The Three Appearances
Hebrews 9:23-28
Most of this sermon is from Raymond Kelcy
By Paul Robison

“A noted physician was once asked what he considered to the greatest discovery he had ever made.  Without a moment's hesitation, he replied: 'My greatest discovery is that I have a Savior.'  Surely, no other discovery could compare to that.  After groaning under the burden of sin, to find that one has a Savior who can lift that burden is a cause for great rejoicing.  The word 'savior' had been known before Christ came, but Jesus gave it a new significance.  In fact, the name “Jesus” is the historic name “Joshua”.  The first Joshua was Israel's captain when they first settled in Canaan; the second Joshua was their priest after they came back from Babylon.  Both were associated with great deliverances: salvation from Egypt and salvation from Babylon. … In the early stage of Israel's history, the idea of salvation was very short-term.  In the ancient world, those leaders who brought political freedom were called saviors. The words 'save' and 'savior' are found in the writings and on the public inscriptions of the Greeks.  Various rulers of world history have been called 'saviors.'  Even the Roman emperor, Augustus, was given the title of savior” (Kelcy).
Now let's notice our reading again found in Hebrews 9:24-28: “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us, not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another―He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  The introduction mentioned that many leaders in Israel and other ancient cultures were called saviors, “but there is a sense in which Jesus alone is Savior.  He is the only one who can save from sin and sin's penalties.  He is THE Savior.  His preeminence as Savior is seen in His three appearances which are mentioned in our text.  These three appearances deal with His past work, His present work, and His future work as the Savior of mankind” (Kelcy).
Notice that Jesus' first appearance is mentioned in verse 26: “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, HE HAS APPEARED to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”  “He has appeared in the past.  The work of all the other saviors in history combined would not begin to compare with what Jesus has done for mankind!  Jesus appeared on this earth to become our Savior.  This suggests that He has not always been the Savior. In the beginning at creation, man did not stand in need of a Savior.  When God created the world for His glory and honor, He created man and gave him a sublime task.  But man betrayed that trust and turned against His Creator in whose image he was made.  And even though he was made for fellowship with God, it became necessary for God to expel sinful man from His holy presence” (Ibid).
“If the purpose of God for close fellowship with man was to become a reality again, man would have be reconciled back to God.  The friendship and closeness of the garden needed to be restored.  It was God's fore-ordained plan and purpose that Jesus would be the means of that reconciliation.  “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5).  “According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).  The coming of Christ to earth and to become our Savior was planned in the secret counsel of the Almighty, and then thousands of years of human history were employed in preparing for that great event” (Ibid).
“A question that raises itself just here is this: If it was the purpose of God for Jesus to come to earth and be the Savior of men, why did Jesus not come to the earth in the beginning?  Why did He not come to the earth when man first sinned?  Several reasons could be suggested.  God wanted man to realize his need for a Savior.  He wanted man to learn by experience that he could not save himself and that he could not be saved by science, by education, by social reformers, by political leaders, by statesmen, or by his own ingenuity.  Then too, it was necessary for the world to be prepared for the coming of Christ.  It was not ready for the sunlight of His revelation.  It would have to become accustomed to the light gradually.  So, God gave to man a very physical type of religion and added to this revelation as the centuries went by.  It was a religion that was both temporal and typical.  It taught in pictures and symbols that which was to exist in reality.  It instilled into the mind of man the ideas of sacrifice, altar, atonement [a sacrifice for reconciliation], and priesthood.  Salvation as we know it was not comprehended by men in those dim ages.  [In fact, the apostle Peter states: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or in what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating.  He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).  The prophets did not understand clearly exactly how our salvation would come about.]  It was a mystery.  That is one of the apostle Paul's favorite words for Christianity ... 'mystery'.  It indicates something that man cannot know until it has been revealed” (Kelcy).
“Finally, after thousands of years had passed, and thousands and thousands of lambs had been slain and offered, John, the son of Zacharias, introduced his cousin Jesus as 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29)!  The sacrificed animals of Judaism, the priesthood, the laws and ordinances had all been leading up to Jesus.  'Therefore the law was our tutor [or schoolmaster] to bring us to Christ' (Galatians 3:24).  [Here was the means of reconciliation. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on the earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless and above reproach in His sight―if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast” (Colossians 1:21-22).] Jesus appeared 'in the fullness of time' (Galatians 4:4).  It was the appropriate time toward which the prophecies of the Old Testament … had long been pointing” (Ibid).  [The stage is set for reconciliation and the restoration of that lost closeness]: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10)!
