Author: Ron Graham
One word that characterises the Last Days, is CHANGE. Many societies, through war, famine, disease, population growth, new discoveries, have seen rapid and radical change. Our modern world too is convulsed by change. But in this lesson we are thinking about seven great foundation changes that took place centuries ago when Christ died.
First, we look at Hebrews 7:11, a commentary on Psalm 110:4.
"The Lord has sworn with an oath and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'"
The writer to the Hebrews argues that God's oath meant that Christ would abolish the Levitical priesthood and replace it with a new order symbolised by Melchizedek who was greater than Abraham, the Levites' ancestor. Moreover, the old priesthood was not effectual in its own right. It was a precursor or foreshadow of the coming high-priesthood of Christ.
The only priest who could make a sufficient sacrifice once and for all was Jesus Christ the Son of God. Without him, we would still be locked in to the old system, and not a single great change would have been possible. The change of priesthood is the one on which all other great changes depended. Without Jesus and his death on the cross, we would still be locked in to the old preliminary system, and not a single great change would have been possible.
Jesus offered one ultimate sacrifice for all sins for all time; he established a new temple, the true tabernacle in heaven; he abolished the priesthood of Levi and Aaron and sanctify a new family of priests; he abolished all the Mosaical laws and ceremonies; he tore down the curtain between man and God and made new access into the presence of God.
This raises questions such as whether the old priesthood was still legitimate for a period following Christ's sacrifice, and whether it could ever become legitimate again in some future age. If we get the answers wrong to questions like that, we will seriously distort the doctrine undergirding our faith. [Background Hebrews ch. 7-10]
The writer of Hebrews points out that a change of priesthood makes necessary a change of law (Hebrews 7:12). He also shows that Jeremiah's statement about a new covenant rendered the old one obsolescent —it was "passing away", destined for replacement by a much more glorious covenant (Hebrews 8:13, Jeremiah 31:31). Symbolic of this, the transfigured face of Moses began to fade as soon as he brought the first covenant down from the mountain (2Corinthians 3:7-18).
Imagine you heard me say, "I really must get a new broom". What would you infer from that statement as to my existing broom? You would take me to imply that my present broom was worn and needed replacing. The writer to Hebrews interprets Jeremiah as having said the same thing about the covenant that came through Moses.
This change of covenants is one of the most fundamental events in the unfolding of God's plan. This raises crucial questions: When did the change of covenants happen? How long did it take? Was it permanent or temporary?
A "separating wall" divided Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). Christ broke down this barrier. Among those baptized into Christ, "there is neither Jew nor Greek" (Galatians 3:27-28). That does not mean that there were no Jews or Greeks converted, but rather that those who did come into the church were one. The old differentiation between Jew and Greek (ie Gentile), was abolished. They are now all one (Romans 10:12).
"They are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Romans 9:6). God's people are those who believe in Jesus Christ, whether or not they are descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob). The new kingdom’s capital city is the heavenly Jerusalem. Hebrews 12:22-24 is a beautiful description of the new kingdom of God.
Many things in the old system were symbols foreshadowing the new. "Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies (ie "types") of the true, but into heaven itself..." (Hebrews 9:24). The law of Moses had "a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things." (Hebrews 10:1). Once the antitypes became reality —as soon as the change occurred— the types were taken away (Hebrews 10:9).
John the Baptist was the herald of the coming great changes. He preached and baptized (Mark 1:4). His baptism was "a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38)., but it wasn't intended to be permanent. The baptism of John was to give way to baptism in the name of Christ in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39 19:1-5).
The Bible recognizes two dispensations. The Hebrew writer calls these "times past" and "these last days" (Hebrews 1:1). The rest of the book of Hebrews shows that the seven great changes have taken place and that the last days have come. Beyond "the end of the ages" (Hebrews 9:26) lies no other age but eternity.