The Study of Jesus Christ
Bringing Truths from Different Books of the Bible into Focus, Perspective, and Understanding.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12
A. Jesus’ role as priest is, to say the least, unique. In the first place, Jesus was unable to trace His descent from a priestly tribe. He was perfectly situated to make a claim on being Israel’s king, for he was a descendant of David from the tribe of Judah. But as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, He could not at the same time also be a descendant of the tribe of Levi. In what sense, then, could He possibly be a priest?
B. The priesthood of Melchizedek.
1. The answer to that question can be traced to an obscure figure in the Old Testament. His name was Melchizedek, which means “King of Righteousness.” Melchizedek was King of Salem (related to the word shalom, meaning “peace”). This city later became known as Jerusalem, and later was appropriated by David as the capital city of Israel. But there is more to the story than that. In addition to being King of Righteousness and King of Peace, Melchizedek was also a priest. He was a priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18). As such, Melchizedek incorporated in one person two offices, the office of King and the office of Priest.
2. There is yet more to the story. Abram was returning from a glorious victory over enemies who had raided Sodom and had carried off into captivity its citizens, including Abram’s nephew Lot (Gen. 14:1-16). Acting as a priest, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine for Abram (Gen. 14:18). At the same time, Melchizedek blessed Abram on behalf of God Most High (Gen. 14:19-20). Since God possessed heaven and earth, to be blessed by Him was to be supremely blessed in mastering heaven and earth. In a certain sense, Melchizedek was even acting as a prophet at this point. Melchizedek acknowledged that God had delivered Abram’s enemies into his hand. That victory symbolized the ultimate supremacy of Abraham’s nation, Israel, over all its enemies.
3. In view of Melchizedek’s acting as the agent of God in a priestly, mediatorial way, Abram felt compelled to submit to Melchizedek’s authority and accept his blessing. The writer of Hebrews makes a point of saying that the lesser person (Abram) was blessed by the greater person (Melchizedek) (Heb. 7:7).
4. The subordination of Abram to Melchizedek continued. Acknowledging both Melchizedek’s superiority and his priestly role representing Elohim, Abram paid a tenth of all his spoils of war to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). According to the writer of Hebrews, Melchizedek’s superiority did not end with Abraham. Abraham’s great-grandson was Levi, the tribe from whom he priests of Israel descended. In Abraham, Levi also paid a tithe to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:1-10). So the point is that Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood through Aaron.
5. The writer of Hebrews ascribes to Melchizedek supernatural status. He said that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually” (Heb. 7:3). There are two more or less acceptable interpretations of this passage.
a. The first interpretation is that Melchizedek was a normal human being. He had a father and mother, and he was a mere mortal. The terminology in Hebrews is to be explained in that, as far as the record in Genesis states, Melchizedek had no father or mother, but in fact he actually did have both. He was no superhuman.
b. The second interpretation is that the explanation in Hebrews is to be taken at face value. Melchizedek really had no father nor mother, nor did he have a genealogy, a record through which his ancestry could be traced. Rather, Melchizedek was made like the Son of God, and he remains perpetually a priest.
c. I lean toward the interpretation given by the writer of Hebrews. That being the case, who was (is) Melchizedek?
1) First, it is possible that he was a man. What man could he or would he be?
2) Was he an angel? What mere angel could represent man?
3) More likely, Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus as the Angel of Yahweh.
6. The important point is that Melchizedek represented a priesthood that existed before the priesthood of Aaron. In fact it was a priesthood superior to the priesthood of Aaron and his descendants. Jesus of Nazareth was made a priest after the order of Melchizedek, the superior King/Priest. The One who appointed Jesus as a Melchizedekan priest was none other than God Himself (Psalm 110:4).
C. The greatness of Jesus’ priesthood. As the ultimate priest in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus of Nazareth has the right to be both King and Priest at the same time. Let us consider the greatness of Jesus’ priesthood. The writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to document that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood. And His ministry as high priest is far superior to the ministry of the Levitical high priest. Let us explore the writer’s arguments. His arguments are nestled neatly in three over-riding categories – 1) Jesus participated in a superior priesthood; 2) Jesus mediated a superior covenant; 3) Jesus’ inaugurated a superior sacrifice. Let us examine each in order.
