Hebrews 10:1-2 reads (emphasis mine),

1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?

This is part of the author's argument that the sacrificial system was a picture of what was to come and not the actual substance, and the point then in vs. 2 is intended as evidence that the sacrificial system was not truly effective based on its ongoing nature.

I understand the author's intended argument, but I have been struggling to come to a satisfying understanding of the implications of this argument. Given that the argument is, in a very basic sense, "The sacrificial system was not truly effective to cleanse you of your sins, but Jesus' sacrifice is effective," it seems like the very straightforward implication is that under Jesus' sacrifice, there should no longer be any consciousness of sin.

Also, while the Christian experience is one of ongoing "consciousness of sin," to take the question beyond experience, the author makes clear at the beginning of chapter 12 that this lack of awareness of sin is not normative for the Christian as he calls on believers in 12:1 to, "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

So ultimately my question is, since the author of Hebrews clearly does not expect Christians to be in a state where they are not conscious of their sins (Hebrews 12:1), how can he use ongoing consciousness of sins as a basis for his argument that the sacrificial system was not effective but Jesus' sacrifice is (Hebrews 10:2)?

  • Very nice question Dec 23, 2019 at 12:01

7 Answers 7


Please be patient with me, this is the first time I’ve posted.. 1Peter1:19

This is what it means to me. I hope it brings you some clarity. From C. H. Spurgeon:

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands, and feet, and side, all distilling crimson streams of precious blood.
It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it..
   the sins of Christ’s people are atoned for;
   they are redeemed from under the law;
   they are reconciled to God, made one with him.
Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it “cleanseth from all sin.” “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer, no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood, which makes us clean, removing the stains of abundant iniquity, and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved, notwithstanding the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God.
The blood of Christ is likewise “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember it is God’s seeing the blood which is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same.
The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood which justifies by taking away sin, does in its after-action, quicken the new nature and lead it onward to subdue sin and to follow out the commands of God. There is no motive for holiness so great as that which streams from the veins of Jesus.
And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood, because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “They overcame through the blood of the Lamb.” How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus, fights with a weapon which cannot know defeat.
The blood of Jesus!
   Sin dies at its presence,
   Death ceases to be death.
   Heaven’s gates are opened.
The blood of Jesus! We shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!

  • I reformatted your answer using the layout provided here. However, it is not a good practice for your answers here to be the words of another author alone. It is expected that you provide some input of your own that explains how you see the quoted words as an answer to the question being posed, i.e. how can he [the author of Hebrews] use ongoing consciousness of sins as a basis for his argument that the sacrificial system was not effective but Jesus' sacrifice is
    – enegue
    Apr 16, 2020 at 19:31

This question takes much to answer as one must be totally familiar with the Torah scope and purpose. The prophets scope and purpose and the context in which it all occurs. One must know the soteriology and eschatology of the prophets. As such there is no short answer particularity when Christians write themselves into scripture that has no place for them. You can learn from it but your place is not here.

To begin context. To who is the book addressed? I guess we call it the Book of Hebrews for reason. To what Hebrews is this written? He writes, “in these last days speaks to us in the son. Who are the “us” and what are “the last days?” For most the “us” is the Church and the last days are now the last 2000 years. The “us” is the tribe of Judah and the last days are? Judah has 40 years to repent for killing Christ for the time of refreshing. The 40 years occupies Daniels 62-69 weeks (we count the gaps not the posts) The prophesy of Ezekiel 4:4 These forty weeks are the last days of Ezekiel 4:4.

In context the Hebrew epistle looks at two covenants, old and new, the laws of the old and the laws of the new. It looks at three priesthoods, the priesthood of Aaron Levi and the Priesthood of Aaron Zadok and the priesthood of Judah Melchisedek. The construct of the new covenant with the House of Israel (11 tribes) and Judah (1) is well established and spoken of in the Epistle.

The priesthood of Aaron Zadok is taken for granted because the Prophet Ezekiel speaks (the apocalypse of the Hebraic scripture) concerning the Zadokian order and the Laws of the House. Ezekiel covers this in great detail. The Zadokian priesthood is established with Phineas in Numbers 25:11-13. The Aaron line is one however there are two priesthoods within the line. One for an old covenant (broken) and one for new covenant.

