This service was designed to create in every heart a love for the law of God, which is the law of His kingdom. The sacrificial offering was to be an object lesson of the love of God revealed in Christ—in the suffering, dying victim, who took upon Himself the sin of which man was guilty, the innocent being made sin for us. 1SM 233.3

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