The Cross Was the Final Altar
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Blood. God has always required blood to forgive sins. The words ask for forgiveness are not in the Bible for a reason: ask all you want, blood must be shed to settle up with your Creator.
The author of Hebrews explains:
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (See Hebrews 9:22)
Before the Cross–to make forgiveness even more difficult–God wouldn’t even accept your bloody sacrifice if you weren’t Jewish. But let’s digress for a moment and say we were. We would’ve still needed a middleman, a priest from the tribe of Levi, to present our animal blood to God in the temple. Behind the curtain in this place, where only Levitical priests were allowed to go, there was a platform called the altar.
At the annual Day of Atonement, animal blood was poured out on this altar to atone for, or “cover up,” a person’s sins for the past year. Jesus, however, took away sins forever. He didn’t simply cover them up until the next Day of Atonement.
Animal blood paid off sins once a year. It put you back in the black. Jesus banished all of your sins once and for all time (see Hebrews 8:12, 10:10). They called Him Messiah because only He could do such a thing. This prophetic Person would deal with sins permanently, not year after year. The blood of bulls and goats reminded Jews of their sins–no permanent forgiveness. Yet still, afterwards they felt relief because they knew God had forgiven them until the next annual trek (see Isaiah 53, Hebrews 10:3).
According to the Bible, one type of blood was used in the Old Covenant (animal blood), and the other (Messiah’s) in the New Covenant. One liquid had very little power, the other had unlimited power. Here’s the contrast:
“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4)
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29)
This was so important to the Jews! Messiah would take away sins permanently, not just atone for them, but throw them into oblivion! After the Cross they didn’t have to keep getting forgiveness at the temple through animal blood! This was huge!
According to the Law of Moses–which is 613 commandments, ten of which are the Ten Commandments–blood had to be shed for each commandment they broke. When this happened, these were called transgressions, or sins. The Law defined sin for the Jewish race, not for us Gentiles. After the 613 commandments were given by Moses, Israel (another name for the Jewish people) was not allowed to add to them nor take away from them. The whole Law had to be kept perfectly, unmodified (see Deuteronomy 4:2, James 2:10, Galatians 3:10).
What most pastors won’t tell you today, either because they don’t know or they’re afraid, is only the Jews were allowed to keep these commandments. So when we read the Old Testament and act as if it’s directed at us, commandment wise, we are wrong. We Gentiles, non-Jews, were not part of the Old Covenant–the 613–nor our cherry-picked top 10.
Paul explains our former plight which was before we were included in the New Covenant through Jesus’ blood:
“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
Separate? Excluded? Foreigners? But somehow we want to say the Old Covenant is for us. It isn’t. Yes, all of the Bible is right and true. However, we Gentiles have no relationship with the Law but only with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, through believing in Him:
“Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
We are not believing in the Law–none of it. We’re not allowed. We are believing in Him. Therefore in His blood. Why? Blood forgives. All unbelievers have a sin problem and must be forgiven (see Romans 3:10,23).
So if only blood forgives, and we weren’t included in the former Covenant, how can we be forgiven as Gentiles? Because the middlemen–the priests from the tribe of Levi–were replaced by Jesus! They had to find a new job due to God outsourcing their employment to Messiah!
Even more, the temple–the building where blood was offered up at the altar–it would also be replaced! With what? With us! Actual human bodies where the Spirit of God would now dwell by faith, not by walls! (See Hebrews 7:16,24, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Acts 2:1-4).
Even the Jews had to turn from the Law and believe in Jesus’ blood. They were cut off from access to God and had to be grafted back in through faith in Christ alone. Paul pleads with his countrymen to repent of their unbelief:
“And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree.” (Romans 11:23)
Jesus, who descended from the tribe of Judah, not Levi, became our final priest. The Jews no longer have any way to receive forgiveness by blood after He came and went. This is a good thing! All of humanity needed a priest–not just them–one who would never die! (See Hebrews 7:25). The entire world needed a great high priest who would present His own blood to God for the forgiveness of sin once and for all time! Therefore, since the tribe changed (Levi to Judah) and new blood was presented (perfect blood from the final Lamb), the priesthood changed and so did the Covenant! (See Hebrews chapters 7-10).