One is the Law of carnal commandment of the old covenant Aaron Levi. One so the New Covenant of Aaron Zadok under the order of Judah Melchisedek. Isaiah 2 speaks of this order. Isaiah sees the temple of the order the same Isaiah 6 that Ezekiel gives us in great detail concerning. Jeremy 31:31 defines the New Covenant with the House of Israel and Judah. Isaiah speaks of the same in Isaiah 59:20-21. Ezekiel the prophets speaks of the same See all of 36. The Book of Hebrews speaks of this New Covenant, the same spoken by the three major prophets. Compare Jer 31:31: Heb 8:8-13; Hebrews 12 :24. Hebrews refers also to Zion (Sion) 12:22.

If God speaks on this wise and says, “I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and Judah…” So how is the House of Israel and the House of Judah the church? The Epistle says and Paul like wise states the stipulation the conditions requiring, “to turn back the iniquity of Jacob” When this covenant is evoked a feature of the covenant is written, “they will no more teach” Your question as to consciousness of sin falls in the context of the old Aaron Levi a broken covenant and ministration of death requiring a new covenant over against the New Aaron Zadok.

Kryptonite to Christians is Ezekiel 40-48 as the Aaron Zadok priesthood is evoked after the resurrection (See Ezekiel 37) the 1000 year or 20 Jubilees, foretells this time in the Sabbath of the Jubilee when this will take place. Lucifer is bound at the start of it and let loose at the end for a season. So where is the Church? It is not here. Not in an old covenant, nor in new, nor in Zion. So what of now? The Dispensation of Grace while the mystery of Israel is a scattering into all nations and the Mystery of Christ is the calling of the nations.

If the Church is in New Covenant and is Zion why are they still teaching? Why is the turning back of their iniquity the future tense of the Greek verb in Rom 11:26. If a new covenant is not evoked until the death of the testator Hebrews 9:16-17 why is Matthew 1; Luke 1; Mark 1; John 1 the Gospels of New Covenant i.e. New Testament. Read your prophets and learn the Torah, not to keep, to understand. Read Ezekiel 40-48 and explain all the details and then reconcile it Hebrews.

Ezekiel 40:46 “These are the Sons of Zadok among the Sons of Levi which come near to the Lord to minister” Ezekiel 43:19 “And thou shall give to the priests the Levities of the Seed of Zadok which approach unto me to minister a young bullock as sin offering”

Ezekiel 44:15 “But the priests of the Levites, the Sons of Zadok that kept My charge when the children of Israel went astray from Me...” When did they stray? Numbers 25:11-13. The Aaron line is one however there are two priesthoods within the line. God made a covenant He wont keep? See also Ezekiel 48:11 “It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the Sons of Zadok which have kept My charge and went not astray when the children of Israel went astray when the Levites (Aaron Levi) went astray. Where? Numbers 25:11-13. The Aaron line is one however there are two priesthoods within the line.

So where is Christ in all of this? He is the one to whom they minister. The place of the soles of my feet and my throne. Ezekiel 43:7 and Zion Isaiah 2:2-4 “and they shall not learn war any more” If the Church in under such a new covenant what are they teaching and learning war amongst the nations? These covenants all have features even an offering system refereed to a “better sacrifices” Heb 9:23 where thusiais is the plural noun. Not a better sacrifice in the singular. Some things to learn and one should not read in to where one is not.

  • Wow very interesting. Can we talk more on this? Feb 13, 2020 at 8:38

As I understand it, your basic question is how did Christ's sacrifice accomplish any more than those made under law, since now as then we still have conscience of our sins?

I think the answer here lies in the fact that although we were sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10), this does not mean that we, through our free will, cannot choose to sin again. The writer alludes to this specifically later in verse 26:

For if we sin willfully after that we have received knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins

One modern Eastern Orthodox commentator explained here:

The Hebrew Christians are reminded that they received "the knowledge of the truth" on being baptized and becoming members of the Body of Christ. Like trees, they have been planted and watered by the Spirit, and if they do not live in accordance with their calling or they try to lead a double life, they are guilty of squandering their gift and they sin deliberately.*

* D. Royster, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003), p.161.


Some thoughts. I don't know if it will satisfy - but may move you further along in your journey!

Numerous scholars have noted a theme of 'ascent' or 'moral progression' within the letter to Hebrews. The progression is presented in a tension or paradox - "perfection" but also in need of "sanctification". Additionally, when this theme is compared to other writings concerning moral progress from the first century it finds many similarities (also paradoxical).

