A Sure & Steadfast Anchor of the Soul | Hebrews 6:19-20

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19-20 ESV

Considering the crucifixion is a bit like gazing upon a gemstone. Slowly turning the same jewel in your hand reveals the unique dances of light passing through each side. In the same manner, while each year on Good Friday I endeavor to present a brief meditation upon the wonder and sorrow of the cross of our Lord, I also aim to do so from different angles, highlighting each year another slightly different aspect of its wondrous mystery.

We have been preaching through the somewhat ominous and complex book of Daniel, which calls us to lives of faithfulness in the midst of tribulation. Yet this call to faithfulness is repeated rooted in the hope of God’s absolute sovereignty, especially over the physical and spiritual rulers and authorities within this world. Thus, while Daniel seems rather dark, it summons us to face adversity armed with an unconquerable hope. I would, thus, like for us to consider the cross as the epicenter of our hope.

Our central text for approaching this theme is Hebrews 6:19-20, which reads:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Let us work these verse in reverse, observing first of what hope he speaks and second what it means for us presently.

This hope, he states, goes into the inner place behind the curtain, which is referring to the Most Holy Place. Although the tabernacle and then temple were, in general, the places of God’s physical presence among His people, the Most Holy Place was where God’s glory particularly dwelt. This section was sealed off by a great curtain that forbid entrance. Indeed, Hebrews 9:7 reminds us that only the high priest could enter this section of the temple, “and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” In other words, once inside the Most Holy Place, the high priest offered an annual sacrifice called the Day of Atonement) for both his sins and the sins of the people. Hebrews 9:24 explains that Jesus did not enter the Most Holy Place of the earthly temple; instead, He entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

As the latter portion of verse 20 indicates, Jesus also entered the Most Holy Place as our high priest, yet because He was born of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David, Jesus could not belong to the Levitical priesthood. Thankfully, Hebrews 7 carefully explains how Jesus continued the priestly order of the mysterious figure from Genesis 14 named Melchizedek, who was the king of the city Salem. This fulfilled what David prophesied in Psalm 110:4: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” Thus, Jesus was not only qualified to be a high priest; He was even of a greater priesthood than the Levitical priests were.

Yet the work of the high priest was, as we said, to make a sacrifice to God for his own sin and the sins of the people. Back in Eden, God had warned that sin would lead to death; however, in an act of great mercy, on the day that Adam and Eve sinned, God slaughtered an animal to clothe rather than taking their own lives right then and there. Sacrifices, thus, continued to be a crucial element of God’s people act of worship to Him, for the slaughtering of each innocent beast under human dominion was a renewed reminder of sin’s deadly consequence.

Which sacrifice, therefore, did Jesus bring as He entered into the heavenly and holy presence of God? Hebrews 9:12 answer this question: “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.” Jesus, thus, was both the high priest and the sacrifice of this particular offering for the atonement of sins.

Although few knew it at the time, Christ’s excruciating slaughter upon the cross was the Day of Atonement. And it was once for all, meaning that no further days of atonement now follow. The sacrifice of His blood as an offering for the sins of God’s people does not (indeed, it cannot) be repeated, for His divine and uncreated blood is worth more than every ounce of creation, whether spiritual or physical, piled up together. After all, since all things were made through Him, He is also greater than all things, just as the potter is of greater worth than his pottery. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, therefore, was the greatest display of God’s gracious love of all time, for He gave His only begotten Son us to save us from the rightful death that our sins require.

The writer of Hebrews calls this work of Christ our hope. What is hope exactly? Hope is faith in what is still yet to come. Conversely, faith is the present assurance of what we hope for (Hebrews 11:1). Thus, the past work of Christ upon the cross is also our hope in some future work. Paul describes that hope in Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Our blessed hope, said Paul, is the return of Christ, when we will behold the fullness of our Savior’s glory. On that awful day, the heavens will melt as they burn away, and the earth will crumble into dust as both rich and poor call upon the rocks to hide them from the righteous and almighty Judge. Their end, however, will be an eternal deathless dying within the lake of fire. Yet what shall be the day of the unfiltered terror of God’s holiness for wicked shall be the day of rescue and rest for those whom Christ has redeemed.

Indeed, notice that the apostle surrounds the hope of Christ’s return with two declarations of what Christ has already done. He began first by saying that God’s grace has appeared (past tense), bringing salvation for all people. He then concluded by reminding us that our Savior gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness… Our hope in the return of Christ is rooted in His already having come to save us. Our confidence in Christ as our great High Priest, reuniting us to God the Father by His own blood, is also our confidence that return is as a husband coming for His bride, bringing life everlasting with Him.

Yet this blessed hope in what Christ will one day do that is rooted in what Christ already has done also has much to do about how we presently live in between those two days. Our hope in Christ is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. An anchor, of course, is used to hold a boat in place to keep it from drifting away. The metaphor is particularly fitting since earlier Hebrews 2:1-3 warned:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Our confident hope in Christ’s return, founded upon His substitutional atonement for our sins, is our soul’s anchor that keeps us from drifting away from our security within God’s abundant and rich mercy. Indeed, just as an anchor keeps a ship from being blown off course by mighty storms, so this hope holds us fast to our Lord in the midst of whatever sufferings and trials may come. This is all the more fitting whenever we consider that all of this is grounded in Jesus’ great sorrow. Our steadfast obedience to God during pain and sorrow comes from Christ’s own unwavering obedience before the Father’s unmitigated wrath.

CityAlight’s hymn “Your Will Be Done” brings this out and calls us to meditate upon how the security of our hope was confirmed, not upon the cross but in the garden as Jesus prayed to the Father:

How in that garden He persisted / I may never fully know / the fearful weight of true obedience / it was held by Him alone / What wondrous faith, to bear that cross / to bear my sin, what wondrous love / my hope was sure / when there my Savior prayed / Father not My will but Yours be done.

Indeed, none of us will ever know the fearful weight of true obedience, save Christ alone. In Him, we now stand, boldly covered in His spotless righteousness, rather than our own. Nothing else will do. No other anchor is sufficient. Of course, other religions and philosophies might have enough elements of truth to help their followers through many trials of this life, but they will not remain steadfast when Christ comes to shake all things into nothing. Only Christ is enough, an anchor firm through the tribulation now and unshakeable during His triumphant return. May we each today, in light of the cross and the hope of Christ’s second coming, live our days according to Psalm 2:11-12:

Serve the LORD with fear,
            and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
            lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
            for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

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