“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect… But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:1, 12-14)
The writer contrasts the sacrifices of the law which are offered continually but cannot make perfect (10:1) with the sacrifice of Christ which perfects forever those who are being sanctified (10:14).
What is striking is that the writer uses the same adjective to describe the continual offerings of the Law and the continual efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice (translated ‘forever’). In 10:1 the sacrifices are offered dianekes but can never bring to perfection. Likewise in 10:12, Christ has offered one sacrifice for sins dianekes and sat down at the right hand of God. And in 10:14, ‘For by one offering he has perfected dianekes those being sanctified.’
The contrast then is most clearly on the number of the sacrifices which the the priests of the Law offered “frequently” (in 10:11 it’s a different word than 10:1). Whereas the writer insists that Christ’s offering was a single sacrifice (10:10, 12, 14). In 10:10, the offering of the “body of Jesus Christ” is described as ephapax which means once-for-all (cf. Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27, 9:12).
The word (dianekes) is used in one other place in Hebrews 7:3 where it describes Christs perpetual ministry as priest.
Of course all of this concerns issues which were significant in the Reformation. The Reformers all insisted that the Roman Mass had obscured the once-for-all character of the sacrifice of Christ. The concern was that the Mass had become a re-sacrifice of Christ which was both abhorrent to the glory of Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father and also because of the kind of meritorious theology that seems to naturally flow from such ideas. If the one offering of Christ on the cross must be re-exhibited, re-offered, re-presented for sins to be forgiven, how does that not undermine the once-for-all sense in which Christ suffered on the tree under Pontius Pilate? How is it not in some sense insufficient for our salvation? It seems to imply that something more must be done. And further, if the Eucharist continually offers Christ as a sacrifice for sin, how are we not back in the same position as the people under the Law?
And yet, it does seem that the common translation of this word in Heb. 10 (as ‘forever’) may create a more severe contrast than is actually meant by the writer. Whatever the priests’ many sacrifices could not do which were offered dianekes is what Christ’s one sacrifice now actually accomplishes dianekes.