Timothy Luckritz Marquis writes in his article "Perfection Perfected: The Stoic "Self-Eluding Sage" and Moral Progress in Hebrews." Novum Testamentum, Vol. 57, Fasc. 2 (2015), pp. 187-205. - (the article is 24 pages so I can only offer some highlights)

"the Epistle to the Hebrews offers similarly glaring paradoxes between descriptions of the believer's ethical attainment and exhortations to make further progress in virtue...Hebrews holds in tension statements concerning the "perfection" of the believer with parenesis toward ethical maturity."

For instance - Hebrews refers to Jesus as superior to angels (Heb. 1:4) while at the same time he was "perfected through suffering" (Heb. 2:10). While he is perfect, we are to follow his example of being "perfected through suffering."

Marquis compares this with contemporary writings from the Stoic philosophers who are concerned with the moral progression of their followers. This is not to say that the author of Hebrews is drawing on the Stoic writings, but that there are similar writings in the first century. The letter to Hebrews would have been understood as encouraging the first-century audience to continue on their own journey of ascent toward perfection.

Marquis continues:

"Hebrews urges its audience toward the maturation of their purified virtuous faculties in emulation of Jesus's priestly role, progressing toward the goal of an improved communal ethic."

It seems - unless I am misreading your question - that you have stepped right into the tension that exists throughout the letter. In this case, how can it be that our consciousness is supposed to be clear yet we still have an awareness of our sin?

The tension of paradox is prominent in the scriptures and often is uncomfortable for modern readers. This was most likely not the case for the ancient readers who read the letter to the Hebrews first. We tend to read our bible as "one" or the "other." Spiritual or moral progress is often one of paradox.


Therefore let us also, having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, put away every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race which is set before us.

My understanding of 12:1 is that Paul, whom I feel is the author, is talking about the particular sin which entangled all these Hebrew believers to whom he wrote from Miletus towards the end of his race and life. I don't feel he's talking about sin in general, or various believers' "besetting" sins.

I'll try to quote portions that elaborate on my thought that the epistle to the Hebrews, as a whole, is directed against the sin of Judaism. That is, the sin of Judaizing (Ac 21:20-26; Gal 2:11-16). It's a massive topic which can engage most books of the New Testament, but I'll try to be concise. The author alternates between showing the superiority of Christ to the old things (maybe as he does in all his letters), and then warning the believers not to miss the prize and suffer discipline in the next age (cf 1 Cor 3:10-17). Needless to say there's nothing about eternal damnation here since he's writing to Christians, believers

God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets, has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the universe; who, being the effulgence of His glory and the impress of His substance and upholding and bearing all things by the word of His power, having made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Having become as much better than the angels...

For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by as much as He who built the house has more honor than the house.

Having therefore a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all respects like us, yet without sin...High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec...[T]hrough Abraham, Levi also, he who receives tithes, has been made to pay tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him. If indeed then perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what need was there still that a different Priest should arise according to the order of Melchisedec and that He should not be said to be according to the order of Aaron?

[T]he setting aside of the preceding commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law perfected nothing)...Jesus has also become the surety of a better covenant...Who does not have daily need, as the high priests do, to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law establishes men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which was after the law, establishes the Son, perfected forever...He has obtained a more excellent ministry inasmuch as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them He says, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, and I will consummate a new covenant upon the house of Israel and upon the house of Judah"...In saying, A new covenant, He has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and growing decrepit is near to disappearing.

Christ, having come as a High Priest of the good things that have come into being, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not of this creation, and not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood, entered once for all into the Holy of Holies, obtaining an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who are defiled sanctify to the purity of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Wow, that's a lot. I better try to jump to the sin question. The personal sin question. Although Judaizing is also a "personal" sin. They opposed Paul and damaged the other saints. "I wish that those upsetting you would even cut themselves off......Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision." Gal 5:12; Philip 3:2. One can be conscious of the wrong, the sin, of Judaizing, as an objective problem, and enjoy being forgiven of or delivered from it. Like Paul himself was, you could say broadly. "You have heard of my manner of life formerly in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God excessively and ravaged it......For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." Gal 1:13; 1 Cor 15:9; cf Rv 3:9. Paul was forgiven of that, justified by faith.