1. Jesus participated in a superior priesthood (Heb. 7:1 – 8:6).
a. Melchizedek, blessor of Abraham, has a superior tenure (Heb. 7:1-3).
b. Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek demonstrated the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood (Heb. 7:4-10).
c. Jesus participated in the superior priesthood on the basis of His superior tenure, His indestructible life (Heb. 7:11-19).
d. Jesus’ participation in the superior priesthood is guaranteed by God’s oath, which guarantees a better covenant (Heb. 7:20-22).
e. Jesus’ priesthood is superior because it is based on an indestructible, making his priesthood an eternal one (Heb. 7:23-25).
f. Jesus’ priesthood is superior because He offered a superior sacrifice based on His superior, sinless character (Heb. 7:26-28).
g. Jesus’ priesthood is superior because He serves in a superior sanctuary (Heb. 8:1-6).
2. Jesus mediated a superior covenant (Heb. 8:7 – 9:28).
a. Jesus’ ministry under the auspices of a New Covenant demonstrates its superiority over the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:7-13).
b. The order of worship under the Old Covenant demonstrated its ineffectiveness in actually clearing the conscience of its worshipers (Heb. 9:1-10).
3. Jesus inaugurated a superior sacrifice (Heb. 9:11 – 10:18).
a. Jesus’ successful entrance into the superior sanctuary was accomplished through His superior blood (Heb. 9:11-14).
b. Jesus’ entrance into the presence of God was accomplished through His superior sacrifice (Heb. 9:15-24).
c. Jesus’ sacrifice mediating the superior New Covenant was superior in that He offered but one sacrifice, not many. His one sacrifice actually removes the sins of those who await His salvation at His Second Coming (Heb. 9:25-28).
d. The superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice with reference to the effectiveness of actually atoning for sins (Heb. 10:1-10).
1) The ceaseless sacrifices under the Old Covenant demonstrated their inability actually to remove sins (Heb. 10:1-4).
2) Jesus’ superior single sacrifice is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy authorizing His effective sacrifice (Heb. 10:5-10).
e. The superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice with regard to effectiveness in view of the number of offerings, the posture of the priests, and the accomplishment of the sacrifices (Heb. 10:11-14).
1) Priests under the Old Covenant stood daily offering ineffectual sacrifices (Heb. 10:11).
2) After Jesus offered but one sacrifice, He sat at the Father’s right hand, waiting until His enemies are subdued under His feet (Heb. 10:12-13).
3) With His one sacrifice, Jesus will make His adherents completely sanctified (Heb. 10:14).
f. The superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice in view of the prophecies written in Scripture (Heb. 10:15-18).
1) God covenanted to write His laws on His peoples’ hearts and minds (Heb. 10:15-16).
2) God promised not to remember His peoples’ sins and lawless deeds, obviating any further need for sacrifices (Heb. 10:17-18).
D. Recapitulation and expansion.
1. Jesus’ ministry as priest exists on a superior priesthood (Heb. 7:1 – 8:6).
2. Jesus has a superior tenure. Jesus has been appointed a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 6:9).
3. Jesus has a superior character because he has no sin. He did not need to offer any sacrifices for Himself daily to make atonement for His own sin, for He had none (Heb. 4:15). He was a perfect and sinless High Priest. The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus is a high priest who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). He is appointed by God through an oath as a Son, made perfect forever” (Heb. 7:28)!