The New Covenant began at the Cross, the final altar. Blood was poured out for everyone’s sins all across the globe, not just for the Jews (John 3:16-18, 19:30, 1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25, Galatians 3:28).
This is why we don’t need altars in our churches today. Jesus will never present His blood for sins ever again. It’s finished. The Levitical priests have been replaced, the dividing curtain between us and the Most Holy Place has been torn, the temple is gone, and the altar is obsolete (see Matthew 27:51, Ephesians 2:14, Hebrews 8:13, 9:3). No more bloody sacrifices are necessary to forgive sins.
Today’s Jews who don’t believe in Jesus are in a state of limbo. While rocking back and forth, wailing at an ancient wall, they can’t present animal blood to receive forgiveness. They beg God, “Hurry up and send a Messiah!” but the tribes are no more, so priests are no more either. The one true priest already died and rose back to life. They are now without hope, not us. They refuse to believe the world’s sin issue has been dealt with by one sacrifice (see Hebrews 10:10,14, 1 John 2:12).
Since only a priest with blood can reconcile us to God–because God can have nothing to do with sin–Jesus had to do this. Now, we must accept this reconciliation to God, by grace through faith in His Son’s deity (see 2 Corinthians 5:20, Ephesians 2:8,9, John 1:12).
There’s a passage in Hebrews 10 which is often used by the grace-confused community to incite fear of loss of salvation because of sinning. But in fact, this portion of Scripture is explaining the uselessness of bloody animal sacrifices at the temple altar. As you read this, please know that the text has nothing to do with Christians whatsoever. This is directed toward Jewish people who followed Moses and refused to believe in Christ as Messiah. The Messiah, prophesied about in the Jews’ very own book of Isaiah–the final, once for all, bloody sacrifice–He is the context, He is the truth, and the “sinning” referenced is breaking the Law of Moses in one or more of 613 different ways. This is cyclical, because “sinning” is also unbelief in Jesus:
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29)
Do you see the context? Hebrew people who refused to believe Jesus has forgiven them by grace. That’s why the name of the book is Hebrews. It’s not Gentiles. These Jews, in this part of the letter, are enemies of God. We are His family (see John 1:12). They were trampling on Him by speaking ill of Him, “He’s not the promised Messiah!” therefore, blaspheming. They rejected His Holy Spirit into their spirit, which is the only unforgivable sin (see Matthew 12:30-32, Hebrews 3:15).
These people thought they could continue to receive forgiveness each year at the temple by way of animal blood. They absolutely refused to accept the truth that Jesus was the last sacrifice. No sacrifice for sin is left! They had received the knowledge of Jesus and stonewalled at believing in His power to forgive.
Again, this is not written to Christians because the Law of Moses is mentioned. God never commanded us to obey Moses but to accept His grace by listening to Jesus (see Matthew 17:5, Hebrews 12:15). We have a better deal. We were given the two commandments of Christ–believe and love–neither of which can be legislated (see John 3:16-18, 13:34, 1 John 3:23, Hebrews 7:18,19, 8:13).
To them, the altar was more important than the Cross. Disastrously, many of our churches do the same thing today as their main focus is on a carpet-covered set of stairs or man-made platform up front. The altars in our churches need to go because what they represent is not of God.
“Nope! This is wrong, Matt! I left a church because they didn’t have altar calls each week!”
Friend, I hear you. I used to think the same, as if someone couldn’t be saved unless they went to the front. That, or their saving didn’t stick because they kept on sinning, so a second, third, fourth–and so on–altar visitation was needed. But what I’ve learned is there’s no verse in the Bible which states we have to walk to the front of a church building to be saved. Nor do we have to raise our hand in the crowd to be acknowledged by a pastor. This is 100% absent from the Old and New Testament.