So I'm saying that the consciousness of guilt of sin in one's conscience is what's spoken of in Hebrews 10:2. Which Jesus' blood, praise the Lord, effectively, eternally washed and washes away.

The law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the image itself of the things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, perfect those who draw near. Otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, because those worshipping, having once been purified, would have no longer had the consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a bringing to mind of sins year by year; for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, coming into the world, He says, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You did not delight. Then I said, Behold, I have come (in the roll of the book it is written concerning Me) to do Your will, O God"...He takes away the first that He may establish the second, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily, ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never remove sins; but this One, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down forever on the right hand of God, henceforth waiting until His enemies are made the footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after having said, "This is the covenant which I will covenant with them after those days, says the Lord: I will impart My laws upon their hearts, and upon their mind I will inscribe them," He then says, "And their sins and their lawlessnesses I shall by no means remember anymore." Now where forgiveness of these is, there is no longer an offering for sin.

The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin. If we say that we do not have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness...[I]f anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.

[The Son] having made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Who does not have daily need, as the high priests do, to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

I will be propitious to their unrighteousnesses, and their sins I shall by no means remember anymore. Heb 8:12.

Not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood...purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God


John 16:5-11 (KJV)
5But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Jesus is here declaring that SIN is no longer just a serious matter of transgressing the Law given to Moses, but now has become the more serious matter of not believing in him.

In the Book of Job, the words of Elihu are recorded in response to Job:

5Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou. 6If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? 7If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? 8Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.
-- Job 35:5-8 (KJV)

The Law of Moses was given to Israel for the purpose of securing and sustaining "life in the land". One's transgression of the Law has no impact upon God, but brings hurt to mankind. Further, one's righteous in regard to the Law has no impact upon God, but brings blessing to the sons of men.

"Belief in Jesus" adds to the Law's blessing of "life in the land", the blessing of "life in eternity". Ignoring the Spirit's reproof in regard to Jesus is the sin for which there is no forgiveness. There is no forgiveness because the offer of forgiveness is being extended by Him who has been rejected.

21Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.
22Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
23And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

-- John 8:21-24 (KJV)

Consciousness of sin "in regard to the Law" is the responsibility of the people of God, who were/are, in the first instance to diligently keep them and to teach their sons and their sons' sons (Deuteronomy 4:9), but also in the second to teach them to the world:

6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
-- Deuteronomy 4:6-7 (KJV)

Primarily, consciousness of sin in regard to "belief in Jesus" is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, but Paul writes:

13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
-- Romans 10:13-14 (KJV)

So, again the people of God have their part to play.


How can he [the author of Hebrews] use ongoing consciousness of sins as a basis for his argument that the sacrificial system was not effective but Jesus' sacrifice is?

Consciousness of sin in regard to the Law, i.e. the knowledge of the inclinations of the flesh, is ever before the eyes of the believer. Restitution and forgiveness for such are built into the Law, which, if adhered to diligently, will secure and sustain "life in the land".

Consciousness of sin in regard to "belief in Jesus", once secured by one's acknowledgement of the Spirit's reproof in regard to Jesus' one-off atoning sacrifice, will usher the believer into the kingdom of God, thus securing and sustaining "life in eternity".


Very good question and very observant! I believe the best answer is that the word "consciousness" really means "guilt" or feeling guilty about their sins. If the animal sacrifices really forgave their sins forever then they would not feel guilty about some sins they commit later because they would realize the animals forgave that sin already and all sins in the future. But they still feel guilty and they keep on offering animal sacrifices every time they sin. But same with Jesus. His death/resurrection a one-time act, really does forgive our sins forever in the future, which is why we do not feel guilty of being condemned for our sins and dying in the lake of fire for our sins because we know we are forgiven by Christ for all future sins based on his one sacrifice. The Cambridge Dictionary defines consciousness this way "The part of you that judges how moral your own actions are and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for: a guilty conscience".

Thayers Greek Lexicon agrees and says "so to perfect one that his own conscience is satisfied, i. e. that he can regard himself as free from guilt, Hebrews 9:9" and "free from guilt, consciousness of rectitude, of right conduct, Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:5"

See: https://biblehub.com/greek/4893.htm (defines Greek word for consciousness) and https://biblehub.com/interlinear/hebrews/10-2.htm for Greek word in Hebrews 10:2

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