“It was necessary that Christ come to earth to be identified with man.’Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same' (Hebrews 2:14).  The greatest fact of the Old Testament is that man was made in the image of God; the greatest fact of the New Testament is that God was made in the likeness of man!  Christ became a co-partner with man in temptation; He was 'in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15).  He therefore knows and understands the cares, problems, and trials of our lives on earth.  'For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted' (Hebrews 2:18).  The life of Jesus on earth had as its ultimate goal the salvation and reconciliation of the lost” (Kelcy).
“Paul explains the death of Jesus in these words in Romans 3:25-26: 'Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood [a propitiation is a gift that removes wrath; there's reconciliation again], through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one show has faith in Jesus.'  The mercy of God demanded the salvation of man, but the justice of God demanded a penalty or punishment for man's sin.  It was the cross which provided an atonement enabling God to exercise mercy and clemency without relaxing the bands of just authority.  It provided a way for mercy to be extended without lowering the righteous and holy character of God and the authority of Divine justice.  The honor of Divine law was preserved and at the same time the clemency of Divine mercy was extended” (Kelcy)!  Salvation and reconciliation are the wonderful and beneficial results of Jesus' first appearance!
Jesus' next appearance is mentioned in verse 24: “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, NOW TO APPEAR in the presence of God for us.” Did you hear those words: “Now to appear”?  This is referring to Jesus' present work.  “The work of Christ is not all in the past. He has appeared on earth, but He now appears in heaven!  Jesus is a constant Savior.  Even after we have been forgiven of past transgressions, we still need a Savior, a Person who will order our cause aright.  The mediation of Jesus at the throne of grace is as real and meaningful as His death.  [I John 2:1 reveals: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And If anyone sins we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Satan may accuse us in God's heavenly court, but Jesus pleads our case before God.]  If we could only hear Him standing before God and calling us His brethren, how encouraging it would be!  We may be certain that it is being done.  He who loved us enough to die will not withhold any good thing.  “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grieves to bear. What privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!”  Jesus bears our name upon His heart daily: 'But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them' (Hebrews 7:24-25)!  His salvation is comprehensive and complete.  Jesus' second appearance before God is a great consolation and encouragement to those who are His disciples!
Jesus' next appearance is mentioned in verse 28: “To those who eagerly wait for Him HE WILL APPEAR a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  Note again: He will appear.  “For the people of God, the second coming of Christ will be 'unto salvation'.  Salvation cannot be viewed yet as a completed process.  '… for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed' (Romans 13:11).  We await the day when our Savior shall call us from the iron embrace of the tomb to the warm arms of heaven.  '… looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ' (Titus 2:13).  Yes, others have worn the title 'savior,' and they were looked upon as the saviors of people, but Jesus Christ is the only Savior who can save from sin and bless His subjects with great hope beyond the grave!  He assured us that death is not the end, but the beginning, that immortality is a fact, that there is a place where love will find its own, that there is a home of the soul.  'In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also' (John 14:2-3)” (Kelcy).  Paul writes this about Jesus' third appearance in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  The apostle John encourages us with these words: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).  Every eye will see Jesus at His third appearance (Revelation 1:7)!  Someone wrote a short poem, and another commented on it: “My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim, But it's enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with Him (Baxter).  To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting Him face to face and being with Him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life [or Satan] may throw at us" (Packer).  Jesus' salvation to come gives us a tremendous hope!
“Jesus came in grace, and He will come in glory.  He came to sow, He will come to reap.  He has appeared on earth, he now appears in heaven, and He will appear on the clouds.  He appeared to save mankind from sin's penalty, He appears to save His disciples from sin's power, and He will appear to save His children from sin's presence.  He appeared to REDEEM; He appears to REPRESENT; He will appear TO RECEIVE!  At His third appearance, the last enemy, death, will be swallowed up in victory! Then, and only then, will salvation be viewed as complete and perfect” (Kelcy)!  What a Savior He was!  What a Reconciler He is!  What a Redeemer He will be!  Someone has observed: Here in this world, Jesus bids us: "Come!", but there in the next, He will bid us: "Welcome!" (John Donne).  You can only hear His welcome if you will obey His: “Come!” right now!