We’ve adopted this practice because in the early 1900’s “altar calls” became popular at tent revivals. However, this behavior is non-existent from all biblical text. Why? Because this is a work. Anything we do or don’t do–in order to achieve righteousness–physically or mentally, is a work. If it’s a work, it’s against grace. If it’s against grace, it’s not of faith. The gospel can only be entered into by grace through faith. Paul educates the Romans:
“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
So if we aren’t saved by altar calls then how are we saved? In the most graceful way possible: by hearing or reading with faith.
Paul said this very thing to the Christians in Galatia when they tried to add Judaism into the gospel message. Judaism had an altar. Judaism is Moses. Moses is all works-righteousness. After calling them fools with an exclamation point, Paul asks a simple, rhetorical question:
“This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2)
HEARING. WITH. FAITH. This is how we receive the Holy Spirit into our own. A legalist will shout, “Even the demons believe!” and that’s true, but they aren’t believing in Jesus to forgive them. They’re already damned to hell, we aren’t. Non-Christians have a chance to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice if they will believe in His forgiveness while still on earth. Even though demons are well aware of who Jesus is, they can’t do that (see James 2:19).
In Galatians 3:2, it’s obvious Paul is pitting Mosaic Law against faith. This is very important to know because he also said the Law is not of faith in the same chapter (see Galatians 3:12). To add to this, in Romans, he pronounced the only way to be set free from sin is to be set free from Moses! (See Romans 6:14). This flies in the face of the sanctimonious who “try” to follow the Law on this side of the Cross. Romans 6:14 sinks that ship immediately:
“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under Law, but under grace.”
Another rebuttal someone might throw at me to validate there’s more to salvation than simply hearing with faith, is Romans 10:9:
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
“See, Matt?! Confess with your mouth! You gotta say the words to prove yourself!”
Friend, what about the people who don’t have a tongue to confess? What about those who are born mute or have no voice box? What about the persecuted people who’ve had their tongues cut out? Do you think God won’t save them if they believe Jesus has forgiven them just because they can’t say words? Of course He will! We are saved by hearing and believing! Nothing else!
We can confess with our mouth all day long, “Jesus is Lord!” but if faith didn’t come first those confessions mean nothing. Plus, if we look at the context of the book of Romans, where this passage came from, these Christians were supposed to say that Cesar is lord because they lived in Rome. Saying otherwise meant certain death. For this reason, Paul points out they must confess that their real Lord is Jesus, but only by faith first. By believing with the heart.
We are not saved by our words but by our one-time faith in Jesus’ words. We make Him fully Lord and Savior, both, evenly, obviously, the moment we believe this truth. This is why Lordship salvation is a joke. It’s demonic and puts unnecessary pressure on us saints. If you’re stuck in it, run for the hills. Break free.
So if we don’t need to be saved at the altar, do we need to be “cleansed” each week by physically moving our body to the front of a church? No, we do not.
“No way, Matt! Even Jesus made Peter let Him wash his feet!” (See John 13:1-17).
You are right, He did. But this was not a symbol of Jesus needing to cleanse us daily, or weekly, or whenever–and there’s no altar, so forgiveness cleansing is not the context at all. This was Jesus teaching the disciples how to rest and let Him work, and then, to do the same for one another. Remember, only blood forgives, not feet washing. This was cultural for the time. Jesus doesn’t cleanse our feet. He kills us, buries us, and resurrects us as brand new creations who are forever connected to Him (see Romans 6:6-11, Colossians 3:3, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
The truth is we’ve been cleansed, we’ve been washed, once and for all time by one bloody sacrifice–our spirits have. Look at what the Bible says about our identity subsequent to faith in the Cross:
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (See 1 Corinthians 6:11).
