The writer of Hebrews writes to encourage believers (who also have a Jewish heritage) that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills what is revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and who is superior to all the things that pointed to Him. At one point the writer illustrates Jesus’ superiority by asserting that it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). Because of Jesus’ identity and superiority, believers should lay aside their unbelief and, fixing their eyes on Jesus, run the race before them with endurance and without growing weary (Hebrews 12:1–2).
In Hebrews 10 the author explains how Jesus’ sacrifice is superior to the sacrifices prescribed in the Law of Moses. The writer describes the law as a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10:1a)—the law merely pointed forward to something better and was not in itself the apex of God’s plan. The sacrifices for sin that the Law of Moses required were incapable of perfecting those who offered them. This is why the sacrifices had to be offered continually and repeatedly—they were not efficacious to achieve the righteousness of God for humanity. If those sacrifices had been effective for making a person righteous, then they would not have continued. People would have recognized their guilt was resolved and would not have offered more sacrifices to God for their guilt (Hebrews 10:2). But as long as those sacrifices continued, there was a reminder for the people of their guilt before God and the importance of dealing with that guilt as He had prescribed (Hebrews 10:3).
The writer adds that it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). Sin was first accounted to humanity through Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:12), and because all are born in Adam, all are born stained by his sin and are children of wrath by nature (Ephesians 2:3). Because we are born in sin, we sin on our own and also have our own guilt—we have all gone astray (Isaiah 53:6; Ephesians 2:1–3), and the wages of sin is death. More specifically, we are eternally separated from life with God (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23).
To illustrate the greatness of the problem, God gave to the nation of Israel, through Moses, a system of sacrifices to show the depth of human guilt and the insolvability of the problem by human efforts. That sacrificial system illustrated that it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). That system pointed people forward to One who would be able to take away sins by the shedding of His own blood (Galatians 3:24).
Jesus always existed as God (Philippians 2:6), but because of His Father’s and His love for humanity, Jesus became a man so He could pay the penalty that all humanity owed God. Because He was born of a virgin, Jesus didn’t have the stain of Adam’s sin. Because of His humanity, Jesus paid the price as a substitute (1 John 2:2). Because of His deity and sinlessness, He was qualified to pay the price and didn’t owe the debt for Himself. Jesus’ sacrifice was superior to all other sacrifices because He offered it effectively one time and it was sufficient to pay for sin. It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, so it is a great blessing that we don’t rely on the blood of bulls and goats—we believe in Jesus Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice that takes away all of our sin.