Prior to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross two thousand years ago, people sought to cleanse their impurities by sacrificing animals to God. But the Bible makes clear that such an approach is imperfect: “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could (only) cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity” (Hebrews 9:13, NLT). That left the sins of the people unforgiven. Why? Because, as the writer of Hebrews informs us, “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 104, NLT). The washing away of sins requires a more perfect sacrifice than the blood of animals.
For the old covenant between God and man required “the priest stand and minister before the alter day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11, NLT). And if those “sacrifices could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped. For the worshippers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared” (Hebrews 10:2, NLT).
So if the old system was inadequate to cleanse people from their sins and restore them into a right relationship with God, what purpose did it serve? Once again the writer of Hebrews explains: “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1, NLT). Perfect cleansing could only come from a perfect sacrifice.
And the perfect sacrifice required the shedding of blood, “for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b, NLT). For that purpose God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world, to redeem mankind (see John 3:16-17): “With His own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12, NLT). Meditate on that incredible truth for a moment. Jesus’ blood was fully sufficient to cleanse us from our sins, and His sacrificial death eliminates the need for daily sacrifices. He redeems us from our iniquities, once for all eternity.
Now, because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, NLT) and the Lord “is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), God sought to reconcile us to Himself so that we would not spend eternity in hell. “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10, NLT).
And in obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus went to the cross: “For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” and in doing so He “mediates a new covenant between God and mankind” (Hebrews 9:14b-15a, NLT). Jesus suffered a death He did not deserve that we might have eternal life that we do not deserve.
It is important to understand that in His suffering on the cross Jesus experienced more than an excruciatingly painful and tortured death; He bore God’s punishment for our sins so we would not have to bear them. “For Christ died to set (us) free from the penalty of sins (we) committed” (Hebrews 9:15b). That penalty is everlasting torment and suffering in hell (see Revelation 20:15, 21:8). To avoid eternal damnation, and instead receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life, one need only believe in and receive Christ.
Take some time this week to study the truths above and allow them to nourish your soul. They are a lot to digest in a single setting, in part because of their complexity and in part because they run counter to what our culture teaches.
Fortunately, the apostle Paul summarizes the above message in a clear and compelling way: “God, in HIs grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. You are made right with God when you believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood” (Romans 3:24-25). Paul then adds that “God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26b. NLT).
Finally, Paul provides a succinct summation that you would do well to memorize: “For God showed us His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation … for there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:8-9, 8:1, NLT).
So to answer the question posed in the title, ‘What did Jesus’ death accomplish?’ Quite a lot actually: Forgiveness of sins; Restored relationship with God; and Eternal Life for all who believe in Jesus. May that truth be a source of joy and encouragement for you today.