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
Past tense. One body. Once for all. You are completely forgiven forever, Christian. So we’ll have to turn from our sinful actions and attitudes for a much different reason than to get re-forgiven countless times. The Jews didn’t turn from sins to be forgiven, they gave blood once a year. So what makes us think we can achieve forgiveness through what we start or stop?
We turn from sin because sinning is not natural to us. We’ve been made holy. Sinning will never set right with us permanently, no matter how many times we do it. So it’s best to just not do it (see Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:22, Philippians 1:6).
Turn from sin every time, repenting is a good thing. But God will never forgive us again because Christ will never die again. Once for all means once for all. It’s finished means it’s finished. You’ve died to sin means you’ve died to sin.
Our sins are not more powerful than Jesus’ blood. He’s resting just fine. Look at this:
“After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (See Hebrews 1:3)
Unlike the Levitical priests who presented animal blood at the altar for forgiveness–who weren’t allowed to sit down and rest–Jesus sat. He completed the work. He’s the final priest. According to the New Covenant, human priests are now fake. First, because they are not from the tribe of Levi, second, because they aren’t the Messiah. In fact, Peter said we believers are all a part of a royal priesthood (see 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, hierarchies are antiquated. We are equally holy by our new birth, by our new identity, not by votes, our sex, marital status, or robes. We have a priest, not from Levi, but one who descended from Judah in the likeness of Melchizedek (Melchizedek was an Old Testament priest with no beginning or end, possibly an early appearance of Christ). Our priest, Jesus, has perfect blood which was presented at the real temple altar in heaven rather the man-made shadow of that altar on earth (see Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 7:1-3,14-17,24,25, 9:23-28).
The pressure which is put on countless congregations to “go up front to the altar” to receive repeated forgiveness and cleansing is not okay. It’s a mockery of the Cross and an insult to the blood of Jesus.
When I came to understand the New Covenant, plainly laid out in Hebrews, it became blatantly clear that altars have no place in our churches. If anything we should have a symbolic location called The Empty Tomb where people can kneel down and pray but not “the altar.”
No more sacrifice is needed. No more blood. No more altars.
Sadly, due to incorrect interpretation of Scripture—as well as severe emotionalism being taught and shown—certain churches have a call for patrons to come to the front, to their quasi-altars, and “lay stuff down.” The problem is, for them, this is not just symbolism. It’s doctrine. It’s literal. It’s needed. Now, I’m not saying don’t go up front for some prayer, I’m saying don’t see “up front” as special. You are just moving your body.
Many believe a needed location is required to get right with God again and again and again. That place is at their altar, even though Christ destroyed the need of such a geographical spot. Here’s how it works. While standing in the pews a person next to you gives an elbow nudge and a head-bob toward the stage, as if to say, “You’ve sinned a lot this week. You have to go up front.”
Shamed and victimized, I’ve been coerced to do this many times myself. “Excuse me,” I’d quietly announce, as I made my way to the isle. Causing a scene while slowly walking up front, displaying such “amazing humility” as the “good Christians” stayed in their seats watching with disgust. Some might shout gibberish, acting as if it’s tongues, like I’m being scolded through the supernatural realm by way of their “gift.” Sweating and shaking as I arrived at my destination, a self-righteous look from the person by the altar quickly informed me of my pathetic situation and how badly I “needed” them. Multiple hands were then laid on me for being less-than, again, in order to, “Pray my nasty sinnin’ away!”
“I hope this deliverance sticks this time and I never sin again! Help me, God! Please, help me!”
After hearing loud shouts while witnessing other “sinners” get blasted to the ground around me, then weeping profusely and wiggling, I’d fall over too. Chasing dramatic feelings was the name of the game.
Madness, all madness. This is insanity not Christianity. And we wonder why non-believers think we’re crazy. It’s because of this type of lunacy. The Spirit will always exude self-control through us. That should say something as to how authentic these actions truly are (see Galatians 5:22,23). Such pastor-led charades are worse than Judaism. This never happened in the Bible–ever. So why are we doing it now? The Levitical priests didn’t run around perspiring and yelling, calling people to the front of the temple and placing hands on them with a Star-Wars-like-Force as they shot Jews across the room. Come on.