4. Jesus offered a superior offering. The Levitical high priests had to offer daily sacrifices, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people (Heb. 7:27). On the annual day of atonement (Lev. 16:29-34), the high priest was to offer sacrifices to atone for the sins of himself and his family, and for the people (Lev. 16:11, 23-24). That fact shouts loudly that Levitical sacrifices never forgave sin. They only covered the sins of the Israelis. The Levitical high priest could not and did not offer the ultimate sacrifice on the Day of Atonement each year. There would always be another sacrifice on another Day of Atonement the following year. That is true because the blood of a goat or a ram or a bullock could never pay for human sin. Only the blood of a perfect human could pay for human sin. The wondrous thing about Jesus of Nazareth is that He only offered one sacrifice. That was His own life’s blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 3:18). Having offered that one sacrifice, He sat down at the right hand of God in heaven, his sacrificial work as priest having been completed forever!
E. Jesus as priestly intercessor.
1. The fact of Jesus’ intercession.
a. Isaiah 53:12. In a marvelous passage (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12), Isaiah describes God’s exalted, yet suffering servant who would be put to death for “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Isaiah said that in his death, God’s servant would bear the sin of many and that he would intercede (H6293 paga) for the transgressors (Isa. 53:12). This was fulfilled when Jesus, as He was being crucified, asked His Father to “forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). By “them” Jesus referred to the unbelieving Israelis, who demanded His death, and to the unbelieving Romans, who executed the demand.
b. Isaiah 59:16
1) Isaiah was appalled at the sin and iniquity that beset his people (Isa. 59:1-15a). He said that “justice is turned back,” that “righteousness stands far away” and that “truth has stumbled in the street” (Isa. 59:14).
2) Yahweh “saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice” (Isa. 59:15). “And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede” (H6293 paga) (Isa. 59:16). What would Yahweh do about this incredible human “black hole,” this overwhelming absence of human goodness? What would He do about the utter human vacuum, such that no one could reconcile man to God?
3) “Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him” (Isa. 59:16). “He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; …” (Isa. 59:17). This means that Yahweh would take matters in His own hand. He Himself would appear as the God/human Jesus of Nazareth to bring salvation to all who believe, whether they be Israeli or non-Jewish. Yahweh in Jesus interceded on behalf of fallen humanity in His incarnation and His death and resurrection to pay for human sin and defeat death.
4) Will Yahweh in Jesus succeed? He will indeed. The Father’s will shall be done “as in heaven, so on earth” (lit. rendering of Matt. 6:9). Those who trust Jesus will be saved to enter His kingdom (both spiritual and political) (Col. 1:13; Psalm 2:6; Isa. 59:19-21; Luke 1:32-33; Matt. 25:31-34). Those who reject Him will be the objects of His vengeance (Isa. 59:17). He will pay back wrath to His enemies (Isa. 59:18). He will consign them into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41-46).
5) This moral and spiritual cleansing will ensure that the surviving Gentile believers will fear the name of Yahweh from the western most parts of the globe and His glory from the eastern most parts of the globe (Isa. 59:19). Jesus the Redeemer will come to Zion to the repentant Israelis (Isa. 59:20; Zech. 12:10 – 13:1), and they will be filled with Yahweh’s Spirit and Yahweh’s words, both they and their posterity, into eternity (Isa. 59:21).
6) Jesus is the One who has interceded between God and man to bring about the salvation of all who receive Him, bringing righteous to mankind and the world.
c. Romans 8:33-34.
1) There are those humans and fallen angels who would seek to levy charges against those whom God has chosen. Yet God has declared them righteous because of their faith in Jesus (Rom. 8:33; Rom. 3:23-26).
2) There are those humans and fallen angels who would seek to condemn those whom God has chosen. Yet Jesus the Messiah will not condemn them – He, after all has paid the necessary price of His own life’s blood to pay for their sins. To demonstrate the utter sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, God both raised Him from among the dead and seated Him at His own right hand upon His throne. Far from condemning us there, Jesus perpetually intercedes (G1793, entugchano) to the Father on behalf of those who have trusted Him. When entugchano is used in connection with the preposition huper, as it is here, it means that Jesus presents a petition to God on behalf of those whom God has chosen (Friberg Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament) (Rom. 8:34). He serves both as our mediating high priest and as our attorney for our defense. Another way of stating the matter is that Jesus prays on behalf of the chosen ones.
