Author: Ron Graham
Jesus a Priest Like Melchizedek
—His superior priesthood
Christ is presented in Hebrews as our great high priest. His credentials are rock solid. The Hebrew writer discusses these credentials around a Messianic prophecy sworn as an oath by God, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek".
The Hebrew writer explains in great detail, that Christ is vastly superior in his priesthood. The arguments in favour of this proposition are stunning.
1 A Superior Priest (Overview)
The following are the main points that a study of Christ’s superior High Priesthood will discover.
- Jesus our High Priest is a merciful and faithful high priest who is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1Corinthians 10:13).
- He is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. This is shown to be a higher order than that of Levi and Aaron (Hebrews 5:5-11, Psalms 110:4).
- He is a priest for ever with the power of an endless life. (Hebrews 7:15-17, Hebrews 7:23-25).
- He is a priest who has been sworn in by an oath made by God (Hebrews 7:20-22, Hebrews 6:13-20, Genesis 22:15-18).
- He is a perfect priest who was able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 7:26-28, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:25, Hebrews 10:1-4, Hebrews 10:11-18).
- He is a priest who is also a king (Hebrews 7:1)
- He is a priest of a heavenly sanctuary, not an earthly one (Hebrews 8:1-4, Hebrews 9:11,24).
- He is the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 12:24).
- Through him we have our access into the holy place (Hebrews 6:19-20, Hebrews 10:19-20).
2 A Priest in the True Tabernacle
Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:25-26, Hebrews 8:1-6
The main point of the Hebrew writer’s argument is that Christ is not a priest on earth, because after he made his sacrifice he ascended to the true tabernacle, heaven itself, and sat down at the throne of God. No temple on earth could ever befit the superior priesthood of Christ, just as no throne on earth could befit his reign as King
The tabernacle (the portable temple) was not the true tabernacle. When it was replaced by the great temple erected in Jerusalem, that was still not the true temple. The earthly structures only symbolized or represented the real and heavenly holy place (cf Hebrews 12:22-24).
Imagine you buy from your local store a small packet of seeds with a picture of flowers on it. You didn't buy the packet for the picture, or even for the seeds, but for the flowers of which the picture is a promise and the seeds a precursor. The flowers are the true and real thing.
Christ our High Priest has ascended to heaven, and now officiates in the true tabernacle of Heaven (cf Hebrews 9:24).
Because there was an earthly priesthood ordained for the earthly tabernacle, and Christ was excluded from that priesthood, it follows that "he would not be a priest if he were on earth" (Hebrews 8:4). This hardly puts him at a disadvantage, however, because plainly a priesthood in heaven is vastly superior to a priesthood on earth.
Now we move on to consider that Christ’s priesthood is a royal priesthood, that is to say he is a not only a priest but a king.
3 A Priest at the Throne of Grace
Christ has no earthly throne, for no earthly throne can be the true throne of God. The throne of David was a symbol of God’s throne. The earthly throne of David is no more, and David’s throne is really God’s throne, the heavenly and eternal one.
The Hebrew writer points out that Christ officiates at "the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:14-16). When we think of grace, we think of forgiveness. In chapters 9 and 10 the Hebrew writer points out something extremely important. Under the old priesthood, people received forgiveness of sins not by anything their priests did or used, but rather by what those things symbolized or foreshadowed, namely the true and effectual priesthood of Christ which was to come.
4 Symbols of the Royal Priesthood
Christ’s royal priesthood was reflected dimly in the priesthood of the law of Moses by Zechariah’s crowning of Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 6:9-15). This crowning symbolized the future merging of two offices:
- the priesthood then held by the house of Aaron, to which Joshua belonged (the house of the altar and the mercy seat).
- the kingship then held by the house of David, to which Zerubbabel belonged (the house of the crown and the throne).
Christ’s royal priesthood is much more strongly reflected in the priesthood of Melchizedek who was not only a priest of the Most High God, but also king of Salem.
Plainly, a priest crowned and on a throne is superior to a priest without a crown and throne. Therefore when God swore an oath, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek", he was plainly stating the superiority of the priesthood of Christ who is "crowned with glory and honor" (Hebrews 2:9).