The priest simply walked up to the man or woman, took their animal, went to the back behind the curtain, killed the animal, and used the blood at the altar to receive forgiveness for that person’s sins. And they got forgiveness for a year at a time. That seems pretty simple, and dare I say, peaceful, compared to what we see today.
This neurotic, weekly-get-right teaching is nearly demonic because when we do this we’re crucifying Christ again and again in our minds. We’re ignoring what His blood did once. We’re also depending on a building and a human, therefore diluting the grace of God by not accepting the blood’s full power.
Who’s really having their ears tickled? Who’s truly not rightly dividing God’s Word into the Old and New Covenants, but mixing them?Jesus said this isn’t allowed, as did Paul (see Mark 2:22, 3:25, Galatians 5:9).
We don’t get forgiven nor “lay stuff down”–sins, fears, addictions, whatever–at any place or through any human. This does nothing except create more anxiety. It causes us to believe we have to hurry up and get to the church on Sunday before we can release ourselves from our mistakes–so we might as well go wild until then. “What’s one more sin? I can’t do anything about it until I see Pastor anyway.”
Altar calls lead us to become dependent on a preacher and stage rather than on Christ within us. We’ve looked to a fake altar rather than realize all of our failures were already put on the Cross, the final altar. Our bawling, jiggling, hopping and twisting around, cannot cause us to become more forgiven or more holy than we are at this exact moment in time as believers.
I’m all for remorse over the sins we commit, but no amount of pleading on the floor will cause Jesus to die again which is necessary for the forgiveness of sin. WE ARE FORGIVEN, ONCE, BY FAITH IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS. This cannot be improved upon nor sustained.
Because of the love of Christ, God’s wrath over your sins–even future sins–is gone. All of our sins were in the future when Jesus gave His blood for them. Accordingly, believers have accessed peace with God:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9)
Notice Paul doesn’t put a question mark at the end of Romans 5:9? Even though this is a question, he’s making a declaration about Jesus’ blood!
Confession doesn’t repeatedly forgive Christians either, and why not? First of all, the Levites never had a confession booth in the temple, they had a knife. Also, what if we forget to confess a sin? God doesn’t forget just because we forget. God doesn’t overlook sins just because we overlook sins. Confess all you want, blood at the altar is required, not words. Jesus gave that blood for us.
1 John 1:9, the “confession for continual forgiveness” verse, is a staple-food passage for Cross-belittlers. In context, the first chapter of 1 John is an invitation to unbelievers to confess they need forgiveness, which is Christianity 101. Chapter 2 is then addressed to believers. The rest of the letter is a contrast of what a believer and unbeliever looks like by nature, by identity. Many have used this book as a way to view the outside of a person to prove their salvation, but John is talking about hearts the whole time.
If going to the front of a church or confession forgives me, then I’d rather be part of the Old Covenant rather than the New. Annual forgiveness sounds much better. I would prefer to hand over my best goat to a priest and then go home until next year. The author of Hebrews had to make the same case I’m making, that Christ would have to continue to die if once for all forgiveness was not true:
“Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
This is now, not later! This type of forgiveness is available to everyone who will believe! Jesus accomplished everything for us at the Cross with His blood and He will never suffer for our sins again!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, I know this devotional will upset some people, as it would have me a decade ago. You and I both know that’s not my intention, please help them to understand this. Set people free in their thinking, from anything added to the Cross. It’s not needed because Christ was enough. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who have been taught they need an altar, a pastor, a weekly trip to the front of the church–or confession–give them relief in their souls. Reveal the true power of the blood of Jesus in even greater ways! If they want to go up front they are free to do so but that trip will not forgive them any more than they are right now–which is completely if they’ve believed! Amen and amen!
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Check out my other bestselling books here!