d. Hebrews 7:25. Jesus, the sole and permanent priest according to the order of Melchizedek, is able to save throughout eternity those individuals who approach God through Him. This is true because Jesus lives forever to intercede (G1793, entugchano) before God on their behalf. Jesus continually prays for us who have asked Him for representation. He requests not only forgiveness, but grace, blessing, and service worthy of God. What an effective “prayer warrior” Jesus is on our behalf!
e. Hebrews 9:24. Jesus the Messiah entered a superior holy place, heaven itself, with a superior sacrifice, there now to be made visible (G1718 emphanidzo) before the face of God on our behalf. There He continues to appear before God, representing us as defender and petitioner.
2. An example of Jesus’ intercession is found in (John 17:6-26). In what has been called His “High-Priestly Prayer,” Jesus prayed for his followers just prior to His crucifixion.
a. He prayed specifically on behalf of the men whom God had given Him out of the world (John 17:6, 9).
b. In view of His imminent departure from the world, He asked that His Father would keep these men, who would be left behind in the world, in His name (John 17:11).
c. He did not ask the Father “to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one,” meaning Satan (John 17:15).
d. Since they were not “of the world”, He asked that God would set them apart from the world by means of His truth, embodied in His Word, the Bible (John 17:16-17).
e. Jesus did not pray only for those whom He had specifically chosen, but also for those who would yet believe in Him through their word. His prayer for all was that they all might be one, exemplifying God’s love (John 17:20-23).
f. Jesus’ final request was that those whom the Father had given Him might be with Him and see the glory which the Father had lovingly given Him before the creation of the world (John 17:24).
3. Other examples of Jesus’ intercession occur as follows:
a. Luke 22:32. At the “Last Supper,” Jesus told Peter that Satan had “demanded permission to sift” him “like wheat” (Luke 22:31). But Jesus had prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and that afterwards he would strengthen his fellow disciples (Luke 22:32).
b. John 14:16. During his last hours of instruction with His disciples before His arrest (John 18:12), Jesus announced His intention to pray to the Father on behalf of His followers. He would request that God would send them “another Helper” (G3875 parakleton), the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). His prayer would be answered in such a way that the Holy Spirit would be with them forever (John 14:16), an expression of eternal security.
F. Jesus as attorney for the defense.
1. Rom. 8:33-34. We have already seen that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. There He intercedes (G1793, entugchano) on behalf of those God has chosen and justified. Because of Jesus’ intercession on our behalf, no one is able to bring any charges against us. Jesus can plead for our defense successfully before the heavenly bar because He has already died on our behalf. His death to pay for our sins was pronounced successful by virtue of God’s raising Him back to life. God has justified His chosen ones, declared them all righteous.
2. 1 John 2:1-2. One reason the Apostle John wrote the first chapter of his first letter was so that his readers would not sin. However if they did sin, he assured them that they had an Advocate (G3875 parakleton), before the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.
a. Jesus is an utterly righteous Lawyer, who Himself has paid the death penalty for our sins, thoroughly satisfying God’s demands for total righteousness. In fact, His death is so valuable that it paid for the sins not only of believers, but of all people in the world. (This contradicts those who maintain that Jesus died only for the sins of those who would trust Him.) Can you imagine not trusting in the Lawyer who has already paid all the penalty you will ever be assessed for your felonies and misdemeanors against God?
b. The word parakleton is from para (alongside) and kaleo (to call out). Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are parakletes. They both serve as a sort of coach, now scolding, now comforting, now motivating. In 1 John 2:1-2, Jesus serves as the believer’s attorney for the defense before the Father, calling out to the Father that the penalty for the believer’s sin has been already been paid in full, that God’s demands for justice have been met and no further charge can be leveled. Jesus Himself is the propitiation, the legal satisfaction for our sins! What a glorious privilege to have Jesus as a self-sacrificial lawyer/priest, intervening and mediating in the Divine Court of Law on our behalf!
Prepared by James T. Bartsch
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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®,
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WordExplain by James T. Bartsch
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Used by Permission.)
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Updated January 29, 2022